We are a family that loves the outdoors! Ever since my boys were little I’ve been getting them outdoors and on the trails. Of course, as parents, we all know that some preparation must come into play before you go hiking with kids. You can’t always just take off and hike. Well maybe you can if you’re ready with the right hiking gear for kids, tweens, teens, and adults.
We have been on many hikes, and one of the most important parts of hiking is the gear you bring with you! This list will help prepare you and your kids from head to toe to ensure that you have everything you need to make your next outdoor hike an enjoyable one.
We participate in affiliate programs. Some links below will be affiliate links. If you make a purchase with them we earn a small commission. We also received some products, at no charge, to test and review for this hiking gear guide. We’ll note that in our guide below as well.
Where to Shop for Hiking Backpacks
When shopping for a hiking backpack, it’s best to buy a specific backpack for hiking and one based on the type of hike you plan on doing and how long you plan to hike. For example, if you’re going to be backpacking or hiking very long multi-day trails, you will need a much bigger backpack than you would if you’re going out on a small day hike.
You can find hiking backpacks at any sporting goods or outdoor store, but here are some excellent places to start your search. Each of these stores has knowledgeable staff that can also help you find the best hiking backpack for your needs.
Two hiking backpacks we recommend
The Traveler 35L roll-top backpack for hiking
Out of all the hiking bags I’ve tried, my favorite hiking bag for a longer day hike comes from Lander. Their bags are lightweight but hold a lot of stuff! We received a complimentary bag that we tested out on our camping trip to Stokes State Forest.
The Traveler 35L roll-top backpack is your perfect for a longer hike or glamping trip. If you can’t separate from all. your tech or you need some room to pack a change of clothing this hiking backpack is for you. This bag includes a Crash Pad that can house up to a 17″ laptop, tablet, smart phone and more. Made of TPU coated rip-stop material, it is waterproof, impact protective and breathable.
The bag also features inner wireways for your charging cables. The Traveler 35L roll-top backpack for hiking can be purchased on Lander’s website or Amazon.
Wellington Backpack Diaper Bag – A hiking backpack with a diaper changing pad
This stylish backpack diaper bag, we received to review, was created to keep comfort in mind, featuring adjustable padded straps that provide maximum shoulder comfort for carrying long distance, while aiding in proper weight distribution. Parents hiking with babies can ensure they’re equipped with all hiking essentials thanks to the bag’s 8 interior and exterior compartments for storing their parent and baby essentials.
The Wellington Backpack Diaper Bag also features a padded changing mat, and an Isothermal bottle pouch to ensure your liquids are kept extra cold. Buy the Wellington Backpack Diaper Bag on Amazon.
Hiking Apparel for kids and adults
When you start with hiking apparel, you’ve got to start at the top, your head. Hats not only help to keep the sun from beating on our heads and out of our eyes, but they can also serve to keep our heads warm in cooler weather. Even when the weather’s warmer, I prefer to always wear a hat while hiking. I feel like it’s an extra way to keep ticks and insects from landing in my hair.
The North Face Horizon Breeze Brimmer Hat has mesh venting to help you cool off as well as FlashDry technology to keep you dry! This hat is adjustable, so you can customize it to fit any member of your family.
The best shirts for hiking
Sure you could wear any shirt for hiking, but why not wear a hiking shirt that’s functional and helpful. These hiking shirts are lightweight, dry quickly, and offer some SPF protection.
American Backcountry Tees
American Backcountry Tees are lightweight and so comfortable! My favorites are the ones that feature different National parks. Hike in the shirts featuring your favorite places to hike or those hiking destinations on your bucket list!
Their heritage line is manufactured using 100% spun polyester and includes Pure-Tech Moisture-Wicking Technology which keeps you dry and the shirt odor free. Bonus, the shirts offer a 50+ UV sun protection and are available in short-sleeve and long-sleeve styles.One of my sons and I each received a shirt to review and the definitely kept us cool on some of those hotter day hikes. American Backcountry Tees are available on Amazon.
Kids seem to always want to wear shorts. I get it. Sometimes it can be hot while hiking. When shopping for hiking pants for kids, teens, or adults in your family look for ones that are designed for outdoor activities or hiking. Often pants will have an option to help them roll up to capris or shorts.
Some hiking pants even have built-in SPF protection. And the best hiking pants we’ve found are even quick drying. So a little walk down the stream or kayaking along the river won’t leave you wet all day.
