Like it or not, snowboard gear has come a long way from a couple of planks of wood and some hiking boots - nowadays there’s laminates, rubberisation, thermo-protection, ultra-waterproofing, smartwool and BlueTooth everything. Technology always evolves.
Nowhere is that more true than in actual tech. Back in the eighties if you wanted to film something you’d more than likely have to lug around a Super 8 camera, and listening to music on the hill meant a bulky and expensive Walkman, not to mention a stash of tapes as well.
"For better or for worse, tech is almost as big a part of snowboarding today as bindings are"
These days there’s a barrage of gadgets that’ll allow you to record yourself and others, smooth out shaky footage and even get aerial action shots, all before getting stashed away in your backpack. Need tunes? There’s anything from earbuds to full on waterproof party speakers available, and of course they’ll connect to your phone wirelessly.
Yup, for better or for worse, tech is almost as big a part of snowboarding today as bindings are, so if you must partake at least make sure you’re at least getting the best bang for your buck.
Here we’ve selected some of our favourite gizmos and widgets for 2017/18, and for an even more premium selection of electronics don’t forget to see what made it into the Whitelines 100 this year!
Scroll down to view the best snowboard tech, or skip to a particular brand using the links below
DJI Mavic Pro 2017-2018
There’s been promises of portable, ultra smart camera drones for action sports use over the last few years, the Lily, the Airdog, the Hexo+... all seem to have failed on Kickstarter or never even left the ground, if you’ll pardon the pun.
DJI was able to take the technology from their high end professional drones and pack it into this, the Mavic. Not only does it pack down to an incredibly portable size, the controls make flying it a breeze. We now use it for almost every shoot and we’re basically morons.
Soaring above the competition, literally, it’s no wonder it made it into our top 100 products for this winter.
DJI Osmo X3 2017-2018
- PRICE: £519 / €599
Hands down one of the best pieces of technology we’ve ever used on a shoot ourselves, the DJI Osmo X3 not only gives great video stabilisation but the way you use it is completely idiot proof - almost anyone could pick this up and get some ‘professional’ looking shots from it.
Want it to point somewhere else? Just twist the camera with your meaty paws. Want to see what you’re filming? The accompanying app is lightning fast and just as easy to use.
The X3 camera that comes with this model dolls out top notch 4k footage, and even with your phone attached is a much better option than the phone-only stabiliser, as at high speeds smart phones start developing weird aliasing and video artifacts. Want to know more? We recently did a full, in-depth review of the DJI Osmo X3 - hit it.
Garmin Virb 360 2017-2018
- PRICE: £650 / €820
A quick note on 360 cameras - they don’t always mean virtual reality or those annoying videos you have to pan around with on Facebook - they’re growing into useful tools for immersive action sports cinematography where a video editor can choose a shot angle in post, even whipping between angles in the same clip.
That doesn’t mean you can plonk it anywhere and get great shots; if anything they need more of a technical eye whilst mounting, then some know-how, creativity and a shit ton of computer power to edit.
That said, the Garmin Virb 360 does use its 360-ness to its advantage - it can stitch footage in-camera up to 4k in output resolution, and can also stabilise shaky footage, though digital stabilization only ever works up until a point until it looks like the footage was shot through a jelly lens. Pow turns will look good, but send it through a mogul field and you might get sick looking at the footage afterwards.
We don’t know why, but if you want stats on how fast you’re going or how many calories you burnt plastered all over your footage, that is possible, and everything can be neatly controlled and tweaked from your phone. All in all, if you want to get into 360 video, first make sure you can handle normal video, but then definitely consider the Virb.
Garmin Virb Ultra 30 2017-2018
- PRICE: £390 / €441
We quite liked the Garmin Virb Ultra 30 action camera, though annoyingly we were put of by the slogan: “Can your action camera do this?" Ultimately, that must be aimed at GoPro, as between them they’re the current market leaders, but when you’re making a comparison like that, make sure it sticks.
Both shoot 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 120fps and 720p at 240fps. Both can stabilise footage internally, though both do so digitally which doesn’t live up to what the adverts say they can do. Both can be activated by voice command, both have great image quality, both come in at just under £400 and both have a touchscreen… So Garmin: the answer is a resounding yes.
What they’re referring to is the statistics overlay that Garmin products have that show you how fast you went, how much airtime you got off green jumps in the park and what the temperature was, so when you get home you can plot how much fun you had on a spreadsheet. We’ve never really ‘got’ this, so good though the Ultra 30 is, make sure you’re buying it for the right reasons.
