The Best Kids’ Winter Gear of 2023
Eight kiddos (and their parents) helped us suss out the best cold-weather apparel for little ones
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No one is pickier than a kiddo in the snow. Slush in the boots? Tantrum. Foggy goggles? Meltdown. Numb fingers? Time for hot cocoa. This gear will keep your little ones warm, dry, and on the slopes for as long as possible.
How We Tested
Number of testers: eight (plus parents)
Age rage: 2.5 to 12 years old
Number of products tested: 40+
Number of snow-bound play hours: 100+
We enlisted eight children between 2.5 and 12 years old (and their parents) to help us test gear throughout far Northern California, Southern Oregon, Central Oregon, Northwest Oregon, and Idaho. Temps and conditions varied from sideways snow and 20 mile-per-hour winds in the Siskiyou Mountains to sun-kissed 50-degree spring break magic-carpet ski runs in Sun Valley. What do we look for while we’re testing? As any parent knows, children often have a low tolerance for being cold and wet. To that end, we look for gear that will help facilitate the most comfortable, fun, and safe day in winter conditions. Manufacturer claims are thoroughly vetted in real-life, kid-oriented scenarios, like testing gloves by building multiple snowmen in wet slush. Parents took notes on things like how dry and warm products kept their kids and how they fit, but we listened to what the kids themselves had to say; children, especially young ones, will make it crystal clear if something doesn’t work for them.
Reviews: The Best Kids’ Winter Gear of 2023
Ibex Woolies Kids Baselayer Top and Bottom ($85 each)
This lightweight 18.5 micron (read: wildly supple) merino wool kit took the top spot in a stacked kids baselayer testing group because of its versatility. Both the top and bottom were insulating enough to keep wee testers warm on a 34-degree start-and-stop day learning on a bunny slope underneath a fleecey insulated jacket. On their own, they were breathable enough for a 50-degree apres hot cocoa session and as pajamas for one hot-blooded four-year-old. A slightly loose fit added to the wear-all-night comfort of the crew top.
Bottom Line: This is the most comfortable wool base layer kit you can get your kid this season.
Namuk Crusade Upcycled Snow Pants ($199)
These insulated waterproof bottoms are warm enough to keep a seven-year-old ripping in sideways 29-degree snow and feature-rich like an adult pant. An upcycled polyester shell and Primaloft Bio lining deliver a durable exterior and next-to-skin coziness. But it’s the details that matter here: an interior velcro dual waist adjustment that an eight-year-old found easy to use, five velcro pockets for snacks and hot-cocoa money, and elastic cuffs that allowed the pants to seamlessly slip over ski boots. These grown-up features are tempered with radical neon geometric designs that parents wish they could pull off wearing.
Size: 2T-13 y/o
Bottom Line: Business in the features department, party in the design.
Helly Hansen Kids’ Rider 2.0 Insulated Jacket ($140)
An absolutely bomber waterproof insulated jacket is a key tool for winter enjoyment, regardless of age. The Rider 2.0 was the best kids option we tested this year. Helly Hansen’s proprietary PFC-free DWR-treated waterproof-breathable exterior admirably repelled the elements, leaving kids bone-dry at the end of a four hour ski day with myriad falls. Articulated arms lent themselves to snowball throwing and a brushed fleece collar helped rescue little chins from undo chapping. Toddler testers of both genders found it warm enough for 10 runs at 20 degrees in the howling wind. It was also waterproof enough for three hours of uninterrupted play time in 40-degree pouring rain, making it one of the most impermeable in our test.
Size: 1-12 y/o
The Bottom Line: Serious protection for maximizing your kiddos comfort in the roughest conditions.
Wildhorn Helmet Spire Youth Snow Helmet and Shilo Youth Snow Goggles Combo ($90)
Every adult knows the plight of a poor-fitting helmet-google combo: foggy vision and chapped foreheads. For most kids under six, it’s a one-way ticket to meltdown town. This pairing from Wildhorn worked in perfect harmony to keep gaper-gap at bay and airflow going directly from cutouts at the top of the helmet vents into the goggles. Eleven vents spread smartly from the base of the neck to the forehead delivered plenty of breathability on a 55-degree spring day in Sun Valley, Idaho. The ratcheting adjustment knob was easy enough for a toddler to use and allowed for a comfortable fit on most head sizes ranging from age 2.5 to 8.
Size: 3-8 y/o
The Bottom Line: Drama-free protection with great adjustability.
