Winter Hiking with Kids

Winter Hiking with Kids

Colder temperatures and shorter days tend to keep families indoors during this time of year. While it’s tempting to hibernate and stay inside all winter we all know how stir-crazy we become even after one day stuck indoors with kids! Instead, get outside and discover why winter can be one of the best seasons for hiking in the Midwest.

Hiking in the winter is beautiful. Catching glimpses of winter birds like cardinals can be a fun way to start conversations with your kids about how different animals survive the winter months. Fresh snow on the ground always makes looking for animal tracks a fun activity, too! Hiking in the winter also frees you from the worry of the heat, humidity, bug spray, and sunscreen overload.

Making sure everyone is safe and warm on the trail is key to having fun. The number one most important thing you can do is be prepared beforehand. Dress in layers and think about the Three W’s when dressing yourself and your little ones: a Wicking layer, a Warming layer, and a Weathering layer. The Wicking layer should be a thin layer worn next to the skin and designed to remove moisture: wool, polyester and bamboo are all good fabric choices. The Warming layer provides insulation and warmth. This layer is easily made from clothing you already own – fleece pajamas, fleece jackets, lined pants, etc. The Weathering layer is designed to stop wind, rain, and snow. My personal favorite is the Oaki Rain Suit for kids.

Don’t forget about hands and feet, too! Stonz Wear makes great booties with a warm liner for babies and toddlers, and their Mittz are also awesome for keeping on little hands as they cinch down in two places. A pro tip for little kids who won’t keep mittens on? Use adult wool socks and pull them all the way up to their armpits before you put their jacket on. This makes it really difficult for them to remove on their own.

Once you start your hike, it is always a good idea to stop and check everyone for warmth and comfort level every 20 minutes. Before assuming kids are just being fussy, check hands, feet and any exposed skin. Make sure you check diapers as well. A wet diaper can get cold fast. If your kids do start to get fussy, you won’t regret heading back to the car early and trying again another day. A thermos of hot chocolate or a special treat waiting in the car can also be a needed incentive to make it through your planned hike!

It’s important to remember that kids will have bad days on the trail. It happens to the best of us; just don’t let it keep you from trying again soon. Hiking with other families with kids can help make everyone feel more comfortable and encourage kids to last longer outside. Join a hike with your local Hike it Baby branch for both motivation and community. 

Worrying about having to buy new winter gear every season for your kids? Check out consignment shops for used, winter gear or check out some of these awesome online resources:

If you are considering buying new gear and are a Hike it Baby member, check out our list of current discounts offered exclusively to our members: Interested in becoming a member? Check out:

About the Author

Katy Severe is one of the Branch Ambassadors for Hike it Baby Des Moines and is the newsletter coordinator for Hike it Baby National. She is the proud mom of a three-year old boy who loves superheroes, the color pink, chocolate and being carried on EVERY hike! Katy has taught workshops at REI on winter hiking with kids, and loves hiking in the winter despite all the extra laundry it usually entails.


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