Snowboard pants have come a long way since the days of chain wallets and low-riders. Back in the day, the sport’s fashion was a big middle finger to the elitism of skiing and forgoing the flash and dance for its own subculture with ties to punk rock and hip-hop.
Then in the 2000s, snowboarding became mainstream, and a bit of a fashion renaissance occurred. Nowadays, you have the major outdoor brands competing alongside snowboarding-specific labels to deliver the goods. Consumers expect a lot more than mere fashion, and the gear has to perform well in the elements to gain our hard-earned cash.
The Burton [AK] Cyclic Bib is a testament to the long hours Burton’s team of riders have spent perfecting snowboard outerwear, and it does not disappoint. Price: $460
Yet there are a ton of options out there for snowboarding pants, so we have compiled this guide to help you find the perfect one that will not only last long but also keep your tushy dry throughout the thrills and spills of several seasons. I took this gear out around my home base in British Columbia’s Coast Mountains, home of Whistler Blackcomb, to get a sense of what snowboard pants out there are worth investing in. Here’s what I found:
The Best Snowboard Pants
Best All-Around Snowboard Pants: Burton AK Cyclic Bib ($460)
Best Snowboard Pants For All-Day Wear: Patagonia Storm Shift ($379)
Best Snowboard Pants Layout: Mountain Hardwear Boundary Ridge Bib ($400)
Most Durable Snowboard Pants: Arc’teryx Sabre Bib ($650)
Stretchiest Snowboard Pants: Dakine Sender Stretch Pants ($450)
Best Snowboard Pants for Minimalists: Whitespace 3L Performance Pant ($350)
What matters most when buying snowboard pants?
When trying these snowboard pants out, I used several criteria to evaluate the most important features. Each brand has trademarked features that will claim to set them apart from the rest, but I tried to ignore the marketing lingo and just hit the points that matter. For me, those are:
Waterproofing: Here on the “wet coast,” the constant deluge of rain and almost-snow this season has produced some seriously soggy days. Most of us know that GORE-TEX is the clear champion when it comes to a waterproof layer. Four of these snowboard pants have GORE-TEX, and two (Whitespace, Dakine) do not. Whitespace claims 15k waterproofing on their 3L Performance Pant, meaning it will take 15,000mm of water pressure to begin leaking. That’s enough to sustain a decent bit of rain, but for an absolute deluge, you’ll want to go with a shell that boasts 20k waterproofing and 2L or 3L GORE-TEX (like the Dakine Sender Stretch Pants), which I have found to be the highest standard for water protection.
Breathability: If snowboard pants don’t breathe, you’ll sweat, and when you stop moving, that sweat will get cold, causing temperature swings that fluctuate worse than a Sierra snowpack. Being able to regulate the heat will keep your core temperature on an even keel. This is important both in the resort and backcountry for different reasons. At the resort, you’ll need to keep warm on the chairlift without overheating, and in the backcountry, you’ll want to keep fresh air coming through as you hike, skin up, or shovel out that perfect booter.
Comfort: Feeling good in the clothes you wear is a must. Without it, your mind will be distracted by annoying little things that shouldn’t be consuming brain space. Not to mention if movement is restricted, you can’t perform your best. So a good fit makes all the difference. Comfortable snowboard pants are essential to riding well — the last thing you want is to bail because the pants are too clunky to maneuver around in the air or through the trees.
When it comes to pockets, the Mountain Hardwear Boundary Ridge Bib was our top pick, with awesome organization and plenty of storage. Price: $400
Pockets: A good pocket is like a reliable friend that never leaves your side. That said, bigger is not always better. It takes a careful balance to be large enough to hold things yet sleek enough not to become a burden with too much stuff to carry. Pockets also need to open and close with ease, especially in a hurry.
Warranty/Repair: Wear and tear are inevitable if you’re shredding the gnar. Luckily, most brands are hip to the idea of the gear lasting as long as possible. Some offer repair services and a lifetime warranty. Others offer a limited warranty for a set period of time. If you are someone who buys gear for longevity (really, shouldn’t we all?), then it might be worth knowing who offers what.
I tested these snowboard pants in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, home to the ever-popular resort Whistler Blackcomb. We’ve had quite a year where climate change has reared her ugly face for better and worse. Meaning we’ve really seen it all. We had some great cold days, some heinous rainy days, windstorms, and perfect pow days. So these pants have been through thick and thin, slop and sweetness. I always tried to hike around, too, to see how the gear performed in deep snow and whatever else came its way.
