The Ultimate Guide to Snow Clothes

Snow jacket
Snow pants
Mid-layer top
Mid-layer bottom
Adult mittens or gloves
Facemask or balaclava

Our more comprehensive guide on this topic is our protip on what clothing do you really need for outdoor activities. The reason we've organized clothing for all outdoor activities together is because we want to help you understand the similarities & differences between outdoor clothing for rain vs. snow vs. other sports, so you can better decide when you might be able to use something you already have, rather than get something new. In this guide we'll pull out some key info for snow clothing (like an FAQ), with lots of links back to specific sections of our comprehensive guide. The only unique content in this guide is info on price differences, what we carry & sizing, and repair tips (i.e., if you've read the more comprehensive guide, you may want to skip to just those 3 sections).

What to use & how to choose

Layering is key to keeping warm & dry in variable external conditions & states of physical activity. For more info about layering, including our recommend set of layers, click here.

Outer layers

Include the jacket, pants, gloves (and somewhat overlaps with helmet, which is also a protective gear item).

Do I need full waterproofing or is water resistant enough?

While snow is more dry than rain, this ultimately depends on the weather (and your skill, if you fall a lot, you'll get pretty wet!). It's always safer to get something fully waterproof

How are outer layers specifically for snowsports different from other outer layers, say rain clothes?

  • More durable since snowsports is pretty rough compared to walking on trail (e.g., falling on snow/ ice), outer layers generally are made with thicker fabric. Rain clothes don't need to be as thick, not to mention that would add to weight, and many backpackers want ultralight gear for long trips
  • Features or styledesigned for snowsports for example helmet-compatible jacket hoods, snow skirts or gaiters to prevent snow from getting up into your clothes, RECCO reflectors for avalanche safety, or longer length jackets to provide more coverage, etc.

Given how important those 2 points are, it's generally advised to get snowsports specific outer layers, unless you're very confident in your abilities & already have higher end rain gear, which some manufacturers have designed in mind for more hybrid use (more durable fabric, with features for snowsports).

Should I get a hard or soft shell?

Depends on how you want to thermoregulate . Generally, if it won't be precipitating very much, and you will be heavily exerting yourself (e.g., cross-country skiing), a soft shell may be a good idea. Of course, for some people, this is also a fashion choice

Should I get bib pants?

Bib pants help prevent snow from getting down your clothes since they're basically overalls. But the decision to get them is often a fashion choice (same as with onesies)

Do I need gloves? What's better, gloves or mittens?

Absolutely! This is not an area to skimp (though unfortunately, quality gloves or mittens for snowsports are surprisingly expensive, starting at $50) because your hands will be constantly exposed (when skiing you have ski poles to hold onto). For the difference between gloves or mittens, check our general protip

Insulation

Insulation can be part of the...

  • Outer layer e.g., when you have an insulated jacket or pants, or a jacket with a removable insulation liner
  • Base layer e.g., when you have a heavier weight base layer

Do I need a separate, insulating mid-layer?

Depends on if you already have insulation (see above) & how you want to thermoregulate. For example if you will be heavily exerting yourself or it will be a relatively warm day, maybe not.

Can I wear a hoodie or jeans or sweatpants?

These are generally made from cotton. Cotton is not a good idea for any activity where you'll be sweating or where there's a risk of it getting wet. We recommend a fleece. (More info on materials here)

Base layers

A moisture wicking base layer is important to keeping you dry, especially if you will be sweating from exertion.

Can I wear a cotton undershirt?

Cotton is not a good idea for any activity where you'll be sweating or where there's a risk of it getting wet. We recommend synthetic base layers. (More info on materials here)

Can I wear gym clothes?

Likely yes, since gym clothes are often moisture wicking. They are less likely to have insulation, though (generally lightweight class), which may or may not matter given how else you've chosen to get insulation (e.g., via outer layer or mid-layer)

Do I need face, neck, or head layers (like a buff or facemask [aka balaclava])?

Depends: does your jacket have high collars? Do you have a hood or helmet? Do you expect a lot of wind or precipitation on your face? Does your face get cold easily?

Price

One of life's certainties is the trade-off between price & quality. This creates an inherently unfair situation. If you save money today by buying something lower end, you'll end up replacing it more frequently, spending money & time each instance so that at the end, you probably haven't actually saved anything. On the other hand, if you decide to invest in something higher end, you'll need a lot more upfront money, and you need to be able to use the item frequently enough to make it worthwhile.

