Budget-friendly children’s outdoor gear in the UK

You may have heard the phrase “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”. But it can seem very difficult to source ‘appropriate’ children’s outdoor gear on a tight budget, especially when you know that it will probably only last your child one or two seasons! This is especially the case for winter gear, which tends to be more specialist.

One great option is to source gear second-hand, from Ebay or Facebook Marketplace. This works well for high-quality long-use items like jackets and dungarees, especially if you are buying from a brand with a reputation for longevity (e.g. Spotty Otter, Polarn O. Pyret). It is a very sustainable option, and it can save you a lot of money.

Not every second-hand item is a bargain! On Ebay you can check recently sold prices to see what the typical going rate is. Look carefully at the pictures for signs of wear and tear – cuffs and hems can be an especially good indicator of how well-used an item is. I have found it easier to get good quality items in baby and toddler sizes, as children outgrow them faster.

Second hand spotty otter waterproof suit with worn cuffs
When buying second-hand, check the cuffs to see how worn the item is.

A word of warning: when choosing whether to buy an item second-hand, consider how many children you would like to use the item. If you are going to hand the item down to younger siblings, it is sometimes ultimately more cost-effective to buy the item new. In my experience, second-hand jackets and all-in-one suits typically last through two children in our house. Of course, that is just an average, and we are quite hard on our kit! It tends to be zips that break first.

If you are looking to buy new, here are a few suggestions that we would recommend for purchasing in the UK.

Wool base layers, mid layers and accessories

Wool is a brilliant choice for staying warm in the winter without adding lots of bulk. However, the market for woollen items for children is quite limited. I suspect this is because wool usually needs hand-washing to avoid felting, which doesn’t often appeal to busy parents! It’s worth remembering that wool has self-cleaning properties and does not need cleaning very often, especially if it’s being used under a good protective outer layer. I spot clean where possible, and save up woollen items to hand-wash once a fortnight.

H&M Online has a remarkably extensive range of woollen items for children. You can search for ‘wool’ on their website, and filter by ‘Kids’. Here are some of our favourites:

Wool-blend socks

H&M kids wool blend winter socks, with different coloured thread to distinguish sizes
We add a different coloured thread ‘spot’ to the toes of each size of woolen sock, so that children can easily tell which belong to them.

I love these 4-packs of wool blend socks. They wash really well on the delicate-cycle of the machine and keep little feet warm when it’s freezing outside. There is usually only one or two colour-ways each year, so to distinguish between sizes, I embroider a tiny dot of coloured thread on the upper toe of each sock. Each child knows which is ‘their colour’ this year which makes it easy to sort the laundry pile.

Merino base layers

We have quite a few of these which get used as extra layers over pyjamas, for camping nightwear, and for base layers when it’s snowy. They are comfortable and fit well. They do tend to develop small holes after a season, so perhaps not as durable as a more expensive item.

Merino wool hats and gloves

The merino wool hats and mittens are lovely and warm, and at a very reasonable price. We also like the balaclavas, although in my experience these run extremely large in size. I found the wool polo-neck collar very useful for toddlers who are too young to be safe with a loose scarf, but need something to keep their necks warm.

Wool jumpers

I am a big fan of the H&M toddler wool jumpers (normal RRP £19.99). They are thick and warm, and the sizing runs a bit large. We have one that has been worn through three winters and is still going strong. Some years if it is a looser weave design then they can be prone to snagging, but in general they are excellent!

H&M kids wool range: a merino wool thermal top, beanie hat, balaclava and sweater.
H&M Merino wool jumper, base layer, balaclava and hat

Fleece trousers

Fleece trousers are so useful as a synthetic option for small children. They are comfortable and flexible, they wash really well and dry quickly. Ours get used all the time for outdoor nursery, either on their own or with merino leggings underneath in the winter. They are also great for pyjamas when camping, or as a quick-dry substitute for jogging bottoms when hill-walking.

We have recently discovered the FIX Fleece Trousers from Lindex, and are really enjoying them. They have elastic ankle cuffs and a button adjustable waist, which makes them very flexible.

H&M also sometimes do fleece trouser and jacket sets in toddler sizes for a reasonable price.

Fleece tops and jackets

Budget fleece tops tend to be easier to come across than the trousers. Some of our favourite brands are Go Outdoors and Decathlon, both of which have stood the test of time in our house. It can be useful to have a range of thicknesses and sizes so that you can layer up in cold weather.

Children's fleece jumpers from Decathlon and Go Outdoors
Fleece jumpers from Decathlon and Go Outdoors

Budget waterproof jackets and trousers

Look out for the Lidl kids’ waterproofs sale, which typically happens twice a year, with fleece-lined versions on sale in the autumn, and unlined versions for sale in the spring. The brand is ‘Lupilu’ if you are looking to pick some up on Ebay at other times of the year. The waterproofs have a PUL outer layer, and come in lovely bright colours and patterns.

We have some of the dungarees which have lasted really well and done a great job at keeping their owner warm and dry. I would say that the fabric is a little thinner than other brands such as Didriksons, but we haven’t had any issues with damage or holes.

Lidl children's Lupilu waterproof dungarees, rather muddy.
Some well used Lidl dungarees (Lupilu brand)

What are your favourite budget-friendly buys for children? Let us know in the comment section.

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