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How To Buy Snowboard Pants

Snowboard apparel has two functions, to keep you warm and dry and to help you look good. Knowing how this outerwear works and what to look for will make it easier to decide what you want to wear while boarding.

The Importance of Layering

  • The best layering system for snowboarding consists of three layers:
  • When all three layers are working together, the result is a "personal climate" that will keep you comfortable and protected on the slopes

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Outerwear Features and Functions

Snowboard outerwear--which includes insulated jackets, shells/non-insulated jackets, and pants--protects you from the extreme elements you may encounter while snowboarding, such as snow, sleet or rain and wind.

Fabrics

  • Fabrics for snowboard outerwear and the treatments used on them to help protect you from the elements should be among your top considerations when selecting outerwear for snowboarding
  • Most outerwear is made out of tightly woven nylon or polyester. Both are durable and fairly water-resistant, and can be woven in various weights.
  • Some outerwear is now being made using nylon and polyester microfibers. These fabrics are woven using extremely fine fibers.
  • Microfibers are used in higher-priced, higher performance garments, and are more common in outerwear for skiing than snowboarding

Features and Functions

  • Waterproof/Breathable
    • Snowboard outerwear, both insulated and non-insulated, that is waterproof/breathable offers the ultimate in protection from the elements
    • Most snowboarders should choose outerwear that is waterproof/breathable because you spend a lot of time on or near the ground
    • To make sure your waterproof/breathable outerwear is most effective, look for garments that are seamsealed. The ultimate goal is to keep moisture from the outside from passing through the jacket, while still allowing water vapor generated by perspiration to escape.
    • You should note that waterproof/breathable outerwear is usually less breathable than water-repellant garment/water-resistant outerwear
    • Some waterproof/breathable outerwear styles include design elements like zippers and venting systems to allow more perspiration vapor out
  • Water-repellent/Water-resistant
    • Outerwear that is water-repellant or water-resistant will keep you dry for long periods of time, but unlike waterproof fabrics, these fabrics can become saturated and lose their effectiveness in extreme weather conditions or when you make a lot of contact with the snow
    • Water-resistant garments generally keep out more water for longer periods of time than water-repellant garments. Most fabrics with these characteristics are breathable and will allow water vapor from perspiration to escape while keeping snow, sleet and rain at bay.
    • DWRs, durable water-repellent finishes, are often used in ski outerwear and enhance water-repellency without negatively affecting breathability
  • Waterproof
    • Outerwear for snowboarding is available that offers various degrees of protection from the wind
    • Windproof garments offer more protection than wind-resistant styles
  • Moisture Wicking
    • Some outerwear has a moisture wicking layer attached to the underside of the shell that helps promote the release of perspiration vapors and enhances comfort and the body's ability to stay warm

Insulating Materials

  • Your choice of an insulated piece of outerwear versus a non-insulated shell will depend on three main factors, your level of activity, weather conditions, and what you plan to wear underneath.
    • Your level of activity
      • Snowboarders typically expend huge amounts of energy and generate plenty of body heat. If you are this type of intense rider, you are less likely to need an insulated jacket.
      • A better choice to add warmth to your boarding wardrobe are mid-layer insulating pieces in a variety of weights, which can be matched to weather conditions, temperature and your activity level
    • Weather conditions
      • Extreme cold conditions usually require outerwear that offers the added warmth of insulation, even for high-energy snowboarders
    • What you plan to wear underneath
      • If you do not plan to dress in layers, with long underwear and an insulated mid-layer, you will most likely need a garment with some insulation. Keep in mind, however, that a good thermal base layer and an insulating second layer can reduce or eliminate the need for insulating materials in your outerwear, even on a very cold day.
      • Most boarders dress in layers and consider shells more versatile than insulated pieces, because they can function well in a variety of conditions
      • Boarders who choose a non-insulated shell should make sure it is waterproof/breathable
  • Man-made insulations
    • Most insulations are made of polyester and come in a variety of weights and lofts. Generally, the greater the weight and loft, the more warmth the insulation provides.
    • Most snowboarding is an intense physical activity, most boarders who want insulated jackets should choose ones with fairly low degrees of insulation
  • Down
    • Down is nature's great insulator. It offers a high warmth-to-weight ratio, and is compressible, lightweight and breathable.

Performance Details

  • There are some design features that will make a real difference to your comfort on the slopes
    • Zippers with big pulls make it easy to zip and unzip your jacket when wearing bulky gloves
    • Storm flaps that conceal zippers help to keep out wind and cold
    • Cuffs are used to keep snow from entering your gloves and jacket
    • Hoods are used to keep your head dry thus keeping you warm
    • Large functional pockets are used to hold valuables such as your wallet and keys

Fit

  • Jackets and pants for snowboarding are designed to fit more loosely than traditional ski outerwear to allow for greater freedom of movement
  • Outerwear should not be so baggy that it gets in the way or actually inhibits your movement

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Pants/Bibs

It is also important to consider the features you will need when it comes to buying pants or bibs.

Features

  • Roomier fit
    • Snowboard pants will have a roomier fit in order to allow for more movement when doing tricks
  • Elastic waist
    • An elastic waist provides for a comfotable fit and also helps to keep out snow
  • Open bottom with gaiter
    • A covering of lightweight, moisture-resistant fabric, used by snowboarders in conditions of deep snow
    • It is attached to the inside of the pant and extends down over the top of the boot to prevent snow from entering your pants
  • Sealed seams
    • Ensures that no water from snow, sleet, or rain enters through the seams of your pants, making sure you stay dry and warm

Additional Options

  • Pockets
    • Pockets offer a good way to store your valuables, such as a wallet and keys
  • Removable suspenders
    • Add extra support to help hold pants up and in place
  • Reinforced seat and knees
    • Have an extra layer of tough fabric in the seat and knees for added protection against the elements
    • These styles are especially good for newcomers to the sport, who tend to spend less time upright than more experienced boarders
  • Side zippers
    • These are a way to offer ventilation
    • The pants have zippers down the side of the legs to allow more airflow when temperatures heat up

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