Having trouble dressing for winter? Here are some tricks for this weird year.

We’re in the middle of another weird winter in my area of the state. First it’s below zero, then it’s 40 and raining, then it’s an ice storm. We’ve had essentially no snow and the ice has been hit or miss. We can’t figure out what to do with ourselves and, especially, what to wear. Between juggling snowsuits and raincoats, dressing for winter has taken on a whole new complexity

So how can you keep up? How to deal with temperatures that go from single digit to spring-like in a matter of hours? Layers, obviously, but there are a few other tricks that I find especially useful for kids. Here’s what’s been keeping us cozy…but not too cozy.

1) Cowls

Forget scarves. Scarves are a lovely fashion item for adults but terrible for kids. Aside from the issue of potential strangulation, they never stay tied and they are too bulky. They are either too tight (itchy!) or too loose (pointless!). And if it warms up, you are stuck carrying the stupid things around. What to do?

Enter the cowl (or gaiter, or neck warmer, or snood…I have seen them called all these things). A cowl is a simple tube of warm fabric that you just pull over your head and tuck into your jacket. If you knit, just pretend you are knitting a hat and don’t decrease. If you sew, get about 18-24″ of fleece that’s ten or so inches wide and sew it into a tube. If you don’t craft at all, here you go.


Cowls (or gaiters, or snoods, or…) are game-changers. They help create that critical seal between your kids’ jacket and their neck that keeps out cold air or snowballs. They are easy and quick to put on and take off independently. They are small enough to stick in a jacket pocket when not needed. If it suddenly turns colder, you can yank it up to serve as a hat. They really are the handiest things.

2) Jackets with hoods

Groundbreaking, I know. But I underappreciated hoods until I finally got a jacket with one. Suddenly, snowstorms didn’t leave my hair matted with ice. Gusts of wind didn’t phase me. A quick rain squall mattered less. And if I started to get too warm, taking the hood off was an easy temperature adjustment. I could see why my kids preferred them.

I personally don’t think a hood is a replacement for a hat. I prefer both: a thin but warm hat topped by a hood. I think this is a perfect ear-layering arrangement. Of course, this means you can’t wear those trendy hats with the giant pompoms on top, but look. You can’t have everything in life.

3) Fleece underlayer

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking this is just a handy excuse to send my kids outside in their pajamas and, well. You aren’t wrong. I have found that fleece footie pajamas are, indeed, the single best underlayer for snowpants. But that really only works on stay-home days. Sometimes you need to put real clothes on your kids–and yourself.

My kids both own fleece pants that they can slide under their winter gear for major outings. These are comfy and warm without being bulky and stay that way even if they get wet in slushy slow–unlike cotton. I find fleece cooler and easier to layer than wool, which has been critical this year. A fleece jacket under a winter jacket adds a solid layer of warmth on cold days, but is often plenty just under snowpants for warmer play.

That’s it. Those are the three items we have leaning on heavily as we try to keep up with this weird winter weather. And it’s not over yet. Predicted this week? Single digits and snow, followed by 40s and rain.

Bring out the cowls.

Cherie Galyean

About Cherie Galyean

In a perfect world, Cherie Galyean would spend hours every day chasing her kids up hiking trails, pretending to garden, and baking things. Instead, she works full-time in the non-profit sector and fits those other things in-between loads of laundry in her free time. A Maine native with multiple hometowns, she currently lives on Mount Desert Island with her husband, seven-year-old daughter, five-year-old son, and the best shelter mutt in the world.