Snowmobiling is an exhilarating adventure, but it demands more than just a powerful machine. The right snowmobile gear is essential for a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable experience. In this guide, let’s explore the must-have snowmobile gear and essentials that will elevate your icy escapades.
Here are some must-haves on your snowmobile gear list:
- Balaclava or Neck Gaiter
- Winter Sport Goggles
- Snowmobile Boots
- Hand Warmers
- Traction Aids
- Spare Battery and Battery Charger
- Tool Kit
- Navigation and Communication Devices
- Emergency Kit
- Snowmobile Accessories
Selecting the best snowmobile gear is not only a personal journey that depends on individual preferences, riding conditions, and specific needs but also a means to ensure that your winter trail riding experiences are safe and enjoyable. This article will discuss these factors while covering the top 15 snowmobile gear essentials.
Snowmobile Gear Essentials
In outdoor activities, “gear” extends beyond clothing to equipment such as tools, accessories, and safety gear. For snowmobiling, the term includes not only snowmobile suits, helmets, and gloves but also tools, safety equipment, navigation devices, emergency supplies, and more — bringing us to the gist of this guide:
As detailed in my Overlanding article, the “layering method” riders observe when picking outdoor garments consists of three tiers. The same number of layers also applies to winter clothing, as they help keep you warm while navigating icy trails:
They are designed for optimal insulation and moisture management, with a preference for moisture-wicking, dry-fit fabrics like polypropylene, rayon, or Merino wool (including thermal underwear).
Mid layers are the primary source of insulation for winter trail rides. It offers key features like hoods, pockets, and full zippers, as well as versatility with various fabric options like polyester-fleece blends, Polartec Alpha, Merino wool, synthetic, Lycra, down, and Spandex.
Vital for shielding against the elements, most outerwear is crafted from materials like Gore-Tex and polyurethane-coated fabrics that offer robust protection from harsh winds and precipitation. They also provide visibility, lightness, waterproofing, and breathability. Other common materials include nylon, polyester, Thinsulate, neoprene, and Cordura.
The last layer (a.k.a outerwear) covers down jackets and snowmobile suits. The latter, in particular, protects against wind, snow, and cold temperatures.
Snowmobile suits are well-insulated and waterproof and often have additional features like reinforced padding in high-impact areas, adjustable hoods, ventilation options, and reflective elements for safety.
When selecting an appropriate snowmobile suit for trail riding, I highly recommend a two- or three-piece suit with a full-length zipper due to its practicality. It makes it easy to put on or remove individual pieces and mix and match layers based on weather conditions. Plus, the ability to open a full-length zipper provides an underrated relief, especially when nature calls.
Insulated snow pants, body armor, and chest protectors like Alpinestars 6700421-13-M/L Bionic Action Chest Protector (view on Amazon) also fall under this last tier. They’re typically a must-have for hardcore snowmobilers but are technically optional.
Moisture-wicking socks are equally important as they keep your feet warm in freezing temperatures, where maintaining comfort and preventing frostbite are essential.
They’re often constructed from Merino wool or synthetic blends known for their moisture-wicking properties and insulation. Smartwool, Carhartt Extremes, and Klim make some of the best winter-riding wool socks.
Not to be confused with your average moto gloves, snowmobile gloves are typically made from insulated and waterproof materials like Gore-Tex, leather, or synthetic blends with adjustable wrist closures.
Their construction combines warmth, durability, and moisture resistance to keep your hands comfortable and functional in winter. Moreover, these gloves provide a secure grip on the handlebars — enhancing control and safety while riding a snowmobile.
4. Balaclava or Neck Gaiter
A vital element in snowmobile gear, balaclavas or neck gaiters serve multiple purposes. Beyond shielding the face, neck, and head against harsh winter winds and frigid temperatures, these accessories effectively wick away sweat to ensure you remain dry and comfortable. Like most winter-riding clothing, they’re typically crafted from insulating materials like fleece, Merino wool, or synthetic blends.
