Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ride on! A Junior Cyclist's Christmas Wish List

What's the best Christmas gift you could give the outdoor child who loves biking?  A new bike?  A bike upgrade?  Funky new helmet or cycling gloves?  Here is my Christmas gift guide for the junior cyclist in your family - guaranteed to make them squeal Christmas morning!

Ride on!  A Junior Cyclist's Christmas Wish List

Monday, November 25, 2013

Downhill Skiing with Kids - 5 Ways to Make it FUN!

A week ago I started a new series on making winter sports FUN for kids to learn and enjoy.  The first post in the series was Ice Skating with Kids - 10 Ways to Make it Fun.  Today, we continue and move on to a sport my family is actually not familiar with yet - downhill skiing.  My husband and I used to love resort skiing and made it out to nearby hills a couple of times a month.  Since having a child though, we haven't made the jump to downhill skiing as a family.  We've chosen to spend our time on cross country skis and my husband does his alpine skiing in the backcountry. 

Therefore, since I am hardly an expert on downhill skiing with kids, I would like to welcome Alyssa Erickson to my blog today to offer her advice and fun suggestions on how to get out and enjoy skiing as a family.  Alyssa is mom to three children ages 6, 4 and 2, and is no stranger to life on the ski hill with her family.  She is also the creator and author behind the amazing blog, The Kid Project, which offers a wealth of advice on getting outside as a family and taking the kids with you on your adventures.

(Photo:  Alyssa Erickson)

Downhill Skiing with Kids - 5 Ways to Make it FUN!

You gear up your family with ski pants, a good coat, helmets to protect their precious head, and rent a whole slew of skis and boots. Good vibes are sky-rocketing as you motor to the ski area. For once the kid’s chat happily in the back seat. In fact, things are going so well that you march up to that ticket window and don’t pass out as you hand over the credit card.

The morning seems to be going well, until one kid falls and through their angry tears shouts, “I hate skiing!” The day snowballs into a heap of misery for everyone involved. No one likes to invest good money and a super human dose of energy into preparing for skiing, only to have the kids complaining and unhappy.

To be honest, our battle usually starts before we even leave the house. Keeping everyone cheerful and moving in the right direction is hard (For a detailed look into our lives of enchanting dysfunction visit A Day in the Life of a Skiing Family.) 

The right clothing and a host of great snacks all work to make a day successful. But in every parent’s back pocket should be a plan to make skiing a ton of fun. Here are games and ideas we use to keep everyone having a blast on the mountain!

(Photo:  Alyssa Erickson)

1. Jumps, Bumps, and Tree Skiing

Strategic “run planning” is just as important for skiing as picking the right trail is for hiking. For example, if you are skiing with young or inexperienced kids, make sure to choose short runs. Their little legs tire quickly and frequent rests on the chair lift will greatly improve your chances of success. The same thing goes for run difficulty and amount of time instructing the kids. We try (and sometimes fail) to keep our on snow instruction to roughly 2-3 runs before just letting the kids have fun.

But here is the truth about kids, when they are skiing, 99% of them just want to fly off jumps or dash down a tree trail. Get them a good helmet, find a fun beginner run and lap it as many times as they want! Learn to look for those secret fun stashes and talk them up on the chair lift ride. Many ski areas now have beginner terrain parks that are super fun too.

2. “Tinhorn” Down-hill Race

The next best thing to flying through trees is racing your buddy. Or your dad. I stole this game (or the name of it) from my parents, who played it weekly in the ski lessons they taught. The key is to choose really easy terrain that preferably goes flat at the bottom.

Draw a line in the snow traversing a run, line them up side by side on the line. Explain the finish line clearly. And say, “ Last one down is a rotten egg! On your mark, get set, Goooo!”

Adults always be the rotten egg. This serves two purposes, the second being you are there to pick up any major wipe-outs. And the kids always love it no matter what age! The most important thing is that the run is not too steep. And the winner should get a reward, like choosing the next run. :)

3. Pop Quiz

This game is great while waiting in the dreaded lift line. But is also serves an educational point. Here are some ideas:
“Pop Quiz: What is the name of this lift?”
“Pop Quiz: How many minutes does it take to get to the top?”
“Pop Quiz: If someone gets lost, where do we meet?”
“Pop Quiz: What time does this lift close?”
“Pop Quiz: Who are the safe people to ask for help if you get lost or hurt?”

