Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Life after summer in the mountains

Is there life after summer in the mountains?  Of course there is!  What about when you have a baby or toddler?  Still yes!  It's just more complicated and requires some special preparation. This is article one of a series I intend to pursue on making the most of those cooler months in the mountains.  I'm starting with clothing because you are going to want to make sure you are prepared on this front before heading into the mountains after September.  Christmas is also coming and it's a good time to start handing out those wish lists to Grandma and Grandpa.  I personally think a MEC toaster suit is a wonderful Christmas gift and wish they sold them in my size!

MEC toaster suit

Clothing for cool weather

The key word here is layers!  We always start with a blanket sleeper.  It's simple, you already have them, and you don't have to get your child dressed.  Score!  You can go out and buy expensive long underwear for your child but a fuzzy fleece sleeper is much cheaper and works just as well.  No skin will be sticking out and feet will be toasty warm. If you want your child to wear socks and boots you can buy fuzzy Snugabye sleepers with feet that either roll up or pop over the foot.  I always get mine from Wal-Mart.

Next we've found that a fleece bunting suit works really well.  MEC (Mountain Equipment Coop) has a great bunting suit but it maxes out at 18 months.  Fortunately, my very large 2 year old still fits in his because they fit large.  You just can't use the pop over hands or feet when the child gets too big.  For bigger bunting suits, also check out Sears.  I recently found one that said it was 24 mo. in size but fits more like a 3 or 4 T.  If your child is too big for a bunting suit, fleece pants and sweaters work well.  Again MEC has a great solution called the Yeti suit.  It's basically a 2 piece bunting suit.  Toasty warm. 

MEC bunting suit and toaster suit layered together
The third layer that we use is a one-piece rain suit.  MEC calls them newt suits.  They are amazing!  They keep out wind, rain, light snow, and protect your child against almost everything.  MEC also sells them in all toddler sizes.  Yay!

The Newt Suit

If it's really cold and we are out cross-country skiing or snow shoeing, we'll use a down one piece snow suit over top the fleece instead of the rain suit.  It's no surprise that MEC also sells a great insulated snow suit called a toaster suit.  Brilliant piece of clothing!  You don't have to fight to get snow pants and a jacket on your child.  One piece of clothing, two zippers, and they fit big so your child will likely wear the same one for two seasons.  If you have an infant or non-walking child, the warmest option is to find an insulated snow suit with snap-on feet since the child won't be walking in the snow and doesn't need boots.  MEC doesn't sell these but you can get them anywhere they sell kid's outer clothing; Wal-Mart, Super Store, Sears for example. 

Add the extras like hiking boots or winter boots (big enough to fit over the blanket sleeper if using one), good mittens (warmer than gloves), and a warm tuque.

Additional clothing hints:
  • For cold weather, find insulated mittens that have zippers up the side.  They are easier to get on.  MEC sells Toasty Mitts that are great.  The infant ones don't have thumbs - bonus!  If fleece mittens are warm enough for your day out and you don't want to try fighting to get your child's thumb in the opening, just tuck the thumb hole inside the mitten and ignore it.
  • To really keep the head warm, look for tuques that Velcro under the chin or even look for a fleece balaclava.  My son lived in his balaclava last winter!  And yes, we also added a scarf as needed.  I'm sure some parents worry about the scarf restricting breathing but it seemed to work for us.
  • To keep the middle part of the face warm we actually bought children's ski goggles from a sport store.  They fit big but they cover up the majority of your toddler's face and keep it toasty warm.  
  • When we were cross-country skiing  in very cold weather last winter we wrapped  our son in my husband's down jacket inside his chariot.  This was after already putting a bunting suit and toaster suit on him.  I doubt he could even tell he was outside.
  • The Patagonia puffball jacket is becoming a very popular item for cold weather.  Patagonia makes them in infant and toddler sizes. Infants can also get matching pants or a puffball bunting suit.  This weather resistant jacket, pants, or suit is very light weight and extremely warm.  
I should mention that if you are from the United States and are reading this article, you can still find much of the same gear that MEC sells.  I visited an REI store this summer and was very impressed with their selection of baby and toddler clothes.  

I would love to hear your comments and suggestions on dressing kids for cold weather in the mountains.  I know many families that have a very different list of basic essentials. I also want to thank all the friends who have helped with our outdoor education over the last couple years.  I never would have thought to put ski goggles on my baby to keep his face warm.  Thanks Greta for that one. 

ski goggles

so toasty warm he slept for over 2 hours while we were skiing and it was below -20 C

Note, this post was not sponsored by MEC in any way.  We simply love their gear and have found it to be warm, practical, and affordable.  For more information on the clothing mentioned in this post, visit your local Mountain Equipment COOP store, or find them online at the MEC website.  Shipping is available off their website. 

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