Must-Have Gear for Hiking With Kids

Venture out into the wild with your littlest ones. We're walking you through the basics you need for a successful trip on the trail.

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June 27, 2022

Hiking is one of my favorite ways to spend a day even though I completely understand comedian Jim Gaffigan's stance that "there's nothing at the end of this trail — not even a vending machine." It's true. But, there's just something about being surrounded by nature with only your footsteps to worry about.

Enter children. I want my kids to love hiking as much as I do, or, at least, to appreciate the world around them. However, hiking with kids is not quite as relaxing, mindful and quiet. (Is anything with kids?) Yet, it hasn't stopped me from encouraging (or dragging) them up many a trail. Over the years, my husband and I have fine-tuned our necessities for hiking with kids that make the trail as adventurous and stress-free as possible. Check out our must-haves, from backpacks to footwear.

Backpacks for Hiking With Kids

$55 $41.95

As soon as your kids are able, let them start carrying some of the load. These petite backpacks hold 50 ounces of water with an easy-to-drink valve so that your children can stay hydrated throughout the hike. The pack also has a safety whistle included on the sternum strap and compartments for stowing snacks or other small needs.

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Whether your kids can carry a pack or not, you need your own pack for all your family's essentials. The Osprey Sirrus 24 is what I carry for my own hikes and those with my kids. It's super comfortable and easy to organize. To find the right-sized backpack for you, it's best to go to your local REI or hiking outfitter to have them fit you.

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$329.95 $299.95

For those littles that can't hike an entire trail, opt for a child-carrier backpack. The adjustable hip belt of this pack helps you get the perfect fit, even if you're switching between two parents. Additionally, there's a padded and adjustable seat with a built-in sunshade and removable foot stirrups to keep your baby or toddler comfy during the journey.

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What to Pack Inside Your Backpack

A few essentials to always include in your backpack are sunscreen, bug spray or lotion, hand sanitizer, extra wool socks and a first aid kit with bandages, ointment and blister pads. Also, your kids are never too young to learn about whistles and hiking safety. Teach them from the beginning that if they get separated, stay put and blow their whistle.

Hiking Footwear for Kids

Good shoes are a must for hiking, no matter your age. These are the boots I hike in (though in a grown-up size), and they're comfortable, waterproof and ready for adventure. I particularly love these boots for kids, as well, because they're gender-neutral and will last through multiple kids.

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Another footwear must-have is water shoes. My kids and I like KEEN sandals because they're comfortable for short hikes, perfect for splashing through creeks and keep their toes covered and safe from stumbles.

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Essentials to Bring on Hikes With Kids

$24.99 $22.22

Hydration is of utmost importance when hiking, and these water bottles are great for kids and grown-ups. The insulated stainless-steel design keeps water cool for up to 24 hours, the flip straw makes it easy for kids to drink and the locking lid ensures no leaks.

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Since you're reading an article about kids, I have a feeling you already know the importance of snacks. But seriously, don't forget snacks: pretzels, peanut butter and crackers, fruit snacks, candy, grapes and oranges. Thirst and hunger will kill any activity with kids. Don't let your experience turn miserable because you forgot the Goldfish crackers. These reusable bags help cut back on your plastic bag usage, and they're adorable.

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$32 $23.99

Keep the sun off your child's face and neck with the right hat. This foldable, packable hat is water repellent, breathable and size adjustable — making it ideal for hiking, water play and everyday adventures.

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$20.99 $15.99

Make your expedition as fun as possible, allowing kids to explore the world around them. Binoculars (that you aren't worried about them dropping) bring wildlife and nature up close and personal.

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