Obviously this game is a bit better for an elementary age skier, but you can adapt it for toddlers.
“Pop Quiz: What color is mom’s jacket?”

4. Follow the Leader

Do I need to explain? I didn’t think so. What is fun about follow the leader is:
1. Most kids love a chance to be the leader and make the decisions on where they are going (within reason).
2. If you are in the lead you can circle your arms, hop on your skis, do doughnuts, or (on easy terrain) ski backwards. All these things teach balance and edge control while having fun.

5. Know when to “call it quits.”

Lastly, don’t go skiing with something to prove, either to yourself or someone else. I’ve done this. Thinking to myself, “We need to ski till at least 3:30 to get our money’s worth.” Only to ruin everyone's day when the kids are totally wiped by 2:00.

The right runs, fun games, and a handful of candy will only get you so far. Kids get tired and then cranky. Be ok with calling it quits or have a plan to switch off hanging with the kids in the lodge while the other parent skis a few runs. 

(Photo:  Alyssa Erickson)

I have to thank Alyssa so much for writing this!  We are heading out for our first downhill ski day as a family in a couple of weeks - and I'm terrified!  Hopefully I'll have a suggestion or two of my own to add to this list soon.

Need more tips and suggestions?  Check out these links to other stories written by fellow outdoor family bloggers:

Learning to Ski - Backcountry Parenting

Alyssa Erickson's Bio: I am a Jesus lover, wife, mom, rock climber, skier, photographer and all around adventure lover with a passion for writing. I have my B.A. in English Literature from the University of Colorado. I live and play near the Wasatch Range, partnering with my husband and teaching my kids to make the most of life and the One who gave it to us.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Early Winter Snowshoeing at Highwood Pass

Highwood Pass is located on the highest paved road in Canada and offers incredible adventures between June and November each year. 

Snowshoeing on Elbow Lake

Every season offers new sights and experiences. To reach Highwood Pass, take Highway 40, which loops through the heart of the Kananaskis Country park system. You’ll cross over the pass as you drive through Peter Lougheed Provincial Park heading south towards the town of Longview on the Cowboy Trail.

Trails found on both sides of the pass present opportunities for everything from backcountry camping to hiking or even early winter snowshoeing. In the spring, cyclists flock to the area for a chance to bike the highway before it opens to traffic mid June.

Winter comes early to this part of Kananaskis. By late November you can pull out your snowshoes and make your way up to either Ptarmigan Cirque or Elbow Lake to discover a stunning winter wonderland. 

Because Ptarmigan Cirque often has early season avalanche hazards, families seeking a safer trip will want to visit Elbow Lake.  The lake is also popular with backcountry skiers. A circuit of the lake can be made on either snowshoes or skis once you arrive. 

Visiting Highwood Pass before the road closes on December 1st is an experience that should definitely go on all Rocky Mountain bucket lists.

Snowshoeing with Kids on the Elbow Lake Trail

To read the rest of this story on hiking, backpacking, and cycling at Highwood Pass please follow this link to the full published story:  From Flowers to Snow:  Four Seasons of Adventure at Highwood Pass  on the Experience the Mountain Parks website.

This is Highwood Pass in September! (snow comes early!!)

Our family makes an annual pilgrimage to Elbow Lake the last weekend of November and we're planning an adults only trip to Ptarmigan Cirque this weekend as well.  There is no area in Kananaskis that I'd rather snowshoe, and it's special to get out as early as late November to often find waist deep snow already.

If you plan to bring children, you can often bring sleds, Chariots with ski attachments or ski pulks as long as the trail has been well packed down up to the lake. 

Note that some years however, if the trail has not been packed down, you would have a very difficult time pulling any kind of sled.  Fortunately, you won't have to go far to find out if you'll be breaking trail and you could always go back to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park to snowshoe there. 

For a complete map of all official snowshoe trails in Kananaskis, print out a copy of this Kananaskis snowshoe trails map.  You can also follow this link to read my guidebook review for A Beginner's Guide to Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies.  (great Christmas present)

Snowshoeing at Elbow Lake when our son was just a toddler

To read about last year's family snowshoe trip to Elbow Lake and see the photos, follow this link to Family Snowshoeing Adventures - Elbow Lake.

