Snowboarding Coats & Shells–Outerlayers

We have changed over time. When we started out we were young, able, and skinny. Now we are none of those things. As we have gone along, our needs have changed for our outerlayers and, more critically, outerlayer technology has changed. So what we have below is more of a philosophy, even though it might come across as some type of decision tree. TL;DR…our recommended brands are at the bottom.

Stuff to Consider

We aren’t experts at apparel or the like. We have some experience in what has worked over the last couple decades and what hasn’t. These questions below aren’t here to help us understand your frame and habits so that we can recommend the no-doubt, perfect coat for you. Instead, they exist so you can think through some things that we do so that you make a good purchase. Cause coats ain’t cheap.

What kind of rider are you now? What kind of rider will you be before the end of this coat? Here is an example. 20 years ago when we were skinny, we were also always cold. We bought big puffy coats to board in Colorado from frickin L.L. Bean (still have that coat). And they kept us warm until we starting riding. Then they made us sweat. Then that made us cold. We dealt with it for several years, because the ride was so bitchin’ and we didn’t know any better. When we finally traded up to performance coats, we realized we had the wrong gear.

So consider this. Does your blood run hot or cold? Are you a fairly, uh, insulated individual or more lean? Are you out of shape? Being out of shape, your body has less efficient movements and burns oxygen less efficiently, so you will get that heart rate up fast and it will make you hot.

Now, let me complicate that. If you are out of shape now, you may not be forever. Vice versa. So consider that this coat lasts five years. Will you likely not be in great shape? Will you likely be heavier? Stuff to think about.

Where do you ride the most? For me, this is more about wet snow vs dry snow than about warmth. I took my go to coat to Tahoe a couple years ago in late February, and that coat just soaked up all that wet snow as it’s a coat made for, in general, powder skiing. So be mindful of where you will be riding and consider its ability to deflect wet snow and rain, not just the fluffy stuff.

How will this coat be used outside of riding? Now listen, this is just a thing of ours. Maybe we are cheap. Maybe we think we don’t need a different coat for every situation, but if you are like us and wear one coat all winter long, then consider how this thing looks. The fashion has come back toward something more under control than, say, in the 80s with all of the neon. But still, if you are going to wear this on snowy or cold days to work, imagine what you are going to be wearing underneath it–for instance a suit or dress–and make sure you won’t look like a donkey.

Where do you spend the most time during the colder months? For us, we are in Colorado and New Mexico now, so really anything goes, but like the above, consider where you will be most of the year. Take Seattle as an example, if I lived there, I would probably get a super weatherproof shell, and then find some solid mid-layers to complement it. Then I can wear the shell as a rain jacket all year round without sweating a ton and I can add layers below if I need to. If you are in DC, they can have some brutal winters, but also brutal summers. You rarely need to layer, it doesn’t rain that much, so it makes sense to have a heavy winter coat for the cold and toss it when it’s not cold. Cause there’s not much in between in DC.

Good Brands & Where to Buy

Basically, here are the stores that we trust. And pretty much anything they sell is something you can depend on. So just choose your price point, your features, and your style.


Eastern Mountain Sports





Rock Creek

Sierra Trading Post

Brands We Trust or Would Recommend

We are just slightly different on this and the brand loyalty among this group is not great, but our brand loyalty for the group itself is fierce. If you are looking at any of these, they will last you a long time and you will be happy. They will be expensive, but the quality among the group is very very high. These things are built to take a beating. They aren’t Jeeps: just supposed to look like they can do the work, but spend most of their lives in the shop. So if you aren’t sure you want to wear this for a long time or don’t have a son or daughter to pass it down to, then go with the best looking cheapest version you can find. Otherwise, you’ll have these for a long while.


Mountain Hardware

North Face







Helly Hansen



Certainly, there are other brands out there, like Obermeyer, that we assume are very good, but we just haven’t used them. We own or have owned and liked coats from every brand listed above and find them to be trustworthy, solid, and your best bet for riding and even skiing, god forbid.