Friday, January 29, 2016

Moms Have to Stay Warm too - Clothing and Footwear Spotlight

I tend to focus on the best children's clothing and footwear on this website but I've learned that if I'm cold, it doesn't matter how warm my child is because we're all heading back inside if one of us is unhappy.

I walk my son to school every day regardless of the temperature and we spend a lot of time outside hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing in temperatures that get down to -30 C. Warmth is therefore something that I take pretty seriously and I test a lot of new products each winter.

Below are some of the products currently keeping me warm:


Mountain Hardwear Women's Thermostatic Jacket  

I received this mid-layer jacket before Christmas and it has become my new favourite jacket for wearing around the city. I can't stand wearing bulky clothing when I'm driving, running errands, or shopping. The Women's Thermostatic Jacket is the perfect lightweight option to keep me warm without the bulkiness.

Skiing in my Mountain Hardwear Women's Thermostatic  Jacket

Designed as a mid-layer climbing jacket to be worn under a technical shell, I actually like wearing the jacket by itself on warm days and have worn it while cross country skiing a lot this winter. When I'm wearing a warmer jacket, my Thermostatic jacket always gets added to my day pack in case I need another layer at any point during the day. It weighs next to nothing and compresses down into the smallest little bundle.

In the photo below, I had actually forgotten my down jacket that I intended to bring on our overnight ski trip last December. Fortunately, it was a warm weekend and I got to test out the Thermostatic jacket to see just how wind resistant, water repellent, and warm it would be without another jacket as backup. I was extremely pleased on all accounts and am continually amazed at how warm this light jacket can be! It dries quickly when wet and never truly feels damp over good base layers.

More info on this jacket can be found on the Mountain Hardwear website - and it's on sale!

Skiing into a backcountry cabin in my Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket

Columbia Women's Barlow Pass 550 Turbo Down Jacket

While I would never wear this jacket for cross country skiing, I have worn it hiking on cold days and it's become my go to jacket for taking my son to school this winter. As long as I'm in my Barlow Pass 550 Turbo Down Jacket I am generally warm and toasty.

Hiking in my Columbia Women's Barlow Pass 550 Turbo Down Jacket

Favourite features of this jacket other than the incredible warmth it provides:
What I look like in the mornings en route to school
  • The hood I can pull up when walking to school in the wind
  • The chin and neck warmer that covers my face
  • The pockets! With inner and outer pockets, I have plenty of room to carry keys, a phone, a granola bar or two, and any other essential items when I don't want to take a backpack for a short walk
  • It's long enough to cover my butt - which is always cold!

More information about this jacket can be found on the Columbia website (and it's on sale right now!)

Warm and Toasty in my Columbia Barlow Pass 550 Turbo Down Jacket

Other Jackets I'm Wearing

For Downhill Skiing I'm still wearing my Columbia Women's Whirlibird Interchange Jacket which I received a few years ago. It's still in great condition and I have no complaints with the performance of this jacket.

You can read my previous review here. - (and the jacket is on sale right now)

For Cross country Skiing I'm often still wearing my Columbia Women's Diamond 890 Turbodown Hooded Down Jacket. While it's perhaps a bit warm, I'm usually skiing with a child and I'm not moving fast. I don't want to stop to put on more layers if I get cold so I just unzip if I get hot.

You can read my previous review for this jacket here. - and it's crazy on sale right now!!

I ski a lot in my Turbodown Jacket because I hate being cold!

Base Layers

Fun Purple Base Layers from Columbia

For base layers I'm wearing Columbia's Heavyweight Half Zip Top and Heavyweight Baselayer Tights. - and guess what? They're both on sale!! I think everything is on sale right now so it's a great time to go shopping and gear up for the rest of the winter.

My shirt and tights are both purple which makes them fun as well and a big step up from boring black base layers.

I'm starting to appreciate the tights for days when I plan to go out for coffee or hit a pub after skiing. I can just take my ski pants off and wear my tights with a long shirt overtop. They are fashionable and thick enough for stand alone wear.

Head Wear and Gloves

I'm trying out a new head wrap (think BUFF) for the season. It's from a brand new company called Watuko Head Gear. So far the verdict is that it's AMAZING. Super soft, made of natural fabrics, warm (I barely need to wear a tuque anymore) and very comfortable.

Watuko Headgear is also Canadian so this gives you the opportunity to shop locally.

Watuko Headgear - my new favourite outdoor company

For gloves, I'm still in love with my Columbia Omni-heat Whirlibird Mittens. They take a bit to warm up but once they're on for a few minutes, my hands stay toasty warm and I never need hand warmers in my gloves.

