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How to Get Kids Outside All Winter Long (Sara McCarty)

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If you’re trying to establish or maintain an outdoor habit around kids, big or little, you know the struggle is real. And it’s especially difficult when the weather starts to get cooler or more challenging. How do you motivate kids into getting out into nature when they (and likely you, too) think staying inside sounds warmer and easier? And how the heck do you dress everyone?

Sara McCarty – mom, attorney and outdoor lover – knows a thing or two about getting kids outside. She’s gotten so good at it that she created a website and a podcast on the subject, Run Wild My Child, so she can share her tips and tricks with all of us. And we’re really lucky that she joined us on Humans Outside to share those tips here, too.

Some of the good stuff:

Some of the good stuff:
[2:51] Sara McCarty’s favorite outdoor space

[4:03] How Sara became a person who likes to go outside

[7:26] Who are we really going outside for?

[8:44] How Run Wild My Child got started

[13:19] Advice for parents who are having a hard time getting outside

[18:15] Helping kids work through outdoor hesitancy

[32:14] Is there a secret to keeping track of kids’ gear?

[38:14] Kid gear advice for specific weather

[45:19] Most essential and favorite outdoor gear

[48:23] Sarah’s favorite outdoor moment

Connect with this episode:

Register for our newsletter to win a decal: https://humansoutside.com/newsletter

Follow us on Instagram and share your outdoor life with the hashtag #humansoutside365.

Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast.

Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

Amy Bushatz 0:06

When the weather turns cold, it can be really hard to convince yourself to spend time outside each day. If you live in northern climates, or places with dramatic temperature swings and lots of rain, snow, ice or wind or all of them somehow at the same exact time, you know the struggle. And now add kids to the mix. Oh, it’s hard enough getting yourself motivated, put on all the layers, find your gloves or mittens and hat and boots and get out there. Forget doing it for children who lose winter clothes at a rate that boggles the mind. Getting everyone ready and out the door is really just a bridge beyond knowing the benefits of going outside. You know you want to do it. But why is it so hard? Getting kids outside in less than ideal conditions, where and how to make it happen, and what to do once you are there is one of the top problems Humans Outside listeners bring me. I’ve got two boys, ages 9 and 12 at the time of this recording, so I know the struggle is real. And by the way, one of them only loses left hand gloves, like we have all these right hand gloves. All the left one hand ones are lost. But answering these kinds of questions calls for a real expert, someone who has immersed themselves in the problem solving of this. And so for that, we have Sara McCarty. Sara runs the website Run Wild my Child, which focuses on sharing insights and resources on getting and keeping kids outside. And today she’s going to help us with this outside in the winter problem. I am so excited she’s here. Sara, welcome to Humans Outside.

Sara McCarty 2:25

Oh, thank you so much for having me. I’m absolutely honored to be here.

AB 2:29

Oh, the problem is real and we will discuss the left hand glove issue shortly in due course, I’m sure. Because like who is the left hand bandit? Anyway, we start all of our episodes imagining ourselves talking to our guest in his or her favorite outdoor space. So if we were doing that with you, where are we with you today?

SM 2:51

Oh my gosh, well, I don’t even know if it’s possible to pick one and I think I have a different favorite outdoor place for different things that I’m doing. If I’m by myself, I have a particular hike that has this just incredible overlook of a local river here and if I’m with my kids, we’re usually on a stream fly fishing. So we will just be somewhere with running water. If it’s a creek or a river, anything with that sound of running water, you can count on me to be there.

AB 3:26

And I co-sign not trying to drag your kids up to your favorite spot.

SM 3:32

It’s beautiful but there are no railings and my kids are feral and you know someone will push one of the other ones off a cliff. You try to still stick with hikes that are a little less intimidating.

AB 3:48

Totally. I completely get that. Okay, so you have all these favorite spots. How did you become someone who likes to go outside and has taking your family outside always been a major focus for you?

