Packing for a trip can always be a challenge, but a ski trip is an entirely different ball game due to the substantial amount of ski gear. In addition to your skis — and the perfect ski travel bag — you’ll still need clothing and ski accessories. This includes a ski jacket, snow pants, goggles, helmet, gloves, base layers, mid-layers, socks and a ski mask among anything else you take on a trip.
And with so many options to buy, it’s hard to even know where to begin — especially when ski conditions and the weather can change from one day to the next. You want to be warm on the slopes, but not too toasty. You want to stay dry, but still be comfortable. The old saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes” couldn’t be more true when it comes to skiing.
This is why having the right ski gear is imperative for enjoying your next ski vacation. We’ve put together some of our favorite essential ski products to help you on your next trip.
Our favorite ski jackets
Even though you might be all set with a winter coat, there’s a good chance you’ll need a separate ski jacket. Ideally, you’ll want one that goes below your hips (but not past your upper thigh) with weather protection, pit zips, sealed seams, a powder skirt and many pockets. Some skiers prefer a down or insulated jacket, while others prefer a shell and the opportunity to add layers. That comes down to your own personal warmth preference and the temperature at the mountain. Oftentimes, the more waterproof the jacket is, the more expensive it will be.
Helly-Hansen Men’s Alpha 3.0 Jacket ($475; backcountry.com)
This best-selling jacket offers a highly breathable yet waterproof outer layer with Primaloft thermal insulation. The jacket comes with a detachable and helmet-compatible hood, a stretch powder skirt, wrist gaiters with thumbholes. One standout feature is the “Lifepocket,” which will keep your cell phone or any other electronics warm to ensure its battery doesn’t die.
Obermeyer Women’s Tuscany Ii Jacket ($259; amazon.com)
The stylish Obermeyer Women’s Tuscany II Jacket, will not only allow you to look the part on the slopes, but will also keep you incredibly warm with its Thermore Classic insulation. It offers sealed seams, a powder skirt, a removable — and customizable — hood, stretch inner cuffs with adjustable hem and a fleece-lined collar.
REI Co-op Powderbound Insulated Jacket ($199; rei.com)
The REI Co-op Powderbound Insulated Jacket offers a two-layer nylon waterproof and windproof shell with 80 grams of synthetic insulation on the core and 60 grams of synthetic insulation in the sleeves. The jacket’s hood is big enough to fit over your helmet and has a high-lined collar to keep your chin warm. The jacket also offers pit zips, a removable powder skirt, lift pass pocket and a goggle pocket. There’s also a women’s version of the Co-Op Powderbound Insulated Jacket for $199.
Mountain Hard Wear Boundary Ridge Gore-Tex Jacket ($475; mountainhardwear.com)
With its 3L Gore-Tex shell fabric, the Mountain Hard Wear Boundary Ridge Jacket is bound to keep you warm and dry all day. The jacket is helmet-compatible with a three-way drawcord adjustment, offers underarm zip vents, two oversized internal drop pockets and two large zippered chest pockets. There’s also a powder skirt and snow pants integration. There’s a men’s version of the Mountain Hardwear Boundary Ridge™ Gore-Tex Jacket also available for $475.
Our favorite ski pants
Ski pants are essential snow apparel — both on and off the slopes. Ski pants will not only keep you dry, but they’ll also give you that extra layer of insulation to keep you warm on the mountain.
There are two types of ski pants: ones with a bib and ones without. It comes down to personal preference, but bibs give you that added layer of warmth and keep the wind from getting underneath your jacket. Generally speaking, the more waterproof, the more expensive.
The North Face Freedom Insulated Snow Pants ($169; dickssportinggoods.com)
With 60 grams of insulation and a DryVent shell, these snow pants will keep you extra warm and dry on the slopes. All seams are sealed and the waist offers adjustable tabs and loops for the perfect fit. The pants offer multiple pockets, zippered vent and elastic gaiters at the bottom to keep the snow out. There’s also a men’s version of The North Face Freedom Insulated Snow Pants available for $168.95.
Obermeyer Men’s Fairweather Shell Bib ($359; amazon.com)
The Obermeyer Men’s Fairweather Shell Bib offers a 20K waterproof and 20K breathability rating, which is one of the highest you’ll find. The bib is also fully removable — a unique feature in bibbed snow pants — giving you the versatility you might be looking for.
Helly Hansen Women’s Switch Cargo Insulated Pants ($225; amazon.com)
Constructed with fully sealed seams, these pants will keep you dry for your entire ski vacation. The ski pants include 40 grams of insulation, inner thigh ventilation zips, an adjustable waist and reinforced ankle gainters.
Our favorite mid-layers
A mid-layer will keep you warm on those single-digit days. However, depending on the insulation of your jacket, you may or may not need a mid-layer.
Patagonia Down Sweater Jacket ($229; backcountry.com)
This 800-fill jacket is lightweight, but it will keep you incredibly warm in cold temperatures. The shell is made out of 100% recycled materials. The jacket comes in a variety of colors and features an adjustable hem, two secure handwarmer pockets and an internal zippered chest pocket. There’s also a women’s version of the Patagonia Down Sweater Jacket available for $229.
Arc’teryx Atom LT Insulated Jacket ($239; rei.com)
The Arc’teryx Atom LT jacket provides an extra 60 grams of Coreloft Compact polyester insulation for those extra cold days. The jacket offers a water-repellent finish, fleece stretch side panels, a mid-height fleece-lined collar and dual hem adjusters. There’s also a men’s version of the Arc’teryx Atom LT Insulated Jacket available for $239.