- Outdoor Research Men’s Ferrosi Pants are the perfect pair of pants if you are looking for something comfortable, durable, and stylish for your next hike.
- Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants are the best pair of hiking pants you can get if you are looking for something that is both affordable and breathable material.
Great socks for hiking
The right socks can make or break your hiking experience. You want a hiking sock that will stay in place, provide comfort for your feet, and keep your feet warm. You also want to make sure your hiking socks have the length you need to prevent contact between your skin and poison ivy or insects that might be along the trail.
Here are a few hiking socks we received to try out over the past few months of hiking.
- Swiftwick’s Pursuit Hike socks are a great option for day hikes with the family. This line was specifically designed for outdoor adventures, with a soft merino wool blend for temperature, moisture and odor regulation, along with Olefin fibers in the sole to maximize the sock’s wicking capabilities for a dry and blister-free foot.
- Bridgedale Active Light Hiker Cotton & Coolmax Socks use terry cushioning underfoot then, using a mix of Cotton and Coolmax®, knits in low tension mesh panels to allow fresh, cool air in, while letting warm, damp air out, ensuring that your feet stay protected and healthy and have a balance between cushioning and cooling your feet.
We always make sure we spray down our hiking socks with Sawyer Premium Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent before wearing them for the first time. It’s the best way to make sure your ankles and lower legs are protected from ticks, chiggers, and other biting insects.
Essential hiking gear –> Great Hiking Shoes
Sneakers may cut it for a small walk, but when you want to be safe and more adventurous you really need hiking shoes for all the hikers in your family: kids, teens, and adults. Hiking shoes provide tough soles to give you extra traction while climbing rocks or moving across slippery trails.
Durable shoes can also provide waterproof protection when you hike through the occasional puddle, rainstorm, or across the snow.
- When it comes to Northside USA hiking shoes we’ve all been wearing them over the past few years. Thanks to past partnerships and a current one with Northside, my boys and I are all familiar with their hiking footwear. Northside USA is a leading outdoor footwear brand, and their budget-friendly hiking footwear provides comfort, durability, and protection no matter what kind of conditions you and your family hikes in.
- KURU Hiking Shoes are perfect for cold weather hiking or summer hikes. It’s another hiking shoe I was sent to test out. These shoes provide excellent arch support and match the natural curves of your feet. As KURU footwear says, “Every shoe we build contains our patented KURUSOLE which is engineered to eliminate foot pain for our customers.” One note.. they do take some time to adjust to your feet so make sure you buy them a few weeks before you plan to hike in them.
Looking to wade in the water? Walk through a stream? Or make kayaking part of your hike? Don’t do it in your regular hiking shoes! Pack one of these water shoes in your hiking backpack. They don’t take a lot of room, but will definitely protect your feet from a rocky water bed, while also keeping your regular hiking shoes dry.
Northside also has lines of water shoes for men, women, and children. I tried out a complimentary pair of the Brille II water shoes, but they also have a new shoe style, the Cedar Rapids which is a water/hiking shoe combo. Both shoes are available in men’s, women’s sizes, and children sizes.
Keep the ticks & bugs away
We received all of these insect repellant products to test out for our hiking gear guide. We’ve been using a combination of these on each of our hiking trips and camping adventures. The only time we’ve had any issue with insect bites…are the times we’ve forgotten. (oops)
Start with Sawyer Premium Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent for clothing, hiking gear, and tents. With odorless permethrin, it repels and kills mosquitos, ticks, and chiggers that may carry Zika, West Nile Virus, Dengue, Chikungunya, and Yellow Fever. Spray down the clothing and gear you want protected. Once dry Sawyer’s Premium Insect Repellant will last for 6 weeks or 6 washes. It’s the first thing we do when we buy any new hiking gear for the kids, teens, or adults in our family. We received a sample of their products, which helped us replenish our past supply of Sawyer insect repellant products.
Repel insects with your deodorant
Next, go with Outdoorsman’s Friend Natural Deodorant. You need deodorant anyway why not use one that uses natural ingredients to protect you from ticks and bugs.
More insect repellant options
Finally, protect the skin from ticks and mosquitos by adding one of these insect repellant options to your hiking gear.
- Sawyer Picardin Insect Repellant – repels mosquitos and ticks, that may carry Zika, West Nile Virus, Chikungya, Dengue, Lyme disease and tick borne encephalitis, for up to 14 hours.
