There are a number of key specs you want to look out for in your snowboard jacket. One factor might be budget so you may not be able to always get the exact jacket that you want.
However, below are what I consider to be the crucial aspects that you shouldn’t compromise on to ensure that you have a comfortable, warm and dry experience on the mountain.
The number one function of any snowboard jacket, in my opinion, is waterproofing. There’s nothing worse than getting wet from a bit of rain or snow and ending up cold and uncomfortable.
It’s enough to send you home from the mountain early or makes for an uncomfortable rest of the day.
I know what’s it’s like to have both a really un-waterproof jacket and a really waterproof one and the difference is worlds apart.
So how do you know waterproof the jacket is before you buy it?
Snowboarding jackets will usually indicate their waterproof-ness in two of the following three ways
- How the seams are sealed
- Waterproof Rating
How the seams are sealed:
Seams will either come “fully seam sealed” or “critically taped”.
Fully seam sealed (aka fully taped) means that all the seams are sealed and no water will get in that way.
Critically taped (aka critically sealed), means that only the major seams are sealed and water can still enter.
Always look for the “fully” option and try to avoid the “critical” option where possible.
Some, but not all snowboard jackets come with a waterproof rating which is measured in millimetres. They usually come in a range from 5,000mm to 20,000mm. These ratings are a bit misleading – they’re suppose to determine how much rain the jacket can handle in a 24 hour period.
However, you will never get 5,000mm of rain in a day – but a 5,000mm rated jacket will let water in – trust me I’ve been there and been very wet! I think the heaviness of the rain – i.e. the amount of force that the rain drop hits the jacket with, is more indicative to how wet you’ll get. Heavier rain/snow might penetrate a 5,000mm jacket but not a 20,000mm jacket.
I currently wear a 10,000mm waterproofer (which is also fully seam sealed) and I’ll only ever get wet on when the rain is pretty heavy. So in my experience 10,000mm is enough most of the time but 15,000mm + is better (or gore-tex) if you want to stay dry in more conditions.
15,000mm+ is probably your best bet but 10,000mm will be fine if you don’t get a lot of heavy rain or choose not to go out in heavy rain anyway.
Just avoid 5,000mm unless you want to get wet up there!
Gore-Tex is the latest in waterproof and breathable technology for snowboarding jackets. It is insanely waterproof and breathable and this is really the ultimate option to go with.
But you’ll pay for it. Gore-Tex isn’t cheap, so if budget is no object then this is definitely a good option but if it is out of your price range check for the seams and waterproof ratings as per above.
Gore-Tex will always be fully seam sealed – in fact it’s a requirement for any jacket manufacturer that is using the Gore-Tex technology that the seams are fully sealed.
I own a Gore-Tex rain jacket (not snowboarding one) and it’s kept me dry in the most torrid of conditions (try Vietnam in monsoon season!)
Related: Top 20 Snowboarding Jackets
Snowboarding is a rigorous activity and with that comes sweat (especially for those of us of the male persuasion!).
I have spent more days on the mountain sweating than I have cold. So breathability becomes really important to wick away the sweat.
This is both for comfort and, strangely, warmth. If you are out there sweating away and that sweat becomes trapped in your un-breathable garment it will not only be uncomfortable and start to stink but when that sweat cools down (maybe you’ve just had lunch or a break) and you go back out there it can make you really cold because you aren’t dry.
Breathability is typically measured in grams and you can expect anything from 3,000g to 20,000g. In my opinion this is slightly less important than waterproofing but important none the less.
I would try for at least 8,000g if you can. 20,000g is probably overkill and you will typically pay extra for a better rating. My jacket has 10,000g and does a decent job in controlling the sweat and find it very comfortable in most conditions. On really hot days I do yearn for a bit more air though.
Depending on where you usually ride and how cold you find you get you might want to go with a jacket that has insulation. Insulation in snow jackets usually runs from “none at all” to “lining” to anywhere up to 120g – with a variety of fillers.
Personally I don’t find I typically get cold on the mountain unless it’s windy (and then typically only on the lift ride) so I went for a jacket with just a thin lining, but I don’t get cold that easily so if you are someone who does feel the cold then insulation is a good way to go.
Unless you want snow down your pants or inside your jacket then having a powder skirt will serve you well.
It’s not 100% fool proof and may not stop the snow on a big wipeout but I find it generally does a good job. Not a must-must have but a very-very nice to have.
The other way a jacket can help with being too hot and for when you’re sweating up a storm, is with vents, particularly in the under arm.
For me, these aren’t a must-have but a nice-to-have – but most jackets will come with these, usually in the form of zips under the arms with a mesh lining.
Some people definitely value vents a lot though and if you’re one of them, then make sure that your jacket has them – and if you’re opening and closing them a lot throughout the day, then try to make sure that the vents are easy to reach and easy to use.
A hood on your jacket can really help on super cold days and wet days. I personally wear a helmet (gotta protect the noggin!) but find that I can still get the hood over the top of it if I first zip down the main zipper, put the hood on and then zip back up.
Some might consider this a must-have but I would say it’s definitely a nice-to-have. I do use my hood but not very often and could survive without it.
Got to have somewhere to put that wallet, phone, keys, mp3 player, spare hat, sunglasses, trail map – and whatever else it is you feel you need on the mountain. Thankfully most snowboarding jackets come with plenty of pockets to accommodate this.
I particularly like the inside pocket in my jacket with a hole in it so that your ear phones can come through.
Obviously you are going to want to get the right sized jacket. Generally each model of snowboard jacket will come in a range of sizes so there should be one that fits you. For sizing it’s pretty safe to go with your normal size.
Apart from everything else you still want to look good on the mountain right!? Once you’ve found something that you like then you then you’ve just got to find the style that you like.
Fortunately, there are heaps of snow jackets in existence so it shouldn’t be any trouble finding one that fits everything that you need. Check out the links below. These guys stock hundreds of different jackets so you should be able to find one amongst them.
To summarize, look for:
Seams Taped: Fully
Fabric Waterproof: 10,000mm (min) or gore-tex
Fabric Breathable: 8,000 (min) or gore-tex
Insulation: Personal preference/usual conditions
Powder Skirt: Preferable
Venting: Nice to have (will usually have)
Hooded: Nice to have
If you are searching using the links above you will find these specs on the left hand side under the image jacket (after you have clicked on the jacket).
Check out the snowboarding jackets that I have personally reviewed at the link below. One of these may be suitable to your needs/taste.
I think I’ve covered all the important aspects here but if you can think of anything I’ve left out just leave a comment below. Any other questions or comments very welcome too.