I’ve lived in Minnesota for over two decades, and by now the cold weather is in my blood. In fact, I did the math (because I’m a nerd like that) and I’ve spent 68.8% of my life in MinneSNOWta. I took it a step further and calculated the amount of snow I’ve dressed for, played in and/or shoveled over my lifetime. Over 1,100 inches – that’s 92 FEET of snow. My goodness!
But you know what? Minnesotans hardly blink an eye at the snow and cold, and I can’t remember the last time there was a snow day. The main reason? Minnesotans know how to dress for the cold, and they know how to get the streets and sidewalks plowed. The winter can get long, and life needs to go on! One big way we fight the winter boredom is by getting outside whenever we can. For us, that looks like going out a bit each day that the temperature is above freezing. Having the proper snow gear is the only way we can make this happen, and that’s why I’m sharing my favorite no fuss kids winter gear items for playing outside.
When I’m shopping for winter gear, I have two main criteria in mind. First, I’m looking for no fuss kids winter gear that is easy to get on and off. Second, I’m looking for gear that will withstand frigid temperatures and wear and tear. I’m rounding up my favorite kids gear first and then towards the end of the post, I’m sharing my favorite winter gear for myself. This time of year is usually full of winter gear sales, so keep that in mind as you read on.
For snow play, there are really three things that you want in a coat. First, that it’s warm. Second, that it’s waterproof. Third, that it has a sturdy zipper. When I’m looking for snow play gear, I don’t take into consideration the latest car seat recommendations. Why? Because we play out in our own yard more than we travel in our snow coats, and whenever we do travel, I’m just as happy to have the kids ride there without their coats on, and then put them out right before we get out of the van.
Side comment: this is where the van comes in super handy too – I can pull out one of the captains seats to make enough room in the back for me to sit on the floor with the door CLOSED. Heck, there’s almost enough room to picnic on the floor! This makes it really slick to take snow gear on and off without being exposed to the elements. Another side comment: this also makes diaper changes, using a small potty while potty training, and nursing super easy. Can you tell I practically live in my van?
Back to winter coats. I’m partial to the Hannah Anderson brand because I think their quality is superb. I also grew up wearing Hannah Anderson coats, so I may be a little biased. What I love is that the Hannah Anderson sizing is on point (and doesn’t tend to shrink), so when I buy up a size on coats, I can make them last for two season. For example, my daughter is still wearing her coat from last year. That’s almost ten months of wear out of that Hanna coat! Other coat brands we like are North Face and Patagonia. Two brands that I don’t recommend are Cherokee (or any other Target brand) and CostCo brands. In my experience, they aren’t made great, and the zippers end up breaking before the season ends. There’s nothing more frustrating than a broken zipper!
Snow pants are a very important part of the equation for playing outside, and a waterproof material is a must. We’ve tried a few different brands and I am not super particular, but the pants that I like have sturdy zippers, adjustable straps (or even better – velcro straps like these Columbia snow pants for the littlest snow bunnies). We’ve had luck with Hannah Anderson brand, and because of their awesome sizing and adjustable straps, we made one pair of snow pants last through two winters. Since their quality is SO superb, my little guy will get to wear them another two seasons. This is the scenario where, in my opinion, these snow pants were well worth the investment.
Boots, boots, boots. The biggest challenge for boots is getting them on and off of little feet. My favorite brand for winter boots is Kamik, because their toddler sized boots fold down. That way, you can make sure that tiny ankle is all the way in the boot. Kamik boots usually have a strap to secure them, and we’ve never had issues with boots being loose or coming off.
Another brand I like is Bogs. These boots have built in handles, making it easy to take them on and off. However, they have an adjustable strap on the heel, and my toddler frequently loses a boot when he wears these. That’s a definite game over for snow play, as it’s no good to play with a soaking wet sock. In my opinion, Bogs are a wonderful rain boot and are better suited for milder winter weather. When the temperatures are frigid, Kamiks are the brand that I know I can count on.
Mittens and Hats
Every year it seems like we try a different brand of hats and mittens. Let’s start with hats because they seem easier to me. The main thing I look for in a hat is that it fits under a hood. When we play outside, I like to keep the kids hoods up. Why? Because snow angels, need I say more? Seriously though – the kids always find some way to lay down and get snow down their collar. It’s also just a practical way to keep the wind away. So, hats with pom poms and other accessories are usually not our first choice. A fleece lining is helpful for cold days, and I like to have a velcro strap on my toddler’s hats (though he likes to unstrap the velcro).
Mittens have always perplexed me. Mostly because: how do you keep them on tiny hands? My toddler LOVES to take his mittens off and dip his bare hand in the snow. We’ve tried the long sleeve mitten (not fun to get on) and mitten clips/strings (help tracking lost mittens, but don’t keep them on). We’ve tried mittens that velcro smaller, mittens that cinch smaller, and mittens that are fixed size. We’ve tried tucking them into coats and pulling them over coat sleeves.
And the verdict? I still don’t know! This year we’re trying these mittens from Amazon, and they work pretty well. The one thing I do know about mittens though: waterproof is important for serious snow play. AND mittens get misplaced, especially at school and especially despite my best efforts. Even though the teachers try their best to keep track of all the stuff, It’s a LOT of stuff!! So, I try not to send mittens that I would be upset to lose.