Read my previous review here for Columbia's Base Layers and Mittens. - and the mittens are on sale now.

Warm Mittens are SUPER Important in winter!

On the Bottom - Soft Shell Pants

Mountain Equipment COOP (MEC) is famous for discontinuing my favourite clothing items but they still sell a similar model to my beloved soft shell ski pants. The MEC Ferrata Pants are perfect for cross country skiing or snowshoeing when layered with long underwear underneath (and a down skirt over top if you're me!) Another product to try out would be the MEC Snowfall Pants. They are also soft shell fleece line pants.

We are Queens of Layering with down skirts over our ski pants

The other pair of pants I've been wearing for skiing this winter is the Salomon Women's Momentum Softshell pants. (again with my beloved down skirt overtop for my stupid butt that's always cold!)

These pants are thinner than my MEC soft shell pants and only get worn on warmer days. They are more fashionable though and I am truly in love with them. I bought them before Christmas at Kananaskis Outfitters one day when I forgot my ski pants at home and left the house in nothing but my tights! Oops.

Salomon Momentum Soft Shell Pants for Nordic Skiing

You'll notice the pink soft shell jacket in the photo above as well. I didn't mention it under my section on jackets because this model has been discontinued, but you really should add a soft shell jacket to your collection for all winter sports! I've been wearing this one from Patagonia for close to 10 years now and it has never disappointed me. It's fleece lined and performs well in very cold temperatures (even thought it's fairly light and not bulky at all.)

If you are looking for a soft shell jacket to go with your soft shell pants, I'd highly recommend the Columbia Women's Phurtec II Soft Shell Jacket - something I should really add to my collection since I love Columbia clothing so much. It even comes in purple and is on sale. Score!

Soft Shell Pants and Jackets can definitely get wet!

City Pants for Outdoor Activities

I couldn't write this story without including my favourite pants that I wear five days a week in the city. The MPG Lined Nemea Pants from MEC are my salvation for cold walks to school, skating, cross country skiing in the city and even for taking my son sledding. There's a normal version too that's not lined for summer use. I have one pair of each and it's pretty much all I wear around town.

My go to outdoor pants - the MPG Lined Nemea Pants

The Down Skirt!!

You'll see me wearing a winter skirt in 90% of my photos because I'm always cold - and I hate being cold! They are catching on too and one by one, my smart friends are starting to invest in their own down skirts. (and yes, it's an investment because they aren't cheap.)

Down skirts add another layer of warmth to keep you dry and toasty on cold days

I got my down skirt from a company called SKHOOP out of Alaska but Mountain Hardwear sells an insulated skirt as well and it's a lot cheaper than the one I got from Skhoop. I don't know if it's as warm or not but it is cheaper.

I wear my down skirt while skiing, snowshoeing and hiking. I've even worn it while backpacking. Mine has side zippers as well so I get a great range of motion when hiking up hills or snow plowing down a steep hill on cross country skis.

Real Mountain Women Wear Skirts in the Snow

Socks and Footwear to finish if off

Socks are easy - Smart wool and nothing but!

Boots on the other hand are a bit trickier and not all boots are created equally. I spend a lot of time in ski boots but when I go hiking or snowshoeing (or even walk my son to school) I need to wear something that can perform in my cold Canadian climate.

Below is a history of what I've tried, of what's worked, and of what hasn't:

Baffin Chloe Boots - Possibly some of the warmest winter boots I've ever worn, I was disappointed when the laces frayed and broke on them. I contacted the company to get replacement laces since they aren't your standard laces, and was told I'd have to buy a whole new pair of boots. They lost my respect over this. I have since discovered Keen footwear and find their customer support to be better.

Keen Wilma Lace Boots - These replaced my Baffins and I LOVE these boots. The only problem is that you'd have to have child sized ankles to get your feet into them without a struggle. I have very thin ankles (so it's not my fat ankles) and I've read reviews to confirm that it's definitely not just me! The boots are very warm but there is not enough room to get feet into the boots. Lacking a better option though I still wear these boots for snowshoeing and hiking - and just fight to get my feet into them. (note, Keen is aware of the problem and has discontinued the boots)

The places my Winter Boots have to take me

My Super Woman Betty Boots
The Keen Betty Boot II - In bright red, I call these my Super Woman boots. Sadly though they fit very wide and don't fit my narrow feet very well. I have to wear super thick socks to avoid my ankle bones from rubbing against the sides, and I wouldn't wear them for much more than shopping or running errands around the city. I hope they fit other women with wider feet though because they are super fashionable and warm.  

