How to choose snow gear?
What is the best snow gear?
Like many things in life, what's best for someone else might not be best for you. The best snow gear for you depends on your particular needs and preferences:
- How much you feel the cold in general (if you're always cold go for the warmest gear)
- How often you'll go to the snow (once a year or almost every weekend in snow season?)
- The conditions you expect to face now and in the future (temperature, rain, snow?)
- How extreme your snow adventures will be (will you be doing any acrobatics or heli-skiing?)
- How long you want it to last (for a few weekend trips or weeks at a time over many seasons?)
The first rule of thumb to cotton onto is: cotton has no place on the mountain (except for underwear). It's not warm and it's not waterproof, so if you want to stay warm and dry, don't wear cotton socks or t-shirts.
Working out which snow gear to buy is easier when you break it down in into these five steps (from the top down):
1. Head - protecting your head, ears, face & neck
How to protect your head from injury and the cold when you hit the slopes:
- Rarely seen back in the day, a helmet is now a safety essential.
- Many ski fields won't let you on the snow without a helmet.
- Have the added benefit of helping keep your head warm.
- Can be worn with or without a beanie (decide before fitting).
- Most gear hire places provide a helmet with skis or a snowboard.
- Every child must wear a helmet while snowboarding or skiing.
- Must be replaced if damaged, or every few seasons if used regularly.
How to choose a helmet that fits you properly for all-day comfort:
- It has to be snug not loose (shake your head and make sure it doesn't move).
- It completely covers your forehead and stops just above your eyebrows.
- The size matches the circumference of your head (a few cms above your ears).
- Try it on with your:
- Goggles to ensure it stops just above them.
- Beanie (if you'll be wearing one) as this affects the fit.
- Most can be adjusted for the perfect fit so try making a few tweaks.
- The chin strap needs to be firm but also comfortable.
- Vents circulate air so moisture doesn't build up in your helmet.
- Stops body heat escaping from the top of your head.
- Protects you from wind chill so your ears stay warm.
- Needs to feel comfortable underneath your helmet.
- Go for a snug fit otherwise it might come flying off.
- Fabric options:
- Acrylic - a stretchy, close-knit synthetic that doesn't last as long as wool.
- Polyester - this synthetic is also called fleece and provides a lot of warmth.
- Wool/acrylic mix - a good balance of comfort, warmth and lasting quality.
- Wool - Merino wool is extra fine so it's soft, keeps you really warm and lasts.
- Keeps your ears warm.
- A beanie alternative.
- Suits warmer weather.
- A facemask and beanie in one (only your eyes can be seen).
- Keeps your head, ears, cheeks, nose and chin warm.
- Also protects your face from windburn and sunburn.
- Protect your eyes from:
- The sun's UV rays and glare (sun reflecting off the snow).
- Falling snow and wind so they don't dry out on the slopes.
- Compared to sunglasses, goggles:
- Give you more wind protection.
- Are better when it's foggy or cloudy.
- Cover more of your face so keep you warmer.
- Don't fog up as much (make sure your beanie/headband doesn't cover the air vents)
- Polarised lenses give you better glare protection and clear contrast.
- Dark coloured lenses suit sunny conditions so are best for bright days.
- Pink, yellow or green lenses are best when there's poor visibility.
- Amber lenses enhance contrast so it's easier to see any obstacles.
- The higher the filter number, the greater the UV protection.
- For minimal glare, go for goggles with 100% UVA, UVB and UVC protection.
- Can be worn over contact lenses or glasses (try goggles on with glasses before buying).
- A scarf is one long piece of fabric that wraps around your neck for warmth off the slopes.
- A neckwarmer is a circular scarf that keeps your neck warm and won't fly off on the slopes.
- Is critical because you're just as likely to get sunburnt at the snow as you are on the beach.
- The sun's UV rays can do serious damage at the snow because they hit you:
- From above (and they're also stronger at high altitudes).
- And from below because they also reflect off the snow.
- Sunscreen is essential on all skin not covered with clothing (usually this is just your face).
- Put sunscreen and an SPF lip balm in your pocket to reapply later (or a clip-on travel size).
2. Body - Keeping your arms, legs and torso warm & dry
Layering is the secret to staying warm at the snow. When you head in for lunch or a drink you can shed a layer or two, relax in front of the fire, then layer up again before you head out to shred.
How to layer your clothes when you go to the snow:
- Thermals create a base layer that sits next to your skin.
- Draws (or wicks) sweat away from your skin so you stay dry.
- Traps your body heat so it doesn't escape and you stay warm.
- Helps you maintain a comfortable core temperature.
- Learn how to choose a thermal base layer.
- Goes over your thermals and under your waterproof layer.
- Acts as insulation, trapping any heat that's escaped your thermals.
- Hoodies, vests, tights and fleeces are all popular middle layers.
- A fleece is warm, lightweight, insulates when wet and dries fast.
- Down has the best warmth to weight insulation ratio (but no insulation when wet).
- Synthetic insulation won't keep you as warm as down but will keep you warm when wet.
- The final wind and waterproof layer that keeps you warm and dry.
- Snow jackets and pants can be both middle and outer layers in one.
- Jackets have a rating (higher ratings are more waterproof and breathable).
- To be 100% waterproof, the jacket needs to have:
- A waterproof layer that's breathable (so sweat can escape but water can't get in).
