with iksplor founders Karissa Akin and Kailey Gieck
What are the basic rules for layering?
KG: the most important layer is the first one, the next to skin layer. It’s most important that this layer is breathable, which is why we started this company in the first place, because merino is breathable! That first layer keeps you warmest and driest.
Then you want a warmer mid-layer on top and the outer layer last. This last layer is the one that keeps you safe from snow, wind, rain and whatever else is out there.
What are your absolute dos and absolute don’ts for layering, no matter the weather?
KA: Absolute don’ts are cotton next to skin because your kid is going to find a way to get that first layer wet. Diaper blowouts, etc, they happen! So no cotton because it’s not breathable and it doesn’t dry quickly. If it’s right against the skin it will hold that clamminess and cold in.
For a do: The mid layer should ideally be a heavier-weight wool. A thick wool sweater and wool tights. If you don’t have that, then a fleece sweater or sweatshirt and sweatpants of some sort works. And then, for your last layer, you want to use outerwear that is waterproof.
KG: Do, I would say, think about how you are layering and use something easy. This is especially important for babies so you can change diapers without too much hassle.
Do also always bring extra layers. Even though merino dries fast, it’s always nice to have something dry to throw on your kiddos if they need it.
And although it’s not exactly about layering, it’s important. With babies, make sure to dress them more warmly than you dress yourself when you are carrying them in the backpack. Remember: You are moving, but they are not.
KA: Here’s a good layering story, when Anara was 3 months old, she had a complete blow out in her first layer while we were cross country skiing. I was wearing her on the front.
KG: It was the poopocalypse!
KA: I had no idea. When we were done, I put her in the car seat and she slept. She never seemed bothered at all. Not that you want to leave your baby in poop, but I had no idea until I took the ski suit off and she had this explosion. We had this great adventure and we never knew this disaster was happening – because the merino kept the wetness off of her skin.
And, bonus, I was able to get it all out, too! If you treat the stain and don’t dry the layers until the stain is out, you can get a lot of stains out. The natural lanolin in the merino fabric doesn’t absorb the stain. It’s great.
It’s one thing to layer the core body, but how should parents handle heads, hands, and feet?
KA: Wool socks for baby hands are awesome. When they’re little little, gloves don’t work well, not for a 1-year-old. But a wool sock on their hands in the winter – or even in the summer so they don’t get sunburned – works great. Use a long sock, kind of tight, that goes up to the elbow so it will stay on. Then, if you lose a sock, well you are going to lose one anyway! But if you buy a cute little pair of baby gloves for $50, and lose one of those, it’s a sad day.
Then use our wool hat on the head. If it’s really cold, you could do the iksplor wool hat with a helmet over it (depending on the activity), or you can do the iksplor hat, folded, with a jacket hood on top. I’ve even put the wool hat on and a thicker hat over it.
For children 2 years old and up, you can also put on our iksplor neckie to protect their faces from wind, snow, rain, sun – all the elements. Of course, use common sense, and be sure their airways are always open and your child is safe.
KG: You can also put the neckie on partially over your child’s head and our iksplor hat over it. Double merino protection.
Would you layer differently if it’s cold and dry outside vs. cold and wet?
KG: I’d always keep the base layer the same.
KA: If it’s raining, but humid and warm, that base layer is still super breathable. I then like to put a one-piece rain suit on my girls over it.
What’s the best way to layer for spring and fall, those in-between seasons when the weather can change so much throughout the day?
KA: Ideally you don’t want children to sweat, because then they could get cold. But wool will pull that moisture away from the skin and dry off and keep them warm. In variable weather with kids I always start a little warm. Then you can keep shedding. You can shed and re-layer as much as you need.
We don’t often think of layering in warmer seasons, but is it still useful?
KA: Yes, especially with the lighter wool like ours, because it naturally provides 50 UPF. For us, we put the girls in it on the beach and in the sun, which is kind of surprising. You’d think they would be hot, but they don’t seem to be sweaty or hot or bothered by it. With regular clothes or shirts they would get sweaty.
KG: We went on a summer backpacking trip when Lu was just 4 months old and I don’t think she was ever out of ikplsor wear that entire time!
What layers do you recommend for the summer and how do you use them?
KG: We just use the base layers by themselves. Of course, kids can put a cute dress, or superhero cape, or favorite graphic tee on top, too. It’s fun to see how kids put their own creative spin on it.
But isn’t wool too hot to wear for active adventures during the summer?
KA: Not merino. It’s important to understand that merino is different than your classic, thick, itchy wool sweater. Our layers are light enough to be worn in all seasons.
Any other pro tips?
KA: Make sure you do a diaper change before heading out and as soon as you get back. (see poopocalypse story above…) And, don’t forget the snacks!