January 25, 2017
Active Junky

Men’s Ski & Ride Outerwear Buyer’s Guide

Proper outwear while shredding is crucial to ensure you stay warm, dry and comfortable all day on the mountain. Active Junky testers evaluated ski jackets, pants and bibs from the best outdoor apparel companies to help you find your perfect mountain kit.

Editor's Pick Helly Hansen Sogn Jacket

Helly Hansen Sogn Jacket

Best for – Year-round resort riding and skiing; one-and-done insulated jacket
Product no longer available
Also Great Stio Environ Bib

Stio Environ Bib

Best for – Side and backcountry, resort, slack and huck – Environ slays it all
$445.00 + 8% Cash Back
Buy Now
Also Great Patagonia Powder Bowl Jacket

Patagonia Powder Bowl Jacket

Best for – Resort skiing, side and backcountry treks and cold weather touring
$199.00 + 5% Cash Back
Buy Now
Burton [AK] 2L Cyclic Jacket

Burton [AK] 2L Cyclic Jacket

Best for – Resort storm days, occasional backcountry, heli-drops and cat skiing, layering in varying conditions
$389.95 + 9% Cash Back
Buy Now
Holden Fader Bib

Holden Fader Bib

Best for – Resort, riders who love steeze combined with function in varying conditions
$299.95 + 9% Cash Back
Buy Now
686 Quantum Thermagraph Pants

686 Quantum Thermagraph Pants

Best for – Extreme and cold conditions; those who run cold and aren’t prone to getting sweaty
$230.00 + 9% Cash Back
Buy Now
ThirtyTwo Meyers Jacket

ThirtyTwo Meyers Jacket

Best for – Resort snowboarding, solo outer shell for spring riding or outer layer for colder conditions
$89.95 + 12% Cash Back
Buy Now

Aside from perhaps having a pair of comfortable boots, owning quality outerwear is of the utmost importance when calibrating your winter kit. Your skis might be awesome, your snowboard might be top-of-the-line, but if you’re stuck wearing outerwear that fails to keep you warm and dry, chances are you won’t stay out past lunch. Subpar outerwear will soak through in wet snow and fail to keep you warm in the cold — not to mention, it might also look like a hand-me-down from a Day-Glow-loving aunt.

Active Junky’s been on the hunt for stylish and functional outerwear that you’ll be stoked to wear all winter long. Read through this snow outerwear buyer’s guide for the best ski and ride jackets, pants, and bibs from top brands like Holden, Burton, Patagonia, Helly Hansen, Stio and more. 

Brands Active Junky Evaluated

  • 686 Quantum
  • Burton
  • Helly Hansen
  • Holden
  • Patagonia
  • Stio
  • ThirtyTwo


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How We Tested

Active Junky picked stylish and functional outerwear from top ski and ride brands, and then tested out jackets and pants in Colorado in early winter. Ranging from insulated resort kits to more backcountry-primed shell options, the gear included in this buyer’s guide runs the gambit of prices and activities. Dig in — you’re sure to find something in the mix that speaks to you.

How to Pick Ski Jackets and Pants:

There are several key aspects to keep in mind when choosing your winter outerwear — and we’re not just talking about making sure you’re fully color-coordinated.

Waterproof and Breathability: Understanding the Numbers

While you certainly can shred in a Canadian tuxedo, at Active Junky, we’re big fans of staying the proper temperature and staying dry. Ski and snowboard outerwear should be both waterproof and breathable — but unfortunately that’s not always a given. Fabrics are generally rated with two key numbers that, while they seem complicated, are worth understanding. These numbers tend to look like 5000/10000, 10000/10000, 20000/20000, etc.

The first number is all about the waterproofness of the jacket — on a basic level, it represents how much water (in millimeters) can hit the exterior of the fabric before it soaks through. A 5K jacket, for example, might soak through in a light rainstorm, while you can pretty much take a shower in a Gore-Tex 3-layer jacket and emerge dry.


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On the other side of the spectrum is the second number (measured in grams), which describes breathability and measures how much moisture can escape through from the inside of the fabric to the outside. A bit more complicated to understand than the first number, the second number is a calculation of how much vapor (think sweat) in grams can escape from inside a square meter of said fabric to the outside in 24 hours. You don’t want your perspiration to stick around on the interior of your jacket and get clammy, so a jacket with a high breathability rating is preferred by those skiers and riders who are no stranger to sweat.

