The ultimate in winter packing list for backpackers, including all the field-tested essentials you'll need

Dressing kids for the Winter Weather: With Adult Recommendations too!

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Want to escape to a snowy location? No idea how to dress your kids so they don’t whine about being cold? We lived in Germany for a few years, my son attended a waldkindi (forest preschool) where they spent the entire winter outside every day for 3-4 hours. We have also visited Alaska and Finland in the dead of winter so I’ve got a few tips to keep those little ones bundled, warm and having a blast in the wintery cold. Check out our guide to dressing kids for winter weather!

How to dress kids for the winter weather:

I’ve included some brands that worked for us, but that’s just a starting point. It isn’t an endorsement for any particular brand. But buying cheap isn’t always the answer with winter gear. Make sure it will hold up during a snowball fight or a quick sled ride.

You can also vary the layers in order to match the conditions outside. I’ve added guidelines for when extra layers are needed, but it is also up to personal requirements. Some kids and adults run warmer than others.

Kids sitting on a sleigh with full winter gear getting ready to slide down a snow hill with mom pushing in the back.

How to Dress in Layers… It’s all about the layers.

1. Base Layer: Start with an underlayer (after the undergarments of course). This should be polyester or wool. Think long johns. We use various brands (cuddle duds and fruit of the loom). It just needs to be tight-fitting (snug, not constricting).

You want the base layer to be either wool or polyester so that it wicks away moisture as you sweat. I do not recommend cotton base layers because they will get wet and you’ll get cold quickly.

Woman in winter gray sports thermal underwear for skiing training holds mug with tea or coffee warming herself studio shot on blue.

Recommendations for Kids:

Recommendations for Men:

Recommendations for Women:

Shopping on a budget? Costco always has great options before the winter hits. Also check Lidl and Aldi for inexpensive winter gear, especially for kids that grow so quickly.

2. Cotton Layers: Next, add a long sleeve cotton shirt and long pants. We use cotton leggings and plain cotton shirts from H&M. We find that pants, especially jeans are too much fabric once we add additional layers. We like the freedom of movement of the leggings and they are easy to get up and down for bathroom breaks.

If the weather isn’t below 30 degrees, so you can get away with just thermals and a snowsuit. If it is under 30 degrees, I suggest the added cotton layers for additional warmth.

This layer is what you’ll see if you take off your snow pants and jacket for lunch breaks or when transitioning indoors. This is based on your comfort level, but I didn’t want ski tight layers and just thermals when eating.

Little toddler boy looking out of the window on winter day with snow landscape

The cotton layers are easy to source from your closet. Grab a cotton shirt for each member of the family and a pair of cotton leggings, pants or joggers. If you aren’t sure you have the right items, check out my recommendations below.

Recommendations for Kids:

Recommendations for Men:

Recommendations for Women:

Extreme Cold Weather: If you are headed somewhere really cold, like the trip we took to Finland, then consider changing the cotton leggings to fleece pants or combine the thermals, cotton leggings and then fleece.

3. Outer Layers: Time for the fleece layers. We like 3-in-1 coats and snow pants with bibs (an extra layer under the fleece coat). You can also pair a fleece jacket with a snow jacket that isn’t lined. Same concept.

If it is really cold, below zero or you will be outside for an extended time without moving, add a layer of fleece pants. If your child will be active and not outside for a prolonged period of time, you can skip the fleece pants (also true with fleece-lined snow pants).

Children build snowman. Kids building snow man playing outdoors on sunny snowy winter day. Outdoor family fun on Christmas vacation. Boy and girl play snow balls. Winter clothing for baby and toddler.

Recommendations for Kids:

The same will apply to adults. Shop your favorite outdoor gear brands. We highly recommend Columbia, REI, Eddie Bauer and LL Bean for their high-quality products that last for season after season.

4. Waterproofing: Add the waterproof outer layers. Snow pants and snow jacket. Make sure they are waterproof. You can always refresh an older jacket in the wash with a waterproofing solution. You just toss it into the washing machine and follow the product directions.

baby boy in striped overalls colored in snow
baby boy in striped overalls colored in snow

For jackets and snow pants, we like Columbia, North Face and LL Bean. You want waterproof zippers and seams.

If you find more plastic fabric style snow pants, they double really well as slippery sled pants. My son spent many days just sliding down the hills on his plastic pants!

5. Feet: We use wool socks and then winter boots with liners. We like boots that you can remove the liner inside and dry them between uses. We’ve discovered Stonz winter boots and love them. Easy to get on because they open wide at the side, they have a removable liner and they are SO lightweight!

Kamik boots are another favorite. Just look for that liner, it makes all the difference. We also prefer lighter weight boots. It’s hard enough to walk in the snow.

Overhead view of a pair of adult and kids snow boots standing ready on a rustic wooden floor alongside a pair if childs warm winter gloves to protect against the freezing cold weather, view from above

Want to read more about our favorite boots and mittens? Check out our full review by clicking the link

6. Accessories: Mittens, scarf, and hat.

For mittens, look for ones that are long! Mittens are much better than gloves. You want all the fingers together to retain warmth. Buy ones that you can zip up or Velcro almost to your child’s elbow. Trust me, they won’t fall off and your child’s hands will remain nice and toasty! We prefer mittens that are waterproof and lined. Since we lived in Germany, we liked the brands Jako-o and vaude. But our favorite snow boot company just came out with some great mittens, check them out here: Stonz Mittens.

Instead of a scarf, we used neck gators. We preferred ones that had both cotton and fleece. Make sure you get child-sized since they will fit snug and leave fewer gaps for air. We put the fleece base near the neck and then scrunched the cotton on top. It could be quickly pulled up over the nose and mouth if needed. It is much easier to breathe through a cotton layer when the frosty winds start to bite.

Hat: I know everyone likes to buy fleece, but cotton is so much better. The head can breathe, especially for active children. Your child is less likely to feel as if they are “too warm” and yet they will retain enough heat to keep them from getting cold. A fleece or wool hat will work if your child will be not as active.

Now your child will be ready to tackle the cold winter weather! Make sure to add in breaks for some hot chocolate and hydration breaks.

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