SM 4:03

Yeah, I grew up outside and I will, I guess, credit or blame my father for this. I grew up on 40 acres out in the middle of nowhere outside of a small town in northeast Missouri and we were just surrounded by woods. There were no neighbors within a mile of us so we were on our own to create our own activities and adventures. And a lot of it just meant getting out the door and going out in the woods and playing. We had a creek at the bottom of the hill. We had this old stable like barn that was falling down but we turned it into a little clubhouse, you know, slash school rooms, slash library. It was for whatever adventures we wanted to have. There was a disgusting pond but it was full of frogs. Trees had fallen. So everybody had their favorite tree and a place to kind of get away. And that’s just all we really had to do. So I guess I just grew up that way. And I think, as a lot of times kids do, I kind of rebelled against that. So I couldn’t wait to go to college and live in a city with a stoplight, you know, with 24 hour things. And so I was dying to be in the city. I am in a city now. And the minute I had kids, all I wanted to do was revert back and give them the childhood that I had. So yes, it has been important to get the kids outside from day one. I noticed immediately with my first that, I wouldn’t say he was colicky, but he was difficult, he wasn’t happy a lot of the time as a baby. But immediately if you took him outside, he’d stop crying. And we learned right away what a difference just being outside did for kids. And we just started planning more and more and more things outside because it just made our lives easier. We noticed he just loved being outside. So that’s what we did. His second word was “out.” So I have three, the oldest is nine. And then I have a daughter who’s seven, and another boy who is three.

AB 6:33

So it’s amazing how quickly, as parents, we discover the things that make our lives easier and just do it again. My nine year old is very much the kid whose attitude is just completely different within minutes of being out the door, right? Like just be outside, get outside, go outside, and it can go from just struggle bus, we’re on the bus, the bus has left the station, the bus is way down the road, to — Oh, like, everything’s fine, we’re fine. And, you know, I gotta credit that to just taking a walk. It’s amazing.

SM 7:26

Yeah, it is really amazing. As parents, we want the best for our kids. And there are so many benefits of getting outside. I mean, they’re just countless, we want kids, you know, to raise kids outside because of all of the amazing things for them. But honestly, it’s really great for parents, because Mother Nature kind of does your job for you as a parent, and it makes your life and your job so much easier. And I’m constantly telling parents, you know — yes, you’re doing it for them. But you’re also doing this for you. Because it will really help. I mean, it will give you things to do outside. You know, your kids get along better when they’re outside, they are distracted by all of the sensory experiences going on, they sleep better, they eat better. I mean, there’s just so many great things that make your job as a parent easier if you’re just if you’re outside more.

AB 8:20

Totally. Okay, so speaking of telling people that, so your website and podcast, by the way, Run Wild, My Child is entirely devoted to this subject. How did that get started? How did you go from like, I know that getting my kids outside is good for them and good for me, to now I’m going to tell everyone I’ve ever met and all the people about this.

SM 8:44

It was a little more gradual than that. I’m an attorney by day, it is not a very creative job. Let’s just say I didn’t have a lot of ways to express myself in my job. So back when I was a baby lawyer, I ran a marathon, or attempted to, and I started a blog just to document my training and my process. I very quickly learned that I really loved writing a lot more than I liked running. So the blog kind of became more of a personal journal outlet for me. And it morphed over the years as my life changed. So it became a wedding planning blog. And then it became recipes and homemaking. And then, you know, I touched on some infertility stuff. And then when we had kids, it was just kids, kids kids. And as my kids got older, I started worrying about the privacy issues with all of the very personal things that I was talking about. I mean it’s one thing when your kids are really little to talk about how cute they are. And the funny things they say but as they get older, there are concerns because they don’t really have any say in what you’re putting out there and they are not necessarily giving their consent. So I got a little uncomfortable with it. But I didn’t want to give up that outlet. I really loved the community, I loved being creative, I loved the writing and the sharing. And I was at a fly fishing film tour of all places with my husband, one night, and we were watching all these movies about like these little short films about, basically men getting out there and fishing these exotic locations and, and then, at the end of one film, the guy came home, and his kid is sitting on, you know, on a screen, and he jumps up and gives out a hug, and well welcomes him home. And I just kept thinking, like — Why isn’t he fishing with this kid? I want to watch that video, I want to see that, you know, people, all these people here, there are hundreds of people watching this. And they probably all have kids. And instead of encouraging them to, you know, fly to remote locations in Russia, we need to convince them to go fishing in their local streams with their families. And I thought — well, I could do that. We do that. So I kind of shut down the personal blog, and I took the content, because I was getting a ton of questions from my readers about — well, how do you go camping with kids? And where do you go hiking? And what gear do you use? And I never really felt like I was experienced enough to really talk about this. Who am I? I’m just a mom. But I really thought there was just nothing out there for kind of beginner outdoorsy parents, you know, people that knew that they wanted to get outside but didn’t know where to start. So Run Wild was born.

