Outerwear explained
Cutting edge fabrics and flashy colourways aside, snowboard outerwear has a function to perform, keeping you dry and warm. It does this in two key ways – preventing moisture – in the form of water and snow – from getting in from the outside and allowing moisture – in the form of evaporated sweat – to escape from the inside. The price you pay for your next piece of outerwear largely depends on how it performs – but what do all the numbers and words actually mean?
Waterproof rating
Waterproof ratings are based on a fabric's resistance to water pressure and the term '5,000mm waterproof' means that that fabric can resist the pressure that a 5,000mm (5m) column of water exerts if it were placed on it. Why pressure? When you fall over, the force of your body hitting the snow exerts a lot of pressure, which means the more resistant to water pressure a fabric is, the less water will be forced through the fabric, so the drier you'll stay. The higher the number, the better. Snow or rain falling on it's own places surprisingly little pressure on a fabric.
Breathability rating
Staying dry and warm is not purely about waterproofing - plastic bag is waterproof. If you were to wear that on the hill, however, you'd quickly get wet and cold because when you sweat, your body gives off moisture, which evaporates and if this moisture has nowhere to go, it is chilled by the outside air and condenses against your skin. A fabric that can effectively release the evaporated moisture (in other worlds, 'breathe') will allow you to stay warm and dry for longer. Expressed in the rating gm/sq m/24, breathability ratings mean the number of grammes of moisture per square metre that will pass through the fabric in a 24-hour period. The higher the number, the more it can breathe.
Varying levels of insulation are place around different zones of the clothing to help reduce the effect of wind-chill and cold. It's not enough to just get a thick padded jacket and expect to stay warm, look into the various insulation types that manufacturers offer before you make your choice.
A shell is a lightweight, technical jacket that has no insulation at all. Often more expensive than many insulated jackets, many people dismiss them as overpriced, but the level of technology used makes them very good value for money. Utilise a shell jacket and layering to regulate you temperature for year round performance.
Taped Seams
When two fabrics are stitched together, the holes that are made by the thread allow moisture to pass through. Sticking a waterproof tape to the reverse of the stitched seams seals the whole seam by stopping water getting through the holes. 'Fully taped' garments have every seam taped, while 'critically taped' ones typically have the most exposed seams taped.
Powder skirts
Powder skirts are attached around the inside of the jacket's waist in an elasticated gator type arrangement that are supposed to stop powder snow going up your jacket, Which they do, until you slam hard in powder and snow goes everywhere – up your nose, in your mouth and quite often in you ears too. How it manages to get rammed down your pants is beyond us, but it happens!
Vents are large gaps in the seams – mostly under your armpits and along your inner thighs – that are opened and closed with long zips. By unzipping your vents, you can quickly dump excess heat in order to maintain your body temperature at a comfortable level. When you've stopped the serious exertion, simply zip them up again.
There's more to technical outerwear than this brief introduction can cover… Check out the manufacturer's websites and talk to your local snowboard shop – for further information.
This guide is brought to you in association with SS20 and Whitelines.
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