Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Frugal Snow Day Clothes for Southerners

We just got a ton of snow here in GA...five to six inches where we live! It's an unusual amount for sure, but we usually do get some snow over the winter. Every time it snows I am so thankful that we are prepared with our mismatched winter gear. It's not as pretty as the co-ordinated snow sets that you can find on Land's End or Eddie Bauer, but we really go for function over aesthetics when it comes to snow play. The main goal is to stay warm and have fun. For a long while we used seemed silly to invest in snow clothes when they'd be worn once or twice a year, but they got soaked SO fast in our wet snow & slush and once you're wet cold sets in very it was such a drag to get the kids dressed in so many layers and have to go through several sets of clothes every time they went out. It made for massive amounts of laundry!

Two years ago we went to Michigan in February. Snow clothing is pretty much a necessity if you want to be outside for long & enjoy yourself. Luckily it was all reduced to "end of season" prices, but the selection was crummy so we made do with stuff that was too large (WAY too large!). I was disappointed at the time, but it turns out that it was a good thing. They've been able to wear their reduced price snow gear for multiple years and have plenty more room to grow. So here's what we've got in our snow essentials:

Adult size Medium blue ski bibs (hand me down, no cost ;-)-this is what I usually wear, though the shoulder straps can be adjusted to fit T if the pants legs are rolled up. (Note: the plastic clips on the shoulder straps just broke, which is understandable as plastic gets brittle with lots of exposure to cold...they will still function but will have a belt used with them and the straps tucked in. :-/ Snow pants have less points of failure and can thus be used for much longer).

Junior size Large black snow pants (I bought these as a young adult for a ski trip, reduced at REI $18 They are ~12 years old and still going strong)-T(10) can wear these with a belt as the waist is large. She's been wearing these since she was 8 with the pants legs rolled up. She's still got several years to grow into them and they will not get worn out as they get used maybe 1 week out of the year at most.

Junior size Medium black snow pants (purchased in MI for $10)-B(8) wears these with a belt also. These were passed down from T who wore them for several years before. Last year B grew out of his size 6 blue snow pants that we purchased in Mi for ~$8 and I consigned them. I'm kicking myself for that now as C could start wearing them next year when she grows out of her current gear.

Size 4T blue snow bibs (the tag, still on them, says I paid $9.97-marked down from $19)-C has worn these for 2 seasons now and will probably not be able to wear them next year. The younger ages are difficult as they grow so fast, but that also means that if you get a good gender-neutral color at a reduced price they will resell at consignment or be able to be passed to a friend with a little one. I'll get her a size 6 pair of pants when they hit their reduced prices at the end of the season. With any luck she'll be able to wear them for 3 seasons before she grows out of them.

It is so important to keep the younger ones warm because they don't always know when to tell you that they're getting cold. I'm convinced that young children don't FEEL the cold like we do. I don't ever remember being cold when I was little. I remember, when I was 6, getting frostbite...after the fact. I didn't know that my toes were almost frozen off until AFTER we got home from being outside for hours. The thawing process was memorably painful, but the actual freezing, not so much ;-)

Snow pants are the most essential part of our snow gear. I'd say a good pair of thinsulate gloves are next on the list. Ours have been misplaced and we're working with the knit kind you generally find in our area. They get soaked so quickly and have to be traded out for dry ones frequently, so next year we will make sure we have good gloves. Hats and scarves are a no-brainer ;-)

So what are the non-essentials?

Snow shoes, for one. We've found that if you're wearing snow pants with a bit of length then they cover the tops of whatever shoes you're wearing. Shoes with decent traction are important. Tennis shoes work fine.

I tend to think of heavy weight coats as optional also, unless your child spends a LOT of time laying down in the snow. What you need is something that is water proof or water resistant. A windbreaker over a sweater/fleece works well...we've even used rain coats. Anything that is slightly absorbent (fleece, fur, sweaters or sweatshirts, denim) is going to grab the snow & keep it close to the body where it will melt. It's harder to get a heavy coat that will last several years b/c it's a more difficult area to have something with extra room or length, so you pretty much have to go up a size every year. If you can get them discounted or at a consignment sale then great, but if not just go for something inexpensive that will resist the water and that you can wear for more than one season a year.

So where do you go about getting these snow essentials if you live in the not-typically-snowy-south? Sometimes you can luck out at fall consignment sales. Winter clothing also gets reduced significantly in February and hits rock-bottom prices in March. Watch for online sales by brands that carry cold weather gear. Land's End has a "grow-a-long" brand that is designed to last several years. L.L. Bean, I've just noticed, carries waterproof rain pants that are significantly less expensive ($16.50) than their snow pants and could probably be snatched up very cheaply when reduced. You'd need a few more layers underneath for warmth, and they're not going to protect your shoes like snow pants, but they would definitely protect against the icky "wet jeans" issue. Hit up your family & friends in the North. If they have a general size range to shop in and know when to shop (Feb & Mar ;-) they can probably score some good deals for you, and if you'll see them sometime before next winter you can skip the shipping costs as well. Even if you have to pay shipping, it won't be much as they can be rolled tightly and don't weigh much. (We store ALL our winter clothing rolled up in one only takes up space when it's in use).

Stay warm & Have FUN!!!