How to Dress Kids for Winter Hikes – from Head to Toe

Snow has officially graced the mountains of Colorado! I am both mourning the quick fall, but also excited for the ski season, snowshoeing, sledding, and the winter hiking season. With all of these winter activities, the key to happy kids is warm kids and the key to warm kids is in the layers. If you’re wondering how to dress kids for winter hikes, below is some of my favorite winter gear–from head to toe! Also, bonus winter hiking tips at the end of this post to help you feel better prepared for your winter adventure!
how to dress kids for snow hikes

How to Dress Kids for Winter Hikes – from head to toe

Hats

You were probably told as a kid to always wear a hat since most of our body’s heat is lost from your head. While this myth has been debunked and considered an “old wives tale,” it is still sound advice to wear a hat when hiking in cold temps. My favorite kid hats are Smartwool because merino wool wicks moisture (like sweat) while hiking.

But also, I am a sucker for kids in these Carhart hats! Hats tend to be more of a way that my kids can have some say in what they are wearing, so I’m usually not too picky about which hat they wear. For my daughter, it will likely be the tried-and-true Elsa hat from Target!

kids in hats in snow

BASE LAYERS

The key to a safe base layer is anything but cotton! Smartwool Merino wool is a solid choice, and for non-wool lovers, these REI Midweight Long Underwear tops and bottoms are a great value.

Amazon winter gear list

JACKETS

A mid-layer (for warmth) and a waterproof outerlayer (for staying dry) are an important combo for winter hiking. Kids will sit, lay down, and snow angel in the snow regardless of how many times you tell them to stay dry. But that’s a part of the fun so you will need the gear to do the “staying dry” part for them! We usually invest in a puffy jacket like this one from REI, a fleece (we love the Sherpa style ones like this and you can also find the Eddie Bauer ones at Costco if you are early enough in the season!) and a waterproof shell.

This year, we are testing out the Patagonia 4-in-1 jacket and I am obsessed with it! It’s the only jacket that they need as it performs the mid-layer and outer-layer functions—it’s a reversible puffy/fleece that zips into a waterproof shell. The shell can be worn on its own. This jacket came in handy on our last hike in the snow that started out chilly in the shade and then warmed up later in the afternoon. It was easy to quickly zip the outer shell off and stuff in the backpack leaving just the puffy/fleece. You can find this jacket directly through Patagonia or at REI.

boy in jacket in snow

GLOVES

While snow gloves are not necessary for snow hiking, we usually wear/bring them because kids just want to touch the snow…no matter how cold it is!! My favorite gloves are the SnowStoppers because they actually stay on! The longer elastic sleeve tucks under the jacket and doesn’t let the snow in. Pro tip: put the gloves on first and then put the jacket on and those gloves won’t go anywhere! I also like them because they are mittens which means there are only 2 finger holes (instead of 5!) to try to find when getting snow gear on.  We also have a pair of these L-bow gloves that are a super smart design as they go over the jacket (all the way to the elbow, hence the name). 😉

kids on top of mountain in snow

WATERPROOF PANTS

Now that we live in Colorado, most of our winter hiking is in the cold, dry, snow. However, when we lived in Washington most of our winter hiking was in wet, mild temperatures. During those toddler years, we outfitted the kids in these head to toe rainsuits. Now we hike in insulated snow bibs because just as I mentioned with jackets, kids will sit in the snow regardless of whether there is snow free seating available. They will also slip, slide, and purposefully sled on snow hikes so snow pants are a good idea. We prefer bibs like these because they are easy to put on, make it harder for snow to get in the pants, and can be worn without a jacket on warmer snow hikes, while still protecting above the waistline.

girl making snow angel

SOCKS

If you know me, or you’ve read any of my gift guides, you know I’m obsessed with socks! Smartwool socks are by far my favorite and therefore, I trust them for my kiddos too. You can get them at REI or Amazon. I often find good sock deals at the REI Outlet! Always be sure to pack extra socks in your backpack, but especially on winter hikes. They can also double as emergency gloves if needed.

