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A Southerner’s Guide to Playing in the Snow

snow pantsTwo weeks ago, we had snow. That stuck! So you could play in it and make snowmen, and sled, and everything. This is a rare occurrence – it happens maybe every two or three years. That means my kids were even more excited than a northern child to go play in it – and also that they were much less equipped. They stayed outside for 20-30 minutes, then came inside tearful as their soaked jeggings and wet cotton mittens contributed to a quick drop in body temperature and painfully cold fingers. They definitely had “The Umbles,” and it wasn’t very safe for them to play in that gear.

So when I heard Pax was headed for us, I shopped for snow pants, ski gloves, and boots. And died of sticker shock. It’s just crazy to spend several hundred dollars to outfit two children for a once-every-24-months event, especially when they’ll grow out of most of it in a year!

So here’s what I did to keep costs reasonable, and my kids relatively warm and dry:

  • They already have winter coats, so torsos and arms were taken care of
  • For gloves, I passed up the one remaining pair at our local Dick’s (cost: $50/pair), and ordered some extra long Thinsulate gloves – even with one-day shipping, the total for both pairs was about $40. These are the most critical item, and the hardest to fudge, so I made an investment. I did order on the big side, to stretch their useful life.
  • For keeping feet warm and dry, we used rain boots with thick socks. The strongest combination would be slightly roomy boots combined with one pair of technical wicking silly pantssocks and one pair of wool socks, but we did OK with fluffy cotton socks.
  • For keeping butts and legs dry, I used a technique I learned while cloth diapering – take some wool Goodwill sweaters, felt them, and make them into pants. If you have a small enough kid or a large enough sweater, all you have to do is cut off the sleeves (and maybe some of the body, if you need a bit more fabric) and sew them together. If you don’t have expertise or supplies to make an elastic waist, you can just cut slits for a drawstring or pin the waist to the child’s clothes. To take it over the top, lanolize them, and they’ll be practically waterproof!
  • Regarding lanolizing – I didn’t have time to completely soak thick wool and get it dry before the snow hit, so I made some lanolin spray with about 2 tsp each lanolin (it’s in the breastfeeding section of drugstores or Target) and hand lotion, mixed with about 1/2 cup very very hot water. I shook it up in a spray bottle, sprayed it on the outside of the pants, and hung them to dry overnight above a heating vent. Worked great!
  • Oh, and you probably don’t want to put the pants in the dryer after lanolizing, because they’re basically covered in grease. Please don’t burn your house down.

I had to stitch together swatches to make pants for the big girl, and they look awfully silly, but she didn’t balk at wearing them.  And they happily stayed outside for more than an hour. They made snow angels, and one completely buried herself in the snow. They came inside and their regular pants underneath were completely dry and warm!

So I invested about $50 and an afternoon, and now my kids can play in the snow safely and happily. I’ve even got some scraps of sweater left if they need an impromptu hat or some leg or wrist warmers. Happy snow day, y’all!

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