Must-Have Hiking Gear for Kids: A Guide to the Best Gear for Your Little Wild Soul

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In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.

John Muir
mother holding child hiking through woods with son running ahead
Jenn Bakos Photography

Hiking Gear for kids

All the gear listed here is great not just for hiking with kids but for all nature time! I love gear that is simple and multi-purpose. I do not need 100 different pairs of shoes! One shoe that does it all, please! Having some simple good quality gear can make nature time last longer and be more wild and fun for all involved, parents and kids

Don’t let the wrong gear stop you

BUTTTT, I have to say NEVER let not having the right hiking gear for kids get in the way of spending outdoor time with your kids. Get outside no matter what. There is so much research showing the benefits of nature for adults and for children (I linked some at the bottom of this article if you are curious or like to geek out with research like me!). And not having the perfect shoe does not change that.

Now that being said, sometimes the right gear can make nature time more comfortable so you are able to stay out longer.

mother with son and daughter hiking together as a family
Jenn Bakos Photographyhy

Importance of nature time for kids

If you’ve been here for a while you know how important outdoor time is for kids. Outdoor time provides opportunities for kids to engage in unstructured play, which leads to creativity, imagination, and problem-solving skills. Also, spending time outdoors can help reduce stress and anxiety, promote relaxation, and improve mood. If getting outside and letting your kids explore and have this important wild and free time feels overwhelming or you want some extra tips and tricks check out my post on exploring nature with kids (here) and how to hike with kids (here).

Let’s dive into how we can make this outdoor time even more successful! We have footwear, clothing, backpacks, and snacks to explore!

women holding sons hand as he balances on a log during a hike
Jenn Bakos Photography

All about SHOES: hiking gear for kids

This is a tricky one to cover. Kids come with lots of opinions on shoes and a whole lot of sensory differences that range from kids who refuse shoes (I have one of those so I can give you some anti-shoe kid-approved shoes) to kids that refuse to be barefoot (i have one of those too!).

Note: Some kids HATE shoes, it’s a sensory thing. My son has MANY sensory differences. So what we do is go shoe-free when he wants to and then do frequent foot safety checks. For example, I check his foot temperature if it’s cold out. Then we talk about it together. This is important, it’s their body so make sure they are involved in the thinking. “hey it’s very rocky here, how are your feet feeling, are you ready for shoes now?”. As long as it is safe, let them make the choice for themselves.

child's bare-feet in dirt on a hike
My son’s little feet on our last hike, yes that is snow in the background…frequent foot checks my friends.

Simple hiking gear for kids is Always Better

We love shoes that are multi-purpose. Shoes that can go in the water or on a hike. Look for breathable materials to keep feet cool and comfortable. Look for shoes with adjustable straps or closures to ensure a snug and secure fit. Loose-fitting shoes will fall off and be harder to run and climb in.

For more active kids, sneakers with lightweight and breathable uppers can offer support and protection while still allowing air to circulate. Overall, look for footwear that is comfortable, supportive, and breathable to help keep kids’ feet be happy and healthy.

TOP PICK for multi-purpose shoes

I like to keep things simple. One shoe that will work for most activities, otherwise you end up with; sneakers, hiking shoes, water shoes, sandals, and the list goes on. It was too much and too expensive for me!

KEEN closed-toe sandal


  • can work as a water shoe or sneaker
  • Toe coverage so no stubbed toes mid-hike
  • Lightweight and plenty of toe room so even anti-shoe kids will wear them
  • Good grip for scrambling up rocks
  • Dries quickly and can be washed
  • Velcro so depending on age many kids can put on themselves 
  • Socks can be added 
  • Good quality, these shoes will last! We have been able to pass them down between our kids
  • lots of color options!


  • Sticks and small rocks can fit through the little holes so you may have to stop to get those out
  • More of a sandal so won’t take you through to cold weather (socks can be added to help though)
boy digging in dirt on a hike
notice the shoes
(and let’s all be impressed he’s wearing shoes at all!)

Runner up for multi-purpose shoe

Columbia Kids drainmaker water shoe


  • Very lightweight so anti-shoe kids will approve
  • Can get wet, dries quickly
  • Good grips for climbing
  • Easy to put on
  • Can be washed
  • Can be worn with or without socks


  • More of a sneaker than a sandal (which might be a pro for some adventures or cooler days).
boy climbing over sticks on a hike

Best hiking boot

KEEN mid-height waterproof hiking boots


  • Waterproof
  • Great grips
  • Strong high quality
  • Real hiking shoe if you are hitting the trails frequently


  • Heavier than a regular sneaker
  • Hire on the ankle so might be harder for anti-shoe kids

Next up in hiking gear for kids:

women and son holding hands on a hike

Best Back Backpack for kids

When it comes to selecting a backpack for kids, there are a variety of styles and features to consider. For younger children, you need a small backpack, it needs to fit their small frame. Look for backpacks with adjustable straps to ensure a comfortable fit for growing bodies. Durability is also important, so opt for backpacks made from sturdy materials that can withstand daily wear and tear. There are also backpacks with built-in water pockets which my kids always love. 