If that was too complicated, all you really need to know is this: the higher the rating, the more waterproof and/or breathable the outerwear. For example, a 5K jacket, while cheaper than a 20K jacket, is less waterproof and breathable.

If you want to dive deeper into the science behind these waterproof and breathability ratings, Active Junky’s partner site EVO has an awesome guide here that breaks down Gore-Tex, eVent, DWR, and other outerwear tech

Should I Go Insulated or Should I Get a Shell?

There are several types of jackets and pants to choose from, but the main choice you have to make is whether you want to go the insulated route or choose a shell.

Shells

Shells range from minimalist technical jackets and pants designed for mountaineering and backcountry skiing, to heavier, more resort-friendly jackets and pants that have ancillary features. Shells are defined by a lack of insulation, so they’re best used for layering. In a day of skiing, it might be frigid in the morning, requiring an insulated midlayer underneath your shell, but as the sun comes up, you’ll want to ditch a layer or two. This is where shells are prime. Essentially, it’s a waterproof and breathable outer layer that allows you to customize your kit to the conditions at hand.

Pros: Lightweight, packable, great for layering, versatile

Cons: Not insulated, not warm on its own, expensive

Insulated Jackets and Pants

Insulated jackets and pants are less versatile than their shell counterparts. Where you can layer underneath a shell, insulated jackets and pants have insulation built in to the design, making it tough to react to changing weather patterns. Insulated jackets are usually cheaper, and they’re warmer too, making them ideal for those who strictly ride at the resort and don’t venture into the backcountry.

Pros: Warmer, cheaper, more features

Cons: Less versatile, bad for layering, bulky


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Universal Attributes

Each of the ski and ride jackets, pants and bibs included in this buyer’s guide were evaluated based on these attributes, with the highest-scoring attribute picked as a key attribute listed in each review below.

Features

What extra features does the outerwear possess, and do those features add to the overall usability and experience?

Waterproofness

How waterproof is the outerwear? Does the fabric live up to its rating?

Breathability

How breathable is the outerwear? Would our perspiration-prone testers consider purchasing this piece?

Versatility

Does the outerwear leave room for layers? Can it be worn in multiple scenarios?

Warmth

How insulated is the outerwear? Is it comfortable in cold weather?

Ski & Ride Outerwear Reviews

Helly Hansen Sogn Jacket Helly Hansen Sogn Jacket

Editor’s Pick for Best Insulated Jacket

Many insulated jackets should get laughed off the rack; they’re either too bulky, too warm, they lack versatility, or all of the above. Not the Sogn — you can pull this one off the rack and put it on a pedestal — or a peak. On the outside, the Sogn’s waterproof 2-ply Helly Tech Performance Fabric defeats sleet and snow, but unzip the Sogn and that’s where Helly’s magic touch comes into play. Air pockets supplied by the H2Flow ventilation system allow for customized airflow, so you can tweak the thermostat based on activity and athlete output, exactly what an insulated jacket needs in order to be a smart choice for high-octane skiers and riders.


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40g of Primaloft Insulation strikes a chord with Goldilocks: it’s not too hot, not too cold, but just right, especially when combined with the ventilation system. Even though insulated jackets are typically reserved for in-bounds riding, Helly Hansen’s added freeride design elements to make the Sogn desirable for all types of riders, including a Recco rescue system, a high, wind-blocking collar and a powder skirt. Available in subtle colors (black or gray) as well as extremely noisy ones (blue and orange), Helly’s Sogn is going to attract many different types of skiers and snowboarders this year.

Tester Comments: “The cuffs are best in class! The soft shell fabric offers plenty of waterproofness, and what’s really phenomenal here is the airflow supplied by the H2Flow design. Wet snow and cold winds were held at bay by the fabric, yet lap after lap of hard shredding didn’t cause overheating. Plus, the green highlights are fly!”

Looking for more information about Helly Hansen Sogn Jacket? Read the full review
Product no longer available
Stio Environ Bib Stio Environ Bib

Best Ski Bib Pants

There’s more than one reason why backcountry skiers love to rock bibs: bibs are comfortable when touring, they offer plenty of venting options, and they keep out the pow when the dumps of our dreams become reality. Stio’s all-new Environ deserves to be included in your bib considerations, as it nails all of these points and more. The relaxed fit is snug yet comfortable, with a soft yet lightweight brushed tricot liner against the skin, and the cut is obviously designed with alpine in mind. The polyester Dermizax 3-layer fabric has a welcome stretch throughout, so whether you’re reaching for a grab, reaching for a handhold on a summit scramble, skinning before dawn, or buckling your boots in the morning, you’ll stay comfortable.


