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Hiking Gear: 9 Essentials for Safe Hiking Trips with the Family


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Hiking isn’t a new hobby. Walking long distances for pleasure on trails or backcountry roads has long been a pastime for quite a few centuries. But due to the COVID pandemic of 2020, the activity of hiking rose more than any other activity last Spring. And it’s easy to see why. Being cooped up at home isn’t something we’re used to, and for many of us, a few months inside, away from friends and family just took a toll. We were all ready to get outside and enjoy some nature.

If you are new to hitting the trails, or especially new to hiking with kids in tow, it can be an entirely different type of adventure than going alone or with solely adults. As with any physically active sport, it’s incredibly important for everyone – kids too – to wear the right gear and to always pack the proper supplies for a successful and fun adventure that keeps the entire family happy and healthy from start to finish. Everything a family – from toddlers and kids to mom and dad – needs for a great, amazing day in the woods is right here. So stock up on some great hiking gear, pack up, and get outside!

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Table of Contents

Family Hiking Trips: The Checklist of Hiking Gear & Essentials

Proper Footwear

One of the most important pieces of hiking gear a hiker can wear is proper footwear. Not only can wearing the wrong shoes be uncomfortable, but it can also be downright dangerous. Whether the preference is a sturdy and tall hiking boot or a low-cut trail runner, the correct shoe for the terrain will make the difference between having an enjoyable trek, or struggling to get it over with.

Though some children love the harder terrain filled with hills, rocks and uneven surfaces, most hikes with children are likely to be flatter and less rugged, especially with toddlers in tow. That’s not to say there won’t be plenty of slip-up moments, but parents can easily get away with a good durable trail shoe with a better tread and increased traction than a regular sneaker.

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The Salomon Wildcross Men’s Trail Running Shoe is the perfect trail shoe for dad. It almost looks too fashionable for heading into the backwoods! But built for maximum grip, this shoe gets through muddy and soft terrain without missing a step. Guys who love to go trail running, or for dads chasing after their kids on a family hike will thoroughly enjoy the features of this Salomon Wildcross Men’s Trail Running Shoe. It may even be the piece of hiking gear he didn’t know he needed.

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The SensiFit™ design provides a customized-like fit around the foot, with plenty of space in the wider toe box giving comfort with each step. Though not waterproof, the water-repellent TUP mesh keeps feet secure, as does the cool minimalistic one-pull tightening lacing. It’s just as easy to put the shoes on as they are to take off.

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For mom, the Salomon Women’s X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex hiking shoes are a winner in the hiking gear department, even in wet conditions. The integrated GORE-TEX waterproof material keeps feet extremely dry from the outside in, even in wet and slippery conditions, and they’re extra durable. Take on wet, dry, hard, or loose surfaces knowing that whatever is ahead on the trail is no match for the traction on these babies.

For optimizing stability, Salomon Women’s X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex hiking shoes have been designed with an ADV-C lower-density chassis that gives control without limited mobility. Designed and fully-adapted for women’s feet, including the use of softer materials, the women-specific construction is made just for mom. Feet will feel snug, secure, and protected during any outdoor activities, especially hitting the trail.

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Kids love water, so if hiking through streams and mud is on the agenda, or it’s a rainy day, having hiking gear that includes waterproof footwear for the parents is a must. Keep feet dry and comfortable for the entire hike, even after fishing a child out of a stream.

Salomon Wildcross Men’s Trail Running Shoe | Salomon Women’s X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex
Salomon | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Youtube

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On a toddler, having waterproof shoes is practically a requirement when heading out on adventurous hikes. While older children can be convinced to stay out of a puddle or stream, little ones are more likely to have a harder time following directions. When Junior decides to go splashing, having durable, waterproof footwear avoids tears for the rest of the trip. That’s why the Little Kids’ Targhee Waterproof Shoe from KEEN is perfect for the list of family hiking gear.

Not only will the waterproof membrane keep a small child’s feet dry all day, regardless of what puddles he’s jumping into, but the breathable mesh lining keeps feet cool in the summer, reducing sweaty, uncomfortable tootsies. Little hands love the hook-and-loop plus strap closure system giving them independence putting on and taking off these cool shoes. Parents love the non-marking rubber outsoles and great traction from the Little Kids’ Targhee Waterproof Shoe to prevent marring indoors and slipping outdoors.