- Seams that are sealed (so water can't seep in through the seam stitching holes).
- Waterproof zippers (usually covered with a fabric flap) so water can't get in.
- A softshell jacket is usually:
- Extremely lightweight and wind-proof with room to move around easily.
- Breathable and waterproof, but not fully waterproof because the seams aren't sealed.
- Are essential in the snow for warmth and comfort.
- Keep your hands warm so you can still feel your fingers.
- Are practical because you can still use your fingers.
- Waterproof gloves keep your hands dry when you fall.
- Insulated gloves stop the heat escaping from your hands.
- If wool gloves get wet in the snow, your hands will feel cold.
- Liner gloves can be worn under ski gloves for extra warmth.
- Silk liner gloves are lightweight, breathable and keep you warm when wet.
- Touchscreen liner gloves keep you warm when taking photos and filming.
- Heated gloves are the ultimate for warm hands in the snow.
- Gloves with a pull toggle or adjustable cuff can be tightened so snow doesn't get in.
- Glove loops you can put around your wrist make it easier to keep track of your gloves.
- Finger and palm grips allow you to get a better hold on things while wearing gloves.
- Gloves with built-in wipes for your nose or goggles come in handy on the slopes.
- Vents allow air to circulate and moisture to escape the gloves so your hands stay dry.
- Water resistant gloves are fine for walks and experienced skiers and snowboarders, but they aren't fully waterproof so won't suit beginners still falling in the snow.
When it comes to gloves labelled waterproof, some are more waterproof than others:
- The water (or hydrostatic) head rating tells you how waterproof the gloves are.
- The higher the water/hydrostatic head rating, the more waterproof they'll be.
- For the best waterproof gloves, choose one of the highest water/hydrostatic head ratings.
- Snowboarders regularly adjust their bindings so good waterproof gloves are essential.
- Keep all your fingers together in one fabric pocket.
- Can create more hand heat and warmth than gloves.
- Mitts/mittens better suited to snowboarding than skiing with poles.
- Keep your feet warm, dry and comfortable.
- Wick the sweat away from your feet so they stay dry.
- Compared to synthetic socks, Merino wool socks are more:
- Breathable and soft.
- Warm and dry.
- Anti-bacterial (so won't get stinky).
- Thin, smooth socks are actually better than thick socks.
- Thick socks can cause feet to sweat and rub causing blisters.
- Are padded in all the right places to prevent blisters.
- Allow you to hit the slopes all day and the next day.
- Only clean, dry socks every day will wick sweat away.
- Apres means after in French (E.g. apres-ski bars are where you go for a drink after skiing).
- You'll need apres boots for walking around in the snow after your day on the slopes.
- They need to be waterproof and insulated to keep your feet warm and dry.
- Have a temperature rating which tells you how warm the boots will be.
- Boots with an insulated insole are warmer than those without, as heat can escape.
- Breathable boots circulate air so foot moisture doesn't cause odours and bacteria.
- The better the foot support, insole and laces the more comfortable the boot (full laces give you a better, more secure fit than pull on boots).
- How much traction your boots give you on the snow depends on the tread and outer sole:
- More grip on your boots means they're less slippery in the snow.
- Rubber carbon outer soles are harder and last longer than rubber, but rubber grips better.
- A cuff, gusseted tongue or gaiter (a tube from the top of your boots around your calves) helps keep water and snow out of your boots.
- When weighing up boots, compare their heaviness so they're comfortable to walk in.
Staying warm and dry is the aim of the game on and off the slopes, so make sure you:
- Have all the gear you need for a fun snow adventure.
- Keep a change of clothes in the car for the trip home.
When you're weighing up which snow gear to buy, think about quality versus cost:
- Synthetic fabrics are cheaper but won't last as long as Merino wool.
- Merino wool socks will keep your feet warm, dry and will last longer than synthetics.
- A good quality jacket is a middle and outer layer in one and will last you years.
- Good goggles protect your eyes, keep your face warm and give you good visibility.
- Keeping the kids warm and dry will keep them happier in the snow for longer.
When it comes to how much you should spend on a snow gear:
- Think about how many seasons you want to get out of it/how long it'll fit the kids for.
- Cheaper snow gear tends to be less waterproof, so you get what you pay for.
- For comfortable snow trips for years to come, it's worth spending more on good gear.
- Whatever you spend on snow gear, you're saving on renting snow gear in the future.
How much is snow gear?
At Anaconda, you can get snow gear at great prices:
- Socks, gloves and beanies from $10
- Thermals from $20
- Goggles from $30
- Helmets from $50
- Pants and jackets from $50
When you go to the snow section on the Anaconda website, you'll see tick box filters down the left hand side of the page. Using these filters makes working out which snow gear to buy easier and faster because you can choose to filter what you see by:
- Price - so you only see gear that's within your budget.
- Deal - so you only see all the snow gear that's on sale.
- Size - so you can see the snow gear that's in your size.
- Colour - so you only see gear in the colours you like.
- Breathability - so you can see all the gear that's breathable.
- Moisture wicking - so you only see gear that keeps you dry.
- Wind proof - so all the gear you're looking at is wind proof.
- Water Proof - so you know what's water resistant and water proof.
- Brand - so you can find specific brands like The North Face.