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So you want to take your littles for hike, but have no idea what to bring. Trust me, I have been that mom many times before. Our family has hit over 100 trails across America and we have learned a thing or two about what to pack for a hiking adventure. Here are the 15 things that we feel are essential for hiking with kids. Let’s dive in!
Obviously the most important essential for hiking with kids (or without) is water. Even if it is a chilly day or you don’t feel thirsty, it is necessary to keep everybody hydrated.
There are multiple ways to keep water handy while you’re out on the trails. If you are wearing your kids, pack an insulated water bottle such as this option from Hydroflask in your carrier. This way your water will stay cold no matter how hot it gets.
If your kids will be tackling the trails solo, I highly recommend investing in a hands free water system such as this option from Camelbak. Not only will you not have to worry about carrying a ton of bottles, but these packs have extra storage to bring along the other items on this list easily.
Any seasoned parent knows how essential it is to bring snacks when you leave the house. Going hiking is no exception. As I mentioned in my tips for hiking with kids post, snacks will be your best friend on the trail.
Not only will your littles work up an appetite with all of that walking, but snacks serve as an excellent motivation to keep your kids trucking along. Read more about why snacks are important for hiking with kids in the post linked above.
3. Bug Spray
One thing that can quickly turn a great hike into a disaster is a kid covered in bug bites. That is why it’s essential for hiking with kids to pack some bug spray.
Everyone has different preferences on what works best. We have tried everything from DEET loaded to a homemade essential oil concoction. One brand we love for every day adventures is Babyganics. They have plant based, DEET free formulas so I always feel safe applying it on my kids.
Whenever we go deep woods though, we do bring this deep woods spray along. Mosquitos are basically the state bird of Hawaii and I am a mosquito magnet so sometimes it’s required.
Much like bug bites, being covered in sunburn is a surefire way to ruin a good hike. That’s why it is absolutely essential to have a good sunscreen in your hiking pack.
I also recommend Babyganics for this category (bonus: Amazon has an awesome package deal for both bug spray and sunscreen). Not only is it SPF 50 and water resistant, but it applies easily.
Obviously you can use whatever has worked best for your family, but try to avoid buying any sunscreens that are known to cause damage to the reefs.
5. Baby Carrier/Backpack
If you have a child under 2, you are going to have to wear them on your hike. The pack you choose to bring along is totally up to you. We have used both our Ergo carrier and our fancy hiking pack on hikes.
As a seasoned mama hiker, I would highly recommend a heavy duty hiking pack like this option from Kelty. Not only is the ride more comfortable for baby, but these packs have TONS of extra storage. Another bonus is the built in sun shade so baby can nap comfortably and you don’t have to worry about applying sunscreen multiple times.
For families with older kids, bring along a hiking pack. It doesn’t have to be fancy. We just use a regular old backpack. This way we can easily bring along water and other items on the list. We also have a little SkipHop pack for our daughter because she is at the age where she wants to be independent and carry her own gear. These bags are toddler appropriate and super freaking cute!
6. Bright Clothes
Bright clothes are super beneficial to keep everyone visible. If your kids are at the age where they are blazing their own trails, having them in bright colors will allow you to locate them easily. The reverse is also true and they will be able to locate you more easily.
As far as what clothes to wear, be sure to check the weather before you head out to the trail. If it is warm, put everyone in light, breathable clothes. If it is cold, layer up. Even if it’s not in the forecast, always be prepared for a little rain because anything can happen.
7. Rugged Shoes
If you have read ANY of my hiking posts, you know that I always stress how important proper footwear is. It is absolutely essential for everyone who will be walking to have shoes that can withstand any terrain.
I always recommend the brand KEEN footwear. Our kids have been wearing these sandals since day 1 and we have never had an issue. They are durable, easy to put on, and super cute. The biggest bonus is they are extremely easy to clean when mud gets caked on. I would highly recommend picking up a pair for your kids.
8. First Aid Kit
When you’re out on the trail with young kids, slips and falls are bound to happen. That is why a first aid kit is absolutely essential for hiking with kids.
