Stay dry in the wet weather. (Karsten Winegeart via Unsplash/)
Snow pants are the ultimate winter weather accessory: they keep you warm, don’t encumber movement, and fit right on top of the clothes you’re already wearing (meaning, if you live in a snowy area, you’d be remiss not to own a pair). Whether you’re backcountry skiing, flying down the slopes on a snowboard, or walking the kids to school in a blizzard (uphill…both ways), insulated pants are the way to go.
Historically speaking, ski bibs were the precursor to the now prolific snow pants: those, all-in-one, overall-esque outfits that we first saw on the slopes in the 1940s. Since then, snow gear has made some serious strides, and innovations in breathability, insulation, and style have made snow pants more comfortable—and reliable—than ever. But that also means that it’s easy to become overwhelmed with choice, and it’s often unclear which pair will make the best snow pants for you.
At this point, you might be wondering: Is there a difference between snow pants and ski pants? While both will work on the slopes, there are important differences when it comes to fit—namely, ski pants are more fitted, while snow pants are baggier, and thus allow for more movement. With that in mind, ahead, we’ve curated the best snow pants money can buy (and if you’re wondering what to wear up top, check out our guide to the best heated vests).
- Best snow pants for backcountry skiing: <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/Outdoor-Research-Blackpowder-Pants-Storm/dp/B07FW63LZ3?dchild=1&keywords=snow+pants+outdoor+research&qid=1613163134&sr=8-2&linkCode=ll1&tag=popularscience-best-snow-pants-pcr-20&linkId=9299e31eca64947196e76e482a9df522&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_tl” target=_blank>Outdoor Research Men’s Blackpowder II Pants</a>
- Best snow pants for snowboarding: <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/DC-Squadron-Mens-Snowboard-Pants/dp/B08CWP6PPB?&linkCode=ll1&tag=popularscience-best-snow-pants-pcr-20&linkId=9ee692f0655dbeef87ad40d4a0436360&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_tl” target=_blank>DC Squadron Men’s Snowboarding Pants</a>
- Most versatile snow pants: <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/North-Face-Freedom-Insulated-Pants/dp/B07T8JW1HB?&linkCode=ll1&tag=popularscience-best-snow-pants-pcr-20&linkId=68e4c8e5a11870c514a30292657c4d46&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_tl” target=_blank>The North Face Men’s Freedom Snow Pants</a>
- Best women’s snowboarding pants: <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/Burton-Womens-Gloria-Black-Large/dp/B07KY6NQC8?hvadid=394265845112&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=1183749327720710729&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9033318&hvtargid=pla-837017971125&psc=1&adgrpid=78645023941&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvadid=394265845112&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=1183749327720710729&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9033318&hvtargid=pla-837017971125&linkCode=ll1&tag=popularscience-best-snow-pants-pcr-20&linkId=16ffd5f93f19e69d91725d1bfb4fe095&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_tl” target=_blank>Burton Women’s Gloria Snow Pant</a>
- Best ski bib for snowboarding: <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/Oakley-Mens-Tnp-Shell-Bib/dp/B08JP5WG9Z?&linkCode=ll1&tag=popularscience-best-snow-pants-pcr-20&linkId=854beb3006fe9c97963dd2e754a10621&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_tl” target=_blank>Oakley Men’s Tnp Shell Bib</a>
- Best snow pants on a budget: <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/1960-Sports-Cargo-Pants-Large/dp/B005SRCAQW?dchild=1&keywords=snow%2Bpants&qid=1614012957&sr=8-1&th=1&linkCode=ll1&tag=popularscience-best-snow-pants-pcr-20&linkId=2facb56fc5edbe7b2a239618ff7f36f2&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_tl” target=_blank>Arctix Mens Snow Sports Cargo Pants</a>
Features to consider when shopping for the best snow pants
When it comes to finding the best pair of snow pants for you this winter, it’s important to consider a few specific factors: fit, versatility, breathability, and price. With those categories in mind, we’ve pinpointed the best snow pants for skiing, snowboarding, and various other outdoor activities available today. Note to editor: Include keyword with anchor text linking to related Camden article.
You’ll want a pair fit for backcountry skiing
When you’re shopping for snow pants, it’s important to take note of reputable, trustworthy brands, and that’s because they’ve done the work to establish a legacy of clothing design backed by research and reviews. Case in point: Outdoor Research, founded in 1981 by bonafide outdoorsman Ron Gregg. For this winter sport, you’ll want to prioritize protection, comfort, and durability, so that you can focus on skiing and rely on your snow gear sans stress.
Best snow pants for backcountry skiing: Outdoor Research Men’s Blackpowder II Pants
These pants are maximally waterproof, so you can spend all day on the mountain without worrying whether or not you’ll stay dry. (Amazon /)
Whether it’s a sunny winter’s day or the snow is coming down hard, these snow pants will get through a full day on the mountain, with no adjustments required. Waterproof fabric, combined with a breathable shell, makes them both reliable and comfortable. Stretch gaiters stop the snow from sneaking in and reinforced scuff guards provide additional durability.
How to find the perfect snowboard pants
As we previously mentioned, snow pants for skiing versus snow pants for snowboarding are two very different beasts: while the former is fitted, the latter are looser and baggier for, you know, doing all of your snowboarding tricks. With that in mind, it’s important to seek out a pair of snowboard pants that allow for lots of movement and flexibility—otherwise, a wipeout may be in your near future!
