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.
If you live in more a more extreme cold area, where rain is less common during snowboarding season, you can get away with less waterproofing and might consider warmth a higher priority. But even in that case, some level of waterproofing is still important.
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
Though there are a number of other technologies now and it may not be as easy to tell what their waterproofing levels are, apart from just taking the brand’s word for it. It’s nice when the waterproof rating is mentioned, so you have means of getting an impression of how waterproof it will be – and to be able to compare to others.
How the seams are sealed
Seams will either come “fully taped (aka “fully seam sealed”) or “critically taped”.
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 through other seams.
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 less likely to affect a 20,000mm jacket.
I wore a 10,000mm waterproofer (which was also fully seam sealed) for quite a while and I only ever get wet on when the rain was 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. I have to get out there on heavy rain days sometimes (when I have gear to test and only have it for a limited amount of time, sometimes it’s forced), and I got sick of it, so replaced with a Gore-Tex jacket, which is still not invincible but much better.
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!
I’ve found Gore-Tex to be really waterproof and breathable so it’s a great option to go with.
It’s not usually cheap, though there are a number of cheaper options these days.
Gore-Tex will always have fully taped seams. It’s a requirement for any jacket manufacturer that is using the Gore-Tex technology that the seams are fully sealed.
Gore-Tex typically comes with a waterproof rating of 28,000mm and breathability of 20,000mm (though sometimes more, like on a 3 layer Gore-Tex jacket).
RELATED: TOP 20 SHELL SNOWBOARD JACKETS
Snowboarding is a rigorous activity and with that often comes sweat, especially if you end up a little over dressed for the day.
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, maybe a little counterintuitively, 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 a break or lunch or dinner or something) 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.
I would try for at least 10,000g if you can. 20,000g is probably overkill and you will typically pay extra for a better rating but I find it nice to have that extra breathability, but I tend to sweat pretty easily on the hill.
Depending on where you usually ride and how cold you run, you might want to go with a jacket that has insulation. Insulation in snow jackets usually runs from shell (aka no insulation) to “lining” to a lot of insulation – with a variety of fillers from synthetic to down.
I typically ride with a shell and I can layer underneath (my preference being Merino base layers) when it’s colder. But I do also have an insulated jacket for those particularly cold days. I was in -22°F (-30°C) recently and was pretty to be able to layer AND have an insulated jacket!
RELATED: TOP 10 INSULATED SNOWBOARD JACKETS
There are several things with a snowboard jacket that help to make it more functional, inluding:
- Powder Skirt
- Jacket to Pants Connections
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 – and 99% of snowboarding jackets have this.
A lot of powder skirts also have connections that can connect them to your pants – offering even more protection. Sometimes this means getting your jackets and pants of the same brand. These jacket to pants connections are pretty good to have on a powder day (if you don’t ride with bib pants.
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.
Most snowboard jackets will come with these, usually in the form of zips under the arms with a mesh lining.
A hood on your jacket can really help on super cold days and wet days.
And having a hood that’s helmet compatible is really a must these days with most wearing helmets (which is a good thing – gotta protect that Noggin!).
I find I don’t use the hood that often, but during a snowstorm or a downpour I appreciate it then.
Got to have somewhere to put that wallet, phone, keys, lock etc – and whatever else it is you feel you need on the mountain. Thankfully most snowboarding jackets come with plenty of pockets to accommodate this.
Some pockets that I find are must haves:
- Media pocket (sometimes known as a noise pocket) – to keep your phone safe, easy access and easy to run ear phones out of, if you’re not using bluetooth. I use bluetooth helmet speakers, but still good to have for those days when I’ve forgotten to give them a charge.
- Zippered sleeve pass pocket. Just makes it way easier when going through RFID gates. Sometimes they are velcro and they’re probably fine, but I just trust zips way more than velcro.
- Handwarmer pockets: Admittedly I seldom use these to actually warm my hands, but they’re handy for bits and pieces.
- Goggle mesh pocket: Again I don’t often actually use this for my goggles, but sometimes I store my selfie stick in there for when I’m filming or just taking pictures during demos.
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 usually 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’s going to be functional for your needs, 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 and that you like the looks of.
To summarize, look for:
|Seams Sealing:||Fully Taped|
|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 a jacket 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.|
|Powder Skirt:||Preferable – and comes on a large majority of snowboard jackets|
|Jacket to Pants Connections:||For even more effectively keeping snow out of the pants|
|Venting:||Underarm pit vents are typically enough|
|Hooded:||Try to make sure it’s helmet compatible, assuming you wear a helmet.|
Finally, there is the important factor of budget. Everyone has a different budget. Some simply can’t afford to spend more than a certain amount – and others might be able to afford to but don’t want to spend over a certain amount. For others your budget might be unlimited. Even on a small budget, I would try to look for the minimums of 10,000mm/10,000g waterproofing/breathability – and there a plenty of great options for a good price at those levels.
Check out our Top 10 Cheap Men’s Snowboard Jackets list or our Top 20 Women’s Snowboarding Jackets list (which has a section for low cost options) for some great options at a reasonable price (list updated annually).
If you’re willing to spend a bit more, then you might want to check out the following instead:
>>Top 20 Women’s Snowboard Jackets (which is split up into shell, insulated, jackets between $250 and $300 and jackets under $250).
All the lists above are updated annually.
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.