“A good craftsman never blames their tools… “
This is a very true statement, but when it comes to Snowboarding, the equipment we use can have either a negative or a positive effect on our riding.
As a beginner Snowboarder, the last thing on our mind should be which boots, board and bindings to buy. Instead, we should be focusing on actually learning to ride before going out and purchasing a bunch of stuff that you don’t know how to use…
That being said, I have put together a list of the equipment needed for Snowboarding, along with a few recommendations of stuff that’s served me well throughout my time on a Board.
The list is in order from Head to Toe:
First and foremost, just wear a Helmet guys. In the 80’s, it was one of the most scarce pieces of equipment you could find on the Mountain. Today however, I think anywhere between 90 and 95% of Skiers and Snowboarders wear one – AND WITH GOOD REASON.
Head injuries have dropped a huge amount over this time period, and these days there is a massive variety of Helmets, from a wide array of brands – meaning that there’s one to suit everybody!
When purchasing a Helmet, there are only a couple of things to think about:
Size: Naturally, the size of our head plays a big part in which size to choose, so maybe get the tape-measure out before getting a random size; or even better, go to the store to try it out before buying.
Goggles: If we already own a pair of goggles, we want to make sure that the front-ridge of the helmet fits nicely to them, otherwise we’ll end up showing our forehead off to the world (also known as the Jerry-Gap). If buying in-store, I always recommend to take your goggles with you for trying on.
Style: Various Helmets may do the same job but look different. This comes down to personal preference when choosing what to buy. Some helmets have a slight peak on the front, such as the brand Sandbox. Others have more ventilation, different shapes etc. Just choose whatever you prefer on this point.
Here is a short list of Helmet Brands and links that I would recommend from past experience:
Although not necessary whilst wearing a Helmet, I highly recommend buying a Beanie prior to heading out on a Winter Holiday. Personally, I always wear one underneath my Helmet, but this is just my own preference.
We can get Beanie’s in just about any colour. Here’s are a few Beanie Brands that might appeal to the general Snowboarder.
A Buff is essentially a compact, functional scarf. I would say that this is a crucial bit of kit for the mountain as it keeps our neck and face protected from the cold whilst riding.
Just like Beanies, we can get Buffs in huge variety of colours to suit everyone’s taste. Here’s a link to where you can find one to suit you:
Goggles can make or break an outfit, and although I recommend to choose most equipment on the basis of functionality, we want to choose something that also has a bit of style.
The following points are how we can narrow down the field and find a nice pair of Gogg’s:
Fit: Much like choosing a Helmet to fit our Goggles, we can also do this the opposite way around. The top ridge for some Googles is a straight line, and more rounded for others – so it’s always worth making sure that our gear is compatable!
Changeable Lense: The weather on the mountain changes every day. Some Goggle-Brands accomodate for this by offering a variety of interchangeable Lenses to match different weather’s/visabilities. I heavily recommend choosing a Goggle with this function to save yourself temporary blindness later on.
Cost: The range of cost for a pair of Goggles is frankly astounding and if you’re looking for a first pair, it’s hard to know what’s worth the money and what isn’t. In my opinion, for a first pair I would say in between €50 and €100, depending on how much use you want to get out of them. For this price, we can find a solid, functional Goggle that looks stylish.
Peripheral Vision: The lense-size of our Goggles makes a large difference as to how big our field of vision is. Naturally, the larger the lense, the more vision. I’ve always sprang for a medium/large Goggle, as this provides me with good vision, but doesn’t look ridiculous on my face.
Below are a few Goggle-Brands with links to where you can check them out and find a pair that suits you best:
Cold, hot, windy, snowing, raining. These are all conditions that we’re likely to encounter up on the mountain in winter. We want a jacket that’s going to look after us in all of these.
I think that 90% of choosing the right Jacket comes down to how it looks, however we should first narrow down the search with criteria such as waterproofing, breathability, good ventilation, amount of pockets and cost.
Below is a link to an already-narrowed down search, which will show you the kinds of products that are good all-rounders:
One of the worst things that can happen to us on the Mountain is getting cold, wet legs. With this in mind, we should always have a few factors in mind when buying Snow-Pants/Salopettes:
Waterproofing – As I said, wet legs arent fun, so always check the Waterproof-rating before purchasing.
Good Vents – It can get warm up the mountain, so having a good vent-option (usually a zip on the crotch or inner/outer-thighs) will save us some sweaty legs in March.
