4th of July Sale! 15% OFF NEW STYLES
How to Choose Rain Gear with Outdoor School Shop

How to Choose Rain Gear with Outdoor School Shop

How to Choose Rain Gear with Outdoor School Shop

Imagine setting up your campsite only to be greeted by a sudden rainstorm that lasts for hours. Or maybe your chosen spot is sprinkled with puddles and mud galore. Do you force your active kiddos to stay in the tent? Do you allow them to go nuts, dirtying one of the few changes of clothes they have? We have a better option: quality rain gear.

But what counts as “quality rain gear”? Here’s a hint: the rain ponchos found in the dollar bin at the grocery store likely won’t cut it. We elicited the help of our expert friends at Outdoor School Shop to answer some of your pressing questions on choosing the right rain gear for your kiddos this year.

What Qualities Should Parents Be Looking For in a Rain Jacket? Durability? Material? Fit? Anything Else?

Use Case: The first question we like to ask at Outdoor School Shop (ODSS) is what is your end use; how do you use your gear and what do you need your gear to do for you?  Parents will need a different raincoat in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) than they will in the South.  It's very important to think about what your jacket needs to provide to you.  In the PNW, a parent would want something super waterproof (like this one from Helly Hansen), so looking for a higher water column rating makes sense.  In the South, a parent would want something more breathable (like this option from Muddy Puddles) together with waterproofing. In Northern climates, a parent might choose a fleece-lined raincoat (Like this one from Didrickson's) to add insulation.  We carry a rain jacket for every region at Outdoor School Shop and we are here for any parent that has questions. 

Young child in a Helly Hansen Rain suit climbing a tree


Durability: The durability question also has to do with end-use.  Do you have a kiddo that loves to climb trees, and explore the forest floor OR do you have a kiddo that likes to stay safely on the trail?  When answering that question- the parents who have more active play-type children will want to seek out high durability versus the parents of children who like to play a little less risky.  When talking about waterproofing, many raincoats share a number with an "mm" rating after it.  This is the water column attached to that specific coat. This means, that if water pressure were applied to the material, how long would it take to soak through?  The higher the water column rating, the less likely it will soak through.  Scandi outerwear brands are generally considered top in class for kids' rainwear.  The water column is not complete without features like fully sealed or taped seams and other features like storm flaps & hoods, providing an extra shield against water.  

Material: There are two main types of materials, PU rainwear and Shell Rainwear.  The PU rainwear is that slick material you think of when you think of a typical raincoat – what a fisherman might wear.  PU is super waterproof and wonderful for spending the entire day out in the rain or playing in puddles and mud, but it is not breathable so it can cause an active child to feel hot and sweaty after time.  Shell Rainwear is the most durable, weatherproofing available and is made using a layered technology allowing it to be waterproof, windproof, and breathable.  Shell is a wonderful option for situations where you need protection from the elements while you're outdoors.  Look for that water column rating if available to guide you and note the number of layers if available.  The nice thing about shell is that it is versatile too.  It can be worn on a non-rainy day, for instance, to protect against the wind.  Traditional PU raincoats are usually worn by children in very wet environments and on rainy or muddy days.

Fit: Measure the height of your child.  Many European brands use CM as their sizing- often 90, 98, 100, 104, 110......  When you see CM sizing, it is simply a conversion of their height in inches to centimeters.  When deciding what size to choose, CM sizing tends to work better because this uses height as the measurement rather than age.  Kiddos are normally different heights at different ages so this takes the guessing game out.  We added a conversion at the bottom of all product pages to help you figure out their height from inches to cm. 

What to Choose: A common question we get from parents needing to buy rain gear is "Do I purchase a rain set, an all-in-one suit design, or just a jacket?".  Our guidance goes back to the original use case idea, 'How and where will your child wear the gear'? ODSS has learned from all the children we have outfitted, that having kiddos in full coverage such as a suit or jacket and rain pants, really does help keep them outside longer and happier.  A rain bib or pant can be worn all year long to keep under layers dry and clean; kids just naturally like to be on their knees on the ground more than adults.  Rain pants can be worn on those non-rainy days too to protect the children's clothing from mud and dirt. For kids, here at ODSS, we consider the rain pant to be equally as important as the rain jacket.  Remember, all items can be made out of either traditional PU rain material or shell.  

