While many say this is the summer for the great American road trip, I’d like to posit an alternative: This is the summer (nay, year!) for the outdoors. And while my grand trek to the Dolomites has to wait, that certainly doesn’t mean my family is stashing our boots in the closet until next year. On the contrary, we’re using any excuse we can to get out for a (socially distanced) hike, whether in a spot just a few minutes away from our home, or an all-weekend adventure a little further afield. And sure, hiking with children is certainly different than tackling a steep cliff by yourself, but the right gear will ensure everyone is comfortable and confident on a day spent exploring. Read on for our favorite products for hiking with kids, from the right backpacks to the best snacks.
Don’t Be Afraid of Wilderness Hiking—It’s One of the Safest Ways to Go on Vacation Right Now
Last month, a bear ate my friend’s tent, sleeping bag, food, and everything she had inside. A few days later, she invited me to go wilderness camping with her in upstate New York’s bear country. First thought: “Umm….” To be fair to my friend, she properly bagged her food and hung it high in a tree far from camp, in an area that doesn’t usually have bears. To be fair to the bear, she didn’t eat the entire tent and sleeping bag, but she did enough damage that they were no longer usable. As COVID-19 has allowed animals to roam freer than usual, we suspect Mama Bear had just gotten more comfortable in the woods.
All products featured in this story are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission. © Condé Nast Traveler
Our lightweight phil&ted’s Escape backpack has traveled with us everywhere from St. Lucia to Lake Louise. Its cushy padding and adjustable hip belt ensure a comfortable and proper fit for the parents, while the child “cockpit” features a padded five-point harness, sun shield, and foot stirrups for your tiny hiker. Our four-year-old daughter is so comfortable in there, she falls asleep during nearly every hike. The pack also boasts a ton of storage, including a removable day pack for when parents want to balance the load.
8 Essentials for Hiking with Kids
Even the littlest explorers benefit from the right equipment. And snacks. Lots of snacks.All products featured in this story are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Buy now: Phil&Ted Escape backpack, $250, philandteds.com © Condé Nast Traveler
My husband and I swear by Merrell hiking boots, so when my daughter was big enough for her own pair, we knew where to turn. The kid’s version of their ever-popular Moab 2 waterproof boot provides enough grip to help her tackle rugged terrain, but the waterproof material means even if she splashes down, her toes stay dry. They’re also sturdy enough to last through multiple kids as hand-me-downs.
Buy now: Big Kid's Moab 2 Mid waterproof boot, $70, merrell.com © Condé Nast Traveler
Whether they’re in a backpack or hiking on their own, hats not only protect kids from bugs, but from too much sun exposure as well. Sunday Afternoons’ play hat features a wide brim with extra-long coverage in the back, plus a chinstrap to ensure a snug fit. They even come with a lifetime guarantee, so no need to worry about your toddler’s destructive tendencies. Bonus: When your kid outgrows one, return it to the company and they’ll give you 50 percent off the next bigger size.
For Less Than $50 You Cant Treat Yourself to Something Pretty at the Nordstrom Sale
Everything's selling out quickly, so I hope you have your debit card ready.
Buy now: Sunday Afternoon Play hat, from $20, backcountry.com or sundayafternoons.com © Condé Nast Traveler
Sun protection is not limited to hats, of course. But anyone with a small child knows how frustrating it can be to apply sunscreen when your kid is extremely wiggly. Spray sunscreen definitely makes the process go a little more smoothly. My daughter loves the smell of Beautycounter’s mineral sunscreen mist and I love that she’ll sit still while I put it on. Plus, it sprays on white so you can see where you’ve applied it, but dries sheer without leaving skin oily or tacky.
Buy now: Beautycounter Countersun mineral sunscreen mist, $36, beautycounter.com © Condé Nast Traveler
Spending all afternoon in a hiking backpack might make your kid a little sweaty, but there are ways to mitigate the heat. The Dreambaby clip-on fan was something I originally purchased for my daughter’s stroller, but it works equally well stuck on to the side of a backpack. Its fins are made out of soft foam, which means inquisitive fingers will never get harmed if they poke it.
The Best Hikes in Every State
From Hawaii to Vermont, these are our favorite hikes in each of the 50 states. Related: The Best Outdoor Gear You Can Buy, According to Lifelong Hikers Wondering where to go hiking? We've got you covered. Each one of our 50 states has remarkable state and national parks which put the country’s natural splendor on full display. Those living in the U.S. and travelers coming from halfway ‘round the world revel in the country’s gorgeous terrain and ecological diversity.
Buy now: From $9, amazon.com © Condé Nast Traveler
Spill-free water bottle
Staying hydrated while hiking is important for both parents and kids. And, to make sure your angel doesn’t dump your entire water supply on your head, invest in a kid-friendly, but spill-proof water bottle. The Nalgene Grip-n-Gulp is super durable, leakproof, and comes in over a dozen different colors and prints, so every kid in the family can have their very own.
Buy now: Nalgene Grip-n-Gulp, from $10, amazon.com or nalgene.com © Condé Nast Traveler
Nothing brings a pleasant afternoon to a screeching halt faster than a kid yelling, “I’m hungry!” First rule of family hikes: bring lots—and lots—of snacks. Moreover, you want them to be packable and stable enough to survive hours on the trail. This is not the time for pudding cups. One of my most recent discoveries is the Monkey Bar, which is made with just three ingredients—apples, bananas, and cashews—and is so addictive I almost didn’t share them with my family. And, for when your kid really needs that extra boost, I recommend keeping some Rip Van Wafels on hand. They have way less sugar (only three grams) and more fiber than a cookie, and they’re so slim they fit easily into a daypack.
Buy now: Monkey Bar, $32, monkeyus.com
10 essentials that helped me conquer a 3-day hiking trip
— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. Like many, I have been engaging in new socially distant hobbies over the past couple months during the pandemic. This summer, I took to the outdoors and discovered a love of hiking. After doing a few small hikes and one accidental 14-miler (don’t ask me about it), I decided to take a dream trip to Colorado over Labor Day weekend (I should add, I got a COVID-19 test before and after I traveled). require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle)
Buy now: Rip Van Wafels, from $18, ripvan.com or $16 for 12, amazon.com © Condé Nast Traveler
Tick and bug protection
One of the only downsides to spending more time outdoors is having to be hyper-vigilant about ticks and other bugs. For the former, I make sure the whole family gets sprayed with Nantucket Spider’s extra-strength natural tick repellent. The DEET-free formula is made with a blend of essential oils that are known to deter the pesky bugs. For an added layer of protection, I also put my daughter in Farm to Feet’s No Fly Zone permethrin-treated hiking socks, which repel everything from mosquitoes to ticks. Lastly, for other bugs, I love California Baby’s Natural Bug Blend spray, which smells like lemongrass and citronella.
Buy now: Nantucket Spider Extra Strength Natural Tick Repellent Spray, $13, nantucketspider.com or thrivemarket.com
Buy now: Farm to Feet Kid’s No Fly Zone, $15, llbean.com
Buy now: Travel-Size California Baby Bug Repellent Spray, $11, amazon.com
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