How waterproof do snowboard pants need to be?

Updated October 5, 2023


Why snowboard pants need to be waterproof?

When you’re out in the mountains, it’s important that you stay warm and dry. If your snowboard pants remain dry, you will be comfortable, be able to move better on your snowboard, and stay warm.

Snowboard pants that stay dry will also keep cleaner longer and not wear as much.

Snowboarders, especially beginners, spend a lot of time sat in the snow. And this can lead to a wet butt! The problem with soggy snowboard pants is that they get heavy and uncomfortable and can restrict your movements.

The other area where your pants might get wet is around the bottom of the legs. Especially in slush or powder snow, the bottom of your pants can start to soak up water.

Slushy snow has a much higher water content than colder, drier snow. So to stay dry in warmer spring conditions, you’ll need a pant with a higher waterproof rating.

When riding powder, your board sinks down into the snow, meaning the bottom of your pants are more in contact with the snow. This isn’t a problem if the snow is super cold and dry. But as things warm up throughout the day, the snow can often get a little wet…meaning your pants do too.

Another factor to consider is how many days riding you will be doing? The more you ride, the more your pants pick up dirt. And this dirt can cause the waterproofing to be less effective.

So if you only ride a few weekends each winter, then you will be able to get away with a less waterproof pant than if you ride every day of the winter.

What Waterproof Rating should you choose?

Snowboard pants come with a rating for waterproofness and breathability, which generally range from 5,000mm to 20,000mm. The higher the number, the more waterproof they are.

In my experience, anything below 10K rating will not stay dry under prolonged contact with the snow. But they tend to be much cheaper. You can get a decent pair of 10K pants for under $200.

For more technical pant that will stay drier longer and is more breathable, you want to look for a waterproof rating of 20K+

This kind of pant will hold up better if you are venturing into the backcountry, splitboarding, or riding in the spring.

What to look for when choosing a waterproof pants.

  • Waterproof membrane – Adding a waterproof membrane, such as Gore-tex on the inside of the outer layer is the best way to waterproof your pants. An example of this is Gore-tex which is waterproof and breathable.
  • Taped seams – The seams in your pants can act as a weak point that in moisture. Adding waterproof tape over the seams keeps the moisture from coming through the stitching.
  • Waterproof coating – Cheaper outerwear are often treated with a waterproof coating. This will keep you dry up to a certain point but also will wear off over time. A good budget option.

Are Gore-Tex pants worth it?

Gore-Tex is a waterproof, breathable membrane that is used by many brands in their top-end pants and jackets. This makes it the perfect material for outdoor sports. The microporous material keeps water out while also allowing the material to breathe.

But it is expensive! Typically Gore-tex outerwear is more expensive, with a pair of Gore-tex pants starting at around $250.

Many of the outerwear brands produce their own alternative materials to Gore-tex, which aim to do the same job. For example, Burton have their Dryride material, which works like Gore-tex and appears in their cheaper jackets and pants.

In my experience, I have not found any alternative to Gore-tex that works as well at keeping you dry. I use the Burton GORE‑TEX Cyclic Pant; they are the best value-for-money, high-performance pants I have found. The brands also seem to agree, with Gore-tex featuring on their top-end products ahead of their own alternative membrane.

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Written by Graeme Gibson

I've spent the last 25 year riding my snowboard all over the world. I now live in Switzerland with my family where I coach snowboarding and still get a few powder days whenever I can. Lean more about me here ->

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