Hope to see you on the trails!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Snow Warm! An Outdoor Mom's Christmas Wish List

Are you a cold climate outdoor mom looking for ideas to add to your Christmas wish list?  Or, maybe you are married/related to one of us amazing creatures and need some solid hints to blow this year's gift out of the water.    Below are my top suggestions that will definitely make the outdoor mom on your shopping list happy this Christmas.  A few are on my own list but most of them are suggestions I give you after thorough testing and reviewing because I can't really suggest something I don't already know and love.

Everything I'm wearing was a Christmas gift over the last two years

A Down Skirt

One of the sentences that comes out of my mouth the most when I'm outside in cold weather is this:  My bum is so happy!!!

Snowshoeing in my Skhoop down skirt

I bought a short down skirt last winter and haven't had a cold back end since!  It's the most amazing piece of clothing in my closet  (and one of the most expensive.)  Due to the crazy high cost of these things, you've definitely got to put it on your Christmas list.  Then, receive and enjoy!  Get over the guilt that you just spent $150+ on a skirt (because you didn't buy it) and just enjoy it!  I have a short black down Skhoop skirt that I got for Christmas last year.  I can wear it snowshoeing, cross country skiing, skating, and winter hiking because it has two-way zippers on both sides for those times when I need an increased range of motion.  I have no idea if people think I look like an old fashioned pioneer skiing in my skirt, but judging by the comments I get while wearing it, women want to be warm more than anything when outside.  (and I'm pretty sure the pioneers didn't wear down mini-skirts.)

Skiing in my Skhoop Skirt

There are a few options for insulated skirts but Skhoop out of Alaska clears the competition by a mile.  They carry skirts in every colour of the rainbow, in various lengths from mini-skirts to full ankle length skirts, and in different fabrics from down to a light insulated skirt.  They even sell Merino wool skirts!!! (and yes, that IS on my Christmas list.)

Skhoop down skirt worn over fleece tights = WARMTH

Keen Howser Shoes

Along with my down skirt, this is what I most rave about these days!  I'm pretty sure most of my friends are sick of hearing about how happy my feet are.  But it's true!  They are happy and I can't stop talking about it. I love my Keen Howser Shoes

What's not to like about little magic sleeping bags for your feet?  For more information on these shoes and for my review, check out my recent story:  A Year in the Life of a Keen Ambassador.  So far I've been wearing them all over the city through snow, puddles, sleet, and ice - with warm dry feet (which is amazing given how low cut they are.)  They have to be tried to believe it.

Side note, they also come in men's, toddlers', and youth sizing. 

The Keen Howser Shoe

A Skating Coat

My expression for a long down coat that covers the bum.  (can you tell that my bum is always cold?!)

I have a long black coat I got for Christmas a couple years ago now and I wear it to outdoor playgroup events so that I don't freeze my butt off sledding, hiking, and skating with the kids.  I could wear my down skirt (and often do) but sometimes you want a full down coat to wear over your ski pants when out playing with kids.  All the long underwear in the world isn't going to help when you're moving at a toddler or preschool pace, building snowmen, rolling around in the snow, or sitting on a frozen hill pushing your child down the hill on a sled over and over.

My long down coat (aka Skating Coat)

I think the expression "skating coat" originates in the hockey arena where moms sit on cold bleachers watching their children play minor league hockey for hours, freezing their butts off.  You don't want to wear ski pants to the arena to watch hockey.  Hence, the long down coat.  I wear mine to church, I wear it to play in the snow, and yes, I wear it skating.  My current jacket was just a Super Store special but I've got a beautiful pink down coat from MEC  on my Christmas list this year.  (which is already hanging in the closet upstairs tempting me daily!!)

Side note to women with smaller frames, size 16 youth at MEC = Women's medium.  You can save a lot of money by shopping in the youth section (where the jacket I linked to above is from.)

The best kind of coat for sledding!

Other Ideas

Mount Engadine Lodge, Kananaskis

And for the absolute win - take her somewhere like this for the weekend!!!

