I’m pretty particular about ski bibs. Trying them on takes me right back to youth gymnastics, when I would awkwardly cram into a green velvet leotard that was too short for my torso and then have to take off the whole thing when I went to the bathroom, worrying that someone would see me naked through the crack in the door.
So the ease of peeing in ski gear is high on my list of must-have features. If it’s not important to you, you likely haven’t 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 bibs is for anyone who has experienced ice pellets pummeling her sorry bare behind while popping a squat on a windy day or who has purposely avoided drinking water to skip the ordeal of peeing while skiing. Most of these use a similar mechanism that involves partially uzipping one leg so you can pull the bibs’ seat to the side to do your business. (Click through 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 you’re prone to overheating or need to eat every two hours.)
I tried a size small in all of these bibs. I’m five foot seven, 130 pounds, and have strong thighs but am otherwise straight as a board. When I mention a pair being roomy or tight fitting, that’s based on my body type. I recommend trying on a few different styles to figure out what works best for you.
Regardless of where you’ll be skiing, all of these bibs are conducive to easy peeing without having to take off any of your jackets.
Arc’teryx Beta SV ($549)
The Pee-tails: The SV has full-length side zippers, a feature I like in hard-shell pants for the ability to take them on and off if you’re already wearing boots and 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 seat—no 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 bra in the middle of my rib cage. This could be an awkward rise for those with larger chests, but it was OK for me. I reach for hard-shell outer layers when there’s wind or rain to keep out, so I like that the SV is made of fully waterproof Gore-Tex and has watertight zippers. It’s an attractive option for Pacific Northwest skiers. This pair is roomy without looking frumpy (though it gave me diaper butt, which means I have the option to comfortably add layers or size down), though it could use more zippered pockets.
Mountain Hardwear High Exposure Gore-Tex C-Knit ($450)
The Pee-tails: Like the SV, the High Exposure bib’s system is simple: unsnap the side flap at the waist, partially undo 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; it’s tucked about an inch toward the spine, which makes it a little tricky to re-snap when you’re done.
The Rest: With a lower rise than the Arc’teryx bibs, the High Exposure comes up just past the belly button. They, too, are fully waterproof but feel significantly lighter than all the other bibs here, making them a favorite for touring. I almost forgot I had them on. The two zippered hip pockets are lower on the leg than the Arc’teryx, 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 this closure more than snaps, because it’s easier to use with gloves on, and Stio’s zipper design, which runs at a slight angle, provides more room (i.e., a bigger margin of error) to do your business. There’s also a front zipper for pee-funnel usage.
The Rest: For my lean and straight body type, the waterproof Environ was one of the more flattering bibs I tried. It’s also roomy enough for layers without being floppy—no diaper butt here. The actual bib, which hits a 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 Stio’s insulated three-quarter-length pants, which rest right above the boot.
Burton AK Gore-Tex Kimmy 3L ($580)
The Pee-tails: Like the Beta SV, the Gore-Tex Kimmy 3L bibs also offer multiple ways to pee, since the drop 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 it on and off but also allowed for easy pee-funnel access.
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 you’re in the backcountry or at the resort. Its straight, narrow cut was flattering on my build but might not work for more curvy skiers. Standing barefoot, the legs run about an inch past my heels, which is a perfect length for me with ski boots and skis on. Half a dozen large zippered pockets store literally anything from a phone, wallet, and keys to a decent-size sandwich 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 my avalanche beacon.
Flylow Foxy ($420)
The Pee-tails: The Foxy’s 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 Foxy fits similar to the Burton model on me, with a fairly straight cut and a high rise I enjoyed for added coverage and warmth. It’s 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 is nice and light, with extra features like belt loops and a zippered back pocket big enough for a wallet, though I probably wouldn’t 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 Brigandine has a harness-friendly zip fly, like you’d 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 necessitates an expert-level pee-funneler move. Thankfully, you can also drop the seat from 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 hardware on the thick straps; instead, they adjusted 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 it’s also 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 phone and 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 (the same 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 were the lightest and least restrictive of the full-coverage options that I tried (the Mountain Hardwear pair is lighter, but it doesn’t have a high-rise bib). It features a looser fit all around so doesn’t feel constricting with layers underneath, even while sitting down. Four-way-stretch soft-shell material on the upper bib adds increased comfort while you’re moving around yet 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 long for a size small, which I appreciated since I’m five foot seven, but it may not be ideal for those closer to five feet tall. It was also 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. There’s a clasp like you’d find at the top of a dress zipper, two big snaps, and a large zipper that’s easy to handle with gloves on. The drop seat isn’t as generous as the SnowDrifter but is easy enough to move out of the way to get the job done. I managed to handily execute this maneuver on 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. It’ll keep you warm without making you feel like that kid in A Christmas Story who can’t 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 don’t unzip fully, but I don’t need or want that in resort pants.
Tips for Mess-Free Peeing
I’ve been writing about peeing for several years and believe that every woman should own a pee funnel (here are my favorites). A funnel is great for those stormy days when you don’t 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, I’m a squatting purist. Still, squatting can be hard to manage when you’re wearing a lot of layers and are trying to keep your behind off the snow. Don’t worry too much about peeing on your pants a little: they’re probably Gore-Tex! That said, here are a few things to keep in mind so you have a pleasant experience that doesn’t end with frozen pee on your boots.
- Face your danger: No matter how you shake it, you’re going to have to expose some skin, so the number-one rule is to make sure you’re looking directly at anyone who could see you pee so they’re 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. I’ve seen it happen.
- Pick your spot: Find a wooded area (avoid tree wells!) with a little privacy. If there’s 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, you’ll 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 don’t have to stare at it. And if it’s particularly yellow, go ahead and drink some water while you’re at it.