WATERPROOF BOOTS

Bogs are my favorite winter shoe because they are super easy to slip on and are made with a proprietary neoprene so they can hack it in -30F temps…not that we are out hiking in that, I’m building resilient kids but not THAT resilient! They are waterproof and double for rain boots, beach boots, river boots, you name it. For longer distances or when you need to pair with spikes, waterproof Merrell boots are my favorite kids’ hiking boot. You can read all of my thoughts on kids hiking shoes here.

girl in snow

SPIKES

Spikes are a must for the snow hiking! These already came in handy on our first snow hike of the season and helped avoid slips and falls. Spikes should be in your backpack for every winterish hike! We have the kid sized snowline spikes from REI and this pair from Amazon. Also, be sure that parents have spikes on as well. I recommend the Kahtoola microspikes for ice and packed down snow. We bought ours last year when visiting a frozen waterfall and we would not have had nearly as much ability to explore without them!

 

kids in snow spikes

Other gear to consider for winter hikes with kids:

 

10 tips for hiking in the snow

Hiking in the winter can be magical, but it can also be dangerous. Here are a few tips to keep you safe and prepared when hiking in the winter.

10 Tips for Snow hiking
1) Check the weather forecast ahead of time, the morning of, and be prepared for sudden weather changes.

2) Check the road conditions before you go.

3) Wear the right winter gear (you are on the right post for these suggestions…scroll up!)—avoid cotton and wear layers.

4) Pack the 10 essentials—here is my packing list for hiking with kids!

5) Download your maps from AllTrails in advance, or have a navigation system as the trails can be difficult to navigate in the snow. Bring a backup map and compass should you lose battery on your electronics.

6) Keep electronics warm and close to your body as cold temps can drain batteries.

7) Be prepared and know the local avalanche dangers. We tend to stay in the front range and on more local hikes below tree line in the winter to avoid these dangers. You can find watches and warnings here. I recommend taking an avalanche course if you are venturing into the backcountry—you can check REI’s class schedule or a more advanced course through Colorado Mountain School.

8) Drink plenty of water and opt for a water bottle instead of a water vestibule, as the tube can freeze if it gets too cold. If you are able to carry the extra weight, I recommend warm beverages in a thermos as well.

9) Eat extra calories to help you stay warm, but take short snack and food breaks as to not let your body cool down. I recommend easy snacks on the go for winter hikes.

10) Go pee when you need to—don’t waste your energy storing it in your bladder!

Now, let’s go winter hiking!

I hope this post helps you feel more confident dressing your kids for snowy winter hikes and more prepared with tips for a successful trip. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or send me a message! If you are looking for more winter hiking adventures, you can find more WINTER HIKING posts here. Below are a few you might enjoy!

Happy hiking!

~Kristin

<h4>raisinghikers_Kristin</h4>

raisinghikers_Kristin

37 Comments
  1. Catherine

    This is a wonderful guide! It important to make sure everyone is dressed appropriately for cold weather hikes!

    Reply
    • raisinghikers_Kristin

      Glad you found it helpful! Staying warm and dry is the key to success!

      Reply
  2. Keirsten

    Great hiking list for kids. It’s so easy to overlook something like the spikes! What a great idea.

    Reply
    • raisinghikers_Kristin

      Thanks! Yes, spikes were new to me when moving to Colorado!

      Reply
  3. Maya

    Great tips for winter hiking!

    Reply
    • raisinghikers_Kristin

      Glad you found them helpful! Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  4. Carolyn

    The first time we used hand warmers I was shocked at how hot they got! We ended up buying a couple multi-packs after that!

    Reply
    • raisinghikers_Kristin

      Aren’t they awesome?! They really do work! I recently heard a tip that you should wear them on the tops of your hands instead of gripping them as it will help warm more of your body that way!

      Reply
  5. Sandi

    My daughter lives in Colorado and has already hit the slopes. It’s so much fun to be outdoors with snow when it’s not entirely freezing.