I don’t know about you, but in our house band-aids have the magical ability to heal all wounds. When someone gets scrapped up and starts crying because they can’t possibly take another step, we just slap a band-aid on it and it’s like nothing ever happened.
Your first aid kit should extend beyond just band-aids though. We always have an ice pack, Neosporin, gauze, and alcohol wipes at the bare minimum. If you don’t already have a kit, click here to check out some really affordable and effective first aid kits.
9. Personal Protection
Having personal protection is essential for hiking with kids. Although 99% of the people you pass will be fellow nature lovers, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
Personal protection is also essential for hiking with kids in the event you run into a wild animal and need to protect your family. Be sure to research animals that live in the area you will be exploring and proper safety measures to take.
You don’t have to buy anything crazy for personal protection. We always carry a can of pepper spray and a buck knife. The knife can be used for multiple things on the trail so even if that is the only thing you have, it’s worth it.
As a parent, you probably already know why a camera is essential. So many beautiful things happen on the trail that you will want to document. I know the first time my son and daughter tackled their first solo trail, I was their own personal paparazzi! Oh, and I guess the views are photo worthy, too 😉
Most of the time your phone camera is more than enough to capture these moments. If you are looking for higher quality photos, I just started using the Fujifilm AX5 and I’m obsessed. It’s affordable, light, easy to use, and sends photos directly to my phone (which is super helpful for IG posts).
Another small, but mighty essential for hiking with kids is a flashlight. Flashlights are an excellent way to light up the trail if you head out either before sunrise or at the end of the day.
Another great use for a flashlight on the trail is to look into dark cavities. As you may know, we love turning our hiking adventures into learning experiences. If you encounter a cave or even a big hollow log, you can use the flashlight to look for critters.
12. Scavenger Hunt
Our family L-O-V-E-S to do scavenger hunts so it’s no surprise I would call it an essential for hiking with kids. Scavenger hunts are an excellent way to keep your child’s mind active so they are less likely to get bored.
If you aren’t sure where to find a hiking scavenger hunt, I’ve got your back. I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to scavenger hunts. Click here to head to the board and print out as many different hunts as you’d like.
13. Baby Wipes
As I mom, I truly believe Huggies baby wipes are the greatest. I use them for literally every kind of mess. That is why I believe they are essential for hiking with kids.
(To be honest, I’m gonna continue bringing them even after my kids are grown and out of the house because I’m a lowkey clean freak.)
Trails are covered in dirt and when it rains that dirt turns into mud. That means when you take the kids on these trails, there will be mud. EVERYWHERE. Having spare baby wipes is going to be a lifesaver because you can easily wipe the mud off. This will help keep your car (mostly) clean and make bath time easier.
14. Plastic Bags
This is one of the less obvious essentials for hiking with kids, but I promise you will be glad you brought them along. Where there are snacks, there is trash. An easy way to keep from littering or making your pack a mess is to bring a plastic bag.
Since we live in Hawaii where basically every trail is covered in mud, we always keep a handful of plastic bags in the car too. I bring a separate bag for each of our shoes and another for our muddy clothes. This way the car stays clean and you can easily bring the soiled garments back into the house.
15. Clean Clothes
If you read my post for carry on essentials, you already know that clean clothes are a necessity in any situation. Whether your kids are covered in mud or you also have a diva daughter that can’t function if there is a tiny spot on her clothes, you will be glad you packed some back up attire.
Once you get wiped down at the car, everyone can change into clean clothes. This way your car will stay clean and (mostly) mud free. As I mentioned before, put the dirty clothes in those extra plastic bags and you can easily carry them into the washer when you get home.
I hope this list of essentials for hiking with kids has been helpful. For a downloadable PDF of this list, sign up for my email list below and it will be sent to you. If you pack anything not mentioned on the list, I would love to hear about in the comments below.
As always, please share this post if you love what you’ve read or think a friend could use the information. Follow me on social for fun behind the scene photos and stories. Thank you so much for taking the time out to read about our adventures out in Our Happy Place 🙂