GoPole Triad Grip 2017-2018
- PRICE: £45 / €49
Originally designed for scuba divers, the Triad Grip might seem a tad overkill for taking up the hill, but if you’re after more stabilisation but don’t have the budget for a gimbal mount, the cage-like configuration here provides a decent amount of shake reduction if used right. Also, if you really want to jazz up for videos, you can use it to mount a GoPro to a tripod and clip on external monitors, lights, microphones… But then you’re kind of defeating the point of a GoPro. Again, a good budget stabilisation option, just don’t get carried away.
GoPole Grenade Grip 2017-2018
- PRICE: £30 / €33
The Grenade Grip - aka Tim Humphrey’s go to selfie stick - is about as basic a product as we have in our whole guide this year, and that’s a good thing. For up close selfie mode you’d be pressed to beat its no-slip handle, and having something this small and stable in your jacket pocket makes karting around a camera in the first place that bit more workable - you will film more with a gadget like this at your disposal. The high torque screw is probably the best bit, making it super easy to get the tightness necessary for the GoPro not to bounce loose during bumpy rides.
GoPro HERO5 Black 2017-2018
For years GoPro’s ‘Black’ series - denoting their highest level of technical performance - has dominated the action camera market. Though sales were slower this time around, the HERO5 Black is no different, putting out crispy, professional grade footage at a variety of resolutions and frame rates, from razor sharp 4K to 120fps at HD.
Whilst other cameras come close in terms of spec, no one is close to GoPro in terms of the ecosystem around it, with both native and third party apps, mounts, gimbals and drones all tailor made to it, it’s once again our top pick of the action cameras. Read a full review of it in the Whitelines 10 with the link below.
GoPro HERO5 Session 2017-2018
- PRICE: £400 / €470
Barely anyone is a professional video maker, thus it’s very unlikely that you need to spend top dollar for the most ‘pro’ GoPro out there. But you still want something that looks good on Facebook, right? Enter the HERO5 Session, their mid-level action cam - what it lacks in bitrates and RAW photo compression (and if you don’t fully understand those terms then you absolutely do not need to get the HERO5 Black) it more than makes up for in portability, convenience and form factor. One touch turns it on and starts recording, and it fits all the same mounts as any GoPro before it.
The best camera is always the one you have on you, and given how small the HERO5 Session is, it’s doubtable that you ever wouldn’t have it with you.
GoPro Karma Drone 2017-2018
- PRICE: £1,200 / €1,400
When it was first released, GoPro’s Karma drone promised unrivaled portability compared to its competitors, though during the embarrassing recall that followed the launch.
DJI released the smaller and less fall-out-the-sky-y Mavic Pro. Nevertheless, there's still much to like - the clamshell controller is a bit more travel friendly and doesn’t require a smartphone to use, saving an extra battery along the way, and it (obviously) uses GoPro cameras, so technically its image quality is a step above the Mavic there.
The DJI Phantom 4 with comparable optics is still way bulkier than the Karma, so what you end up with is something in between its two main competitors, and whilst its actual flying abilities leave a little to be desired by experienced drone pilots, it’s ace up the sleeve is the removable Karma Grip (below).
Basically, if you want a (relatively) cheap, portable drone with an OK picture, get the Mavic, or if it’s Blackhawk levels of control you want look for the Phantom 4. If it’s a great filming with a still-unmatched level of adaptation you’re after, take a good hard look at the GoPro Karma.
GoPro Karma Grip 2017-2018
- PRICE: £300 / €360
Out of all the gimbals we’ve tested - the DJI Osmo, the Removu S1 and the dog shit Feiyu G3 - the GoPro Karma grip is by far the most versatile. Not only does it slot into its big brother drone, it can be mounted on helmets, backpack strap and any other surface you can already fix a GoPro to. It retrofits back to the GoPro HERO4 Silver and integrates perfectly with the camera, able to initiate recording from the handle unlike third-party gimbals.
In terms of performance it’s rock solid, literally, and sees no complaints from any of the WL test team. It packs down smartly into most snowboard friendly backpacks as well, ticking the convenience box. If you’re after a handheld video stabiliser and you already own a GoPro, there really isn’t a contest here.
GoPro Remote 2017-2018
- PRICE: £80 / €100
It is, as the name suggests, a remote control for your GoPro. If you often find yourself out of reach of your GoPro whilst filming or taking pictures we recommend you buy one. If you don’t, you’re probably OK.