#OutdoorFamilies Christmas Link Up

Here are some other great suggestions for Christmas wish lists brought to you from my friends in my outdoor blogging circle across North America.  

Ride On!  A Junior Cyclist's Christmas Wish List - Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies

A Skiing Family's Letter to Santa (with a giveaway for 2 $50 gift cards) - Brave Ski Mom

An All Weather Gift Guide for All Year Adventures - Crag Mama

Holiday Gifts for Outdoor Conscious Families - AKontheGO

Best Gifts for Outdoorsy Families (with giveaways from Wizbang Hats and Teton Sports (Kids' Sleeping Bag and Pad) + an exclusive discount for Sierra Trading Post) - Tales of a Mountain Mama

Gifts for Outdoor Loving Mothers - AKSkedaddle

Five Great Christmas Ideas for the Outdoorsy Kid (with a $100 Gift Certificate Giveaway from clothing retailer Hanna Andersson) - Rain or Shine Mamma 

Holiday Gift Guide - Go Adventure Mom

Outdoor Gifts for Teens (with Gibbon Jibline Slackline Giveaway) - Bring the Kids
 Top Outdoor Toys for Toddlers and Preschoolers (with Strider Bike Giveaway) - Bring the Kids
Top Outdoor Toys for Babies (with PeaPod Plus Giveaway) - Bring the Kids
Top Outdoor Stocking Stuffers (with  Coghlan's Giveaway and Action Wipes Giveaway) - Bring the Kids
Top Outdoor Gifts for the Whole Family (with gibbon slackline giveaway) - Bring the Kids
Top Outdoor Toys for Elementary Age Kids - Bring the Kids

Top Outdoor Gifts for Adventurous Parents (with ENO DoubleNest Hammock Giveaway) - Bring the Kids
Top Outdoor Gear to Get Your Kids Ready for Winter (with SnowDragons Kids Coat Giveaway) - Bring the Kids

All I want for Christmas...Gifts for the Active Family - Active Kids, Active Family

Holiday Gift Ideas for Your Outdoor Enthusiasts - Adventure Tykes

Best Gifts for Outdoor Families:  Books Edition 2013 -  Tales Of a Mountain Mama

Holiday Gift Guide for Tykes - Adventure Tykes

Stocking Stuffers For Everyone - Adventure Tykes

50+ Holiday Gift Ideas for Nature Kids - Go Explore Nature

Holiday Gift Guide for the Young Adventurer - Wild Tales of...


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ice Skating with Kids - 10 Ways to Make it FUN!

At least once a week I hear a parent comment on how their child never took to ice skating, didn't find it fun, or showed no interest in learning how to skate. 

Meanwhile,  I LOVE skating and think it's such a great family sport!  While there are plenty of other winter sports to choose from, skating is cost affordable (my son will be using the same pair of skates for a second winter now,) it's often free to participate in the activity once you purchase the skates and helmet, and it's great for gross motor skills and coordination.

Skating is FUN!

The first step to becoming a family who skates together is to find good skates that are comfortable and easy to put on.  I recommend checking out local second hand stores and starting there because feet do grow and you don't want to be buying a brand new pair of skates for your child every year. 

That being said, while my husband and I both purchased used skates, we did choose to get new ones for our son last winter so that we could get molded ones with removable liners.  They are warmer and more comfortable than the traditional hockey skate, have no laces (hence much faster too put on), and are expandable over a range of two to three sizes (meaning they last 2-3 seasons!)  Not much to dislike about the expandable skates. 

Learning to skate

For more information on choosing skates, getting started, where to skate in the Calgary area, and pretty much everything related to skating, please visit my story, How to Love Winter in the Rockies - On Skates, that I wrote last year.  The story is jam packed full of information including the best kind of skates for toddlers just learning to walk on the ice!

Toddlers skating with double blade Bob skates

And now, on to the fun stuff - how to have FUN while skating!!

One - Games, games, and more games!!
  • Red light, Green light (skate when the leader says green light, stop when the leader says red light as you race/toddle to the finish line.)