AB 11:41

That’s so great. There’s a lot of people who work in this space, right? We’ve had Ginny Yurich at 1000 Hours Outside on the podcast, so I don’t want to say you’re the only one out there. But you’ve really worked to create this, this voice and a resource for this subject that’s really important. Because, you know, as you said, it’s hard to get outside with your kids, right? Like, it’s a hard thing. And there wasn’t any, just basic information. And it’s so vital, because when it goes to getting outside and adding small people in there, there’s so many questions, and it’s just easier to not answer them. Easier to be like — alright, well, that’s a big question. So how about we watch a movie, you know? And it’s not until you get out and start making that habit, as I’ve personally discovered, and as so many people who do that Humans Outside 20 minute or daily challenge, know that you get out there and you find those benefits, right? Like, now you know why you’re doing it. But getting out there to start with is hard. And making that first step is hard, especially when the weather’s not good, as we’re going to talk about today. So we’re going to get really practical, and I’m very excited about that, because I like practicality, and we need help. So what do you say to parents who worry about bad or challenging weather, be it cold, wet, and who worry that that weather is keeping their family inside? Like what’s the very first thing you advise people who are like — this is gross.

SM 13:19

You have to just start with a mindset set shift. I mean, I really think that you have to find the reason why you need to dig deep, and figure out what it is you need to focus on to overcome, you know, getting out the door. So you know, you can think about the benefits to your kids, of all the amazing things that they’re going to miss out on if they’re not outside in this weather. You know, you don’t want them to feel like they can’t go out in weather that’s not ideal, you don’t want to be the reason that you’re keeping them from these experiences. So if you can shift your mindset, reframe it, try to figure out what it is and why you need to get outside, it makes it so much easier. And then you know, make sure you have the gear to make sure you’re not miserable. Find something that you enjoy doing outside because the kids are going to pick up on that. If you’re just standing there and counting down the minutes until you can go back inside, they’re going to feel that you know, and they’re not going to want to stay out there either. So you’ll have to find something for you to do out there too. And sometimes that’s you know, take a book with you or listen to a podcast you know, as you’re outside, you know, in one ear, so you can still hear them but you’re also doing something for you. I bring my camera along. Photography has become something that’s very important to me. I love documenting their adventures and I use our outside time as a time for me to experience—I get down low. I shoot from up high. I try to come up with different angles. I talk to them and ask questions so they’re interacting and engaging and I can get the shot. You know, find something that will get you excited about being outside too.

AB 15:14

Yeah. Which is not to say like everyday is created equal, right? Like you can have this super, we’re doing this and I’m gonna find a reason to like it mindset, and it can still be hard.

SM 15:25

There just aren’t a lot of things that are worthwhile doing with kids that that don’t have some element of hard with them. There’s beauty in all of it. And if you can focus on that and find it, then it’s not it’s not as painful, I guess. But it’s still hard. Those of us who do this a lot may have systems and everything put in place that work for us, but you kind of have to find what works best for you. And just keep trying, because it will be hard for a long time and eventually someday they’ll be able to put on their own boots and their own mittens and it pays off.

AB 16:12

Is that not #havingkids? I’ve been sitting here thinking like — Well, I mean everything is hard.

SM 16:23

Yeah. Indoor things are hard. I mean, everything with kids is hard.

AB 16:32

Like, there’s like a continuum of hard. I’m not sure going outside is harder than having a family movie night, right? Like, the family movie night is a hard I’ve previously encountered a lot, right? There’s just a continuum. And one is not better than the other. If you’re already listening to this and you already have kids, we’re gonna make the best of it, guys.

So speaking of things that are hard, we’re really ragging on the kids here. Not every kid wants to go outside. Okay. So, you know, my son, I mentioned earlier, my nine year old son, he’s all about this life once he’s out there. But man, can it be a challenge to make that happen? That happened, especially if he’s having what he calls a “good game” — Mom, I’m having a good game—which involves a whole lot of action figures. Periodically, he tells Alexa to play the Imperial March from Star Wars. So I’ll be sitting in the other room. And hear the Star Wars theme over and over again. Anyway, he’s all into it. Okay, so and then we’re like — let’s go outside. And he says no, and then there’s the fight, you know? Okay, so how do you suggest parents work through that outdoor hesitancy and encourage everyone out the door without any actual, like limited kicking and screaming, maybe like three or four specific tips because the struggle is so real.