So what do I wear to play outside with the kiddos? My approach for my gear is the same as for my kids: no fuss! I want things that are easy to get on and off. My winter coat is a long patagonia coat. I’m not sure if long coats are still in style. But as long as I’m out in the snow with my littles, they are a must for me! I like to wear a longish coat (one that covers my butt), tallish boots and no snowpants! I typically wear my Zella leggings in place of snow pants. You might be thinking I’m crazy, and if that’s the case, I already know that you don’t live in Minnesota. Just kiiiidding 🙂
But seriously, snow pants are so EXTRA for mom gear! I’m not plopping down in the snow and I tend to take video and pictures of the snow angels instead of making my own. If I need to jump on a sled? My coat covers my butt so I’m good to go.
Boots are a staple for any Minnesota mom, and every year I want to buy ALL THE BOOTS. But since they tend to be expensive, I usually hold off unless I must. This year, my knockoff CostCo Uggs finally bit the dust (they ripped), and I was pretty sad about that. My faux Uggs made it through both of my winter pregnancies. You know the phase in pregnancy when it’s hard to put on your underwear? Right. Me either. So all I’m saying is the pull on feature of my faux Uggs was a STAPLE during my winter pregnancies, particularly my second pregnancy. You know, that point in pregnancy when I wrestle my toddler’s boots on, and then have to catch my breath to put on my own.
I was pretty excited for a reason to buy new boots, though. I picked a pair of Sorrel boots. I do love them, but I must say they are quite a bit heavier than my faux Uggs. Does that just mean I’m burning more calories when I wear them? Probably. Win. My pre-children boots were North Face brand, and I also loved them. The only downfall of my current boots? They have to be tied. Tied boots seriously cut down on the easy of dressing and undressing. But what can you do? Actually, I have seen a few types of no-tie shoe laces, but I like to have a snug boot when I’m wading through 6-11 inches of snow.
I’m not as particular about my hat and mittens as I am about my coat and boots. I usually wear my North Face skiing gloves (which are almost eight years old and look brand new) and my pom pom hat. Sometimes I’m a rebel and wear no hat. But the bottom line for me on hats: I don’t tend to splurge, because I know it’s the type of item that I may want to change up more frequently than my coat and boots.
Saving Money on Winter Gear
There’s no doubt about it: winter gear gets expensive. And the brands I gravitate towards don’t come with a small price tag. What I’ve learned over the past few years is that you really do pay for the quality in coats, snow pants and boots. When I can make gear last more than one season (either by sizing up and hoping for two seasons of wear, handing it down, or if I’m super lucky, BOTH), it helps make the price tag worth it. And for my mom gear? I wear it until it breaks. Many of the more expensive brands stand by their quality and have great return policies (some awesome brands even have lifetime warranties).
Buy On Sale
Even still, I have a few tricks to saving money on winter gear. To start, NOW is the time to buy winter gear. February and into March seems to be the time when winter gear is on sale or clearance, so you can snag yourself a deal. This is what I did with my Patagonia coat (similar style coat).
I also tend to price shop for anything I’m buying on Amazon. For example, the Sorrel boots I purchased on Amazon, but before purchasing, I checked discounted sites like 6pm.com to make sure they weren’t cheaper elsewhere. Sometimes sites like jet.com and 6pm.com beat Amazon’s prices, and sometimes they don’t. But it pays to check.
Another way to save is by using Ebates. We love to use Ebates in our house because we utilize coupons from our favorite stores AND get cash back. If you aren’t using Ebates and are skeptical: I get it. I was too. I thought: is this some gimmick? I don’t know. I don’t think it is. We get real cash on items we would already purchase, but now we just purchase them via the Ebates app and get real money. (If you’d like to try Ebates and are interested in using a referral link for an extra $10 cash back, send me an e-mail).
Buy/Sell Second Hand
Another way to save money on gear is by shopping on Facebook market. I like to browse both local and national buy/sell/trade groups specifically for Hannah Anderson/North Face/Patagonia gear. I’ve also had luck posting an ISO (in search of) on my local children’s gear group. Don’t be shy about asking for what you want, but make sure you are safe about where and how you purchase (don’t give cash beforehand, meet in public, etc etc). You can also use the buy/sell/trade groups to sell your hand me downs and get a decent kickback for quality brands like Hannah Anderson. So, even if you end up purchasing for full price, reselling it later can help with the sting, too.
Our Favorite Snow Activities
If you read this far, you are probably almost on your way out the door to play in the snow. Here are our favorite things to do out there:
- Make snow angels
- Make snow men/aliens/whatever other snow creature your heart desires
- Make snow forts
- Sit in snow and eat it (toddler)
- Sled rides (no hill needed)
- Riding trikes on freshly shoveled driveway
- Go on nature walks (We like to throw rocks onto the frozen stream nearby and see if the ice breaks. We also bring bird seed wreaths to the park, then check back on them)
But our most favorite snow activity is drinking hot cocoa to warm up AFTER we come inside! What about you? Do you have any favorite winter activities or gear? Share with me in the comments!
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