Bibs vs. Pants: Which Are Better for You?

Deciding between bibs or pants for your time on the slopes this winter? You're not alone! Snowboard Expert John Arnold breaks down the pros and cons of each.

A snowboarder turning in the trees.

Photo by Pedro Slinger

One of the most important things a rider can do when preparing for the slopes is to make sure they have the right gear. And having the right clothing is just as important as having the right equipment. In the past, most riders have gone with the classic ski pants to protect their lower half, but more recently, the ski bib has come back into style for both skiers and snowboarders. While fashion is a key part of this trend, many are also thinking about function when deciding to add bibs to their outerwear collection. So, let's take a look at the pros and cons of both bibs and pants to help you make the best decision about which gear to use this winter.

Ski Bibs: What Are They?

The Airblaster Freedom Bibs.

The Airblaster Freedom Bibs

What exactly is a ski bib? Well, it is exactly as its name describes. Ski bibs, like regular ski and snowboard pants, are waterproof, insulated pieces of clothing designed to keep your lower half warm and dry. The main difference is that instead of having a waistband, ski bibs come up to the rider's chest and are supported by suspenders that go over the wearer's shoulder. This style is no longer limited to the extreme backcountry rider, and you have likely seen bibs making a return to the resort scene over the last few years. Here are some of the major pros that have encouraged riders to make the switch:

Ski Bib Pros

1. Extra Snow Protection

If you are tired of having snow fall down your pants on those deep powder days, then bib pants might be for you. Bibs provide the user with plenty of overlap between the ski jacket and the top of the bib, making it almost impossible for snow to get inside your waterproof fabric shell and ruin your day. The extra coverage is the most noticeable benefit when switching from pants to a pair of ski bibs.

2. More Insulation Coverage

A man wearing the North Face Freedom Bibs.

The North Face Freedom Bib has insulation for the torso instead of just for your legs, as regular ski pants do

When compared to snow pants, bib pants offer better protection from the cold weather. This is because the insulation in bibs does not just cover the legs but also most of the wearer’s upper half. This extra warmth could be exactly what you need if you run cold and are looking for outerwear that provides some extra warmth on the mountain.

3. Additional Storage

Top pocket on the Flylow Baker Bib Pant.

Top pocket on the Flylow Baker Bib Pant

Ski bibs also provide an extra storage pocket. Most models come with a chest cargo pocket that is the perfect waterproof and secure place for storing things. Many users prefer storing valuables such as phones and wallets in this pouch when wearing bibs, but it can also be an excellent place to stash a chairlift snack.

4. Better Mobility

Bibs also offer the wearer more ease of movement and mobility. Because bibs have no waistband, many riders find them to be a much more comfortable fit. When wearing underwear and a base layer around your waist, some people find that adding snow pants can create a lot of pressure in their midsection area. Skiers and snowboards looking to avoid this might want to opt for bibs instead.

5. Lots of Adjustability

Back adjustable straps on the DC Women's Crusader Bibs.

Back adjustable straps on the DC Women's Crusader Bibs

The adjustable straps on bibs offer an incredible amount of adjustability. With traditional pants, you don’t have the option to extend or tighten your pants, but with bibs, you can simply loosen or tighten the shoulder straps to change the fit and feel of the pants. This is especially useful for younger riders who are still growing a lot. For this group, bibs can possibly last several seasons because they are able to be adjusted for growth, whereas pants cannot.

Ski Bib Cons

Although there are many reasons people are making the switch to bibs, there are also some drawbacks that many users have noted. These include:

1. Initially Uncomfortable

Even though you get a sweet chest pocket, the added material that extends under the wearer's coat can sometimes feel off-putting and constraining. Many riders have noted that there is an adjustment period when transitioning to ski bibs. It takes time to get used to wearing the extra material, and it will not feel “normal” or “right” for a while. Some even opt to stay with pants altogether because the loose feel of the bibs can be an unwelcome change.

2. Too Much Warmth

Bibs also have been known to make the wearer feel quite hot on warmer days. Some riders combat this by not wearing a coat or jacket over the bib, instead sticking with a sweatshirt underneath on days when the temperature climbs. This is certainly a popular style amongst park riders, and it’s not a bad look, but for those who mostly ride in warmer areas, the bib might not be the right fit because it is simply too hot.

