Snow bibs and backcountry go together like swallowtails and pow slashes. Whether you ski, snowboard, or splitboard, we’ve found the best men’s snow bibs.
Snow bibs keep snow out and warmth in. They’re versatile, comfortable, and perfect for all manner of backcountry adventure.
If you’re unsold on the benefits of bibs, read on for reasons to hop on the bandwagon as well as helpful buying advice. And for bib buffs who are simply searching for a quality pair, we’ve already broken trail on that account: Here, you’ll find men’s backcountry bibs ranging from top-of-the-line, pricey options to more affordable kits that won’t break the bank but still get the job done.
4 Reasons to Try Snow Bibs in the Backcountry
If you’ve never skied in suspenders, here are four reasons to start.
Sure, shell jackets and insulated midlayers have pockets, but they’re borderline useless when you’re flinging off layers on the uphill like a Gore-Tex-clad stripper. Thanks to additional real estate on the chest, bibs tend to have more pockets than your average backcountry ski pants. And unless you’re experimenting with some seriously novel layering systems, you’ll never be taking off your bibs in the backcountry.
No Belt Needed
Belts are one thing when you’re skiing at the resort, but when you’re touring in the backcountry, they can be a literal pain in the ass. Ditch the belt and rely on suspenders for a more comfortable stride on the skintrack.
In the backcountry, you’re pretty much always wearing a backpack. This comes down to a matter of personal preference, but I’ve found that bibs are more compatible with fully loaded airbags than ski pants, as the hip belt of the pack can rub on the belt line and even cause your pants to sag.
Defense Against the Deep Stuff
This is the ultimate reason to go with bibs: no more powder creeping down your plumber’s crack. Forget a powder skirt — the upper section of your bibs will keep out unwanted snow whether you’re breaking trail through thigh-deep pow, digging a pit, or choking on face shots.
3 Pitfalls of Bibs
We’d be remiss not to mention a few downsides to rocking bibs in the backcountry.
Number Two Troubles
Going number two in the backcountry is an occupational hazard. Some bibs (those sans-drop-seat designs) make backcountry bowel movements trickier. You’ll probably have to take off your jacket in order to take a dump, and this is not exactly pleasant if the snow is also dumping.
Like sleeping bags and onesies, bibs trap gas. If you’re huffing it up the skin track and your stomach isn’t stoked, it’s not uncommon to get blasted with an unwanted whiff. Hot air rises, after all.
Weight & Volume
For pedantic gram counters, it’s worth noting that bibs have more material and therefore will weigh more and take up more space in your kit. If you’re on an international ski trip or a human-powered winter camping trip where every ounce and inch matter, this may be worth considering. For most, though, it’s a moot point.
The Best Backcountry Snow Bibs
The PowSlayer is the crown jewel of Patagonia’s backcountry lineup. The three-layer shell is now crafted from a recycled nylon face fabric, which guards a reliable Gore-Tex Pro membrane. Though on the expensive side, the PowSlayer is lightweight, effective, and frills-free.
Pocket space isn’t anything to write home about, but expansive, mesh-free side zips, a stretchy back panel, drop-seat configuration, and fortified cuffs make the PowSlayer a bib that can handle midwinter pow days, spring alpine missions, and everything in between. Sizing can be a bit tight at the waist.
Burton’s premium AK line has dominated backcountry snowboarders’ wardrobes since 1997. And the roomy three-layer Gore-Tex Freebird is tuned to the needs of single-plankers. Our favorite splitboarding bibs out there right now, the Freebird has both inner and outer thigh vents — open ‘em up for a revitalizing cross breeze on sweaty climbs and close for ultimate warmth.
Four spacious pockets (two chest and two thigh) supply ample storage space. And the stretchy side panels over the ribcage as well as the roomy, snowboarder-specific fit make the Freebird comfortable whether you’re adjusting your bindings at the top of a line or throwing a tweaked method mid-slope. It’s worth noting that they are a bit baggy for use with crampons.
DC’s Nomad is on the heavy side for a backcountry bib. On warm days or strenuous tours, the lightly insulated, poorly vented Nomad may cause you to overheat. However, the Nomad is feature-rich (it has our favorite kangaroo-style chest pocket) and offers impeccable style with the black-on-khaki color scheme.
