Spring is prime time to instill in your kids a love of the outdoors, but if you’re bringing a little human without a fully formed skeleton or even a sense of balance into the wild, you’re both going to need some gear. Fortunately, you don’t need much to keep kids safe and comfortable while they get sweaty and covered in mud.
If you’re considering going hiking and bringing your kid with you, who doesn’t have a fully formed skeleton or even a sense of balance, you’ll probably need a bit more equipment than usual. To make things easier, here’s a rundown of everything you should consider on the hike: a product cross-section of the best-reviewed and inexpensive kids hiking gear. Just remember, your kids aren’t going to the opera, they’re going to get sweaty and covered in mud, so you don’t need much.
Hiking Gear for Adults
Osprey Poco Premium Kid Carrier
There are three popular carriers in the Poco line, but the Premium comes with a few choice extras, like a detachable day pack and a diaper changing pad. It’s rated for kids up to 48 pounds, so you can carry them long after you hoped they’d be walking the whole way on their own.
E-Case eSeries 9
The E-Case eSeries 9 is large enough for most full sized smartphones and is waterproof down to one meter. The polyurethane window lets you use a touchscreen without removing the phone, so when your kid throws it in the river, you can dive in and snap some photos of his goofy grin while you’re still floating in the water.
EasyAcc Power Bank
A fully charged phone is always a good idea on hikes, but you’re liable to eat the battery up capturing all the adorableness in photos. The EasyAcc is compatible with (and smaller than) most phones, so it packs easily and ensures you can snap or GPS to your heart’s content without going dark.
Hiking Gear For Kids
Keen Chandler II CNX
Every hike is bound to include splashing through water, so any decent shoe needs to provide good support while also drying quickly. The Chandlers are a tiny version of Keen’s super lightweight shoe/sandals, which no self-respecting man would be caught dead in because they look like they belong at the end of superhero tights. For whatever reason, that’s exactly the kind of shoes kids want to wear, and the Chandlers are functional and easy to get on/off.
Oakiwear Explorer Vest
The Explorer Vest has eight pockets, which can be useful in lightening your own load by stuffing them with snacks or sunscreen. And there should still be pockets available for a few mementos from the hike – a frog, for example.
Patagonia Sun-Lite Hoodie Pullover
You’re going to be engaged in a day-long battle with sunburn, so even the odds with a lightweight, long sleeve shirt that does some of the work. Regular cotton fabric actually lets sunlight through, but the Sun-Lite hoodie provides UPF 50+ protection, dries quickly, and is made from a treated fabric that repels stink. Come to think of it, you might want to get one for yourself.
Outdoor Research Voyager Hat
Another weapon in your hiking gear arsenal, the Voyager’s wide brim provides full protection of the face and neck. It also has magnets in the sides of the brim that secure them to the crown, which keeps it from flapping in the wind and makes your kid look like he’s roaming the Australian outback.
CamelBak Skeeter Hydration Pack
The Skeeter is suitable for kids as young as 4 – an age at which they probably can’t be trusted to drink from a bottle and walk over uneven ground at the same time. This frees them up to roam the trail and lightens your own load by 50 precious ounces.
Loving Naturals Clear Sunscreen
It’s not cheap, but Loving Naturals is among the highest scoring sunscreens in the Environmental Working Group’s guide. The zinc-based cocktail of naturally derived oils and wax doesn’t use the chemical filters found in many other brands, so the thing you’re using to not get cancer won’t also give you cancer.
Cutter Advanced Insect Repellent With Picaridin
DEET has been approved by the CDC for use on kids as young as 2 months old, but if you’re squeamish about the chemical then picaridin is an alternative. It’s a synthetic version of the active ingredient in pepper plants and is considered safer than eucalyptus lemon oil – another favorite of the DEET-phobic – for kids under 3.