Women's Ski & Snowboard Bibs: How to Choose the Right Ones for YouPublished on 05/01/2023 · 13 min readSnowboarding Expert Tyese Messerman explains the different kinds of women's ski and snowboard bibs so that you can make an informed decision when choosing your gear!
Photo courtesy of Nidecker
Whether you’re making the jump from pants to bibs, or you’re a tried-and-true hardcore lover of bibs, there are many factors to consider when making your next purchase. The features and specs to prioritize depend greatly on your style of riding and the conditions in which you’ll find yourself. These features include waterproofing and breathability ratings, durability of materials, and comfort and adjustability of the straps, among others. In this article, I’ll use these factors to walk you through how to find the perfect pair of bibs for your needs.
As I’ve been snowboarding for over 23 years, you can believe me when I say I have gone through a lot of pants and bibs to find the right ones. I usually spend 30–50 days a winter snowboarding at resorts, and also a lot of time splitboarding in the backcountry. Plus, I love climbing and snowboarding volcanoes in PNW spring conditions.
During this time, I have found that each type of adventure comes with different gear requirements in order to guarantee success. And at Curated, I absolutely love chatting with people to get them set up correctly to make their days on the mountain perfect.
What Are Women’s Snow Bibs?
Sick of getting powder down your pants on those deep days? Snow bibs, which function like traditional overalls—with a high waist and suspenders that provide additional coverage and protection from snow—could be the answer.
Women's snow bibs are specifically tailored to fit the female body. They offer better comfort and mobility during winter activities, and they add an extra layer of insulation for the torso on those extra-cold days.
What to Consider When Buying Women’s Bibs
1. What Is Your Budget for Snow Bibs?
First, consider how much you're willing to spend on your bibs. This will be greatly dependent on how many days a year you plan to use them, and where you’ll be riding or skiing.
Prices can range from under $100 for basic models to over $500 for premium options. But keep in mind—high-quality, durable materials and advanced features tend to come with a higher price tag. The waterproofing/breathability ratings will often be better with a higher price tag, or extra features such as adjustable suspenders, reinforced knees/seat, butt zips, venting zippers, and extra pockets may be added. This does not mean that everyone needs the top-of-the-line gear! Determining the balance between affordability and the quality that suits your needs is up to you.
2. What Level of Waterproofing and Breathability Do You Need?
Waterproof ratings are measured in millimeters (mm), and indicate the amount of water pressure a material can withstand. These ratings typically range from around 5,000—20,000+ mm. The higher the rating, the more water-resistant the bibs.
Breathability is measured in grams per square meter (g/m2) per 24 hours, and ranges from 5,000—20,000+ g/m2. Higher ratings provide better moisture management to keep you dry and comfortable.
Consider if you only ski on blue-bird days, or if you’re instead bent on chasing powder? Do you venture into the backcountry, where precipitation can come unexpectedly, or are you always at a resort, where you can quickly get to cover in the event of a storm?
3. How Important Is Insulation for Your Snow Activities?
When thinking about the insulation you’ll need, consider the weather, temperatures, and conditions you’ll be facing the most. Some snow bibs come with built-in insulation, which provides extra warmth in colder climates. Though if you prefer to layer your clothing, or are looking for more versatility, opt for a shell bib without insulation—allowing you to customize your layers according to the weather.
4. What Features Would You Like in Your Snow Bibs?
The specific features included in a bib will vary based on their price point. So, keep in mind which are essential for you, and which you can do without.
As a lady, one thing I find very important is easy access in the restroom. Some bibs have zippers across the top of the butt or down the sides for ease of use, while others do not.
Other features include reinforced knees for extra durability, boot gaiters to help keep snow out of the boots, adjustable straps, and venting systems that improve airflow and temperature regulation.
5. How Do I Find the Right Fit for My Body Type?
Finding the right fit is crucial for ensuring comfort and mobility. While women’s snow bibs are designed to fit the female body, individual fit can vary between brands and models.
As a rule, measure your hips, waist, and inseam, and use sizing charts when possible. Further, try bibs on if you have the chance. Also, make sure to consider the layers you'll be wearing underneath, and ensure you’ll have enough room for movement while cruising the slopes.
What Are the Types of Women’s Ski & Snowboard Bibs?
Women's ski and snowboard bibs can be categorized based on their insulation, materials, and design features. Here are the main types of bibs:
1. Insulated Bibs
Insulated bibs are designed with built-in insulation to provide extra warmth in cold conditions. These are good for athletes who prefer added warmth without layering multiple garments, and generally ride on blustery days.
