Having spent an enormous amount of time shopping for, trying, and using armor, I'll add what I've been using. I too am in my late thirties and ride fairly aggressively.
Things I generally look for:
- customizeable pads: most body armor contains more padding that targets areas for which I have no need in snowboarding. I want to be able to take out, or switch up any padding I want.
- Fit and breathability: it has to be able to move with your body or it's going to impact your riding and enjoyment. Also, I don't want something that's going to be a hot box.
- Shell protection: I like it to have some sort of plastic or stiff material on the outside of softer material. If you want something that's going to reduce impact, this is a must. It acts as a shock absorber (dispersion of energy) and results in less bruises, breaks, and pain imo. I think this is an underrated feature. Doesn't even have to be super stiff either.
- Reasonable cost: I don't mind paying, but I think there are tons of reasonable options without spending $400 on a upper body armor.
My MO has been to ride until I hurt something and then add a piece of equipment to compensate. Not the best idea as I seem to get injured a lot. That said, one only has so much money, and every extra piece of equipment I buy is another thing I have to carry and put on.
Most important to least: Helmet > impact short > wrist guard > upper armor > knee pad
Things I currently use:
- Helmet: RED Mutiny II. It's ok. I think I will upgrade to a Solomon Prophet Custom Air next. I want to get a brighter dome for backcountry work too.
- Impact Shorts: This is the toughest to get dialed in imo. I've settled on the Skeletools Impact Short for now. I needed hip and ass protection (with FULL coverage of those areas), and these have the plastic outer shell I like. Plus all the pads are removeable, so I can get rid of the ones on the lower part of my thighs that I never seem to need. Increases my maneuverability. Absolutely hated Crashpads and a set of demons I got. One was too thin and had no shock absorption, and the other didn't give full coverage.
- Wrist Guards: Flexmeters have blown away everthing else I've tried. The progressive flex is awesome, and these things just flat out work. I think the single sided is the way to go, as the double sided only seems important for skateboarding. The single sided are easier to fit under gloves too.
- Upper body armor: This is perhaps the second toughest to get dialed in. It depends on your needs. I wanted some spine protection, a bit of clavical and rib protection (as I broke some ribs this year). I've been through some demon, crashpad and skeletools and all have their pluses and minuses. I started investigating moto/bmx pads and found Troy Lee Designs BP 7850. It's totally customizeable, allowing me to eliminate most of the padding in the front, which I prefer. It's warm, but breathable. The padding is a double layer honeycomb material (see pad on right hand in pic), the bottom layer being very soft, while the upper is very stiff (but still moves). It's not bulky at all, much less so than the skeletools UBA. Also, it works. I went backwards through the air and slammed my spine into a tree on Tuesday (don't ask), and I'm left with only a small contusion.
- Knee pads: This really depends on what you are doing and what you are looking for in a pad. My main criteria was flexibility, fit (I didn't want to feel them, and hard shell protection (for East Coast tight trees and ice). I only needed minimal shock absorption. I decided on the Black Diamond Telekneesis. These fit all my criteria to an absolute capital T. Added bonus: they are super light, easy on and off without removing boots, and are better at shock absorption than I thought. These own ice and trees.
I haven't hurt an elbow yet, but if I do, I may upgrade to the long sleeved version of the TLD body armor above (there are some good shots of this here