  • ABC hunt (scatter foam ABC letters around the ice and have the kids search for them in order.  They must practice bending over and standing up again to pick up each letter AND as a bonus, they work on early literacy skills)

  • Chocolate hunt (same as ABC game above but scatter chocolate eggs, kisses, or other candy around the ice for the kids to pick up)

  • Stuffed Animal Game (place a bunch of stuffed animals on the ice with a plastic bin at the far end of the ice.  Kids have to carry the animal down the ice and place it in the bin.  Skate back for the next animal and repeat.  Plastic bin comes in handy when transporting animals to the ice as well.)

  • Set up an obstacle courses with pool noodles, hula hoops, pylons, or other objects the kids must skate around.

  • Draw lines on the ice and have kids follow the lines.  Vary it up with squiggly lines, circles, snails, etc.

  • Ice Soccer!  (like hockey but with a ball.  Set up some nets or pylons and have the kids kick a ball to practice transferring weight from one foot to the other.  Can be played as a team or just individually kicking the ball up and down the ice.)

  • Hockey!  (Kids love hockey sticks.  Bring some plastic hockey sticks or invest in child-sized wooden sticks.  Get the kids hitting a soft puck or a ball around the ice.  And again, it can be played as a team game or just between parent and child.)
Never too young to play hockey
Ice Soccer!
ABC Hunt
Two - Make sure your child's skates are comfortable, fit well, and are not too tight.  (most preschoolers should be able to tell you if this is the case.)  As with most sports, it's not fun if your feet hurt!  If you have any doubts, visit a sports store for a fitting with a skate specialist. Toddlers are lucky in that they can wear boots with the classic Bob skates (a blade that fits on to a regular winter boot.)

Three - Make sure your child is warm enough!!  As with all winter sports, nobody has fun if they are cold.  I know I don't.  For kids learning to skate, they should be wearing ski pants.  This will not only keep them warm but will also pad their falls.  (of which there will be many.) 

Waterproof gloves are of course imperative and helmet liners or light tuques under their helmets are also recommended even when skating inside.  We use a kid's sized Buff worn like a balaclava. 

For moms prone to being cold on the ice, try wearing a long "skating coat" - my term for a jacket that covers your butt. (and if it's made of down, even better!)

Toasty warm with his orange Buff under his helmet

Four - Push smaller children around the ice in a Chariot or jogging stroller and pull older kids around in a sled.  This is a great game and you'll get exercise too as the parent pushing or pulling them!  I miss the days where I could rip around the ice pushing our Chariot.

A great workout for the parent who wants to skate with younger children
Ice + Sleds = Fun!!

Five - Keep it short when starting out!  Skating is exhausting for young kids!  We went skating this morning and my son could hardly climb a small hill on our afternoon hike. 

When first getting started, half an hour is plenty!!  Bring a sled and reward them with a ride around the pond or rink after.  Let them climb and play on the snow mountains next to the pond.  Let them run around in the trees with their friends.  Just let them play.  And return to skating another day.  

We do lots of outdoor skating with our outdoor playgroups in Calgary and the kids typically last about half an hour before they need a change of pace.

The snow piled up beside the pond is often the best part of skating!
Good thing he's wearing a helmet!

Six - Candy, you said?  Yes, I'm not above bribing my son to practice for at least half an hour.

Seven - Skate with friends.  Everything is more fun with friends.  We've been going out Thursday mornings as a group of moms and kids - and are having a blast!  I wish every morning was Thursday.

Everything is more fun with friends
Show your kids that skating is fun!

Eight - Start inside where it's warmer.  This will help you, the parent, learn to put your child's skates on without freezing your fingers, and allows the child to be more comfortable while learning.  No wind chill, no freezing cold fingers or toes - it's just more pleasant.

Learning to skate indoors

Nine - Skate as a family.  Why would your child want to learn to skate if they see you running around the ice in your boots?  Just saying.

Hockey is more fun when Dad's playing too!
Skating with Mom
Ten - Lessons!  It's amazing what 6 weeks of lessons can do for your child's confidence.  My son was not exactly a "fan" of skating last winter.  We put him in a month of lessons and suddenly he wasn't the only one struggling on the ice.  There was a whole class of other kids learning how to skate just like him.  AND the teachers knew way cooler games than I did! 

Everybody starts somewhere but nobody starts a professional!