Baffin Pinetree Kids Youth Boots ($110)
The warmest boots are often the biggest pain to get on and off your kid’s feet because they are thick with insulation, have a high cuff height, and often a small opening at the top to keep snow and water out. Not so with the Pinetrees. These boots were plenty warm and waterproof for a four-year-old to spend six hours Christmas tree hunting in the snow on a 35-degree day. Credit the seven-layer insulation system, a mix of synthetic and natural materials, heat-reflecting membranes, and moisture-wicking liners. Still, they were easy to don and doff in under a minute thanks to a generous opening and cinchable drawstring-toggle system. Bonus: the grippy rubber outsoles kept our little testers upright (most of the time).
Size: 11-2 (4-8 y/o)
The Bottom Line: A rare case of best-in-class warmth and ease-of-use.
Darn Tough OTC Kids Ski Socks
The best footwear in the world is useless when paired with the little cotton socks that fill most kids’ drawers. There are lots of great, non-cotton alternatives for small feet, but this year, the OTC Kids’ Ski socks took the cake—they managed to keep a four-year-old’s toes toasty in ill-fitting ski boots during a three hour, sub-30-degree ski day. Credit the medium thickness wool blend and excellent fit that insulated little toes without bunching up. That breathable insulation gets a boost from the extra-high, over-the-calf design, which keeps calves warm when ski pants ride up. One parent noted that the extra tall coverage was key to keeping snow off bare legs on days when their little dude fell over a dozen times.
The Bottom Line: Warmth and extra coverage make these a must-have for young skiers.
Gordini Wrap Around Gloves ($30)
Most littles are stuck wearing mittens all season, since gloves are such a chore to get on and off. But, while mittens offer superior warmth, they severely limit dexterity. The Wrap Around gloves circumvent the issue: they completely split at the wrist so you can easily pull them over little squirmy fingers. The cuff, which wraps around and secures to itself using velcro, is tight enough to keep snow out during falls and held strong: these gloves never failed to keep toddlers’ hands warm and fully dry on a Mt. Ashland ski day in the high 30s.
The Bottom Line: Wintertime dexterity without the struggle.
CamelBak Eddy+ Kids 12oz Bottle, Insulated Stainless Steel ($25)
There are two non-negotiable features that every good kids’ drinking vessel needs in order to be useful in freezing temperatures: it must be insulated and it must not leak. The narrow, kid-sized Eddy+ model didn’t spill so much as a drop while rattling around in a ski boot bag for an entire season, and it never froze up—even after being left overnight in the bed of a truck with lows in the 20s. When the flippable straw-lid was open, liquids flowed freely and easily into testers’ mouths—including when lying down after being tucked into bed.
The Bottom Line: Leak-proof and well-insulated, this bottle is nearly freeze-proof.
Skida Kids Balaclava ($34)
If a hat is uncomfortable, kids will remove it. If a balaclava is uncomfortable, kids won’t even let it near their heads. Not even our pickiest little testers protested when donning this cozy, brushed poly-spandex hood from Vermont-based Skida. It’s lightweight and easy to breathe through—even during a 38-degree, three-hour ski session on Mt. Ashland in Southern Oregon.
The Bottom Line: Breathable comfort for cold faces.
Town Hall Down Town Puffy Jacket ($160)
The Down Town Puffy was our favorite apres kids jacket. It wears like the fashion-adjacent down puffy every adult resident of every mountain town in America owns, but also has some solid pre-teen flair in the form of color pops and a-symmetrical baffling. As an added bonus, both the PFC-free DWR-coated polyester shell fabric and down insulation are made entirely from 100-percent recycled materials. Its high loft proved perfectly warm for apres ski hot cocoas on days ranging from the high 30s to low 40s and can double as an insulating layer under a shell on the coldest days.
Size: XS-XL (5-14 y/o)
The Bottom Line: A handsome puffy for aspiring mountain town youngsters.
How to Buy
When it comes to outer layers, go burly. Heavy-duty waterproofing is considerably more important than breathability for small children. When it comes to anything that will touch the skin, buy based on feel: touch baselayers before buying them to double-check that they are comfortable next-to-skin (itchy, chafed, kids are unhappy campers no matter how well the layer warms or wicks).
Above all: consider buying used. Kid’s apparel is arguably the best category of outdoor gear to go bargain hunting for. Most children’s soft goods that you’ll find at a consignment shop are only lightly used because kids, especially younger ones, outgrow their clothing in a single season. As an added bonus, when your own wee ones outgrow them, you can deliver them right back to the same consignment store and potentially recoup part of your small investment.