Important items you & your kids will need for day hiking
With outdoor adventures becoming all the more popular for families in 2021, we’ve been investigating all the best gear you need for day hiking.
Understandably our desert hikes are in quite stark contrast to our friends and family who live much further north in the world – and have already seen their first snowfall for the year!
So with thanks to these many friends we’ve reached out to for all their suggestions, we’ve put together for you this bumper guide to hiking gear to bring on day trips and family hiking adventures, wherever you are in the world.
If you’re still thinking ‘my kids can’t even walk around the block without moaning’, don’t worry; your hiking trips will get easier, bigger and better as the years go on. We have called in some expert tips from family hiking here to help you with toddler hiking tips.
- Daypacks for Hiking
- Hiking boots or shoes
- Hiking Socks
- Hiking Pants
- Hiking Jacket
- Hiking Vest
- Hiking water bottle
- Sun protection while hiking
- Keeping Warm While Hiking
- Infant Carrier for hiking
- Safety Gear for Hiking
- Hiking Snacks For Kids
- Outdoor Adventures: Making a night of it?
- Downloadable Hiking Packing List
This post is part of our packing lists series.
You can see our complete family packing lists here – or sign up to our newsletter if you’d like to get them all in a handy PDF download format
Daypacks for Hiking
The start of a great day hiking begins with a lightweight and comfortable day bag. When our kids were small and our walks were not so long, we were able to get away with our travel diaper backpack.
However, we’ve enjoyed lightening the load now they are bigger and the “essentials” list for a day out has changed! A good daypack for hiking should be lightweight, comfortable, and big enough to hold your essential items including sun protection, water and snacks (more on these below!)
You will find a daypack with supportive chest and waist straps work best (especially if you’re carrying gear on behalf of the family!) but still try and keep your day pack under 30L.
Best daypacks for hiking
If you can keep all your gear in one bag that’s great, especially for keeping up enthusiasm in the younger ones. If kids want their own kit though, keep it small and light.
Best kids hiking daypacks
Hiking boots or shoes
I’ve gotten away for years with simply my everyday trainers for trekking locally, but if you want to get serious you will need to invest in a good pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots, depending on your terrain.
Hiking shoes work well in arid and dry conditions, whilst trekking in cold and snowy climates will require a much more structured waterproof hiking boot.
Best ladies hiking shoes and hiking boots
- Merrell Women’s Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe
- Columbia Women’s Crestwood Mid Waterproof
- Timberland Women’s Chocorua Trail Boot
Do bear in mind a good pair of boots will take a couple of goes to break in, try and wear them on your every day outtings before a tempt a long hike.
Best kids hiking shoes
Hiking with a toddler? We have a detailed guide here to the best hiking shoes for smaller feet
Along with your hiking shoes, don’t underestimate the importance of hiking socks! Remeber, they are likely to be bulkier than your everyday socks so you’re best testing your hiking shoes when you already have your hiking socks sorted.
If you will be hiking in cold climates, warm and durable wool socks are essential. Remember to always pack at least one extra pair, if accidents happen you don’t want to be stuck all day in soggy socks!
Best ladies hiking socks
- EnerWear Women’s Merino Wool Outdoor Hiking Trail Crew Socks
- Smartwool hiking socks
- Merrell wool performance hiker socks
Best Kids Hiking socks
- MERIWOOL Merino Wool Hiking Socks for Children
- Moon Tree Boys Wool Socks
- Smartwool Unisex Striped Hike Light Crew
A separate pair of hiking pants? Yep, it only took one long trek in my ‘comfy jeans’ to work out in many situations a well-fitted pair of hiking pants were in order. There is no set style for ladies hiking pants, it’s really what you’re comfortable with and dressing for the conditions.
In a hot climate hiking shorts or a comfortable pair of cargos will suffice (just check for chaffing qualities!). Cooler climates a comfy pair of warm leggings is great for ladies while colder climates you will be seeking out a thicker waterproof material.
Best ladies hiking pants
- ChinFun Women’s Hiking Cropped Capri Pants
- Eddie Bauer Women’s Guide Pro Pants
- Rdruko Women’s Outdoor Lightweight Quick-Dry Hiking Pants
The kids we’ve found you simply need to decide between a comfortable pair or their everyday shorts, or in colder climates waterproof pants. If you think the kids are quite prone to the occasional scratch and bump we recommend choosing a longer trouser length. We also recommend keeping a nice warm pair of track pants in the car for afterwards.
Best kids hiking pants
- Boys Cargo Pants quick-dry waterproof for hiking and climbing
- Mountain Warehouse Active Kids Convertible Hiking Pants
- Columbia Kids’ Starchaser Peak li Pant
A good hiking jacket will not only keep you warm but dry, as well as fitting comfortably back in your day pack without adding too much bulk. Of course, it will be season-dependent how thick a jacket you need.
