Staying active and being in the great outdoors is pretty easy when the sun is out. Everyone loves the freedom of wearing shorts and t-shirts. But what if you live in an area where you experience the four seasons? You will need to be creative in order to keep your little ones comfortable and happy.
I love running and so does my son Kai. When I am getting ready to go, he is crawling up into the stroller, excited to get pushed around. And even during winter he loves to get out and explore as much as I do. We hike, snowshoe, cross-country ski, backcountry ski and continue to run together even on cold, snowy days.
We both enjoy the snow flakes floating by us. When I bump a tree, Kai cackles away, watching the snow fall off the branches and on to the ground. His giggles are contagious and they always make me laugh as well. I have a theory that there is no bad weather, just bad clothing. When we head out for an adventure I need to be prepared for both of us.
People might be intimidated with the idea of getting out in winter with a little one, but you shouldn’t be! Here are a few tips Kai and I have learned over this past season.
Hiking and snowshoeing are hard work, especially when you are carrying your kid in a back pack. Keeping your little ones warm so they stay comfortable and continue to enjoy the day is the most important goal. So use the right gear when hiking or snowshoeing :
Mountain Equipment Co-op child carrier – It has a metal frame which allows you to place the pack down to stand alone without falling over.
- This tip is a huge one that had us thinking outside the box. You buy the raincoat that is made for the MEC child carrier. We actually use this to protect Kai from the wind. It is a great multi-use item that allows the heat to be trapped in but still offers Kai a great view of the nature we hike through (and of course his dad!).
- Kahtoolas. These are traction aids that consist of a chain and aggressive spikes that bite into the soft snow or hard ice. They can also be worn on dirt and rock if you are in the other seasons. Having these will allow you to be comfortable and confident in your footing and give you greater stability when walking on snow and ice.
- A down filled one-piece snow suit with booties and mitts. (Put the mitts and booties on before the snow suit to get a snug fit and reduce the risk of falling off.)
- Having a variety of toques is also important. Make sure your toques offer coverage of the cheeks and majority of the face.
Being confident in your gear is essential in moving forward in the outdoors with your children.
When we are hiking or snowshoeing, Kai is in the backpack carrier. This puts him close to me which he truly enjoys. Being nice and close helps him feel safe and gives him a different perspective. He sits up higher getting a better view.
If you are like me and have the worst flexibility, I recommend that you use your phone on selfie mode, to check on your child. You can see if they are sleeping or if their toque is still on.
If Kai isn’t in the backpack, he is likely being pushed along in our Thule chariot. This piece of gear allows you to switch out the tires for cross-country skis! When we are using the chariot I always include:
- Down blanket. I would recommend always having this to add extra warmth in the chariot or even when you take them out.
- I also lay a thick blanket along the mesh pocket that hangs under the handle bar. I do this to protect Kai from the wind that would come in otherwise.
- Thermos of hot water and a hot water bottle. I use this to keep the chariot nice and toasty or to help warm Kai up mid adventure.
If we had to pick, we’d probably say that cross country skiing is our favorite winter outdoor activity. Devin recommends that you start on green runs and practice your form before you step up to the more aggressive ski trails. Kai loves going down hills but he also knows that his Dad has practiced and is confident in his skiing, which he says is important for keeping him safe.
If you have a set of touring skis you can use those to pull the chariot. It will allow you to have a better grip having assistance from the skins on your skis. You can also use the backpack carrier. Sometimes Kai and I will ski tour, but we stay in safe areas where there is zero risk of avalanche.
When we get warmer weather Kai will actually be carried on the front of me. This allows him his own personal view of the trees, snow and mountains. When I am going to ski down, I switch the carrier to backpack mode to protect Kai in case of a fall. Kai would say that wearing a helmet is cool because it protects him from trees, falls and even helps keep heat in.
One question I get asked probably more than any other is how I dress my little guy when we go out. Remember, you are the one doing the hard work so you are going to be warm, sweating and generating heat. When you are carrying them, your little one will not be – he or she will be stationary. So make sure you dress them accordingly.
Kai wears 3 pairs of socks, 3 sweatpants, 2 long sleeve shirts and a sweater, all under his down snowsuit. He will either have a normal toque on or one that also covers his cheeks and face. You may think it’s a lot. Not once have we had cold legs, toes or fingers and we have been out in some cold weather.
Prepare, invest in good clothes, and always carry extra gear in case something is dropped, lost or forgotten. A happy baby is a happy adventurer!
Safety tips that I live by are:
- Weather: know what it has done, is doing and will or might do.
- Conditions: what has the weather done to the area you are going to explore
- Wildlife: prepare for encounters with wildlife. Carry the necessary tools to protect yourself and child from anything that might want to visit you. That means year round and don’t think just because it’s winter bear spray is not needed.
- Extra Gear, means you are prepared. You can probably handle a cold finger or toe but your children can’t and making sure you are prepared will help your day be way more enjoyable
- We always carry a two-way messaging device called Delorme InReach. It is a tool I will teach him to use in case of emergency. It has mapping, tracking, weather and a compass. It allows you to keep in touch worldwide with people especially in a SOS or when needing assistance. We never leave without ours.
I hope these tips inspire you to take your little ones on the trail even during the cold weather. No season stops us so we are creating shared wonderful memories together year round. And we’re doing it comfortably and safely!