The Most Important and Overlooked Aspect of Choosing the Best Rain Gear for Kids 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 moisture to escape, then the waterproofing feature won’t matter. Your feet will be soaked regardless. In this blog, we present the best rain gear for kids in 2023 and other important considerations to ensure the kiddoes are comfortable in any down pour.
Choosing the best rain gear for 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, just outside of Wanaka 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 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 on the summit.
This pic is not actually Mt. Roy. This is me from one of those trips 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 drop 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. It would save precious time, and 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 my push to the summit. I remember how immense that howling wind was on my entire body. Not only loud but it carried a chilling cold with it that seemingly pierced straight to the bone.
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 or on the trail. After all, rain or shine, this is your kids unforgettable, unplugged outdoor adventure!
The Best Rain Gear for Kids in 2023
Every recommendation made here are for outdoor products that are expected to last for years and endure many camp seasons. The best rain gear for kids should last for years, be comfortable in any down pour, and something that they will actually enjoy wearing in front of their mates.
Even if that means being passed down to a sibling, as was the case for my upbringing (being the youngest of 3).
Always remember that layering is the key to warmth. One layer is never enough.
We recommend the SaphiRose Lightweight Kids Rain Poncho. A US based rain gear company with a colorful array of waterproof, quick-drying rain ponchos for the kids. The fabric is 100% polyester and the poncho is featured across 4 different sizes.
The sizes cover the smallest kiddoes at 2’6″ all the way up to the older kids at 5’3″. They cover down to well below the waist, and are big enough to comfortably fit over other jackets.
These kids ponchos feature button closures on the front for adjustable sizing and venting options. Button sleeves are also built-in to ensure full and tight protection across a range of movement. The ponchos even feature a front zippered pocket for extra storage, and their own little stuff sack for when they are not in use.
What might excite the kiddoes the most though is that these ponchos are available in tons of exciting colors and patterns. Your young camper can rock out the rough weather in a unique color pattern that they chose themselves.
The Best Budget-Friendly Waterproof Jackets for Kids in 2023
In 1938, the outdoor brand Columbia was forging its way from a small warehouse in Portland, Oregon with it’s initial line of premium outdoor hats. Decades later, their respected catalog of outdoor apparel can be seen on trails all around the world.
For the Best Boys Outdoor Waterproof Jacket, we recommend the Columbia Boys Glennaker Rain Jacket. One thing we really appreciate about Columbia is the sheer range of sizes that they offer for both boys and girls.
For the boys, they offer sizing from 2T to X-Large, with 7 more sizes in-between to ensure that every camper can find the best fit.
These waterproof jackets for kids feature Columbia’s own waterproof Hyrdroplus nylon shell fabric. It is a hooded design with elastic cuffs and a full-length zipper on the front. It has convenient storage with 2 zippered side pockets, and is machine washable. Reflective accents have also been added to this jacket to ensure the kids safety at night.
The Columbia Boys Glennaker Rain Jacket is also available in a wondrous variety of different color styles. Pair this outdoor jacket with an insulating layer underneath, and your young camper will be all-set for the elements.
For the Best Girls Outdoor Waterproof Jacket, we recommend the Columbia Girls Switchback II Waterproof Jacket. As with the boys choice, Columbia has again outdone the other outdoor brands with its large and helpful range of sizes.
For the girls, they actually offer 2 more sizes than the boys for a total of 11 different sizes ranging from 2T to X-Large.
These rain jackets feature Columbia’s own waterproof Hyrdroplus nylon shell fabric, just as with the boys Glennaker jacket. This hooded design features elastics cuffs, front pockets and a full-length zipper on the front. As with most Columbia outerwear jackets, reflective accents have been added to allow for visibility on even the darkest nights.
The Switchback II jacket is machine washable, and available within a bright array of exciting color options for the girls. With this layer to protect and another layer underneath to insulate, the Switchback rain jacket is an effective option for your young campers.
The Best All-Around Waterproof Jacket for Kids in 2023
For longer adventures that require an outdoor jacket with a bit more resilience and strength, we look no further than Marmot’s PreCip Waterproof Jacket.
With a handy array of different sizes for both boys and girls (9 in total), parents should have no trouble finding a size that can grow with their campers.
