Your first line of defense from weather is outerwear. So you have your jacket picked out, what next? You will need to pick yourself up a good quality pair of snowboard pants to match your awesome jacket. However, picking out the right pair of snowboard pants is not an easy task. In fact, it could be downright daunting. But with the proper knowledge, you can become a snowboard pants expert in no time. Just read this guide and get educated!
While shopping for snowboard pants, you will notice that there are many different types. The most common snowboard pant is one that is insulated. Other types of snowboard pants are shells or have insulated zones. So which type should you buy? Well, there’s no real right answer for this. The fact is, many different types will get the job done for you. The amount of insulation or none at all, depends entirely on the individual. If you get hot easily, then insulated pants might not be the best choice making a shell ideal. If you get cold easily, then insulation is a great choice. Even a shell is great for people that get cold if they are the type of rider that likes to layer their clothes. So the first step to selecting a type of snowboard pant is to determine your level of cold weather tolerance. Done? Then it’s time to move onto the next step.
The outer layer of insulated pants is waterproof and the insulated material is built into the pant. The insulation is likely made from fleece or some type of synthetic like Primaloft. Some snowboard pants have specific areas of insulation to keep you warm in the most vulnerable areas.
Insulation weight is measured in grams. The higher the insulation in grams, the warmer the snowboard pants will be. Insulation types can range as low as 30 grams and go as high as 800 grams, which is most commonly found with Down material. For those looking for optimal warmth, insulated pants are ideal.
Shell snowboard pants are just like insulated pants without the insulation. They are highly waterproof and breathable. You might be left wondering why anyone would want snowboard shell pants. One reason would be that a person gets hot easily. Another reason would be because a person prefers the lighter weight of a shell pants. This is not to say all insulated pants are heavy. In fact, many are really light. However, by far the biggest reason why people get shell pants is for the versatility of layering. Shell pants are ideal for layering because it adds minimal bulk. You can simply add more base layers or shed them according to the weather.
Shell snowboard pants are also great to wear with minimal layers, if any, for warmer weather riding. For extreme cold weather conditions (think Eskimo levels here) shells are not the ideal choice unless you want to wear a lot of layers. For more information on base and mid layers, please review our article on the importance of layering.
Waterproofing is the single most important feature of a snowboard pant. After all, water in your pants while you’re shredding it up on snow is not a happy situation. Waterproof rating determines how much abuse your snowboard pants can take before it lets the water in. Waterproof ratings are measured and indicated in millimeters(mm). The level is determined by placing a tube filled on the fabric and filling it with water. The level at which the water begins to penetrate through the fabric is the waterproof rating. This means that the higher the rating, the more waterproof the snowboard pants will be. For a pair of pants to be legally deemed waterproof, it must achieve a minimum 1,500mm rating. Pants can be rated as high as 20,000mm, but the average rating is typically between 5,000 and 10,000mm. Keep in mind that as the rating goes higher, so too will the price.
The market is filled with many different types of fabrics. Some of the more well-known materials that are used are Gore-Tex, Hyvent, and DryRide. What makes materials like these so effective is that they contain pores which are larger than a molecule of sweat, but smaller than a molecule of water. This gives the fabric the feature of being waterproof, yet breathable.
Breathability is very similar to waterproof ratings, but works the opposite way. Breathability is fabric’s ability to allow sweat molecules to escape. Allowing sweat molecules to escape ensures that you stay dry thus warmer.
Breathability rating is measured and indicated in grams (g). The measurement is determined by finding the Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate (MVTR). The MVTR determines how many grams of sweat per 1 square meter can escape a pair of pants in a 24 hour period. The higher the number, the more moisture escapes and the more breathable it is. Entry-level breathable fabrics will have MVTR ratings in the range of 2,000-3000g. Fabrics at the high end of the breathability scale will have an MVTR around 25,000g. Again, typically there is a correlation between this rating and price.
So you have yourself a pair of shopping center snow pants that you’ve been using to shovel your driveway in the winter. Yea, it probably keeps you warm and dry as well. However, don’t think for one second that you can substitute those pants for bona fide snowboard specific ones. The reason is simple: snowboard pants are much more durable.
