The Most Important and Overlooked Aspect of Choosing the Best Kids Rain Gear is How to Balance Waterproofing and Breathability.
Some Handy Contents
This is the reason I wear thin hiking socks most of the time with my hiking boots. If your feet are sweating profusely with no way for the air to escape, then the waterproofing feature won’t matter. The feet will be soaked regardless. Choosing the right rain gear for your kids at camp depends on the time of year of the camp session and the expected weather conditions. All kids camping clothing should be first and foremost comfortable. Only then will your kids will be able to realize its full benefits.
I remember feeling empowered as a kid, hiking confidently into a storm, knowing that the rain couldn’t touch or hinder me. This empowering feeling only got stronger and stronger throughout the years. It actually lead to a bit of a humbling moment much later in life as I was trying to scale Mt. Roy alone in New Zealand.
Mt. Roy is an interesting peak. When I say interesting, I really mean painful, demoralizing, and never-ending. A shade-less hike that starts at the very bottom of a very long, gradually inclining trail. What makes this trail more unique is that you never lose sight of the summit as you hike up. It is constantly looming up in front of you as if it were an iron overseer steeling its gaze upon you and challenging the “mere ants” to try to conquer it.
Why would anyone want to hike this painfully challenging trail? Simply put, the view at the top is the best summit view I have ever had the privilege to behold. The hours of push are worth the minutes of true confidence and inspiration.
This pic is not actually Mt. Roy. I don’t have a pic of that crazy day, but this is me from the same trip and it shows the mountain range that Mt. Roy is a part of (although it is not actually in the picture).
One of the times I began up it’s slopes though turned out to be my defining experience on the peak. I was hiking late into the winter season and was making steady progress to the top. Once I was about 45 minutes from the summit, a freak storm started to bear down on me. At this point though, I had what many in the outdoor industry refer to as “summit fever.”
Summit fever is an all-consuming, blinding desire to make it to the summit no matter what conditions are bearing down on you or how much your body might be screaming at you to stop. It is a very unhealthy place to be where safety is completely disregarded for the perception of personal glory.
I made the poor decision at that point that I was getting to the summit no matter what. Despite the winds picking up and snow starting to come down so thick that immediate visibility was an issue. Still, I persisted to the top; deciding that with time running short, the only route was to leave the trail and hike straight across the spine of the ridge directly up to the summit. I figured it would take less than 20 minutes.
Well, the spine of the ridge got thinner much quicker than I had anticipated, and I soon found myself literally straddling the ridge with two very steep drops on both sides. And to make matters worse, the winds had picked up so much that it forced me to abandon the summit. I remember it being very loud at the time. But I still had to get down!
I ended up glissading (basically trying to ski in hiking boots) down a narrow snow chute that thankfully dropped me down far enough that I could safely hike out with no further issues. I have to say though, I look back on that experience and think that was one heck of a fun day! But I also have to be thankful that I had the right waterproof layers that day. If it hadn’t been for those layers, my chances of getting out safely would have been drastically reduced.
Mother Nature can Always Hit Out with Some Freak Weather Conditions, and It is Critical that Your Kid is ALWAYS Prepared with the Right Waterproof Layers.
I want to share everything I can about how you can ensure your kids comfort and safety whenever nature decides to open up the flood gates at camp. After all, rain or shine, this is your kids unforgettable, unplugged outdoor adventure!
Let’s Start With The Kids Outdoor Jackets!
These are the key parts of every kids outdoor jacket that are important for you to consider when picking rain gear for your kids summer camps, winter camps, or other outdoor adventure.
Face Fabric of Jacket – The face fabric, or outer shell of the jacket, is the waterproofing material that has been used to guarantee its effectiveness. This is the main consideration of a kids outdoor jacket, the reason that you are buying it. And it has gotten much more complicated in recent years with every outdoor brand releasing their own version of a waterproofing material. We’ll discuss this further below.
Inner-Lining – Depending on the type of kids outdoor jacket, the jacket may or may not have a liner. If it does, keep in mind that the liner has nothing to do with the waterproofing level of the jacket. It is purely about comfort and providing additional warm insulation for your kids.
Hood – The hood design on the jacket should be large enough to accommodate for additional layers or even a helmet if necessary. Not all thrilling activities stop at camp just for rain.
Reflective Accents – Kids can be hard to spot on the rougher weather days. These are strategically-placed logos on the jacket that are highly reflective to any kind of light. They help to ensure that your kids can always be seen quickly at camp or on trail.
Closure on Cuffs, Waists, and Hoods – Keeping out the rain out and the heat in. These are innovative draw-and-pull cord designs that will seal in the warmth and keep the elements out. They should be easy for campers to use, even with gloves.
Types of Kids Outdoor Jackets:
The simplest and most affordable way of keeping the elements out! It won’t, however, have any ability to insulate and is not usually expected to last more than a couple of camp seasons. Given how affordable ponchos are, and that they can be found in almost any sports store, I always recommend packing one as a just-in-case, back-up option.
The best all-around option for bomber protection and compressibility. These are referred to as “hard shell jackets” in the outdoor industry. They don’t typically don’t have an inner lining. This is my preferred option as its lightweight, easy to pack, and can be stuffed into an outside pocket of your kids pack.
Your kids skiing or snowboarding jacket would fall into this category. But these jackets fall on the other end of the spectrum for most waterproof outdoor jackets. They have a longer cut in the hem, feature insulating liners, are less compressible, and MUCH heavier. I would not recommend packing your kids snowboarding jacket for out-camping or extended backcountry activities at camp.