The Keen Baby Bern Wide Calf Boots - the BEST Keen boots I've purchased in the past 5 years. LOVE these boots. And while I wouldn't go snowshoeing in them, they are super comfy for walking around town, going to the zoo, shopping, and walking moderate distances in. They are also warm and reasonably waterproof (maybe just don't go stomping in puddles with your toddler.) Overall, I have zero complaints with them and I'd recommend them to all women looking for a fashionable winter boot to wear over leggings or skinny jeans. Definitely get the Wide Calf version because otherwise there's no way you'd get them over jeans. (and I do not have big calves.)

Baby Bern Boots for Fashionable Outings in the City

 The Keen Revel III Boots - These were my hopeful replacement to the Wilma Lace boots. I just got them before Christmas and so far am generally pleased with them. They are warm enough for winter hiking and fit more like a hiking boot as opposed to a snowshoe boot (meaning they do not fit like a pair of bulky Sorels.) I have hopes that I might even be able to wear them for mountaineering and on spring scrambles. The verdict is still out though because they fit very wide and I suspect my feet might be too narrow to truly appreciate them. (I'll keep you updated though and so far I have no blisters to report - which says a lot for my feet!)

The Keen Howser II Shoes - Hardly "boots" but they need to get added because these shoes are my favourite for "around town" footwear. They feel and fit like slippers, are waterproof, and are shockingly warm! They have good grip on ice and most of the time, I could wear these all winter long in Calgary.

My beloved Keen Howser Shoes

The Minx Boots are good for indoor use
Columbia Minx Mid Omni-Heat Print Boots - I often wear these slipper style boots to take my son to school because they're quick and easy to put on, are comfortable, and because they don't need to perform. However, I would never ever wear them out to the mountains for snowshoeing or hiking. I also know that if I wear my Minx boots for more than an hour my feet will be wet inside (no matter the conditions outside.) So, hardly a stellar review for these boots. They were given to me by the company but I'm sticking with Columbia's fabulous clothing and leaving footwear to Keen.



I hope this giant clothing and footwear spotlight has been helpful. I get questions emailed to me all the time about my infamous "winter skirt" and get asked frequently what I wear outside when skiing, hiking, or playing in the snow. The topic of winter boots comes up ALL the time in my moms' outdoor group and I'm forever joining in conversations about the best winter clothing to wear when standing around playgrounds (freezing our butts off.)

Please post any questions you have below and I hope you'll support the companies mentioned in this story.

Moms have to stay warm too!

Disclaimer: I have received free footwear and clothing from KEEN Canada and Columbia for review purposes. All other clothing and footwear mentioned in this story was purchased by myself. As always, all opinions are my own and I was not paid to promote any of the companies mentioned in this story.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Winter at the Cameron Lake Cabin, Waterton Lakes National Park

The Cameron Lake Cabin is the newest addition to the Alpine Club of Canada's collection of backcountry cabins and huts, and with a 2 km approach, is one of the EASIEST cabins for families to reach in winter. The trail is packed and track-set allowing for easy cross country skiing or hiking with a flat level surface for towing sleds. Arriving at the cabin you might even be tempted to proclaim: "What? We're here already? But I'm not tired yet!" - I know I did.

Easy peasy skiing into the Cameron Lake Cabin, Waterton Lake National Park

We visited this newly restored warden cabin in Waterton Lake National Park at the end of December, just a few weeks after it saw its first guests. My husband said it was so new, the frying pans still had their Teflon coating on them. (And the knives were still sharp!)

We were very excited to visit a new backcountry cabin and even more thrilled to be giving our seven year old son his first backcountry ski experience where he'd ski into a cabin for a night - 100% on his own steam. We've visited other huts and cabins in the winter but have always had to snowshoe in due to distance or lack of a good ski trail. The Cameron Lake Cabin changes all of that, and at 2 km, most families will have few problems reaching their destination.

The Alpine Club of Canada's Cameron Lake Cabin

Families with toddlers and babies will find Cameron Lake easy to reach with the assistance of a sled or Chariot on skis. Friends of mine have already hiked in with a toddler and two babies (the toddler walked while the babies rode in sleds) and other friends put their daughter on touring skis to introduce her to backcountry ski touring.

Beautiful Cameron Lake on a sunny day (photo: M. Schulze)

Regardless of how you reach the hut though, it's an easy peasy backcountry trip and offers families the opportunity to take children for their first winter camping experience at a very young age with little difficulties or challenges.

