Infant outdoor clothing

LB shown below in Patagonia Baggies jacket and pants, and Patagonia Micro D crew.dsc00854

If you’re going to do a bunch of outdoor stuff with your infant or toddler, it’s worth getting them some primo or near-premium outdoor clothing.  Given how fast they grow it can seem absurd to spend serious money on something which is grown out of in months, but a few key pieces make the backcountry a lot easier for the parents, and safer and more comfortable for the kid.  Not too many companies make such clothing, with Patagonia having by far the largest selection.  Therefore, Little Bear has been Patagucci’d since an early age.  We live in a posh mountain town with several used gear stores, but baby clothing doesn’t pop up too often.  I think most people horde it, either out of nostalgia or for the inevitable next kid.

There seems to be nearly as much variability with kids as with adults, but since he was 4 months I’ve been impressed with how easily Little Bear keeps himself warm.  Bundling him up in massive layers has rarely been necessary.  That said most of the time he’s along for the ride in either the backpack or the trailer, and needs more insulation than the more active adult, though riding in the pack does take some effort and generate some body heat.

Fleece and quick dry base layers have been his foundation, and well worth the investment.  Babies drool a lot, snot a lot, spill food all over, and occasionally overwhelm their diapers.  Poly garments dry fast, which makes drool less chilling and backcountry laundry more expedient.  LB always has a complete change of primary and secondary layers along on multi-day trips.

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Capilene has served LB well.  The daily capilene long and short sleeve shirts (equivalent to Capilene 1 or silkweight Capilene) are nice for sun protection in hot weather, while the Capilene onesie and pants set (equivalent to Capilene 3) is warm and versatile.  None of the stuff in Patagonia’s winter 16/17 line up is what we’ve used; it’s all listed as 88/12 poly/spandex which is too much lycra for good dry times.  They do sell the Capilene pants separately now, which is good.  These pants are bug proof, but the pajama style stays put better than normal pants on the non-waist of infants.

Microfleece has been LB’s bread and butter, and the Micro D crew (still sold) is a must-have item.  We’ve had three different ones as he’s grown, and all have been used heavily.  Full zip, hooded fleece jackets are also good, in a variety of weights and ideally sized big enough to fit over the Micro D.  Hoods defeat, most of the time, LB’s hatred and intolerance of all hats.  The North Face makes a good one we’ve used a bunch, as does Patagonia, though we found a perfectly serviceable microfleece hoody in 12-18 month at Old Navy.  Fleece pants are, naturally, a good idea as well.

TNF Glacier fleece hoody, and Patagonia Capilene pants and onesie.R0013370

The most crucial piece of infant clothing has been Patagonia’s Baggies jacket and pants.  Made of supplex nylon, they’re tough windbreaker-type garments, and in addition to repelling wind and light rain, are mosquito proof.  The pants especially were the only ones of their type we could find, and even then they had sold so fast we got stuck with what turned out to be very charming pink/salmon numbers.  The double knees provide a little padding while crawling, and the hood helps keep sun off. We haven’t invested in proper rain gear just yet, because with a rain cover on either the backpack or chariot it just didn’t seem necessary, and Baggies works enough during fair weather packrafting.  I would not have wanted to have gone through this past summer, especially a few buggy trips in August, without these.

The last piece of the tech clothing puzzle is insulation.  We splurged early and bought LB a Hi-Loft down coat from Patagonia, and auntie Kate got him another for his birthday.  At retail this is a silly expensive and not very utilitarian item, but the style and packed size is very nice.  Infants are a lot harder to hold in a slippery down coat, and the added warmth only seems to rarely be necessary.  When they’re little a far more practical item is the Patagonia fleece bunting with dual access zips, and leg zips which combine both legs into one (sleeping bag or seal mode).  Sadly these amazing items seem to have been discontinued; we bought aggressively from the use market this spring.  Buntings are less pragmatic for older kids, as the integrated booties don’t walk well, and from 9 months on LB found them too confining.

Capilene pants, Micro D crew, Baggies jacket, fleece bomber hat, Smartwool socks, leather shoes.img_0878

The last mandatory item is socks, specifically wool socks from Smartwool. You cannot have too many of these, as they are both dead useful and tiny (and forever getting lost).  They stay put better than any proper shoes we’ve found, are warm when wet, and make fantastic gloves.  I’ve taken to stuffing a spare pair in each of the two hand pockets of his down jacket, better to keep track of them on dayhikes and backpacks.

Last, and certainly not least, it should be noted that we only purchased a modest amount of all this stuff.  Most of it has been provided to LB by grandparents, aunts, and friends, who have done a fantastic job of making sure he is well outfitted.  If you have an outdoors-inclined family member or friend who has an infant or is expecting one soon, get them some infant outdoor essentials.  They’re the sort of thing which gets used constantly and is the best way to hope to the top of the list of best relative/friend/etc.

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7 thoughts on “Infant outdoor clothing

  1. As always, great post! It’s great to see someone else who takes their little ones along for real hikes.

    The infant toddler clothing from Patagonia is great. Our little guy LOVES his fleece Snap-T. On pricing– we found that prices on infant/toddler insulation fell through the floor at the end of winter, far more than the adult clothing usually does. It’s all expensive, but around where we live you could pick up the really really high end stuff, like the Snap-T, for $20-40 a pop. Apparently no one is brave enough to guess how big their kid will be in six months.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. We got the Patagonia Hi-Loft Down Hoody jacket (12 mos size) as a gift and for us in our climate in SE Alaska, it has been an ultimate staple. We use it year round and it fit our son for almost 2 years before we splurged for the 3T size (on discount). We made sure we had a rain jacket that would fit over it and ended up always reaching for it over fleece. Also, we got some great Icebreaker merino wool (down to 12 months size) at Sierra Trading post for a huge discount (if you time it right)–we tend towards wool over poly but we do have some poly too. And for small feet in rain boots, if anyone needs them, I hugely recommend MyMayu boots. Awesome for little ones, a little pricey but if you need boots a lot I think they are justifiable, and are great if you carry a kiddo in a pack because they will not fall off like so many other slip-on boots. Tuffo Muddy Buddy rain suits are cheap and great but for longer days (with less time sitting in puddles playing) we went with REI rain pants and jacket separates because a suit made for slightly more awkward diaper changes in the rain.

    We too got a ton of our kid’s outdoor stuff by gift or by hand-me-down and thank goodness for that!!!

  3. For the not so distant future consideration, since the infant stage is so fleeting.

    As kids pass the infant and toddler stage it’s easier and cheaper to find Patagonia for sale on eBay. The availability of Patagonia’s kids clothing on eBay is never ending. The condition of each item, flawless.

    Kids grow so fast and rarely are able to wear an item more than one year before moving up a size. My kids have spent the past 8 summers living in Baggie shorts. Three or four pair each,
    a different size every year!

    Occassionally, I would buy a size or two up if a deal was too good to pass up. Just toss it into a bin in the basement until they grow into them.

    Some examples we have found… $25 Torrent-shell Jackets, $15 Baggie Shorts, $20 Synchilla fleeces and $30 Houdini Jackets.

    A little forethought and mom and dad can get their kids outfitted for any adventure without breaking the bank and the little hooligans won’t suffer inadequate gear or clothing.

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