When my daughter was born two years ago, I made a promise to bring her with me on as many runs and skijoring outings with my Thule Chariot as possible—inclement weather be damned. This commitment has proven significantly tougher to keep than I anticipated. While the Chariot itself is fantastic for moving efficiently in the outdoors with a child, it has been tough to keep her cozy, entertained, and comfortable in there, which is necessary to keep my promise. However, with the right combination of gear, I’ve been able to maximize both her satisfaction while riding in the Chariot and her fun when we stop to play in the cold.
A quick caveat: the products I mention in this article are expensive. There are ways to get your kids outside in the cold while keeping them safe and warm that don’t involve many hundreds of dollars’ worth of gear. But through my job, I’m constantly testing and enjoying thoughtfully designed, well-built outdoor products (which are often accompanied by a high price tag), and I want my daughter to be as comfortable as me. If she’s miserable, it doesn’t matter how good my gear is—our day is over.
Patagonia Capilene Bottoms ($25) and Crew ($25)
Whether they’re cozied up in a stroller or charging through the snow, next-to-skin moisture management is just as important for kiddos as it is for adults. Patagonia’s Capilene products have been my go-to synthetic insulators since long before I worked for Outside, thanks to how well they mitigate moisture, so I trust them on my child. And as anyone who has tried to dress a toddler who does not want to be dressed knows, it’s usally frustrating, makes you feel like a terrible parent, and is extremely time consuming. The fact that my daughter, Jojo, has never struggled when putting on this silky top and bottoms is a huge win.
The North Face Infant Denali One-Piece ($80)
If I’m going to be honest, I got this retro onesie in yellow for my daughter because I thought it would look damned cute on her. (I was right!) Soon I fell in love with it as a technical piece for freezing playgrounds and building snowmen, because it kept her warm and was easy to get on and off. The diagonal, off-center zipper opens wide, making it really easy to slip her into it—even when she’s feeling extra squirmy. With one quick zip, I can guarantee that both her legs and upper body have a solid extra layer of warmth for our adventures. While the one-piece makes changing diapers a hassle (particularly when coupled with the bibs below), I would rather deal with that in the field than have a hard time getting out the door.
Patagonia Baby Snow Pile Bibs ($119) and Jacket ($119)
Patagonia absolutely nailed this combo. I got Jojo a full size up from what she needs, to guarantee at least two seasons and hopefully a third, and Jojo easily gets after it while staying warm and relatively dry. The other day, we played for over two hours while it snowed nearly three inches on us—after a half-mile walk, heaps of snow eating and throwing, and pretending to swim in the stuff, she was perfectly happy—yet she didn’t look like the little brother from A Christmas Story. There was a period of time when I swore by down bunting for snowy stroller outings, and while it certainly has its place, I find that this set allows her to get her wiggles out more efficiently when I stop.
My First Hestra Mittens ($50)
Cold hands suck for anyone and are a lightning-fast way to bum your kiddo out, especially when snowballs or snowpeople are on the line. I personally trust my digits to Hestra Fall Lines in both the resort and backcountry, so it only felt right to get premium mittens from the Swedish company for Jojo. Their PrimaLoft insulation has kept her hands warm, and even though they’re not gloves, she can still play like crazy in them. These are a full size too large for her (I’m banking on getting two winters out of them), but they have proven dexterious enough to hold tightly to frozen swing chains and my coat hem while navigating icy trails.
Bogs Neo-Classic Boots ($85)
Jojo has never seen a puddle she did not want to dominate. Warm, waterproof boots are key to sustained play in the cold and wet—as well as a comfortable ride home. She has a pair of the generic yellow kind from a second-hand store, which were awesome for the fall, but when things froze up, we went for these insulated ones from Bogs. On top of having a tread that helps her navigate slippery slush, she can get them on herself thanks to the handles, which is a win for the entire family as we dress to get out the door.
Buff Knitted Fleece Hat ($25) and Junior Original ($19)
Jojo is more likely to keep soft synthetic hats on her head, but they still almost always end up landing in snow or a puddle anyway. This specific one also happens to be very cute. As for the Buff: to be honest, she isn’t crazy about it. That isn’t going to stop me from packing it, though. Her little face gets so cold during longer windy outings that I always bring something to cover her smile if it starts to freeze.
Smartwool Toddler Socks (from $19)
It’s ridiculous how hard it is to keep track of a toddler’s socks. While most of Jojo’s drawer is filled with cheap cotton hand-me-downs or gifts, I make sure I have a pair of these from Smartwool for our coldest adventures. No matter how fantastic her Bogs are, Jojo is going to find the deepest snow she can, which increases the likelihood that moisture will sneak in. On top of staying warm while wet, these socks dry extremely fast. The other day she got completely soaked as the result of a deep-puddle mishap, so I hung these socks under a heat lamp to dry. We were able to get back out and play in the same pair after a 20-minute snack.
Rumpl Blanket ($159)
The Rumpl Blanket is amazing to keep my daughter super cozy inside her stroller. One bonus over all this other gear is how I can tailor-wrap her based on what part of her is cold. Soaking-wet socks from aggressive puddle jumping? No problem, just double-wrap the feet.
Stasher Bag ($12)
An outdoor mentor of mine, who is a father of three, gave me the following advice when Jojo was first born: “The success of your outings with her will have a direct correlation with the amount of snacks you pack.” On top of feeling like a treat (I give her way more sweets on adventures than I do in everyday life), eating keeps her occupied and makes her warmer. Jojo can open and close the reusable Stasher bag herself, and I find it really easy to fill up with goodies (like gorp with extra chocolate chips) so she can be autonomous in her munching while I enjoy my workout.
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