Kids hiking gear list: our favorite backpacks, sandals, kids' boots, first aid, snacks and fun for the trail

When the sky is blue and school is out, my little adventurers refuse to stay inside. With cascading waterfalls, lofty mountain tops, and miles of rhododendron tunnels just a short drive away from our home in the suburbs, who could blame them? Here are a few things we are sure to grab before we hit the trails:

Kids hiking boots & sandals

When the hike calls for a bit more protection, we opt for the heavier duty Keen Pagosa Boot. My kids love the comfort of these boots and enjoy tackling rocks and roots without any underfoot pain.

The KEEN Newport H2 Sandal and KEEN Moxie Sandal are our kids’ absolute must haves for summer adventures. The sandals are waterproof, comfy, easily adjustable, and have durable, rugged outsoles, a covered toe box for toe protection, and no-slip laces. These are our go-to shoes for hiking adventures, especially those with water crossings. They double as a water shoe for wading, which comes in handy in fun places such as Panther Creek Falls. Check out our full KEEN kids’ Moxie and Newport sandal review for more details!

While in boots, REI Kids Merino Wool Crew Hiking Socks are the socks of choice. These socks provide a snug fit, solid comfort and protection, and a friendly price tag too.

Kids hiking gear essentials: KEEN Newport ATV and KEEN Moxie Sandals are perfect for warm-weather hikes and waterfall adventures in the South

Kids hiking backpacks

Longer outings in the warmer months require a bit more hydration. My kids feel like the big guys when they get to carry their own packs. Their favorite is the CamelBak Mini Mule. The Mini Mule has a 50oz reservoir and a large pocket for snacks. My children are picky, and won’t drink after each other. So, the accessibility of their packs is quite helpful in limiting stops, and for eliminating the need for several different water bottles. Hiking with the Mini Mules also encourages the kids to track their own hydration intake and needs – a valuable skill that will help them in their future adventures.

Our favorite kids hiking backpacks: the Camelbak Mini Mule hydration pack for kids

Hiking essentials for kids

Trekking poles: once our kids learned how to utilize their upper bodies to help pull themselves up hard climbs, they really appreciated a good hiking stick! Though our family has invested in nicer aluminum and carbon fiber poles, any pole should do just fine for shorter, kid-friendly mountain hikes. Simply look for something lightweight, expandable/retractable, and durable.

Headlamps are a fun incentive to get kids exploring at night. They are also useful while fishing and camping! My kids like the 200 lumen Ozark Trail Auto-Brightness Headlamp, an inexpensive model that’s bright enough for even our darkest adventures, like hiking up Stone Mountain after sunset.


Our kiddos have a couple of staples they take on our longer adventures. One thing you will always find in their pack is their favorite drink mix, Tailwind Nutrition. Tailwind is a complete hydration, electrolyte, and energy mix to put in water. Tailwind comes in several different kid-approved flavors, including lemon, berry, and mandarin orange. The drink is mild but sweet. It mixes easily into hydration packs, and my favorite: it cleans easily too! This drink will keep your crew going and works wonders to prevent the “I’m tired’s.”

Kids Hiking Gear List: snacks and energy drink mixes for the trail

Though it’s cost effective to just pack a sandwich and call it good, my kids have some favorite pre portioned snacks they like created specifically for sports and endurance. I like to stow these in their Mini Mules for longer outings. Honey Stinger Organic Waffles and Honey Stinger Chews are especially delicious, and come in kid sized servings. Clif Kid Zbars, the kid version of the popular Clif Bar, are always a favorite, too, and come in a variety of flavors sure to please your little ones.

Safety and first aid supplies

Nothing will stop your kid in their tracks quicker than a bad blister. We like to use Band-Aid Friction Block before our hikes to make sure blisters don’t happen! As the name implies, Friction Block reduces friction and rubbing from shoes, and helps prevents hot spots.

First Aid Kits are absolutely vital for family adventures. Though we rarely travel anywhere too remote with our kids, I still carry a stocked kit for my accident prone crew, just in case. You can find a perfect First Aid Kit crafted specifically for your outdoor adventure at retailers like REI. Some of the staples include bandages, butterfly sutures, acetaminophen, antihistamine, ice packs, splints, alcohol prep pads, and gauze. I also like to add in things we frequently need on the hike: chapstick, an easy-to-apply sunscreen stick, anti bac wipes, a mini flashlight, insect repellent, hair ties, and of course a few lollipops to ward off post-accident blues.

Kids Hiking Gear List: our favorite gear, safety and first aid supplies, and essentials for a fun time on the trail

Just for fun!

My youngest used to bring her prized possession, a stuffed cat named Shazzy, on every adventure. Then one time, she dozed off on my back in a Kelty pack, and unbeknownst to me, Shazzy fell out of her arms. Thankfully, Shazzy was rescued by a fellow hiker who tracked us down a few hours later! But now, we leave the stuffed animals at home in favor of clip-on pets. My daughter loves to deck out her hiking pack with clip-on stuffed animals. She will take them off to snap a photo with them in scenic places, but then they go back to the pack where they can stay secure. If your child loves stuffed animals, check out these little guys: Ty Clip Beanie Boos.

It’s okay to bring the gadgets! You may be surprised to see this on the list, and a lot of parents might not agree with it. However, bringing an iPod or something similar along on a hike can be a great learning tool if used correctly. If your kids are the curious type like mine, encourage them to use their devices to snap photos of plants, bugs, and animals they can’t identify. Later at home, they can use the photos to do some research and get a bit more learning in. My kids also love to share their captures with friends: “See how much fun we’re having? You need to come next time!” – I think this is great to help get the next generation outdoors!

ENO Hammocks are all the rage right now! Though a little pricey, and certainly not a necessity, kids do love to bring them along on an adventure. These hammocks are lightweight, and easy to stash in a backpack. (Read our full ENO Hammocks gear review for more details!) Hang them up when you finally reach a nice summit or scenic spot and enjoy the view. Ahh… what a sweet reward!

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