    Reply
    • raisinghikers_Kristin

      Surprisingly snow has come late this year, but the slopes are finally open! We are anxious to get some skiing in! But warm is key, especially with kids.

      Reply
  6. Marianne

    I definitely need to get spikes for the kids. We could have used them during our trip to Alberta. Hubby and I have a pair each we used for winter running. They are awesome!

    Reply
    • raisinghikers_Kristin

      We tried a few hikes without spikes for the kids as they actually enjoyed sliding around but as they are getting older I think it’s so much safer!

      Reply
  7. Whitney

    Wow snow already? These are some excellent suggestions!

    Reply
  8. Chelsea

    In Southern California, our winter hiking is usually just cooler, maybe windier and drizzlier, than the rest of the year lol. But, we still need sweatshirts and hats. And sometimes jackets. If we hit the snow this winter (the kids still haven’t been to see it), we’ll need to stock up on a few other items from this list!

    Reply
    • raisinghikers_Kristin

      Oh, it will be so magical when they finally see snow for the first time. I am from SoCal, so I get it. I never owned any of this gear when I lived down there. 🙂

      Reply
  9. Sabrina DeWalt

    These are great suggestions for adults as well.

    Reply
    • raisinghikers_Kristin

      Absolutely! Adults don’t like being cold and wet either!

      Reply
  10. Barbara

    These are great tips and pieces of advice all in one!

    Reply
    • raisinghikers_Kristin

      Thank you, Barbara! Hopefully they will keep kids warm and dry out there!

      Reply
  11. Lisa, Casey, Barrett Dog

    Great suggestions!

    Reply
    • raisinghikers_Kristin

      Thank you! I hope it can help others feel more prepared for the winter outdoors!

      Reply
  12. Erica Pittenger

    I love this! We have really gotten into hiking this past year. My husband has always done so, but now our three kids are getting into it and we love doing it! REI is an awesome place! Thank you for suggestions for Christmas gifts! Love it!

    Reply
    • raisinghikers_Kristin

      Yay! That makes me so excited to hear that you’ve made it a family activity! We have found it to be the most fulfilling time spent together. Thanks for reading my post. I hope you found it helpful!

      Reply
  13. Cindy

    These are great suggestions! Smart wool base layers were a godsend with my kids! .

    Reply
    • raisinghikers_Kristin

      Aren’t they great? I’ve loved them for years!

      Reply
  14. Terra Booth

    Great tips for anyone who loves to get out and about in the winter!!

    Reply
    • raisinghikers_Kristin

      It can be so much fun…as long as you are prepared!

      Reply
  15. Debbie

    I’m a sick enthusiast too! Haha Great idea about them doubling as gloves too.

    Reply
    • raisinghikers_Kristin

      Oh yeah! We’ve been so lucky to have extras out on the wild. We have definitely worn them as gloves before. Haha!

      Reply
  16. Tiffany

    I’m not ready to think about winter hiking yet!!! Time to bust out and upgrade the cold weather gear…

    Reply
    • raisinghikers_Kristin

      I know!! I understand. I’m excited but I know a month in I’m going to be wishing for Spring. 🙂

      Reply
  17. Cecile Leger

    Great list of winter gears. They are so essential to have when planning any outdoor activities. I especially love the hat!

    Reply
    • raisinghikers_Kristin

      Thank you! I agree, planning is so important especially when winter temps are involved.

      Reply
  18. Denise

    This is great info! I use to go hiking with my son’s in Colorado and I’d be shocked at how many hiker’s we’d run into improperly prepared with children. I’d pack extra stuff in our car only because we’d give it away to other families we’d run into.

    Thank you for sharing these tips for others so they’re better prepared too 👍🏼

    Reply
    • raisinghikers_Kristin

      That is so amazing of you! Preparation is so important, especially when we are talking about winter temps. Can be really dangerous otherwise! Thanks for being a winter trail fairy out there! 🙂

      Reply
  19. Dee Dee

    Good winter hiking tips for both kids and adults!

    Reply
    • raisinghikers_Kristin

      Totally works for adults too! We all want to be warm out there. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

      Reply

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