Have other ideas for  readers struggling with skating as a family?  Or maybe you are the one that doesn't exactly "love" skating.  Have other games we need to know about?  I'd love your feedback and comments below!

This is the first in a series of posts I'll be featuring on how to make winter fun for kids.  I'll be covering topics from skating to cross country skiing, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, winter hiking and sledding.

For moms that get cold skating - invest in a down skirt!  It's awesome!

Disclaimers and Safety Information:

CSA Approved helmets save lives
Helmet use while skating is highly recommended and depending on where you live or skate - mandatory for children.  Many indoor arenas are also starting to enforce helmet use for adults as well.  The minimum protection you should be using would be a CSA approved hockey helmet.

While a bike helmet is better than nothing at all, hockey helmets are tested to withstand repetitive impacts from both large and small objects such as pucks, sticks and the boards.  Meanwhile, a bike helmet is designed to withstand one single hit from a large object.  For safer skating yet, face masks are also recommended when learning to skate and have been known to save teeth!

While you may see older photos of my son without a helmet (or in a bike helmet), rest assured, he does not step foot on the ice now without an approved hockey helmet.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

First Tracks on Johnson Lake! November Ice Skating in Banff

It's here!!! Skating season is here!  Sort of.  The term "skating season" refers to a very small window in Banff National Park when some of the local lakes have frozen over enough to skate on them - without snow covering the ice yet.  And that's the trick.  No snow covering the ice.

It happens only every few years or so that you'll find that perfect green coke bottle colored ice, smooth, and perfect.  The rest of the time we go out to Banff armed with shovels and prepared to clear off a patch of ice to skate on.  (as was the case today.)

And the reason I said skating season was "sort of" here above, is because the ice on Johnson Lake was only 3 inches deep or so today.  Parks Canada warns to look for ice at a depth of 15cm (approximately 6 inches) for light skating and walking.  Hence, the ice was half as thick as it should have been.  And we were out with a group of toddlers and preschoolers.  I know - some role models we are!

First Tracks on Johnson Lake, Banff

Fortunately, everybody came home safe, nobody fell through the ice, and we had a splendid time.  Best of all, I think the folks in Banff were all still too scared to attempt skating yet because we had the lake to ourselves.  It was our own private pond party for us and our friends. We called up one local family in Banff, begging them to bring shovels, and we saw one other lone gentleman (who kindly measured the ice for us) - but that was it.  Us and our private lake.

Pond Party at Johnson Lake
Learning to play hockey
Calgary Outdoor Playgroups - First Group Skating this year

While I can say that we probably should have waited a few days or so, we tried our best to be careful and stuck pretty close to the shore.  We avoided soft mushy spots and skated tight together in a big group.  We cleared snow off of two patches of ice to form two small hockey/skating areas and we didn't venture too far down the lake for exploring.

Staying close to shore
Skating Season!!!

In total I think we had 9 families out today and for many, it was their first time ever skating on a mountain lake.  We all exclaimed that we felt very "Canadian" and spirits were high the whole time we were out. 

A small group of us even headed into Banff afterwards for a hike on the Fenland Trail.  It was a great day and we plan to repeat it again on Monday.  Skating in Banff - take two! 

Trying to figure out the whole hockey stick thing
Preschool Pond Hockey! Starting Young.
Future Hockey Champs

For more information on skating in Banff with safety precautions, please visit the Town of Banff's website by following the previous link.   And follow this link for directions to Johnson Lake.

Classic Canadian Experience!

For past stories, photos, and blog posts I've done on ice skating in Banff, please follow the links to these stories:

Skating Season in the Rockies
Blog post from November, 2012

Banff girls - bragging rights at first local kids on the lake this year.

Skating Season in Banff
Published story for Calgary's Child Magazine

Sleds are a great way to pull kids around a lake.

Friday, November 08, 2013

It's So Puffy!! Introducing the Kids' Molehill Down Jacket

Warm kids - like, love, need, and willing to do whatever it takes to get them, right?   I know my son is much happier outside when he's warm and toasty.   Not so happy when he's cold, wet, or otherwise uncomfortable.  And so, every year we try out new jackets, always trying to find that magical coat that will guarantee maximum warmth over a cold Canadian winter.  Thanks To Mountain Baby and Molehill Mountain Equipment, I think we're good this year!

