Keep kids warm and cozy with our curated collection of best winter gear for children.
The key to keeping kids warm in winter is dressing them in layers of high quality winter gear. Start with breathable, quick dry base layers and wool socks, then put on snow pants and an insulated jacket, snow boots, mittens or gloves, and a hat. For extreme cold, add a mid-layer (a fleece sweater is light, comfy, and affordable), neck gaiter, and hand and toe warmers. Since there are so many options to choose from, we’ve put together a kids’ winter gear buying guide with features to look for, product recommendations, and tips on getting kids to dress properly for the weather. We hope our best winter gear for kids keeps your kids toasty all season!
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Hats to keep heat in
A good warm hat helps retain heat, so you can stay outside longer! If it’s hard to keep a hat on your child’s head, let her choose her own or get one with her favorite animal/cartoon character on it. My girls love their Abby Cadabbie and Minion beanies!
What to look for when choosing kids’ winter hats
- Look for non-itchy fabrics such as fleece or merino wool. Fleece-lined wool hats are excellent for warmth and comfort, and wool has natural anti-odor properties (yay for less laundry!).
- Get hats with ear flaps to keep little ears warm.
- Avoid white hats – they are so hard to find in the snow!
- Pompoms and ears/antlers etc are not ideal as it’s hard to pull a hood over them in extreme weather, but if they make the difference between hat or no hat… get the hat your child will wear (and keep a pompom-less beanie in your pack).
- Optional: Chin strap with buckle so the hat will stay on (helpful if your little one likes to pull her hat off and throw it on the ground!). Safety note: Hats with straps – and helmets – can be dangerous if the straps get stuck on play structures or trees.
Product Recommendations: We love the Ambler Canuck Earflap Hat (available in blue or grey) with its cute design and cozy fleece lining, and the Zapped Reflective Pom Beanie (fleece lined, reflective, & made in Canada) for nighttime adventures. For a technical, snug fitting hat with earflaps, try the Outdoor Research Kids’ Alpine Hat (available in purple, blue, or black at All Out Kids).
Kids’ Mitts and Gloves
Gloves or mittens are a must when it gets cold and snowy. While mitts are warmer than gloves, many kids prefer gloves so they can pick things up or hold things. Let them wear gloves for playtime, but bring mittens and hand warmers in case your child’s hands get cold.
What to look for when buying kids’ gloves or mittens
Light Gloves: For dexterity and warmth on mild winter days, fleece lined running gloves with grippies are a good choice. The grippies allow kids to grab things better and also help little hands not slip when cycling. We recommend MEC Tech Touch Gloves because they are warm, stretchy, and touchscreen compatible. Affordable alternatives include micromitts or microgloves (from Walmart or the Dollar Store), or fingerless cycling/climbing gloves.
Ski gloves: When the weather calls for insulated gloves, look for waterproof gloves with Velcro wrist straps, gauntlets, and adjustable toggles to help keep snow out and warm air in (bonus if they have hand warmer pockets). Kombi Serious Gloves – Children & Youth are warm (filled with Primaloft Gold insulation), waterproof, touchscreen compatible and have gauntlets with a drawstring to keep snow and drafts out. Available in purple, blue, and green/black camo.
Mittens: The coldest days call for mittens. The best mittens are warm, breathable, and waterproof; and have long gauntlets with elastic cuffs and velcro wrist straps help keep snow out and warm air in. Hand warmer pockets are a nice feature for cold days, but you can pop handwarmers inside roomy mitts in a pinch.
Here are some of the best mittens for kids:
- Helly Hansen Kids Performance Mittens 2.0 are warm, breathable, and waterproof.
- Stonz Youth Mitts (toddler sizes also available) are extremely waterproof and warm, fleece lined, and have long gauntlets to go over jackets. Choose from pink, grey, black, or woodland.
- Kombi Animal Family WaterGuard Mitts are cute, water resistant, and warm. Choose your child’s favorite animal at Kombi Canada, Sport Chek and Well.ca.
- Veyo Kids Mittyz are great for little kids as they’re easy to put on, and they stay on. Kids will love the fun animal designs. No real thumb, however, makes it hard to hold things.