5. Winter Sport Goggles
During winter trail riding, snowmobile-specific goggles with anti-fog and UV protection features provide crucial eye protection against snow, wind, and debris. They also prevent cold air from reaching the eyes, helping maintain visibility in varying weather conditions.
These goggles are typically made from polycarbonate for the lens, foam for comfort and insulation, and thermoplastic for the frame. Some notable brands known for producing high-quality winter sport goggles include Oakley, Smith Optics, and Giro. The Smith Squad MAG Goggles with ChromaPop Lens (view on Amazon) is one example of snowmobile gear worth investing in.
Like most motorsport disciplines, a helmet provides vital head protection during winter trail riding. It also offers insulation against wind and cold temperatures, ensuring comfort during extended rides (especially when worn over a balaclava).
Different types of helmets are suitable for snowmobile trail riding. Most consist of polycarbonate, fiberglass, or carbon fiber for durability and feature cushioned interiors for added comfort and impact absorption.
Full-face helmets offer the most comprehensive protection, covering the entire head and face. Modular helmets come in second, providing versatility with a flip-up visor that allows easy switching between a full-face and open-face configuration. Open-face helmets, though offering less coverage, are well-known for their ventilation.
I recommend opting for one with dual-pane visors. This design helps reduce fogging by maintaining a temperature barrier between the outside cold air and the warmer air inside the helmet.
It’s also important that the helmet meets safety standards and regulations. Most regions require DOT approval or similar certifications before use in recreational or high-speed riding.
7. Snowmobile Boots
Snowmobile boots like KLIM Men’s Adrenaline Pro GTX BOA Winter Snowmobile Boots (view on Amazon) are specialized footwear designed for snowmobiling. They are tailored to the unique challenges of the sport and are distinct from regular riding boots in the following areas:
- They’re heavily insulated to provide warmth in extremely cold conditions.
- Unlike regular riding boots, they’re designed to prevent snow, moisture, and slush from entering the boots — keeping your feet dry and comfortable.
- Snowmobile boots feature outsoles with enhanced traction, suitable for walking in snowy and slippery environments. Their tread pattern provides stability and prevents slipping.
- They often have a higher shaft or collar, providing additional coverage and protection against snow entering from the top. This higher design also helps create a barrier against cold wind and snow.
- Finally, snowmobile boots are typically made from insulated and waterproof materials such as Gore-Tex, leather, or synthetic blends. These materials keep the feet cozy in harsh winter conditions.
8. Hand Warmers
Hand warmers are compact, portable devices that are either disposable or rechargeable. They contain materials like iron powder, salt, and activated charcoal that undergo an exothermic reaction when exposed to air.
The warmth generated from this process helps prevent cold-related discomfort in chilly weather. Most snowmobile riders place hand warmers inside pockets or gloves.
9. Traction Aids
Traction aids are a crucial component of snowmobile gear, as they enhance the machine’s grip on various surfaces. They become particularly vital in minimizing the risk of skidding or getting stuck.
Brands like Stud Boy, Woody’s, and Kold Kutter are widely recognized for producing high-quality snowmobile traction aids — some of which are listed below:
- Traction mats or boards
- Snow studs
- Ice scratchers
- Snow flaps
- Snowmobile skis (preferably with deeper keels or carbide runners)
- Cleated tracks
- Aftermarket track grips
10. Spare Battery and Battery Charger
While it might not be a standard inclusion in a basic snowmobile gear list, experienced riders embarking on longer journeys or exploring remote areas may find a spare battery a practical and reassuring addition to their toolkit. Snowmobiles rely heavily on their batteries for starting, and a spare can be handy in case of a dead or malfunctioning battery.
Naturally, several things need to be considered when choosing a spare battery and battery charger:
- Size and Weight: The spare battery should have an appropriate size and weight suitable for your snowmobile and be manageable to carry.
