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When it comes to winter activities, staying warm and dry is our biggest priority. We get asked ALL THE TIME whether snow pants or snow bibs are better. As much as I just want to shout out a definitive answer, the answer is that it really depends on what you need them for. Both have their pros and cons, and the right choice depends on various factors, including age, activity level, sport, warmth, and personal preference.
In our family, we’re pretty split with 3 of us wearing snow bibs and 4 of us wearing snow pants. We’ve tested more snow pants and bibs than I can count in our ski gear reviews, so we have lots of experience with what works well and what doesn’t. Let’s dive into the pros and cons of each to determine which is best suited for young children, teenagers, and men and women.
Need recommendations? Check out our review of the best kids snow pants and bibs!
Snow Pants – Like regular pants, but TOUGH, rugged, and waterproof!
Snow pants are really similar to regular pants but with added insulation and water-resistant treatments. They’ll fit looser and baggier than a normal pair of pants so that you can easily layer underneath and fit them over snow boots. They are easy to put on and take off, making them a go-to option for many.
Pros of Snow Pants:
- Ease of Use: Their familiar design means you can slip them on and off like regular pants. This makes bathroom stops simple since you don’t have to take your upper layers off to use the toilet. This is especially convenient if you have to take care of bathroom needs out in the woods!
- Mobility: Generally less bulky than snow bibs, snow pants offer greater freedom of movement, so many prefer them for very active sports.
- Versatility: They can be paired with a variety of jackets, allowing for more flexibility in terms of style and layering.
Cons of Snow Pants:
- Coverage: They provide less upper body protection, which is annoying when you’re in deep powder snow.
- Fit Issues: Snow pants are known for slipping down, riding up, and other wise not staying put great. Additionally, if you’re skiing, the prolonged chairlift rides can make them uncomfortably tight on the waist when you sit down (a common complaint from women).
- Not as Warm: Because snow pants only cover the lower half of your body, they’re generally not as warm as bibs that cover your core as well.
Snowpants are best for older kids and teens, and adults. Their ease of use and style versatility make them a solid choice for older children, teenagers, and adults who prioritize convenience and being active.
Snow Bibs: Maximum Coverage and Protection, with exceptional warmth
Snow bibs are essentially snow pants with a core covering bib and suspenders. They offer more coverage and are often the choice for serious winter enthusiasts. Since snow bibs cover a good portion of your mid section, they’re a great choice if you need extra warmth.
Pros of snow bibs:
- Better Coverage: The bib design provides extra protection against snow, wind, and cold, especially around the waist and lower back.
- Adjustable Fit: Snow bibs are more adjustable than pants when it comes to adjustability. Wearing bibs allows you to extend the length of the bibs and since they don’t fit tight on the waist, they can be worn by people of different sizes more easily. Because of this, they’re perfect for growing kids or if you’ll be passing them down.
- Added Warmth: The extra layer of the bib adds warmth, which is great if you need extra warmth.
- More Comfortable: I find that snow bibs are more comfortable since I don’t have to have a tight waistband on top of all my layers.
- More Storage: Bibs have more pockets than snow pants, since most bibs have chest pockets as well. These pockets are ideal for keeping your phone in since it keeps the phone battery warmer and prevents it from dying in the cold in your coat.
Cons of snow bibs:
- Difficult to take off: While they’re not technically hard to get on and off, they do require that you take your coat off. This makes undressing just the bottom or bathroom trips more difficult. This can be a big pain for toddlers who are just potty training, however the benefits of warmth and keeping the snow out outweigh the hassle in my opinion.
- Bulkiness: They can be bulkier, which might restrict movement to some extent, though I’ve never had an issue when getting a pair that is more fitted!
Snow bibs are best for certain conditions, and here are what we recommend them for:
Young Children: The additional coverage and warmth make snow bibs ideal for young children who are more prone to falling into the snow and need extra protection from the cold.
Extreme Conditions: For anyone participating in activities in harsher conditions or who requires extended periods in the snow, the added protection of bibs is invaluable. If you’ll be in the backcountry all day, a snow bib is the best option.
Women: Let’s face it, women’s bodies are constantly changing, so having some extra wiggle room in the waist is invaluable as well as all the extra adjustability that bibs provide! Women also tend to run colder than men, so the extra warmth of snow bibs is a great feature.
Age-Specific Recommendations for Snow Pants and Bibs
Babies: we actually recommend that babies only wear snowsuits. They’re warmer and easier to get on and off. We highly recommend them for toddlers as well. Check out our review of the best kids snowsuits.
Toddlers and Young Children: Snow bibs are generally the better choice. Their full coverage keeps the little ones dry and warm, which is really important since they tend to spend more time playing and falling in the snow.
Older Kids and Teenagers: The choice largely depends on the activity and personal preference. Snow pants offer more freedom and are often seen as more stylish, which may appeal to image-conscious kids. However, for activities in deeper snow or colder conditions, snow bibs provide better protection. In our family, we have some of our older kids and teens who really love bibs and others who prefer snow pants.
Men: It’s a matter of personal preference and the nature of the activity. However, most men prefer snow pants. There are not a lot of mens snow bibs made, so if you’re looking for snow bibs, here are some of the best options. If you’ll be in the backcountry all day or on a snowmobile expedition, snow bibs are what we recommend.
Women: Most women prefer snow bibs for comfort. While kid’s snow overall bibs are generally oversized and bulky, most women’s snow bibs are more fitted. The loser waist and extra warmth are the major factors that make bibs a better option than snow pants for women.
How tight should snow pants fit?
Snow pants should fit comfortably, allowing for a full range of motion without being too baggy or too tight. You want enough room for layering underneath (a thin base layer and a good-fitting midlayer like thin fleece pants), but not so much that the pants hinder your movement or let cold air in. The waist should be snug but not restrictive, and the length should cover your boots without dragging on the ground. Adjustable waistbands or suspenders can help achieve a perfect fit. While it’s tempting to size up for kids, it’s important to remember that a good fit enhances both comfort and warmth.
Are snow pants necessary for skiing or snowboarding?
Absolutely, snow pants are always needed for skiing and snowboarding. They not only keep you warm and dry but also protect against the elements. The insulation and waterproofing are crucial for comfort on the slopes, where you’re exposed to cold air and snow for extended periods. Additionally, many snow pants come with features like reinforced knees and padded areas for extra protection. Without them, you’ll likely be miserable on the ski hill.
What should I wear under snow pants?
You should always wear something under your snow pants, since snow pants are not designed to be a standalone pant. For warmer days, a light base layer will be sufficient. If the weather is extra cold, consider getting a heavyweight base layer and putting a pair of good-fitting fleece pants over that. You want fabrics that will wick any moisture away from your body while still insulating you. We recommend merino wool or synthetic fabrics, but never cotton! Check out our top recommendations for base layers and mid layers.
How do I care for waterproof snow pants?
The most important thing you can do to take care of waterproof outerwear is to keep it clean. Dirt attracts water so having dirty snow pants will make them less waterproof. In our family, we get our snow pants dirtier than our coats, so we wash them monthly with this special detergent (don’t use regular detergent since this will damage the waterproofing), and then after the first year, we treat it with this waterproofing agent. You can read our full instructions on how to waterproof outdoor gear here.
How do I know if snow pants are waterproof?
Checking the product specifications when purchasing snow pants is the best first step. We recommend a waterproof rating of at least 10,000. However if you have used snow pants, simply let some water sit on them for about 1 minute. If the water soaks in, this is called wetting out. If the pants previously have waterproofing on them that has now failed, make sure to learn how to rewaterproof them.