Introducing - our new Molehill Down Jacket!

I remember the first time I walked into the Mountain Baby store in Nelson, BC while on vacation out that way.  I'd never been in an outdoor store that focused entirely on kids' outdoor clothing and gear before, and there was much drooling. Imagine walking around a store, looking at backpacks, jackets, clothes, boots, travel accessories... - and it's all for children!  (you probably have to be a mom to appreciate this.)  I don't recall buying anything at the time but as a new mom I had a list a mile long of things I certainly wanted by the time I left the store!

Fast forward a few years now and we have realized you can order on line from Mountain Baby and get items shipped right to your house all across Canada and even the United States.  Live in the far reaches of Alaska?  They'll even find your house!

Our new down jacket was shipped right to our door

Our first item from Mountain Baby - the Molehill kids' down jacket.  Molehill Mountain Equipment has spent the last fifteen years making quality children's clothing and gear in an effort to encourage an outdoor lifestyle for families.  Based out of the United States, this little known company claims to make the best kids' outdoor clothing on the planet "to insure your child's comfort so that you can worry about other things."  Now, if that's true, I'm very interested in checking out this company a bit more.  You?

Sledding with our new jacket

While it hasn't really been cold enough here yet to justify wearing a full down jacket while playing in the snow, we did take the new coat out for a spin (or should I say slide) yesterday for a couple of hours.  What I'm liking so far:
One - As the title says, It's so Puffy!!! This jacket is made with 700 goose down fill power!  A similar jacket from North Face would only be made with 550 down fill.  

Two - Puffy means light!  The 85g fill guarantees your child will feel like he or she is literally wearing nothing. Most kids I know do not want to be wearing some heavy coat when they're trying to run up and down slides, climb up a toboggan hill, or roll around in the snow.  In fact, many kids grow up hating winter because of the heavy bulky clothing they've been forced to wear in order to keep warm.

My little blue marshmallow man

Three - The WARMTH!  The Jacket has a 70/30 down fill ratio - and claims to be the warmest insulated jacket on the market!  (and did I mention I live in Canada where we still go out to play when it's -25C?)
Four - It's tough enough to handle rough and tumble outdoor play with a rip-stop nylon exterior.  Everybody with small children knows this is important!  I don't know about you, but I do not want to fork out a lot of money for a coat, only to have my child tear a hole in it after wearing it a few times.

Sledding - bumps and all!

Five - The lifetime warranty against all defects in material or workmanship.  I like a company that is willing to stand behind their claim at making quality products.

Six - The water repellant treatment to help repel moisture - which ensures we can wear the jacket for everything from sledding to skiing, skating, or just plain rolling around in the snow.  We tested that thoroughly yesterday and at the end of two hours in the snow, my son was toasty dry and warm.  The jacket was damp on the exterior but completely dry on the inside.  

Can you do this in your down jacket?

Seven - The hood!!! This jacket has the most magnificent of hoods I've ever seen on a kid's coat.  It's fully insulated, removable for warmer days when you don't want the added bulk, and has Velcro straps under the chin to fully cinch it around the child's face, providing maximum warmth to the neck, chin, and lower face.  

Sweetest Hood!

So, I ask you, what's not to like?  

So far, my only complaint, if I have one, is that it tends to ride up a lot when playing and running around.  It is actually so puffy that it kind of floats around my son's body and doesn't stay down over his belly a lot of the time.  Not a big problem though for us since we'll be wearing it with ski pants most of the time.  We have ski pants with a full bib on them so even when it was riding higher than ideal, his stomach was still dry and warm underneath.   However, if you just wanted to wear it over rain pants, this could be a potential problem.  

Intrigued in what else Molehill sells?  Check out their collection on line at Mountain Baby or on their Molehill Mountain Equipment website directly.  Clothing can be shipped from either place for Americans while Canadians will most likely want to order direct through the Mountain Baby store. 

For more information and technical details on the Molehill down jacket that we are testing this winter, visit the link here to the Mountain Baby site.  It comes in both blue or a neat berry colour and sizing goes all the way from 2T to 8-10 for older children.

Warm, Dry, and HAPPY!

Disclaimer:  I was offered a jacket for review from Mountain Baby.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.