Essential Gear for a Fun and Safe Adventure

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Ready for a family adventure that’s all about laughter and discovery? Hiking is one of our family’s favorite ways to explore the great outdoors, make unforgettable memories, and get our kids legs moving.

Whether you’ve got a baby in your arms or a teen eager to hit the trails, having the right gear helps turn your hike from ho-hum to a real adventure! We learned long ago that uncomfortable backpacks, ill fitting shoes, and unnecessary extras can ruin a family hike really quickly.

Walking along the beach at the Bayside Oceanfront Resort Choice Hotel

This article covers our must-have gear essentials to keep the whole family happy and safe, so you can focus on what really matters: enjoying nature and each other.

Essential Hiking Gear for Kids

The key to a successful family hike lies in the gear you bring along. From the right shoes to essential safety items, having the right equipment can make all the difference.

The Right Shoes: A Step in the Right Direction

When it comes to hiking, having the right shoes is crucial, especially for kids. Their feet are still growing and developing, so it’s important to provide them with footwear that offers support, comfort, and protection.

Walking The Badlands Trail Dinosaur Provincial Park
Our family hiking the Badlands Trail Dinosaur Provincial Park

Children’s Hiking Shoes

For those rugged trails and uneven terrain, a good pair of hiking shoes is a must. Look for shoes that are durable, waterproof, and have good grip. You don’t want little feet slipping on wet rocks or getting soaked in puddles. Brands like Merrell and Keen offer excellent options for kids.

Make sure the shoes fit well, with enough room to wiggle toes but not too loose that they cause blisters. Break them in before the big hike to avoid any on-trail discomfort.

Charles Kosman and Jordan walking the paths near Ixchel
Charles and Jordan walking the paths near Ixchel, Mexico

Sandals: The Summer Savior

When the weather is warm, and the trails are dry, hiking sandals are essential for the best kids outdoor gear. They’re breathable, easy to clean, and often provide good grip. Plus, kids love the freedom of sandals!

However, make sure to choose sandals designed for hiking. Regular flip-flops or beach sandals won’t cut it. Look for features like adjustable straps for a snug fit, closed toes to protect from stubs, and a sturdy sole for traction. Keen’s Newport H2 sandals are a popular choice among parents for their durability and protection.

Essential Clothing for Hiking with Kids

Dressing kids for a hike involves more than just throwing on a T-shirt and shorts. Layers are your best friend. Weather can be unpredictable, especially if you’re hiking in the mountains, so having the ability to add or remove layers is key.

Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat at bay. Add a warm fleece or jacket for cooler mornings or higher elevations. A lightweight, waterproof jacket is essential in case of rain. Don’t forget a hat and sunglasses to protect from the sun, and always pack an extra pair of socks.

Marks everyday summer outfits

Backpacks: Carry the Essentials

Your kids might not be carrying the heaviest load, but having their own backpack can make them feel involved and responsible. Look for backpacks that are lightweight, have padded straps, and fit well. It’s a good idea to let them younger kids carry their own water bottle, snacks, and perhaps a small toy or a nature journal.

Hydration Packs

Hydration packs are a game-changer, especially for longer hikes. These backpacks come with a built-in water bladder and a tube, making it easy for kids to stay hydrated without needing to stop for a drink. CamelBak offers kid-sized hydration packs that are comfortable and easy to use.

Fresh OJ from Stall 28 in the Jemaa el Fna Marrakech
Fresh OJ before walking the souks in Marrakesh

Snacks: Fuel for the Adventure

Hungry kids are grumpy kids, so packing enough snacks is crucial.

Think of foods that are easy to eat on the go and provide lasting energy. Granola bars, trail mix, fruit, cheese sticks, and jerky are all great options.

Road Trip Kids Ice Cream The Barefoot Nomads
Ice cream after hike = happiness

Safety Gear: Be Prepared

Safety should always be a top priority. Here are a few items to include in your hiking gear:

First Aid Kit

A basic first aid kit is a must. Include band-aids, antiseptic wipes, tweezers, pain relievers, and any necessary medications. It’s also wise to have moleskin for blisters and an emergency blanket.

Navigation Tools

Even if you’re hiking a well-marked trail, it’s important to have navigation tools. A map and compass are essential, and teaching your kids how to use them can be a fun and educational experience. A GPS device or a smartphone with a reliable map app can also be helpful, but don’t rely solely on technology.


Equip each child with a whistle and teach them how to use it. If anyone gets separated from the group, three blasts on the whistle is a universal signal for help.

Sun Protection: Don’t Get Burned

Kids’ skin is sensitive, so protecting them from the sun is vital.

Apply sunscreen with at least SPF 30, and don’t forget to reapply throughout the day, especially if they’ve been sweating or playing in water. Hats and sunglasses are also a must to shield their eyes and face from the sun’s rays.

Entertainment: Keep the Fun Going

Kids can get bored quickly, so having a few tricks up your sleeve can help keep them entertained.

Encourage them to keep a nature journal, collecting leaves, drawing pictures, or writing about what they see. Binoculars can add an element of excitement as they spot birds and distant landscapes. A simple game of “I Spy” or a scavenger hunt can also work wonders.

reading the Kindle by the lake

Personal Anecdotes and Tips

From our own experience hiking with my kids, we can tell you that preparation is everything. One time, we forgot to pack extra socks, and a surprise rainstorm left us with soggy, unhappy feet. Lesson learned! Now, we always have a “just in case” items that include extra socks and a plastic bag for wet items.

Another tip: involve your kids in the planning process. Let them help pack their backpacks, choose snacks, and pick out their hiking clothes. It gives them a sense of ownership and excitement about the adventure ahead.

Conclusion: Ready, Set, Hike!

With the right gear and a bit of preparation, hiking with kids can be so much fun! From the perfect pair of shoes to essential safety items, having the right equipment ensures that your family hikes are fun, safe, and memorable.

So, lace up those boots, grab your gear, and hit the trails. Happy hiking!

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