Hiking with toddlers is such a joyful experience. Young children love to explore trails and spend time outside. I have found that the more often we take our little ones out on the trail, the more positive our hiking experiences have become. However, like anything with toddlers, we have moments of big feelings and challenges on the trail. These tough moments can be made smoother with the right gear! Below is a list of our must-have toddler hiking gear items on the trail!
Gear for Mom and Dad
When you’re hitting the trail with your little one you need to be prepared for all sorts of situations. From potentially carrying your kiddo along the trail to first aid, parents need to have the right gear. It can feel like a lot of weight when you’re carrying your toddler and carrying gear for everyone, but it’s worth being prepared for anything!
Once our babies were able to sit independently we began using the Kid Comfort III child carrier. We consistently used that carrier until our son turned 3.5 and began wanting to walk sections of the trail. Over the summer we have encouraged him to hike independently but brought the backpack carrier just in case he needed a ride. The Kid Comfort III is no longer in production, but the Kid Comfort Pro is very similar. We love that the Kid Comfort III is easily adjustable for myself and my husband. We also have the Osprey Poco Plus. I honestly find this pack very uncomfortable on my hips. I can’t get a good fit with it. So this is the pack my husband used when we both carried toddlers. Now we’re primarily using the Kid Comfort III. Both have plenty of storage space and room for our hydration system.
I’m back to carrying my favorite backpack now that our son is hiking independently! I’m so happy to have this comfortable day pack back in use. The Osprey Sirrus has an adjustable hip belt, mesh back to keep cool, and plenty of storage.
I also carry the Trail Magik kids carrier just in case our son needs a short ride on the trail. This handy carrier attaches to my day pack to provide a short ride when our son gets tired. Use code OUTDOORSY to get a discount!
We carry a small first aid kit. Ours is pretty basic for our shorter family hikes. If we are planning a longer trip Richie will pack a larger first aid kit that he’s created.
Of course, hiking with little kids means bringing plenty of snacks. I like to make my own trail mix, but we also usually bring some fruit and some bars.
Other items we always pack are:
- Rain gear if it’s forecasted to rain.
- Extra layers for changing weather conditions
- Extra Water
- Extra clothing for potty training toddlers
Gear for Toddlers
Here’s the fun stuff. I love kid’s gear and will admit I spend more money on gear for my kids than for myself. With that being said, kids don’t need a lot of gear to hike. Usually, our son’s favorite thing to carry on the trail is a stick.
Probably the most important thing for young hikers is comfortable shoes. Depending on the hike, our son will either wear tennis shoes or hiking boots. I chose Stride Rite boots for his first hiking boots. They have a wide toe box, are flexible, and Stride Rite shoes are a brand I trust for quality kid’s shoes. As he begins hiking longer distances I plan on getting him waterproof Keen boots. I use Keen boots personally and love their comfort and durability. If we are doing a short hike along a creek or lake we opt for Keen sandals. These have been a staple for us since our son began walking. You can also opt to use tennis shoes if your hikes are short distances with little elevation change. I’m all about using what you already have!
Backpacks and What to Carry
Backpacks for toddlers and young children are more of an accessory than a necessity. They should not carry more than a few ounces of water and a couple of fun items. Our son was very interested in carrying a backpack, so we got him the Camelbak Scout. It’s a compact backpack with a hydration system. We keep the water to only about 16 ounces right now as he learns to hike with a backpack on.
He also loves to bring along a few of his favorite Schleich toys. Schleich toys are realistic-looking animals and dinosaurs. Their plastic exterior is high quality and easy to clean up after getting muddy on a trail. We have a whole collection of different animals!
Now that the weather is changing, our son will also carry his lightweight Primary Puffer jacket. These jackets pack down small and are affordable midweight puffy jackets. You can get 20% off with the code AFF20PCT!
Giving your toddler a backpack allows them to take ownership of their own items. They also gain confidence and independence on their hike. Just remember that you may need to be ready to carry the backpack for them at times! We definitely have done that.
Gear for Toddlers in the Carrier
Okay, this is super short and not really gear. Give them a short stick and they’ll be perfectly content! This is typically the case with our daughter. Our son loves hiking with a stick and our daughter wants to join in the fun too with a stick of her own. It’s so simple! Just make sure it’s short or you’ll be getting whacked by the stick!
Toddler Hiking Gear
Now that you know what gear you need to get hiking with your toddler, let me know how your next adventure goes on the trail! Be sure to check out these other articles and podcast episodes on hiking with a toddler:
- Five Tips for Hiking with Toddlers
- Seven Strategies for Getting Your Toddler Hiking Independently
- Trail Magik with Katie O’Mara
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