We developed our rental program to address this unfairness. We don't sell lower end items. But for our higher end items, we offer them for rent at up to 90% off retail price, generally well below the cost of buying even the cheaper option. That's a win-win!

It may seem like the price & quality trade-off is disappearing, because you can find a cheap version of almost anything for tens of dollars that still has good reviews (assuming the reviews are real). Remember 2 things:

  • Many reviews are written after only a trial use, first use, or infrequent use: We've seen entire review videos of gear done at home, which is very different than actually being outdoors!
  • The point of gear is to give you a good experience because you've already spent money to be on vacation from work! Don't let quality issues affect your relaxation

For gear specifically, the quality issues center around performance & durability.

Compared to higher end products, lower end ones usually...

  • Have less durable or flexible fabric (generally polyester), which is important since snowsports are rough & require a wide range of motion
  • Have less effective or durable waterproofing which may require more maintenance
  • Have lower warmth-to-weight ratios (e.g., be heavier/ bulkier or not be as warm, mid-layers less likely to be down)
  • Have fewer features designed for snowsports (e.g., gear pockets, Recco avalanche reflector, etc.)

Lower end

On our rental catalog, referred to as 'Basic', we don't guarantee gender/size availability

Higher end

On our rental catalog, referred to as 'Adult' or 'Youth', we usually prepare +/- 1 size in addition to what you ordered, where possible

Why we do/don't carry it

= we rent

= we sell

Socks

Up to $10

$30

For hygiene reasons (e.g., used directly against skin), we currently only sell these

Base layers

Range for both tops & bottoms

$5-20

$30-60

Mid-layers

Range for both tops & bottoms

$20-80

$100-300 Often, people have existing clothes they can use as mid-layers, so we don't carry these primarily, though we do rent/sell outer layers that are insulated (both as fixed insulated shells & 3-in-1 jackets). We rent lower end models because we do not have this on the borrow shelf; look for 'Basic' in the name on our Catalog

Outer layers

Range for both jackets & pants

$50-100

$100-400

Given that these are generally snowsports-specific, we do carry these. We rent lower end models because we do not have this on the borrow shelf; look for 'Basic' in the name on our Catalog
Gloves or mittens

Up to $40

$40-110

Goggles

More info here

Up to $40

$55-220

Face & headwear

(e.g., facemask, balaclava, neck gaiters)

Up to $20

$25-35

Methodology notes on prices shown on this page

What we carry

General Notes

  • We choose what we carry based on extensive research on what's the best value to our customers (e.g., price given performance & durability features) across all the top brands. We specifically do not carry every brand & model; for details on why we do/don't carry certain items in the How To Choose section
  • Buy prices are MSRP with tax, i.e., what you see is what you pay. Prices may differ in-store due to change in models or discounts, but this is rare. If we don't sell what we rent, we list MSRP value with tax
  • Rent prices are the starting prices; enter trip dates on our Catalog to get exact prices (based on total trip length, not per day!). We also don't charge sales tax, an automatic savings of almost 10%!

We carry a wide range of brands, models, styles, colors, fits, etc. (some examples below), therefore only ranges for buy prices or values are listed. Rental prices do not differ based on brand, model, etc.

Lower end Higher end

Mixed gender & age

Youth

Generally ages 5+; bring in younger children or their clothes to test fit

Adult

Base layers Tops

BUY $30-40

BUY $40-60

Bottoms
Mid- layers Tops

$20-80 value

RENT $6+

We don't have these standalone, but we do carry insulated or 3-in-1 outer layers
Bottoms
Outer layers Jackets

BUY $200-250

RENT $15+

BUY $200-400

RENT $20+

Pants

$50-100 value

RENT $8+

BUY $100-150

RENT $10+

BUY $150-300

RENT $15+

Other items Socks

BUY $30

Gloves or mittens

Up to $40 value

RENT $4+

BUY $40

BUY $60-110

Goggles

More info here

Up to $40 value

RENT $4+

BUY $55

BUY $70-220

Face & headwear

Up to $20 value

RENT $2+

Youth may be able to fit into adult products

BUY $25-35

Online ordering notes

'Basic' on our online rental catalog

We don't guarantee gender/size availability

'Youth' or 'Adult' on our online rental catalog

We usually prepare +/- 1 size in addition to what you ordered, where possible

Brands Marker, E408, Turbine, Rawik, Seirus Marmot, The North Face, Patagonia, Bogner, Burton, Mountain Hardwear, Columbia, SmartWool

