A Winter Trip Packing List & Winter Hiking Gear Gift Guide for Families

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This post is sponsored by REI. All opinions are my own.

Whether we’re planning a winter trip packing list or making sure we have the right winter hiking gear for kids and families right at home, we try to consider what versatile basics will serve us well. That means we try to find winter essentials for kids that are durable enough to be passed down and also versatile for a variety of weather scenarios.

We’ve found a few items over the years that we tend to use over and over and that have become our winter travel essentials. This winter gear for families keeps everyone warm, dry, and comfortable, and helps us pack light, too. Especially since we live somewhere that doesn’t get very cold, I love that it’s mostly stuff that is versatile for different types of weather and activities and lasts for years. Here are 10 winter outdoors essentials available at REI that are perfect for exploring outside right at home or taking along on your winter travel adventures!

Merino wool base layers for a winter trip packing list

Merino wool base layers are for sure our number one winter travel essential for kids and also for adults. We always add them to our packing list for winter vacation and often in temperate weather, too. Wool is amazing for regulating body temperature, so it’s perfect for warmer and cooler weather. It’s also super warm as an underlayer, wicks moisture, and is naturally odor-resistant so can easily be reworn – perfect for a packing list for winter vacation. We also love and use them all the time at home as soft pajamas! Basically, they’re such a versatile, durable piece of clothing.

We personally prefer merino wool for our base layers because of the above reasons, but it tends to be a bit pricier. Still, we’ve found that they’re worth the investment as we’ve passed ours through multiple kids and they have multiple uses. Right now is a great time to pick some up while all Smartwool base layers are on sale at REI. We love that brand because it’s super thick, warm, and soft. If you prefer a lighter-weight merino wool (my oldest likes thinner ones that aren’t as warm as he tends to not get cold easily), all the REI Co-op merino wool base layers are also on sale.

Wool Socks as a winter travel essential

Speaking of wool, we’ve been gradually been switching over to almost all wool socks over the past few years. They tend to be more expensive up front than cotton socks, but last significantly longer, and are so warm. Again, they’re great for travel as they can be aired out and reworn, and dry very quickly when they are washed. Perfect for hiking or any outdoors adventure in any weather.

I also love these no-show Smartwool socks – they don’t show outside everyday sneakers so I can wear them with non-athletic clothes, but provide all the same benefits of other wool socks (and they don’t slip down!!).

It’s a good time to trade out some of your other socks for sustainable, warm, comfortable, and durable wool while Smartwool is on sale at REI!

Waterproof boots for winter essentials for kids

There’s nothing worse in cold weather than wet feet. Plus, it’s dangerous and a very quick way to get frostbite. So footwear is really important in your winter trip essentials.

Since we don’t live in a cold area, we can usually get by with our regular waterproof hiking boots when we travel to cold places. (Our favorites for men, women, and big kids, and little kids.) If it’s more temperate but wet, we like to use rain boots to stay dry.

If you spend a lot of time in really cold and damp areas, though, I highly recommend some solid waterproof snow boots for your winter essentials for kids. REI has a big selection of snow boots for all ages.

Insulated gloves + mitten clips for packing List for winter vacation

While little knitted gloves can be cute, they don’t tend to hold up to the winter elements if there’s any moisture involved. Instead, I highly recommend insulated waterproof gloves to keep hands toasty and dry. We love these insulated gloves for kids, toddlers, women, and men from REI.

For little ones, we like including mitten clips. This style runs through the sleeves so they stay together and attached to the coat!

Warm coats – winter travel essentials for kids

Of course, a warm outer layer is a super important winter essential for travel. For real winter travel and adventure, again, waterproof is key. REI has terrific parkas for all ages that are super waterproof and also very warm. The REI co-op styles for kids, women, and men are so soft, comfy, and warm – and the waterproofing is terrific. And I love this darling little parka with the same great features for toddlers!

Hats for winter baby essentials and winter family essentials

Remember how your mom would always say you lose the most heat through your head and your feet? It really is important to keep your top warm. REI has a huge variety of beanies in every color and style that are great for a packing list for winter vacation. This is also a super important one for baby winter essentials – we love this little pom pom beanie for our littlest.

Best packable warm blanket with your winter hiking gear

Have you ever wanted to walk around inside a warm and puffy sleeping bag when it’s cold outside? The Rumpl blanket is basically that. I love that it’s weather-resistant and easy to wash, so it’s perfect for staying warm by adding it into your winter outdoors essentials. And it’s compressible and perfect to pack with your winter hiking gear.

We also love it as a winter gear essential for when we are in the RV or heading out on hikes. I love the kid size blanket to wrap around little ones inside the baby carrier because it’s warm but also doesn’t add too much bulk. It’s perfect in either temperate or really cold weather and we always have it on our winter trip packing list.

Rain or snow pants/jacket when hiking in winter with kids

Are you seeing a theme here? Waterproofing is really the key to winter gear for kids and I’m convinced that anything that’s worth its while should be waterproof. Especially if you live in a more temperate place and don’t need a big snow coat, you may want to consider a lighter weight puffy coat with a waterproof rain jacket for kids on top. This is the system we used when we traveled to Alaska this past summer – even in cold areas with glaciers, it worked great. We had combos of base layers, mid layers, lightweight puffy coats, and a rainproof shell to keep everyone warm and dry. We love these rain jackets for men and women.

Having rain pants on the bottom made a huge difference for us in Alaska by keeping our whole bodies dry! They were also an amazing wind-resistant layer that kept us significantly warmer, so they’re great winter travel essentials if traveling to a cold or wet place. These are our favorite rain pants for kids, toddlers, women, and men from REI.

If you do spend a lot of time in cold places, you may prefer an all-in-one solution with snow pants over base layers instead of rain pants on top of other pants.

Hand warmers – a winter trip essential

Though we try to get our layering right so we don’t need hand warmers, they’re a great backup or to quickly warm up some cold extremities. Plus, they’re small, so they’re easy to add to your winter trip packing list if you’re traveling or away from home.

Safety items for a winter trip packing list

While it’s important to take along safety essentials any time of year, it feels especially important in cold weather if you’re far from services. We absolutely love our GPS tracker, which has saved us several times with being able to send satellite messages. It’s especially important as an emergency device on a winter trip packing list as getting stuck without contact in the cold can be very dangerous. Also make sure to pack sunscreen, headlamp (we love this one for adults and this basic one for kids), a whistle, first aid kit, compass, snack, lip balm, etc.

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