- Provide extra warmth in cold conditions for those who are sensitive to cold temperatures or plan to ski in frigid climates
- Reduces the need to purchase/wear multiple layers
Keep in Mind:
- May be too warm for milder weather conditions or high-intensity activities, leading to overheating
- Are heavier and bulkier than shell bibs
2. Shell Bibs
Shell bibs are lighter in weight and do not feature built-in insulation. They focus more on waterproofing and breathability, making them ideal for those who prefer to layer based on the temperature. Shell bibs are also a great option for those going into the backcountry to tour, and will be exerting a lot of energy and warming up fast.
- Lightweight and versatile, allowing for customized layering based on weather conditions
- Often more breathable than insulated bibs, making them more comfortable during intense activities
Keep in Mind:
- Require extra layers for warmth
- Not as warm as insulated bibs for those sensitive to cold temperatures
3. Softshell Bibs
Softshell bibs are made from stretchy, soft, and breathable materials that offer more comfort and mobility than traditional hardshell bibs. While they may not provide the same level of waterproofing and wind protection, they are great for milder conditions or for those who prioritize comfort and flexibility. Benefits:
- Stretchy, soft, and breathable materials provide enhanced comfort and mobility in milder conditions
- Often more form-fitting and less bulky than traditional hardshell bibs
Keep in Mind:
- May not offer the same level of waterproofing and wind protection as hardshell bibs
- Not suitable for extreme weather conditions or heavy snowfall, and not as warm as insulated bibs
4. Technical Bibs
Technical bibs come with advanced features such as articulated knees, ventilation systems, and reinforced areas for added durability. These bibs are designed for skiers and snowboarders who ride many days a year and require high-performance gear for going off-piste and into the backcountry, or who may be using technical equipment like ice-axes, crampons, and harnesses.
- Advanced features provide more durability and functionality
- Designed for skiers and snowboarders who require high-performance gear in the backcountry, or are out many days in variable conditions at resorts
Keep in Mind:
- Often more expensive due to advanced features and materials
- May not be necessary for casual skiers or snowboarders
5. Eco-Friendly Bibs
Eco-friendly bibs are made from more sustainable materials, such as recycled fabrics or environmentally friendly waterproofing treatments. These bibs cater to those who prioritize minimizing their environmental impact.
- Minimize environmental impact with sustainable materials or environmentally friendly treatments
- Still offer quality performance and protection
Keep in Mind
- Can be more expensive, and may not provide the same level of performance or durability as traditional materials
- Limited options in terms of style and features
Features to Look for in Women’s Ski and Snowboard Bibs
- Waterproofing and Breathability: To ensure you stay dry and comfortable, look for bibs with higher waterproof and breathability ratings. If you’re going to be riding in precipitation, a minimum of 15k is recommended, with 20k+ providing maximum protection. Advanced materials like GORE-TEX offer excellent protection and moisture management.
- Insulation: Depending on your needs and preferences, choose between insulated bibs for added warmth or shell bibs for layering flexibility. Consider the insulation material (synthetic or down) and weight.
- Sealed Seams: Fully taped or sealed seams prevent water from seeping through the stitching, thereby enhancing waterproofing.
- Reinforced Knees and Seat: Reinforcements in high-wear areas like the knees and the seat provide extra durability and protection against spills and falls.
- Venting Systems: Look for bibs with zippered vents—usually located on the inner thighs—to improve airflow and temperature regulation during high-intensity activities. Some models use a mesh liner, and others are open to the elements.
- Adjustable Suspenders: Ensure a comfortable fit by choosing bibs with adjustable straps, which can accommodate varying body shapes and sizes.
- Boot Gaiters: Integrated gaiters help keep snow out of your boots and seal in warmth, providing additional protection.
- Pockets: Look for bibs with functional pockets in good locations—including zippered or Velcro closures—to securely store essentials like your keys, phone, or lift pass. Plus, if you plan to wear a harness, ensure the location of the pockets allows for easy access.
- Articulated Knees and Stretch Materials: Bibs that feature articulated knees or are made from stretchy materials allow for greater freedom of movement and comfort, especially if riding in the park.
- RECCO: RECCO is a rescue technology built into some gear that helps mountain-rescue teams quickly find you in the case of an avalanche. This also works if you go off-trail and get lost at a resort.
