WILD Gear: Layering

I’m going to talk a bit about layering the family, and am going to do it in two parts. First let’s talk about layering kids, because I have a lot more pictures of the layers my kids wear than I do my own layers. I’m going to break it down by seasons too. This is Alaska-specific, because that’s where we live, and is mostly focused on layering for longer hikes, but we use these guidelines for every time we go out to play because I never want gear to limit the time we’re able to spend outside. First I’ll talk about layering basics and budget options, and then I’ll go into the specifics of what our favorite gear is.


  • BASELAYERS: Any baselayer you choose should be able to wick moisture, and be snug-fitting. It should allow freedom of movement, and it shouldn’t get heavy or cold when wet. I prefer wool always, but synthetic baselayers can often be found a lot cheaper. If you do go with a polyester fleece, you want to make sure that the kids don’t overheat if they’re being really active as synthetic fibers don’t breathe and regulate temperature like wool does. I cannot stress enough how good of an investment wool baselayers are for an active family, see more about this in the wool section below. If cost is an issue, you can find stuff with stains, or holes.. we have had a lot of repairs to our nicer wool, and own a lot of baselayers that I’ve just sewn holes shut in (and I am NOT a proficient sewer so it looks bad but it still works!). You can also find wool upcycled from old wool sweaters, or you can do this yourself and that keeps the cost way down. If you choose to use footie PJs (synthetic or wool options), be sure they have extra room (next size up) if babywearing so as not to be too tight against feet, when kids are in a carrier their knees are raised above bum and this uses up an extra inch or so of fabric, so a next size up sleeper ensures that their toes are not constricted.
  • INSULATING LAYERS: Wool, down, fleece, synthetic poly fill (puff). This layer is between the baselayer and the outer layer. Sometimes it’s built into the outer layer, but often we use an additional insulating layer. You want this layer to fit looser than your baselayer, but not as snug to your body. Extra space allows hot air to be trapped and keeps you warmer, while also allowing greater freedom of movement. Boiled wool is generally my favorite, but we use down jackets a lot too, and synthetic puffs can be found at very budget friendly prices and often do better than down in wet conditions (though our Patagonia down is stellar in even the wettest snow).
  • OUTER LAYER: The layer on the outside that is waterproof, and blocks wind. Protects from rain or snow. Waterproof is great, but breathability is good too for active kids, materials like GoreTex, eVent, etc let vapor pass out so you don’t overheat inside them. Oakiwear rainsuits are not as breathable as they used to be, but they’re still an excellent option for a full body suit. The Tuffo (Muddy Buddy) suits are a good budget option but we haven’t tried them. Another great rain option are rain bibs by Playshoes or Polarn O Pyret. The Polarn ones are thicker and we like them better, but they don’t breathe as well and would get hot on an elevation hike. Snowsuits can be one piece or two, and I prefer the one-piece for kids especially as they’re easier to get on and off and help keep snow out when rolling around. Next best to snowsuits are overall style snow bibs, which we also use often and pair with down or wool jackets. Last option is snowpants that come only waist-high, and we have some for backup that I would only use in an emergency because you’re going to have a kid with snow down their butt.
  • FOOTWEAR: Waterproof rain boots, waterproof and insulated snow boots. Make sure boots are the right size, if they don’t have extra room in them with thick socks, there will not be enough room for warm air to circulate and toes will get cold (and cramped). It can be hard to tell if a boot fits, but removing the insole (another reason I love removable insoles) is a great way to tell! Packing an extra sock into a boot trying to make it “warmer” could end up filling in that warm air space and may actually make them colder. Wool socks, ALWAYS. Wool socks aren’t expensive and they are the only socks we wear, you can find a lot of very budget friendly options on amazon that are about half wool and those will work great.
  • NOTE ABOUT COTTON: “Cotton is Rotten” “Cotton Kills” OK, maybe dramatic, but if you’re going outdoors on a hike in Alaska, it’s best to avoid it. Cotton absorbs moisture and if it gets wet it will be cold next to your skin. Especially avoid cotton socks.