3. Complicates Bathroom Breaks

Here is the con you have all probably realized by now—sometimes, it can be a bit tricky to stop and take a bathroom break when wearing bibs. While this likely won’t be the determining factor in your purchasing decision, the extra steps required during bathroom breaks are something to keep in mind.

4. Can Be Expensive

Bibs are also usually more expensive than traditional pants. The extra material, including the nifty chest pocket, often adds up to a higher price tag. This can be a deterrent for some.

Ski Pants: The Classic

The 686 Men's Quantum Thermograph Pants.

The 686 Men's Quantum Thermograph Pants

Now let’s look at the traditional ski pants which are a tried-and-true method of staying warm on the mountain. The ski pant is a classic piece of outerwear and definitely has its benefits as well as its shortcomings. Let’s get into them.

Ski Pants Pros

1. A More Precise Fit

Classic ski pants provide the rider with a precise fit. Many bib users have reported that riding without a waistband can be quite an unsettling feeling, and sometimes they even feel as if their bibs are falling down (although they won’t). This is not an issue with traditional pants. If you get the right size and fit you will always feel secure.

2. More Comfortable for the Legs

The Burton Vida Pant Women's.

The Burton Vida Pant Women's

In the same way that ski pants can be a tighter fit around the waist, bib-wearers have a tight spot of their own. Wearers commonly report a problem with a tight spot that is created around the thighs or around their boots. There is no such discomfort wearing pants because they tend to be baggier. This can be both a good style and a good comfort choice.

3. Lighter Material

Pants are much more lightweight than bibs. If you are not interested in lugging around the additional weight of a bib’s extra-insulated fabric, sticking to pants allows you the comfort of a traditional feel and more lightweight product.

4. Adaptable To Variable Weather Conditions

One of the vent systems on the Flylow Chemical Pants.

Traditional ski pants offer much more versatility because they can often be adjusted to work in many different weather conditions. This means that the user can adjust to the weather by changing their base layers, or by adding an extra layer underneath the pants. Most ski pants also come with zippered vents to help cool off on hot days (although more and more bibs are adding this feature).

5. Cheaper

In comparison, pants are considerably cheaper than bibs. There is less material required to make the product which is why the price is lower for traditional pants.

Ski Pants Cons

1. Less Snow Protection

As mentioned above, many people have problems with traditional ski pants because it can be quite easy to get snow down the back of your jacket and into your pants. This is especially the case when there is a lot of fresh snow, or when you fall. It is never fun when snow and moisture breaks through your water-resistant layer of clothing. This is likely the main reason people choose bibs over pants.

2. The Fit Is Not Adjustable

Pants do not allow you to adjust the fit which is a problem, especially for kids. Once you outgrow a pair of ski pants there is no adjusting them to make them fit, you just have to get a new pair. This is the unfortunate downside of getting such a precise fit.

3. Very Little Pocket Storage

The Airblaster Women's Boyfriend Pants.

The Airblaster Women's Boyfriend Pants

Pants have significantly less pocket space than bibs which usually isn’t a problem if you are just carrying a phone, wallet, and keys, but there is very little room for anything else you may need!

Conclusion

Two skiers standing at the top of a ski run.

Photo by Eirik Uhlen

Pants and bibs both have their positives and negatives. Mostly it comes down to personal preference, but there are some obvious reasons to choose bibs. If you mostly ride in deep snow, go backcountry skiing or snowboarding, or are spending a lot of time with snow down your back, it might be time to make the switch to bibs. Bibs are also becoming a style choice and you can see different variations of them all over the ski resorts. If you want to keep up with the trend, bibs can be the right statement piece.

The most important thing to remember whether you decide to go for bibs or pants is to make sure what you choose is made from high-quality waterproof material (GORE-TEX), is super durable, and has enough insulation for you.

If you are looking to get some new pants or bibs check out Curated’s ski pant collection for all the best brands and gear, including companies such as The North Face, Flylow, Dakine, Burton, and many more. If you have any questions or need some buying advice, reach out to one of our amazing Ski or Snowboard Experts who can help get you suitably dressed for the upcoming winter.

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Written By
john Arnold
john Arnold
Snowboard Expert
Hello, my name is John! I have been snowboarding for almost 20 years. Snowboarding is one of my absolute favorite things to do and I love the people, places, and insane amount of fun that this awesome sport brings. My snowboard education comes from a long-time obsession with all aspects of the sport...
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