Gift Guide 2021 – Outdoor Apparel for Kids

It’s my first Christmas with kids in my life. My sister-in-law and my ski wife both had baby boys early this year, and I’m generally pretty worthless when it comes to small humans, but I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeves for the holiday seasons.

I’m starting with clothes because that’s what I’m good at. And it’s primarily for the tinier nuggets, mainly as a gift to their parents. Birthing parents already sacrifice up to 2 years growing a human and breast feeding. And toddlers can be a little unpredictable. The last thing I want is for weatherproofing to be another obstacle, especially if it’s a day where their tiny one is down to clown. Those challenges get easier as kids get older and more reasonable, and the options for good quality kids’ gear is a lot more plentiful.

When it comes to adventures, little nuggets aren’t great at regulating temperature or adapting to the weather. Most of them can’t even dress themselves, and the ones that can generally lack bodily awareness of when they need to add a layer or reapply sunscreen. These tasks aren’t exactly easy for parents. There’s a reason so many memes liken dressing a toddler to wrestling an alligator. And most outdoor brands are just downsizing adult gear without really thinking through young kids’ cognitive and motor skills. So here are a few ideas for dressing the littlest tykes:

Buntings: I would kill for an insulated onesie like this. Perfect for snow play or cold weather hiking and camping. These aren’t “safe sleep” kosher due to the hood, but some parents use them sparingly as a sleeping bag. That’s a personal risk management choice. These pieces also get pretty gently worn, so it’s a good spot to consider used. Patagonia, The North Face, and Columbia all sell like hot cakes, but they’re all down garments that would need separate washing, special detergent, and time in the drier with tennis balls or sock balls to reloft the down. Not to mention, those styles tend to be overpriced when you compare the stats. Here are a few that caught my eye instead:

  • Roxy Rose and Quicksilver Baby Suit: Roxy and Quicksilver share a design with these onesies, and they’re great for older babies since they’ve got a waterproof membrane. It’s strange that the size run starts at 3 months (most infants won’t be in the snow very much), but it’s great fit for my crawling 9-month-old nephew. It would’ve been a present had my SIL not found the Roxy one gently used on consignment. These styles are filled with 200g/sm of synthetic insulation in the body, 120 in the sleeves, and 80 in the hood. (For reference, most adult fill weights are 40g/sm for light insulation to 80g/sm for the heaviest. Kids’ ski gear ranges from 100 to 250g/sm).
  • Burton Buddy Bunting: This one is filled with 200g/sm of synthetic insulation and is likely one of the warmest options on the market. Burton also has the best kids’ prints, hands down. The Doodle Dot is definitely my favorite.
  • Stonz Snowsuit: Stonz is a Canadian kids’ brand that specializes in equipping little ones for outdoor play, all year round. This one has a lot of zippers: two long ones down the front that go past the knee for easy dressing, and one that goes up and down both inseams for easy diaper changes. It converts into a sleeping bag style that covers their feet for extra warmth. And it also features reflective stripes on the front. It’s a common feature on outerwear for other countries with cold, dark winters, but frustratingly rare in the US. Waterproof to 1500k (which is more like highly water resistant).
  • Obermeyer Kleine Bunting: This one is similar to the Roxy and Quicksilver styles with 10k/10k waterproofing, but it has 180g/sm throughout the body of the bunting, and it also features the double zip for easier dressing. Plus, bear ears.
  • Gap ColdControl Max Puffer One Piece: Gap’s bunting is more of a midweight option and easier on the budget (with holiday discounts, it comes out under $50). It’s also one of the easiest and cheapest to find used since it doesn’t come with the same level of Baby Swag as Patagonia. Make sure it includes “Max” (regular ColdControl is their lightest insulation). And if you’re shopping used, they used to also offer one in ColdControl Ultra Max that rivaled the dedicated outdoor brands.

Here’s a bonus of my nephew dismantling the patriarchy in the Roxy Rose:

Kid Friendly Mittens: I’d just like to have a word with the deranged designers who think you can put a traditional mitten on an infant. Like, honestly, how the fuck is an adult with their fat fingers supposed to get a tiny baby thumb into the tiny thumb pocket. I know it’s insane because I have memories of needing help with gloves and mittens until I was like 6. Thankfully, there are some better options:

  • Stonz Baby Mitts: No thumb holes, 2 bungees (one at the wrist and one at the end of the gauntlet). Easy on and off, and 2 cinchers means better odds of coming home with a complete pair. They’re also waterproof and have a highly durable nylon face fabric – both of which are very rare for baby mittens. And I’m obsessed with the patterns, but solids can also be found here.
  • Veyo Mittyz: The Veyo Mittyz have unique patterning that allows kids to use their thumbs, but it isn’t a fully dedicated thumb pocket. They also feature 2 “layers of security” to keep them on, but unlike Stonz, they go up to larger sizes and max out for 4 to 6-year-olds. The tiger paw designs are to die for.
  • Burton Toddlers’ Grommitt Mittens: These waterproof mittens have a dedicated thumb pocket, but it’s enormous and will likely take less wrestling to get all the kid’s fingers in the right spots.
  • Polarn O. Pyret Zip Mitts: Polarn O. Pyret is a Swedish children’s apparel that blew up thanks to baby fashion icon Prince George. Their known for durability and their goals for every garment to be worn by 3 children. They made the brilliant move of adding a zipper to their toddler mittens to make it faster and easier for parents to get gear on correctly. They have another version here, but they’re smaller, a lower quality fabric, yet also more expensive. Both models are waterproof.