The perfect backcountry location for families with young kids (photo: R. Yourex)

Location and Logistics

Waterton Lake National Park is located approximately 2.5 hours south of Calgary. The Cameron Lake Hut is reached via the Akamina Parkway, open as far as the Little Prairie Day Use Area. In summer you can drive all the way to Cameron Lake at the end of the Parkway but in winter you must ski or hike the final 2.5 km to the popular tourist area. This is good news for families who want to get off the beaten path in winter without the normal summer crowds. The cabin is located roughly 500 metres away from the lake.


For more information please visit the Alpine Club of Canada Website

Skiing the Akamina Parkway from Little Prairie Day Use Area to Cameron Lake

The Cameron Lake Cabin

This small cabin sleeps 8 people which is perfect for two families to share the space. It's recommended that you book the full cabin because there is no separate sleeping area. Cooking, eating, hanging out, and sleeping is all done in the same room. Our son goes to bed around 8:00pm and I can't imagine encouraging other adult guests to dim the lights and whisper quietly at this early hour if you were to share the cabin.

Kitchen area in the Cameron Lake Cabin

The cabin is equipped with a propane heater, propane lanterns, and a small propane stove. There are basic dishes and cooking supplies (bring your own food and wine glasses.) The sleeping area is comfortable with foam mattress supplied so that you can bring just sleeping bags and leave the other camping gear at home.

Living and Sleeping space side by side at the Cameron Lake Cabin

What to bring with you:

  • Sleeping bags

  • Food (and note that there is no refrigerator so plan accordingly)

  • Drinking water if you don't want to have to boil snow (which gets very tedious)

  • Head lamps or flash lights for trips out to the pit toilets at night

  • A sled to haul your gear in with (and for creating an awesome luge track behind the cabin)

  • Skis or snowshoes (we brought both)

  • Games, books, and indoor activities to occupy the kids

  • Hut booties or indoor shoes that can get wet on the bottom (we found that we were always tracking water into the small cabin)
The final descent off the Akamina Parkway down to the cabin (ignore the sign)

Special note RE cabin temperature - when we were there it was extremely hot on the upper bunk making it near impossible to sleep up there. We had turned the heater down earlier in the evening but it was still tropical as you climbed up the ladder to sleep or play. (Think sauna)

This is another reason I recommend booking the full cabin with another family. Each lower sleeping room is actually big enough for a family of 4 to sleep should you also find it too warm up top.

Comfortable sleeping/playing areas in the Cameron Lake Cabin (photo: R. Yourex)

 Places to Explore near the Cameron Lake Cabin

We took a short hike to Cameron Lake, located roughly 500 metres further up the Parkway. It was also nice for a night ski. We didn't see much of the lake but on a clear day, it would be lovely to hike or ski across the lake (just make sure it's frozen.)

Cameron Lake on a snowy December day
This is as far as we hiked across the "almost frozen" Cameron lake in December

We also took a short hike to Little Akamina Lake, located roughly 500 metres in the opposite direction from Cameron Lake. There was a trail leading there from behind the bathrooms at the cabin.
This trail would not be ski-friendly and is best on snowshoes.

Playing at Little Akamina Lake

Families could also ski or hike back down the Parkway towards the parking lot and hike up to Akamina Pass. I'd recommend hiking with young children rather than skiing.

For more information on Winter in Waterton Lakes National Park, please visit the Parks Canada website

Skiing out from the Cameron Lake Cabin

Additional Reading

Waterton Lakes National Park in Winter - A Whole Different Experience!

Off the Beaten Path in Waterton Lakes National Park - A Family Winter Adventure

Home Sweet home

Final Photos

Sledding at the Cameron Lake Cabin
Family-friendly Cameron Lake Cabin
Having fun on the hill down to the Cameron Lake Cabin
Young Children LOVE this new Cabin (photo: R. Yourex)

Melting snow (tedious but we neglected to bring water and the creek wasn't very close) - photo: S. Burgman

Snowshoeing to Little Akamina Lake (photo: S. Burgman)
Hike, Ski, Tow the Kids - lots of options for getting into Cameron Lake (photo: S. Burgman)
The hill down to the cabin was a lot of fun! (photo: S. Burgman)
Night at the Cameron Lake Cabin

Special thanks to the Alpine Club for taking care of our stay in exchange for writing and promoting this great new cabin. As always, all words and opinions are my own.

For more information on other cabins and huts with the Alpine Club of Canada, please check out their website.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Our Winter with Ducksday - The BEST Children's Ski Suit on the Market

Can you tell from the title that we're in love with our Ducksday ski suit that my son wears? We can't get more than 500 metres on a ski trail before somebody stops us to ask where we got my son's ski suit. Meanwhile, adults stop us to lament that they don't make such an incredible product in their size. (Alas, it's true. I wish I had one.) Frequent comments I hear when we meet people on the trail range from "Oh, wow, you look so warm!" to "What a great ski suit! I wish I could get one in my size!"

