Back in the 80s, kids outdoorwear consisted of either school pumps or moonboots, a bobble hat or a sunhat – or balaclava if you were unlucky and visor if you were cool – and either a duffle coat or a a cagoule. There was no in between, no goretex, and definitely nothing that looked good and protected you against the elements. These days kids – or more precisely their parents’ bank accounts – have much more choice, so we decided to test out some gear from ISBJÖRN of Sweden at our new Forest School, to see if it’s a good choice for outdoorsy kids.
I like Autumn. I love conkers, pumpkins, crunching through leaves and seeing your own breath in the air on a chilly morning. But between you and me, I love hot chocolate, blankets, and boxsets more. I’m not exactly what you’d describe as at one with nature. Especially if you’ve ever heard the story about how we once went all the way to Cornwall and back in 23 hours because I cried all through the first night of a camping trip that had originally been my bright idea.
So it was as much a surprise to me as anyone when I volunteered to be a helper at my son’s new Forest School classes. Turns out, there’s a primal urge in me somewhere to set fire to stuff, and in order to make a nice change from burning my credit card bills in the back garden and ruining my neighbours’ washing, I thought I’d help teach the youth of today how to be little (waterproof and wind resistant) cavemen and women.
If there’s a Forest School near you then I urge you to sign your kids up. It could be linked to their school or nursery, in a local park, or something that you can start up yourselves for fun. Children always go mad for the activities: nature trails, minibeast spotting, den building, making fires, and enjoying stories while they toast marshmallows.
It’s something that I took for granted as a kid but in today’s era of screens and noisy plastic toys (aka the tools of the trade in this parenting lark) and especially for kids who live in urban areas, it makes perfect sense to have structured Forest School activities.
And as long as I don’t have to stay the night under canvas again, I don’t so much mind it either.
The Spaghetti Legs Test
So having signed myself up to the occasional dabble in nature, I set about squeezing myself into my pre-pregnancy Berghaus jacket and Primark wellies which were partially melted by a rogue flare at a Stone Roses comeback gig.
Suddenly I realised something even more urgent: 3 year old Spaghetti Legs had outgrown the last of the puddlesuits that had made their way through various cousins before him, and he was now very much devoid of outdoorwear!
Thus began my mission to get weatherproof clothing that would actually fit him. Despite his nickname being a reference to his stringy white legs, they’re not actually very long, and his height is mostly made up of his top half. All-in-one suits have always proved a bit hit and miss precisely because of this, so this time we chose a jacket and waterproof trousers instead.
Enter the STORM jacket and rain paints from Swedish outdoor pros ISBJÖRN, plus a special guest appearance from some Tesco frog wellies to match the jacket which my mum was strong armed into buying by her youngest but perhaps most persuasive grandchild.
ISBJÖRN of Sweden
I’ll admit to having never heard of ISBJÖRN before, but during my search a couple of things struck a chord with me: they use environmentally friendly resources and they believe in what they call ‘The 4 Rs’ – Reduce, Re-use, Repair, and Recycle.
I’m not the greenest consumer, but I reckon that little steps here and there will help. Besides, anything that makes life easier for parents gets my vote.
ISBJÖRN actively encourage customers to buy fewer items and use them more, by adding ‘Grow Cuffs’ (which add an extra 3cm onto sleeves so they can be worn for longer), and to pass them on to friends and family by adding labels with spaces for extra names. 80s parents would be proud!
We went out in the drizzle, collected leaves and tried our best to get a spark from sticks in the damp Autumn air. I caught a cold, and Spaghetti Legs fell backwards over a log, sobbing dramatically for a good fifteen minutes and whenever he thought anyone was watching. I don’t think I’ll be taking him camping in Cornwall any time soon.
Thankfully the ISBJÖRN kids outdoorwear faired much better than we did. As well as being breathable and waterproof, it’s also washable at 40 degrees – which is music to my motherly ears – and so the muddy bum was easily remedied.
They’re well made, they come in fab unisex colours, and I like their vibe.
Check out ISBJÖRN of Sweden online for all sorts of kids outdoorwear from snow to sea plus accessories and garment repair kits.
Until next week’s Forest School, I’ll take my marshmallows on top of a hot chocolate in front of the TV, thanks!