If you've ever stopped your car to romp in the snow while wearing jeans, you know just how quickly you can become cold and miserable. When participating in outdoor sports, snow pants keep you comfortable in cold temperatures over long periods of time, preventing hypothermia and frostbite. Selecting the right pair of snow pants will keep you from becoming a sweaty mess or an abominably tempered snowman.
A Material World
Snow pants come in a variety of fabrics and weights designed for a range of weather and activities. Insulated pants with a nylon outer shell are ideal in windy or slushy conditions, but will decrease agility needed for dodging snowballs or executing precise snowboarding tricks. Wool blend pants come in thin materials that breathe, flex and keep you warm even if they get wet, making them a natural for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Wool gets heavier when wet, though, so you may prefer a synthetic material such as Gore-Tex or Sympatex. The thin materials move and stretch like everyday clothing, offering greater range of movement. Ultra-small pores let the fabric breathe a bit while keeping water out.
It's All About Style
Snow pants come in two basic styles, regular and bibs. Bibbed pants extend over your abdomen and up to your chest, hooking over your shoulders like overalls. Some models have zippers that let you convert them back to regular pants when you're not out in the snow. Regular pants usually include belt loops so you can keep your waist snug to keep out flying snow. Some pants have pockets in the front where you can warm your hands and others have cargo pockets with zippers to keep items dry. Gaiters on the leg bottoms keep snow from going up your pant legs and hook on to your boot laces to prevent riding up.
Color Your World
Vibrant colors stand out against the snow, making brightly colored snow pants a good choice for active children. You'll also want bright colors when you're out in the backcountry during hunting season so hunters can easily see and differentiate you from game animals. Snow pants for hunters come in a wide range of colors and patterns meant to blend into their surroundings. You'll find snow camo, deep woods camo and textured camo that makes you look like a tree or a yeti. For ski slopes or hanging out at the lodge, fashionistas will find snow pants in bold patterns and imaginative colors.
Under It All
Some snow pants are simple shells designed to go over the top of other pants. Others include removable fleece liners or built-in mesh. Some fabrics -- like wool -- can be uncomfortably scratchy and some synthetic fibers can stick to the skin. Make sure to buy your pants just a little larger to allow the addition of a base layer underneath. Even if your snow pants come with a comfy liner, a base layer keeps sweat from penetrating into your snow pants, reducing cleaning bills. Choose light, breathable base fabrics such as merino or Angora wool blends or soft synthetics such as thin polar fleece. Stay away from cotton, which retains moisture, making you feel colder in the long run. .