Im pretty particular about ski bibs. Trying them on takes me right back to youth gymnastics, when I would awkwardly craminto a green velvet leotard that was too short for my torso and then haveto take off the whole thing when I went to the bathroom, worryingthat someone would see me naked through the crack in the door.
So the ease of peeing in ski gearis high on my list of must-have features. If its not important to you, you likely havent dropped trou in the backcountry or spent 20 minutes in a resort bathroom taking off (and putting back on) your meticulously planned layers. This review of the best bathroom-trip-friendly ski bibsis for anyone who has experienced ice pellets pummeling hersorry bare behind while popping a squat on a windy dayor who has purposely avoideddrinking water to skip the ordeal of peeing while skiing. Most of theseuse a similar mechanism that involves partially uzipping one leg so you can pull the bibs seat to the side todo your business. (Clickthrough the photos, below, for a full visual.)
Virtually all of these bibs are well suited for both backcountry touring and resort days. Typically, the backcountry calls for lighter-weight, noninsulated models, with big zippers for ventilation and pockets for beacon storage and snacks, while resort bibs often have light insulation. Ultimately, personal preference will dictate which features are most important to you. (Maybe youre prone to overheating or need to eat every two hours.)
I tried a size small in all of these bibs. Im five foot seven, 130 pounds, and have strong thighsbutam otherwisestraight as a board. When I mention a pair being roomy or tight fitting, thats based on my body type. I recommend trying on a few different styles to figure out what works best for you.
Regardless of where youll be skiing, all of these bibs are conducive to easy peeingwithout having to take off any of your jackets.
Arcteryx Beta SV($549)
The Pee-tails: The SVhasfull-length side zippers, a feature I like in hard-shell pants for the ability to take them on and off if youre already wearing bootsand also for the ease involved when making bathroom trips. Simply undo the double snaps at the waistline, and unzip one of the sides so it flaps open nice and wide. The chest portion of the bib stays secured via the crisscrossed straps when you drop the seatno need to worry about the whole thing falling down. Bonus: the bibs also have a front zipper, which means you can use a pee funnel.
The Rest: At 615 grams, these pants are pretty light. The actual bib comes right up to my sports brain the middle of my rib cage. This could be an awkward rise for those with larger chests, but it was OKfor me. Ireach for hard-shell outer layers when theres wind or rain to keep out, so Ilike that the SVismade of fully waterproof Gore-Tex and haswatertight zippers. Its an attractive option for Pacific Northwest skiers. This pair is roomy without looking frumpy (though it gaveme diaper butt, which means I have the option to comfortably add layers or size down), though itcould use more zippered pockets.
Mountain Hardwear High Exposure Gore-Tex C-Knit ($450)
The Pee-tails: Like the SV, the High Exposure bibs system is simple:unsnap the side flap at the waist, partiallyundo the full-length side zip, which opens the drop seat as wide as you want, and then squat. The straps keep the rest of the bibs nicely in place. The only minor annoyance is that the snap is not squarely on the side; its tucked about an inch toward the spine, which makes it a little tricky to re-snap when youre done.
The Rest:With a lower rise than the Arcteryx bibs, the High Exposurecomes up just past the belly button. They, too, are fully waterproofbut feel significantly lighter than all the other bibs here, making them a favorite for touring. I almostforgot I had them on. The two zippered hip pockets are lower on the leg than the Arcteryx, which makes them easier to access while wearing a jacket. This pair is roomy in the thighs and butt, which is nice for mobility and adding layers.
Stio Environ ($450)
The Pee-tails: Un-Velcro the keeper flap by the waist, and then unzip either leg to midthigh. I like thisclosure more than snaps, because its easier to use with gloves on, and Stios zipper design, which runs at a slight angle,provides more room (i.e., a bigger margin of error) to do your business. Theres also a front zipper for pee-funnel usage.
The Rest: For my lean and straight body type, the waterproof Environwas one of the more flattering bibs I tried. Its also roomy enough for layers without being floppyno diaper butt here. The actual bib, which hitsa few inches below my bra line, made me feel tucked in without being restrictive (belt loops add the ability to fine-tune your fit). Meanwhile, two zippered hip pockets and a zippered cargo pocket can fit your phone, wallet, and ski pass. On cold days at the resort, I layered these with Stios insulated three-quarter-length pants, whichrestright above the boot.
Burton AKGore-TexKimmy 3L ($580)
The Pee-tails: Like the Beta SV, theGore-TexKimmy 3L bibsalso offermultiple ways to pee, since thedrop seat unzips from either side. You can also unzip the chest of the bib all the way down to the crotch. This made it easy for me to get iton and offbut also allowed for easy pee-funnelaccess.
The Rest: Thanks to its high rise (the front of the bib fully covers your chest) and waterproof fabric, the Kimmy 3L is ideal for both powder days and storm days, whether youre in the backcountry or at the resort. Its straight, narrow cut was flattering on my buildbut might not work for more curvy skiers. Standing barefoot, the legsrun about an inch past my heels, which is a perfect lengthfor me with ski boots and skis on. Half a dozen large zippered pockets store literally anything from a phone, wallet, and keysto a decent-sizesandwich or a can of beer. Vents on both the inside and outside of the thigh kept me from overheating on the skin track, and a clip in the left chest pocket held myavalanche beacon.