Our baselayer is almost always merino wool, it’s 95% of the clothing we own and wear regardless of season. Wool is hygroscopic meaning it wicks moisture away from the skin better than any other fiber, and it insulates when wet. Many synthetics mimic these properties, but they don’t do it as well as wool. Wool also doesn’t need to be washed as much because it’s naturally antimicrobial and won’t build up a “stink” like synthetics do. For tops we love smartwool baselayers, sloomb merino rib shirts, nui wool, Ella’s wool, Mabli, and a whole bunch of Australian brands that it’s impossible to find new but show up on the BSTs if you know where to look. For bottoms, it’s almost always basewoolies by Sloomb, but the brands Yooki or Rox+Rumble have similar styles. We wear wool knit pants year round. We get them dirty, we play hard in them. We regularly need to get them repaired, and they come back with fun animals and mountains on them (thanks Anna!!). They are easy to move in, so they’re ideal for hiking or tumbling or whatever activity active kids are doing. They’re also great for babywearing and cloth diapering. They keep kids comfortable and take a lot of the guesswork out of layering. They are expensive.. and at first it seems crazy to spend $50+ for a pair of kid’s pants. But then you use them for 2 years per kid, times three kids. And they’re always warm and dry and can move easily… their pants never bunch up under snowgear and if they do facedive into a puddle and get water inside their rainsuits, you know the warm will insulate them when wet and you don’t have to run back to the car for dry clothes.


*Summer* Basewoolies or Sloomb tankers/hikers on bottom, if the weather is warm and sunny it really doesn’t matter but we are usually prepared for rain/wind/cold by just wearing wool at all times since most of the year that’s what’s necessary for us; lightweight wool shirt (short sleeved or long), often a merino cardigan or light sweater if it’s morning or evening or going up the butte or a mountain where it’s more exposed/windy and an extra layer is needed. FOOTWEAR: Wildlings shoes (especially the ones lined with boiled wool, we call those our “hiking shoes”), soft star mocs/ramblers, or Crocs rainboots.

*Fall* Basewoolies underneath Disana boiled wool overalls (bunting for small kids but the biggest they make is 12-24 so the overalls for bigger kids up until about 5yo when they stop making those too). Long sleeve wool shirt or sweater, with a Disana boiled wool jacket or sloomb wool cardigan over. If it’s wet or has been wet, or the hike takes you in or around water/mud, add Polarn O Pyret rain bibs (and/or Oakiwear rainsuit). They also provide a windproof layer to keep all the woolie warmth in underneath. Playshoes brand rain bibs are lighter weight so for hot climates those are probably better. FOOTWEAR: Usually Crocs rainboots, which work even down into the 30s paired with thick wool socks and active kids. We also like MyMayu rain boots, but we only use those when I want to get the kids dressed and when we’re not going to be IN a lake, but they work excellent for mud play (and laying down in mud).

*Winter* Basewoolies on bottom, long sleeved wool shirt and/or wool sweater on top. Next come Insulating Layers (if needed): Patagonia Down Sweater, Disana boiled wool jacket, Disana boiled wool overalls are all great options. Outer Layer: Snow bibs (any kind is usually fine but I will only choose full bibs, getting snow in your pants is no fun) and down jacket (Patagonia or similar down/high loft down or synthetic puffy jacket), or one-piece (I prefer one-pieces, Burton snowsuits or Oakiwear snowsuits [we are reviewing the Oakiwear snowsuit soon but I expect to like it!], namuk winter overalls also look pretty great but we haven’t tried those either). For babies and young toddlers the Columbia snuggly bunny down bunting is amazing. If it’s really wet snow and the weather is warm, we’ll sometimes layer a rainsuit over boiled wool. FOOTWEAR: We switch to our Baffins as soon as it snows. I love Baffins with removeable liners, and this is the one instance where I don’t typically reach for wool! We’ve owned Soft Star Phoenix boots in the past and they worked really great, but they are really expensive (especially after the price shot up from $90/pair to $135/pair for kid’s). Baffins are clunkier and I do prefer minimalist shoes, but we are outside so much that I buy boots in every size (so if a kid wears size 11, their spare pairs are the 12s and even the 10s in many cases). Baffins dry out quick when you take the liner out and keep their feet warm, and I’ve been able to find almost all our pairs for $20-30 during off-season sales. ACCESSORIES: Disana boiled wool mittens are great and the kids love them even for extended snow play, and they’re great to layer with Polarn O Pyret gloves. But our favorite winter mittens are Stonz mittens, they have a high wrist gaiter with two drawstrings, cozy fleece inside, and completely waterproof. We have liked the Veyo Mittyz for young kids, because they’re spacious and soft on little cheeks, and the lack of a thumbhole is really nice (I hate playing the “thumb! In!” game with little kids every 5 minutes), but they aren’t fully waterproof. For balaclavas we use the thin Smartwool ones, but my favorite are the Joha Merino Fleece, it’s a thicker boiled wool and are so cozy with the perfect size face-hole (technical term). There are a lot of thick fleece balaclava options on amazon, and the kind that are adjustable work really well and can be pulled up over the mouth on really cold days or down under the chin.