Snowboard pants are made of tightly woven nylon or polyester. These materials are designed for high performance use in the most extreme of winter conditions. Extended exposure to high winds and the wet elements of the winter are what make the construction of a snowboard pant different from those Blah-Mart snowpant things that you own. You might have wondered why snowboard pants cost more than your snowpants, but now you know why.
Fully taped seams means exactly what the name suggests; all of the stitched seams have been taped for waterproofing. This process is achieved by using a waterproof taping material on the inside and outside of the seams. Fully taped seams are the optimal choice for full protection against water. However, they cost more than snowboard pants with critically taped seams.
The less expensive option than Fully taped seams is Critically taped seams. Critically taped seams are only taped in the most vulnerable areas. Optimally, you want to look for fully taped seams when it comes to snowboard pants. This is because snowboard pants are most exposed to snow and moisture than any other piece of outerwear. For all intents and purposes though, critically taped seams is enough for most riders.
Shopping for snowboard pants aren’t only about waterproofing and breathability. There are a plethora of other features to look out for. While we can’t possibly cover them all, we will highlight main ones in this next section.
Boot Gaiters: Boot gaiters might seem like a simple feature to you, but they are life savers. Unless of course you enjoy a good chunk of snow up your legs at all times. Boot gaiters are a cuff on the inner bottom of snowboard pants with an elastic band. Boot gaiters often have lace clips as well that you can attach to your boot lace. The elastic band will ensure that the boot cuff fits snugly over your boot locking out the snow.
Articulated Knees: Articulated knees is a feature that pre-shapes the knee area of the snowboard pant to match the natural bend of your knees. This is a great feature since you probably won’t be riding straight legged the entire time. If you are, you need to go read a how-to snowboard guide right now.
Scuff Guards: A Scuff Guard is extra durable fabric that is positioned inside of the ankle of a snowboard pant. Its purpose is to keep the pants from fraying in an area that is highly prone to friction. This feature is considered by many as a must have because it helps to protect the investment made in snowboard pants.
Waist Adjustment: This one is pretty self-explanatory. Waist adjustments usually come in the form of adjustable Velcro. Some snowboard pants have other types such as elastic bands. The majority of snowboard pants will have this feature and it is great in case you eat too much cheesecake. It’s also great for the times you wear multiple layers. This is also a great feature for those of you that do not like to wear belts.
Suspenders: Again, this one is self explanatory. Snowboard pant suspenders are just like your Al-Capone suit suspenders. The difference is that snowboard pant suspenders are sewn into the pant itself. Only select models of snowboard pants offer this feature.
Side Zips: These are located on the bottom of the snowboard pant. The main purpose of side zips is to ensure that your pant fits over any boot. However, many riders will leave them unzipped for that extra steeze factor.
Inner Leg Vents: Inner leg vents can be very welcomed at times. Leg vents are a feature that employs zippers with a mesh lining on the inner thigh area of snowboard pants. When things heat up, just unzip them and let the breeze do its job. Most snowboard pants will have this feature (thankfully).
Leg Lifts: Only select snowboard pant models include this feature. It is usually a piece of material located by the boot cuff that allows you to roll them up and snap them into a higher location. This causes your cuffs to be lifted up and away from the ground. This is very useful when you are walking around the parking lot which more than likely has puddles of melted snow that have been tainted by dirty car tires. And who knows what these tires ran over?
Jacket-to-Pant Interface: This feature is offered by many brands and comes in different forms. The majority are also strictly compatible with jackets within the brand. Jacket-to-pant interfaces come in either zip or snap form. This feature is very useful for powder days as it completely locks the elements out.
Pass Pocket: Some snowboard pant models offer this feature. This magical pocket provides you with a place to store your pass so you have it at the ready should you be asked for it. While not a must have, it is nice to have a place to store your pass so it isn’t constantly flapping in the wind.
Cargo Pocket: Some snowboard pants offer cargo pockets. These are just like the cargo pockets you see on those army pants or many khaki shorts. Are cargo pockets needed? Certainly not. But some people like the extra storage option.
Glove Holster: Glove holsters are awesome when available. These are plastic hooks that allow you to clip your gloves to your pants when you aren’t using them. This way, you have two less items to fumble around with when not riding.
- Video Tutorial: How to Dress Correctly for Snowboarding
- Video Tutorial: Differences Between Base Layers and Long Underwear
- Sizing Guide | Snowboard Jackets and Pants