As the temperature dropped below zero today there were giggles and squeals being emitted from outside the window! I find myself smiling as my 7 and 10-year-olds play happily outside. They are covered, head to toe, in winter gear.
You would never know it’s negative ten out there from the joy I hear them pouring out!
Additionally, this year we had a record amount of snow, it even covers the mailbox, and we need to dig it out regularly. The enormous mound of snow leading up to the second story deck makes a great sledding hill. The kids get inside old tires and roll down this hill, escaping imaginary dragons, what memories they’ll have!
Looking back some of my favorite moments growing up are just playing in the backyard with my little brother. We would build snow tunnels, and could watch the stars in the evenings or find a place to view the Aurora. Those memories would have been less enjoyable if we had been soaking wet and freezing.
Your Guide To Kids Gear In Anchorage
Anchorage is a wonderful place to raise a family! Making memories during the coldest part of the year can be just as much fun as the summer if you are prepared with the right gear.
When you have kids in tow, it’s important to make sure that you are prepared for playing outside.
What To Look For In Good Winter Gear
Layers! Layers! Layers! Wrap your babies like burritos! Oh it took me far too long to learn this! Having winter clothes that you can layer will ensure that you can get outside in all types of weather.
When the core is warm, you have a better chance to send heat to your hands and feet. Keeping the core warm is important.
A base layer will trap in body heat, and an outer layer helps protect against wind and snow. Here in Anchorage it is cold enough that you will often need a middle layer.
- Base Layer (example: thin wool shirt and pants)
- Middle Layer (example: wool, fleece, down sweater)
- Outer Layer (example: shell top, rain/snow pants)
What Do I Recommend For Each Layer?
We like to use Merino wool as a base layer. A thin pair of wool pants and a long sleeve thin wool shirt go a long way. The magic of wool is that even if it gets wet it stays warm. Even if you get a little sweaty with wool, you can stay warm as opposed to cotton layers.
For middle layers we like to use either a wool sweater, fleece sweater, or synthetic sweater. For the bottom layer we like to use snow pants.
We typically use synthetic snow pants, however, when my daughter was a baby we used a down snow suit for her. This kept her warm when we would wear her outside, or have her ride along in the stroller.
For the outer top layer we like to use layers that protect you from the elements. No wind, snow, or slush will get through to the under layers.
For the top use a waterproof shell. For the bottom layer we either use another pair of snow pants, or a rain pant to go over snow pants. Every so often we have a warm wind that comes through and creates lots of melt and puddles.
These are the days we are happy to have a waterproof layer over a snow pant.
Socks & Warmers
I think the first thing to get cold on my kids is always their toes. Having wool socks is a must. If it is exceptionally cold, and we are spending more than 30 minutes outside, I will have them use toe warmers.
These will stay warm for hours and have allowed us to attend parades and sledding birthday parties at zero degrees without batting an eye.
An ideal winter boot should have a waterproof exterior with a wool lined inside. Sorel and Meryl make some great wool lined boots. We used to use Bogs, but they are better for warmer winter days in comparison.
Gloves & Hand Warmers
Our favorite gloves of all times had the kids hands looking like tiger paws! There was never any fight to put them on.
My favorite style of gloves for kids are ones specially designed for easy and fast gearing up. They fit over the child’s sleeve with an elongated wrist and even though the outer side is cotton, there is a waterproof layer in the middle (warm and waterproof). My son had orange and my daughter had pink.
If we are staying outside for a long time, and the temperature drops below 20°, we also use hand warmers.
When the temperatures drop we like wool or fleece hats. Also having a chin tie is great for going sledding, so the hat doesn’t go flying and your cheeks stay warm.
When the weather is above 30° cotton works just fine. Bonus points if you find something with a unicorn horn or a dragon on it.
The Neck and Face
Using a winter buff to cover their necks and bottom of their faces will really extend the time you can spend sledding and skiing. Whipping down those hills can be harsh on little noses and cheeks. Having them covered up when it’s cold is the way to go.
Where To Find That Gear In Anchorage
There are many ways to find the right gear for winter if you know where to look. If you miss the summer garage sales, there is no need to stress.
Anchorage has both a selection of thrift stores and new-gear stores to choose from.
Thrift Stores/Resale Shops
Luckily Anchorage has an abundance of kids outdoor clothes at the thrift stores. Everyone’s kids are constantly outgrowing their gear, and fortunately you can find most of, if not all of it, at the thrift stores and resale shops.
Places we have found success finding outdoor gear in Anchorage:
The Hoarding Marmot is one of Anchorage’s best used gear shops. Skis, snowboards, sleds, winter gear, this is always my first stop. I will often buy items that my kids will need in the future. Then I will sell the items back to them in a few months after my kids outgrow them.
Play It Again Sports is a used sporting goods and gear store. This is where we buy all of our skis both cross-country and downhill. Our whole family also bought used ice skates here! They have snowboards, sleds, ice skates, and new outdoor clothing as well.
Once Upon A Child is a fantastic place to find snow gear for kids. Sometimes they will have sleds. I will often buy snow suits, snow boots, hats, and coats here. In a few months I sell it back. They give a choice of a major discount on the next purchase or some cash back. The best part is that my kids love to play while I shop here.
Salvation Army and Value Village are my last stops before hitting the new-clothes stores. You never know when you will find a brand new coat that someone donated, or those cute red winter boots that fit your kid perfectly!
New Gear Stores In Anchorage
If you do not want to bother with the hassle of driving around town with no guarantee that you will find the right sizing of quality clothing that your kids need, you can head straight to any of these stores.
Tiny Ptarmigan is a local boutique selling high-quality, brand-name clothing, gear & accessories for infants & toddlers. I found the cutest furry boots for my daughter when she was two years old here.
When I cannot find good used boots, I head over to Big Ray’s for new winter boots or rain boots in the fall. They have high quality gear in abundance. They also have the best Muddy-Buddy one-piece rain suit selection for the shoulder seasons.
Sometimes you can get lucky at Costco! I bought my kids some great winter coats from here, but you need to know what you’re looking for to ensure you get something quality.
REI is a top brand outdoor adventure store. The prices are high but so is the quality.
Sportsman’s Warehouse and Cabela’s have quality outdoor gear not quite as costly as REI, but more than you’ll pay at a thrift store.
Walmart, Fred Meyer, and Burlington all have outdoor clothing and sometimes gear available as well. Plan ahead and read reviews so you know what to look for to ensure you get something of quality.
Get Outside & Enjoy The Winter!
In the summertime you can get away with not having the best gear. Winter time is a different animal. If your kids are cold and uncomfortable in zero degree weather, they are not going to like that expensive trip to Alyeska Resort!
Having good gear, and the right amount of it at the ready, will extend your ability to be outside with your children, and increase enjoyment for everyone involved.
Now go forth and have a great time enjoying our winter wonderland here in Anchorage, Alaska and beyond!
I am a giant nerd who loves geeking out on life! Scientist turned permaculture-forest-fairy turned artist home school momma living between Indian, Alaska and Anchorage, Alaska. We live part of the year in the Alaskan mountains, off-grid, learning about permaculture and how to better treat the Earth. Bears are my neighbors. My husband feeds birds from his hands. My children live in the trees.