The leaves are turning, the snow is coming

By Mir
September 20, 2006

Again, my standard disclaimer: I realize that not everyone has a cold winter, yes. If you live in Florida or southern California or Arizona or whatever, you can skip this post. This one is for those of us who live places with two seasons: Winter and road construction.

Chris wrote a great post about this, so I have only a few things to add beyond her sage advice. (Seriously, buying everyone the same coat? In the same color? Brilliant.) I’ve addressed some of the issues related to getting a great deal on a winter coat, before, but now I want to look at the added issues of outfitting your kids for the harsh weather.

As Chris points out, you have to take into consideration just what, exactly, you’re hoping this jacket is going to do. You can go cheaper for something meant to just wear around, for example, than for a jacket your kid’s going to be skiing in. However, let me just point out here that hell hath no fury like a mom whose kid manages to bust the zipper on her winter jacket in February. If you buy something that isn’t good quality, you are greatly increasing the chances of that item being rendered unusable at the absolute worst possible time. You don’t want to be looking for a replacement jacket mid- or late-season. Make sure to get something that will last. Like Chris, I’ve had very good luck with Lands’ End and LL Bean outerwear, and I’m happy to pay a bit more for both the quality and the unbeatable customer service.

Now. I’m going to tell you a secret! (Ooooh!) I have a local Bean outlet and I know that they’ll do a deep sale on winter outerwear at some point during the summer (usually June or July). Of course, the selection will be limited. Sometimes I can’t find something in my kids’ sizes. But I always go check it out, and I never come home empty-handed. I can tuck away larger sizes for future years, and I can eBay smaller sizes for a nice little profit, usually. In fact, this year? I had two pristine jackets in the correct sizes, just waiting for my kids. But in my regular travels at my local thrift shop, I’d found nearly-new jackets for just a few bucks apiece. So I eBayed the brand new ones.

Instead of spending $50+ apiece for my kids’ jackets this year, I got them expensive jackets and made about $30. Not too bad, right?

[I understand that this method isn’t for everyone. Mostly it’s a reminder to check your local outlets, check eBay, and don’t be afraid to buy used. Keep in mind that if you pick up a Lands’ End or LL Bean parka secondhand, you can still get customer service on it, too.]

Now. Jackets are, to some extent, easy. My advice: Buy one. (Hahaha! Me so smart.) What about the other accessories of cold weather?

My kids like snowsuits, but as they get bigger, they’re harder to find (and expensive). I also dislike them because once they’re wet, you’re out the entire shebang, top and bottom. I prefer to buy my kids snowpants (the bib kind, to keep the snow out) and have two pairs. That way, when one pair is all soggy and still drying out on the closet door and the hot chocolate has been finished and they want to go back out, they can grab the second pair. This is another great item to pick up used; in fact, I must not be the only person who believes in two pairs per kid, because I often find barely used snowpants at the thrift store. And if you have more than one kid (and so can be passing down), there’s not even that much shopping required.

Truly weatherproof snowpants are much more expensive than those that will keep the cold out alright but get soggy at the first snowangel. Spend the extra money for at least one pair of good ones. The second pair can be cheap, if you like. But no one likes a cold, soggy bottom.

Just as with jackets and snowpants, you shouldn’t skimp on boots. Very little is more miserable than frozen toes. And did you know that your feet will stay warmer in boots that are about half a size too big than in ones that “fit” you? It’s true. Some wiggle room provides a larger space for a nice warm air pocket. So don’t cheat fit on boots; buy them big on purpose rather than trying to squeeze an extra year out of a pair that’s too snug. Some boot brands I like: Columbia, Sorel, and Kamik. All of these can be found at off-price stores like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s. (I don’t recommend eBay for boots because the shipping will kill the deal.) Although I will not buy a pair of used boots, I do try to have my daughter hand down to my son, so—much to her dismay—I don’t do hot pink, flowered boots and the like. You know what’s a great color for boots? Black! Or navy blue! Yessir. Hmph.