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Forget changing from school shoes to trail shoes. For a lighter-weight hiking sneaker or trail shoe that goes from the mountains to the classroom, the Little Kids’ Targhee Sport Vent Shoe is the way to go. Active kids can throw on these versatile shoes with a quick pull of the hook-and-loop closure and tightening of the bungee strap, then head outdoors for all-day play.

The breathable mesh lining and removable EVA footbed with arch support gives comfort to even the pickiest kids. Built on the same design as the adult hiker, the all-terrain traction means stable walking and climbing on everything from muddy paths to playgrounds. With all the cool colors from which to choose, kids love wearing them with any outfit every day.

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Usually being more adventurous, bigger kids may be more comfortable in a traditional hiking boot. Though, with KEEN, kids hiking boots are anything but traditional. The Big Kids’ Targhee Waterproof Boot is ready for everything on the trail. The mid-height ankle support prevents injury while jumping over boulders, but it is built with a padded collar and tongue to help reduce irritation and discomfort. Forget slipping as the multi-directional traction grip system holds on tight, and the high-abrasion rubber tip is a KEEN design feature for which they’ve come to be known.

Kids’ feet will stay dry and warm in wet terrain, but the breathable membrane and mesh lining means they’ll also stay cool and comfortable from winter through summer. There’s no doubt, both parents and kids love KEEN shoes.

Little Kids’ Targhee Waterproof Shoe | Little Kids’ Targhee Sport Vent Shoe | Big Kids’ Targhee Waterproof Boot
KEEN | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Youtube | Pinterest


The most important hiking gear and supply on a hike is no doubt plenty of water. Hydration is crucial for life, and a must-have for the entire family, including even the littlest of kids. It’s recommended that each person pack at least a half-liter of water for every hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures. The more intense the hike, or the higher the heat of the day, the more water needs to be packed.

Sure, water bottles and canteens work for short hikes, but hydration systems (also referred to as hydration reservoirs and hydration bladders) allow easy, hands-free access to water, which with kids, is tremendously helpful, and can hold more water overall. For mom and dad, the Unbottle™ 3L is a great solution from CamelBak, the world leader in hydration systems. This insulated Crux reservoir sleeve supplies adult hikers with 3L, or, based on recommendations, 6 hours of moderate hiking hydration. With 20% more water per sip from its mouthpiece, and an integrated on/off lever, plus an ergonomic handle for easy refilling, this hydration pack is a great piece of hiking gear to have on the trail most of the year.

In the extreme temperatures of winter and summer, having a hydration system that can work in both the cold and heat is imperative. The Stoaway™ 3L Insulated Reservoir is designed with Thermal Control insulation, protecting the 100oz capacity it holds. And though it also has the Crux Reservoir with 20% more water delivery, unlike the Unbottle™ 3L, the tube and bite valve are insulated preventing freezing in the cold when hitting the snow-covered trails.

Just because kids are smaller doesn’t mean they can’t carry their own hiking gear. To start, children can hike with just their own water supply. This gives them independence while also a responsibility (but parents certainly should check that it’s filled before hitting the trail). The Kids’ Mini M.U.L.E. 50 oz Hydration Pack and Kid’s Scout Hydration Pack are both made with the Crux Resevoir so there’s no doubt the water supply is going to be great.

For the smaller ones, the Kids’ Mini M.U.L.E. 50 oz Hydration Pack is the perfect starter hydration pack. Designed for kids to primarily carry water, it holds 50 oz of liquid in its lightweight pack, complete with a breathable mesh panel. Parents love the reflective accents for visibility in low-light environments, and the safety whistle built into the sternum strap. Kids love the cool patterns on this piece of hiking gear and even an extra compartment for storing necessities like snacks and treats.

For kids who are ready for a little more, the Kid’s Scout Hydration Pack is a full-featured hiking pack designed for preschoolers to grade-school kids. This pack also has a Crux reservoir, but also has a larger carrying capacity. Along with two mesh side pockets, the main compartment has room for more intense hiking gear like a rain jacket, a packed lunch, and a place to put clothing layers when the day warms up.

