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Best Hiking Gear for Kids: Everything Kids Need For an Epic Hike in 2024

From toddlers to teens, kids need a slightly different line of up of gear to keep them happy and safe on the trail.

The best hiking gear for kids is high quality but doesn’t break the bank since kids outgrow their gear so quickly. Below you can find a list of the top hiking gear for kids including suggestions on where to purchase items and when to splurge on more quality gear. You can also find age-specific recommendations.

To get started, many of the items on this list of the best hiking gear for kids, are also on our general list of hiking gear for Day Hikes. If you have teens that you think are closer to their adult height, you will want to use the items on this list as they are best served with adult gear that they won’t outgrow (even though it’s more expensive).

The gear on this list is based on years of hiking with my own and other kids. If you have a favorite item that didn’t make my list, please leave a comment with your favorite kid’s hiking gear.

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Best Hiking Gear for Kids
Best Hiking Gear for Kids

Quick List of the Best Hiking Gear for Kids

This list of hiking gear for kids is broken up into 2 sections – items that kids will need to wear and carry as well as items that parents of younger kids will want to carry. For example, someone on the hike should have a first aid kit, but this doesn’t mean that a 4-year-old needs to carry a first aid kit.

We always encourage our kids, even young kids, to carry a backpack of their own – if they are very young, we usually end up carrying the pack but older kids can easily carry a lightweight pack on a day hike and begin to get used to keeping track of their gear and carrying their own food and water.

When hiking with tweens and especially teens, they are fully able to carry the same weight as adults and can be given more to carry. Sometimes hiking with my teens we will take one backpack and take turns carrying it during the hike,

Scroll down to get specific examples of our favorite hiking gear.

Hiking Gear for Each Kid to Carry

  1. Hiking Boots
  2. Day Hiking Backpack
  3. Clothing Layers
  4. Rain and Wind Layers
  5. Food – lots of snacks
  6. Water
  7. Sun Protection
  8. Emergency kit – whistle, cord, firestarter, mirror

Hiking Gear You Need When Hiking with Kids (but is considered group gear or optional items)

  1. Navigation
  2. Flashlight or Headlamp
  3. Repair Kit
  4. First Aid Kit
  5. Cell Phone
  6. Small Knife
  7. Hiking Poles (optional)
  8. Fun Hiking Items

Essential Kids’ Hiking Gear

Best Kids Hiking Boots and Shoes

Having decent hiking boots or shoes for your kid is essential. The best kid’s hiking books have decent ankle support and comfortable shoes that won’t give them blisters. Always have your child wear their shoes around the home before you go hiking to break in the shoes a bit. Buying hiking boots is one of the hardest places to save money as kids often outgrow shoes every year.

If you are only hiking on trails that don’t have lots of obstacles, like roots and rocks, your kid can easily hike in a good pair of sneakers. Unless you are backpacking with kids you don’t need full heavy-duty hiking shoes until they get older. The other consideration is whether your kid’s feet will get wet. While kids can do short hikes in rain boots, you can also consider waterproof hiking boots or hiking sandals depending on the type of hike and the length.

Merrell Unisex-Child Chameleon Lace-Up Waterproof Hiking Boot

These are reasonably priced kids hiking boots and we love Merrell shoes and boots. These come in several colors and sizes from young to big kids and are waterproof. They are a really tough pair of shoes and can take a beating on your next hike with kids.

Northside Unisex-Child Rampart Mid Hiking Boot

These are the hiking boots that 2 of my kids wore for several years. They easily lasted as hand-me-downs for several years. They have excellent ankle support and decent water resistance. They are also a decent price.

Best Hiking Backpacks for Kids

Having kids carry their own packs is important to teach responsibility and kids often LOVE to carry their own pack (at least for the first mile!) The best kid’s day hiking backpack will fit comfortably and have the right amount of space to fit their essential items. Young kids will likely just carry a few snacks, while older kids can carry their own water and layers. Kids also love to carry a hydration pack and on shorter hikes, my kids often just use a hydration pack with a few snacks.

Unlike hiking boots and shoes, a hiking backpack will often last for years. Look for a quality pack and pay the most attention to the size, comfort of the straps, and the types and position of the pockets. The packs below are ones that we’ve used and recommend.

Best Hiking Clothing Layers for Kids

Besides bringing snacks, dressing in comfortable and weather-appropriate clothes for kids will be the most important thing on a successful hike. The same rules apply to adults as apply to kids. The best hiking clothes for kids are layers that can be adjusted during the hike based on the weather and activity. The layers should be quick drying so avoid cotton as these retain moisture and will make your kid chilly when they stop hiking.

A summer hiking outfit for a kid would include wearing shorts, a short-sleeved hiking shirt, and lightweight hiking socks. In a backpack, you should pack a long-sleeved fleece or hiking shirt, rain pants, and a wind/rain coat.

A cold-weather hiking outfit for kids includes leggings or hiking pants, rain pants, base layer shirt, a fleece or a puffy coat, rain/wind layer, winter hat, and gloves.

Winter hiking outfit – everything from the cold-weather hiking list above AND snow pants, buff, and extra top layer.

Rain and Wind Layers

Having a good raincoat and rain pants is important when you are hiking with kids. Even if it’s NOT raining, kids will sit on wet rocks and kneel in puddles. Rain pants will keep them warm and dry and protect them from the wind. A raincoat also doubles as a windbreaker and can make a huge difference if your hike ends at a windy mountaintop.

Young kids can hike in a rubber raincoat, but older kids will appreciate a more breathable hiking jacket.

