Best Hiking Gear for Kids

Best Hiking Gear for Kids

As much as I know it can be hard to swallow because of how fast they grow, kids do benefit from proper hiking gear just like adults.  We want them to stay comfortable so they can focus more on hiking than what they’re wearing. Below we’ve gathered our recommendations for the best hiking gear for kids.

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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 posts about family hiking? Check them all out here.

Hiking Shoes/Boots

KEEN Chandler CNX (for toddlers – big kids): 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.

KEEN Terradora: The most substantial of the KEEN shoes/boots here, the Terradora is what my daughter loves because they are easy on-off, are water proof so allow for creek crossings (which always happen), and are substantial enough to allow great support AND traction.

Merrell Trail Chaser: More of a trail shoe than the Moab, but in true Merrell fashion they’re comfortable, durable and have great traction.

Merrell Moab: A great basic runner/hiker that does what it needs to do. My boys both wear these for most of our hikes and their various adventures. Great traction for a runner/hiker combo.

Northside Bismark Hiking Boots for toddlers/little kids/big kids: 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!

Water Shoes (suitable for wet/hot hikes):

Merrell Hyrdo Choprock 2.0: These have become the shoe of choice for my kids for summer hikes. They also have THE best traction of any water shoes I’ve seen for kids.

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 Newport Neo H2 Sandal: A comfortable option that really covers their toes, allows for good hiking and lets them jump in the river at the end. Available in big and little kid sizes and adult sizes too.

KEEN Toddler Moxie Sandal: These are particularly great for toddlers because they are very flexible. The traction isn’t as awesome as the Hydro sandals, but they feel good on little feet.

Best Button-up Sun Shirts

Sometimes I just get so tired of having to douse my kids in sunscreen (and so do they.)  These long-sleeve hiking shirts keep both the sun and the bugs at bay and layer easily over wool or cotton (or by themselves). 

My kids wear them hiking, biking, playing in the river and everything in between.  The sleeves can be fastened in the rolled-up position, so they are easy to buy big and grow into them.

Just like any long sleeve option, these can get hot in the summer heat, but it’s super easy to just get them wet to cool the kids down. 

This is the shirt my kids have worn every single year since they were 18 months old. We’ve tried many others and keep coming back to this one. It’s also available in a more feminine style.

Hiking Dresses

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.

Sun Hats

I am a stickler about 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. 

Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Hat

This hat is slightly more stiff than the play hat, but the bill is foldable and wider so it also provides more coverage.

 See more of our favorites here in this post: Best Sun Hats for 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 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.

Kuhl Girls’ Horizn Recco Pants (size XS – XL): Our favorite for girls too. They stretch with them, keep them cool and protected and look cute too.

Columbia Silver Ridge Pull on Pants for Girls: We love these 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.

Deuter Kids’ Packs

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? Check out our full line up here!

We recommend the following for kids’ day hike packs

Kikki: Super cute, great pockets and top open. For kids ~ aged 1.5-4

Pico: Easier to unzip and stuff items in. For kids aged ~1.5-4

Junior: Works for younger grades for school, is a good day pack and perfect for kids aged ~5-8

Climber: Perfect for smaller kids backpacking or a good day pack. For kids ~5-9

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13 thoughts on “Best Hiking Gear for Kids”

  1. This could not have come at a better time – I have been looking everywhere for new hiking boots for Addie and can’t seem to find a brand small enough for her feet. Plus I LOVE the Deuter pack – going to go check out all these suggestions now!

    1. Jen – I forgot to mention in the post (so I will update shortly) but finding hiking boots for tiny feet is near impossible. Timberland is the only ones I know of that make like size 4-7 for kids about age 2 (or are smaller like my kids!) Frustrating!

      1. I found a great pair at Marshall’s once that Addie used when she was 3, but she’s outgrown them. She’s tiny though (still wearing toddler size 8-9) and it’s been so hard to find her new boots. We need some good ones because she’s hiking mountains now. We saved her Keens and hiking boots for the twins at least. Man, someone needs to start making these for our little hikers!

  2. I could absolutely use all of this I have 2 Lil ones getting older and seriously lacking good outdoor gear. I shared this giveaway on facebook

  3. Great recommendations. Matthew has had the Hi-Tec Altitude boots for three years now. We love them! He loves them! He’s just about out of his current pair so this would be great. He’s also had the Deuter pack since he was two, he’s just growing out of it, or rather his needs are growing out of it. He even took his stuff backcountry in it (water, clothes, toys). It carries enough without getting to much for a little one. Why is it such a difficult concept for companies to create pint size hiking clothes – I’m going to have to look at those convertible pants… we’re in need again and they’re difficult to find.

  4. Thanks for your recommendations (almost two years later!)…unfortunately, it seems like it’s getting *harder* to find toddler hiking pants! REI no longer carries the Sahara convertible pants in toddler sizes, and the “similar items” just sends you to boys versions. So frustrating! Which I communicated in an email to them. 🙂

  5. hey there – we are outdoors all the time and I am having a hard time finding durable, quality gear for my 3 y.o. but small (size 2T) daughter. Specifically, quick-dry pants. The REI ones you mention above don’t exist. She attends an outdoor forest preschool and is in the forest, crawling around in all weather in VT. Love it! Yet, having a tough time finding gear. I try to get all clothes and toys used, but not finding good stuff used OR new that fits the bill in the pants department. Any tips?

    A tip on affordable woolens; Three Bags Full is a great brand. Also, upcycling wool sweaters into kids’ pants. Check out etsy for that type of cool thing!

    1. Yes! We discovered the Patagonia Summit Baby Baggies and LOVE them. Worth every penny – my girls are literally wearing them every other day this summer. They are a bit hard to find this time of the year, but the Patagonia site still has some:
      I just recommend checking out the sizing chart – Patagonia tends to run a bit big. And take into account if she is wearing a diaper or not 😉

  6. Great info! It’s always hard to find great gear. We are presently looking for new packs for our two and will check out your recommendations. Thanks for posting!

  7. I like to teach kids how to live with mother nature. So nature has given us nature science and sense to live here. Need to understand compass, basic nature first aid, and multipurpose tools.

  8. Pingback: Family Backpacking: The Gear You Need - Tales of a Mountain Mama

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