- Charging: Keep your spare battery fully charged. Moreover, it’s imperative to periodically check its condition to ensure it’s ready for use when needed. Because batteries can discharge over time, it’s ideal to do this during the off-season or when the snowmobile is not in regular use.
- Storage: Store the spare battery securely, protecting it from extreme cold temperatures and potential damage during the ride. The best ways to do this is in an insulated and enclosed space, such as a battery box or compartment like Ski-Doo New OEM Linq Rear Summit Storage, 850 E-TEC 860201274 (view on Amazon), or by utilizing cold-weather battery blankets or warmers.
- Compatibility: Verify that the spare battery is compatible with your snowmobile’s make and model.
In contrast to spare batteries, a backpack is more of a must-have on a snowmobile gear list (although not exclusive to it). Regardless of seasonality, most off-roading and outdoor activities necessitate a backpack with compartments for essentials like water and a first aid kit (on top of the ones below):
- Water bottles
- Food (preferably non-perishable snacks) and utensils
- Compact snow shovel (Tip: Getting a snow shovel set will help you save a few hard-earned bucks.)
- Headlamp, for night rides or low-light conditions
- Firestarter for warming up
- Additional fuel, especially when riding in remote areas
- Spare snowmobile parts like spark plugs, quick link, and drive belts (among others)
- Extra clothing and additional layers for extra warmth (although this should already be covered in item #1)
- Registration, certification, or trail permits (especially important for winter trail riding outside of your home state)
12. Tool Kit
Even for non-winter activities, a tool kit is considered indispensable as it provides riders with the means to perform necessary maintenance during trail rides — minimizing downtime in the event of mechanical issues. Snowmobiling often occurs in rugged terrains where professional assistance may be unavailable, making self-reliance crucial.
Here are some of the things that should go into a snowmobile tool kit:
- Spare quick link and belt
- 8″ zip ties
- Drive ratchet, socket, socket bits, and extension (specific sizes may vary based on the snowmobile model)
- Any other socket size required for your snowmobile
- Adjustable wrench or wrenches in 8mm, 10mm, and 12mm (again, necessity depends on your snowmobile)
- Torx bits (T15, T20, T45, specific sizes may vary)
- Good-quality locking pliers (versatile tool, but necessity can vary)
- Flathead screwdriver
- Multitool or knife for cutting materials, opening packages, or making makeshift repairs
13. Navigation and Communication Devices
Integral to snowmobiling, navigation, and communication devices enhance safety and facilitate efficient travel in various terrains. In remote and challenging winter landscapes, they aid in route planning and help mitigate the risk of getting lost on unfamiliar trails.
Additionally, these devices make it possible to stay connected with fellow riders and call for assistance in emergencies.
Listed below are some non-negotiables when it comes to this type of device:
- Two-way radio (useful in areas with poor or no cellphone reception)
- Mobile phone (for communication, navigation, and emergencies)
- Garmin GPSMAP 66i GPS Handheld and Satellite Communicator (view on Amazon) or similar satellite communication devices
- GPS device (to navigate trails and ensure you stay on course)
- Weather app
14. Emergency Kit
In addition to #12 and #13, an emergency kit equips riders with essential tools and supplies to address unforeseen adversities during rides. As a crucial safety net, it enables enthusiasts to handle minor injuries, perform necessary repairs, and respond effectively to various emergencies, ensuring survival in unexpected situations.
- First-aid kit (if not yet included in your backpack): This kit should at least include gauze rolls and pads, trauma dressings, scissors, tweezers, antiseptics, antibiotics, and adhesive bandages.
- Overnight emergency kit: This kit should be specifically tailored for situations requiring an overnight stay. Include extra clothing, a compact sleeping bag, space blanket, or bivvy for warmth, high-energy, non-perishable snacks, a compact, lightweight stove and fuel for preparing hot beverages or food, and any additional items necessary for comfort and survival.
