Hurray for cold weather seasons! Instead of sulking indoors waiting for summer, get your snow gear on and see the great outdoors in a new light. Literally, that snow makes it so bright! Kids love snow, it’s the perfect time of year to get them out exploring the world around them.
Winter is beautiful, but does pose a couple of considerations; snow and cold. To ensure your little explorers have a grand experience out on the trail, dress them for the weather with the appropriate gear.
Really, the best thing to do is to dress in layers. I like to have one layer more on my child than I have on myself. This way if I start to get chilled, I know they are close and I can act before they get too cold. There are different levels of layers and every one of them is important. The best part about layers, you can shed them if you’re too warm, and put them back on as you cool off. Bring a backpack to carry unused items.
Tip: Remember that no clothing should be too snug. Restricting blood flow will only cause areas to become colder faster. A main area of concern is the feet. Wearing too many socks or having a boot that is too constricting can be counterproductive in keeping warm.
Long Johns VS Thermals: These are the same thing. There are different styles though. They are snug and hug the body for warmth. I’ve tried the old fashioned waffle fabric style and the thin silky lining style with my kids. So far the favorite is the tighter, thinner style. They fit nicely under other clothes, are usually moisture wicking, and move smoothly with other fabrics.
What we’ve found with the waffle style is that, while they are comfortable on their own, once they are under the second layer they become bunchy, uncomfortable, and don’t move well with other fabrics.
Moisture Wicking is important because moisture freezes in the cold air. While moving around on the hiking or skiing trail, it’s important to stay dry. Once the body becomes damp, the chill sets in, hence the need for a moisture wicking layer.
Upper: Long sleeve thermal moisture wicking shirt
Lower: Thermal moisture wicking pants.
Optional: Thin moisture wicking socks
This layer will be the first layer to trap heat. After staying dry with moisture wicking gear, next we start trapping heat. This layer shouldn’t be too constrictive or too loose, make it just right, like Goldilocks.
The mid-layer is where you can really customize your clothing to fit your cold weather needs. My son stays warmer than my daughter, so their layering is slightly different. Play around with this layer and see what works for your little ones.
Upper: Thin long sleeve t-shirt (this could be that long john style layer) & Sweatshirt
Lower: Thick sweat pants or Fleece lined leggings (or both if you have a chilly baby)
Hands: Thin, fitted gloves.
Feet: Thick wool socks.
Insulation & Shell
This next layer traps warm air which is the key to insulation. Trapping warm air around the body is how the wild critters stay warm. Have you ever watched a mammal or bird in winter? They’re all puffed up, they are using their hair/feathers to trap warm air around their body. We should follow suit if we want to stay warm, too.
The final insulation layer often doubles at the shell, keeping out the elements like snow and wind. Most winter coats in the colder parts of the world are made with puffy, soft insides and a water and wind resistant outer layer.
Upper: Puffy, waterproof jacket (with zipper, not just buttons)
Lower: Snow pants (these vary in degree rating and thickness, check labels before purchasing)
Hands: Thick waterproof mittens (gloves work too, but hands stay warmer in mittens)
Feet: Waterproof winter boots with low temp cold weather rating (should be loose enough to wiggle toes in them, yet snug enough that they don’t fly off)
Tip for Boot Buying: Bring your favorite pair of warm socks along shopping so you’ll know if the boots will fit well with thick socks. Sometimes it’s necessary to purchase a size up to accommodate bulky socks and still be able to wiggle toes.
Kids who are bundled up properly are going to have a great memorable experience in a winter wonderland. When there is a lack of insulating warmth, the only thing they’ll remember is the cold. It will be hard to get them out again after a solid freeze. I’ve learned from experiencing both with my kids.
Hat: Yes, they need a hat. My daughter insists that her hood is enough, but she’s always the first one to be cold. They need a hat. Thick and warm that covers the ears.
Headbands & Earmuffs: These are cute and work great for warmer winter days and short outings. I wouldn’t recommend them for cold days. A lot of heat is lost through the head. We only use headbands for days we will be aggressively skiing, and even then, we bring a backup hat in our packs just in case.
Neck Gaiter: These are a great accessory that helps to block out the wind. They can be warn in a variety of ways for both cold and warm winter days.
- Up over the head and stretched down the neck to the chin, held in place by a warm hat.
- Over the face to keep cheeks warm.
- Just around the neck to keep the wind out without being too constrictive.
- As a sweatband when the temps rise.
Scarf: For a thicker material to keep the wind off of the neck, use a scarf. Rather than wrapping it around the neck and risking strangulation or constrictive feelings, place it behind the neck and cross it over the chest before putting a coat on. Tuck the ends under arms to keep it in place.
Hot Hands: We love brining Hot Hands packs out on the trail with us. These come in single packs and are activated when the package is opened and the pouch is shaken. These come in a variety of sizes. Large to stick on the back, toe sizes to place in boots, and small ones to place inside mittens.
Note: If we are heading out on a windy or cooler day, I’ll open the pack before we even get out of the Pathfinder to get the warmers started. They can take a few minutes to really heat up, but then they are ready when we need them.
Reusable Warming Packs: These are a great way to have warming packs that are less wasteful and save money. The drawbacks are that they can sometimes activate accidentally in a pocket or pack, and that they don’t last as long as the single use ones (15-20 minutes). We use them on shorter hikes.
Electronic Hand Warmer: This is a great alternative to both of the above warming solutions. It’s rechargeable and not too bulky. It is initially more spendy than the other options, but lasts longer. Don’t forget to charge it before you head out, though.
**Warning** These warming devices should not be used for children who put things in their mouths, cannot communicate clearly if something is too hot, or are at risk for breaking a pack open.
SNACKS!! Yes, bring snacks and not just for the kids. The body keeps itself warmer when it has something to digest. Higher carb and protein foods will keep the body warm and fueled for the trail.
Snacks: Taking snack breaks while hiking or skiing is a great way to slow down and enjoy the winter wonderland around you. There are some great snack suggestions on Trail Snacks for Kids & Toddlers.
Hot cocoa: Is there a better treat than hot chocolate on a wintery trail? Pack some homemade chocolate chip cookies for dipping, too! The perfect way to spend a break is to watch the wintery woods with a mug of hot cocoa.