Wearing and packing the right gear is one of the most important tips when hiking with kids. The hiking adventure will not be fun for anyone when the kids are thirsty, hungry and their feet hurt.
Another tip is finding kid-friendly trails – check out this list of US hiking ideas!
Keep reading for recommended hiking gear and tips for hiking with kids to help them stay fueled, safe and having fun.
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Hiking Gear for Kids
Hiking with kids can be a challenge if you’re not well prepared.
→ CHECK OUT our full hiking gear list for kids!
- Kids hiking shoes
- Kids hiking sandals
- Kids water shoes
- BEST kids hiking socks!!
- Safari hat for kids
- Baby sunhat with drawstring
- Sunscreen for kids
- Sunglasses for kids
- Hydration packs for kids
- Daypacks for kids
- Reusable water bottles for kids
- First aid kits
- Healthy snacks for hiking
- Baby carriers and slings
- Child carrier packs
- Hydration packs for kids
- Hydration tablets
- Squeezable applesauce pouches
- Organic energy chews
- Clif Kid Zbar
- Make your own protein snacks
- Fun band-aids
- Wet Ones anti-bacterial wipes
TIPS FOR HIKING WITH KIDS
Hiking with kids can be a challenge if you’re not well prepared. We recommend making the day of the hike the main event. The day before you set off on your family hike, get the kids involved by letting them help pack their bags.
Hiking Shoes for Kids
When it comes to socks, you need to choose sturdy socks for kids that are not made from cotton as they cause blisters and don’t dry quickly.
Kids hiking sandals are fun and easy, but by the third time your preschooler sits down to get a pebble out of his shoe, you’ll be wishing he was wearing shoes for hiking. You can pack hiking sandals or water shoes to use if the kids’ hike includes a body of water where the children will wade or swim.
Before you even start your family hike, make sure to protect your little adventurers from the sun! We wear sunhats year-round on family hikes, regardless of length. I even keep my kids’ hats in the car so they are always available for a spur of the moment hike!
Pack Hiking Daybags for Kids
Water is the going to be the heaviest thing you’ll take on a hike with kids… unless you have to carry a child!
Let the kids carry their own water on the hike with a small hydration backpack. This will also cut out frequent “I’m thirsty” stops and water breaks at inconvenient times along the hiking trail.
A child-sized backpack is a great way to get the kids excited about hiking.
Child-sized backpacks are more multi-purpose than a hydration backpack and your kids will be able to carry their own kid-sized water bottle, mini first aid kit, and healthy snacks in a small pack which will help to lighten your load as well as giving them a sense of responsibility.
If your kids are a little too young to carry a backpack for the entire hike, just take one small backpack and let them take turns carrying it until they’re a little older and strong enough to carry a fully loaded kids hiking backpack.
Without a doubt, the number one thing to pack when hiking with kids is water. Water is absolutely essential! Pack as much water for the kids as you pack for yourself. Even though they’re smaller, they will drink it.
You can also add hydration tablets to the water to provide a balanced blend of electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals without the sugar to endure everyone is hydrated when hiking with kids.
Pack Healthy Snacks
After the water, the next essential thing to pack when hiking with kids are fun healthy snacks! Fun-sized snacks, not chocolate, to keep them moving along to the next break.
Set a goal for your next stop. “That tree two hills over”, or “That rock a few switchbacks up”, and make sure you reward them with a piece or two of the snack when they reach that goal.
It’s like the proverbial carrot on a stick and it totally works for hiking with kids. Kids will book it to the next stopping point just to get that snack!
Healthy snacks are important to keep the kids fueled. Here are some of our favorites when hiking with kids:
Find Healthy Snack Ideas
Pack First Aid Kits
Keep a fully stocked first aid kit in the car when you go hiking with kids. There are also smaller first aid kits for hiking you can take with you on the trail.
Items you’ll want immediately available on your family hike are for the inevitable, small blisters, cuts, and scrapes.
Individually packaged Wet Ones anti-bacterial wipes aren’t first aid wipes, but they’re multi-purpose and will do the job until you finish your hike.
PLANNING FOR THE HIKE WITH KIDS
Anyone with kids knows that no matter how fun the activity is, or how adventurous they’re feeling, whining is nearly inevitable. Preparation before the hike with kids is so important. Try to think like a child as you select the hiking trail and destination.
Hiking Trails Close to Home
Hiking with kids close to home means you can manage naps, feedings, and any melt-downs if you are within a short distance of home the first few times you hit the trail.
Make hiking interesting for kids by finding a trail with a reward at the end like a waterfall, swimming hole or amazing view. A trail along a creek or river is another distraction for kids. Kids love to find treasure so look for hikes with geocaching.
Pacing the Hike for Kids
Let the kids set the hiking pace and be prepared to make frequent stops. Allow them to be distracted and explore whatever catches their attention to make this an enjoyable experience for them.
Remember kids have little legs. Don’t push making it to the end destination and don’t force your agenda.
The first kids hike you do may only last 10 or 20 minutes, but you might wander around and examine every rock on the trail for 2 hours. Be prepared to do nothing more than something and be ok with it.
HIKING ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS
Here’s a list of fun things to do with kids while hiking!
Look for interesting birds while hiking. You can find birds hunting from the sky, hiding in the shrubs, defending nests in trees, digging from food along the beach, diving for food in marshes, and more.
Pack a pair of travel binoculars and use a kids nature guide for the area you will be hiking for a fun bird-watching activity for the family hike. Kids can also look for insects, butterflies and other critters.
Finding and identifying plants is another fun hobby to adopt for kids hikes. Plants and Flowers Guides can help the kids identify what they find along the trail.
If you’re traveling, get a plant-identification book for the area you’re visiting. National park gift shops or local information centers have these types of guide books.
Kids enjoy taking photos of their hiking adventures. Let them take pictures of interesting animal and plant life they find but can’t immediately identify. Then they can use the pictures to look them up once you get home from your family hike.
There are fun photo scavenger hunt cards to take along while hiking!
Hiking Scavenger Hunts
If your kids like to draw, pack a small notebook and colored pencils to allow for quick sketching while taking a rest along the hiking trail. Hiking journals allow your kids to be active and creative at the same time.