Sarah from Rockies Girl recommends the Kombi Animal Family Mitts: “These moose mitts have been a huge help in getting Little Bear to keep mittens on. They’re most effective when talked up (“Do you want to take your moose hiking?”) and I love that they’re warm and water repellent.”
Pro tips on keeping kids’ hands warm:
- Have your child try the gloves/mitts on with her usual winter jacket to see if the gloves/mitts fit over/under her jacket (your preference). The advantage of mitts over sleeves is that they act as gaiters and keep snow out! If mitts/gloves are to fit over jacket sleeves, ensure the gauntlets are long and wide enough and that they have an adjustable elastic cuff.
- Keep hand warmers handy for super chilly days! No batteries required!
Winter footwear that will keep toes toasty
Keeping little feet warm and dry means you can stay outside longer! Here is our winter footwear buying guide which includes what to look for and product recommendations.
What to look for in kids’ winter footwear
When purchasing kids’ winter boots, consider the following:
- Size – Boots should have room for wool blend socks, and a little room to grow, but keep in mind that boots that are too big will be cold, so don’t try to buy boots that will last two years.
- Type – I recommend traditional insulated winter boots rather than rubber/neoprene boots (like Bogs) for cold climates. Neoprene/rubber boots are only warm enough for mild temperatures even if they say they are good to -30 C. The wide opening at the top lets heat escape, and the loose fit means there is a lot of space that needs to be warmed up. The rubber at the bottom feels cold too.
- Fasteners – Boots that lace/cinch up are much warmer than boots that are open at the top, and they keep heat in and stay on better. Look for velcro straps or quick-lacing for the best fit and easy on/off (side zippers are also good but are more prone to breaking or getting stuck when dirty). If you go for boots with straps, the more straps there are, the better fit you will get; get a model with at least two straps (one above the ankle and one at the top).
- Height – For every day boots, I recommend mid-height or tall boots for warmth. The taller the boots, the less chance snow will get in, and dry feet are warm feet! For hiking and snowshoeing, invest in mid-height (slightly above ankle) winter hikers for better fit and less chafing.
- Temperature Rating / Insulation – Temperature ratings are simply a guide; activity level can really affect how warm or cold your extremities get. If you are frequently outside in -15C, look for temperature ratings of -20 C or colder. Regarding insulation, there are many types. Felt is measured in thickness (mm), while other insulation may be measured in grams. The higher the number, the warmer the boots.
- Waterproof boots are a must to keep feet dry and warm. Look for insulated boots with DWR coatings OR something like Sorels with rubber around the bottom and synthetic/treated leather uppers (think Sorels). Sorels are good for every day, but for snowshoeing, we prefer mid-height winter hiking boots because they are lighter, warmer, and fit better so you don’t get blisters or chafing.
- Soles – Look for aggressive treads (like snow tires). If the bottom of the boots look flat like sneakers, they will not provide good traction.
- KEEN Greta Waterproof Boot: These winter hikers will keep your child’s feet warm and dry with 200g of KEEN.WARM insulation rated to -25°F/-32°C and their KEEN.DRY waterproof, breathable membrane. Quick lacing makes them quick to put on, and the velcro strap keeps boots in place to keep heat in and snow out. Available in Little Kids’ (sizes 8-13) and Big Kids'(sizes 1-7) at KEEN. Save 30% at KEEN until December 31, 2022. with coupon code FRIEND 30. Also available at Altitude Sports and Sport Chek.
- Sorel Yoot Pac Nylon Winter Boots have 9 mm felt insulation, waterproof lowers and seam-sealed nylon uppers with a waterproof membrane. Sherpa fleece trim around the top adds comfort and style. Available in preschool and big kid sizes at Altitude Sports, MEC, and Sport Chek.
- Baffin Young Eiger Boots: Designed by a Canadian company, and Polar Tested, the Baffin Young Eiger boots are the warmest boots you can get with a temperature rating of -60 C!! The liners are removable and washable (and replaceable if you damage them) which is a nice feature when your kids get snow in their boots. All that insulation makes these boots a bit heavy, but if you need boots for extreme cold, these are the best. Available in Little Kids and Big Kids sizes at Altitude Sports, Baffin, MEC.