Our favorite base layers
A base layer, otherwise known as long underwear, is a must-have on the slopes. This is your first layer of clothing and on warm temperature days, you might find that this is all you need underneath your jacket and snow pants. For a longer ski trip, however, you also might want more than a single pair.
Patagonia Capilene Midweight Top and Bottoms (top $69; rei.com; bottoms $69; patagonia.com)
This midweight base layer is perfect for layering with its smooth and stretchy material. The fabric wicks away moisture to ensure you’re kept dry at all times.
Alternatively, if you like the Capilene material, a similar top is made with a hood, which can also be used as a balaclava, giving you extra warmth. The Patagonia Capilene Air Hoodie is available in both a women’s version and a men’s version.
The Smartwool Merino 250 Base Layer is made from premium merino wool to hold up in the coldest of temperatures. This top and bottom were constructed to offer an ideal fit and comfort with shoulder panels and ribbed elbows.
Kari Traa Women’s Smekker Baselayer Top and Bottoms (top $109.95; amazon.com; bottoms $109.95; amazon.com)
The Kari Traa Smekker is made out of 100% merino wool, giving you a breathable and odor-resistant first baselayer. With many different size and color options, you can mix and match the top and bottom to give you the best look and fit.
Our favorite ski helmets
A ski helmet is the most important piece of ski gear for a day out on the mountain. Most everyone on the mountain now wears a helmet for protection. From a safety standpoint, the most important feature to look for is MIPS, or Multi-directional Impact Protection System.
Smith Altus MIPS Helmet ($190; backcountry.com)
As the name describes, this helmet includes MIPS technology to keep you as safe as possible on the mountain. The helmet also features removable ear pads, an antibacterial lining and adjustable vents.
Giro Envi MIPS Snow Helmet ($260; rei.com)
The Giro Envi MIPS includes everything you’d want in a helmet: MIPS technology, a thermostat control with adjustable vent to allow airflow on warmer days, a one-handed magnetic snap buckle and an adjustable fit with an easy-to-use dial.
Our favorite ski goggles
Typically when it comes to purchasing ski goggles, your best option is to get the same brand as your ski helmet. This will help alleviate a gap between your goggles and helmet, reducing exposed skin. Many ski goggles are also unisex, so you’ll want to look at the description to see their fit.
Smith I/O MAG Goggles ($196 amazon.com)
These Smith goggles feature a magnetic lens allowing you to easily swap out your lenses depending on the conditions and light. This goggle set can be found in a unisex version, although this men’s set comes in a medium fit, while the women’s version offers a small fit.
Giro Contour RS Snow Goggles ($269.95; backcountry.com)
The Giro Contour Snow Goggles are eyewear compatible and also come with an extra lens for low-light visibility. Similar to the Smith goggles, the men’s version is a medium fit and the women’s version is a small fit.
Our favorite ski gloves
Warm hands are crucial for a fun and enjoyable day at the mountain. Nobody wants cold fingers, and a day can go from good to bad if your hands are freezing. Keep in mind that some skiers might prefer the coziness of mittens, which can often be warmer than gloves.
Hestra Heli Insulated Gloves ($155; rei.com)
The Hestra Heli Insulated Gloves are fully insulated, made out of both polyester, synthetic fibers and goatskin leather. The gloves feature a longer cuff along with a removable liner and cuff cinches.
If you prefer a mitten — instead of full-finger gloves — you can instead opt for the Hestra Heli Insulated Mittens ($155).
Black Diamond Soloist Gloves ($129.95; rei.com)
If you’re looking for a 100% waterproof glove, the Soloist Gloves are the perfect solution. With an outer shell and inner liner, the gloves offer waterproof protection and allow ultimate warmth with their 170-gram insulation on the back of the hands and 133-gram insulation on the palms. And, on warmer days, you can shed the inner liner and wear just the outer shell.
Our favorite ski socks
Keeping your feet warm and dry is imperative while skiing. You want to ensure that your socks fit snuggly but aren’t restricting. It’s also a good idea to bring an extra pair — or two — depending on how many days you’re skiing.
Smartwool Performance Ski Full Cushion OTC Socks ($27; rei.com)
The Smartwood Performance Ski Full Cushion is made out of 64% merino wool, 34% nylon and 2% elastane. The socks keep their shape over time and don’t loosen, while also being extremely soft. These medium-weight socks are perfect for all conditions. There’s also a women’s version of Smartwool Performance Ski Full Cushion OTC Socks available for $27.
Our favorite balaclava ski masks
A balaclava will not only keep your entire face warm — including your neck — it’ll also serve as a barrier between your head and your helmet for added comfort. This is one of those items where you might want to bring a backup for your next ski trip.
BlackStrap Hood Balaclava Facemask ($34.99; amazon.com)
The BlackStrap Balaclava is typically one of the most popular on the mountain. With its many different colors and designs, this balaclava can fit anyone’s personality. The fabric offers UPF 50+ protection from the sun’s UV rays, is safe enough to wipe your goggles and has a four-way stretch to fit all face sizes.
Turtle Fur Shellaclava Chelonia 150 Fleece Neck Warmer ($24.99; amazon.com)
This balaclava offers full coverage with a helmet-compatible liner on top and fleece material around the neck. It’s a one-size-fits-most, and the hood is designed to wick away sweat and moisture from the head.
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