Questions to consider when buying outdoor clothing for children
- What is your budget?
- How many sets of clothes are required?
- What clothing do you actually need?
- What activities will it be used for?
- How often will it be used?
We suggest you consider each of these questions before making any purchase - read on for some more detailed prompts.
What is your budget?
This will be the most significant limiting factor on the type of clothing you can buy.
A full class set of top quality waterproofs can be expensive, and if you also need wellies and hats, with warm layers, it will increase your budget. Therefore if your budget doesn’t provide for all of the clothing, some compromises will need to be made.
Do you need to buy jackets as well as trousers?
Waterproof trousers are often worn even if it is not raining, to protect from the wind, mud, damp and vegetation. If a good quality trouser is worn, the waterproof jacket is less important, except of course, for when it is actually raining.
Even if it is not raining during your session, the ground is most likely to be damp. If you can afford it, we would recommend buying higher quality waterproof trousers or dungarees, and a lower quality or budget jacket. The children can use their own coats and maybe you can supplement these with a few shell jackets to use over the children’s coats should it rain.
Budget jackets are less breathable than the more expensive ones so can become damp inside if a child sweats. These jackets are fine, providing you are not planning to wear them for long periods of time. An economy jacket can often be sufficient for most situations, even robust play situations.
What’s the difference? High budget vs low budget clothing
Higher specification waterproof clothing is made from more robust materials that are often both breathable and waterproof. Better quality clothing will offer taped seams, waterproof protected zip systems and soft-feel material around the collar and cuffs where material is likely to rub on children’s skin.
This clothing is often designed not to rip. If it is snagged and a small tear occurs, it can be repaired with a patch or some tape.
Good quality, lower budget clothing is often waterproof but less robust and not breathable. It is more suitable for less adventurous outdoor play, where children are less likely to come in contact with abrasive surfaces and spiky plants and shrubs. Often these clothes will rip easily if snagged.
Suggestions on how to spend your budget
Budget 1: less than £20 per child
If you want a waterproof jacket and trousers for light play situations then a quality pack-in-the-bag jacket and trouser set is perfect. It offers excellent value for money and is ideal for keeping the wet out. We do NOT recommend it for adventurous outdoor play.
If your outdoor play is going to be more adventurous then we suggest that you buy trousers and not jackets. Most children will have their own coat and so you will be able to buy some better quality, more robust trousers.
Budget 2: £20-£35 per child
As your budget increases, there are more choices in terms of clothing. At Muddy Faces we stock a range of waterproof trousers and dungarees that are robust and waterproof and ideal for adventurous play.
We are very happy to discuss your clothing requirements and arrange for samples to be sent out (no obligation to buy). Please note: samples need to be returned by you unused if you do not want to purchase them. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your requirements.
Number of sets
Do you need to buy a full class set or could you manage with a smaller number, for those children who come ill-prepared or have forgotten their kit?
What will you be doing outdoors?
What sort of activity will the clothing need to endure?
Light use – walking and light play such as splashing in puddles and running around
More heavy use, which may include crawling, kneeling, sitting, climbing, sliding etc.
How often is the clothing going to be worn?
Occasionally or more frequently?
Once a week or less, or daily?
How waterproof is the clothing?
And how waterproof do you need it to be?
See our Waterproof ratings guide:
Waterproof ratings guide
We believe outdoor clothing is the most important piece of kit you can have to enable sustained play and learning outdoors. Through your feedback, over the last decade, we have developed a range of waterproof clothing meeting the diverse needs of many different types of settings.
about Waterproof ratings guide
Is the material breathable?
A measure of how breathable a fabric is can be expressed in terms of how many grammes (g) of water vapour can pass through a square metre of fabric from the inside to the outside in a 24 hour period.
In the case of a 20k (20,000g) fabric, this would be 20,000 grams. The larger the number, the more breathable the fabric.
Are the seams welded & taped?
Often the fabric is fully waterproof, however, where two pieces are joined together water can leak through the seam. For clothing to be fully waterproof, the seams need to be sealed. This is achieved through taping or glue/heat welding.
Seam taping covers the tiny holes made by the needle in the sewing process so they don’t leak. This is done using a heat application of thin waterproof tape.
Sometimes seams are bonded together using glue or heat, but typically they are first sewn, then taped.
Garments can be either “fully taped” or “critically taped” – the difference is that a fully-taped garment has every seam taped, while a critically-taped garment is taped only on high exposure areas like the neck, shoulders and chest. Without adequate seam-sealing you’ll get wet even with the best waterproof/breathable fabric.
Is the material made in a way that is environmentally considerate?
See our Environmental guide:
Do you require additional features?
Reflective strips and patches
Many children’s outdoor clothing ranges have reflective strips as standard. This is to make the wearer more visible in low light and is a good safety feature if clothing is to be worn around traffic.
Stirrup straps help keep trousers in place over welly boots. In our experience, these straps can wear out or worse, apply pressure to the ankle seam, which results in the clothing ripping around the hem or cuff.
We always remove straps and allow trousers to hang loose or put elasticated cuffs higher up wellies to allow for kneeling and a range of movement, so less pressure is applied to the material.
Many outdoor clothes have adjustable velcro strips and poppers, allowing for room for growth.
Elasticated ankle cuffs help hold clothing in place over welly boots.
These guides are also available as free pdf downloads:
Outdoor clothing buying guide
Outdoor clothing practioners guide
Dressing for the outdoors parents information
Waterproof clothing care advice