This is how you keep a child warm in Canada

What we LOVE about the Ducksday Ski Suit

1. It's easy to put on. I watched a friend fight with her child for a good 20 minutes (or more) because the girl didn't want to put on her ski pants and jacket. And fair enough. Kids hate having to put on dozens of layers. The one-piece ski suit on the other hand is easy peasy to put on and it's so warm, my son could go outside in it with nothing else on other than a set of long underwear.

Cross country skiing with our Ducksday Ski Suit

2. WARMTH. My son has been outside skiing and playing in temperatures down to -30 C this winter, and he's never cold. Everybody else is (me included) but not him. What he wears:
Trust me, with the combination above, there is no way this kid can get cold as long as he's in his winter boots. Skiing and skating gets trickier because obviously the boots or skates aren't as warm so we do have to be careful when it gets below -15C. If we were to go hiking however, I wouldn't worry in the slightest about being outside in -30 temps for a couple of hours.

The ski suit of choice when it's -20C and you want to go skating

3. The snow stays where it belongs - away from the child's skin.  I don't know about your children, but it's game over if my son gets snow down his back. Truly, end of a good adventure when this happens. Fortunately with a one-piece ski suit, snow stays on the ground. There's no jacket-pant gap. We really appreciate the lack of gap around the belly and back area when cross country skiing because my son falls a lot! We have much better success rates when he is in his Ducksday suit rather than in ski pants and a separate jacket.

There's no jacket-pant gap when you wear a one-piece ski suit

4.  We love these additional features of the Ducksday ski suit:

  • Fleece lined upper body area and hood (hood is detachable)
  • The zipper goes all the way from the child's waist up to the neck for easy entry/exit
  • Extra fabric covers and seals the entire zipper with Velcro closures
  • The ski suit zips up over the child's neck and chin, closing with Velcro to keep snow and cold air out
  • The nylon shell keeps the child dry so they can play in the snow for hours without getting wet
  • Reflectors for visibility when out at night
  • Inside pocket for a snack, bus pass, inhaler, or other important items you don't want your child to lose
  • Wrist liners to keep snow out with finger loops to help keep hands warm when not wearing mittens (my son LOVES the finger loops on the inside liner)
  • Velcro at the wrists and legs so that you can adjust width (useful for fitting the legs over downhill ski boots) with zippers along the sides of the legs as well
  • The ski suit is wind proof, waterproof, and breathable
  • Fun bright colours (I don't like losing my child in a crowd so this is important for me)

Ice, Snow, Wind... - No problem with Ducksday


Sizing for Ducksday Ski Suits

Ski suits come in the following sizes:
  • 92-98 cm (2-3 years)
  • 98-104 cm (3-4 years)
  • 104-110 cm (4-5 years)
  • 116-122 cm (6-8 years)

And New this year for bigger kids, you can now order three more sizes to keep the whole family warm and dry. Big kid sizing comes in the following ranges:
  • 128-134cm
  • 134-140cm
  • 140-146cm

My 7 year old wears the 116-122 cm size suit with plenty of room to grow

To Order your own Ducksday Ski Suit

More information on Ducksday products can be found on the Ducksday website.

To purchase Ducksday products please visit the Ollie and Stella Outfitters Website - a great store which distributes Ducksday products and ships them across Canada and the US.

Enjoying winter with Ducksday Outerwear

Other Ducksday Products that we LOVE

We also love the Ducksday rain suit. My son wore the same funky red colour rain suit for two years before moving into a ski suit. And we actually wore the rain suit all winter long last year. It was a warm winter and we didn't feel the need to wear ski pants most of the winter.

The rain suit keeps kids dry and warm. It's also loose enough that you can layer underneath it with a light puffy jacket and use it for cross country skiing or winter hiking.

THIS is a rain suit! Good for 4 season wear. (he was toasty warm and dry underneath)

I would highly recommend either the rain suit or the ski suit for all children (or ideally, one of both.)

Special thanks to Ollie and Stella Outfitters  for providing us both the rain suit and the ski suit. I originally won the rain suit in a contest and became an immediate fan and supporter of this great company. I was thrilled when the company sent us a ski suit to review as well. My son has been toasty warm for 3 years now and I foresee us wearing Ducksday products for years to come.

Our Ducksday Rain Suit has been a favourite for warm winter days

Disclaimer: The ski suit was given to us for review but ALL words are my own and I wasn't paid for this review. I am in LOVE with Ducksday products and my son thrives wearing their gear in our Canadian winters.