Buying a new snowboard jacket is like buying a new car. You want durability, dependability, a luxurious interior that keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the heat (why would you be wearing a snowboard jacket in summer? High Cascade Summer Camp? Oh, nevermind…continue), and the best bang for your buck.
However, it’s not always the easiest considering there’s a thousand different terms thrown around for the technologies involved in creating a snowboard jacket. Gore-Tex, DryRide, 10K, 15K, 20K…sure, it sounds appealing and attractive, but what does it mean and why do you need it?
You need it like a bear needs honey, like Kim Kardashian needs Instagram, and how I need my student loans to be forgiven.
But let’s break it down like this: Materials, Features, Accessories, and Jacket Fit.
Snowboard Jacket Materials:
You have about 4 basic materials that are the major components of a snowboard jacket. They are Polyester, Nylon, Gore-Tex, and Microfibers.
Polyester is like Lou Ferrigno. Strong, doesn’t shrink or stretch too much, dries fairly quickly, and has no interest in smelling like trash. This is why it’s such a great material for snowboard jackets. When wound up tightly, polyester becomes resistant against water and even more durable. Combine that with an applicable steroid (not really, it’s actually called Durable Water Repellant) and this DWR enhances the strength and waterproof characteristics of polyester. Think of DWR as the legal steroids for polyester.
Polyester also comes in different weights or densities. Now, to get any idea of these ratings, we’d have to discuss breathability/waterproofing grades. This is where the whole factory assigned 10K, 15K, 20K ratings etc…come into play. But that’s for later. Keep reading. Reading is good.
You know The Mountain from Game of Thrones? Yes, No? If you don’t, look him up. A physical freak of a human being. Why is he being brought up? Because he is insanely strong. Like crush your head with one of his hands strong. Bending steel strong. Tearing encyclopedias in half strong. Okay, you get the idea. Very strong. But so is Nylon.
Nylon absorbs very little moisture, washes easily, and can be dyed into a variety of colors. No wonder why it found its way into the manufacturing of snowboard jackets. Like polyester, nylon needs just a little bit of love before being sent into the world. That’s why a nice coating of some chemical cocktail (the non-toxic kinds) are applied to nylon to increase its protectiveness.
Much like the measurement system of aforementioned polyester, you’ll have to rely on the factory or company to provide the specifics of the jacket. After reading this though, you’ll be able to decipher their meaning and make the appropriate purchase in your choice of jacket.
One of the snowboarding’s most popular words. Gore-Tex. Not to be confused with Tex-Mex (which is delicious, Frito Pie, are you kidding me? It’s like the all-star of Tex-Mex food), is a scientifically developed technology that is used from the medical industry all the way to snowboarding. If you can, try to imagine a hole that is 20 thousand times smaller than a bead of water. Difficult to do, I know. But with this kind of technology, sweat and body moisture are small enough to get through these pores and keep you nice and dry while its dumping outside.
This part is extremely scientific. So Gore-Tex tissue is applied to our friends nylon or polyester to create a shield that becomes the outer surface of your snowboard jacket. It becomes outstandingly resistant to snow, chilling rain, frostbite-inducing winds, and the month of February in Buffalo when it’s pants-shitting cold outside.
Gore-Tex. Savior of extremities, limbs, and lives. Provider of fun times in pow days, excursions, and backcountry debauchery.
Microfibers are essentially the finer fibers of nylon or polyester that are used in creating shell jackets. The fine fibers are spun very tightly to create high performing, durable like your ’95 Chevy Cavalier, and light as a feather outerwear. Great for resisting wind and water, microfibers are found in top of the line jackets. I’m talking the Cadillacs, Jaguars, and Maseratis of snowboard jackets here people. The most high-tech and protective jackets are made with microfibers. You got the budget? Highly recommend jackets made with microfibers.
You could layer it up all you want this season or you could work hard (like an adult), save some cash (like an adult), budget yourself (like an adult), and then purchase a jacket made with microfibers and be proud of all your hard work. Capitalism…it’s rewarding.
Snowboard Jacket Features
Okay, so this is the section where we’ll give you the nitty gritty on those ever elusive ratings that companies provide you on the tags that are attached to snowboard jackets.
The main two features of a snowboard jacket are water-resistance (waterproof) and breathability. You want a jacket that can keep you dry but you don’t want one that makes you feel like you’re sitting in the Shu (Solitary Confinement, for you folks who aren’t familiar with prison terms) in the middle of July in Alabama.
You wan’t the best of both worlds. Insulated is a plus as well if you happen to live in an area where winters are especially cold. Like Minnesota. Or the Yukon. Or Alaska. Or your ex-girlfriend’s heart.
Moving forward, jacket manufacturers will usually apply a nice, loving coating to the nylon or polyester fabric of your future coat to increase its waterproofness. Gore-Tex? Not so much. It’s already got those high level waterproof genes.
So why do companies give out ratings and what do they mean? 10,000mm means that the jacket can withstand around 10,000 millimeters of rain over a 24-hour period before becoming wet or soaked.
So this means that a 20k (20,000 millimeters) jacket is more waterproof than one at 15k or 10k. Furthermore, just to give you an idea of what 20,000 millimeters of rain would look like…it’s 66 feet of rain. Which I don’t think could even physically occur. If I’m wrong, please enlighten me and comment on this, Howard Hughes.
