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Best Hiking Gear for Kids

Best Hiking Gear for Kids

As much as we may like to admit it, kids do benefit from proper hiking gear just like adults.  The goal is for them to stay comfortable so they can focus more on hiking and less on what they’re wearing. Below we’ve gathered our recommendations for the best hiking gear for kids. This is the gear we personally use and love.

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Affordable hiking gear for kids

I think it’s important to start this post which a quick disclaimer that we don’t necessarily think you always need to go out and buy NEW hiking gear for your kids. Since quality gear does usually withstand some serious use and abuse, it’s relatively easy to find it second hand in many different places.

Our hope is this post will give you a great starting point and then you can choose to invest and resell down the line and/or find them used.

Looking for more ways on how to save money? This post on how to find affordable outdoor gear for your family will help!

Best Hiking Gear for Kids for Comfort and Safety

Below we line out the gear that our kids use on a consistent basis for hiking and all-around adventure. They are pieces worth investing in so your child can spend more time exploring out on the trail.

Want more family hiking tips? Check them all out here.

Best hiking gear for toddlers

Yes, even toddlers need hiking gear. We choose shoes that keep them comfortable and protected, clothing that keeps moisture and UV rays off their skin and small hiking packs to pack small treasures.

Best hiking shoes for toddlers

Hiking boots for toddlers (or shoes!) need to provide them protection on the trail, be comfortable and be something they’re ok with wearing for hiking.

KEEN Chandler CNX

These are a good all-around runner/hiker shoe. They have less aggressive traction than some of the others, but allow for great movement and flexible sole. This is the shoe that my kids wear specifically when they are 1-3 years old.

Northside Bismark Hiking Boots for toddlers

These are a great affordable option for hiking boots. They hold up very well, have great traction and their price tag is hard to beat! They start at a size toddler 5.

L.L. Bean Waterproof Toddler Model Hikers

While the L.L. Bean Trail Model Hikers are the most protective of the three options, they are also the stiffest. They work best for toddlers who are good walkers and don’t need an especially flexible sole.

Merrell Bare Steps Ridge Junior

As far as hiking boots for toddlers go, these are the most flexible. They have a wide toe box, are water resistant and very comfortable for little hikers.

Best water shoes for toddlers for hiking

Merrell H20 Bare Steps Water Shoe

We LOVE these water shoes for the fact that they don’t let small rocks in, don’t cause blisters and are super easy to walk in. They are perfect for toddlers and much better than sandals.

KEEN Seacamp II CNX

More traction than the Merrell Bare Steps above, these are also very flexible for little hikers and keep kids’ feet cool as they hike.

Check out more of our water shoes recommendations here.

Best toddler sun hats for hiking

I am a stickler about sun hats living at a high altitude.  The air is thinner and the sun is intense.  We’ve been strict about them from the beginning (just like helmets) so the kids don’t put up TOO much of a fight usually.  Here’s our favorites (and check more out here!)

We always encourage parents to put sunglasses on their kids too from an early age! Check out this post for the ones we recommend.

Sunday Afternoons Play Hat

This is hands-down our favorite hat for kids of all ages. It is incredibly adjustable and works for the baby AND the seven year old. We love that it keeps the sun off their neck, is comfortable and has a quick release chin strap for safety. 

Veyo Noggins Sun Hat

The Veyo Noggins is another one that my kids have used for years and has held up really well. It keeps kids covered and is light and breathable. It does have very long strings (though with a safety break-away) and tends to flip the brim up a little more than other hats. But, the price is great and my kids still do love it.

Jan and Jul Adventure Hat

The Jan and Jul Adventure Hat is another one that we highly recommend. While it is slightly thicker than the Sunday Afternoons Play hat, it is also a bit more sturdy and therefore provides a little more coverage.

Jan and Jul Floppy Cotton Hat

This is a new one for us, but sometimes a floppy hat just works best! It covers their heads surprisingly well and is soft, light and comfortable.

Best hiking gear for kids

Best hiking sun shirts for toddlers

I will admit I am not a huge fan of sunscreen if I can avoid it – simply because everyone fusses putting it on and I forget on long days to reapply. If I can, I choose sun shirts for my kids instead…especially toddlers. We love these shirts because they are light and comfortable and keep kids covered for hiking.