Unbottle™ 3L | Stoaway™ 3L Insulated Reservoir | Kids’ Mini M.U.L.E. 50 oz Hydration Pack | Kid’s Scout Hydration Pack
CamelBak | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest

READ MORE: Five Family-Friendly Colorado Hikes for Kids


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While there’s no doubt that water is extremely important, most bladders don’t have room for storing safety supplies and other necessities, like keys, safety supplies, or food! The Seeker 18L Bike Hydration Backpack is the best of both worlds. Built with an integrated 3L / 100oz Hydrapak® lumbar reservoir with quick disconnect, it also has room for extra layers and supplies to keep an adventurer warm, dry, and fueled.

This all-season, all-weather pack keeps water secure with a high-flow Blaster bite shut-off valve and magnetic hose clip, so liquid is available hands-free. But the lightweight and breathable construction also has plenty of functional storage like the zippered hip-belt pockets, padded fleece sunglasses or phone pocket, internal organizer pockets, and external carry straps.

It’s a great pack for parents when hitting the trails with little ones. Not only is water at a ready, but safety supplies, sunglasses, and their phone for all the pictures they’ll be taking are all easily accessible while on the trail. And all the hiking gear stays totally dry and safe in the weather-tight construction of this Seeker 18L Bike Hydration Backpack. It will also last a long time with the nylon ripstop material – taking on brush and thorns as well as rocks and plenty of use.

Seeker 18L Bike Hydration Backpack
Dakine | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

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Kids can also help carry some of the supplies besides just their own water. Not only does it teach them to be a part of the family and hiking team, but it encourages responsibility and helps prepare them for longer hikes and heavier loads.

If a child is keen on carrying gear, it’s important their backpack is sized specifically for them. The Talon Jr. is one of the most versatile packs from Osprey. Not only can children ages 4-12 carry their hiking gear in this pack, but the Talon Jr. also has an external hydration sleeve ready for a reservoir.

This lightweight pack is rich with features like both side and front panel mesh stretch pockets, dual-zippered main compartment access, and a well-ventilated fit. When not hiking, this pack also has a helmet attachment for bike adventures. The Talon Jr. backpack is made with a durable recycled fabric, ready for all the rough play and grit children put their hiking gear through.

Talon Jr.
Osprey | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Youtube | Pinterest

READ MORE: Making A Family Tradition While Traveling

Safety Supplies

It may sound a bit overkill, especially if the plan is just to hike a short distance and stay close to a well-populated area, but trust us when we say packing the right emergency supplies for your family is not excessive. Having the right hiking gear along with safety products is important whether you’re going on a week-long backpacking trip in remote mountains, or hitting up a short trail walk around a local state park. A well-stocked backpack just means you’re prepared for anything, most importantly the worst scenario. No one ever hopes to use it, but it’s there if it’s needed. After all, no one who’s survived an emergency said, “Man, I wish I didn’t have emergency supplies with me.” And, once it’s packed once, it’s there for every trip. (Just make sure to take inventory and check it every so often along with taking a look at your hiking hear too).

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The most important, and probably most frequently used hiking gear safety supplies is a First Aid Kit. Every household, as well as the family car, should have one, but a small and well-stocked First Aid Kit should also be a part of the main hiking pack and be on hand at all times. Adventure Medical Kits makes kits for each group’s exact needs from boating, hunting, and yes, to family outdoor adventures. The Mountain Explorer Medical Kit is a thorough and detailed kit full of supplies to treat injuries and illnesses on extended camping or hiking trips.

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This medical kit is not only packed with all the supplies needed for treating injuries like burns, wounds, illnesses, and allergies with hospital-quality supplies but also includes a CPR face shield and the guide book Wilderness & Travel Medicine: A Comprehensive Guide covering all techniques and treatments needed in the backcountry. The best part of the Mountain Explorer Medical Kit is how easy it is for anyone to provide fast and effetive first aid with the clearly labeled and organized Easy Care™ organization system pockets.

