After retiring my old snowboarding pants, it was time for some new high performance and hard wearing trousers suitable for backcountry riding. Check out this review of Helly Hansen Backbowl freeride snowboarding pants to find out if I made the right decision.
What I expect from freeride snowboarding pants
When I buy snowboarding trousers, I need something that will withstand all conditions. I don’t just ride when it is blue skies, but hit the slopes whatever the weather throws at me. I also ride hard, often hike for fresh powder and I am normally out all day, so a high level of waterproofing and breathability is a must.
I like a relaxed fit that so that it does not restrict my movement. But it should not be so baggy that it catches on trees or makes me look too youth – I am too old to pull that off. Plus of course it has to work with my blue Nitro Alagna jacket.
Doing a lot of backcountry riding, I like my freeride snowboarding pants to either be bib style, or to connect to my jacket to stop snow getting in. I am not a fan of flaps on pockets as they collect snow and really like inner thigh ventilation – something I missed on my old Marmot pants.
Review of Helly Hansen Backbowl: Fit, style and features
The Helly Hansen Backbowl claims to be an ‘iconic freeride pant built for deep days on big mountains in the hardest conditions’. It has a relaxed fit and comes in Rusty Orange – or Blue or Grey – that would work well with my blue jacket. Sounds perfect for my requirements.
On arriving they fit me well around the waist, but were a bit long in the leg. However, I have never had snowboarding pants that are the right length. I particularly liked the large Velcro waistband adjustment, so after a big lunch I can loosen them off.
Once riding, the two way dynamic stretch fabric and articulated knees meant the Helly Hansen Backbowl pants never restricted my movements. Combined with the soft inner material I found them to be exceptionally comfy to snowboard in.
Although the Helly Hansen Backbowl are essentially shell pants they have insulation in the knee and bottom areas. As a snowboarder, with all the time I spend sitting and kneeling in the snow this was a great addition. But I am sure it is nice for skiers too, particularly when sitting on a cold chairlift.
As with most trousers they include boot gaiters, but different to my previous pants, they use a silicone gripper to hold them in place which works very well. This means, when you are not wearing shoes there are no metal clips to painfully stand on.
Helly Hansen use a fusion modular system to link their jackets to pants, fortunately they connected nicely with my Nitro Alagna jacket system. Although I always take an avalanche transceiver when heading off backcountry, the addition of RECCO® advanced rescue system is a welcome extra element of safety, that hopefully I will never use.
The hand pockets on the Helly Hansen Backbowl freeride snowboarding pants are lowered to enable easy access even when wearing a backpack with a waist strap. They cargo pocket is streamlined with minimal flaps, and HH haven’t added back pockets, which personally I never use and end up collecting snow.
Review of Helly Hansen Backbowl: Keeping elements at bay
The Backbowl pants use the new Helly Tech® Professional two layer fabric which is over 20k waterproof and more than 20k breathable. All zips are YKK® water resistant and all seams are tape sealed. The Helly Hansen Backbowl should keep you warm and dry during extremely wet, cold and windy conditions.
In 9 days of freeriding in Portes Du Soleil, I encountered all of the above. During a blizzard, in driving wind – we encountered gusts of 90kph – they stayed dry, airtight and warm. Worn with thermal pants, they kept me warm at minus 10, and when things get hot the inner thigh vents work a treat.
No review of Helly Hansen Backbowl would be complete without talking about the downside of these great freeride snowboarding pants. During a very wet day – heavy rain down low and wet snow higher – the HH pants became soaked through from the knee down.
But to put it in context, that day I was doing avalanche training and spent a few hours stood in knee deep, wet snow. My Northwave Legend boots also became completely soaked through, which in three years of riding in them is a first.
I will put this down to exceptional conditions as everyone’s gear let them down on that day. The conditions were so bad I would probably have done a few runs and then hidden myself away in a bar or spa. But I do wonder if my old Gore Tex trousers would have stayed dry?
For the Helly Hansen Backbowl review I have spent 15 days on the slopes in these freeride snowboarding pants. Except for the above, they have handled poor conditions very well, always keeping me warm and dry. On warm and sunny days, and when hiking for fresh lines, the highly breathable material lets my sweat escape.
Review of Helly Hansen Backbowl: Conclusion
Overall, the Helly Hansen Backbowl freeride snowboarding pants are very comfortable. Plus they have plenty of practical features that make them better to wear snowboarding than any other ski trousers I have owned.
In all but exceptional conditions they stayed dry and kept the elements at bay. And if I could change one thing about them it would be to make them shorter in the leg – but I would say that about all snowboarding pants.
To conclude this review of Helly Hansen Backbowl, I love them and I suspect the majority of skiers and snowboarders would too. You can buy higher waterproof rating pants, but you’ll pay twice as much for them, and probably won’t need the extra waterproofness.
To answer my original question; yes, the the HH Backbowl pants were the right decision for me. And I suspect they would be the right decision for you too.
I hope this review of Helly Hansen Backbowl freeride snowboarding pants has helped you decide what rousers to buy. The RRP is £200 but at the time of publishing Helly Hansen has reduced the price to £140: www.hellyhansen.com