A young girl splashing in puddles while wearing a pink Helly Hansen rain jacket and pants

Further Guidance: If you need further help, contact us at Outdoor School Shop.  We do a lot of research, testing, and evaluating on kids who spend their days outside; some all day in outdoor school environments like forest school.  Gear can be confusing – we get it!  Another metric to consider is cost per wear.  Factoring the overall cost by times worn will allow you to justify a higher ticket item which will last longer and perform better.  Buying an item that can be passed down to numerous kids or sold on the secondhand market provides a lot of value to you, your child, and the environment.   Also, consider Extend a Size functionality when buying your children's outerwear.  Get an extra year of wear!  ODSS carries many such styles.  

How Do You Properly Assess Sizing When Buying a Raincoat for Your Kid? How Do You Know It's the Right Fit? Should You Aim to Size Up?

At Outdoor School Shop, we like to encourage the use of EU sizing.  When you use the EU sizing provided on many brands, you actually measure the height of your child versus using their age as a guide.  Kids do not grow the same so there is less guessing when you depend on their height as your guide.  To understand this method, measure your child's height and then convert inches to CM.  That CM height is their size.  Voila!  Or if choosing gear on their age, many Scandinavian / European brands tend to run larger so buying their size can be like buying the size up.  

Kids wearing Helly Hansen rain gear while walking along a wooded path in the rain

What Are the Best Transitional Rain Jackets to Get You Through the End of Winter and into Spring?

We love the Puddleflex Fleece-Lined Jacket from a UK company called Muddy Puddles.  It's great for melting snow and colder conditions and has a thick fleece lining.  It can also be used near the coasts all year as a warm, super waterproof option. A little more transitional fleece-lined raincoat is this one from Polarn O. Pyret, a favorite brand by many of our parents and schools. If you're interested in shells, we love the Rider 2.0 Helly Hansen coat for all winter into Spring- it's super waterproof and windproof but not too warm that you couldn't wear it all season. Otherwise, their super water- and windproof, breathable Shelter Waterproof Rain jacket is the non-insulated version for warmer states. 

A nice fleece or technical fleece jacket can go a long way in the shoulder seasons.  Also, a pair of rain bibs are perfect to wear all season long to stay clean.  Wear them in melting winter months with an insulated warm jacket and in the muddy summer months to keep mud and dirt off.  

Want to get outside in all weather but overwhelmed with all the options?  These 3 items are a great place to start: we recommend rain bibs, rain mittens, and boots as a perfect outdoor adventure kit

A child playing with water and mud while wearing a Helly Hansen rain jacket and pants and wearing waterproof gloves

Finally, What are the Most Common Questions Parents Ask When Shopping for Outerwear?

The most common is about how to size.  Sizing can be difficult so look for numbers like 90, 100, 110 - these are showing the sizing in CM.  Remember, measure the height of your kiddo and then convert their height in inches to CM and you have their size!  

We consistently get asked how to dress kids in wet conditions, which is our favorite question!  We put together a category of our favorite pieces that we have tested in the outdoor school world.  We love to help so let us know if you need anything.  Email: theteam@outdoorschoolshop.com OR Instagram @outdoorschoolshop

We also get questions about nature based and outdoor education and how to find a school or program nearby.  We put together a handy directory for this question as well. 

Finally, we get questions about layering.  Think about your jacket as your barrier from the weather. It doesn't have to be the warmest if it's fully wind- and waterproof as long as you dress using a 1-2-3 layering method.  Start with a base layer in Merino wool or a technical fabric and depending on how cold it is outside, add a second (or mid) layer in fleecewool, or technical fabrics to help add more warmth to the body.  The outer layer is designed to keep the elements at bay, but is not necessarily the only item that should keep you warm - so don't forget to dress your child in layers!

About Outdoor School Shop

Outdoor School Shop (ODSS) is your one-stop shop for everything kids need to enjoy the great outdoors. The founders began with a focus on outdoor education, curating best-in-class gear to ensure that all children stay happy, warm, and engaged while learning and exploring outside. From the beginning, ODSS's product assortment has followed a good, better, best model, allowing schools, parents, and caregivers to find the right gear for their budget and specific needs. ODSS does the research for their customers, making it easy to select the right gear and confidently enjoy the outdoors. Let ODSS assist you in choosing the best options for your family, region, and activities.
ODSS is your go-to source for year-round outerwear, no matter what the weather throws at you
A young child wearing a rainsuit while playing on rocks along a coastline