What to Wear?
LAYER ONE: BASE LAYER
Your child should have 2 sets of baselayers for the year. One should be a midweight polyester set or midweight wool set for keeping them warm in the fall and spring. I don't recommend going below the 250 weight for wool as it is paper thin and rips easily. The second set should be a supreme insulator for deep winter. I highly recommend the Ragged Mountain Polartech Powerstretch pants or the LL Bean Fitness Fleece set to go under their clothes in the winter, while the Wicked Warm set is great for warmer weather. You will need 2 weights of wool socks to keep their feet warm- medium for fall and spring and a winter ski sock for the coldest days. Please no cotton for winter socks or long underwear, as cotton does not insulate well. Check out Mountain Man in Saratoga for good deals on some of the kids' items below. Of course on hot days, regular clothing will suffice!
Smartwool Socks- medium hiking crew for fall and spring
Smartwool Ski Socks- wintersport ski socks for winter
At Little Wings, we will be outside every day no matter the weather. Farmers can't take a day off just because it is a bit chilly or wet. Plus the forest always offers a naturalist something lovely in all weather! There are a few amazing pieces of gear layered in a specific way that will help keep your child warm on days that are below freezing, raining, or snowing. If the weather is dangerously wet and cold, we may choose to hold program indoors rather than out as no one wants an early brush with hypothermia, but for the most part, we will all be safe, warm, happy and dry on most days of the year if we follow the layering system below. What follows are some links to clothing that I have tested with my own child on many backcountry ventures and trust. Earlier in my career I got to work at Eastern Mountain Sports and Upside Over in Saratoga, an outfitter just for kids. It was great to get to know kids' gear and to outfit families with some of these brands. I am a gearhead by necessity, as I lived outdoors in all weather for months at a time during my thruhikes and needed my gear to work. I am also a Winter 46er and have never had frostbite or hypothermia, even while hiking in -30 wind chills. This system works.
If these brands are out of your price range, check out secondhand shops, swaps, FB Marketplace or resale sites online such as Ebay—they do not need to be brand new to keep your child warm! Just check the labels to make sure they’re 100% wool or synthetic. Also, let me know! I have begun collecting outdoor gear to share. Almost every company here will have a clearance sale of last year's colors. Hunt for a deal! If my link doesn't work it is because they have new colors or names. Just type the item into a search bar and you will find this year's colors.
One full “forest school” outfit is plenty—we don’t mind if they come to school wearing the same thing every day! Do not feel the need to buy multiples of these items unless you want to. Just know that laundry will be a part of your day!
You will see the phrase “NO COTTON” repeated often below—that is because cotton absorbs sweat/moisture and when wet, does not insulate! During the colder months, please do not send your child in cotton sweatpants, sweatshirts or socks, as these will not do a good job keeping them warm and dry while they are busy exploring and playing outside.
Please label your child’s clothing! This makes it much easier for us to return your clothing to you when it gets mixed up! You can purchase custom name labels or just write your child’s name on their tags.
LAYER TWO: FLEECE LAYER
On the warmer fall or spring days, your child may only need a fleece vest to go over their baselayer. But on the coldest of days, your child should have a baselayer plus a pair of warm fleece pants and a wool sweater or fleece zip-up jacket with a hood for their second layer. I highly recommend the hood because it helps to keep warmth in, protects the neck from snow and rain and can be pulled up over a hat or under a hat to protect the ears. Bonus points if the hoodie has thumb holes, as this means we can pull mittens on over the sleeve keeping snow and ice out! These layers can be worn alone or under the waterproof layers during the fall, or underneath their insulation layers in the winter so are very versatile. Again, NO cotton—a cotton or cotton/poly blend sweatshirt will not keep them warm enough. I find kids tend to hate bulk and restriction, so the baselayer needs to be tight fitting while this midlayer needs to be a bit thin in order to comfortably add waterproofs or insulation layers on top. Don't necessarily think the thicker the better, as it is the layering that traps the warm body heat between the fibers and your child may not be able to move freely, happily and safely if they look like the Stay-Puffed marshmallow dude! Here are some of my favorites so far, but honestly, fleece is fleece! If you find a good deal, take it! And never buy full price y'all- shop around for last year's colors or a holiday sale!
LAYER THREE: INSULATION LAYER
Your child should have a down or synthetic puffy jacket (or ski coat) and a pair of snow pants OR a one-piece snow suit for days when it is especially cold or snowy (Note: we’re big fans of the one-piece snow suits! They are much simpler than dealing with all the zippers and straps. Try a bib if a snowsuit is not your thang. Thrift stores have lots!). Snow gear can be worn on its own or under a Muddy Buddy or Waterproof Overalls when it’s sleeting, raining or muddy while chilly. We've had great luck with the Obermeyer Volt Bibs lasting us 2 seasons because they have a removable stitching in the hem to lengthen them and have pretty burly knee reinforcement which is where the pants will break down from kneeling. I caution you away from plain snow pants and a jacket because snow will find its was down their pants and up their back! Reminder: most puffy jackets are NOT waterproof. Great for cold powder days, but not wet days.
LAYER THREE (RAIN): WATERPROOFS
Truth is, if you can only afford one suit, I would get one of these rather than a bulky snow suit and just layer up!
Or you might prefer a rain jacket with bibs if you don't already have a rain jacket, as it is more versatile.
HEAD, HANDS, & FEET
Your child should have a fleece or wool hat, a fleece neck warmer, a pair of thin fleece, wool, or synthetic gloves, a pair of waterproof mittens, and a good pair of snow/cold weather boots. Rain mitts are really a must to go over thinner fleece mitt or glove on cold rainy days. Cold and wet hands or feet will be the major hurdle we face daily. Please make sure your child comes to school with at least 2 sets of clean and dry mittens daily in the colder months. We are only as strong as our coldest child.
A NOTE ON COLD HANDS
For kids whose hands get very chilly in the winter, we recommend a two-part hand covering system! Use a thin, fleece pair of gloves or mittens as the base layer and then, on top of the thin gloves/mittens, put a large, insulated, waterproof pair of mittens. This method allows for a few things: 1) for their hands to be covered always, even when they take their big mittens off to draw/write/eat a snack, etc, and 2) for a handwarmer to be safely slipped in to the big mittens without having a handwarmer on bare skin (not recommended).