Pro tip: Carry toe warmers for super cold weather (or when kids are in a stroller or baby carrier).
Socks and Insoles
1. Smartwool Wintersport Full Cushion Yeti OTC (Over the Calf) Socks, 2. Darn Tough Polar Bear Over-The-Calf Cushion Socks – Kids
Invest in some good merino wool socks and you will notice a difference in how much warmer and comfortable your child’s feet are! Wool or wool blend socks provide warmth even when wet and don’t get stinky like cotton socks. We recommend:
- Smartwool Wintersport Full Cushion Yeti OTC (Over the Calf) Socks: These soft and warm merino wool blend socks (73% merino with nylon and elastane for durability) have ski boot specific cushioning and flat knit toe seams for comfort. Available at Altitude Sports and MEC.
- Darn Tough Polar Bear Over-The-Calf Cushion Socks – Kids: With 49% merino, Darn Tough socks have the anti-odor benefit of merino and strength of nylon. 3% spandex helps them hold their shape. These socks are made in the USA and have a lifetime warranty. Get them at Altitude Sports or Sporting Life.
For additional warmth, consider felt insoles (these ones are 6 mm thick so they don’t take up too much space inside boots) or sheepskin insoles (thicker and less durable but they’re super comfy!!).
Base, Mid, and Outer Layers
Dressing in layers allows you to control your temperature. You want to be comfortably warm, but not sweaty. It’s actually dangerous to sweat in cold weather! I’ve found by wearing base layers and outerwear (jacket and snow pants), and packing a mid-layer (a fleece or down sweater), I am ready for any activity in any weather.
Base Layers should fit close to the skin, be made of synthetic materials or silk/merino wool blends (not cotton!) that wick moisture, and have smooth “brushed” surfaces so it is easy to put mid/outer layers over them. Merino wool is naturally anti-odor, but there are synthetic antimicrobial fabrics that reduce odor too. Our kids have lightweight technical base layers for cross country skiing, midweight base layers for downhill skiing, and fleece base layers for the coldest days (or winter camping). Tip: Mock neck tops keep more heat in than crew neck tops.
MEC Merino T2 Base Layers, MEC Cozy Crew Base Layers, Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino
Base Layer Recommendations:
- MEC Merino T2 Base Layers are reasonably priced 46% merino wool/recycled polyester base layers with flat seams great for snowshoeing or cross country skiing. Available in 4 colors for 3-16 year olds.
- MEC Cozy Crew & MEC Cozy Bottoms are nice midweight fleece base layers perfect for colder days or lower-output activities. Available in 2 colors and 2 prints for 3-7 year olds. (For youth size 8-16 fleece base layers, try the MEC Stratosphere Crew and MEC Stratosphere Bottoms.)
- Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino Base Layers are 100% merino wool so they are very warm for their weight, and are naturally moisture wicking and antimicrobial. Available in sizes XS (4-5 yrs old) to XL (13-14 yrs old).
- Reima Taival Thermal Set (below): With 80% merino wool, these cozy base layers are silky soft and boast a longer hem on the top to prevent cold drafts from getting in while kids are playing outside. Available in 3 colors with tree prints in sizes 2T to youth 8.
Reima Taival Thermal Set, The North Face Glacier Full Zip Hoodie, Big Agnes Ice House Down Hoodie, Helly Hansen Daybreaker 2.0 Fleece Jacket
Mid Layers should fit over base layers comfortably and easily, but not be too baggy (or it’s hard to put a jacket on top). A fleece jacket or down sweater makes a great mid-layer. We keep a down sweater for each person in our packs year round. Light and compressible, they don’t take up much space but are good to have in case you encounter bad weather or are delayed due to unforeseen circumstances. Note that down jackets are inherently fragile as they are made to provide lightweight warmth. We use them as midlayers rather than every day jackets.
Look for: Zipper for easy clothing changes and temperature regulation (1/4 zip, 1/2 zip, or full zip), chin guard (so the zipper doesn’t contact your child’s face), and technical fabrics (synthetic, wool or silk blends) that retain heat but wick moisture.
- The North Face Glacier Full Zip Hoodie is made of 100% recycled polyester, has hand warmer pockets, a chin guard, and a full zipper so it’s easy to put on/take off. Available in 7 colors for size 2T to 7 at MEC and Altitude Sports.