Tip: If it’s a really hot day, dampen shirts to cool them down.

Patagonia Cool Daily Hoody

The quality of Patagonia gear for kids is hard to beat and this shirt is one that has literally gone through all five of my children. The hood means more coverage for ears and the back of the neck and it really does feel super good on the skin. I also love how it comes in cute designs that don’t show the dirt as much.

Veyo Kids Sun Hoodie

If you’re looking for a budget option, Veyo Kids again has a super high quality product at a great price (just over $20). The hood stays on (thanks to the snap) and the front pocket holds little treasures really well.

Primary Sun Shirt

Primary is definitely the lightest of these three, but it still provides great protection and is also very affordable. This one does run slightly big. Primary also has a bunch of other UPF50 products, perfect for hiking and playing outside.

Hiking Pants and Shorts for Toddlers

Columbia Silver Ridge Pull On Pants

These are the best option for toddler hiking pants right now, in my opinion. They also come in a banded-cuff style if you prefer that.

Patagonia Baby Baggies Shorts

Prefer shorts? These will last forever (and then can be passed on to like 6 more kids ;)) and dry very quickly. Patagonia kids tends to run slightly big, so don’t size up and plan on rolling down the waist if needed!

Iksplor Merino Wool Pants

I know what you’re thinking – merino wool in the summer??! But, hear me out! They wick away moisture, wool has cooling properties to keep kids cool and they are super cozy, even when wet. See our full review here including info on their UPF rating. The top plus baggies shorts also makes a great combo. NOTE: Use code “mtnmama20” for 20% off.

GAP Quick Dry Joggers

While these are a bit thicker than the Columbia option, they do dry very well and we love that they come in small sizes for petite toddlers.

Best Hiking backpacks for toddlers

Many toddlers will still spend some time riding in a hiking backpack at this age. However, it’s really fun (and cute) to let them carry their own pack sometimes too. My kids love to carry their own special hiking snacks in particular.

Deuter Schmusebar

The Deuter Schmusebar is a durable, fun, well-made pack that can easily grow with a young child for several years. We love that it has great pockets and top open. For kids ~ aged 1.5-4

Deuter Pico

The Deuter Pico is a solidly built, simple, practical introductory pack with excellent toddler appeal. We love that it is easy to unzip and stuff items in. For kids aged ~1.5-4

Camelbak Mini M.U.L.E.

This do-it-all pack allows toddlers to have water always at the ready with the easy-to-sip CamelBak bite valve and CRUX reservoir, as well as a few essentials for each adventure. It is the perfect starter pack for little explorers, and is great for day-hikes or rides where the kids don’t need to carry a lot of gear. For kids aged 2+

Best hiking gear for kids

Best hiking gear for kids

This section is being updated for 2021! Check back soon!

The gear below is our favorite for kids aged 5-12ish. After size 12 kids start moving out of kid gear (eek) and more into adult-sized clothing. Gear for this age is more critical in general than for toddler-aged hikers as they are hiking entirely on their own (opposed to being carried at some points) and harder on gear.

Best hiking shoes for kids

Getting the right hiking boots for kids or great shoes for kids to hike in can be a little tricky. There’s nothing worse than a kid who punks out simply because their feet hurt. While we can’t promise these will work perfectly for every kid, they are our tried-and-true favorites.

Check out our full line of recommended hiking shoes for kids in this post.

Merrell Altralight Low

Available starting at size 10.5, these are some of our very favorite for a lightweight hiking shoe.

KEEN Targhee Sport Vent Shoes

Shoes built to handle kids who love to move fast in the woods! These vent well (hence the name), have great traction and hold up well to lots of trail (and home) play.

Water Shoes for kids for wet or hot hikes

One of the best parts of summer hiking is being able to hike through water. These sandals are our top picks for comfort, durability, breathability and traction.

Check out ALL of our water shoes recommendations for kids here!

Merrell Hydro H2O Hiker Sandals

We love these Merrell hikers since they have great traction breathe well without letting too many tiny rocks in (note the mesh) and hold up well through a summer of fun.