Good fit – Too tight and we’ll be restricting our leg-movement – which is one of the most annoying things for a Snowboarder to deal with.
We also have the option between choosing mid/high-waist Pants (which are the classic “Trouser-Style” Pants; or Bib-Pants, which are the “Dungeree-Style”. Bibs are handy for Powder-Riding and Spring days when it’s too warm for a Jacket, but Classic Pants are generally a bit more practical and cheaper.
Although this may be a “small” item in the long list of things we need for the mountain, do not underestimate the value of a good pair of Gloves/Mittens. Cold hands are the difference between the best and worst day ever, so don’t just grab a €10 pair from Amazon if you want to be comfortable and happy up there.
For holiday-makers that spend a week per year up the mountain, I would recommend a good, warm pair of Gloves/Mittens that will do the job each year.
For those who spend a bit more time on the Mountain each year, I would actually recommend to get 2 Pairs that we can choose from. The first would be some All-Rounders that are made from sturdy material, waterproof and warm.
The second pair would be a thin pair of Pipe-Gloves that we can get out on those warm Spring Days. The reason for this is that our hands tend to sweat a lot on a warm day, and gloves/mitts can quickly become worse-smelling than our boots if we’re doing this every day.
The difference between Gloves and Mitts is generally personal preference, but I find Mittens more comfortable and cosey on extra-cold days.
Whether it’s an especially-cold day or not, I always wear a base-layer top and bottom. I find it to be more comfortable and functional than just wearing normal clothes underneath or having bare-skin touching my Jacket/Pants.
On the subject of “Best-Quality”, there is no beating Merino Wool when it comes to base-layers. It is warm, breathable, comfortable and anti-smell. The only crux is that it isn’t cheap, but this is counteracted by the fact that we can wear a set of Merino Wool Thermals for 4-5 days straight before it needs washing. Getting a cheap set from amazon on the other hand will maybe last half a day before stinking up the Chairlift.
Our socks are just as important as the gloves we wear up the mountain, becuase cold feet are soul-destroying.
On top of this, we can compare them to our Thermals in the sense of material. Merino Wool Socks are functional, comfortably, warm, breathable and non-smell, which is what makes them so expensive. Like with the Thermals though, is that we can also wear a pair of Merino Socks for 3 days before needing to change them – which brings more value than a cheap pack of 10 Football-Socks.
With regards to functionality and comfort, I would personally say that Stance make the best socks for Snowboarders, so click the link below to check them out:
Boots are the first item of “Hard-Equipment” that I recommend my guests to buy, because then they aren’t spending the first two days of their holiday getting used to ANOTHER pair of rentals. Even if we’re still using rental-boards, at least we can have guarrenteed comfortable feet.
When choosing a first pair of Boots, there are a few things to consider. Firstly, I would always check to see how the Boot fits. Is it designed for wider/narrower feet? Is it true to the size-guide and how does it cup the heel/ankle? These are all questions to ask when shopping around.
There is also the Lacing-System to consider. We have a few options in this area, which are Classic/Traditional, Quick/Speed-Lace and BOA. I’ll go through all three now in that order:
The classic/traditional laces are just normal laces like the ones in our regular trainers. I’ve tried all of the systems and this is my personal favourite. It allows me to specifically loosen or tighten certain areas of the boot to fit my foot/ankle. I take massive value from this because I have wide feet and calves, but my ankles are quite thin and require a lot of support.
The only crux is that this lacing-system tends to take a little longer to do up as the laces are so long, but this doesn’t really bother me much.
The Quick/Speed-Lace system is accurately named and has one or two long, thin strings that run through the lace-loops (usually one for the upper-boot and one for the lower-boot), and two handles on the inside and ouside of the boot that we can pull and lock off to tighten. They are very quick to do up, which is handy.
Sadly, they aren’t so customizable to specific foot/ankle sizes, although this isn’t an issue for most people.
The BOA sytem is generally what we find on rental Boots, but can also be found in some of the most high-end Boots as well. There is a steel-wire that runs through the Boot, which can be tightened by simply twisting a circular knob.
Although a Single-BOA Boot is probably the most uncomfortable boot I’ve ever tried, we can also get double and triple BOA’s, which are much more personal to specific Foot-Types:
In most cases, our first set of Bindings are bought with out first Board, so it’s always worth having an idea of the kind of Board we want, prior to picking the Bindings.
In any case, we have a few factors to think about when choosing the Bindings:
Size – The Size of the Binding should be compatible with our Boot-size, so always check this before buying to avoid having to exchange them later.
