Fall is my favorite time to go hiking with Doug. There is just something about an overcast 50 degree day that screams let’s go hiking to me. I was never like this before children, but since having one, 50s and overcast has become my favorite weather. In fall the trails aren’t muddy like they are in spring, the trees put on a magical display of colors, and the crunch of the leaves underfoot is very satisfying. 50 degrees means a light layer like a fleece jacket will do, and overcast means you won’t encounter pockets of hot sunny areas immediately followed by cold shadowy areas. Brrr.
Winter hiking can be especially magical too. After a blanket of snow has fallen there is a silence in the world you do not get to experience any other time of year. But for winter hiking and snowy day play we need to break out some more serious gear. The good folks over at Tinkergarten have put together some wonderful tips on how to properly layer for wintertime play, but here I would like to delve into some more specifics.
I am all about the layering system so a 3-in-1 winter coat system sells me every time. These can be broken down to wear as a lightweight jacket, a rain coat, and then put together to make a more serious winter coat.
Like this toddler’s Northface Triclimate Jacket breaks down into a fleece and waterproof outer shell. Coats like these are a great value knowing you will be making the most of the layers over the course of the year. The biggest draw back to these systems is the time it can take separating the layers and putting them back together again. My husband rarely uses his 3-in-1 as anything other than a winter coat. To be fair, he already owns other lightweight jackets that he prefers to wear instead of unzipping the layers in his winter coat, and he won’t be outgrowing any of these coats anytime soon. When looking for coats for growing children buying one system, one size up means that coat will go far!
Another cool feature to look for on children’s outerwear is growth cuffs! This Columbia coat/ snow suit set for babies and toddlers has some great options for growing kids. The bib of the snow suit and the hood of the jacket have Velcro adjustments. The cuffs on both the pants and coat have a colored thread you can pull to extend them another 1-1/2″ down. We were gifted this set in a 2T when Doug turned 1 and got 2 winters and even into this fall of use out of it. I did buy a smaller coat for everyday wear that first year though because 2 sizes up is ok for outdoor play but was really bulky otherwise.
Speaking of bulk, Puffers are a great way to ditch the padding! Lightweight puffers, like this Columbia Lite Puffer, are easy to pack for trips, are warmer then fleeces on their own, and easily washed. Some 3-in-1 systems come with a puffer layer instead of the fleece too. Here in New England I see babies and kids wear these light weight coats all winter long, by adding warm layers underneath. We are all about layering here in New England!
I don’t know about you, but my child LOVES his boots. It was not uncommon to see Doug in just his rain boots and a diaper once he learned to walk. If there is a puddle in his sights he will be jumping in it. It pains me to tell him no puddle jumping when I put him in sneakers, and he often won’t listen anyways.
Luckily, rain boots for kids are often cheap. We loved, loved, loved these Western Chief Froggy Rain boots! Doug wore these so much, and so often they are going in the special, never to be donated or thrown away, baby items pile. Doug loved these not only for the freedom to jump in puddles, but also for the independence they brought him. These were the first pair of shoes he could take on and off himself.
While rain boots can be worn with a pair of heavy socks, for snow play you really need heavier, insulated boots. Winter boots, in my mind, need to be waterproof for slush, have good tread for grip, insulated for warmth, and easily slipped on and off. This year I went with these Kamik Snobusters and couldn’t be happier with them. The inner liner of these boots come out for easy drying, the tops can be closed to prevent snow falling in them, the outer boot is rugged, and they are easily slipped on and off. Bogs are always highly recommended by moms in my area too. We had them last year but Doug did not love them. Bogs have a soft neoprene structure that was not easy for him to stand and slip his foot into, so while they kept him warm and dry he was always upset he wasn’t wearing his froggy boots. Whichever winter boots you choose do size up to make room for thicker or even doubled up socks.
Get yourself and your kids proper snow pants and you can play for hours out in the cold, wet snow. Bib pants are generally warmer, and adjustable for growth. The bib is also better at keeping snow from falling down the waist when making snow angels. Regular styled snow pants however might be easier to get on and feel more familiar to little kids. Certainly Doug forgets about needing to wear snow pants every year and is reluctant to put them on. My favorite trick is to put his snow gear right over his pajamas. Cotton pjs can act like long unders wicking moisture from the skin, and so far I have found the insulation from his snow suit and coat to be enough to keep him warm while playing without getting too hot. Proper long underwear is much thicker then your standard pj set, but for now I am sticking with what I already own.
The links used in this post are Amazon affiliate links. However, I would certainly encourage you to shop around for good deals and even consider buying used. Just this week I returned a pair of LL Bean snow pants that were much too big and got an amazing deal on a better fitting pair at the Carters right next door. If Doug hadn’t been toast at that point in the day I would have bought 2 pairs to leave one at school for him. The important part is that your child is properly equipped to enjoy the cold weather. It is important for children to play outside all year long in all kinds of weather. Getting out in the cold weather builds resilience and fights off seasonal depression. So as Doug likes to say, “Happy Snowy Day!”