KEEN Newport H2 for Big Kids

A well-loved classic for great reason. These are the sandals that you can plan on passing through multiple kids.

Hiking Sun Protective Shirts for Kids

Sometimes I just get so tired of having to douse my kids in sunscreen (and so do they.)  My kids wear sun shirts when hiking, biking, playing in the river and everything in between. Also refer above to our toddler sun shirts recommendations as they all come in larger sizes too!

Columbia PFG Bahama Sun Shirt

These long-sleeve hiking shirts keep both the sun and the bugs at bay and layer easily over wool or cotton (or by themselves). The sleeves can be fastened in the rolled-up position, so they are easy to buy big and grow into them. While I think these shirts are gender-neutral, the Girls’ PFG Tamiami has a slightly more feminine fit.

Patagonia Long Sleeve Capilene Cool for Boys and Girls

Patagonia’s Long sleeve capilene cool shirts are really for the whole family and provide great UPF50+ sun protection in a daily shirt that feels good on your skin.

Best hiking gear for kids

Hiking Dresses and Skirts for Girls

Personally I love hiking in a skirt or a skort and my girls do too. Unfortunately there aren’t as many options for girls right now (but I hope that will change!)

Mini-Muu Dresses for Girls

I have and love my own Nuu-Muus, but my girls love and wear theirs too a few days a week. They’re great for hiking since they stay cool and they’re super hard to get dirty. They last forever too. While the smallest size is a 4, my two-year-old can rock it just fine.They are particularly good for layering under and over as the conditions change throughout the day.

Old Navy StretchTech Performance Skort for Girls

This skort is super affordable, breathes well and hides the dirt well. We love the built-in shorts too.

Best hiking gear for kids
Mini-Muus (and Nuu-Muus for adults) are great for layering on hikes and outdoor play

Best Kids Hiking Pants

I don’t know why it is SO hard to find hiking pants for little kids, but not too many companies make them and they’re getting harder to find.  Hopefully in the near future more will. Here’s what our kids wear.

>>>Check out our full line-up of hiking pant suggestions for kids here!<<<

Kuhl Boys’ Renegade Pants (size XS – L):

These Renegade Pants are THE best and a favorite of my boys. They let them move easily, dry quickly, protect them from brush and sticks and just feel good. I also love how they look good enough to wear anywhere.

Columbia Silver Ridge Pull on Pants for Girls

We love Columbia banded pants because they are easy on and don’t have a button top closure for comfort. They have built-in moisture wicking and sun protection.

Tiggo Zip-off pant (available in a size 3y-10y)

These are newly available via Biddle and Bop. This brand uses a finish called Bionic-Finish Eco which is fluorine-free, highly water-repellent, repels aqueous soil, and is free of formaldehyde and paraffin. The material remains soft, light, and flexible to the touch.

Kids Hiking Shorts

Reima Hiking Shorts

Super comfortable with great pockets and good length, the Reima hiking shorts are a top pick for us this summer. The Reima hiking shorts are also available in a girl style.

Patagonia Baggies Shorts

While I still wish that Patagonia made the kids’ baggies pants, these shorts are fantastic for kids who love to hike and get wet and want to dry quickly. They are light and breathe well too. Available in a girl style and a boys’ style.

Best Kids’ Hiking Backpacks

We love Deuter packs for kids because they fit little bodies, have a sternum strap to keep them on, are full of pockets for little treasures and are comfortable.  

Ours will be passed down again and again.  They are built incredibly well and withstand the abuse of some serious trail (and school) time.  

Want some more hiking backpack recommendations for kids of all ages or more details on these packs? Check out our full line up here!

REI Tarn 18

We highly recommend this kid’s day pack for its full-feature set at an affordable price point. One of our favorite features are the double waist belt pockets which help with comfort when hiking.

Osprey Talon Jr and Temptest Jr

New for Osprey this year, we LOVE this pack. It has tons of pockets, has a really great fit that pulls the pack away from the child’s neck and keeps kids cool while hiking or biking.

Deuter Climber

Perfect for smaller kids backpacking or a good day pack. This is our go-to hiking pack for our kids and their first backpacking pack.

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Best Hiking Gear for Kids

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