Flex – The Flex of a Binding means how much they bend – which has a large influence on how much response we get out of our Board when moving our feet/ankles. Generally, the stiffer the Binding, the more response we get out of our Board. It’s fine to have a stiff Binding with a flexible Board, but I would never recommend this the other way around.
Strapping-System – There are a few different types of Strapping-Systems to choose from – which refers to the way that we do the Binding Up. I’ll go through these individually now.
This system has two ratchet-straps – one that goes along the ankle and one for the toes. I have always prefered this system because I feel secure when strapped in, and I can easily alter how tight the Heel or Toe-Strap is, depending on what I’m doing – for example, I tend to make them slightly tighter when riding jumps at the Park, but not quite as tight for jibbing down a chilled track.
This kind of System also usually incorporates a Ratchet-System, however allows us to set the ratchets to a fixed-position. We are then able to undo a lever at the back of the Binding to take our foot out or put it back in. This is quicker once the Binding is set up to our Boot, however there is always a risk of the lever coming undone accidentally.
Really, a leash should be used with these Bindings, so that if they do ever come undone, the Board doesn’t shoot away down the mountain.
A relatively new System compared to others on the Market, Step-Ons have made one hell of a mark on the industry in just a few years. This system requires us to have compatible Boots to match the Bindings – which limits what we can purchase. However, this system is incredibly quick and easy to use.
Step-On’s do what they say on the tin, thanks to strategic hooks and click-points, we can simply step on to the binding and our Boot with click in to place. This can be unnerving the first time using it, but they have been battle-tested in the Park, Off-Piste and all over the Mountain to prove their worth.
The main issue currently is the price-point. Since we have to buy compatible Boots and Bindings, they are not cheap – but seem to be worth it from most opinions.
As with the Rear-Entry Bindings, these should be used in conujunction with a leash to prevent any accidental unclipping.
When buying a Snowboard, the one thing we want to avoid is the one thing that we want – to pick the Board based on it’s graphic. Please avoid this temptation, at least we’ve first narrowed down what it is that’s best for us. There are a few other things to think about first, such as Flex, Camber, Length, Width and Shape. Let’s talk briefly about what all of these are…
Flex – The Board’s Flexibility has a huge influence on how it feels when riding. More Flexible Boards are generally more forgiving (easier to ride) and are great fun for playing around on at low to moderate speeds. However, once we start picking up speed, they tend to become slightly unstable and “flappy”. Board-Flex is generally rated from 1-10, with 1 being a Noodle and 10 being a Steel-Bar.
Camber – A Board’s Camber refers to the shape it has from a Side-Profile. So if we lay the board on it’s Base and look at it from the side, we can see what kind of Camber it has. Here’s a short list of Camber-Types:
A concaved curve from Nose to Tail
Stability at speed, hard-freestyle riding, carving
Negative Camber (Rocker)
A convexed curve from Nose to Tail
Playful riding, jibbing and good for Beginners
No Camber – flat from Nose to Tail
More stable than a full Rocker and more playful than full Camber
Convexed Curve underneath the Bindings, with the centre of the Board being Rocker
More stable than a full Rocker and more playful than full Camber
Length – The Length of the Board we ride is very important. Generally, the heavier the rider, the longer the Board, but we can also use height as an indication of Board-Length. In this case, stand the Board up on one end. If it comes up to between our chin and nose, we’re pretty safe.
Width – Board-Width is more of an issue for those with larger feet and heavier riders. The extra Width provides more stability which comes in handy if we’re slightly heavy for our height. If our feet are on the larger side, I would recommend to look at wider Boards to avoid our Toes and Heels sticking out of the side – which causes heel/toe-drag and IS NOT FUN!
Shape – We also have a few different Board-Shapes to choose from, depending on what kind of riding we want to do. Below is a list of some of the more common Boar-Shapes:
Looks and rides exactly the same in both directions
All-Mountain, Freesytle, Switch-Riding
Nose and Tail look the same, but usually a slight set-back in the Bindings, making the Nose slightly longer.
All-Mountain Freestyle, Off-Piste, Carving
Longer Nose than Tail, with a cut-out Tail to increase float in Off-Piste Riding.
Powder/Off-Piste and Carving
As a first Board, I would always recommend either a Twin-Tip or Directional-Twin All Mountain Board. This allows us the ability to ride all over the Mountain, without limiting ourselves too much with what the Board can offer. Below is a link to where you can find a good selection of All-Mountain Boards.