- Butt Zips: Last but not least, some bibs have a zipper across the lower waist, while others feature zippers down each side for easy access on bathroom breaks. Be wary of bibs that don’t have this feature, since you’ll have to unstrap your suspenders and pull them down to use the bathroom.
Features to Avoid in Women’s Ski and Snowboard Bibs
There are certain features to be cautious of when making your purchase, especially if sticking to a lower budget.
- Poor-Quality Materials: Avoid bibs made from low-quality materials, even if they seem like a steal. Most likely they won’t feature quality waterproofing, won’t be breathable, and won’t be reinforced in the high-wear areas to provide long-lasting durability.
- No Adjustable Straps: Bibs without adjustable features can lead to an uncomfortable or insecure fit, especially for those a little shorter or taller than average. Opt for bibs with adjustable suspenders, or a pair that come specifically in short, regular, or tall sizes.
- Bulky or Heavy Insulation: If you try bibs on and feel like you can’t move freely in them, move on to the next pair. Overly bulky or heavy insulation can restrict movement and be uncomfortable for a day on the slopes.
- Poorly Designed Pockets: Pockets that are too small, have no closures, or are placed in awkward positions may not be practical for storing essentials, and can result in dropping your phone or credit card. Look for bibs with well-placed pockets that close securely.
- Low-Quality Zippers: Poor-quality zippers can break or malfunction, compromising the performance of your bibs. Remember, one broken zipper and your day is over. Opt for bibs with sturdy, reliable zippers.
How to Choose the Right Pair of Bibs for You
With so many options on the market, selecting the ideal pair of bibs can be challenging. But by keeping in mind the type of athlete you are, the conditions you ride in, and the features you’re looking for, you can more easily narrow down your choices. Below are three different types of athletes I’ve helped at Curated, and the key factors I considered before suggesting the right pair of bibs for them.
Megan: A Casual Half-Dayer
Megan is a fair-weather snowboarder who prefers chilling with her friends on the slopes and riding on sunny days. She often rides half-days, and prioritizes comfort and looks. She wants her entire outfit to match, and is looking for some well-fitting, slim-fit snowboarding pants. She likes to listen to music on the hill, and she occasionally rolls through the park with her buddies. She wants quality bibs, but she isn’t ready to drop a few hundred dollars on them.
Features Megan should look for:
- Softshell bibs for comfort and form-fit; and since she isn’t planning to be out in extreme elements, she won’t need the highest waterproofing
- Reinforced knees and seat allow for sitting dry and comfortably when waiting for friends, chatting, or strapping into bindings
- Stretchy materials for high comfort
- Effective venting for when cool mornings turn to hot and sunny afternoons
Harley: Living for Deep Powder
Harley is out to shred. She lives for those deep powder days where the snow is spraying her in the face with every turn she makes. She prefers to be off-piste more than on, cruising through trees and boot-packing to the top of anything she can to get the best run down. She doesn’t let up when the spring conditions move in. She usually rides all day, and needs a bib that can keep up. She doesn’t want to pay for the best of the best, but she’s ready to drop some cash on something that will last.
Features Harley should look for:
- High waterproof rating of 20k+, high breathability, and ideally GORE-TEX material
- Sealed seams and boot gaiters to keep the snow out of her boots and not let any moisture get through
- Sealable pockets, like velcro or zippers, for added security
- Butt zips for easy bathroom breaks
- RECCO technology for added safety if she gets lost or happens to find herself in avalanche conditions
Sarah: A Hard-Charger
Sarah takes her riding to the next level; she loves riding hard at resorts, but she also spends a lot of time in the sidecountry and backcountry. She's not just out on a Saturday or Sunday, but she goes touring often and for many hours a day to reach that perfect powder run. She’s willing to spend what it takes to get the product she needs because she knows if she invests in quality, it will last her a long time.
Features Sarah should look for:
- Tough GORE-TEX material to keep her warm and dry and not snag if she rides through tree branches or is using a shovel and ice ax at times
- Quality venting system since she will be exerting a lot of energy on the way up
- Any extra features to help carry her gear or make it comfortable to wear a harness
- Arc’teryx Sentinel Bibs
- Patagonia PowSlayer Bibs
- Outdoor Research Hemispheres II Bibs
Connect With a Real Expert
At the end of the day, it takes an honest self-examination to decide what features and specs one needs for their outerwear. And that’s mainly based on where you’ll be riding and at what time of year.
If you’d still like a helping hand in finding the balance between cost and quality, reach out to a Curated Snowboarding Expert! We can match you up with the right bibs for your needs so you can get out the door and on your next trip.