The other day, our two youngest (5 and 8) woke up, got dressed, came downstairs and made some breakfast. They then got on all of their winter gear (from wool socks to balaclavas) and were outside working on a snow slide by 9am. With zero help from me. It got me to thinking others might wonder about good winter gear. So, here’s our list!
Note 1: Getting children to keep it all on (top photo) is a whole other ball of wax. And once you hit the teen years (bottom photo)? All bets are off to even get it on in the first place. If you have tips in this realm, do share!
Note 2: Winter gear can be pricey, and in this case it’s true that you do get what you pay for. One way we’ve mitigated this expense is to include certain items in our holiday gifts for the kids. We follow a little phrase – something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read – and warm wool socks, balaclavas, or long underwear can fit into the something you need or something to wear categories!
This is not an affiliate post. Just our honest opinion based on years of spending time in the great outdoors. In Manitoba. In the winter.
What is with winter mitts? Some of them actually seem like they’re designed to capture and funnel snow into your wrists. We love Gordini mitts, thanks to their long, elasticized cuffs that go well up and over parka sleeves, keeping snow out and warmth in.
Toques are great for to and from the car and short outings, but when we’re seriously out in the elements for a while, nothing beats a balaclava. This keeps the head warm and protects those precious cheeks. I don’t have a specific recommendation, as we haven’t tried many brands. Something that wicks moisture away from the skin is great, because it gets steamy in there. Also, a parka with an effective hood helps a lot – something that can be tightened around the head, to block out wind.
Balaclavas can provide some protection in this area, especially if the parka comes up nice and snug as well. We have had some luck with neck warmers – some that I’ve knit myself and others that we have purchased over the years. They are nice because they don’t hang all over the place and don’t provide a fun, yet somewhat risky, way to catch a friend in a game. Often, though, we do kick it old school and use great-grandma-knit scarves.
We’ve only ever used MEC parkas and love them. They’re designed well, and have an unbeatable warranty – you can bring your gear in anytime and they will fix it. Almost with no questions asked. MEC is pricey, but you get what you pay for is very accurate with winter gear. You can often find second hand items at their gear swaps or online sites like Kijiji. The red one-piece MEC suit below was a $5 find on Kijiji when our now 8 year old was a baby. We excitedly picked up that score and saved it until our niece who came to live with us was 5 and started wearing it, years later. It was handed down to our son and was awesome for him for years until we retired it. Even more amazing – some of the knee patches and a zipper gave out over that time, and MEC fixed it, without question. Without receipt. *We do not receive anything from MEC for this post!
Under that outer layer, try some thermal long underwear. Wool would be our number one choice, but our pockets are not quite that deep. In fact, we don’t have tops yet at all – just the leggings. Maybe this year, one of the kids’ four gifts will be these tops.
Again, we’re not affiliated with MEC, but they just really know their stuff when it comes to outdoor gear design. Two great options for legs/bottoms are ski pants with adjustable shoulder straps, or a full one-piece suit. A must-have feature in our books is elasticized cuffs inside the pant legs that can be pulled over your child’s boots to keep snow out. Again, check local swaps and second hand sites online.
To provide an extra layer of warmth under the ski pants, long johns are awesome. Again, our top choice would be wool long underwear, and with four kiddos we’ve settled on these ones from MEC. Thank goodness we have a lot of hand-me-down potential in our home!
And… the photo below also shows what to do when a child loses their mitts – steal uncle’s!
Two must-haves in our home are wool socks and high quality winter boots. Each person in our home has a bin on a shelf by the door, and in the winter those bins carry toques, balaclavas, mitts, scarves/neck warmers and one special pair of socks just for cold winter outings. We love Fox River socks, but you will likely find many great options.
For boots, we’ve had pretty good luck with Kamik and Sorrel – the kids still get cold toes, but that is when we’re out for extended lengths of time. If anyone has a favourite in this department – or any department, please share in the comments, as we’re always looking for new ideas!
Keeping it Together
Yep. Keeping the gear together literally helps me to keep it together. We’ve got a simple shelf and bin system, as well as age-appropriate height hooks for ski pants, jackets and backpacks. For more info on organizing kids’ stuff, check out our free Playroom Remedy e-course.
For more info on outdoor gear, check out our e-book Wild Walks: Engaging Children in the Natural World. The e-book has info on great gear, preparing for nature walks, rhythms to establish, many great learning activities that help kids connect with nature, and more.