When you rent online, we will pick a model for you. You can change the model if you pick-up in-store, subject to availability. On the Options page of our online order process, you can also select options or write-in any preferences. This section describes the majority of our models & options, but sometimes we carry others. We will only pick something else if it doesn't conflict with your choices indicated on the Options page; moreover, if there's a major functional difference (e.g., capacity), we will attempt to contact you first

Size & Fit

For gloves & mittens: It's a bit of a debate if your fingers should touch the ends or not; we would recommend yes to improve insulation & dexterity.

For jackets & pants

Compared to street clothes or other technical clothing layers (base layers need to be form-fit to work, therefore mid-layers can be more street clothes sized since there should be nothing bulky underneath), outer layers size...

  • Larger so you can have mid-layers underneath (which can be very puffy!)
  • Longer so you can get more coverage
  • Longer pants to go over the tall boots used in skiing or snowboarding
  • Baggier or slimmer, a common style preference, especially with skiers vs snowboarders

Therefore, our size table is a very general set of guidelines. To be more helpful our guidelines are based on street pants sizing (since it's more numeric), and the same size generally applies to both pants & jackets for a given person. We recommend trying on multiple brands & models/ products. Here are some sizing tips:

  • Sizes on the same row roughly are comparable in terms of waist, but may differ in terms of length (e.g., woman's XXS may be longer than a boy's S)
  • You want good freedom of motion: you should be able to swing your arms up/down & in a circle, or do a full squat, without feeling tight or pinching
  • Gaiters (the elastic part) should fit over & not be tucked in. E.g., pant gaiters should go over ski/snow boots, snow skirt aka powder skirt should not be tucked into your pants
Snow clothes sizing Street clothes sizing Snow clothes sizing
Boys Men Men Women Women Girls
S
S 00-0 XXS M
M 0-2 XS L
L XS 25-27in 2-6 S XL
XL S 27-31in 6-10 M
M 31-34in 10-14 L
L 34-37in 14-18 XL
XL 37-41in
XXL 41-45in

Maintenance tips

Repairing

Zippers: If the zipper track isn't staying closed, this is usually because the zipper slider pull has 'widened' over time & is no longer effectively pressing the teeth together. If your track has 2 zipper slider pulls, a tailor should be able to remove the malfunctioning one. If you'd like to add a new zipper slider pull, the biggest challenge will be finding one, since gear often uses different, proprietary sizes. Once you have a slider pull, a tailor can add it easily (~$10). If you need to replace the entire zipper track (e.g., you can't find another slider pull or the track is physically damaged), be aware this can be very expensive, expect to spend $50-100. We also recommend seeing a luggage repair specialist, since they may have the larger zippers used for gear, or Narain's & Rainy Pass Repair.

Rips, tears, holes: For small ones, you can stick on a patch of Tenacious Tape yourself. For larger ones, you may need to sew on a replacement fabric patch; most tailors can help with this (if you're doing it yourself, most technical fabrics are rip-stop nylon and this is sold by many fabric stores; most meshes used in outdoor gear however is not widely sold). Remember, sewing compromises waterproofing, since it adds punctures. Ultralight gear with thinner fabrics may require specialists. Two repair specialists are Narain's & Rainy Pass Repair; both accept gear shipped in, expect to spend $30-100

Cleaning & Waterproofing

Sometimes people are afraid to wash technical clothing for fear of removing its unique technical traits, especially its waterproof coating. Ironically, cleaning can be an essential way to keep staying dry! But the reasons are a bit complex, so we'd recommend reviewing our protip.

We have a general protip on how to store & maintain gear that we highly recommend reviewing as well. If you send us video or a good photo series, we may be able to help you evaluate your repair needs.

The exact numbers (e.g., weights, dimensions, prices, etc.) used were updated as of September 2019 . That said, there usually isn't dramatic change; we update & review the market roughly biennially.


Thoughts, ideas, questions? Let us know in the comments below! We're Last Minute Gear, the only outdoor gear shop where you can buy, rent, or borrow gear!