My would-be gear reviewer was less than enthusiastic when the box arrived. Sold on favorite winter gear that until now we hadn’t been able to replicate, this new set of mittens and boots promoted nothing more than a casual glance from AK Kid. At first.
As a new brand ambassador for children’s outdoor manufacturer Stonz Wear, I, at least, had eagerly anticipated the big brown box, curious to compare the mettle of AK Kid’s current boots, made by Baffin, to the Winter Bootz produced by Stonz. As an added bonus, the good folks at the Vancouver, B.C. headquarters sent AK Kid a pair of youth Mittz, hand wear I was assured would hold up to my always-moving 9 year-old boy.
AK Kid is a discerning customer. Fashion-conscious and possessing the ability to stay outdoors in all sorts of Alaskan weather conditions, he can usually spot a disappointing product quite quickly. As such, this review was the first where he offered his own insights, and I’ve noted them where applicable.
Stonz is a company started by a pair of mothers who noticed how difficult it was to keep a baby’s feet warm while he or she is sitting prone in a stroller or pack. Fast forward several years, and the Stonz brand now features hats, boots, booties for young ones, mitts, and rain boots, all spelled with the trademark ‘z’, and all proving durability and function can meet quite comfortably for children, with a healthy dose of cute, too.
AK Kid’s Winter Bootz are the newest product line to be marketed by Stonz. Similar in style to most children’s cold-weather footwear, the boots surprised our son in one critical area of function: flexibility. No kidding, these things are made of high-performance material so lightweight, AK Kid could wear them to play soccer at recess, a huge deal to my kick-crazy child. With a temperature rating to -58F, these babies are warm, too, and work perfectly with one pair of wool or polypro ski socks. No more layering or shoving chemical foot warmers into boots! With an ankle strap and toggled top for a snug, firm fit, Winter Bootz have replaced the Baffins by the front door, and parents have already asked me where to find similar. Another bonus? The Bootz fit youth up to U.S. size 8, a wonderful addition to the previous small-child focus. The Stonz Winter Bootz retail between $54.99-63.99, comperable to other brands, and perhaps twice as nice.
AK Kid: These boots are so light and fluffy I can wear them all day! I like that they don’t look like little kid boots, either.
The Winter Mittz were a nice surprise. With a ‘tween in the house, I wasn’t at all certain AK Kid would wear mittens, and implored him to slip his still-smallish hands into the fleece interior of Mittz. Like most Alaskans who have spent any time at all in below-zero weather, I know mittens provide all the warmth with none of the single-digit (get it?) frigidity of gloves, even the type with hand-warmer pockets. So, in true mother-fashion, I ordered AK Kid to wear them outdoors for all winter-type frolicking. By week’s end, I couldn’t yank his hands from the Mittz, and the boy has since worn them to school every day. Take that, gloves! I love the length of an arm section that extends midway up AK Kid’s forearms and ends with a snugging toggle. He loves the rough palm area of the mittens; tough enough to allow for sledding, tree-climbing, and kick sledding, but soft enough on the thumb area to, yes, wipe a snotty nose. One note of pleading, however: AK Kid is at the top end of the sizing chart for mittens, and the Mittz will, I fear, not last him an entire winter. I’d love to see Mittz created for long, lanky children such as mine, and bump up that size, just a bit. Please? I bet I can get a pack of Alaskan parents, scout leaders, and winter recreation enthusiasts to purchase a pallet of these durable, functional mittens that look like those worn by Denali mountaineers. Retailing at $39.99, Mittz are only slightly above most mitten brands, and even then, not by much.
AK Kid: I didn’t like these at first because I thought they looked silly. But now all my friends want them, and I don’t freeze when I go outside. Plus, I don’t get snow in my sleeves!
Find Stonz products at the Army/Navy Store in midtown Anchorage, located just off the New Seward Highway, a bit south of Benson. Or, do as we did and order online, the customer service is stellar, and on December 11 and 12, every order nets a free hat to keep little (or big) noggins warm.
Free shipping, sadly, is not available in Alaska. However, with one outlet in-state that sells the products, hopefully supplies will stay solid and Alaskan children will keep Stonz Wear in business for years to come.