SM 18:15

The struggle is so real. You know, my team and I were just talking the other day about this exact problem. And we were even considering changing our tagline on Run Wild, My Child from how to get your kids off screens and outside to how to trick your kids into being outside and also convince yourself because I feel like that. I mean, that is really the struggle. Some kids just don’t want to go outside. And sometimes it could be for a variety of reasons, maybe they’re having more fun inside doing something like your son, maybe it’s a kind of fear of the unknown. My oldest doesn’t like doing things that he’s never done before. If he knows what to expect, like if he’s been there before, he’s all into it. Because every time we do something, he usually has a great time. But convincing him to do something new when he doesn’t understand or know, like, what’s going on, is very hard. And he gets a lot of anxiety about that. So sometimes you just have to, I mean, I’m not gonna say like, lie to them, but sometimes I just omit what we’re doing, and we’ll just get in the car, and we’ll just show up someplace. Because it just takes that anxiety down a notch. You know, there’s no reason to get him worked up about it or nervous, if it’s something that I know he’ll be fine with doing. It’s just kind of like getting them convinced to go. So I mean, you know your kids best and you know what works for them. So, I guess the first tip would be to just make sure that they’re having fun when they’re outside. I know we all harp on kind of unstructured, free play and how wonderful that is for kids. But especially when kids are little or they’re just kind of getting into it, that’s pretty hard to just take them outside and expect them to come up with something to do and, you know, figure it out. Especially if maybe you just have one kid, without a whole bunch of other kids to play with, or come up with games or have ideas, that’s tough on a kid. So it’s up to us parents to kind of figure out what it is that they like, and what we can do to make it fun. And even if it’s just giving them suggestions, you know, have something set up for them outside, if you just want them to go in your backyard, then put up a slackline or a swing or a mud kitchen or, you know, something that they can do and play with outside, so they can still have that unstructured, free time and play. But they’ve at least got some props, you know, things to, to encourage them to get outside. And then maybe they’ll play with that for a few minutes and, you know, move on to something else. But sometimes it takes kids a while to really get into that kind of unstructured, free play. I mean, I’ve heard like up to 45 minutes. So don’t get discouraged with, if, within 10 minutes, your kid is just still like — I’m bored, I don’t know what to do. So help them out, you know, come up with a scavenger hunt, you know, look for bugs and do something together.

And that’s the second thing: be together. You have to be out there with your kids too. They need that quality time together, kids want to be with their parents. I mean, especially little kids. It’s kind of the, the beauty of having little kids is they just want you. So if you can be out there with them, and you can fake it if you have to, with how much you enjoy being outside. They love doing whatever it is that lights up their parents. So come up with, you know, some things that you can do that makes you happy that you can, you know, encourage them to do as well. And they will get into anything. I mean, we have this bush in my front yard that is covered right now in milkweed. And all summer long, I’ve been going out there and trying to find Monarch caterpillars and looking for these caterpillars. And they noticed, you know, so we go out there. And you know, one day I’ll find an assassin bug. And then the next day, I’ll find some ladybugs, and I’ll show them and the kids are like — Yeah, whatever. This is so weird. My mom is obsessed with this bush. But after a while, they started looking, and they would run inside and be like — mom, there’s this new spider web and come out and check this out! And I mean, if they can get excited about a bush, just think of what else they can get excited about if you’re getting excited about it. So you know, be present, engage with them, find something that you like to do.

And then I guess the third tip would be to figure out what their interests are, what is it that they want to do inside and try to take that outside. So if you’ve got a kid that likes the action figures, you know, set up an action figure area outside. If they enjoy being cozy and snuggling up under a blanket and reading inside, set up a hammock, or take a beanbag outside or something so they can read out there. There’s a lot of ways to take your indoor activities, you know, what’s keeping you from going outside, and just moving it outside. So I mean, my nine year old loves Dude Perfect. So we set up an obstacle course and like a bottle flipping competition with all the neighbor kids, you know, like just things that are creative, that engage their interest, and take it outside.