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One of our testers argued that the waist could be a bit higher, as the Environ is currently only riding a bit higher than your average ski pants. Venting is on point: while the fabric is breathable (20K/10K), Stio’s outfitted the Environ with full-length side zips, a must for backcountry touring. Plus, backcountry skiers will dig the Dynatec kickpatch to mitigate damage from stray crampons. All in all, this is an admirable ski bib from Stio, and one our team is stoked to continue riding this year.

Tester Comments: “I’ve never found a perfect touring pant, and maybe the Stio Bib is the answer. These bibs are burly enough to stop wind, and are very compatible with under layers to keep you comfy on chill lift rides. They offer the freedom of movement for getting styley on warmup runs with fast, effective ventilation for the skin track or boot huck out the backcountry gate.” 

Looking for more information about Stio Environ Bib? Read the full review

Buying Options

8% Cash Back
$445.00
Before Cash Back
$409.40 After Cash Back
Patagonia Powder Bowl Jacket Patagonia Powder Bowl Jacket

Patagonia calls the Powder Bowl their “most versatile shell,” and that’s saying something, especially with top-of-the-line gear like the beloved PowSlayer and the Untracked Jacket in their lineup. However, the Powder Bowl is much cheaper (300 big ones less than the PowSlayer), namely because of the fabric tech employed. While the Powder Bowl doesn’t have the PowSlayer’s premium 3-Layer Gore-Tex Pro membrane — which offers better breathability for backcountry riders — the 2-layer Gore-Tex gets the job done, especially in-bounds. If you’re typically riding the resort but find yourself frequenting the backcountry more and more, this shell is a one-and-done deal.


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While $400 is still steep for some, this piece brings in Patagonia’s quality at a (more) affordable price tag. It’s also a bit heavier than the PowSlayer, but, especially when riding the resort, that weight will be negligible. Where some of the purely big mountain shells skimp on features, this do-everything piece comes stocked with all the necessities and then some: two large hand-warmer pockets up front, one chest pocket, a forearm pocket (perfect for scannable ski passes!), and two internal pockets, plus a RECCO reflector, pit zips, a powder skit and helmet-compatible hood.

Tester Comments: “The Patagonia Powder Bowl Jacket is a straightforward shell that has a comfortable liner and is best suited for those who split their time in and out of resort skiing. It’s not ideal for uphill sweat-fests, sweat-prone riders or sunny April slush-huck days. But for most riders, this jacket is a perfect foundation for their resort kit.”

Looking for more information about Patagonia Powder Bowl Jacket? Read the full review

Buying Options

5% Cash Back
$199.00
Before Cash Back
$189.05 After Cash Back
12% Cash Back
$399.00
Before Cash Back
$351.12 After Cash Back
8% Cash Back
$398.95
Before Cash Back
$367.04 After Cash Back
Burton [AK] 2L Cyclic Jacket Burton [AK] 2L Cyclic Jacket

Burton’s AK line has long been thought of as one of the premier options for backcountry snowboarders. It does, after all, share a name with the big mountain mecca, a land of deep snow and ruthless storm cycles: Alaska. Whether you’re jetting up to Valdez for a one-time spring mission or hitting your local hill with relentless persistence, the [Ak] Cyclic jacket will keep you dry — no matter the storm cycle. 2-Layer Gore-Tex is airtight against moisture thanks to ridge-free taped seams, adding both functional performance and a sleek style. And speaking of style, the Cyclic is one of the coolest-looking backcountry shell jackets tested, namely due to the subtle chest pocket and a decidedly Jedi vibe provided by the StormForm FullTime Contour Hood.


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The lining does have a bit more heft to it than many backcountry shells, with a lightweight taffeta and mesh layer, and it’d be tough to fit a pair of skins in that single chest pocket, making the Cyclic a smart choice for resort riders who dabble in the backcountry. Simplistic yet crafted from quality materials with an attention to detail, the Cyclic was picked as a go-to jacket to be worn day after day this winter by one of our perpetually traveling snowboard testers.

Tester Comments: “There are definitely many features of this jacket I appreciate, from Gore-Tex waterproof protection to the overall style. But I question the weight of the lining – not enough to insulate but enough be bulky in a backpack.”