Most of the body’s heat is lost through the head, so it’s important to get your kids into the habit of wearing a hat when it’s cold out. I love a nice polarfleece for a winter hat; it’s warm, it wicks away moisture, and it’s relatively inexpensive if you shop properly. Here’s where you think I’m going to tell you to buy one hat per kid, right? Wrong. Hats get wet. Hats get lost. Have a bunch of hats. These you can buy used, or cheap, because you want a bunch.

Now, with gloves/mittens, my philosophy is a bit different. My kids each get one good pair of gloves each winter. We also have lots of spares, including the $.99 “magic” variety (the ones that look like they’re suitable for Barbie dolls, but stretch when you put them on). They’re good to have around in a pinch, or—when it’s truly frigid—to wear underneath other gloves or mittens. So, yes, have spares. But also have a “primary” pair about which you have made it abundantly clear that if one goes missing, too bad.

Up until last year, I didn’t often bother with scarves for the kids. I suspected they would strangle themselves with them or forget them somewhere. Now they both use scarves or neck gaiters (like this one, which, oooh, nice price) on the really cold days.

I have also drilled the kids in the fine art of stuffing all accessories into their sleeves, each time they come inside (as long as they’re not wet, of course). Hats, scarves, and gloves all go into the sleeve; it’s the only way to make sure they cannot leave again without all the pieces they arrived with, so this is a particularly good skill to cultivate for kids who are hanging up jackets at school alongside a million other jackets.

Do you have any winter dressing tips to share?


  1. We have those same neck gaitors, bought for the same wonderful price. They are fabulous.

    I always buy the Land’s End boots with the liners that come out. That is the feature I think is the most important regardless of brand. When they get all snowy and wet you take the liner out and put it in the dryer. No waiting for boots to dry.

  2. One other thing about busting a zipper mid-season. I had a zipper on a Land’s End squall jacket melt in the dryer, I sent the jacket back and got a brand new one in return! Just another reason to spend a little more in the beginning, not to mention how easy they are to pass down or resell on eBay!

  3. Chris: Doh! Removable liners! How could I forget that?? Right you are. Have I told you lately how pretty you are?

  4. Funny you should talk about this today! Just yesterday I ordered LL Bean Northwoods boots for my son (yes i got the graphite so i can pass down to my daughter)..they are in the ‘new to sale’ section, $19.95. They have removable liner too! Perfect boots. Use code 7352350 for free ship.

  5. You people are all so pretty! What fantastic tips. *Off to put tick marks on my sons’ clothes…*

  6. I’ve had success buying a large (and I do mean LARGE) pair of wind pants to layer over the regular clothes. I do this, my teenagers do this, and we can make a snowman or go sledding in comfort. We also buy several pair of matching “magic” stretch gloves. Then when one glove is lost, we just grab another from the basket to make a pair.

  7. I love the 4-n-1 jackets for my kids. Since we live in Houston and only need the inner jacket here, but travel to snowy destinations at least twice each winter, we need both kinds of coverage. I like fleece/rain jacket inner coat with the heavy snow jacket outer coat. When the two are zipped together, my kids are toasty even out on the slopes.

    I also get the Lands Ends boots – they are so easy to put on and stay so very dry.

    Just over the past two weeks on ebay, I found 4-n-1 jackets for both my kids (matching!), a pair of snowpants for them both, and a pair of boots for my eldest. Saved about 75% off the retail price and they were all new except the one jacket.

  8. I know this is a tip that will be greated with great disgust by the kids Chickadee’s and Monkey’s ages, but it can start to be cool again starting in high school: mitten clips.

    Now, stay with me here! I spent the first 18 years of my life in North Dakota and another 7 in northern Ohio and Wisconsin — I know of what I speak 😉

    Once I got old enough to be truly responsible for my own gear, I found that keeping a couple of mitten clips in my locker or purse worked really well for me. You clip your gloves to one clip, hat and scarf to the other (I had the clips safety pinned together) and they stay all together in your locker. When we bailed out for lunch, we often just grabbed our coats, and that can lead to things falling out of your locker and getting lost. The clips (which you then hang on one of the hooks in the locker) took care of that.

  9. In Texas, we have two seasons as well: Hot and Christmas. Just thought I’d share, since I’m an igmo about cold weather. And I like it that way. 🙂

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