- Flare pen launcher
- Emergency whistle
- Compact snow saw, snow brush, or ice scraper
- Physical area map
- Duct tape
- Avalanche shovel
- Transceiver, avalanche light, or beacon
- Avalanche probes
15. Snowmobile Accessories
Although the initial eight items in this section form the core essentials for winter trail riding, accessories are also an integral part of the snowmobile gear list. After all, they’re designed to improve snowmobiles’ comfort, safety, and functionality during rides.
That said, here are some examples of snowmobile accessories:
- Handlebar Grips: Heated handlebar grips provide warmth and comfort during cold rides.
- Windshields: Adjustable windshields can help protect the rider from wind, snow, and debris.
- Snowmobile Cover: A durable cover to protect your snowmobile from the elements when not used.
- Skis and Skags: Upgrading or changing the skis and skags on your snowmobile can impact handling and performance, especially in different snow conditions.
- Cargo Racks and Bags: These accessories provide extra storage space for carrying gear, supplies, or personal items.
- Tunnel Bags: The likes of a Polaris Snowmobile Lock & Ride Flex Adventure Tunnel Bag (view on Amazon) is a type of snowmobile gear bag that attaches to the rear tunnel of the snowmobile (the part that runs between the rear suspension and the track), providing additional storage for gear and essentials.
- Handguards: Handguards help protect your hands from cold wind and flying debris.
- Stud Kits: Adding studs to your track can enhance traction on icy surfaces.
- Snowmobile Lifts: Lifts designed for snowmobiles make maintenance tasks easier by raising the machine off the ground.
- Full-Body Skid Plate: This protective cover provides an added layer of underside protection for your snowmobile, alongside a touch of personalized character. Aftermarket plates matching pre-marked installation points on your sledder’s chassis are always the best options.
Incorporating optional items into your snowmobile gear list depends on personal preferences, the type of riding, or the need for additional storage. Performance enthusiasts or riders who carry lots of gear or personal effects may find these accessories a godsend. For recreational snowmobilers, however, stock components generally suffice.
Again, snowmobile gear extends beyond what you wear during trail rides — which is why this list includes apparel, tool kits, and snowmobile attachments. But if we focus on just clothing, reputable brands Klim, 509, FXR, Tobe, Castle, and Fly top the list for producing high-quality snowmobile gear and accessories. Some specialize in technical suits and footwear, while others offer various offerings.
Other Necessities for Snowmobile Riding
Although slightly off-topic, specialized off-roading and avalanche training is as vital to winter trail riding as snowmobile gear. These programs include driving techniques, recovery procedures, and safety protocols. The competencies acquired from this training and the essentials detailed earlier will enable you to effectively navigate winter off-roading challenges and emergencies.
For your reference, here’s a list of programs that will not only allow you to effectively make use of items #12—#14 in the preceding section but also enhance your preparedness for snowmobile trail riding:
- Snowmobile Safety Courses (fundamental safety practices, trail etiquette, and potential hazard awareness)
- First Aid and CPR Certification (basic first aid and CPR training)
- Wilderness Survival Training
- Navigation and Map Reading Courses
- Environmental Stewardship Programs (responsible and sustainable snowmobiling practices)
Conclusion — Best Snowmobile Gear
If you’re wondering about the best winter outfit for a snowmobile rider, there isn’t a single answer. One’s choice of name brand ultimately hinges on specific preferences.
For the best value for money, I recommend Klim snowmobile gear. If you prefer sportier, more technical apparel, consider Fly or FXR snowmobile gear.
Castle snowmobile gear is a good option for items like bibs and footwear. But if you already own the basics and want to upgrade your coat or outer shell, Tobe snowmobile gear is ideal.
Kris is an avid off-roader and outdoor enthusiast who loves to brave the elements and take on challenging terrain. He also enjoys sharing his passion and knowledge with others so that they, too, can appreciate the ride.