Generally speaking pants and jackets fit into two categories:
Insulated: Insulated jackets and pants will have several layers of insulation and be surrounded by a waterproof barrier. The majority of our jackets are insulated by a synthetic material in varying weights from 40 to 80 gramme fill, and we also carry down jackets which are great for extreme cold weather.
Shell: Shell jackets and pants do not have any insulation. They usually have an extremely windproof and waterproof barrier but will not provide you with any warnth. To gain warmth you layer up under your clothing according to the conditions on the mountain. Shell clothing is alos, very useful for backcountry skiing and snowboarding where a lot of hiking and climbing is involved to gain elevation in the mountains at which point you may perspire heavily if using insulated outerwear.
When shopping for a jacket you will often see a number rating such as '10,000/10,000'. What this refers to is the waterproofing and breathability rating of that item. The first number referrers to the waterproof rating and is measured in mm. This measurement tells us the amount of water a jacket can resist using a water column test (a piece of fabric is stretched out and a water column placed on top of it, you fill the column with water and measure the height it gets to before the water pressure becomes too great and the fluid passes through the fabric). The higher the number, the more waterproof an item is and this normally ranges between 5000mm and 30,000mm for waterproof fabrics. Outerwear can be waterproofed by either adding a waterproof coating to the fabric or bonding a membrane, which is more permenant but expensive, to the inside of the fabric. Gore-Tex is the market leader in membranes and many brands use this but it is reflected in the price of the item. Jackets and trousers that do not feature a membrane can still be very waterproof, but will need re-proofing using a product such as Nikwax.
The second number refers to the breathability rating. Again, the higher the number the more breathable the item is. The number shown refers to the volume of moisture that can be passed through the fabric in a given period of time. The higher the number the more moisture, or perspiration in real terms will escape you're your clothing and this normally ranges from 5,000 to 30,000.
One thing to keep in mind when buying outerwear is the time of year and location you are skiing or snowboarding in. North America tends to be cold and dry, and the Scotland cold and wet. France in March can be very warm but also extremely cold so sometimes it is about settling on items that are a compromise in extreme conditions but suffice quite well all round, or prioritise a certain type of condition that matters most to you and just manage in all other conditions.
Jackets and pants have some main features that exist for ease of use. Every year we notice new tweaks or additions that brands add to their jackets or pants. Here are some of the main features of your outerwear:
Taped seams: Taped seams and waterproof zips stop any moisture from getting through. Certain jackets are only equipped with 'critically taped seams' which means only those seams in the most exposed area are taped (like across the shoulders). Expensive models normally are fully seam sealed.
Wicking: Both jackets and pants will have interior linings which moisture wicking properties to keep you dry. Ie, transport moisture away from the skin.
Vents: Most pants and jackets are equipped with vents that can be unzipped when needed. These are usually located under the armpit or thigh.
Draw cords: Jackets may have these draw cords around the waist or hood to tighten the fit. Certain brands of pants have a draw cord at the bottom of the leg, preventing the pant from dragging on the ground (prevelant on snowboarders pants that can be baggier than a skiers)
Powder skirts: At the bottom of a jacket will be waistband to secure around your waist. This stops snow from getting up your jacket and these can also be attached to pants. Pants also have a similar feature down around the ankles, known as 'gaiters' to stop snow from getting up and in the boot and leg. Sleeves have thumb gators to stop snow from getting up your sleeves.
Hoods: Most jackets come with a hood that is either always attached or zips off. Brands have started to create hoods that fit over helmets if need be- great for those cold chairlifts. A great feature to have on a hood is 3D adjustability, you can customise the fit of the hood to stay very close to your face
Extra layers: Certain jackets or pants will have extra layers in specific areas like the backside or knee. This will help snowboarders to keep a dry if they are sitting on the slopes throughout the day.
More features include audio and goggle interior pockets, pockets for a mobile and a zippered area on the sleeve or inside the jacket for a ski pass.