Winter weather and getting out of the house, talk about a combination that can make it hard to get outdoors. Add a little one and just getting out the front door can feel like a hike. Getting discouraged to do so because you are unsure of the gear you may need or don’t have can easily make you feel as though you should just hunker down and hibernate for the winter. Don’t! Master the art of winter gear layering and you’ll feel confident hiking in winter with your little one.
Here are some tips for how to layer in the winter to keep your little one safe, warm, and ready to get some fresh winter air.
Go for a stroller walk
A clear weather shield or a heavy blanket over a stroller can help keep the wind out and warmth inside. Best of all, baby can still see the world through the shield. Even though baby is in a stroller, you want to make sure they have a hat that covers their ears and a warm coat over a layer of warm clothes. Generally, I put socks on my baby, footed-fleece pjs over that, and then snow pants and jacket. For toddlers in the walking stage, boots are helpful as well. Even if it’s not windy out, you might still want to add a lap blanket or an specially-made warm cover for strollers/car seats. It’ll help keep them extra snug. I’ve also used a pair of long adult socks over pj legs for extra warmth. Mittens are hard to keep on but large socks can help. They are large enough that they fit over mittens and up coat sleeves. My little one has sensitive skin so I apply a thin layer of Aquaphor to his cheeks to protect them from wind burn.
Wear them close
If baby is going to be carried in a Soft Structured Carrier (SSC) or a woven wrap you can keep them super snug with a few accessories. Leg warmers or adult long socks over footed pjs help keep dangling legs warm. Wearing an extra-large jacket that can zip-up over you and baby is great. They also make special coats for babywearing. Mittens and an ear-covering hat will keep those delicate extremities warm. Baby’s face should ALWAYS be visible and you should be able to kiss the top of their (covered) head.
Be careful with heavy boots
Winter boots are great for little walkers but, when they are in a SSC or even the stroller, sometimes they are too heavy. That can actually cause baby’s feet to lose circulation and become dangerously cold. The same goes for complete snowsuits with attached footies.
Little walkers should be dressed like you
Layers. Good boots! Warm socks! Avoid cotton, wool is best. Remember, if you are wearing them that even though you may be working up a sweat, they are not actively working to keep warm so they may need those extra layers. Just because you are hot doesn’t mean they are.
Don’t forget about yourself!
You spend so much time and effort worrying about baby that you may forget some essentials for yourself! Layers, layers, layers. Base layers under pants (leggings work) and shirts; gloves/mittens (finger-less gloves help immensely for diaper changes); a hat or headband ear warmer; sunglasses for snow glare; appropriate warm socks; and well-treaded boots to keep you from falling on ice with baby. Sometimes a layer of ice will sneak under the snow. Generally, you’ll see this on pathways. Ice cleats that strap to boots can help here.
Hydration is easily overlooked when you are busy worrying about freezing temps. We still need to replenish those fluids! Keep water close to you to prevent freezing. Placing bottles in a protective case can also help.
I always have a small first aid kit on me no matter the weather. Keep your gas tank filled just in case you get stuck, and need to keep you and baby in a warm running car while waiting for help. Make sure your cell phone is charged. Someone should always know where you are going before you head out on a walk alone.
Definitely layer-up but keep in mind that there is also a chance that you can OVER dress your little one and yourself. Being too warm can cause hyperthermia. When my little guy was three months old (during winter in Alaska) I packed him up in his carseat, attached it to our stroller and walked 15 minutes to his pediatrician’s office for his checkup. When we got there he had a fever and was breathing very fast. I was given a very stern lecture on the several layers — snowsuit, blanket, carseat cover and weather shield — that were causing the poor little guy to overheat. We gave him milk to replenish his fluids and I forewent a layer and heavy blanket on our walk back home. Lesson learned!
Some of this may seem like common sense but in the midst of grabbing everything you need to head out the front door, it’s easy to pack on too much or forget some of the basics. I would sometimes find myself heading out, and realize I forgot the diaper bag or my cell phone.
I’ve also learned to improvise on a tight budget. You can search for items on your local Facebook Online Swap pages or Garage Sale pages. Etsy can be a great resource for do-it-yourself ideas. Check out your local babywearing group to see if anyone there is crafty with making jacket extenders or covers. Costco or Sam’s Club are also good resources, if you are a member. Second-hand shops are great. Buying base layers for myself from the kids section is cheaper than from the adult section. Clearance outlet sales are worth looking into. The Hike it Baby website shop offers some gear choices. I also shop Backcountry.com, REi.com and Sierratradingpost.com for outdoor gear. Sometimes Zulily will have deals but buy early, they take a while to ship. Here are some brands that HiB parents recommend:
- Stroller Coverings: Babies R Us Shield , RoSK , Pookie Poncho , Jolly Jumper , JJ Cole bundle me carseat cover
- SSC Coverings: RoSK , Infantino , Pookie Poncho , Jolly Jumper , Kowalli
- Snowsuits: Oakiwear , Columbia
- Boots: Oakiwear , Stonz , Bogs , MyMayu , Molehill Mountain , Baffin , Kamik , Sorel
- Hats: BabyClava
- Base Layers: SmartWool , REI , Wee Woolies , Patagonia , Nui Organics , Icebreaker , Cuddl Duds
- Wool Socks: SmartWool , REI , Darn Tough
- Other useful accessories: Leg Warmers , Yak Tracks
- Coats to cover you and baby: Suse’s Kinder , TogetherGear Poncho , BobaVest , Make my Belly Fit , Liliputi Coat , Momawo , Twiga
Stroller weather shields or even a garbage bag with a hole cut out for the face work in a pinch for covering your hard-framed carrier. Buy an extra large coat to fit you and baby in at the same time from your local thrift shop! I keep a bag in my car with extra mittens, hats, a towel (for drying after playing in the slush) and a spare outfit. Someone always loses an accessory or gets soaking wet so it’s nice to have these stored in the car.
For more tips and tricks see our other post at: http://hikeitbaby.com/winter-hiking-with-infants-toddlers-and-children/
Happy Hiking and Be Safe!!
What are your tips for winter hiking with babies? Leave a comment or question below!
Christel Peters is a Branch Lead for Hike it Baby Spearfish and the Mama to Sebastian. When she isn’t chasing her adventurous toddler on the trails she is one of the Blog Editors for Hike it Baby. Do you have a story that should appear on our blog? Let us know!!