Marmot has been consistently leading the way for many outdoor products since 1974. I’ve been rocking Marmot within my outdoor gear for many years, and it has never let me down (even above 14,000 ft).
The Marmot Precip is not exception with it’s bomber protection through their own waterproof, breathable NanoPro fabric. It features an adjustable hood design with velcro cuffs, large zippered front pockets, and a full-length zipper on the front with a double storm flap.
To ensure it’s bomber reputation, Marmot has also integrated taped seams along the internal stitch lines for true waterproofing.
The Marmot Precip is also machine washable, and available in a select number of exciting colors. Pair this 100% polyester jacket with an insulating mid-layer jacket, and the elements won’t stand a chance with the kiddoes.
The Best 3-in-1 Jacket for Kids in 2023
For the Best 3-in-1 Jacket for kids, we recommend the Marmot Northshore Rain Jacket for boys and girls. It’s tough to look past the quality assurance and respect that Marmot has garnered over the past decades.
The Marmot Northshore Jacket is available in 4 different sizes for both boys and girls, ranging from small to x-large.
The only different between the boys and girls versions are the the color options, and the fleece mid-layer jacket. The boys version includes a 100-weight fleece jacket, and the girls version includes a 200-weight fleece jacket.
Both fleece jackets feature a polyester fabric with a quick removable design.
For the outer shell jacket, Marmot has integrated their own waterproof, breathable MemBrain fabric. Like the PreCip, it is seam taped on the internal stitchlines for true waterproofing. An extra degree of comfort has been added with Marmot’s soft DriClime material lining the chin guard.
It also features an adjustable hood design with velcro cuffs, zippered front pockets, and a full-length zipper on the front with a double storm flap.
Weighing in at 1.5 pounds, this uniquely versatile 3 in 1 jacket can even be considered for longer hiking trips. The Marmot Northshore Rain Jacket offers a reassuring level of comfort and function for your young campers. It’ll keep them warm and protected as they boldly take on new outdoor adventures.
The Best Rain Pants for Kids in 2023
We round out our recommendations where with began; with the respected outdoor brand, Columbia. For a durable and waterproof pair of kids rain pants, we recommend Columbia Kids Cypress Brook II Pant.
As with all kids rain pants, these rain pants won’t be the most breathable, but they will provide absolute protection whether it’s a heavy downpour or for snow play. With a whopping 9 different sizes available for kids, from 2T to X-Large, parents shouldn’t have any issues finding the ideal fit for their young ones.
There are also 7 different colors to choose from for your young campers.
These outer shell pants feature Columbia’s premium Omni-Shield repelling fabric. They are seam sealed with a stain resistant exterior and a single velcro side pocket for quick-grab storage.
These machine-washable rain pants are designed to be worn alone or over regular clothing. Although these pants lack adjustment cords, they do feature a comfortable elastic waistband design. There are also adjustable tabs at each leg cuff for a generous fit over shoes or boots.
Keep in mind that rain pants are designed for bomber protection, and not for warmth. The Columbia Kids Cypress Brook II Pants will keep your kids dry and protected below-the-waist through all their outdoor activities, whether the sun is shining or not.
Types of Kids Outdoor Jackets:
The Rain Poncho is 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 an extra one as a just-in-case, back-up option.
Outdoor Waterproof Jackets
Outdoor waterproof jackets are the best all-around option for bomber protection and compressibility. These are referred to as “hard shell jackets” in the outdoor industry. They typically don’t have an inner lining.
Outdoor waterproof jackets are my preferred option as they are 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 summer 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. Light wind shell jackets would also fall into this category.
Three-In-One Jackets feature 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.
Key Features of 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, family 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.
Closures on Cuffs, Waists, and Hoods – Keeping 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.
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.
Outdoor gaiters are an effective option that can provide protection whilst maintaining breathability for your kids. Gaiters are a waterproof material that you can wrap around your boots and lowers legs to create a tight seal of waterproof protection.
I would only consider gaiters 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.
DWR 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 a thin 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 adventures.
No kid likes feeling hot and stuffy at camp, let the air out with pit-zips! Pit-Zips 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.
Outdoor jackets can get seriously hot for the kids as they engage in their empowering camp activities. Pit-Zips provide welcome relief for breathability in the jackets.
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).
Waterproof clothing and gear 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 the best rain gear for kids 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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