Outdoor gear is expensive, there is no denying that, and I’ve always found it hard to drop a hefty chunk of change on items for the kids knowing they’ll probably get one, maybe two seasons, out of an item (sometimes I get lucky and can pass an item down to the next sibling. Buying off-season also helps offset the cost).
Over the last three years on the road, I’ve come to realize we don’t need a lot to hike the trail, explore a new city, or run around the campground, but what we do need has to last and it has to be comfortable.
Here are a few items that I’ve found work for my kids, and just may work for yours.
I absolutely love these convertible hiking pants from L.LBean. Lightweight, durable, and perfect for those times of year when the temperature can’t make up its mind and goes from cold to hot to cold in the span of two hours. The kids can easily unzip to convert from a pant to shorts and the convertible pieces are lightweight and easily store in their backpacks. All our kids have gotten two years of wear out of these so far, and they have put them to the test.
I have been singing the priases of the Keen Newport Sandal for almost a decade and I’m pretty sure as long as my kids can fit into this shoe, I will continue to sing their praises. The Newport is a fantastic hiking sandal, the closed-toe keeps the kids feet safe, the waterproof aspect means they can splash in the puddle or walk through the creek without soaking their shoes. Easy on and easy off, The Newport Keen is a great shoe for your kiddos, no matter the age.
We’ve had a few different brands over the years, and all have served us well, but some we have liked way more than others. If I was to point to any brand for your littlest one, I’d have to give a big thumbs up to the North Face Sprout backpack. Henry started wearing this around age 3 and it has served him well for the last three years. At age six, it’s time to upgrade, but at only $35, it has just been a solid pack. For our bigs, we have really liked the L.L.Bean Stowaway backpacks, and prior to that, we had the Sunhiker Small Daypack. Of the two big kid options, we’ve put the L.LBean bags through the paces more and I feel they’ve weathered the storm really well, however, the Sunhiker is a great transition pack from the small North Face Sprout to the slightly bigger L.L.Bean Stowaway.
Our kids like a lot of snacks when we are hiking, and often we bring items like bars and they are crushed by the time the kids get around to eating them, which is why I love these Pelican Utility Cases. They perfectly fit a bar, and sometimes I stick a couple pieces of gum in there too, especially if its a long hike, because gum seems to keep my kids focused and happy. The cases are also great for keeping stickers, badges, small little items collected on their travels. Durable, waterproof and versatile, these utility cases can morph into whatever your kids need them to be.
Be it this one from L.L.Bean, or a wide-brim sunhat, or a stocking cap for those colder months, a hat in the backpack is a must, especially if your kids aren’t big on sunglasses. Our boys like the trucker style hat, and I like that it is adjustable, which means it can grow with them. Whatever your kiddo’s style, a hat will definitely come in handy, plus it’s lightweight and durable.
I am so glad we finally got each kid their own pair of binoculars. At first I wondered if it would be a purchase that would be popular for the first few hikes and then forgotten about, but that has not been the case. They’ve really opened up how we see a trail and the kids have been able to take in more of the surrounding landscape. Bonus for the safety whistle with a compass.
These Contigo Autoseal Trekker Water Bottles have been a staple in our house for a decade. They are easy to drink, they won’t leak, they fit perfectly into a kid-size backpack, and they are dishwasher safe and have no extra little parts that can be lost. Whatever water bottle you pick, we highly recommend avoiding the really wide water bottles because they don’t always fit in the side pocket of a backpack. For your older kids, we recommend this water bottle from Nalgene.
Have a favorite hiking item for kids you feel is essential? I’d love to know about it. Just like growing kids, this list is ever-evolving and needs are ever-changing. Leave a comment and let me know what is working for you. Thanks!