Layering kids for cold weather adventures

dressing kids for cold weather

Keeping kids cozy during cold weather adventures is important, but knowing how to properly dress can be stressful if you are new to winter adventures with little ones. The key to happy kids in the cold is proper layering! We use this layering technique for all cold weather outdoor adventures. The last layer changes depending on the activity.

Base Layer

This layer is closest to the skin. Aim for synthetic or wool because they wick moisture better than cotton. It’s important to have wicking layers during the day, but also during the night because kids can sweat even when it’s cool. Moving sweat away from the skin is important to keep from getting cold. We’ve used both polyester and merino wool base layers.

Luke wearing merino base layers

We use Iksplor Merino Wool Base Layers because they are not scratchy, wick moisture nicely, offer sun protection, odor resistant, and have great little hand mitts to help cover hands from the sun and snow. SOWEWENT saves 10%.

We also love Wooly Tots for really cold days because they are a bit thicker than the Iksplor. They are also merino wool and made in the USA. Sowewent10% saves 10%.

If you prefer polyester, we’ve found that Patagonia Capilene Midweight Baselayer held up really well to washing, crawling on gravel and granite, resists stains, and has a nice silky feel.

Mid Layer

This layer really helps with insulating. We love fleece. For younger kids, it’s easy to use footie pajamas you already have at home. Something like these fleece pjs are great. If you are planning to put little ones in a hiking carrier, aim for pjs that have a little extra room in the length so the footie doesn’t get pulled too tight when you put them in the hiking carrier.

If you are potty training or have older kids, we prefer two-piece fleece sets to make getting undressed faster. We like the Patagonia Micro D crew and pants. These cost more than off-brand products, but they are INCREDIBLY durable. Our kids have put these pants through the ringer crawling around camp, they wash nicely, and they last for hand-me-downs. We also found that we get decent return either reselling them or turning them into Patagonia’s worn wear program. If it’s warmer out, we often skip this layer and just do the base and outer layers.

Outer Layer

Marti staying cozy in her down bunting

This layer helps protect against the wind and water. For little kids we love buntings. Our favorite is the Patagonia Hi-Loft Down Bunting. These run VERY big for size. As a note, our daughter is wearing a 24 month size and she normally wears 3-4 T clothing. We usually get at least 2 seasons of wear out of each bunting before they grow out of them. We like this bunting because it’s water resistant, very warm, has fold over hands and feet for babies that aren’t walking yet, and compresses for easy storage in a pack.

Outer Layer- Sleep

For baby/toddler sleeping bags, we use the Morrison Outdoors Little Mo 20. It’s very cozy, stays put, and is certified for safe sleep. Keep in mind the hands on this one (versus the 40) are closed, so if you little one is a thumb sucker or wants to hold a water bottle at night, this might be tricky. Code SOWEWENT10 saves 10%.

For preschoolers, we recently switched our daughter to a Big Agnes bag rated for 15 degrees. We picked this bag because it is warm, lightweight, has a sleeve for their sleeping pad so they don’t roll off, and well-priced for the quality.


A good wool beanie is always helps hold in warmth! Then if the kiddos have a hood, we pull that up. If the air is very cold, a buff can hold in some warmth around their faces. We usually use an adult size so their’s plenty of space for air flow.


We use these wool socks under the fleece PJs for little ones and with boots for older kids. This brand is affordable, very soft, and comes in some fun patterns that kids will like.

For boots we like BOGs Neo Classic because they are rated down to – 35 degrees F, are easy for kids to get on and off themselves, easily double as rain boots, and they are waterproof. We’ve had pairs of these last through 8 kids and 12 years of hand-me-downs in our family. They are built tough!

Keen’s Lumi are also fantastic for winter. They are rated to -40 degrees F, lightweight, and they have a great non-slip tread.

If you are looking for a more affordable pair, we’ve also used these boots and found they work well too! We’ve used them for both kids but they just don’t have the same temperature rating as the two above.


The bunting we mentioned above is great for little ones because it has folder hand protection. We prefer mittens for our kids because it’s easier for them to keep their hands warm with their fingers together.

Additional tips

If using a structured carrier like the Osprey Poco, we highly recommend adding the rain cover. Even if it’s not raining, this cover helps hold in warmth and also blocks wind.

Always pack extra clothing incase of blow outs or spilled food. Hot chocolate is also a fun way to keep everyone cozy. We pack ours in an insulated thermos for hikes.

Stay cozy out there!

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