Plus, by foregoing Gore-Tex and opting for a 45K/30K Sympatex fabric — which handles heavy, wet snow just fine — DC kept the price relatively low. This isn’t a dedicated splitboarder’s dream bib — rather, it’s for the resort and sidecountry aficionado. This bib is built for deep pow and can operate in the backcountry if colder temps or slower tempos are to be expected.
Built for heavy powder days, these bibs will keep you warm and dry all day long. They’re built with a three-layer waterproof membrane and sealed seams for ultimate waterproof protection. And we like how durable they are. The Cordura reinforcements at the knees and cuffs offer extra toughness where you need it most.
The fabric is on the stiff side, which decreases comfort a bit. And the large buckles can be annoying, especially if you’re wearing a pack. But we like how well these dump heat and allow for layering underneath.
The variety of zippered pockets kept our snacks, chapstick, and phone easily accessible. And the adjustable waist and gaiters keep snow out, even on the deepest powder days.
The standout feature with these bibs is the stretch. Easily bend over to adjust bindings or remove skins. Whereas most snow pants feel restrictive when bending, these stretch with you. Best of all, they do this without sacrificing waterproof protection. The Gore-Tex fabric and taped seams seal out snow and slush.
Side zippers open up from waist to knee, allowing you to shed heat while skinning up or on warm mountain days. And there’s a specific pocket with a clip that lets you keep your avalanche beacon in easy reach. If you’re looking for a hardshell bib that feels like a softshell, these are the pick for you.
The Odin Mountain 3L Shell bib — available in fall 2019 for men and women (we got an early test model this winter) — uses a new microporous membrane and a durable woven backer. What that means is it keeps you dry well, even when working hard. We found it works well in cold temperatures and milder weather, although it adds very little insulating value.
These are lightweight bibs suitable for serious winter mountain endeavors. Men’s size large weighs in at 513.3 grams.
In testing, the Odin Mountain bib performed admirably on both uphill skintracks and while riding lift-served terrain. Thanks to strategically placed stretch softshell fabrics, the bibs feel very nonconstricting. Sking and skinning in these bibs is really a joy when it comes to the range of motion. Three thigh pockets give plenty of storage for random gear, although I did find the placement of one pocket a little low on my knee. A fourth pocket fell at about rib-height on me and was a nice spot to stash small items like a wallet.
Leg zippers allow for ventilation — nice for when temps rise. Both bibs are designed for gender-specific backcountry “relief.” We tested the men’s model, where a full side-zip gives quick access for urgent “issues.” A drop seat addresses peeing in the backcountry for women.
How to Choose the Best Snow Bibs
Now that we’ve touched on the pros and cons of bibs in the backcountry, keep the following considerations in mind when picking out a pair of bibs.
Bibs range from high-end options that are well over $500 to affordable pairs that are half the price. With bibs, you generally get what you pay for, and price variance generally reflects changes in material and craftsmanship. For a premium permeability barrier like Gore-Tex, for instance, you’ll pay a pretty penny. Similarly, waterproof bibs fashioned from 45K materials will cost more than those made from 15K fabrics.
Bib fit comes down to a matter of preference. Snowboarders tend to want more space in the butt due to constantly bending over to deal with bindings. Skiers can rock anything from form-fitting, mountaineering-friendly options to baggier, more stylish kits. Bibs that are too tight will chafe on the skintrack. Most importantly, tapered, unobtrusive, reinforced cuffs will go a long way if you’re planning on wearing your bibs while using crampons. Voluminous pant legs are downright dangerous and will get torn to shreds by crampon spikes.
When shopping for backcountry outerwear, it’s best to avoid the blubber. Insulation is key to enjoying the backcountry — let alone surviving it — but relying on quality base layers and midlayers is a much more versatile and preferable strategy than simply relying on thicker outerwear. Be on the hunt for shell bibs, or, if you’re touring in colder weather or operating on a budget, very lightly insulated bibs. Fully insulated bibs are best saved for resort or mechanically accessed backcountry days.
When you’re pushing hard on the skintrack, ventilation is critical. Look for bibs with ample ventilation — we’re talking gaping holes, not slits. While resort ski pants tend to have mesh shields to keep snow from invading vents, backcountry bibs will often zip completely open, offering better airflow. Generally speaking, you’re making use of your vents when you’re on the uphill anyway, so mesh isn’t all that necessary.
Pockets, cuffs, and vents — these are the ingredients that make bibs stand apart. A few of our favorite features are kangaroo-style pouches on the front chest, extra-long vents, durable cuffs, and transceiver-ready, reinforced pockets.