Mountain Explorer Medical Kit
Adventure Medical Kits | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

READ MORE: Kids Meditation & Mental Health

When prepping a backpack for the worst-case scenario, it’s also important to have heat and signaling for help. Products from Survive Outdoors Longer® are for those unexpected moments. Stock up everyone’s bags with bivvies, blankets, whistles, and portable fire before heading out onto the trail.

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For a family going into the woods, having at least one Emergency Bivvy or Emergency Blanket in each person’s bag (prepare for separation) is important. When forced to spend an unexpected night without heat in the woods, an Emergency Bivvy will help one stay warm and dry in its cocoon-like sleeping bag, reflecting 90% of one’s heat back for warmth. This compact and ultralight personal emergency shelter is a no-brainer when packing hiking gear.

And though not as functional as a bivvy, it’s also important to have at minimum one Emergency Blanket in each bag for first-aid use or warmth. The Emergency Blanket from Survive Outdoors Longer®, is great for wrapping immobile and injured or sick hikers, use as a temporary shelter, and the high-visibility orange exterior makes it easy for rescuers to spot.

Especially for children going into the woods, providing them with tools for recusing and survival (as well as teaching them how to use them!) is just as important as mom or dad packing their packs full of safety gear. The Survive Outdoors Longer® two-pack of Rescue Howler Whistles is an easy and durable device that each child can have attached to their clothing zipper or bag, or worn on a lanyard around their neck. Used like any whistle, when they wander off the trail or are in trouble, the pea-less design produces a triple-frequency sound that can be heard up to over 1 mile away and works in any condition.

And of course, one of the most important survival techniques is being able to prepare a fire. Having a compact and lightweight Fire Lite™ Kit when you need it really makes a difference. Start up to 20 fires in any weather with this easy-to-use kit that comes complete with an instruction guide, as well as with tinder that will burn up to 3 minutes, giving plenty of time to produce a fire-starting spark.

What’s great, is that having the right safety hiking gear doesn’t need to cost a lot or take up a ton of space in a backpack. In fact, most of the survival supplies are quite low cost and compact. But when it’s needed, its use is invaluable.

Emergency Bivvy | Emergency Blanket | Rescue Howler Whistle | Fire Lite™ Kit
Survive Outdoors Longer®  | Facebook | Instagram

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There’s no doubt, plenty of not only annoying but dangerous bugs live in the wilderness. With mosquitos, families need not worry when they use the long-lasting, up to 6-hour protection, of Natrapel® Lemon Eucalyptus 6 oz. Eco-Spray. Made with the oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, and without the use of harsh chemicals like DEET, it’s bug spray that parents can feel good about using on all the hiking gear and clothing. It offers effective protection that’s also environmentally friendly as the Eco-Spray® bottle gives consistent, all-angle coverage without using any ozone-depleting propellants.

Natrapel® Lemon Eucalyptus 6 oz. Eco-Spray
Natrapel | Facebook | Twitter

Convenience Supplies

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When nature calls while in the backcountry, no one wants to be ‘caught with their pants down’. That’s especially true for little kids, who don’t always understand you sometimes just got to make do with what you have. Leaves just won’t cut it for little butts. Packing some little conveniences from home along with great hiking gear helps everyone in the family, especially smaller kids, be more comfortable when in the woods.

But regular toilet paper just isn’t always a great solution as it can fall apart and is dry, not always doing it’s job. That’s why having a TP KIT – 10 Pack in the backpack is great for short or long backcountry adventures. These little biodegradable packs are what every adventuring family needs. Each kit comes with both 5 tissues and 2 wet wipes in one resealable package. When they’re done doing their business, everything goes back into the little waterproof pack leaving zero trace.

TP KIT – 10 Pack
TP Kits | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Youtube

It’s really great that there is a surge in hiking these days. It’s good for both the body and the mind, and really brings people closer to nature. That’s something from which everyone can benefit. But for families with kids heading onto the trail, it’s really important to have the right hiking gear. So pack up some great footwear, hydration bladders, backpacks, safety supplies, and a few little TP kits, and everyone will have an enjoyable day in the backcountry.

Check out this article on 5 Tips for Family Hiking This Summer.

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I am a father of three and my wife is a registered nurse specialized in children.

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