It’s an honor to share with you some of my findings, which come from over 30 years of experience in the mountains. I’ve worked as a filmer and a guide, so some of the extra features, such as pockets, are especially important. I’d like to think of myself as considerably above-average but by no means a pro. Speaking of which, since I have no sponsorships, you’re getting the real honest truth from me without any bias toward one particular brand. I did my best to simply give the facts, leave any personal thoughts about the brand out of the equation, and focus on how the gear works on the mountain.
On to the reviews:
Best All-Around Snowboard Pants:
Burton AK Cyclic Bib ($460)
Warranty/Repair: 10 (Lifetime)
Burton’s [AK] line is over 20 years in the making, and each year their talented team of riders and designers refine the product a bit more. The result is a set of snowboard pants that look great, feel great, and hit all the right notes to make this my favorite set of pants.
The only downside I found in comparison to the other bib-style snowboard pants is that it’s 2L versus 3L GORE-TEX, which only makes a difference if you’re in the PNW, where the rain has had its way with us this year. Everywhere else, you won’t notice it too much. But having one less layer adds to the flexibility of the snowboard pants, giving them an extra nod in the comfort department. You just might need to wear a thicker underlayer to compensate if riding in the dead of winter. But for all-season comfort that can extend into the spring or keep you going on long backcountry days, this is definitely the go-to.
As for the right combination of durability and light weight, these bibs are pretty ideal. You can tell that a lot of thought went into every aspect of the design, like pocket placement, with two large zippered chest pockets, the only pant tested with two. I’m a fan of this because you can have wet and dry storage within easy reach that will stay safe under your jacket.
These snowboard pants are made to last, but if they don’t, you also have Burton’s limited lifetime warranty, so they will fix or replace anything that is out of whack. Along with Patagonia, Burton has transitioned to all their gear getting the Bluesign seal of approval, helping all of us feel a bit better about where we’re directing our purchasing power.
Check Price on Backcountry Check Price on Burton
Best Snowboard Pants For All-Day Wear:
Patagonia Storm Shift ($379)
Patagonia has been a leader in the ski scene for some time — My dad had a sweet purple one-piece straight out of the early ’90s that would probably fetch a cool premium to the right collector. But for snowboarders, the style doesn’t always mesh with the fashion du jour.
Not anymore — the Storm Shift pants not only look great, but they are comfortable and lightweight, and loose-fitting without being overly baggy. I found them to be the best in the lot for wearing around town in the snow as just another garment in the wardrobe. These snowboard pants are great on the hill as well, but they stand out on their own, even when walking the streets.
The 2L GORE-TEX and reinforced gaiters kept all types of snow and sludge out, even when I made an effort to step into some slush puddles to see what it was made of. Pockets are well-lined to keep hands warm if gloves get soaked and you need some relief.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Patagonia review without mentioning their efforts to help improve the planet, so it’s good to know they don’t use fluorinated chemicals in the waterproofing layer, which is good for both humans and the ecosystems we play in. And the company’s goal to keep their garments in circulation via repairs over replacement means even if you give these snowboard pants some love, Patagonia has your back (and bottom) to keep them going season after season.Check Price on Patagonia
Best Snowboard Pants Layout:
Mountain Hardwear Boundary Ridge Bib ($400)
Mountain Hardwear makes a great product. They haven’t always been at the forefront of the snowboarding scene, but their quality construction earned them a spot on the list. Their associated jacket earned the “Best all around” in my book, and the snowboard bibs are just as good.
The 3L GORE-TEX material is, without a doubt, the best bang for your buck that you’ll get for snowboard pants that won’t soak through. Being snowboard bibs, that means that a good portion of the torso is well-protected as well. Attaching this to the Boundary Ridge jacket kept me warm and dry throughout anything I, or the mountain, threw at it. Even when I couldn’t do the trick, it did the trick, and I never felt the moisture creep in, tumbles and all.
