Before You Buy

How To Choose Your Snowboard Jacket and Pants

What to look for when choosing your next snowboard outerwear kit

It’s important to put some time and effort into choosing your snowboard jacket and pants. It’s as important as choosing the right snowboard, and the right pair of bindings to match. Whether you’re a keen backcountry explorer or a dome rider, a certain amount of thought should go into picking the best outerwear for you.

First of all, you need to consider where you will be doing most of your snowboarding, what kind of conditions you are likely to face, and how much time you will spend wearing your outerwear.

It’s pretty pointless, after all, for someone who spends one week, at most, per year solely riding the pistes to spend over £500 on a backcountry specific jacket. However, people who do spend most of their time in the backcountry may want to invest that £500 in a more technical jacket as it really can become a crucial piece of gear when you’re miles from shelter.

“You need to consider where you will be doing most of your snowboarding”

Riding an indoor snow dome, for example, is very different to tackling the cold, icy, winds of Scandinavia. Just like how tackling the cold, icy, winds of Scandinavia is a very different experience to sliding about the warm, sunny, Alps in spring. The kind of places you spend most of your time snowboarding should 100% be factored into your buying decision.

Once you’ve answered the basic questions about the kind of snowboarder you are, it’s time to look at the more technical aspects of your outerwear.

Waterproofing and Breathability

Once you start to research snowboard outerwear, waterproofing and breathability are often the first technical terms you come across. This makes sense, when you think about it, as getting your turns in on a powder day wearing anything less than a waterproof jacket isn’t exactly ideal.

“Getting your turns in on a powder day wearing anything less than a waterproof jacket isn’t exactly ideal”

What’s important to remember is that it’s all a balancing act between being waterproof and being breathable. If something’s extremely waterproof but doesn’t have that breathability, you begin to sweat. In turn, this means your sweat will have nowhere to go and you’ll be soaked after only a couple of laps.

As living creatures, our body temperatures fluctuate throughout the day. With that in mind, maintaining a comfortable temperature can at times be tricky. In a nutshell, we want to avoid trapping moisture that may later freeze. This is why our snowboard jackets and pants have to have good breathability too.

When looking to buy a new snowboard jacket or a new pair snowboard pants, you want something that is both waterproof and breathable. Sometimes, however, a high waterproof rating means that you will need to compromise on the breathability (which isn’t always) ideal. This has become an equation many brands are eager to solve and, in recent years especially, a number of advancements have been made.

“As living creatures, our body temperatures fluctuate throughout the day”

The waterproof rating is measured in millimetres (mm). This refers to the depth of water that is required to penetrate the fabric (based on filling a one-inch diameter tube). The higher the rating, the more waterproof the outerwear.

If you’re someone who spends the majority of your time lapping the park, a 5k rated jacket is probably sufficient enough. A higher waterproof rating, however, becomes much more important if you’re planning on heading off into the backcountry. If this is your aim, you might want to steer your focus onto jackets with a minimum 20k waterproof rating. Of course, you’ll also want to factor in the jacket’s breathability in such a scenario as the backcountry can often require far more physical exertion.

Breathability is measured in grams. The ratings refer to the weight of water that can pass through a square metre of fabric in 24hours. Bear in mind though, that the testing protocols aren’t universal and can lack consistency between brands. Usually, you’ll find the breathability ratings to be somewhere between 5k and 20k – with the higher number being a more breathable option.

Last year, The North Face launched a new outerwear technology called Futurelight that they claim is the best option for breathable outerwear. For it, they’ve used a production process called nanospinning. This process creates nanosized fibres small enough for air permeability but too small for water to seep through, making the product both breathable and waterproof.

Unlike wine, the waterproof and breathability ratings on your outerwear do not get better with age. However, the cleaner you keep your outerwear the better the waterproofing / breathability will be. This is because dirt and oil compromise the full potential of both.

Shell / Insulation

Another two key factors when it comes to choosing your snowboard outerwear is the fabric and insulation. You can choose between a hard shell, soft shell or an insulated model.

As the name implies, hardshell jackets / pants are stiffer than softshell ones. Hardshell jackets may sound uncomfortable, and twenty or so years ago they sort of were. Thanks to modern technology though, brands can now offer hardshell outerwear that feels soft next to your skin.

“You can choose between a hard shell, soft shell or an insulated model”

The main benefits of a hardshell is its ability to resist the most extreme weather conditions you’re likely to face on the mountain. The jackets / pants are designed to provide shelter against rain and wind. They’re also designed to be extremely breathable and durable, hence the reason why they’re so often preferred by backcountry enthusiasts.

If you’re looking for something a bit more comfortable, a softshell jacket / pants combo might be more up your street. Softshells often allow for more mobility, whilst also offering a decent amount of waterproofing and breathability.

You can also choose to go with an insulated option. The level of insulation in both snowboard jackets and pants varies, but if you’re prone to getting cold we’d recommend investing in something that comes with some form of insulation. Head over to our best snowboard mid-layer to get the low down on the difference between down and synthetic insulation.

Sustainability and Durability

Choosing more sustainable options has become the norm these days. It’s also, we’re happy to report, something that’s become much popular within the snowboard industry. Brands are putting more effort into producing products sustainably, and this is clear when looking at this season’s outerwear.

“Choosing more sustainable options has become the norm these days”

When purchasing a new product, you should bear in mind that even though the manufacturing of products has become more sustainable – the key to sustainability lies in the durability of the product itself.

Most of the CO2 emissions released are a result of the production and distribution processes, so even if the outerwear industry is taking a step in the right direction by doing things like using recycled materials, your purchasing decisions are what really makes a difference.

It may, for example, be worth spending a bit more money on a jacket that can last you up to five years rather than a cheaper option that might only take you through one season and has to be replaced sooner.

In the end, it’s down to you what you choose to spend your money on. Just make sure that whatever you choose has the right fit, as it’d be a shame if you couldn’t fit an extra layer underneath or the pants started falling off mid-way down the slope.


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