If you are in the market for snowboard pants there are a couple of key things to look out for besides their color and how they look.
Finding the right snow pants is mostly about waterproofing, breathability & warmth.
This is something that I don’t compromise on in snowboarding pants. Regardless of ability, style or who you are riding with, it is most likely that you will be spending some time getting snow on your pants – be it by slashing through it, bailing onto it or simply sitting in it waiting for your buddies. Or even just sitting on a wet, or snow covered chair. Or when you get lucky and it’s puking when you’re riding.
And there’s nothing worse than having a wet butt all day. And that’s even if it’s not raining. When it’s raining but you want to continue riding, then waterproof pants are even more important.
There are two main ways that snowboarding pants will be waterproofed. The first one is whether they are critically taped or fully seam sealed and the second is by the waterproofing of the fabric.
Critically taped or Fully seam sealed
Critically Taped (a.k.a. critical seams taped, critical seams sealed) means that only the critical seams are taped – not all of them. The problem with this is that water has a way of finding those non-critical seams and getting in!
This is particularly true on a wet day. Not as big a problem in the snow though – but if you want the option of riding when it’s wet, then critically taped may not be enough.
Fully Taped (a.k.a. fully seam sealed, fully sealed) means how it sounds. It is fully sealed meaning nothing gets in. Ideally this is the way you want to go. The first time I got fully seam sealed pants was awesome (and happened to be a wet day). I was bone dry underneath. Compared to what I was used to that was amazing.
The other factor to look out for in waterproofing is the waterproofness of the fabric.
Some, but not all snow pants and jackets will come with a waterproof rating. This will range from 5,000mm to 25,000mm generally. It basically means the number of millimetres of water stacked on top of the pants it would take for water to make it through the material.
A lot of cheaper pants will come with 5,000mm – stay away from this. It’s definitely worth paying that little bit more to get something that will actually be waterproof.
10,000mm is often enough – especially if you’re going to be riding anywhere that doesn’t typically see rain.
If you do end up riding in rain sometimes or wet snow, then going 15,000mm+ is ideal.
Note also that it does come down to waterproofing spray too – like DWR (Durable Water Repellent). And this can be re-applied to extend the waterproofness of your snowboard pants when it feels like they’re not keeping the water out as well as they used to.
Gore-Tex, if you’re not familiar with it, is a fabric known for it’s waterproofness and breathability.
It does tend to be a bit pricier, though there are more and more options these days at a reasonable price.
One good thing to know about Gore-Tex snowboard pants is that they are always fully taped.
Related: TOP 20 MEN’S SNOWBOARD PANTS
Related: TOP 10 WOMEN’S SNOWBOARD PANTS
The second, slightly less important, thing to look out for is the breathability of the pants.
Breathability is measured in grams and essentially measures how much air can get through and how much moisture can be wicked away.
I’ve spent more days on the mountain sweating than I have freezing so it is important to have some breathability.
The most common measurements in breathability will be between 5,000 and 20,000g. Depending on where you typically ride will depend on the breathability you need. If you don’t really ever ride in warmer conditions, then this will be less important. But if you do sometimes ride in warmer conditions, then this becomes more important. I often ride in fairly warm conditions and really value breathability in the fabric of my snowboard pants and jacket, so I look for a minimum of 10,000g but prefer more.
Another way to help with this is through venting in the pants. For snow pants this typically comes in the form of zippered thigh vents. These can make a really big difference when things get hot. Most snowboard pants come with some kind of venting, but not all, so if you think this will be important for you, make sure the pants you’re looking at have them.
And next we come to warmth.
Snowboard pants come in both shell and insulated varieties. And the level of insulation can vary.
I personally prefer shell pants, because for me a typical day on the mountain all I’ll ride with is the shell pants. And then when I do get colder days that require a bit more warmth, then I use a base layer underneath. I find that way I can remain flexible to ride on warm days and cold days.
But I run pretty hot and some run much colder and might want a bit more insulation. And others still ride only in cold or really cold conditions, where insulation, as well as a base layer, is needed. So, as always, it will depend on your particular situation as to what works best for you, when it comes to warmth.
One final thought on warmth is that staying dry is a really important part of staying warm – and both waterproofing and breathability help you to stay dry. Waterproofing is the obvious one, but breathability is also important. Imagine you’re out riding, it’s fairly warm and you’re building up a sweat. Then you go get a coffee or a bite to eat. If you’re pants aren’t great at wicking away moisture, then all that sweat gets trapped and it cools down when you stop moving. Now when you go back out that cold sweat is, well….it’s really cold!