Best ladies hiking jacket
- Columbia Arcadia II jacket
- The North Face Venture 2 Waterproof Hooded Rain Jacket
- Avoogue Raincoat Women Lightweight Waterproof Rain Jacket
Best kids hiking jacket
- Columbia Boys Breathable Water Tight Jacket (& Girls too)
- Mountain Warehouse Lightning 3 in 1 Waterproof rain jacket
- Amazon Essentials Light-Weight Water-Resistant Hooded Puffer
Wearing layers is essential with hiking. From the frostiest of starts to your day through to reaching your peak in brilliant sunlight, layer upon layer! This is why we love a transitional vest which can be easily layers with your hiking gear.
Best ladies hiking vest
- Columbia Women’s Benton Springs Soft Fleece Vest
- ZSHOW Women’s Outwear Casual Thicken Quilted Hooded Vest
- SCOTTeVEST Fireside Fleece Vest
Best kids hiking vest
- Mallimoda Boys’ Lightweight Hooded Puffer Down Vest
- SNOW DREAMS Girls Puffer Vest Sleeveless Jacket
- Wantdo Boy’s Winter Hooded Puffer Vest
Hiking water bottle
Keeping energy levels up is essential for a family hike. This includes hydration – ie water and snacks (and with kids, snack, snacks, and more snacks. In fact, forget packing your camera, make room for snacks!)
You’ll want a water bottle that’s big enough to fit the amount of water you need for the duration of your hike, whilst not adding too much weight to your day pack.
Best water bottle for hiking
Best kids water bottle for hiking
Sun protection while hiking
On all but the bleakest of days out hiking a sun hat is essential when hiking with kids (we cover more on those wintery hikes below!). Something with a drawstring or at least a velcro strap is handing for making sure this sticks on kids heads and leaves their hands free to explore.
Best ladies sun hat for hiking
- Columbia Unisex Adult Bora Bora Booney
- Lenikis Unisex Outdoor Activities Sun Hat with Neck Flap
- Myruobao Women’s Summer Mesh Wide Brim (with Pony Tail hole)
Best kids sun hats for hiking
- Connectyle Kids Wide Brim Neck Flap Sun Protection
- Tirrinia Outdoor Fishing Hat Wide Brim
- Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat
Keeping Warm While Hiking
One of the biggest things that can put us off hiking with our kids is the constant string of complaints! Right after I’m hungry – taken care of above – check! is I’m cold!
Hats and beanies are an excellent idea for keeping your extremeties warm, and they can always be stripped off later and carried in your day pack if you start to get too hot.
Best Ladies Beanies for hiking
Best Kids Beanies for hiking
Infant Carrier for hiking
If you’re a family that loves your outdoor adventures and don’t want this to stop once kids come along, we strongly suggest you invest early on in a toddler hiking carrier. They come in all manner of shapes and sizes from simply using your everyday toddler carrier – superb for city travel and navigating through airports – all the way through to some pretty complex hiking kit for the pros!
“a hiking carrier gives you extra padding and support over a longer period of time. You will find the weight is spread more evenly and suspension better too, making it a more comfortable ride all around for you and your infant”
A good hiking carrier will also have plenty of pockets for all your essentials so you do not need to carry a day pack as well, or you can share the load between two adults.
Best toddler hiking carriers
- Deuter Kids Comfort Pro
- Kelty Journey PerfectFIT Elite Child Carrier
- ClevrPlus Cross Country Baby Backpack
Safety Gear for Hiking
You can never be too prepared when it comes to outdoor adventures – especially with kids! As well as your own clothing essentials, you won’t want to miss these basic day pack items off your list:
- Paracord Bracelet
- Pocket Knife
- Blister Balm
- Insect Repellent
- Emergency Whistle
- First aid kit
Hiking Snacks For Kids
Arguably THE most important to keep them going, right? Make sure you pack some high energy, protein-rich snacks in your day pack, some ideas include:
- Beef Jerky
- Trail Mix
- Mixed Nuts
- Protein balls
Remember, hiking with kids doesn’t have to go on for miles. A small bushwalk trek for some fresh air is a great start. If you’re unsure how your small kids especially will take to hiking and longer outdoor adventures, then check out our guide to hiking with toddlers.
With thanks to friend Shelley for helping pull much of this list together – especially the cold weather suggestions – from her outdoor experience with kids.
Outdoor Adventures: Making a night of it?
Heading on longer outdoor adventures and camping overnight you may also like to read:
- A beginners guide to wild camping
- The best value family camping tents
- Essential gear your kids will want for camping
- Hiking with a baby – don’t leave home without these essentials
- How to camp in the desert – conquering sand camping
Downloadable Hiking Packing List
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