With zip and cargo pockets on the sides, as well as a mesh pocket on the chest, there is plenty of space to stash what you need. The side vents are large enough to do a quick flush on the go and zip back in seconds, earning major breathability points, especially for a 3L GORE-TEX build.Check Price on Backcountry
Most Durable Snowboard Pants:
Arc’teryx Sabre Bib ($650)
Shop Men’s | Shop Women’s (Sentinel)
The Sabre bibs have primo construction with the price tag to match. But if you’re willing to shell out a little more for quality, it’ll pay dividends down the road with a pair of snowboard pants that will offer lasting protection. With 3L GORE-TEX, the only way you’ll get damp is if you forget to close the massive vents on the sides … something not too hard to do! Be careful, though, unlike other pant vents, there is no interior mesh keeping you from unzipping too far and letting in unwelcome slush. That is a situation where it may be a bit too breathable … hence a bit of a deduction in the breathability score. But as far as how it’s made — that’s where these snowboard bibs shine. Not literally, though; it’s got a bit of a matte finish to it.
The seams are well hidden, perhaps the best of the lot. Zippers also included a waterproof rubberized seal to help keep pockets from leaking. Not much bad can be said for this except that Arc’teryx has updated their warranty to be a “limited” lifetime warranty, so if you’re the person who rides hard and wears the gear out fast, there might be some pushback on their end on how far they will go to service the gear. But as a quality piece of gear that hangs well and will withstand the elements, the Sabre is a great option.
If you’re not into the whole “Bib” thing yet, check out the Arc’teryx Sabre Pants ($550).Check Price on REI
Stretchiest Snowboard Pants:
Dakine Sender Stretch Pants ($450)
Warranty/Repair: 6 (2 Year)
The Dakine Sender Stretch Pants are exactly what the name implies. A roomy, if not baggy fit and stretchy material makes for unrestricted movement on the sendiest of jumps and maneuvers and is also exceedingly comfortable. Featuring 20k waterproofing and 20k breathability, these snowboard pants are as waterproof as they are breathable, with a PFC-free DWR and 3L construction made of recycled materials. If you need more breathability, exterior thigh vents let you dump heat with ease.
A fairly hidden but highly important feature these snowboard pants sport is the adjustable waistband with a drawstring that lets you cinch the pants down snugly without needing a belt.
The biggest downside is the pockets, as the pants only feature the two front cargo pockets you can see in the photo above, as well as two back pockets. If you’re riding the lifts, those two back pockets won’t do you much good besides giving you somewhere to stash your pass, leaving you with just the front two pockets for everything else. That said, the pockets are roomy and well-made, with magnetic flap closures for ease of use, as well as zippers should you need the added security. And paired with the right jacket, or a backpack, the lack of pockets shouldn’t be an issue.
These snowboard pants also took a hit on warranty, with Dakine only offering a 2-year guarantee on manufacturing defects. Any self-inflicted rips will be yours to take care of.Check Price on Dakine
Best Snowboard Pants for Minimalists:
Whitespace 3L Performance Pant ($350)
Warranty/Repair: 7 (4 Years)
Shaun White has put his name on this brand and reportedly was instrumental in the design process. The result is a slim-fitting pant with a decent amount of stretch, allowing one to grab and spin and not be held back by a bulky outer layer. For riding hard, these snowboard pants were the most lightweight I tested, however, they were colder than the rest. A thicker underlayer would solve this issue, and in the springtime or at lower latitudes, there shouldn’t be any issues.
The waterproofing of the fabric is rated at 15k, but with the coating it had, I found all water and snow beaded off quite easily. There were no issues with it holding up against the wet as I endured slush storms and 99% humidity on a coastal storm day.
Special nod to the belt with magnetic closures that make for easy adjustments when you gotta go in the wild, even with gloves. You don’t want to hold up friends because you’re fumbling with gloves and a belt.