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER
Most snowboard pants will come with these things, but they’re something you want, then make sure of it:
- Boot Gaiters: These fit tightly around your boots and help to keep snow out of your boots. I’ve never ridden with snowboard pants or bibs without these, so I don’t know how much snow would get in, but a vast majority of snowboard pants have this, so you should be good. But just make sure.
- Jacket to Pants connections: Often you can get pants that will connect to your jacket, particularly if you buy within the same brand. The pants typically connect to the powder skirt of the jacket and help to keep snow from getting into your pants.
- Pockets: Depending on how much you want to keep with you when your riding, you might want a selection of pockets. Of course your jacket will have pockets too, so it really depends. At least some pockets are good to have though.
- Fit: Even tighter fitting snowboard pants tend to come with quite stretchy material so as not to affect your range of motion, so this usually comes down to the style you’re looking for, but if you are looking for that tighter fit, ensure that they will be stretchy enough to allow for that movement.
Pants or Bib Pants?
This is one decision you’ll need to make as well. Whether you go for pants or bib pants. This is a subject for an entire separate post and I’ll get to that, but a couple of quick things to consider:
- Price: Bib pants are usually costlier
- Where you ride: Bib pants do a better job of keeping snow out – if you ride a fair bit in powder, then bibs are well worth considering. If you’re just riding the resort and don’t really leave the groomers, then they’re less necessary.
Not everyone has the same budget for snowboard pants, so what you may want to get may not be what you can, or are willing, to pay for.
However, even on a small budget, I would try to look for minimum 10,000mm waterproofing and 10,000g breathability – and ideally fully taped seams, if you can swing it. The following is a list of snowboard pants (updated every year) that are reasonably priced but of at least a reasonable quality.
>>TOP 10 MEN’S CHEAP SNOWBOARD PANTS
>>TOP 10 WOMEN’S CHEAP SNOWBOARD PANTS
If price is less of an issue, then check out:
>>TTOP 20 MEN’S SNOWBOARD PANTS
>>TOP 10 WOMEN’S SNOWBOARD PANTS
Which don’t take price into account, except that I’ve only considered pants costing $400 or less. All these lists are updated annually.
So we’ve looked at several things that are important (to differing degrees) for snowboard pants, inluding:
- Boot Gaiters
- Jacket to Pants Connections
The table below summarizes what I think is necessary:
|Seams Sealing:||Fully Taped a strong preference|
|Fabric Waterproof:||10,000mm minimum and more if you live somewhere where rain is going to be a reality.|
|Fabric Breathable:||10,000g minimum|
|Insulation:||A shell is typically a good idea, so you have the option to layer but have pants you can use for warmer days too – but if you live in a colder environment or run cold, then some level of insulation might be best for you.|
|Venting:||Not a deal breaker if you don’t typically ride in warmer conditions but nice to have if you do|
|Jacket to Pants Connections:||For even more effectively keeping snow out of the pants. Again not critical, but does help. Not needed if you opt for bib pants|
|Boot Gaiters||Haven’t experienced riding without them, but I’d say their a must – and come with a majority of snowboard pants.|
||If you like a tighter fit, make sure they are stretchy enough that they don’t affect your range of motion.|
||If you’ve got a smaller budget, check out the lists at the links above for cheaper options that are still of a decent quality|
Thanks for reading and I hope this has helped you to choose the best snowboard pants for you.
Hi Nate – great website and videos – super informative.
For me, the key to good snowboard pants is level of waterproofness (only GoreTex) but also they must rise high on the back (e.g. technical mountaineering bibs like North Face summit series) so you can’t get snow down your pants.
For me at least, snow skirts never really do the job, as they can rise up your back as you ride. And it’s a killer when your mates grind to a stop behind you and cover your back in a pile of while of snow while you wait for them…..
Anyway – I used to rock baggy snowboard pants that sit on the hips – but definitely put a premium on comfort over style as I have gotten older!
Just my two cents.
Cheers again for the great gear reviews.
Thanks for your input. Yeah it certainly sucks getting snow down your pants, so I totally see your point there!
hi, just browsing internet for waterproof pants and your site popped up. Do you think these pants would be good for hiking. Cheers. Ian.
Hi Ian – I’m not really sure. I do a bit of hiking but I usually wear shorts when I do – a fair weather hiker! It’s not one of their recommended uses. The other thing is that a lot, but not all, of snowboarding pants are quite baggy. Not sure if that would suit hiking in terms of getting them snagged on stuff and the likes.
The other thing is whether they’d be too heavy and warm for hiking – though I guess it would depend on where and in what weather conditions you were hiking in.
I’m probably not much help in terms of hiking stuff but I hope this somewhat answers your question.