Hiking/Camping with Children in the Pac NW: Staying Warm and What to Wear

If you’ve ever been camping in the Pac NW, you’re well aware of the fact that staying dry is the key ingredients to staying warm. With that said, keeping yourselves and your children dry will extend the life of your trip tenfold. Let’s talk layers…

We’ll go from the bottom up.
Socks and boots: A medium weight merino wool sock with a waterproof/water resistant boot.
Pants: A mid-weight long john with convertible water resistant outdoor pants.
Tops: A mid-weight long john, fleece jacket and waterproof shell.
Extras: Pairs of socks, underwear, a tank or short sleeved shirt and flip flops or camp sandals.

You can find all of these items for toddlers up through adult sizes. You will have a harder time finding these exact things for kids under a year old, but some brands do a great job of providing technical long johns and bunting. Patagonia, REI and Columbia are your best bets for finding super small people clothing. If you have more than one child and plan on spending lots of time outdoors, I highly recommend spending the extra few bucks on decent gear for your kids. Not only will you find lots of unisex items that can be passed from one child to the next, your children won’t complain of being cold, wet or generally uncomfortable and the gear will get plenty of good wear.

The list above is very basic. It is based on the very familiar 35-65 degree and somewhat damp Pac NW weather. It also takes into consideration the potential elevation change as you enter the mountains or the wind you’re bound to encounter at the ocean. Just because it’s 80 degrees at home in Seattle doesn’t mean it will be 80 degrees all night in the mountains or dry at the ocean. Layers, layers, layers.

Next on the list is sleeping arrangements. I only want to cover sleeping bags and pads today since talking tents will be saved for our day on shelter. I recommend purchasing a 20+ degree bag for everyone in your family. If you are going to be mountaineering, you’ll need a different bag, but for 3-Season camping, a 20+ degree bag will do you just fine. Women should really stick with women’s gear including sleeping bags. Women’s bags are not cut as straight as men’s bags and really help your movement while you sleep. Be sure you check the length of the bag before you buy it. Women over 5’6” will probably need a long women’s bag. I like having a mummy bag for those cold nights and even when it isn’t terribly cold the head portion makes a great pillow. My take on sleeping bags for kids is this; buy an adult sized bag and zip tie it off near their feet. They will grow into their bag over time and you won’t have to buy kids bags and then adult bags for them. The weight isn’t much different, nor is the size and you’ll have many more to choose from at the store. Your budget for sleeping bags will impact the degree and weight of the bag. REI and REI Outlet are my favorite sites to look at sleeping bags since you can review a large variety and see their specs. We store our sleeping bags in their stuff sacs and then in a waterproof bag to be sure we have a dry place to sleep. You should try and get off the ground a couple inches. To do that you’ll need a sleeping pad. If you’re not worried about space or weight, you can get foam pads for very inexpensive. If you’re going to be hiking a few miles in and need pads for the whole family, we really like the Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads. They’re lightweight and roll up very small and have chair accessories you can purchase separately.

And now the thing we all think about when we’re heading camping – FIRE! Maintaining fires in the rainforest and at the ocean can be tricky. With practice, you’ll get good at them, but you should know that not having a fire doesn’t have to end your trip. If you have the right clothes and a backup food warming source, you won’t miss having a fire too much. When you do build a fire, make sure it’s a good distance from your tent and that you have a designated area for your small kids to play that’s not too far or too close to the fire. They’ll want to be close to feel the warmth so think about that when you pick a spot for them. Try and find rocks to build up the sides of the fire so there’s a good barrier between them and the fire. And please keep an eye on them at all times. Having a fire can be a ton of fun so keep it safe. Our fire starting kit contains the following items: magnesium stick, matches, lint from the dryer and Grizzly Firestarters.

We’ll be back tomorrow with talk about food and water while camping. Have a good Tuesday!

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1 Comment

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One response to “Hiking/Camping with Children in the Pac NW: Staying Warm and What to Wear

  1. Great! Thanks for all of this! We’re headed out in a few weeks! We almost never do a fire. We’ve seen so many people leave fire rings and burned debris behind in our most favorite wild places, and choose not to do it. Sometimes we do in campgrounds, however. Great idea on the bags, too! We have yet to purchase one for Ian. We do have a fairly wimpy “kids” bag, that we may put inside ours together for our upcoming trip. Great ideas, and great series – keep it coming!