What Makes Good Waterproof / Breathable Youth Gear for Snow

What Makes Good Waterproof / Breathable Youth Gear for Snow

by Marc Dietz March 14, 2018 0 Comments

When it comes to kid's winter jackets, ski pants, and snowboard pants, one of the features most misunderstood is the waterproofness and breathability of the gear. For SHRED DOG’s Hardshell Jackets and Winter Pants we will be using a 15k/15k waterproof breathable membrane. With this post we will explain what this rating means, decipher some of the lingo, cut through the confusion, and help parents make informed purchase decisions.

Why Does Waterproof/Breathable Matter?

It goes without saying that a jacket or pants designed for skiing, snowboarding, or just playing the snow, should do a good job keeping moisture out so your kids stay dry. But, while they may not sweat as much as adults do, kids skiing or snowboarding or just playing hard outside do, in fact, work up a sweat, making breathability important as well. If a garment is not breathable, that sweat turns to condensation trapped inside the clothing and when your kid stops moving (such as on the chair lift), that sweat chills and makes the kid wet and cold inside the jacket and pants.

kids skiing in snowstorm

What Makes a Winter Jacket or Pair of Pants Waterproof and Breathable?

The primary part of the garment that provides waterproofing and breathability (and the reason they are measured together) is a membrane that is bonded to the inside of the outer (face) fabric of the garment. This membrane is designed to prevent larger molecules (such as water) from penetrating the membrane yet allow smaller molecules (like sweat vapor) to escape through the fabric and away from the body. These membranes are made in varying quality levels and, therefore, there is not one single “fully waterproof” or “completely breathable” option on the market.

The second component of waterproofing a jacket or pant is a durable water repellant (DWR) coating applied to the outer (face) fabric. DWRs are necessary to enable the membrane to do its job, but insufficient alone to make a garment waterproof. For more details, see this related blog post: Why a DWR is Necessary but Not Sufficient for Waterproof Youth Gear.

Finally, to further waterproof a garment, seam tape is applied to seal the tiny holes that occur when fabric is stitched together. Once again, there are “good” and “better” approaches to seam taping. See this post for more details: What is Seam Taping and Why is it Important for Youth Winter Gear.

Is Maximum Waterproofing and Breathability Always Best?

No. Because the technical fabrics and durable water repellents (DWRs) required add significant cost to the clothing being made, it is important to identify your child’s needs based on what your family does. Designing a jacket to withstand a torrential downpour for eight hours is different than designing a jacket for snow sports. Similarly, the breathability required for most youths skiing, snowboarding, or playing outside, is less than the breathability required for an adult ice climbing or hiking and "skinning" their way up a ridge for 3 hours to get to backcountry ski terrain.

kid in the snow bank

So How Much Waterproofing and Breathability Do Kids Need for Snow Sports?

Waterproofness and Breathability are rated according to industry standard tests and measurements. You will typically see these ratings reported such as “10k/10k” or “15k/15k.” The first number refers to waterproofness, the second number refers to breathability, and the higher each number is, the greater the performance. For a more detailed understanding of what these ratings really mean, see our post on Deciphering Waterproof / Breathability Ratings.

So how good is good?

  • If your child is an ice climber, spends multiple days out backcountry skiing, and hikes or skins their way up ridges for 3 hours straight to get fresh tracks, then perhaps 20k/20k is the way to go. But the truth is, 20k/20k is overkill for the vast majority of kids making snowmen, going sledding, or even skiing or snowboarding hard all day at a resort, and it is simply not worth the extra cost.
  • Only the most premium ski and snowboard jackets and pants on the market offer 15k/15k because, again, it is expensive. All of these jackets, for example, cost at least $200 for kid’s sizes ($500 for adult), and upwards of $300 for some brands (not for SHRED DOG).
  • Most of the popular, decent quality brands designed for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports, utilize a 10k/10k membrane. 10k/10k is adequate for generally dry days, less active kids, or for relatively short outings. During our testing, however, these products failed when used to ski all day and then play in the snow until dinner. And were also not breathable enough for energetic kids skiing hard in spring conditions.
  • Any rating lower than 10k/10k is usually not even mentioned in a product description and there is a reason for that. These products are simply not waterproof or breathable enough to be considered adequate for kids skiing, snowboarding, or just playing in the snow for any kind of extended period of time.

kids skiing in bad weather


What does SHRED DOG use?

Our goal is to get kids outside, even when the weather doesn’t cooperate, and enable them to stay outside having fun, while giving parents the peace of mind that their children are staying warm and dry. Therefore, all of our winter hardshell jackets and winter snow pants utilize 15k/15k rated membranes. Because of our wholesale-to-consumer pricing, we are able to make this higher investment in high-performance gear, while keeping our prices fair, honest, and frankly lower than competitive brands that utilize lower performing waterproof/breathable membranes.

Please let us know in the comments below or by reaching out directly to if you have any questions or first-hand experiences you'd like to share!


Marc Dietz
Marc Dietz



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