By Abby Epperson
Outdoor gear is expensive, there’s no denying that, and hiking gear for kids is no exception. That said, a good piece of hiking gear can be the deciding factor between an enjoyable adventure with kids and a not-so-enjoyable one.
So how do we balance the cost, especially when multiple kids are involved? Quality over quantity. Here are seven items I’ve found over the years that work for my kids, and just may work for yours too.
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.
With an easy to use zip-off feature, L.L.Beans trekking pants can go from pants to shorts and back again as quickly as the weather can change it mind.
All three of my boys have gotten at least two years of wear out of their pants, and they have really 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 kid’s feet safe, the waterproof aspect means they can splash in the puddle or walk through a creek with no squishy shoe issues. 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. For your toddler/preschooler, check out the North Face Sprout backpack. At $35, it is a solid beginner backpack and our youngest wore his for almost three years before he needed to upgrade.
For your school-age kids, the L.L.Bean Stowaway backpacks are an excellent choice, and after almost three years of constant use, our boys are still getting miles out of the L.L.Bean packs.
Our kids like a lot of snacks when we are hiking, and if we bring items like snack bars they end up crushed by the time the kids get around to eating them, which is why I love these Pelican Utility Cases.
A snack bar fits perfectly, and sometimes I stick a couple of pieces of gum in there too, especially if it’s a long hike (gum keeps my kids focused and happy).
The cases are also great for keeping stickers, badges, small little items collected on their travels safe. 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-mouthed 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? Let me know in the comments below.