Snowboarders are becoming more aware of the need to protect themselves. Particularly ageing snowboarders such as myself!
Still, one area that is often overlooked is spine protection. To make life easier for you, I’ve identified the very best back protector for snowboarding!
The best back protector for snowboarding is the Rippl Impact Spineshield. The Spineshield is low profile and lightweight whilst still providing excellent protection. Ultimately though, any back protection is better than none!
Let’s take a look at some great options for spine protection… and whether you even need it!
Why I Wear A Back Protector For Snowboarding.
The list of recommended protective gear for snowboarding seems to grow every year. Whilst I eventually agreed to wear impact shorts, I resisted the urge to wear a back protector.
That was… until the accident.
Cut to earlier this year, I was killing it on a particularly gnarly rail in the park. But I soon became over-confident. This resulted in my spine grinding the last half of the rail in place of my snowboard. My 31-year old spine did not like this!!
After a lengthly recovery process, I found myself back on the same rail – only this time with a back protector.
I’ve had multiple similar crashes since then (I fall a lot!) and walked away from them all. I now wear my back protector every time I ride rails.
Who Should Wear A Back Protector For Snowboarding?
If you have a bad back or have had a previous spine injury, you should definitely wear a back protector when snowboarding.
For everyone else, it’s optional. After all, there’s a limit to how much gear you can wear without looking ridiculous!
You should therefore select the areas in which you feel most vulnerable. Beginners should always consider wearing at least some wrist guards and a helmet. For other riders, your protective gear will probably depend on where you’re riding.
Consider wearing a back protector for snowboarding when:
- Riding rails or other park features.
- Taking part in racing events.
- The slopes are very firm or icy.
- You’ve had previous back injuries.
Best Back Protector For Snowboarding
Best For: Best Overall Protection
Key Features: flexible, articulated protection, shell spread technology disperses impact, breathable materials,
Sizes: Size M-XL covers most riders
Price: $82 (though currently on sale!)
- Super low profile
- Comfortable and adjustable
- Really nice natural flexion
- Very breathable materials
- Money-back guarantee
✖️ Shipping can be a little slow
Use code SNOWBOARDINGDAYS for a 10% discount.
The Rippl Spineshield is one of the best back protectors for snowboarding. It is low-profile, lightweight and flexes naturally with your spine.
You might worry that spine protectors are too bulky or uncomfortable. Don’t!
The Spineshield does a great job of being relatively invisible to both the wearer and onlookers. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll notice it at first – but this is one of the most comfortable I tested.
This is surprising given the excellent protection it offers. There are some lighter-weight options further down the list, but they generally offer much thinner padding.
About the brand: I’m becoming a bit of a Rippl fanboy. Their gear is excellent and they have great customer service. They also offer much more acceptable price-tags than the larger brands. The downside is their slow-ish delivery service – which admittedly has the benefit of being free.
Best For: Premium protection.
Key Features: form-fitting, low-profile, high quality,
Sizes: Size S-L
- Form-fitting, slim design
- Surprisingly flexible
- Trusted manufacturer
- Breathable design
✖️ Overall, I felt Rippl's articulating armor offered better protection
The POC VPD System could be the best back protector for snowboarding. It’s an extremely high quality product from a trusted manufacturer!
The only problem… the price-tag.
The POC VPD Back Armor does cost significantly more than some of the other options. However, if you have the budget, it could be worth it.
The POC VPD System is one of the slimmest fitting back protectors available. It uses a single rigid panel (in contrast to most other options which feature articulating armor). This works surprisingly well and is still very flexible.
This honeycomb style protection also provides excellent breathability, making it a great option for backcountry riders and those putting in some hard graft.
Best For: Additional chest and shoulder protection.
Key Features: base-layer design, usable across a range of activities, breathable, removable pads
- Fits like a tee
- Great customer reviews
- Bonus chest, shoulder and rib protection.
- Adds extra warmth
✖️ Fiddly zipper
✖️ Can feel a little bulky
Here’s a back protector with a twist. The BenKen Armor fits like a base-layer and offers padding in the chest, ribs, shoulders and spine.
It therefore offers “complete upper body protection.”
It’s worth noting that the padding is made from EVA foam and is softer than the options listed above. It’s therefore pretty comfortable and very flexible.
The additional padding brings with it some extra bulk. It’s therefore more noticeable than some of the lower profile options. The softer material on the spine is also less likely to hold up to large crashes, especially against a grind rail.
Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but love the BenKen Body Armor. It was comfortable and felt like a reassuring protective hug around your upper body.
The POC VPD Air Vest is one of the best back protectors for snowboarding.
It’s especially great for riders looking for a super slim option. The padding is nicely integrated with the vest and moves very naturally.
The padding is however thinner than some of the other options and lacks the hard outer-shell of products like the Spineshield.
The POC VPD Air Vest is therefore best for riders looking for barely-noticeable back protection. You might want to wear it all the time – rather than just when rail riding.
The RIDBIKER spine protector offers some heavy-duty spine protection at an affordable price.
It was originally designed for motorcycles and motocross, so it can withstand some pretty heavy impacts. Unfortunately, this also means it wasn’t necessarily designed with flexibility in mind. There are therefore some less restrictive options on the list.
Additionally, whilst it can be adjusted to fit most sizes, you might not get a perfect fit. This won’t matter so much if you’re only wearing it for the occasional gnarly rail session.
What To Look For In A Snowboard Back Protector.
Here are some key points to consider before pulling the trigger on a back protector.
The type of padding you need depends on the type of riding you do.
If you’re hitting some hard-assed street rails, you’re going to want some hard-assed, heavy-duty protection!
If however you’ll be wearing the back protector every day – mainly for resort cruising – then you might be better with some lighter-weight padding.
Backcountry riders could choose either… but with poor snow cover and submerged rocks, I’d personally opt for the best that my budget stretch to.
Ensure that the back protector comes in a size that will be both comfortable and provide coverage of your whole spine.
The cheaper options often come as a “one size fits all”. This won’t always provide the best fit. If you’re not in the average size range, opt for a product with more appropriate size options.
Fit is also important. Your spine won’t be protected if your padding is always slipping sideways!
You want the padding to fit seamlessly along your back, with only a little room for movement. Look for back protectors with adjustable straps, particularly ones that cinch in at the waist and chest. You’ll notice that each of the options I listed above are adaptable and adjustable.
Remember the start of this article? If you have pre-existing back injuries or vulnerabilities then you should upgrade the level of padding!
The Rippl Impact Spineshield was comfortably the best snowboard back protector that I tested. Whilst there are some other awesome products, they can’t contend with the quality and price-tag.
Ultimately though, any of the products listed above will offer great protection for your spine. If you’re planning to go big in the park this season, make sure you suit up first!
Another protective item I’ve come to love is my new impact shorts. If you don’t have these, it’s worth checking out the best crash pants for snowboarding.
I can vouch for the BenKen and the POC VPD – as someone with a longstanding spine issue (motocross injury) these were a lifesaver. I got both to try out and ended up keeping them both. The BenKen is heavier duty protection but the VPD is probably slimmer fitting and so easier to wear. Both are dope though.