AB 23:20

You talked about how this building this unstructured time, it takes a while. And I’m wondering, like if you think it’s a habit. Like is this something that kids like, maybe it takes up to 45 minutes at first couple of times, but it gets easier over time, like they jump into that more quickly?

SM 23:42

Yeah, it does. As they get older, and know what to expect outside, they can jump into it right away. My daughter, in particular, is one of those kids who has just a very active imagination. And she’ll set up something outside and you know, in the backyard, and she’ll set up a restaurant, you know, with leaves as the plates and she’s serving up acorns. And you know, she’ll have all of that and could spend hours out there. And then, you know, maybe a week later she goes back out, and she can just jump right back into it. Once they kind of have some things that they’re used to doing in those areas, it sparks their imagination, and they can jump back into it quicker. And then the more kids you have around, actually it is even better. I mean, if you have neighborhood kids, or like me, I have three kids, which makes my life easier than having, I think, one kid, because they have somebody else to play with. And that makes a huge difference. Because it opens up the possibilities and their imagination and it builds their social skills and their negotiation, then it’s much easier when there are a bunch of kids around to come up with something fun to do.

AB 24:58

I think back to when we first started my 20 minute daily habit and it was in a time of year that was nice outside but there was a lot of going and doing stuff. There was very little — okay, we’re outside, make your own fun. There was — we’re going for a picnic today in this new park, we will go to this playground, we are going to go to the river. Like we went and did things. We went on hikes in new places instead of going back to old faithful habits or favorite things because we didn’t have any old faithful favorite things. We had only new experiences because this was a new thing we were doing and since that time and the literally 1500 days since then—because I hit 1500 days actually this week—so in that span since then, we now have 1500 days of old habits. That sort of brings me to the other point you said and I wanted to go back to, which was family stuff and doing stuff together. I am not a fan—and every family treats this differently. Every family has their own culture and priorities and that’s great for me and my family. I like that we do things that are family activities.Our kids don’t do sports that are just them, we do things that we like to do together. So my kids, because we live in Alaska and it’s snowy here, we all take ski lessons. They’ve grown to like to ski because it’s something that we tried together. So we all are taking cross country ski lessons. We all go cross country skiing on the community ski lesson night for their age groups, so that like the junior night, they take their lesson and whichever parent is there—or hopefully both parents because it’s after work hours and we can both be there—we ski while they’re skiing, but we’re not in a lesson at that time, we’re just out there practicing. It’s become this sort of family thing. We all hike together. The adults have bigger backpacking trips that they want to do and we do those, but we also backpack as a family. You mentioned fly fishing for your family. We try really hard to do things as a family and that goes back to what you were saying about the video series you’re watching about fly fishing. Like you’re wondering — well, why isn’t this guy taking his kid with him? That’s what we try to do and our kids do want to be with us and we do want to be with them, but man, is that more fun if we’re all doing something we enjoy?!

SM 27:58

Oh it’s so much fun finding things you can do together as a family, and there are so many different options. For whatever interests you, there are ways to do that together as a family. My oldest does play baseball and my husband is part of his team and coaches, so it’s something that they get to do and we really like that, but like you said, it’s different for every family. But fishing is one of those things where we can all do together or we can each do separately and independently. We combine fishing with all kinds of other activities as well, whether it’s kayaking or canoeing, or we’re hiking to a place where we can fish and camp along the river. It’s kind of become one of those things that if we can fish somewhere, we know that whatever other activities around there will be fine.

AB 28:52

Yeah, yeah, exactly. Because you have this linchpin thing that you like, we like to go camping, right? And we find other stuff to do that some people like. Maybe your thing is sitting around campfires – awesome. That can be a linchpin activity for any other outside time. You know, we built a fire pit, like a not very big fire pit. I mean, a small tiny brick situation, in our yard. Okay, so it’s like a little fire pit and it’s sort of away from the back door, although I will tell you my husband initially built it as close to the porch as possible. And then like, smoke. Like, this does not seem like the best location for this. So we have this out in our yard, we can go out there, it’s right by the play structure that we have, so they can be on the swings and Luke and I can sit and read books by the fire and you know, marshmallows happen and maybe we eat our dinner out there. And the best part of early spring for me is the day that I get to go out there and find it with my snow shovel. I am declaring winter is over, even though it’s not, and we go out there in the cold and have a fire and that’s even better, you know. And so that’s become like this linchpin activity for us. And that’s just one idea that maybe people can look at doing, you know, go to a riverside, or rent a campsite, just you know, and only stay for the day and have a picnic with the fire, whatever. These are things you can go do as a family. But you don’t all have to be just sitting there looking at each other because nobody really wants to do that.