- Helly Hansen Juniors Daybreaker 2.0 Fleece Jacket, also made of recycled polyester, is great for layering because it doesn’t have a hood. Available in 5 colors in sizes 8-16 at Helly Hansen.
- Patagonia Hi-Loft Down Sweater has 600 fill-power down to keep babies and little kids warm without weight or bulk. Available in 2 colors for 12 mos – 5 yrs old. Available at MEC and Altitude Sports.
- Patagonia Reversible Down Sweater has 600-fill power Traceable Down and features a solid color on one side and print on the other. Available in 5 colors for 12 mos – 5 yrs old. Available at MEC (flowers, owls, or badgers) and Altitude Sports (trees or bears).
- MEC Boundary Light Jacket features 700 fill-power duck which provides a lot of warmth for its weight and is good for layering. Available in 2 colors and sizes 8-16.
- Big Agnes Ice House Kids’ Down Hoodie is a high-quality, warm down jacket you can wear all winter. Check out our review of the Big Agnes Ice House Down Hoodie here. Available in Green/Grey in sizes XXS (3-5 yrs old) to XL (18 yrs) at All Out Kids Gear.
Outer layers should be insulated, windproof, and water resistant. Other features to look for include: good zippers (on jacket, check that they don’t stick to the storm flap and that there is a decent storm flap; on pants, a side zip makes for easy footwear changes – snow boots to skates/ski boots for example) with zipper pulls so kids can do up/undo jacket on their own, powder skirt on jacket (prevents warm arm loss and cold air getting in), wrist gaiters on jacket, internal gaiters on snowpants, adjustable hood to keep heat in (helmet compatible hood nice to have but not available on most younger kids’ jackets), soft fabric around face and fold over chin guard (so metal zipper doesn’t touch face when jacket fully zipped up). Down provides the most warmth for weight, but will not retain warmth when wet unless you get treated down (Downtek or other brand) which costs more. Synthetic fills can be very warm, and are still warm when wet, but tend to be bulkier than down. Be sure to look for jackets with a PFC-free DWR coating or Goretex shell to keep little ones warm and dry.
Outerwear Recommendations for under 5 years old:
- For extreme temperatures: MEC Toaster Parka & MEC Toaster Bib Pants, or MEC Toaster Suit. These have the most insulation of any winter gear we’ve tested (300g MEC™ Hyperloft in the body to keep the body core warm, and 240g Hyperloft in the arms and hood).
- For waterproofing: The wind and water-proof (45k mm) Tobe Novus V2 Junior Monosuit has Thinsulate insulation (120g body, 80g arms) to keep kids warm in cold weather.
Outerwear Recommendations for active kids over 5 years old: Bigger, more active kids don’t need as much insulation to keep warm. We use Helly Hansen Kids’ Rider 2 Insulated Ski Bib Pants and Helly Hansen Juniors Diamond Ski Jacket for most days and use the MEC Toaster pants and parka for super cold days.
Buff Merino Wool Neck Warmer, MEC Neck Gaiter, Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters
A neck warmer is good to keep in the pack for when the temperature drops or the wind kicks up. They keep your neck warm and can be pulled up to provide face protection. We like the MEC Neck Gaiter (children to youth size) and Buff merino wool neck warmer (which can be used as a hat or headband too!).
Gaiters go over the bottom of your snowpants to keep snow out and warm air in. They are a good solution if the internal gaiters on your kid’s snowpants are not that great. They also help during that period that your child is outgrowing her snowpants and every time she bends over or crouches down, her snowpants creep up above her boots. Try the abrasion- and water-resistant Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters – Kids. Gaiters can be used year-round to keep mud and debris out of hiking boots.
Hand warmers and toe warmers are so convenient and have allowed us to keep going in chilly temperatures. We don’t have to use them often, but when we do, we are thankful to have them. Keep a pack per person in your pack! You can save money by buying these by the case at Costco. If you buy just one case, keep in mind that toe warmers can be used for hands, but hand warmers are too big to fit in boots.
Do you have any secrets for keeping kids warm in winter? I’d love to hear them!
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