Joby GripTight POV Kit 2017-2018
- PRICE: £45 / €49
Despite easily having the worst name in our entire 2018 gear guide - it sounds like a series of mirrors and clamps a Glaswegian would awkwardly buy from Ann Summers - the Joby GripTight POV kit could be a useful piece of kit if you’re seriously into your video selfie game or enjoy vlogging piste side.
It’s basically a clip with a handle to avoid that awkward grip whilst firing up your phone’s front camera and of course, because it’s 2017, it comes with Bluetooth so you don’t have to stretch your fingers an extra three inches to reach the shutter. Uh, probably won’t work with mittens. Did we mention it has Bluetooth..?
Lifeproof Fre iPhone 7 Case 2017-2018
We’ve really never come across a phone case that balances ease of use with protection this well before - some can be way too clunky for practical everyday situations, whilst others may look pretty but might not actually do that much if you happen to drop your business.
The Lifeproof Fre phone case is slimline enough to fit in a pocket just as well as an iPhone 7 would naked, even in the skinny pants of our tester, and it’s as bombproof as you’d ever need - you can literally run it over with a car and your phone will survive. The one annoyance is that using the lightning port on the hill can be a bit fiddly, but with a set of BlueTooth headphones you’ll be flying.
Selected for The Whitelines 100 – take a closer look at the 2017-2018 Lifeproof Fre iPhone 7 Case here
Nixon Mini Blaster 2017-2018
- PRICE: £89 / €99
Why is a snowboard site reviewing Bluetooth speakers you may ask? It’s a valid question, but trust us when we say they’re pretty good for when you’re shaping a kicker far away from resort crowds or tackling a particularly tough splitboard hike, though you do always worry Jeremy Jones might appear from nowhere and tell you to respect the tranquility of nature. Used with respect of others in your vicinity, they’re actually pretty great to have.
However, they do need to be compact, lightweight and durable, which is where the Nixon Mini Blaster comes in. It’s water resistant, so while it won’t survive submersion it’ll handle getting chucked down in the snow just fine. The sound is surprisingly loud and punchy for something roughly only 10x10cm, and with a range of 10m you can keep your phone safely in your pocket whilst enjoying the tunes. Or podcasts, as that’s what use ours for mainly.
Skullcandy Barricade Speaker 2017-2018
- PRICE: £60 / €70
As comfortable filling rooms with sound as it is getting the party started outdoors, the Skullcandy Barricade speaker comes in a variety of sizes, great for either taking it out into the wild or knocking back some drinks to some tunes at your holiday base.
Like all our audio products this year, there ain’t no wires to be seen, though if you’re swapping ‘DJs’ and devices during an evening there are other inputs for non-BT enabled iPods etc.
It handily doubles as an external charging source should your phone run out of juice away from home and there’s a microphone if you fancy using it as a hands free unit - perhaps for taking business calls on a chairlift? We don’t know… Finally, it’s impact resistant and completely waterproof to three feet should you wish to upset other holiday guests in the communal pool with it, or listen to Toto in the bath.
Skullcandy Crusher Wireless 2017-2018
- PRICE: £140 / €170
If you haven’t experienced wireless headphones yet then wake up, 2018 is fast approaching! Gone now are the days of fumbling knotted wires out of your pockets, only to find that the jack has been pulled of, or having them unexpectedly yanked off your head after you get them looped round an airplane armrest. It’s the way of the future, dude.
Skullcandy’s Crusher headphones have long been favourites of ours, with big, booming bass notes and a crisp top end, not to mention the comfy memory foam padding. For traveling or just chilling at the chalet without disturbing anyone’s peace they’re perfect, and with up to 40 hours use from a single charge you won’t mind so much if your train/flight/airport transfer gets delayed. They are a bit bulky for on-slope use, but that’s where the XTfrees come in...
Skullcandy XTfree BT Sport Earbud 2017-2018
- PRICE: £90 / €100
Any sort of exercise, especially snowboarding, with wired earbuds are a hassle. You may not notice it because it’s the norm, but once you switch to BlueTooth enabled earbuds like the Skullcandy XTfree Sports, all those ear lobe wrenching memories of getting them caught on gloves, bindings and chairlifts will become a thing of the past. In fact, at first you’ll find yourself using them as if they had wires, constantly checking for the cable pulling on the jack, but no more!
We’ve tried a few models like this before, and one thing we’ve found is that the cable-mounted remote tends to pull down on one ear, making them fiddly, but the XTfree remote is lightweight enough to almost ignore. The notes say expect six hours of charge, but we’ve found they go for way longer. The only thing going against them is the price, but again once you’ve experienced earbuds without wires you’ll wonder why you ever bothered in the first place.