Flylow Foxy ($420)
The Pee-tails: The Foxys left-side-only drop seat unsnaps and then unzips the full length of the pant leg should you need it.The straps and chest portion stay securely in place when you open the back. That guaranteed coverage allowed me to retain body heat when doing my business.
The Rest: The Foxyfits similar to the Burton model on me, with a fairly straight cut and a high rise I enjoyed for added coverage and warmth. Its a little closer fitting in the chest, even for my not-so-busty figure, so I only wore a base layer underneath and layered on top. (Most of the other bibs can accommodate a thicker midlayer underneath.)A tailored fit through the thighs and butt allows for mobility without looking bulky. It has zippered pockets on the thigh big enough to fit a beacon, and others on the chest that are great for keeping your phone warm(and far enough from your beacon). The side zips offer a generous venting option for dumping heat on spring tours. The Foxy isnice and light, with extra features like belt loops and a zippered back pocket big enough for a wallet, though I probably wouldnt put anything in there if I was sitting on lifts all day. I especially liked that the straps are secured with easy-to-release snaps.
The North Face Brigandine Futurelight ($649)
The Pee-tails: The Brigandinehas a harness-friendly zip fly, like youd find in your average pair of pants, which means you can use a pee funnel. That said, the opening is a little small to maneuver a funnel through layers successfully. In my opinion, this necessitatesan expert-level pee-funneler move. Thankfully, you can also drop the seatfrom either side, thanks to a simple single snap and hearty dual zippers with pull cords for ease while using with gloves.
The Rest: The Brigandine won me over for its lack of buckles or hardwareon the thickstraps; instead, theyadjusted via Velcro, so nothing digs into your shoulders. A built-in waist cinch took the cut from frumpy to pretty cute without the need for an external belt, and itsalso a great feature for accommodating different body types. The DWR finish and sealed zipper and seams keep you dry on storm days. Plus,there are plenty of zippered pockets, including a high chest pocket for your phoneand a beacon tether in the right pocket (I really appreciate not having to girth-hitch my beacon around a zipper pull).
Patagonia SnowDrifter ($349)
The Pee-tails: Pick a side, unsnap, pull the zipper cord, and go for it. I did find the mechanism to be a little hard to execute while wearing layers. The snaps are located about as high as up the rib cage as the other bibs, but I had to reach further around my back to fiddle with them (thesame goes for the Mountain Hardwear pair). But I appreciated how secure the bibs felt despite how wide the drop seat opened.
The Rest: These bibs werethe lightest and least restrictive of the full-coverage options that Itried (the Mountain Hardwear pair is lighter, but it doesnt have a high-rise bib). It featuresa looser fit all aroundso doesnt feel constricting with layers underneath, even while sitting down. Four-way-stretch soft-shell material on the upper bib addsincreased comfort while youre moving aroundyet remains functional thanks to a DWR coating. For big days, the chest pocket and two thigh pockets can hold your phone, snacks, and a beacon. The SnowDrifter is a bit longfor a size small, which I appreciated since Im five foot seven,but it may not be ideal for those closer to five feet tall. It wasalso roomier in the thighs and butt than the other smalls I tested, so petite folks will want to size down.
Helly Hansen Powderqueen ($300)
The Pee-tails: As with the Environ, peeing in the Powderqueen is a left-side-only operation. Theresa clasp like youd find at the top of a dress zipper, two big snaps, and a large zipper thats easy to handle with gloves on. The drop seat isnt as generous as the SnowDrifterbut is easy enough to move out of the way to get the job done. I managed to handily execute this maneuveron a cold day while wearing a ton of layers.
The Rest: Lightweight down insulation makes the Powderqueen perfect for lift-powered days or frigid tours. Itllkeep you warm without making you feel like that kid in A Christmas Storywho cant put his arms down. I was super cozy wearing them on a classic windy resort day on the Continental Divide while my buddy shivered beside me in noninsulated pants. The legs dont unzip fully, but I dont need or want that in resort pants.
Tips for Mess-Free Peeing
Ive been writing about peeing for several yearsand believe that every woman should own a pee funnel (here are my favorites). A funnel is great for those stormy days when you dont want to expose any skin, but it only works if your pants have a normally placed zipper, like in a pair of jeans. For most ski days, Im a squatting purist. Still, squatting can be hard to manage when youre wearing a lot of layers and are trying to keep your behind off the snow. Dont worry too much about peeing on your pants a little: theyre probably Gore-Tex! That said, here are a few things to keep in mind so youhave a pleasant experience that doesnt end with frozen pee on your boots.
- Face your danger: No matter how you shake it, youre going to have to expose some skin, so the number-one rule is to make sure youre looking directly at anyone who could see you pee so theyre not looking at your butt.
- Face the wind: In general, be sure to take careful note of wind direction. It could very well blow your own pee down your legs or into your face. Ive seen it happen.
- Pick your spot: Find a wooded area (avoid tree wells!) with a little privacy. If theres no one around on a tour, just step off the skin track and go for it.
- Make your own privacy: If you unzip both your bibs and your jacket, youll have your own miniature Porta-Potty. Your open jacket will hang down behind you, covering your backside (be careful not to pee on it), while your bibs will cover your front half. Note: this is not the best technique to employ during inclement weather.
- Cover up your tracks: Be sure to scoot some snow over your yellow patch so people on the skin track behind you dont have to stare at it. And if its particularly yellow, go ahead and drink some water while youre at it.