Okay, I really need to talk to you about gear because people are always like — I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to dress my kids. I know I’m not comfortable. So I assume they’re not comfortable, but they’re inevitably moving five times as much as I am. Also, how did they lose all their stuff? Okay, so first and most important, have you heard a specific secret for keeping track of hats, mittens, gloves, whatever, and then streamlining for gearing up to go outside?

SM 32:22

I think the only way to streamline this is to not have children. So we use this system. I’m not going to say that this is perfect. I think this is, again, so specific to each particular family. But I mean, what has worked for us will not work for everyone because you have to really pay attention to your pain points. What are the issues that you continuously come across? Is it that you’re missing only a left mitten? Is it that you can’t find anything anywhere? You know, like where do your kids dump all their stuff the minute they walk in the door? You kind of have to just figure out your system based on your surroundings, what works best for your family and the layout of your house, your kids and how responsible they are. And it’ll be different for everybody. What works very well, no, well-ish, I’ll go take that back a little bit. For us, we have like this two drawer Rubbermaid thing that we put in the winter like right by the front door because that’s usually the door that kids go in and out of the most. And it’s got one drawer for hats, and one drawer for mittens and gloves. So you just pull it open, throw all your stuff in the right drawer, and then it’s not organized by kid or anything. I tried to buy mainly all gender neutral everything and have a variety of sizes and way more than we’ll need at any given time because things get lost and moved around. The kids will inevitably like have their like one favorite pair of something, which of course will get lost, but we have backups. But if I have everything in one spot, it makes it easier because they know where it goes and they know where to look. And if you can just train them, which is impossible, right? I mean, especially with little kids. My three year old? Not happening. So just work on it over and over. This is where the hats go, this is where the gloves go. The boots are all lined up on the other side on a mat so they can dry out. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but it works well for us because my daughter or my son, anybody can jump into that glove drawer and find a pair of gloves that will work in a minute. So having them all just in one space and setting up the expectation so your kids just know what to do and where it goes. It eliminates a lot of the issues.

AB 35:01

Yeah, the other way to eliminate this issue is to move somewhere warm.

SM 35:08

Good point. Yes. That also works. I hear the Caribbean is lovely.

AB 35:19

I mean, what you described is very similar to what we do and we got to that system by saying — okay, here’s the problem. Let’s identify, exactly what you said, those pain points and like step backwards from there. How do we solve those specific things? A lot of our problem has to do with everything being wet. So we put a boot dryer in a convenient place and now you put your stuff on there as soon as you get in the door. And I do actually know what causes the left hand problem, just for the record, it is in fact that my son is left handed and takes it off to do something and then walks away. So I what I need to do is make a friend who has the same problem, whose child is right handed.

SM 36:13

Another thing you can do on that is, and I haven’t tried this because we don’t have that issue, but I have a friend who takes yarn and attaches it to both mittens, and then she will run the yarn through the coat sleeves. So when you take a glove off, it’s still dangling like you can’t lose it. It’s attached to the yarn. I mean, obviously, you have to like pull it through the coat sleeves every time you’re getting dressed on and off. But it could help. Or maybe like attach it you know the yarn, like right to the inside of your sleeve or something. That way you can take it off, it’s dangling there, and then you can just pop it right back on when you’re done with whatever it is that you’re doing.

AB 37:01

Yes, exactly. And if only that would have worked for us. But it might work.

SM 37:08

In theory it sounds brilliant and now like practicality probably more work than it’s worth.

AB 37:17

I think it’s really great for little kids, like maybe three or four years old. He’s too old for that and because he’s at school, 90% of these are left at school. So back to the gear problems. Gear is a really hard thing that we get asked about a lot. I’m sure you get asked about it a lot. While you personally may not have experience with all this gear, I know that your website has talked about this so I’m hoping you can help us weigh in, maybe a little lightning round. Yeah. Okay, different types of gear for different kinds of weather. First type of weather, cold rain, what do you tell people to buy?