Breathability. You want it. You need it. Do you want to look like you just ran a half-marathon in the steamy Congolese forest? No, because nobody finds that attractive or functional.
Breathability ratings are those other thousand number ratings you’ll find beside the waterproof numbers. Except, breathability is measured in grams. So take 15,000g, which means 15,000 grams of vapor or steam that can escape through one square meter of fabric over the course of 24 hours. Gotta love that 24 hour rule.
Now this will get even more scientific than you want but you took earth science right? Remember the hydrologic cycle? The journey that water takes from the ocean or land to the sky and then back down to the ocean. Image that going on inside your snowboard jacket but with your sweat. Your sweat goes through the gaseous phase of turning into water vapor and magically passing through the pores of the jacket into the air around you, essentially covering everyone around you with your stank.
Science is fucking great. But to the point, the higher the number of breathability rating the less humid you will be inside your jacket. The less humid you are, the less hot and sweaty you feel, the less hot and sweaty you feel, the more likely you’ll have the courage to try that backside lip 270 out or just talk to the girl whose been struggling to learn how to carve all day. Your choice.
Wind makes you cold. The weaving of materials and fabrics stupidly tight prevents this. Most jackets should cover you when it’s windy but make sure you’re not picking up some $60 jacket at Target and thinking it’ll cover your ass when it’s blowing harder than Monica Lewinsky in ’96.
Snowboard Jacket Accessories
Accessories, like anything else, are completely necessary. Snowboard jackets usually come with a thousand of ’em. From pass pockets and cuffs to powder skirts and armpit vents. Every jacket is going to have some combination of neat accessories or features that set it apart from its competitor.
Going back to the car analogy because I lack creativity to think of anything new, some cars offer more bells and whistles than others. It all depends on what you’re looking for.
Want a ton of utility pockets and vents because you’re the go-to on mountain mechanic/buddha supplier?
Do you happen to find yourself eating shit more than others? Reinforced knees/seat in the pants are the way to go.
Only live for those powder days? Get yourself a jacket with a powder skirt, gaiters and cinch cuffs.
One thing that should be noted, especially if you’re a park rat and always feeling the need to pretzel, butter or tripod out of or onto everything…make sure you try to get a jacket with articulated elbows or pants with articulated knees. It gives you a little bit more wiggle room so you don’t feel constricted like I do at a cash bar wedding reception.
Snowboard Jacket Fit
How a jacket fits is a combination of your size and your style. Don’t think being 6’4″ and 225lbs, you’re going to fit into a medium or large. They make XL for a reason. Don’t be an idiot.
However, even if you are exceptionally large or small, there are different jacket styles. From baggy to tailored. A slim fit versus a relaxed one. It all depends on how you want to portray yourself on the mountain. Some think that having relaxed and baggy outerwear gets in the way and that’s why the slimmer, more tailored option may be your choice.
Conversely, some folks think the slimmer looking outerwear hugs the babymakers too much and makes you look like Tommy Lee in his prime.
You dress how you want to. I’m no judge; neither are any of us at the shop. Personally, do what makes you feel comfortable. You want to go all black with the tight jacket and pants? Go for it. You think relaxed is the way to go? Sure thing. I don’t care. But what I, and all of us here at the shop do care about, is that you like what you’re buying and it’s what you want in a jacket or pants.
WHY SO EXPENSIVE?
Ah the question you’ve been mindlessly skimming this whole blog for. I know, snowboard jackets seem crazy expensive and believe me, they are. But they are for a reason.
Severe weather needs a severely dependable jacket to keep you warm and dry. Ever been cold and wet? It’s fucking miserable. No one, absolutely no one, enjoys it. However, that’s what you might get if you decide to skip for some cheaply manufactured jacket. Bad jacket = Bad times.
Like we mentioned above, snowboard jackets offer a ton of technology and materials that are specifically engineered and design to keep you having fun all day or night long. If you want a jacket that can connect digitally via Bluetooth to your phone and has fully tapered seams with pit/thigh vents, multiple stash pockets and a powder skirt…expect to pay top dollar. You want the bells and whistles? You gotta pay for ’em. Life is a hustle, son.
Sure you can get the used 2002 Pontiac that will get you from point A to point B, but then there’s the new fuel efficient, wireless enhanced, weatherproof, comes with a free bottle of Courvoisier 2016 Audi.
It all depends on what you want…yet at some point, you have to realize that you will be spending 3-6 hours out in freezing weather sweating and moving around. Make a smart decision.
Invest in a good time. Not a bad one.
Furthermore, layering is also important. Don’t believe the jacket will be the only thing you’ll need.
DON’T BUY ONLINE
Sure, we’re a local shop and online sales cut into our business but we’re saying this because actually trying on a jacket in-store is monumentally significant in the buying process. You can’t try on a jacket online. Sure, you could do all the measurements and compare them to the online sizing guide but who actually does that shit?
When you get a snowboard jacket from us, you get the expert advice and information that you would come to expect from a bunch of guys who save up half their income, eat dollar pizza, and drink cheap beer in order to purchase a season pass.
Along with getting the highest level of customer service, you get personal style recommendations, a wide selection of brands, and get to speak with someone who shares the same interest as you. Not some online representative sitting behind a desk hating their life and regretting their decision not to pack everything up, move to Tahoe, and try to see where life takes them.
Okay, that’s the end of that. We miss anything? If we did. Comment or Call us. 716-837-8743. We’ll see you soon. Cheers