Home Gear Reviews The Best Winter Gear for Kids: Buying Guide and Product Recommendations

The Best Winter Gear for Kids: Buying Guide and Product Recommendations

by Karen Ung

Keep kids warm and cozy with our curated collection of best winter gear for children.

The best winter gear for kids

The key to keeping kids warm in winter is 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 midlayer (a fleece sweater is light, comfy, and affordable), neck gaiter, and hand and toe warmer packets. 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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Kids’ Hats

On baby: Barts Giraffe hat, MEC Toaster Suit, Combi Mitts
On me: Ambler toque, MEC down jacket, MEC soft shell pants, MEC Shelter mitts

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. Fleece-lined wool hats are excellent for warmth and comfort (and wool has natural anti-odor properties). 
  • 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 Ambler hats (available at MEC) hats for their cute designs and cozy fleece lining, and the Zapped Reflective Beanie (also fleece lined) for nighttime adventures. For a technical, snug fitting hat with earflaps, try the Outdoor Research Kids’ Alpine Hat (available 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 hand warmer pockets, Velcro wrist straps, and adjustable toggles to help keep snow out and warm air in. Some great kids’ gloves to try include:

  • Burton Kids’ Vent Gloves are warm, waterproof, touchscreen compatible and have a handwarmer pocket for extra cold days (handwarmers not included).
  • Kombi Triple Axel Junior Gloves are waterproof, warm, touchscreen compatible, and have adjustable toggles at the wrists to keep snow and drafts out.

Mittens: The coldest days call for mittens. The best mittens are warm 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 K Rider Mittens are warm, waterproof, fleece lined, and have gauntlets to keep snow out.
  • Kombi Animal Family Mitts and Gordini Prima II Mitts are cute, water resistant, and very warm. 
  • Stonz Youth Mitts (toddler sizes also available) are a bit stiff and bulky but extremely waterproof and warm.
  • Veyo Kids Mittyz are great for little kids as they’re easy to put on. Kids will love the fun animal designs. No real thumb, however, makes it hard to hold things.

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!
This year, Kombi has Shark, Panda, Lllama, and Beaver Mitts (available at MEC)

How do you get my kid to wear mittens? Get mitts with your child’s favorite color, animal, or cartoon character on them! 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.”

Kids 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:

  • 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 straps or quick-lacing for the best fit and easy on/off (zippers are also good but are more prone to breaking). 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 (above ankle and top).
  • 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.
  • 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 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.  My KEEN winter boots have 200 grams of insulation and keep my feet warm in -20C (rated to -32 C)! 
  • 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 hikers because they are lighter, warmer, and fit better so you don’t get blisters or chafing.
  • 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.
  • Soles – Look for aggressive treads (like snow tires). If the bottom of the boots look flat like sneakers, they will not provide good traction.

Product Recommendations: For every day use, we like Sorel Yoot Pac Nylon Winter Boots and KEEN Elsa boots. For winter hiking and snowshoeing, we recommend Keen Redwood Winter Boots, Salomon Synapse Winter Boots, Timberland Winterfest Waterproof Winter Boots (comfy and warm!), Naturino Rain Step, and Merrell Kids Thermoshiver 2.0 Waterproof Boot.

Pro tip: Carry toe warmers for super cold weather (or when kids are in a stroller or baby carrier).

Socks and Insoles

Invest in some good winter hiking 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 Bridgedale Merino Ski Socks, Darn Tough Via Ferrata Junior Micro Crew Socks, and Smartwool Wintersport Yetti Betty Socks.

For additional warmth, consider felt insoles. If your child always has cold feet and you wanna splurge, sheepskin insoles are amazing! I bought some at the farmer’s market a few years ago and love them!

On left: Patagonia Hi-Loft Down Sweater, MEC Toaster Bib Pants, and MEC Essential Mitts.
On right: Ambler toque, MEC Yeti Hooded (Fleece) Jacket, Kombi Rail Jam II Junior Ski Gloves, MEC Toaster Bib Pants, Old Navy Vest

Base, Mid, and Outer Layers

Dressing in layers allows you to control your temperature. You want to be comfortably warm, but not sweaty. I’ve found by wearing a base layer and jacket, and packing an extra 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/wool blends (not cotton!) that wick moisture, and have smooth “brushed” surfaces so it is easy to put mid/outer layers over them. Antimicrobial fabrics reduce odor, but wool also works well in this regard. Our kids have lightweight technical base layers, midweight base layers, and fleece base layers for the coldest days. If your kids don’t mind mock neck tops, they keep more heat in.

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 is a great mid-layer.

Look for: Zipper for easy clothing changes and temperature regulation (1/4 zip, 1/2 zip, or full zip), and technical fabrics (synthetic, wool or silk blends) that retain heat but wick moisture.

Outer Layers

Dollarama Toque, MEC Toaster Parka, MEC Toaster Bib Pants, MEC Neck Gaiter, MEC Toasty Mitts, Cougar Snow Boots, MSR Tyker Snowshoes

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 DWR coating or Goretex shell to keep little ones warm and dry.

Product Recommendations for under 5 years old: MEC Toaster Parka & MEC Toaster Bib Pants, or MEC Toaster Suit. These have the most insulation of any winter gear we’ve tested. 

Product 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 snowpants and jackets for most days and use the MEC Toaster pants and parka for super cold days.

For more reviews on children’s outer wear, please see this post.   

Winter Accessories

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.

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 affordable MEC Junior Gaiters. Gaiters can be used year-round to keep mud and debris out of hiking boots.

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. Some of our favorites include the Patagonia Hi-Loft Down Sweater (600-fill down) and Big Agnes Ice House Kids’ Down Hoodie. Synthetic options include Helly Hansen K Storm Reversible Jacket and Patagonia Nano Puff (PrimaLoft fill).

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 type, 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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