SM 38:13

I really love rain suits. You can just pop them on top of whatever clothing that you’re wearing. So if it’s cold you can have extra layers under the suit, but you can also wear them when it’s not that cold with fewer layers underneath. They wrap right around the tops of your boots so you have some good boots on and you can kind of Velcro and cinch them down. For the most part, that usually works pretty well, depending on how wet they’re going to get. I mean, if they are like literally laying in the mud puddles, they may still get a bit wet. My kids do that all the time. But the rain suits do tend to work really well.

AB 38:59

What brand do we love?

SM 39:02

OAKI has a great one. I can’t remember exactly the pricing. I think they were around $60 or $70. And then there’s another and cheaper version called Muddy Buddy. I don’t have specifics on that one. I have not tried those. But people rave about them. Yeah. So either of those. And obviously there are probably a lot that are even more expensive. So depending on how much your kids are outside in the rain, if it’s something where your kids are at like an outdoor school, where they’re outside all the time in this then it may be worth investing in something that’s a little more rugged.

AB 40:00

Yeah because, naturally all of these things are from our neighbors who love being outside and have terrible weather and would never even have this conversation because it’s assumed that you’re doing this and we don’t need to talk about it. We’re talking about price points, but if you have kids, you know that kids don’t always wear things out and so second hand stores, if you live in an outdoorsy area, are a great option. Online there are web pages and Facebook groups that do clothing exchanges or clothing sales of outdoor gear that you can certainly find, maybe just specific to your own region. My kid only now is starting to completely wear through shoes and I can still buy him use shoes for the most part.

SM 40:52

I would never want price points or feeling like you had to have the exact right gear or the right brands or anything to keep people from getting outside. For the most part, you can get outside in a wide variety of items. You do not have to have name brand anything and you don’t have to have brand new anything. It is better for the environment to shop secondhand and pre-owned. We are big big believers in that, as well. We pass items down from kid to kid, plus generation to generation. We still have some wool that my husband had when he was a kid and I hear that that’s kind of a new kind of trendy thing, that you pass down your wool generation to generation. It is an investment, so if you are making the investment, you want to make sure you get your money out of it, so use it as much as you can. Those Facebook groups, resale shops, online resale places, like throw it up. Gear Trade or even REI has a used gear page. And then shop off season. If you do want to buy new, try to shop in the offseason. Shop in the summer when there’s big sales on outerwear and stock up; and the same for summer stuff, buy it in the winter.

AB 42:21

Which brings me to the next question, which is gear for snow and really cold snow. To your point, I love Land’s End for this for my kids because it just lasts forever and if it doesn’t, they’ll take it back. If there’s some sort of catastrophic problem, they’ll give you a new one – and my nine year old is the cause of the problem. Anyway, that’s where I get mine. So in really cold snow, pick your poison.

SM 42:51

You’ve got to start with a nice wool base layer. I can’t say enough wonderful things about wool. It’s so good for helping you regulate body temperature, it wicks sweat away, it’s not like cotton where if it gets wet it will just make you miserable. It’s just really like the ultimate base layer, and then start from there. On top of that, put on a waterproof layer. Make sure you’ve got more than just water resistant. It needs to be waterproof, so look for items that you know fit well. You don’t want to have kids in things that are way too small or way too big because water and snow will find their way in and it will make them miserable. So ski pants, a winter coat, some warm boots, and then if you’ve got little ones, we really like those one piece full like bunting suits. Those are great for just easy access and it keeps them very warm and then you know a nice jacket with a hood and the ones that like cinch on the side so you get the right fit. Again, make sure it’s waterproof to keep that snow out.

AB 44:10

I’m guessing like a no snow, no rain, just cold situation, it’s the same stuff but you aren’t as worried about getting wet.

SM 44:21

Yeah, you’re less worried about waterproofing and more about maybe even wind resistance. So like throw in more of a windbreaker type because that can get really cold and if you’re just in like a fleece and and like wool layers. You know, having something to protect you from that wind that goes right through. That’ll just chill you to your bones. So sometimes that may just be the same kind of snow gear. You don’t have to have necessarily wind resistant, specific clothes. You know your snow gear will keep you warm in the wind as well.

AB 44:59

Thank you for that. Hopefully I’ll have some like takeaway action items here. How we end our podcast episodes is talking about our favorite or personal favorite or most essential after gear. So Sara, what do you like? What do you love for you?

