Here at Garage Grown Gear our mission is to connect people to the outdoors, and little people are certainly no exception. Gear you can depend on is arguably more important for the little ones than ourselves. (We adults may get annoyed about being cold and wet but we can usually avoid melting down over it; kids less so). The small outdoor gear companies we feature below have grown from the grassroots up. They seek to make outdoor play fun, safe and end on a high note, so that we all want to get out to splash another day.
1. Wee Woolies
Weaving wool that works
For the Canadian-based company Wee Woolies, it was a personal journey to create wool clothes for babes and kids. After all, if the founders' two children didn’t love Wee Woolies, who would? Wool has come a long way since the itchy, scratchy knits of yore. New knits allow for a soft feel while retaining the fibers' natural protection and warmth. Wee Woolies offers hats, onesies, sleep sacks and two piece pants and shirts that can be worn to bed or under snowsuits. The clothes are durable and washable – throw them in the laundry with the other clothing and dry it! Wee Woolies promises to keep their shape through the spin cycle.
2. Muddy Munchkins by MyMayu
With these boots, there is always a good excuse to play in the puddles
MyMayu’s motto is: Life is messy. Jump in puddles. Get Muddy. Yep. That says it all. Wife and husband team Suzanne and Javier Solsona founded MyMayu. As parents themselves they knew that once kids get wet and cold, outdoor fun rapidly comes crashing to a close. They created their high-quality rain boots to stave off such turn of events. And they designed them with a flexible sole to allow kids to romp using natural movements. For more, check out our review of MyMayu's Muddy Munchkins rain boots.
Clothing that protects you from wind, rain, sleet, snow and yes, even the sun
Now you really don’t have an excuse to get your kids outside come rain, sleet, snow or sun. Ducksday has been working for the last three years to stitch together jackets, rainsuits and snowsuits that live up to it's philosophy of, “There’s no such thing as bad weather.” If this all sounds too practical, not to worry. The Belgium-based company keeps it plenty stylish with bright colors and jazzy designs.
4. Stonz Wear
Success also means giving back
Giving back while giving parents an option for great outdoor clothing is at the heart of Stonz Wear. This established company has been honored countless times for the support it gives to children’s hospitals, national art education programs, and even hurricane relief. But its philanthropy is just the beginning; Stonz Wear products are exceptionally made and beautifully designed. The company got its start with cozy outdoor booties for babies, and has since expanded its line to include mittens, rain boots and winter boots for kids ages zero to 14. The lightweight winter boots, in particular, are the apple of our eye. For more about Stonz Wear check out this family's review and testimonial. And to read about other small companies doing big things, check out our list of the Top 5 Small Outdoor Companies that Give Back.
Real wear for real kids
When you spend as much time in the outdoors as Drake Munson you become wise to what kind of gear works, and what doesn’t. When Drake wasn’t guiding for World Cast, he was a ski instructor chasing little kids down big slopes. So even before he had his twins, he knew that nowhere in the world could a parent find an easy-on pair of gloves that stay on and are soft. Drake recently launched Veyo from his home base in Salt Lake City, starting with various (super cute!) styles for children’s outdoor gloves. Softness is this gloves’ trademark, and the mitt design is a huge bonus. The gloves are water resistant – both the shell and the liner—and he stresses, “so soft that kids can wipe their snotty, happy little faces and keep on throwing down the snow angels.” When you’re a parent or an adult who hangs with kids outdoors a lot, you appreciate that finer point. That said, Munson’s product can also be washed and dried with all the other laundry! See, easy.
6. Practical Climbing
Kids climb too
When you love to climb, you want to share that passion with everyone, including your kids. Practical Climbing is a husband and wife team who has been making chalk bags and buckets in the US since 2009. And yes, they have kid chalk bags too! Chose from eight styles including the Creepy Crawlies, Disco Sparkles and Under the Sea kid bags. Practical Climbing uses recycled Polartec fleece lining and much of the hemp, sari and wool chalk bags shells are made from remnants that have been reclaimed from other businesses.
7. L-Bow Mittens
Up to your elbows in great mittens
Snow packed wrist syndrome. We’ve all had it at one time or another growing up. But back in those days the only way to solve the problem was to run inside and beg your mom to put your mittens in the dryer for five minutes while you stood in the doorway melting. One Midwestern mom decided, “No more,” and developed the L-Bow mitten. It’s practical like much of the mid-west and begs to ask, why didn’t we think of this sooner?
8. Nutcase Helmets
Protecting your child’s brain one cool helmet at a time
Since 2006, Nutcase Helmets has been making a variety of helmet styles covered in crazy fun graphics. Blessed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission of the United States, Nutcase keep kids and parents happy. Or in the words of its motto: Happy helmets, happy heads. Nutcase includes an inner foam, an ABS shell, a non pinching strap and a spin dial on the back to adjust fit. Nutcase also touts a magnetic locking strap for on-and-off ease. Nutcase is Headquartered in Portland, Oregon.
9. Polar Stroller
Getting around during the winter shouldn’t be so hard with baby in tow
Polar Stroller is a new company born from Kelly Patterson’s passion for the outdoors and her husband’s engineering mastermind. Polar Stroller is all about mobility after baby. The company makes skis that attach to the wheels of your stroller. Simply built, Patterson’s product fits most stroller models, but she will build to suit, if needed. There is no fuss, no screwing things off and on. The process is billed as “tool-less.” Check out this solid Polar Stroller review from Tales of a Mountain Mama.
10. Enlightened Equipment Junior Quilts
Handmade makes all the difference
There is nothing that can match the joy, comfort and quality of receiving something custom and handmade, because you are receiving an extension of someone’s passion. Enter made-in-Minnesota sleeping quilts from Enlightened Equipment. With two kids of his own, the company's founder, Tim Marshall, has patterns to fit any size, from infant to adult. For more about Enlightened Equipment quilts, check out our full review.
11. Strider Bikes
Taking biking in stride
Born in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Strider bikes were the idea of Ryan McFarland who wanted to share biking with his two-year-old. The son of a bike-shop owner, riding is in Ryan's blood, and he couldn't wait to pass that passion on to his son. But the children’s peddle bikes that Ryan tried to get his son to ride just didn’t work. And so Ryan created the Strider bike, a push bike with no pedals; instead children propel themselves forward with their feet, much like they would a scooter. Strider teaches kids the fundamentals of balancing, leaning, and steering.
Wade through streams looking for frogs
In 2006, Sue Simper went looking for kid waders and toddler rain gear for her twin boys. Unfortunately, she couldn't find what she was after. Thus Oakiwear was born. Oakiwear kids rain suits have become the company's most popular product, with the kid-size waders a close second. And new to the company's lineup are rain mittens and neoprene boots. Oakiwear is all about getting families outdoors "whether in your own backyard, hiking, boating, or just wading through streams looking for frogs."
What other great small outdoor gear companies should we know about? Leave us a comment below.