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Snowboarding requires snow, and snow means cold and wet. With such conditions, proper gear is essential, so you may wonder, "What pants should I wear?" We have done our research, so we can thoroughly answer that question in this post.
For snowboarding, you want to wear pants that are waterproof and warm. There are several approaches to accomplishing this comfort, depending on budget, local climate, and frequency of use. The main choices you'll have to make when purchasing snowboard pants are -
- Hardshell or Softshell
- Insulated or Uninsulated
- Regular-length, Bibs or One Piece
This post will have everything you need to make an educated choice about what pants to get for yourself or the snowboarder in your life. Buying the right pants can make the difference between a fun day on the slopes and a cold, wet memory you'd rather leave behind.
Major categories of snowboard pants
Hardshell or Softshell
The first choice to make when choosing snowboard pants is the degree of waterproofing you are looking for. Once you start shopping around, you'll notice a wide range of different types of waterproof ratings, reported in "mm."
Hardshell pants range from about 8,000-20,000mm. While softshell pants range from about 5,000-10,000mm. The higher the rating, the more waterproof and windproof the pants are. Specialty fabrics, like Gore-Tex, are considered so waterproof they don't report a rating.
Higher ratings, and specialty fabrics, also come with a higher price tag. Further, since waterproofing degrades over time, higher-rated pants will also hold a relative degree of waterproofing longer. So before you buy snowboard pants, you'll have to decide how waterproof and durable you'd like them to be.
An excellent first step is to call your local snowboard hill or ask at a local gear shop about regional conditions. The moisture content and temperature of your destination are the significant factors you need to know. For example, Oregon and Washington have wetter snow, while Colorado and Montana have dryer snow.
Other than climate, the primary consideration is how much you plan on using the pants, and how picky you plan on being with weather forecasts. If you only go a few times a year or only plan on going on lovely sunny days, pants with lower degrees of waterproofing should suffice. Or, if you are purchasing for a child that will grow out of the pants soon, long-lasting waterproofing might not be necessary.
Overall, getting a good pair of hardshell pants is the best way to stay dry and comfortable while snowboarding. High-end hardshell pants keep out the elements no matter how nasty it might get. If you plan on snowboarding frequently in all conditions, pants with a hard shell are right for you.
On the other hand, softshell pants are a viable option for many snowboarding excursions. For light snow and rain, softshell pants generally offer more than enough water repulsion. But for wet days and wetter snow, softshell pants can end up leaving the user damp and cold.
Softshell pants are also known to be very comfortable and easy to move in. They come at a great price tag too. If you only plan on snowboarding a few times per year, or only during sunny weather, a cheaper pair of softshell pants can be the perfect option.
Insulated or Uninsulated
Whether you want insulated or uninsulated snowboard pants is a matter of preference. Insulated pants come with built-in insulation, such as a fleece liner. Sometimes insulated pants will advertise what temperature they are appropriate for. Take this with a grain of salt as every snowboarder has different temperature tolerance.
With uninsulated pants, you'll have to layer up under the outer shell. This layer confers an advantage because you can use the same pair of pants on bluebird spring days when it can get downright hot out, and during freezing January blizzards. To account for temperature fluctuations, all you have to do is to change your underlayers.
Regular Length, Bibs, or One Piece
All of the pants linked to so far are of regular length or reach from your shoes to your waist. These pants are generally cheaper than the major alternative - bibs.
Bibs have the advantage of built-in shoulder straps and also offer more snow and wind protection.
By continuing the fabric under your coat, there is no pesky seam for the snow to get into your dry, warm inner layers. Also, the lack of a waist seam affords greater ease of movement. The major downsides to bibs include price and the difficulty of going to the bathroom.
Manufacturers have partially gotten around the bathroom issue in a few ways. They have included built-in zippers and flaps for both men and women, some brands convert from bibs to pants, and some manufacturers offer pants and coats that zip together and apart as needed. However, no amount of technology can be easier than just pulling down a pair of pants.
Finally, no snowboard pants post would be complete without a mention of the famous one piece. What one-pieces offer in style and protection, they lack in versatility. They can be too hot on warm days and are challenging when it comes time to relieve yourself. A good pair of snowboard pants can also double as rain pants for hiking; the same cannot be said for a one-piece.
Usually, new snowboarders start with either bibs or pants due to their affordability and all-around applications.
Snowboard pants features
In addition to the major types of pants listed above, different snowboard pants come with various features. To prepare you to shop for your snowboard pants wisely, we discuss common features here.
One prominent feature that separates lower end and higher end snowboard pants are the seam construction. Taped seams are essential for keeping wind and water out on bad weather days. If you plan on snowboarding frequently in all weather, be sure that the seams are well taped.
Vents are usually small zippers that run anywhere from 8 inches to 24 inches down the pants' sides. They are lined with mesh. Vents are designed to zip up and down depending on the temperature. Most of the specific pants mentioned in this post include vents.
Many mountains are tall enough and cover a large enough area that the temperature can be very different, even from the top to the bottom of the lift. That is not even to mention the wide range of temperatures covered by the snowboard season. Vents are a great feature that allows a single pair of pants to be far more versatile temperature-wise.
Side zips come in 1/4, 1/2, and full. They are designed to make it easier to take snowboard pants on and off. Quarter zips can be nice because they allow you to snug the pants' bottom over your boots. Half-zips often provide enough space for you to take the pants off over your boots. Full-zips are easy to take off over boots.
The amount of zipping that you'd like depends on what you plan on using the pants for. If you plan on just snowboarding at the resort, 1/4 or no side zip should work great. If you plan on backcountry boarding, half-zip or full zips are a great way to improve your layering package.
Built-in gaiters are usually an elastic band inside the pants leg near the base of snowboard pants. They are designed to tightly grip your boot and stop snow from creeping up your leg. Gaiters are a great feature and come highly recommended.
Recco is a technology available in many ski and snowboard outer layers, such as snowboard pants. It is a small reflector sewn into the clothing that makes it easier for search and rescue to find the wearer. While it is infrequent for an avalanche to occur in bounds at a ski resort, Recco improves your chances of being found if you do get caught in one.
If you plan on snowboarding a lot, or mostly in side-country or off-piste terrain. Recco may be a good investment for you.
Fit and Style
For fit, be sure that the pants allow you a free range of movement and have enough space to layer underneath. For style, wear what makes you feel cool! Snowboard pants are often baggy, comfortable, warm, and has that laidback look many snowboarders are going for.
What is the best base layer for snowboarding?
The best base layer for snowboarding is long johns or long underwear. This layer is usually made out of wool or polyester and is relatively tight to the skin. They provide an essential layer of insulation and comfort. For most snowboarders, and on most days, a good pair of snowboard pants and a pair of long johns underneath is all that is needed.
How do you waterproof snowboard pants?
Most snowboard pants are waterproof when new but do lose that waterproofing over time. To re-waterproof them, there are several wash-in products on the market. Once your pants are nice and clean, you rewash them with the recommended amount of waterproofing additive. This should give that waterproofing a second life!
Can you use ski pants for snowboarding?
Yes, you can. Skiing and Snowboarding have the same requirements for pants, and almost all have the same features. There are slight style differences between ski and snowboard pants, but they do not affect functionality.
There is a wide range of snowboard pants available both in features and prices. While specialty fabric uninsulated hardshell pants are the most versatile and comfortable, their price tag is only appropriate for a very dedicated snowboarder. Buying any pants designed for snowboarding is a great way to get started carving on the slopes!