When I was a child growing up in rural northern Illinois, I LOVED playing in the snow but was always miserably cold.
For living in a place so bitter cold, I really was never taught how to properly dress for snow.
I had old snow pants with a hole in them, a Bulls coat, and boots that weren’t really waterproof. I wore my pajamas underneath and knew to layer, but not how to properly layer. I remember knowing which friends would go home first on a snow day. Some had the nicest gear and others literally wore jeans to go sledding. Some would last 10 minutes, some kids would be out all day. I remember always being soaked to the bone by the time I came home, with a bright red face, frozen fingers, and sweaty armpits! Haha
Fast forward to 22 year old me and I very spontaneously move to Breckenridge, CO…
Where I have never seen so much snow in my life and everyone in town is head to toe bundled up in the nicest snow gear I ever did see. No one seemed to notice the cold!
I learned about wool base layers there and once we had our kiddo a year later when we moved down to Denver, I knew wool layers were going to be a must to keep my kiddo warm when we spent weekends up in the snowy mountains.
Now I thought wool was wool. I had no idea there was the itchy awful wool and the incredibly soft merino wool, or anything in between. The first set of wool base layers I got for my son Liam were mixed with other materials and were a bit scratchy on his very sensitive skin. I think he wore those maybe twice before we donated them.
During the 8 years we spent living in Denver, the one thing I would hear over and over again from tourists and family that came to visit- how surprised they were of the mild winters and constant sunshine. Movies always depicted Denver as this frozen city that would get dumped with snow, and that’s not true at all. It could snow one day and the next all melt and be in a t-shirt in the sun in the park.
Then we moved here to Montana two years ago and was I in for a surprise. Winter is long here. I mean LONG. It starts in October and isn’t really gone until a couple weeks after Easter. And it really snows here. Our first winter here it started snowing around Christmas and it seemed to never stop! My hubby shoveled a LOT of snow that year. We are a family that spends a lot of time outside, so dressing properly here is a necessity. The number one goal : STAY DRY. Read on for my tips on how to properly dress your child for winter in Montana.
The base layers are just as important as your outer layer! I really think that base layers are the secret to keeping your kiddos warm and happy in the Winter. Base layers could mean the difference between your kiddo being happy and warm or cold and miserable.
Our favorite brand of merino wool is Simply Merino. This small family-run business is located in Canada and makes the softest organic merino wool layers.
Why merino wool?
Merino is a type of sheep that has really soft and fine wool. It is a renewable fiber, which means that it is able to replace itself naturally on its own. As long as there is grass for the sheep to eat, and water for them to drink, then their fleece will grow every year.
Unlike other types of wool, Merino wool is static resistant, meaning it attracts fewer dust particles and lint making it ideal for babies and infants with allergies. Many people have suggested that Merino wool also reduces the symptoms of eczema. My son has very sensitive skin so he is very picky about what clothes he will wear. He loves these layers and pretty much lives in them!
Merino wool is lightweight, super soft, comfortable to wear, and has some antibacterial properties.
Merino wool is also incredibly durable! As I said earlier, my son pretty much lives in these layers. I have washed them several times and they still look brand new and still feel as soft as ever.
Merino wool is also naturally odor and stain resistant – an important factor when it comes to children’s clothes- especially for my wild child!
Merino wool wicks away moisture!
So what do you need to stay dry and warm?
Here are the three layers you need:
- The base layer to wick away moisture
- The mid-layer to retain heat (my son likes his thin but warm fleece zip-up
- The outer layer or shell to protect you from the snow, wind, and rain
COAT Large puffy bulky coats don’t always mean you are going to be warmer. The most important thing to me for the outer shell is for it to be high-quality and waterproof. My son’s coat this year has held up so far and it’s reversible with a soft fleece lining. It’s one of the more affordable North Face coats out there. The only thing missing is a hood, but my son does run warm so he usually doesn’t wear the hood anyways.
HAT When the temperature really drops, my son will wear his Simply Merino wool beanie and then his trapper hat over that. I like these trapper style hats because they clip under the chin so when my son is really running or sledding, his hat won’t fly off. He also tends to get itchy in just about anything he puts on his head, so this beanie helps that a lot. Keeping your child’s ears covered is important, so make sure you get a hat that fits nicely over their little ears!
GLOVES Though mittens seem to be the warmer option, my son will not wear them. He is very particular about his gloves and always wants to take them off. We have had great luck with the Dakine Gore-Tex gloves so far this year.
NECK WARMER My kiddo really loves thin soft stretchy neck warmers that he can easily pull up over his mouth and nose himself. When the wind is whipping at your face and your nose hairs are freezing, it’s definitely nice to be able to cover your face quickly.
BOOTS This is our second Winter wearing the Bogs boots we got from Murdochs, and I am continuously impressed with the quality. My son wears these as rain boots, mud boots, and winter boots. He has chased and fed cows in these, hiked in them, snow-shoed in them… and they are still holding up! They are insulated and waterproof and come with handles or no handles. My son preferred the look of no handles on the boots, but for younger children, this would be a great feature for them to easily pull the boots on themselves.
SOCKS Just like our wool base layers, we want some high quality wool socks to keep their little feet warm and dry and wick away moisture. Make sure you get the correct size, too. There is nothing more frustrating than when your sock keeps falling down in your boot. Avoid those melt-downs!
This can all seem crazy expensive when you start adding it all up. A good Winter coat is not cheap, and then add in those layers, snow pants, and accessories… it can really add up. If you are on a tight budget, my advice to you is to always search for those after-season sales. We live in a ski town with plenty of local winter gear shops that will mark everything way down in the Spring. Even Cabela’s, Murdoch’s, possibly REI will have great sales, too. That’s what we do and it saves us hundreds of dollars. If you have multiple children, think of these pieces as investments. When you buy well-made items, you can hand them down from child to child. Sure, the cute printed Target boots are a 1/4 of the price of the Bogs, but if you have a wild child like ours, you know that cheap stuff just doesn’t last long at all. We have learned over the years that it’s just smarter to spend the extra money in the long run. And if you have one child like us, you can try selling their used gear on Facebook marketplace or at consignment shops. You may even be able to get half of what you paid back in your pocket! I also always look at the warranties, if any, on the gear we buy. Is there a warranty through the brand or store? Keep that receipt and put it in a special file folder labeled “warranties” so if that $120 jacket rips the first season, you can return it.
If you missed the savings of shop small Saturday over at Simply Merino, I have a special discount code just for my readers! Use code MYMOUNTAINWILD for 10 % off!
The beauty of layering properly is that if you’re too warm, you can just take off one layer at a time! This past weekend we chopped our Christmas tree down and had a little fire and hot cocoa in the forest. It was a warm day and sitting next to the fire, my son was melting. He took off his jacket and fleece and was able to show off his new wool layers from Simply Merino.
I hope this gives you some ideas on how to bundle up your little snow babies! Remember, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. Don’t stay cooped up this Winter. Venture out and have an adventure. And don’t forget your thermos of hot cocoa!
A huge thank you to Shannon, owner of Simply Merino, for sending us these amazing wool base layers for review. As always, all opinions are my own.
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