As an outdoor enthusiast, I have always lived by the mantra that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear. This is even more applicable to kids than to adults; proper outdoor clothing can turn even the worst weather day into a great one.
Good-quality outdoor kit can seem expensive, especially for kids who grow out of things at an alarming rate. But investing in a few key items will make all the difference. Keep an eye out in secondhand shops, or for sales when you can pick up last season’s colours and styles for a fraction of the price.
When dressing for the outdoors in winter you should think of an onion – you want light layers that are easy to pop on and off with changing temperatures and levels of exertion. A lot of kids’ jackets tend to be heavy and bulky, uncomfortable for little ones who spend a lot of time running around.
A good set of waterproofs are essential for any child, and not just for wet days. In cold, windy weather, waterproof trousers and jackets are a great additional layer to keep the wind-chill out.
An insulated jacket is also a great investment. I always opt for a lightweight down jacket that can be worn on its own or under a waterproof coat when it’s really cold and wet.
When it comes to footwear, my energetic and active son has tried and tested many different options. Wellies are a must. There is a big difference between plastic and rubber when it comes to comfort. Avoid really cheap plastic wellies at all costs. I recently bought rubber ones from the Leigh Tucker range in Dunnes Stores. At €12, they were just a few euro more than Dunnes regular wellies, but far more comfortable. Irish brand Puddle Ducks also do a great range that come with cosy welly socks.
Once you have the key items, there are plenty of great pieces of outdoor kit that don’t cost a fortune. The opening of Decathlon in Ballymun (also available online) was a game changer. It’s a great place to pick up base layers and cosy fleeces, hats, gloves and socks for your kids, which wear and wash really well. Gloves, hats and neck gaiters are great to throw in your backpack, and cheaper options from Dunnes Stores or Decathlon are a good bet, as they tend to get lost very easily.
Lidl and Aldi have occasional hiking sales, which can be a little hit and miss. But their base layer packs offer great value at €7.99 for tops and bottoms, as are the lovely lightweight polo necks for €7.99 for a pack of two.
Puddle Ducks Ultra Light Fleece Lined Wellies (€22.95, puddleducks.ie)
These wellies from Irish company Puddle Ducks are among the lightest on the market. The boots come with a cosy fleece lining which is great for colder days, and also for prolonging their life – simply remove the lining for a roomier boot as your child’s feet grow.
ECCO Biom K1 Shoes (€75, ie.ecco.com)
These shoes have been a game changer for my very active son. They are lightweight, making them very comfortable and not too hot when he is running around. The upper is made from a waterproof Gore-Tex fabric that keeps his feet stay warm and dry if there is an unexpected shower or he finds a puddle to jump in. These are an investment, but I purchased them for half price in a recent sale.
Columbia Waterproof Walking Jacket/ Arcadia Jacket (usually €60, currently on sale for €42, columbiasportswear.ie)
The Columbia Walking Jacket for boys and Arcadia Jacket for girls offers many of the same features you would expect to see on an adult’s waterproof shell. They are both fully waterproof, lightweight and breathable, with a fully adjustable hood. The jacket also packs up small to be thrown into a backpack.
Puddle Ducks Waterproof Dungarees (€22.95, puddleducks.ie)
Waterproof dungarees are one of my favourite pieces of kit for kids. First, they last forever. The adjustable straps mean the pants grow with your child so you will likely get two years out of each pair you buy. Second, they can be thrown on solo or with a jacket over the top, making them ideal for almost every activity, from winter beach days to cold and wet walks.
Patagonia Hi Loft Down Sweater (€140- €200, eu.patagonia.com)
If I had to pick one item of clothing to invest in, it would be a warm coat. Patagonia offers a great range of kids’ outdoor kit, made to last; the items can be passed down from child to child for years to come. The High Loft Down Sweater is really cosy for those very cold days, yet offers supreme breathability when needed. We layer ours under a waterproof shell on wet, cold days. The hood also offers great warmth (and actually stays up) for those who refuse to wear hats. I purchased one on sale for €80.
Polarn O. Pyret Waterproof Fleece (€64.90, polarnopyret.ie)
These handy fleeces are ideal for autumn and spring or layered up in winter. Offering protection from the wind and rain, they are also soft, cosy and really breathable. While €65 is expensive for a fleece, the website has frequent sales offering up to 30 per cent off across the entire range.
Decathlon Basic Base Layer (€4, decathlon.ie)
These low-cost base layers come in black and white and offer a really cosy next-to-skin layer for kids. The brushed lining is soft but breathable. Decathlon has thermal leggings in the same range, also €4.
Decathlon Kids Hiking Fleece (€7, decathlon.ie)
This lightweight fleece has become a firm favourite with my son. It’s super soft and the half zip means you can let a bit of air in when needed, or zip it up to the top when temperatures drop. It washes well and takes up very little space in your bag or backpack.
Heather Snelgar edits outsider.ie, Ireland’s outdoor and adventure website