Most importantly, involve your child in the selection process and let them choose a backpack that they like and feel excited to wear. That way when it’s time to put it on for the walk, they are actually excited! They can pack their own snacks and a toy and hit the trail with you!

CamelBak Hydration Backpack


  • Built-in hydration pack
  • Narrow frame to fit kids starting at 4 yrs old (will be too big for very little ones)
  • Adjustable straps
  • Chest strap with whistle 
  • Small compartment for snacks or other essentials 
  • Some fun colors to choose from


  • Does not have lots of pockets for organizing (only room for a few essentials)
  • Will not fit very small kids (3yrs and under) but will adjust as they get older
women and son holding hands on a walk wearing backpacks

Hiking gear for kids:

Best Wagon for adventures

I have one wagon recommendation. This is by FAR the best wagon. You can push it and pull it which comes in very handy. You can fit 3-4 kids in it plus with the fold-out storage you can also fit all the gear! Also, we have done many a nap in this wagon, and it’s perfect for that too. The sunshade on top is very convenient.

The other huge bonus is that this is a small company and they sell you replacement parts for every part of this wagon. Most places today, something breaks and there’s nothing you can do but buy a whole new wagon, which is hugely expensive. With this guy, you spend $6 and get new wheel bearings which are easily replaced and the wagon drives like new again!

Ok, I forgot another bonus: it folds up pretty small! We can easily fit this in the trunk of our little Toyota Camry and still have room for the rest of our gear and snacks!

Hands down top pick: Creative Outdoors

I couldn’t contain its wonderfulness in a pro/con list. all the details are above. Plus a picture collage of this thing in action! We take this EVERYWHERE!

Next up in Hiking Gear for Kids


When it comes to hiking clothes for kids, there are a few important things to keep in mind.

1st, you’ll want to choose clothes that are comfortable and breathable, so your child won’t feel too hot or sweaty while hiking. Look for fabrics that are moisture-wicking and quick-drying.

2nd make sure the clothes fit well and allow for a full range of motion. This is especially important for pants, which should be loose enough to allow for movement but not so loose that they get caught on branches or rocks. You want them to be able to climb, jump and explore without their clothes getting in the way. Nature time is wild and free time after all!

3rd, consider the weather and terrain of the hiking trail and choose clothes that provide appropriate protection, such as a sun hat, a lightweight rain jacket, or long-sleeve shirts and quick dry long pants to protect against scratches or insect bites.

Favorite brand: Primary

We love ALL Primary clothes. They are bright, stretchy and so comfortable for kids! We are obsessed with them. They also have a wonderful collection of summer clothes and activewear that are fast drying and have built-in SPF. You can feel the quality of these clothes!

Got you a link and a code for 20% off your first order! Stock up on primary clothes here!

Runner up options

Hiking pants

These pants are lightweight, fast drying, and have lots of pockets to hide “treasures in”…you know what I mean. They also unzip at the knee which I find secretly hilarious. I have not used that particular feature because I would never be able to find the bottom half again.

Cold weather hiking pant

These are insulated and waterproof. But, they aren’t too bulky. Perfect for colder weather hikes.

Hiking tops

This shirt is fast-drying and very lightweight. Both my kids live in these shirts. They can also double as an impromptu bathing suit top!

Don’t forget yourself!

Hiking Gear for MOM


Let’s be honest. Sunglasses make the outfit. It doesn’t matter how tired you are, you always look like the cool mom in sunglasses. Or maybe that’s just in my head! Either way, I’m rocking sunnies all summer long!

Chaco Shoes

I am OBSESSED with Chaco shoes. I have their sandals and two pairs of their boots. Oh, wait I just remembered I have two pairs of sandals too…whoops! They are comfortable and durable. You will feel confident on all your adventures with these guys. Notice my shoes in all these pics are some kind of Chaco!


This has a small front pocket and a large inside pocket. I love this backpack for two reasons 1. its waterproof and that has come in VERY handy. But also it has a chest and waist strap which makes running after small children more comfortable…

Make hiking and nature time last

Nature time is very important for kids. They need to be outside getting messy and exploring. With this hiking gear, you will be able to make nature time a success! I can’t wait to hear about all your adventures!

women holding son on shoulders waving on a hiking trip

What is your favorite hiking gear?

Post Disclaimer

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this article should be construed as medical advice.  Consult you health care provider for your individual nutritional and medical needs.  The opinions are strictly those of the author and are not necessarily those of any professional group or other individual

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