Best snowboard pants: DC Squadron Men’s Snowboarding Pants
Breathable Sympatex fabric designed for flexibility puts these pants in a league of their own. (Amazon/)
These men’s snowboarding pants are not kidding around: created for those of us who like to leave it all on the field (or, more accurately, on the slopes), the DC Squadron pants are meant to maximize performance, no matter the weather. Breathable, mesh-lined fabric cut to provide an excellent fit makes for an unencumbered ride, while fully tapered seams keep the chill out.
What if you partake in more than one winter sport?
We get it: not everyone is born on one side of the skiing versus snowboarding debate, and, regardless, some people want to dip their toes in both sports (to which we say, the more, the merrier!). Obviously, there is ideal winter gear for each sport, but that doesn’t mean that more versatile outdoor apparel doesn’t exist. On the contrary, there are plenty of brands that offer snow pants for the avid generalist—but, sometimes, that means you’ll be shelling out for the perfect pair.
Most versatile snow pants: The North Face Men’s Freedom Snow Pants
High tech-performance fabric gives these pants a leg up on the competition—making them ideal for almost any winter activity. (Amazon/)
With waterproof fabric and plenty of storage (and air vents!), these North Face insulated pants make for the perfect fit for any winter activity. Recycled insulated lining keeps you warm even if you take a fall in wet snow, and gaiters with tough elastic keep snow out of your boots and pant legs.
What about women’s snowboarding pants?
While lots of outdoor gear is unisex, snow pants are not. It’s like buying a pair of expensive trousers—the fit is so important, and the chasm between how men’s and women’s snowboarding pants fit is just too wide to make it work. It’s like finding the perfect pair of jeans: the waist and hip measurements are key, and when your performance depends, in part, on the shape and material of your gear, you want it all to fit just right.
Best women’s snowboarding pants: Burton Women’s Gloria Snow Pant
Two-layer fabric is waterproof and super breathable. (Amazon/)
These women’s snowboarding pants do everything the men’s pants do, and then some. Toeing the line between fitted and flexible, they’re also waterproof, and boast hidden inner thigh vents, articulated knees, and expandable snow-proof gaiters. If you don’t like a low-waisted fit, however, these might not be the right pants for you.
When to consider a ski bib instead of snow pants
We know what you’re thinking: Are snow bibs actually better than snow pants? The answer is, of course, that everyone has their preference—and there is no end-all-be-all answer to this conundrum. So, if you’re feeling indecisive about this all-important gear decision, just know that you’re not alone. The basic difference is this: ski bibs are like overalls (they definitely won’t fall down, but they might hamper movement) while snow pants are, well, pants (they totally could fall down, if they don’t fit correctly). You’ve likely tried on both types of garments in your lifetime, so use that prior knowledge to make a decision, and leave the tags on until you’re sure. Et voila! Crisis averted.
Best ski bib for snowboarding: Oakley Men’s Tnp Shell Bib
A center zipper gives this bib all the functionality of pants without sacrificing warmth or comfort. (Amazon/)
This Oakley bib works for snowboarding and skiing, so if you’re just dipping your toes into the world of bibs, this is a great place to start. Its high-tech fabric actually repels moisture for all-day warmth, and if you work up a sweat, inner thigh vents allow for extra breathability.
Best snow pants on a budget: What you can get for under $160
You know as well as we do: not everyone wants to spend $500 on a pair of snow pants, even if they have the means to do so. Of course, like most purchases, you get what you pay for when it comes to winter clothing—and when you want a good deal, you might miss out on things like high-tech performance fabric, or extra features like thigh vents and hidden pockets. Luckily, that won’t really deter you on the slopes—but it could mean that some snow is able to sneak in, and your gear isn’t as waterproof as it could be. That said, it feels really good to save upwards of $300, right? These are the best snow pants we’ve found for less.
Best snow pants on a budget: Arctix Mens Snow Sports Cargo Pants
ThermaTech insulation keeps you warm in temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit. (Amazon/)
Available in both men’s and women’s styles, these incredibly budget-friendly snow pants keep you warm in temperatures down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit, thanks to 85 grams of ThermaTech insulation. Articulated knees allow for full range of motion, plus boot zippers and gaiters seal out snow.
Snow pants FAQ:
Is there a difference between snow pants and ski pants?
Ski pants are designed to have a snugger fit, while snow pants are looser and more flexible in sizing—meaning that for the former, you’ll want to find a pair that fits really well. No one wants to go down the mountain in too-tight pants.
What are some other top ski brands to buy snow pants from?
While we listed quite a few brands above, you’re sure to see plenty more on the slopes. If you don’t find a perfect match from the likes of Patagonia, The North Face, or Arc’teryx, consider Helly Hansen, Flylow, Stio, or Fawk.
Are snow bibs better than snow pants?
Like we’ve already said, it all comes down to personal taste: do you prefer the flexibility of pants, or the security of overalls? If you’ve got a jacket in mind, too, consider buying a matching set, where the top latches onto the bottoms. Or maybe you want more variety with the bib, which will fit under basically anything you wear up top. It’s up to you!
A final word on shopping for the best snow pants
Snow pants are an essential piece of winter gear if you’re headed to the slopes, and they also come in handy around the neighborhood when a big storm hits (think: you’re sledding down the hill, or walking the dog in two feet of snow, and you don’t want to get soaked). When you’re shopping for the best snow pants, it’s important to consider your options, and figure out what feature matters most to you, like fit or material. Find a pair that you love enough, and you might actually be sad to say goodbye to winter. You never know!
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