As a Northern Minnesotan, I get jazzed about our 4 distinct seasons! From the crisp winter mornings that leave icicles on your eyelashes to the warm summer nights around a cozy campfire, there is so much to be enjoyed and explored in both cold and warm climates.
I’m Sara, a homeschooling, nature loving mama of 4. I want my kiddos to love these seasons, too, and to be prepared + excited for adventures in all sorts of weather. This requires 1 important thing- good outdoor gear! And nope, I’m not just talking about high end, brand name stuff. I'm talking functional gear that can work for everyday folks no matter the budget.
As a family with young and fast-growing children, we rely a lot on hand-me-downs, marketplace finds, and thrift store treasures. And I LOVE that. There's something about giving a high-quality piece of clothing a second life that feels so good. We purchase new gear from trusted brands as well, but with a lot of intention and timeliness (More on that below!). While it's easy to look around and compare to all the trending apparel around (Duluth, you're so rad!), I always come back to the belief that if my kids are comfortable and able to maneuver in nature the way they'd like, the gear they've got is achieving it's goal!
When it comes to gearing up the fam, here's a few tips that will help you enjoy the outdoors- rain, snow or shine:
1) Layers, layers, layers!
Layers give us lots of options and keep the fam prepared for shifts in weather (which happen often around here!). When we are headed out for a longer period of time in winter, we prep with several under layers. We can always take clothing off if we get too toasty, but being too cold is game over for a little one.
2) For low budget options, think more about fabric material + quality and less about brand names.
When it comes to outdoor adventures, the best natural fibers to look for are wool and fleece. They are both breathable, wick moisture, and will dry quickly too. Wool and fleece will be your best companions during rainy seasons, warm days, and cold snaps alike. Pro-tip: I am always on the lookout for clothing in these materials, even when it's not in my kiddo's current sizes or in season. We just store it away for later. Bonus if it's gender neutral and can be re-worn by siblings over and over!
3) Look secondhand first.
There are lots of super great spots to check out for secondhand and discounted gear.. here's our top local spots:
▲Great Lakes Gear Exchange: Tons of secondhand gear here. We've purchased jackets, hats, and skis!
▲Once upon a child: A great spot for all sorts of children's apparel. They have jackets and boots for wintertime too!
▲Thrift stores! This definitely requires more combing through, but we discover a lot of great outdoor finds at these places. Our favorite local shops to search are Goodwill and Savers.
4) Splurge intentionally.
Popular outdoor brands are well known for good reason- they provide top quality protection, warmth, and movability. We do spend the extra cash on these brands for certain items, especially if we expect them to be worn for years to come. Footwear is another one of these splurge-worthy items- good footwear will make or break your next big hike or snowy afternoon with your toddler. When purchasing gear new, here's a few hacks:
▲For petite adults, purchase the youth size! I own winter boots and a winter jacket that are both in youth sizes. Similar to the adult version but lots cheaper!
▲Order from companies that have long warranties- many do!
▲Purchase with the whole family in mind. What can you buy for the oldest kid that will last through the youngest?
In any weather, gear is such a support! What tips would you add to this list?
Happy gear hunting, friends!
Sara Clifton is owner and founder of North & Shore, homeschool mama of 4, and lover of all things North Shore! You can often find her exploring the forest with her kiddos with a warm drink in hand. Connect with her through our Instagram page or at northandshore.com.