Snow Booties: Stonz is the only brand I’ve found making snow booties for babies. I get it; doctors don’t recommend snow play for kids under 1. But kids still exist in cold places and, let’s be real, people are going to plop their crawling or toddling babies down in the snow for a few minutes at a time. These are baby appropriate since they have a soft sole, which is recommended by pediatricians for kids under 1. They come in basic booties which cover temps down to about 25 degrees (F), or puffer booties for temps down to -4. Both models come with two bungee closures per boot to keep them from falling off and getting lost. They’re only water resistant, but that’s the best offer on the market. For toddlers, there are countless options, but I’d look at Sorel, Bogs, and Kamik for higher performance at a kid-friendly weight.

Wool Baselayers: I know, most adults feel indulgent getting wool pieces for themselves, but hear me out. Wool insulates well when wet. Most younger kids don’t notice when they’re getting sweaty, and manufacturers just don’t make kids’ outerwear with high performance waterproofing.

  • Polarn O. Pyret: PO.P is a Swedish brand with a new US presence and a lot of options for merino for ages 0-12. They have some more unique items, like wool socks with anti-slip grips or wool insoles for extra warmth in kids’ boots. They intend for every piece to endure heavy wear from at least 3 children, and the styling is just as durable with a simple, classic, unisex aesthetic. They do use 100% merino, so it’s best to wash these on delicate cycle with Woolite. For easier care, look below at Reima.
  • Reima: This Finnish company with goods made in Finland. But they’ve recently started US distribution and have reasonable shipping charges. Evo also has a few wool pieces in their Black Friday Sale. Be sure to double check the material content though. Their cutest patterns tend to be 50% acrylic, which is a cheap fiber that gets fuzzy unless it’s one of a few special pill-resistant varieties. Reima prices them the same as their 80/20 wool and polyester blends (and in those cases the synthetic helps make the fabric more durable, especially to wash with the rest of the household detergent)
  • Meriwool: Once kids grow into a size 4 or 5, more options start to pop up. Meriwool is the cheapest at MSRP, and Outdoor Gear Lab gave the men’s version positive reviews. However, REI is currently cheaper for holiday sale pricing.

Sun Gear: As if dressing wiggly nuggets wasn’t difficult enough, you’ve got to slick them down in sunscreen every two hours. Or you pop them in a UPF garment and you’re set for the day. Be sure to buy a size they’ll grow into over the summer, not what they’re wearing now. Note that Patagonia extended their Capilene Cool Daily Hoodie down to infant and toddler sizes this season, but they removed all their UPF claims after their recall on sun protective garments this summer. It’s a great option if it’s protective, but in the meanwhile, I’d look at other options:

  • Sun Suits: These onesies cover everything from the kid’s neck to their ankles. The ones from Stonz look ideal, since they fully unzip to the ankles and have mesh sides for extra ventilation. They seem more versatile between water play and general play, but they look mostly sold out at the moment. UV Skins makes a close competitor that looks a more swim-specific.
  • UV Skins Sunzie: It’s a baby-friendly sun hoody with a onesie snap closure. More prints and colors are available in the girls’ version. (Why are we still gendering baby clothes?) They also make sun sleeves for little baby legs for more coverage.
  • Coolibar Andros Fishing Hoodie: Same fabrics as Coolibar’s adult sun hoodies, which pull strong review for being cool and comfortable. It comes with more features than peer brands offer, like good neck coverage, face coverage, zip pockets, and reflective details if kids stay out past sundown. Lands’ End has a budget-friendly alternative that covers the basics for under $15 (but does have long backorder times for many sizes).

Rain Suit: We just had an atmospheric river deluge for 4 days on the Pacific Northwest. I only left the house to walk my dog around the park next door. Without fail, there would be kids from the neighborhood or local daycare frolicking on the playground like it was just another day. What rain? The key is definitely the right gear:

  • Reima Lammikko Bibs and Lampi Coat: Reimahas the best waterproof and breathability ratings of the brands that disclose that information. (10,000m for waterproofing, 3000g/m2 for breathe. For comparison, popular Oaki rain suits have 5,000m waterproofing). The styling is classic, and there are lots of reflective details for little ones to be seen in dark and stormy weather. It’s also one of the rain suits that comes in a broad range of sizes, which surprisingly isn’t the norm.
  • Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Bibs and Coat: The Torrentshell set uses Patagonia H2No membranes. If it’s the same membrane and thickness used in adult gear, it reportedly gets 10k-20k waterproofing and 12-15k for breathability scores. In that case, it’s the top tier waterproofing for kids on the market. Only available in Infant and Toddler sizes. This is dumb because a 6-8 year old child definitely needs it more than any 3-6 month old infant. But the duck print is cute so go for it.

Looking for gifts for grown ups? See that part of the gift guide here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s