*Spring* Sloomb basewoolies underneath Polarn O Pyret rain bibs, merino cardigan/hoodie, rain jacket; or oakiwear rainsuit over the top. If it’s really really wet and they’re playing in say the pool of standing water that forms over our sandpit, we’ll often do an Oakiwear rainsuit with Polarn rain bibs over the top! Add insulating layers if needed. Very similar to dressing for fall, except they spend more time in Puddles (I usually refer to spring as “Puddle Season” and we get extremely wet and sandy!) ACCESSORIES: Polarn O Pyret Rain mittens, with boiled wool mittens underneath if necessary. Outdoor Research Seattle Sombreros are also nice if it’s pouring, but the newer Oaki rainsuits have a nice visor that helps keep rain out of little eyes.

Have any questions? Have stuff you love that I didn’t mention? Drop it in the comments!

#wildgear #layering #oakiwear #polarnopyret #crocs #sloomb #disana #joha #smartwool #patagonia #burton #wildling #wildlingshoes #baffin

Wild GEAR: Woom Bikes

I was never a huge biker before having kids; I liked riding my bike but I wasn’t very serious about it. But I knew I wanted my kids to ride early and often, and the freedom it gives them is nearly unmatched. We started with balance bikes (we did not start with Woom’s balance bike but with a $20 second hand one that worked just fine), and then stepped up to Woom from there. Due to circumstances with Aurora that had us out of state for Zane’s 3rd summer, he didn’t get his Woom until he was 3.5 so we got him the Woom3. Eliza started with the Woom2 and was riding with the pedals (you can take them off and use it like a balance bike) before she turned 3! The Woom bikes are incredibly lightweight and well built, when I got Zane’s bike a tuneup before our Denali trip there were lots of oohs and aahs from the staff at Backcountry Bikes.

The joy of receiving your very first Woom.

They ride in all weather. They ride on rough trails, through giant puddles…

And of course… since they’re Wildlings… they ride in the winter. On ice, on snow.. they ride until they can ride no more. Sometimes they slip, and Eliza doesn’t really ride on ice or deep snow (she is a daredevil in other ways…). But Zane does, and it works surprisingly well!

I highly recommend the Woom brand. I really like the helmets also. We’ll likely be buying Woom bikes as long as they keep making them, which I hope is a very long time. They are not cheap bikes, not by a long shot. But we use them so often.. and, well, I’m really not one for skimping on good gear. They’re worth the investment, and all three of my kids will ride each of these bikes.

#woom #bike #woombikes #wildgear

WILD Indoors: Swedish Ladder

We spend a lot of time outdoors, but we do eventually have to come in, even in the summer. Our house is only about 1,200sf, so sometimes it’s a challenge to pack in as much indoor playground stuff as I’d like to. But sometimes awesome stuff comes with a low profile that can work in almost any space! Enter the SportBaby Swedish Ladder! This eventually will be in the kid’s bedroom as an access to a weird little built-in loft area they have, but for now it’s in the living room. They have loved their pikler triangle and even Zane still used it every day, but I knew a bigger ladder and slide were in our future. We already had the Nuggets which work perfectly for crash pads, and juuuuust cover enough area for the Ladder and both hammocks be be used at the same time. Eliza has always been such a gymnast, which is why we have two ENO hammocks in our living room also, and this has been a dream come true for her!

Setup of this thing was pretty straightforward, despite the terrible directions it came with. It’s a very basic design and could totally be a great DIY.. we’d been planning to DIY it for years when I realized that just wasn’t going to happen, but we’re really happy with the quality. I would have loved to have installed it into one of the log walls but it just didn’t fit on any of them, so we just mounted it to a few 2x4s into the studs, and also anchored it to the top beam. It’s sturdy enough to hold Tim or I also. We didn’t order the rainbow set but that seems to be the only way it comes, and the kids are thrilled about the colors. And it does make me happy to look at it, especially when three smiling faces are looking back at me from its various apparatuses.