SM 45:19

For me? Well, I think probably the most essential thing that I bring along is a backpack. And that’s just because I’m the mom. And I have to have all the snacks. And I have the water and I have the first aid kit. You know, you can’t go on any adventure without a million snacks and preparing for, you know, ultimate demise. I don’t have anything fancy for a backpack. I just use a, you know, a regular backpack, sometimes I’ll just use one of my kids’ old school backpacks, and just throw our gear into it and go. So I think for me, that’s the most essential thing. Just making sure I have everything that the kids are going to need to keep us moving.

AB 46:05

Yeah. You know, I was listening to one of your podcast episodes last weekend, and you said something about how snacks are a pivotal part. And I’m thinking — Heck, I mean, I don’t want to go on an adventure without snacks for me, forget them. Now this might be because I was like, at mile 19.75, or something like I was like, almost home on a 20 mile run. So maybe snacks are on the mind. That’s, that’s actually in retrospect, quite possible.

SM 46:40

I think I need more than this snack at that point. I mean, just ravenous.

AB 46:45

If you just start thinking a lot about food and it becomes a part of your natural process, and now that I’m thinking about it, that may have been the case at that moment, but I think the point stands for everyone.

SM 46:57

We’ve gotten really excited about our snacks. A few years ago, I bought just a variety of stasher bags and bento boxes. And those bento boxes are just fantastic. Like my kids know to expect, like they’re ready for their box. We do a different box for sweets, and then a different box for fruits and a box for like, salty. So, you know, they know which box that they want based on the lid color. And they’re great for just throwing in kind of like the odds and ends of things in your cabinet. You know, those bags of chips that will just sit there forever, because there’s just a little bit left. So I’ll just take those and, you know, throw them in one of the slots. It’s gonna become a challenge for me to see how creative I can get with these. And sometimes the kids are like — yeah, like what is this? Well, it’s just the leftover odds and ends. And then sometimes, you know, sometimes they love it, sometimes it’s just not a hit. So we just, you know, it’s always a surprise.

AB 48:06

Very fun. Last but not least, we close out our episodes by having our guests tell us their favorite outdoor moment. Walk us out envisioning a moment outside that you just go back to and love.

SM 48:23

Oh, gosh. Okay, so this actually didn’t happen all that long ago, which, you know, kind of became my new favorite moment. And I’ve thought a lot about this over the last few months. So my husband is the president of our local chapter of Trout Unlimited. And we’re very active in cold water stream conservation. And they’ve been doing this project with the Missouri Conservation Department on a telemetry study and trying to reintroduce wild brown trout into our stream or at some of our local Missouri streams. And we were out fly fishing the other day while he was working with his team on doing the study, and they were out like literally in the water, trying to catch these little tiny baby brown trout that we had put in as eggs a few months ago. So he’s doing that, and then I have the three kids and we’re all kind of just walking around on the stream and fishing and my nine year old is super, super fishy. I mean, this kid is just amazing. It did take nine years to get him here, and a lot of work on my husband’s part, but he’s just really good. And he ties his own flies, and he’s just, you know, his cast is just beautiful. And he’s fishing. The three year old, of course, he’s just trying to be exactly like him. So he’s just tagging along and, you know, my oldest is helping the little one and they’re kind of doing their own thing. And my daughter who lives kind of in her own little like lala land she, you know, she’s singing. And she’s very musical and she loves animals. So she’s catching frogs, and she caught a grasshopper and you know, she’s showing it to the kids. And it was just one of those moments where it kind of just came full circle, like you could see their personalities, each so bright. And you could hear my son, my oldest kind of talking to the little one about, you know, about fishing and casting, and he was repeating the same things he’s heard my husband say so many times, and it was just this beautiful full circle moment. Like, they are watching, and they’re learning. The effect that we have on them is so profound. And it was just such a beautiful moment. And so heavy, in a good way. It just really reiterated how important it is to get them outside. And to make sure that we are modeling the behavior that we want to see in them, that we’re being good stewards of the environment, that we are working hard to preserve these streams and, you know, being empathetic to animals and bugs. And it was just a really amazing moment.

AB 51:25

That does sound amazing. Sara, thank you so much for joining us on Humans Outside today. I really appreciate your time and your expertise and all the fun we’ve had today.

SM 51:36

Yes, thank you so much for having me. This was an absolute honor and a blast.

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