Out-camping activities at camp require a whole other set of awareness and considerations for our wonderful camp parents. It was always my favorite activity at camp when I was a kid, and its become one of my favorite activities to lead kids and teens on at camp. Check out this post on The Out-Camping Activity at Kids Summer Camp Programs.
Water-Resistant Outdoor Jackets
These kids outdoor jackets provide an effective balance of protection, insulation, and breathability for your kids. They typically have an inner lining of fleece or some other soft material. They will also be a little thicker and heavier.
And keep in mind that an outdoor jacket can still be wind-proof, even if its not waterproof. The water resistance in these jackets will hold out the rain for shorter periods of time, but eventually, it will penetrate. Wind shells would also fall into this category.
Everything you need in an outdoor jacket, except for the bulk and weight. These outdoor jackets for kids combine a hard-shell, waterproof jacket with a fleece insulation layer underneath. Essentially you’re getting two jackets as both can be removed and worn separately. They will be attached together with several tabs and clips strategically placed throughout the jackets.
This sounds like the ideal option, but in my experience, they tend to be much heavier jackets that don’t compress too much. Its ideal for activities around kids camps, but not so much for out-camping activities and extended backpacking trips.
Don’t Forget The Rain Pants!
To really seal the deal and complete your kids rain protection (with the hiking boots as well), rain pants will ensure that not a drop of rain can hinder your kids from gaining their full confidence at camp. Keep in mind though that many kids and adults (myself included) prefer not to wear rain pants.
This is an active area of the body with constant motion and heat build-up. Sweating profusely with inadequate breathability in this region can lead to constant discomfort and even horrible rashes from the friction.
Gaiters are an effective option that can provide protection whilst maintaining breathability for your kids. I would only consider them necessary for your kids on extended trips into backcountry areas or above the snowline.
What About Their Gloves?
In any prolonged situation with wet or cold exposure to the elements, it is our exposed extremities that take the biggest beating. Our fingers, toes, ears, and nose. For kids waterproofing at camp, it is their fingers that we have to think about. This requires the right gloves. For your kids, there are two types of gloves to consider: fingers and mittens.
Fingers are gloves that maintain full dexterity and functionality for your kids. They keep the fingers separate in the glove. Whereas mittens are gloves that compact the fingers into one to trap as much heat as possible. There are kids gloves that feature a combination of the two as well.
The two most important considerations for your kids gloves, beyond the guarantee that they are waterproof, are the closures on the wrists and the inside lining for insulation. The closures on the wrist will seal in the warmth, and also ensure that the gloves can’t easily slip off and get lost at camp. The inside lining is important for your kids comfort and finding the right fit. Some outdoor gloves even feature little pockets for hand warmer heat packs for those kids that are especially uncomfortable in the cold and rain.
Important Outdoor Lingo in Kids Rain Gear!
This company is the creme de la creme of the outdoor industry as far as waterproofing goes. The team at WL Gore have been hard at it for decades, and have come to set the standard for the best waterproofing in the outdoor industry. Any product with Gore-Tex should have an official logo card attached to the jacket description cards to verify its authenticity. Be aware that this gear carries with it a very expensive price tag.
Outdoor Brand Versions of Gore-Tex
Many outdoor companies in the past decade have developed their own equivalent versions of Gore-Tex. The standard and quality of this gear can vary WIDELY based on the outdoor brand. I would never question an outdoor brand like Patagonia’s H2 No equivalent material. But with other outdoor brands of less repute, be sure to test your kids gear at home before it needs to be used.
DWR, or Durable Water Repellent.
This is a finish layer that is applied to the outside of most outdoor jackets. When you see the rain beading and rolling easily off the jacket, that is the DWR doing its job. The problem with DWR is that many outdoor jackets rely solely on it for their waterproofing material. It is an outer finish that will eventually wear off depending on the frequency of its use.
Outdoor jackets with a waterproofing layer built into the inner layers of the jacket and then backed up with a DWR coating will provide the best possible options for your kids. These jackets would be especially recommended with repeated backcountry adventures.
If you find that your kid has really taken their camp values to another outdoor level and are dreaming of other extended backcountry adventures, you might want to seriously consider investing in a high quality, waterproof jacket. One that will carry them through all their outdoor years.
No kid likes feeling hot and stuffy at camp, let the air out with pit-zips! These are zippered openings in the armpits of waterproof jackets to allow for breathability and air flow. They do a great job of keeping the rain out, but they also, in turn, keep all of the heat in. Those jackets can get seriously hot for the kids as they engage in their empowering camp activities!
How to Care for Your Kids Outdoor Jackets and Rain Gear
The most important tip to share is ALWAYS dry all of the gear thoroughly before storing it away. This is potentially a sure-fire way to kill your kids favorite rain jacket or any waterproofing gear (same goes for tents). It can be packed for shorter periods of time. But be sure to completely dry the gear if you intend to store it away in the furthest reaches of the closet until the next camp season.
It is best to pick waterproofing gear that is compressible enough to be easily packed and accessed from either the top of the pack or an exterior pocket. Especially if the activities include longer day hikes or out-camping activities. As you read above in my account on Mt. Roy, the weather can turn quickly and your kids need to be prepared to layer up at a moments notice.
That’s A Wrap!
Hopefully, this post on how to choose kids rain gear for camp is helpful, insightful, and enjoyable for you. Your kids should never go on an outdoor adventure without the proper rain gear. We want them to have the full freedom to enjoy camp and forge memories that will last a lifetime. We can’t let a little rain get in the middle of this unique opportunity for empowerment. Have a great time preparing your young camper for their unforgettable outdoor experience!
“The amazing thing about camp is it truly brings out the best in everyone and you don’t feel like you have to change who you are.”
– Former Camper
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