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How To Buy Snowboard Jackets

The primary function of snowboard apparel is to keep you warm and dry, the secondary function is to help you look good. Knowing how this type of 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 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

Outerwear 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
  • Windproof
    • 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


  • 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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The type and intensity of your winter activity and weather conditions encountered are important factors when buying a jacket or parka.


  • Radial sleeve
    • Radial sleeves eliminate the restrictions and tugging that occurs in the shoulders of a normal jacket or parka
    • More space is created in this area by using a different construction of the shoulder, armhole, and underarm panels allowing for easier movement
    • This is especially good because it allows for a wide range of movement when doing tricks
  • Sealed seams
    • Ensures that no water from snow, sleet, or rain enters your jacket, making sure you stay dry and warm
  • Zippered pockets
    • This feature allows you to not only have a place to store valuables, such as a wallet or keys, but also can act as a hand warmer
  • Waist gaiter
    • A waist gaiter is a strap on the inside of your jacket that fits snugly around your waist thus keeping out snow and cold

Additional Options

  • Reinforced elbows
    • Have an extra layer of tough fabric in the elbows for added protection against the elements
    • This is an especially good option for newcomers to the sport, who tend to spend less time upright than more experienced boarders
  • Venting systems
    • Most venting systems are simply an underarm pit vent
    • This is simply a zipper in the underarm area of the jacket that can be opened to provide ventilation when temperatures heat up
  • Zip off hood
    • This feature helps you to control not only your body temperature, but also your visibility and comfort
  • Lift ticket d-ring
    • Gives the snowboarder a place to conveniently store their lift tickets
  • Layered design
    • This jacket is actually 3 jackets in 1
    • It features an outer shell and a zip-in/zip-out inner liner
    • The 2 pieces can be worn either together or separately giving many different options for temperature control

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