…there’s just bad clothing. I can’t take credit for that expression but I love it.
We’re experiencing a wet winter here in San Francisco and we’ve already had more rain this month than I can remember from winters past. H’s preschool sent everyone an email about appropriate clothing the other day — both so the kids can enjoy “recess” and because they spend a day a week in the woods. In my adult life, I’ve lived in winter climates and done a lot of outdoorsy things and I learned how to dress for the weather but growing up in California, that wasn’t something I knew about. Recently, I’ve realized that there are plenty of grown ups around who don’t know how to dress for the weather — whether it be for themselves or their little ones. Here’s my tutorial on the subject. If you live somewhere snowy you’ve probably got this all figured out already!
Now is a great time to pick up winter styles like fleecy hats and down jackets on sale. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, try eBay, Amazon, or 6pm.com. Certain things like the adorable Boden baby hats and my favorite Patagonia mittens definitely sell out so you might make note for next fall!
EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE
RAIN BOOTS are pretty obvious and you’ve probably figured this out already! For all these outdoor things, you can search places like eBay or your local consignment store for gently used versions or try 6pm.com or Amazon for sale styles from great brands like Hatley and Western Chief. Solids are harder to find but LLBean has classic ones.
The RAIN COAT is another no-brainer and there are of course countless adorable options to choose from. If you expect your child to play in the rain for extended periods of time, look for a heavier rubberized option. Lightweight polyester or nylon jackets are usually water resistant which means it will work to a point but eventually soak through. Houlton’s green dog coat is made by Hartstrings (we found it on sale) and it’s a size 4 but he’s been wearing it since he was 2. At first it was like a cowboy duster — ankle length — but now he’s growing out of it. Chessie’s yellow coat is from Gap. This LLBean option matches the pants (keep reading) and is waterproof and lightweight — great for warm rainy days.
RAIN PANTS are a game changer. With your child covered from head to toe, you can still go out and play on wet days (though keep in mind the playground may be dangerously slippery). We’ve had a great time this winter taking puddle stomping walks or exploring the woods on drizzly days. We have these ones from LLBean but a lot of retailers carry them.
LONG UNDERWEAR is such a great secret weapon – even if you don’t live in a snowy climate. You want a synthetic (like polyester) not cotton as it will keep you warm when wet, wick moisture away from your skin (which keeps you comfortable), and breathes (again, comfortable). Every sporty brand has technical details on their website but the bottom line is that layering with a base layer will keep you comfortable if you’re moving around a lot and warmer. It’s climate control for your body — you won’t get quite so chilly when the sun dips behind a cloud or you stop for lunch on your hike.
WARM HATS are cute but also, like long underwear, somewhat magical. You may have heard but we loose heat from our heads. If you’re ever worried that your child isn’t warm enough, you can start by throwing on a hat. Given that they’re smaller to pack than an extra jacket, they’re a great choice when you aren’t sure if you’ll be chilly. There are lots of options out there from LLBean to Hanna Andersson to Etsy. We love this Boden style for babies (they seem to do a version every year) as well as Patagonia and these cute dino ones from REI.
WARM SOCKS– also magical. Again, secret weapon. You can wear your normal clothes but if you have warm and comfy feet you’re going to be happier. Wool has great natural properties for warmth and breathability which again, provides climate control. And even people who find wool itchy can often tolerate the soft stretchy socks companies like Smartwool are producing. If you want your kids to play outside in the snow for long periods of time, these are great but you can also use them on rainy or chilly days.
FOR THE SNOW
Having good WINTER BOOTS can really make a difference as they’re insulated (i.e.. a warm lining), water proof, and have good traction for walking on slippery snow. Boots with these qualities cost a lot and even when boots are marketed as “winter boots” they aren’t necessarily weather proof. I emailed Oshkosh earlier this year to ask if their options were waterproof. While I didn’t expect them to be given the reasonable cost, I was surprised to have customer service reply by saying they “weren’t appropriate for use in incliment weather.” Look for words like waterproof or GoreTex, insulated and/or Thinsulate, and ask lots of questions.
I’ve had a lot of success buying second hand snow boots on eBay. Since we only use them a week each year, it just doesn’t make sense to buy something brand new and I’ve found great ones from brands like Kamik, Gap, Timberland, and Crocs for less than twenty dollars. A great pair of wool socks can also make your everyday rain boots warm enough for the snow.
MITTENS or gloves are a must have and these mittens are one of my favorite kids products ever. They are so easy to put on, they actually stay on (which I can’t say for pretty much every other mitten I’ve tried), they’re warm, and they’re water repellant. We’ve been using them for several years now and I think they’re absolutely worth the price tag. To ensure they don’t get lost, try an old fashioned trick — run a sturdy length of yarn through the jacket loop and down the interior of each sleeve. Attach to the mitten’s tags with a secure knot.
WARM COATS are another obvious item. You may have noticed that we are big fans of Patagonia. We love the quality which ensures that younger siblings will have a chance to wear them too but also the reliability of knowing the kids will be warm and dry. Our favorite “California coat” is the Reversible Puff Ball Jacket which seems to be the perfect weight for our temperate climate. Whenever we travel somewhere snowy, we add extra layers underneath to make it suitable. Good coats can be expensive so checking the sale rack at the end of the season (to buy ahead for the following year) is a smart way to shop.
My final word: LAYERS. Lots of layers. Have you ever been cold? You weren’t wearing enough layers. For real. Don’t feel silly wearing 4 or 5 or 6 layers, feel warm. In college when I skied in frigid New Hampshire winters, I wore two layers of long underwear every day topped by an assortment of fleeces, vests, and jackets.
What’s your favorite rain and snow gear? What brands have you found to be reliable?