#indooradventures #swedishladder #sportbaby #indoors #toy #wildindoors #pikler #nugget #ladder #slide

WILD Indoors: Nugget Couches

Wildlings have to spend some time indoors too. Probably our favorite and most versatile indoor “toy” for indoor adventures is the Nugget Couch. We bought one, and I remember Tim thinking it was a silly thing to spend money on.. soon after he told me we needed to buy two more! They’re that awesome. They get played with every day, in very different ways. The kids are so creative with them, and use them to build forts, or runways to run down, towers to jump off of, mazes to sneak through. We also use them for quiet time areas as Zane and Eliza can each make a little fort to have their books and puzzles for quiet time. And they’re essential to a lot of the things we have up in the living room, like the hammocks and hanging bar. Eliza especially does some high-flying acrobatics and it’s crucial to make sure the ground is covered in nugget cush! Here are a few ways we use our nuggets. The possibilities are truly endless.

The traingle cushions are motorcycles in the trampoline, balancing rocks, docks, gladiator tools, used for sliding down the pikler triangle… it’s amazing how creative they can get with these simple shapes.

We like to make special holiday setups upstairs, and they usually involve the nuggets. The kids get so excited when we make forts for them. Add a few playsilks and it feels truly magical.

They’re also great for taking pictures on/with. Or as a background if your house is messy and that kind of thing bothers you.

Nuggets are great fun in the trampoline as “motorcycles” or stepping stools to push off on hammocks, or used with the Swedish Ladder as crash pads and as a running wall!

If nuggets are within your budget, don’t even hesitate. Order as many as you have kids (or space). I really like being able to have them each have one on the rare occasion that there is disagreement about what to do with them.

#nugget #nuggetcouch #wildindoors #indoors #toy #indooradventures

WILD Gear: Crocs Rainboots

I stumbled across these boots last year because it’s hard to find plain yellow rainboots that don’t have big heels, and I’m in love these boots.

They are one piece of material, which means boot loops won’t fall off. No matter how “reinforced” they make loop handles, they’re still loops. And with kids pulling the boots on the wrong foot, or trying to force on a sibling’s boots that are much too small… well, it’s just better to have it in one piece. Aurora was able to pull these on herself before she was even 2, which is the main reason we switched from MyMayu boots (which I also love and think have great uses, just having kids put them on themselves is not one of those uses).

Being one piece of material with no liner also means they’re ridiculously easy to dry out if wet. Dump water out, wipe with cloth. Bam, dry boots. The material they’re made of is proprietary so there is part of me that worries about what it’s really made of and whether I’d deem it toxic, but they say it isn’t and we always have wool socks in between. They don’t absorb water and are very light and fairly flexible, and while not truly minimalist footwear they’re close. Every other type of boots we have seen (including Eliza’s awesome flamingo boots) have a liner inside that will stay wet once it gets wet. If you’re saying “but Kristin, the insides won’t get wet since they’re waterproof!” you probably don’t have toddlers yet, or spend time around big puddles or lakes. They WILL go over the tops of their boots. But that’s ok, it’s part of the fun, and if they’re wearing thick wool socks they’ll stay warm even when they get soaked in icy cold Alaskan water.

I love them enough to buy 7 new pairs, in the same color, when I found a good deal, to make our collection of them 11 between the 3 kids. They retail for $34.99, but I’ve found them in the low $20s a bunch of time. Obviously I have a thing about matching so when I found every size except 13s for sale for $21, I bought those and was fine paying $34.99 for the 13s that Zane needed to size up to.

Also, when you buy every size in something like we do for rain boots and snow boots, you always have backup pairs. Because kids can easily go up a size (or sometimes even down a size) if something happens to their main pair (like you can’t find them in your disaster of a van ;)).

Baby size 6 through Big Kid size 2

#wildgear #gear #crocs #raingear #rain #crocsrainboots

WILD Gear: Rain Bibs

We have always used and loved Oakiwear suits for the rain, but after seeing these as suggested gear for Zane’s forest school last year we have been hooked on them! The wildlings wear exclusively wool clothing, it’s all handwash. And wool cleans up great, but I spend a LOT of time washing their muddy stuff in the sink. Since the bibs aren’t a full rainsuit but offer kneeling protection around lakes, they’re an obvious choice for a lot of the hiking we do, even in the summer since it doesn’t get too hot here (usually, let’s not talk about this past summer…). We have tried two different brands: Polarn O Pyret (Aurora’s teal ones and Zane’s forest green ones he sized up to this year), and Playshoes (Zane’s navy ones and Eliza’s pink ones). Polarn are much thicker, and therefore more durable but also warmer. They have more minimalist clips and the Playshoes clips are a chunkier standard clip. Playshoes have some snaps on the sides so you can reduce the gap, and that’s a nice feature. Both have bottom straps that you can loosen and tighten with buttons. Both work well for us, but for our cold climate we will be buying Polarn going forward. Though I can see myself having a pair of Playshoes pairs for each kid for warmer weather exploring.