Looking for more information about Burton [AK] 2L Cyclic Jacket? Read the full review

Buying Options

9% Cash Back
$389.95
Before Cash Back
$354.86 After Cash Back
8% Cash Back
$389.95
Before Cash Back
$358.76 After Cash Back
Holden Fader Bib Holden Fader Bib

In or out of the resort, the Holden Fader is a snowboarder’s bib through and through. From the laid-back style that is reminiscent of Carhartt work overalls, to the slew of features sewn into this piece, to the true relaxed fit, the Fader is one of the best snowboard-specific bibs we’ve ever seen — hands down. Since the brand’s inception in 2002, Holden’s always had a solid grip on style, and the Fader’s high-chested pockets, old school striped suspenders, as well as the built-in belt and leather embellishments throughout only support these claims.


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Many a bib doesn’t speak to resort snowboarders — being too tight or too tuned for ski mountaineering — but the Fader is baggy enough to ball out and still fitted enough to grab a beer after the resort closes without looking like a goober. On the tech front, the 20K waterproof Ottoman fabric is on the heavy side, but with that weight comes durability. Also, it’s worth noting that the Fader is crafted under Holden’s “Eco Friendlier Mantra,” with a PFOA-free waterproof coating and a lamination process free of solvents. Handy chest pockets, leg vents, and snowboard boot-friendly gaiters solidify the Fader as a quality pick for the stylish single-planker.

Tester Comments: The fly closure was incredibly small. But if it weren’t for the fly, these Holdens would be a perfect resort bib, one I would certainly buy if the fly issue is fixed. Besides that, these snowboard bibs were comfortable, and we loved the huge pockets with plenty of room to carry essentials. I rode these bibs in brutally windy conditions and warm sunshine – my legs were warm and dry throughout both conditions.”

Looking for more information about Holden Fader Bib? Read the full review

Buying Options

9% Cash Back
$299.95
Before Cash Back
$272.96 After Cash Back
686 Quantum Thermagraph Pants 686 Quantum Thermagraph Pants

686 is no stranger to tailoring snowboard pants — in fact, they make some of the most popular bottom layers in the snowboard game. The GLCR Quantum Thermagraph Pants, while a mouthful to say, are intuitive and easy to use, namely because there’s a whole lot of what you need and not much of what you don’t. The 20K fabric stays dry in all but the most intense of storms, while light Thermagraph insulation adds additional padding around the butt and knees for extra warmth. There are a few key features included in the affordable package, including ample pockets, BOA-compatible boot gaiters, a reinforced hem, and a mesh-lined venting system.


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Our testers loved the black and gray models for a more subtle, stealthy style on the hill, but you can go with the Day Glow yellow if you’re really feeling wild. Plus, the fit straddles the line between slim and baggy, a fact that our all-mountain testers truly appreciated. Having ridden previous models of this GLCR pants last season, our testers were hyped to see that 686 is sticking to their guns on this one.

Tester Comments: “I loved the style and fit — baggy enough for steeze but still well fitted, though not enough airflow in the crotch and probably too much for everyday resort wear. The cool black color with subtle silver accents and patterning make it easy to match a flashy jacket.”

Looking for more information about 686 Quantum Thermagraph Pants? Read the full review

Buying Options

9% Cash Back
$230.00
Before Cash Back
$209.30 After Cash Back
ThirtyTwo Meyers Jacket ThirtyTwo Meyers Jacket

The cheapest, least waterproof — but, arguably, the coolest jacket on the list — is the ThirtyTwo Meyers Jacket. If you’re looking for a simple, no-frills jacket to rock at the resort, then look no further. Typically renowned for their contribution to the boot game, ThirtyTwo’s been expanding their grip on the outerwear market. While certainly on the cheap side, the jacket has a nylon micro canvas rated at 10K/10K. The anorak style adds a healthy dose of swag, and the pocket in the front can store a couple cold ones as you rally through the slush. Plus, at only $150, if one of those beers spills, it’s far from a tragedy.

If you’re worried about transitioning to a pull-over style, it’s really not too tough to get used to, especially since there’s a small, inconspicuous zipper on the side that allows easy access. A retro fit is complimented by a leather badge over the chest, which goes especially well with the olive colorway. Bottom line: this affordable anorak from ThirtyTwo is as simple as it is undeniably stylish.

Tester Comments: “I love me a big kangaroo pouch! Perfect for packing in a mid-layer, lunch for the crew, or even a few drinks. It’s a solid jacket with useful features at a brilliant price point for what you get. Though you definitely get more for what you pay for in other snowboarding jackets.”

Looking for more information about ThirtyTwo Meyers Jacket? Read the full review

Buying Options

12% Cash Back
$89.95
Before Cash Back
$79.16 After Cash Back