The secret to getting out and about with the family when it’s colder is to make sure your kids (and you) are warm and dry. In this post, we look at how to get your family outside without everyone getting cold.
"There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing" - Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Cold weather should not be a problem
In the UK we do like to moan about the weather. However, generally we have it easy: summer doesn’t get too hot, and winter doesn’t get too cold.
I know when I’ve had Canadian friends over, they laugh at the little snow fall we have, even though everything stops. But you don’t need to go to Canada. Just pop over to Sweden for example, and you’ll see lots of kids happily going to school in much colder weather than over here.
“But they’re used to it” you might be thinking. True, they are used to it. They are used to being prepared. And they know what to do.
Unfortunately in the UK, at the end of the summer school holidays, we are bombarded in the high street with ‘Back to school’ coats. This is in September when it is still warm. “Ah, that’s a nice thick coat. That’ll keep Johnny warm this winter term.”. Unfortunately that’s not always going to be the case.
There’s a right way to dress for colder weather, and it’s very simple.
Start with Base Layers
Think of the base layers as the foundation, just like the foundation of a house.
This is the thermal layer that really helps keep your child warm. And just like the foundations of a house, you build upon the base layers. You adjust the layers of clothes on top so that they are appropriate for the weather conditions.
With a good set of base layers, you may find your child needs fewer clothes, and so they are a good investment. However, choose wisely as you don’t want them to over heat.
Your child may be going to school, or your child may be walking through the sudden snowfall to visit their grandma to make sure they are alright and help clear their path….. So put normal clothes over the base layers.
If it is wet or there’s snow, avoid heavy cotton like jeans.
When jeans get wet they are very slow to dry out. Wet clothes can cool the body down. Wet jeans can and has often caused hypothermia in the unprepared.
Mid layers are anything between the base layers and the outer layers. Normal clothes can be considered part of the mid-layers, but generally we’re talking about things such as a fleece, which provide an additional layer of insulation.
Micro-fleeces are a very good mid-layer. They are a lot less bulky than a fleece jacket, can look like a normal pullover, but have very good insulation properties.
Since micro-fleeces aren’t very thick, they are good to wear under other layers, or even combine with other mid-layer clothes, such as a gilet.
Another mid-layer are Soft-Shell jackets. These can be used as jackets on their own or as a warm mid-layer when the temperature drops.
When it’s milder and dry, these mid-layers are perfectly good outer layers – ideal for Autumn and Spring.
This is where your coat comes in. Choose one appropriate.
If it’s just wet but not too cold, a thinner rain coat would be more comfortable to wear than a thick winter coat.
Don’t forget about the trousers, especially for kids. Get some waterproof trousers for when it is wet or there’s snow (kids always get covered in snow!) so that the layers below stay dry.
Outer trousers also keep the cold wind at bay, and if they’re lined, provide an additional layer of insulation.
Hats & Gloves
A hat is very important in keeping your kids warm.
We recommend that you get one that can cover their ears, which get cold rather quickly on kids.
Gloves are also important. If it’s wet or there’s snow, make sure they have waterproof gloves.
Mitts are a lot warmer than gloves (as the fingers can warm each other), but kids can find it difficult to play in them.
Toes can quickly get cold, so get some decent winter socks.
You need to make sure your child has some waterproof footwear so that these socks stay warm and dry. Lined wellies will help keep feet warm. If your kid’s boots are lined, you can get some welly socks.
Snow boots are an alternative and have a nice thick lining to keep your child’s feet warm.
If you are out hiking and it may rain, get some gaiters to help keep their walking boots dry.
Don’t Over Do It
Don’t put all their layers on though and think “they’re nice and warm, job done”. Just as you don’t want them to get too cold, you don’t want them to get too hot either.
This can lead to sweating (which in turn, can make them feel colder), and dehydration, as well as being very uncomfortable.
A good pair of base layers can help with body temperature regulation to some degree, but the main thing about layers is that you can take them off.
We often have a backpack with hats and gloves, only needing to put them on when required. Coats can be unzipped if it’s dry, and if you get a good set of base layers, they too can be unzipped.
Polar explorer Eric Larsen even recommends removing a layer or two before you do activity so that you don’t get too warm, and then put the layers back on when you stop. If the kids are about to do some activity, it may be a good idea to take the same approach.
Other tips for keeping kids warm
Have some snacks on you.
When it’s cold your body burns more calories to keep warm. As soon as your child starts running out of calories they’ll get colder, so keep their boiler stoked.
Some warm drinks (usually hot chocolate or soup for kids) go down well too. We’ve found the Lifeventure flasks cheap and reliable, though there are other alternatives for when it gets really cold.
Keep some hand warmers in your bag. They’re not going to dry anyone out, but they make you ‘feel’ warm, even if it’s in your head. They’re good for comforting a child when the “Mum, I’m cold” starts.
If you are out for longer, consider a bothy bag. This may sound extreme, but if the wind gets up and a snow shower comes in, they’re a quick shelter you can pull out of your bag.
With a large enough bothy bag, you sit on the sides, protecting your backside from the snow and stopping the wind blowing the bag away. You can then open the flasks, have a warm drink, and eat a snack without getting cold and wet. 😉
You can even get some ready meals that self heat. They essentially have a hand warmer in them, so that you can get some hot food without using a stove (and then use the warmer afterwards). They’re a bit pricey but may be welcome if you’re planning to be outside for a long time.
This article was first published on https://www.getoutwiththekids.co.uk/family-hiking/keep-kids-warm/