The bibs also layer great with a rain coat over the top, or a Disana boiled wool jacket, or our favorite Sloomb merino cardigans.

I try to encourage bib use in our sandpit too, for their comfort and again… laundry and SAND…. oh it just gets EVERYWHERE. It’s also nice to use when the sand pit is flooded because this is the kid of puddle-swimming that really is begging for all the waterproof layers you’ve got.

#rain #rainbibs #wildgear #gear #polarnopyret #playshoes

WILD Gear: Oakiwear Suits

Oakiwear rainsuits are one of our most used pieces of gear. We started getting them back when Zane was 1.5. Back then, they constructed differently, more on that later. They’re a staple piece of gear for us and since we own them in every size we always have odd sizes in the car and even sizes in the house. The sizing is very flexible and you can easily size up because of the drawstring in the middle which you can really cinch, but since we wear them so much we invested in each size.

You will maybe hear me talk a lot about SAND. We LOVE sand, don’t get me wrong. The sandpit was one of the best things we ever put in. And the dump truck delivering 26,000 pounds of sand was up there too. Rainsuits are great when the sand is damp, when it’s spring and the sandpit is a giant puddle, or even when it’s cool and dry so sand doesn’t get evvvvverywhere.

Speaking of sand getting everywhere… sooooo good for babies even on days when there isn’t rain.. having either this on or the Disana boiled wool suit prevents a diaper full of sand. You know how fun a sandy diaper is right?

The full raingear setup for some sand pit play in the rain:

I’m still new and I don’t know why this will only display sideways here…

We have used Oakisuits in the winter, if it’s really wet snow they work well layered over a Disana Boiled Wool Bunting (another of our absolute favorites!), but they need a really good insulating layer. They also work well over down. Here Aurora has them paired with Stonz Mittens and a wool balaclava.

When we really really really want to be waterproof, we layer oakisuits under polarn o pyret rain bibs (or playshoes rain bibs). It’s an extra waterproof layer and helps keep them warmer too. The bibs are absolutely impermeable, and they also add extra durability because my kids love to crawl on trails.

The older style Oakisuits were a two-toned grey material with taped seams in the same color. The latest suits have a white interior with clear seam-taping. There are pros and cons to each iteration of the Oaki suits. While I do feel the old suits were better at being waterproof and breathable, the new suits have wider openings for boots and that’s handy because the old ones were quite narrow, and they have a brim to keep rain out of little eyes. The leg opening was huge for a lot of families we know but we put our boots on after our suits so it doesn’t really matter. The neoprene cuffs on all the suits are an awesome feature. I should qualify that I have no stats for the new ones being less waterproof/breathable besides the feel of the material and experience with it, though it’s our smaller sizes (1T, 2T, and 3T) that are in that older construction and the bigger sizes (4T, 5/6, and 6/7) are newer… so it is possible that bigger kids are just rougher on gear (well, that’s definitely true) and therefore soak through more easily.. but just feeling the fabric it it doesn’t feel as nice. The ratings of the current suits are waterproof to 8,000mm and breathability to 3,000mvp. This is still quite respectable and definitely waterproof from rain, but less so when they’re rolling around on wet tundra, in puddles, in sandboxes. In many respects it’s too much to ask of raingear, and I’ve often joked about getting the kids drysuits (and was only sort of joking…). Still, Oakiwear is the best option we have found for our kids.

Old construction vs new construction. Old is grey new is white. Newer also has a bit more of a hood brim which is a welcome addition, although I’d still make it bigger it really does help keep the rain out of the big kid’s eyes, and Aurora often asks to wear her rainhat because hers doesn’t have one.

3 layer goretex-like fabric on left (older), and new material on right
Hood brim on the left (new style)

We treat our waterproof gear with Nikwax products, as often as I feel like doing it. Which is not very often. We try to keep them clean because dirty gear means it’s less breathable, but with the mountain of laundry these little ones go through it doesn’t happen as often as it should. Still, we play hard in these and they have held up awesome!

#oakiwear #oakisuit #rain #raingear #gear #wildgear