With the slimmer fit, however, it did not have the pocket space I’m used to, so that affected the score for this pack rat. That said, others may appreciate the low-profile look and clean lines. It is a nice alternative to the baggier stuff, and I can see these snowboard pants working well for those who want a nice responsive set of 3L pants at a decent price point.Check Price on Backcountry
|Item||Pant or Bib?||Overall Score||Price||Waterproofing||Sustainability|
|Burton AK Cyclic||Bib||9.2||$460||2L GORE-TEX||Bluesign Approved|
|Patagonia Storm Shift||Pant||9.0||$379||2L PFC-Free GORE-TEX||Patagonia, duh|
|Mountain Hardwear Boundary Ridge||Bib||8.8||$400||3L GORE-TEX||Recycled Polyester|
|Arc’teryx Sabre||Bib||8.0||$650||3L GORE-TEX||Bluesign Approved|
|Dakine Sender Stretch||Pant||7.8||$450||3L PFC-Free DWR||Recycled Polyester, PFC-free DWR|
|Whitespace 3L Performance||Pant||7.2||$350||3L 15k recycled||Bluesign Approved|
DWR vs Waterproof Membrane? Making Sense of the Jargon
There are a couple of major elements that go into what makes a good snowboard pant for playing in the snow, namely waterproofing and breathability. As you might expect, the two tend to cut against each other. Perfect waterproofing = zero breathability, and vice versa. That’s where all the fun tech comes into play. 2L and 3L, in outerwear-speak, point to the number of layers of fabric sandwiched together. All winter outerwear has an outer layer, as well as a waterproof membrane beneath it. But that membrane needs to be separated from your skin, so 2L snowboard pants (at least those that don’t have an insulating layer or cozy liner) need some sort of hanging liner to keep your skin away from the waterproof membrane. That adds a bit of bulk and often reduces breathability (depending on what fabric that hanging liner is made out of).
In a 3L snowboard pant, that third layer is fused to the other two, making for a more shell-like feel, cutting down on bulk, and improving breathability. However, with different types of interior linings, insulation, etc., it’s not so black and white as “3L is always better.” For those of us who spend 90-100 percent of our time on the resort, a 3L construction will be a bit overkill and not worth the uptick in price.
DWR (Durable Water Repellent) ignores what’s going on between the layers of fabric and focuses on the outer surface. A DWR finish helps water bead up and roll off instead of soaking into the outer layer of the fabric. That moisture will be stopped by the waterproof membrane beneath the exterior layer, but it will still add weight and chill. That’s why a DWR is important — and equally as important is maintaining that DWR over time. If you notice your snowboard pants aren’t repelling water like they used to, get your hands on a water-repellent treatment like this one from Nikwax to revive the water-impermeability of the shell.
Caring for Your Snowboard Pants
These pants are all designed to be long-lasting, but you can do your part to ensure they last as long as possible.
Storage: Make sure you store your pants with care. I know from painful (and smelly) experience that just tossing it in the backseat will add further wear and tear and invite some microscopic friends. The more the fabric rubs against surfaces, the more the waterproof coating will go away, so be sure to hang it up, if possible, in a warm and dry place. Stashing it outside in the elements will lower its performance.
When it comes to repairs, you simply can’t beat Patagonia’s Ironclad Guarantee. Whether the garment in question was produced last year or last decade, they’ll make sure it keeps kicking for as long as possible. Price: $379
Repairs: As mentioned before, most companies offer some sort of repair policy. The key is to take advantage of it! Don’t let something small turn into something big out of laziness. These days some repair marks can be seen as a badge of honor. It means you’re really using the gear to its fullest. Plus, it’s so much cheaper than buying something new, so there really isn’t much reason to let things go unrepaired. Pay close attention to the seams at the zippers. Those are often the first places to go.
Washing: Be sure to check the tag for detailed instructions, but a good idea is only to wash cold and to use liquid, not powder, detergent. If you use the dryer, use a low-temperature setting, and if you hang dry, you may need to use an iron (not too hot!) to reactivate the waterproof coating.
Waterproofing: The DWR waterproof coating can rub off over time, so it’s a good idea to re-up with a waterproof treatment every so often. Be sure to test a small area before applying to make sure it gets the desired result. Don’t forget to read the instructions, as different products work better for various fabrics. Depending on where you ride and how often you ride will determine how often you want to do this treatment. Once every 100 or so days of riding should be good.
These snowboard pants and snowboard bibs are what I considered the cream of the crop this year. I put them through the wringer, through spills, hikes, powder, and the needs of wet coastal conditions. And all of the above pieces performed admirably. I gave the top pick to the Burton Cyclic Bibs for their versatility and overall top-notch design, but the Mountain Hardwear Boundary Ridge Bibs were a super close second. If you’re more of a pants person, check out the insane comfort of the Patagonia Storm Shift Pants. You might even forget you’re wearing snowboard pants. For insane durability and lightness, check out the Arc’teryx Sabre, but be ready to pay for what you get. Overall, you can’t go wrong with any of these options, but personal preference will play a big role in what’s right for you. Be sure to use the table above for easy comparisons of important features, pricing, and more.
Whatever you choose, make sure to take good care of it, and don’t be afraid to shred hard, knowing that things happen, especially in the mountains, and these brands have your back to make sure the gear lasts.
Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.