How To Choose Insulated Outerwear
When preparing for your next winter adventure, selecting the right jacket and pants will have a huge impact on how much you’re able to enjoy your time outside.  It’s important to get the right gear so you can focus on shredding some gnar, refining your skills or just having a good time outside.  When it comes to insulated outerwear, the most important things to consider are warmth (or insulation), waterproofing, breathability and features.  With the right selection of product you’re sure to be enjoying a day on the hill no matter the weather.

Warmth

When we discuss how warm a jacket or pants are, what we’re really referring to is the layer of insulation between the outer fabric and the lining on the inside of the garment.  In snow sports, insulation is generally either down or synthetic.

Down is a natural insulator which is made from the quill-free plumes of duck or goose feathers. Down is viewed as the warmest insulation for dry environments but does not perform as well as synthetic when wet. Down is highly compressible, and will generally pack down smaller than synthetics. Down is measured in cubic inches/oz of down, synthetic is measured in grams/square meter of insulation.  In both cases, the higher the number the warmer the insulating value of the garment.

When it comes to synthetic insulation, many apparel brands will produce their own insulation in order to save on the expense of buying a third party license.  Some common licensed insulation products include Thinsulate and PrimaLoft. Thinsulate is a 3M product that tends to be very thin but still very warm due to its density. PrimaLoft is a licensed product which tends to resemble a synthetic down.  It is very warm and similarly to down, it compresses for easy packing and storage.
S&B Pro Tip: Warm doesn't have to be bulky. The technology in these new insulations allows you to have a stylish, streamlined look without sacrificing performance!

Waterproofing

Waterproofing is perhaps one of the most important things to consider when selecting your insulated outerwear.  If water gets through to your inner layers you tend to get damp and cold.  A proper waterproof jacket and pants will help you stay warm and dry so you can catch some extra runs.

Waterproofing is measured based on how much water it would take in a 1”x1” square tube to penetrate the fabric, a higher number is more waterproof, generally 7,000-10,000 is the minimum standard for snow sport outerwear.
S&B Pro Tip: Remember... Dry = Warm!
Another feature that contributes to waterproofing is seam sealing.  Seam sealing  is a thin tape placed behind a seam to prevent water from penetrating stitches of between two joined pieces of fabric, fabrics may be critically seam sealed (only shoulders, chest etc.) or fully seam sealed (every seam is taped for better waterproofing).  Another way to protect seam penetration is with welded seams.  Welded seams are adhered to one another, this bond is not as strong as a sewn seam but more waterproof as there are no holes from stitching.

The last feature which has one of the greatest impacts on waterproofing is the type of membrane used in the fabric.  Membranes are applied to the inside of a fabric to prevent water from penetrating the fabric. Gore-Tex is a licensed brand which is associated with a fully waterproof result which is always fully seam sealed.

Breathability

Similarly to waterproofing, breathability has much to do with managing moisture, this time from the inside out. A more breathable jacket will allow your garment to manage the moisture put off by your body and allow it to more quickly vacate the jacket, keeping you dry and warm. Breathability is measured in grams per square meter of fabric in a 24 hour period. To find this measurement, manufactures will take one square meter of fabric, stretch it over a container of water and measure how much water penetrates the fabric in a 24 hour period. The higher the number the more breathable the fabric is.

When selecting your ski or snowboard jacket, more breathable is not always going to be the best solution. It is important to consider the activity level of the user. If you’re moving at a moderate level, taking breaks and finding you’re not being too aerobic a 5,000 to 8,000 is likely sufficient. If you’re a high energy rider doing some more aggressive riding or working up a sweat, you should look for something with a 10,000 to 15,000 rating.  Whereas an avid backcountry rider who is hiking or skinning to get to fresh pow would look for something closer to 20,000+.

Features

Features on an insulated coat are some of the less technical aspects that have huge benefits.  Features are the part that makes a jacket a bit more practical (like a key hook), comfortable (like a storm skirt) or even more fashionable (like removable fur around the hood).

Here’s a list of some of our favourite features and what they can do for you.
  • Lined pockets keep your hands warm.
  • Storm cuff also called a powder skirt will help keep snow and cold air from sneaking under your jacket.
  • Venting or "pit zips" will keep you from overheading or perspiring.
  • Stretch fabric allows a garment to fit more comfortably, increases mobility and looks cleaner.
  • Helmet compatible hoods and removable hoods are great for changing weather conditions.
  • Removable fur can add some extra spice to your jacket for apres.
  • Goggle wipes to keep your gear clean and dry.
  • Media management keeps your cords from getting brittle or tangled.
  • Key hooks keep your ski key or car key from tethered into your pocket.