Food: lots of snacks

Having enough food on your trip is key to happy hikers. I’m also not above bribery, especially when my kids were young, we would bring a special treat to share on the way up the tough part of the hike such as a bag of M and M’s, sour patch kids, or skittles. Besides the treats, having plenty of healthy and energy-packed foods will keep everyone happy. We have our youngest kids carry their own snacks so they have some control over feeding themselves and then we carry the extra and any meals.

Here is a list with a few ideas of food to pack for your hike:

  • Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
  • Apples, oranges, and other fruits
  • Nuts and trail mix with dried fruit
  • Slices or cubes of cheese
  • Crackers
  • Granola Bars
  • Carrots
  • Pretzels
  • Bagels and Cream Cheese

Best Waterbottles and Bags for Kids

Kids need plenty of water on a hike and to keep them hydrated it’s best to keep the water easily accessible. My kids love hiking with a hydration pack so they can sip water as they hike. We also carry several reusable and lightweight water bottles so we always have enough water. For longer hikes, you can also bring a lifestraw or filter to treat natural water.

See some popular methods for carrying water below, or check out the Best Ways to Carry Water While Hiking.

Sun Protection

Kids need additional protection against the sun as they are more likely to burn. Having sunscreen and a good sun hat will ensure that your kids get some shade on their face and neck. Many kids hiking hats have a wide brim that goes around the entire head and also protects them from the sun on their neck.

The most important part of choosing a hat for hiking with kids is choosing a hat they will actually wear. My 10-year-old willingly wears a baseball cap but hates bucket-style hats even though they offer more protection. For young kids, choose a hat with a string to keep it on their heads or to keep them from losing it.

See more suggestions for the Best Hiking Hat: Women, Men and Kids

Hiking Emergency Kit for Kids

If a child is carrying their own pack, it’s a good idea to add a few emergency items. You can also add a whistle to a coat or put it in the pocket of their coat. Other emergency items include cord, firestarter, and a mirror, although these items are best carried by older kids – if you plan to ask your kid to carry these emergency items, ensure that your kids know a bit about how to use them.

Additional Hiking Gear to Carry on the Trail with Kids

The items below are additional items that should be brought on your hike with kids, but aren’t essential items for kids to carry or wear. There are also suggestions below for fun and educational items and the best hiking gear for kids will likely include specific items that interest your child (guide book, magnifying glass, etc).


There are many ways to navigate while hiking. It’s always best to have a paper hiking map with you, although for shorter hikes, you can also download maps online or take photos of the trail map on a sign at the start of the hike. It’s always best to have a plan in case your phone stops working or runs out of battery. We always look at the map as a family before the hike so our kids have a sense of where we’re going.

Another great option is to hike with a GPS Watch or handheld GPS.

Flashlight or Headlamp

Even if you aren’t planning to hike out at night, things happen and having a headlamp or flashlight is important for safety. You can find a lot of options but look for a small, waterproof headlamp that can adjust to different-sized heads.

See our complete guide to the best headlamps for kids.

Repair Kit

You can purchase repair kits online, but for most day hikes, it’s usually enough to have some cord and duct tape. We usually wrap some duct tape around a lighter so we have a few basic emergecny and repair items for the hike.

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is a must have item for any hike, not just hikes for kids. Your kit should include basic emergecny equipment if you need to handle an emergency in the woods as well as basic care items to treat blisters, stings and other common problems in the trail. You can either assemble your own first aid kit, or purchase one.

It’s important to know what is in the first aid kit and the basics of how to use the kit, so you aren’t stuck in the woods trying to figure it all out.

Best Hiking Gear for Kids: Hiking in NH
Best Hiking Gear for Kids: Hiking in NH

Cell Phone

A cell phone can be an important piece of emergency equipment. When our 13 year old fell and tore open his knee on a backctounry cross country ski, we were able to call for help and they met us on the trail as we carried him out. We’ve also used our phone in emergecny situtation to look at maps and also as a light. We also love to use our phone to take photos on our hikes!

Small Knife

Although not something you might think of on the best hiking gear for kids, a small knife is a great tool on a hike and can be used to cut up food and in emergency situations. We start our kids with very small knives/multi-tools when they are young and teach them how to use them. Adults can also be the ones to carry a knife on a hike, but it is an important tool to have with you.

Hiking Poles (optional)

Hiking poles are optional and often you kids enjoy finding a hiking stick and using this on the trail. For younger kids, the poles are really a fun novelty item but can be helpful for balance.
Fun Hiking Items

Fun and Education Items for Kids on the Hiking Trail

A successful hike for kids means that they are happy, challenged and excited to go on their next hike. Just like adults, kids enjoy hiking for different reasons. Some love the exercise, some like the look for birds and hunt for frogs, some like spending time with friends, and some like to push to an amazing viewpoint. Finding what makes your kids happy and excited on a hike is good for everyone!! Below are a few suggestions for the best hiking gear for kids that can help make the trail more fun:

Best Hiking Gear for Kids: Hiking in NH
Best Hiking Gear for Kids: Hiking in NH

Final Thoughts on the Best Hiking Gear for Kids

One last word about the best hiking gear for kids. While it’s important to have the best gear possible, it’s also important not to let gear stop you from having an amazing hike. Have my kids hiked in cotton t-shirts without hats? Absolutely! Have we gotten wet because our jacket was water resistant and not waterproof? Definitely.

Make sure you take safety precautions and choose the right hike (see more about how we find hikes), but don’t let gear stop you for enjoying getting outside!

Did I miss anything on my list of the Best Hiking Gear for Kids? Leave a Comment with your favorite items!

Best Hiking Gear for Kids

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