- Wondercide insect repellant sprays – All of the products are powered by Mother Nature, and include ingredients that are ethically sourced from US suppliers who are committed to sustainable business practices. Cedar oil is the top ingredient for the mosquito repellants, and the products are free from harmful ingredients, such as clove, DEET, permethrins, pyrethroids.
Stay hydrated & cool
Staying hydrated while you’re hiking is essential! If you are hiking for long periods, you will not only be under the hot sun, but you’ll likely be working up a sweat. So drink plenty of water to ensure you don’t get dehydrated and avoid heat exhaustion. This hiking gear will help keep water cold for the littlest of kids to the adults in your hiking group.
CamelBak Stainless Steel Eddy+ 20 oz makes drinking water less messy and a lot easier. This easy-to-use water bottle is perfect for kids and will keep your hiking bag dry!
BEABA Stainless Steel Straw Sippy Cup because even the babies of the family need to stay hydrated while outdoors. We received a complimentary cup that we’ll pass on to a family with babies since mine are all grown up. Keep the kids hydrated and cool with the BEABA Stainless Steel Straw Sippy Cup. The BPA and Phthalate-free cup features double walled insulation that keeps liquids cold for up to 10 hours.
Other features include a comfortable-to-the-touch exterior that won’t feel cold in your little one’s hand, and a slide opening that’s 100% leak proof, open or closed. Buy the BEABA Stainless Steel Straw Sippy Cup on Amazon.
Another way to help keep your cool on a hike is with Ahh towels. With a squeeze and shake, the Ahh Towel is ready to help hikers cool down. It starts as a dry-towel ike pouch then the fast-acting cooling mixture drops the temperture so it feels like an ice pack or cool towel. There is also no need to refrigerate the towel or use a water source to dampen it.
Fuel your hunger while hiking
Just as staying hydrated is important so is keeping your body fueled with protein and carbohydrates to keep your energy going. Make sure snacks are part of your hiking gear for every hiking trip. Even if you think it’ll just be a short hike it’s always best to be prepared. Sometimes due to getting lost OR having a really fun time those shorter hiking trips turn into all day adventures.
Energize with snacks from Kate’s Real Food
Kate’s Real Food snacks provide healthy options to boost everyone’s energy. Most options are soy-free, gluten-free, and non-GMO. We did enjoy and share complimentary snacks we received from Kate’s Real Food.
- Snack bites in flavors like Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Cherry and Almond. These bite-sized morsels are packaged in a resealable pouch that are perfect for quick energy on the trail.
- Snack bars in flavors like Dark Chocolate Mint, Dark Chocolate Cherry and Almond, Lemon Coconut & Ginger, Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate, Peanut Butter Hemp & Flax, Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate. They are all-natural, all organic energy bars sweetened with organic honey.
Bringing fresh fruit or other healthy snacks from home? Choose a better option than a plastic bag that becomes waste to store your hiking snacks. We like these two Earth-friendly snack container options for hiking snacks.
Plastic-free and leak-proof, the Seal Cup Trio is three-piece nesting food container set made from 18/8 stainless steel topped with silicone lids. Before you hike, fill the bowls with fruits, trail mix, or other snacks. Once empty, you can easily nest the bowls back together saving space in your hiking bag. Or let each kid have one to collect souvenir rocks, leaves, or shells. We’ve taken our complimentary review set on each of our camping trips. It’s been a great way to pack food and avoid waste. Buy the Ecolunchbox Seal Cup Trio on Amazon.
Khala & Company Beeswax Wrap Combo Pack, crafted from a blend of local Colorado beeswax, organic coconut oil and jojoba oil, and natural tree resin, these wraps are a better alternative to plastic wrap, bags, and aluminum foil for keeping your snacks safe while hiking. We were sent two wraps to try and I really loved how easily they molded to the snacks we’ve brought on hiking and camping trips.
Available in beeswax and vegan wax, as well as in a variety of cheerful prints, everyone in the family has a chance to participate and get invested in the hike preparations. Khala Cloths can be folded into a bag for trail mix, wrapped around a sandwich for lunch, or cap off a jar of apple slices – re-usable on the go, Khala Cloths also clean and store easily.
Khala Cloths are 100% compostable, so if a mishap occurs on the trail and a wrap goes missing, rest easy knowing that no noxious chemicals or harmful ingredients will be left behind. Perfect for the family trying to reduce their carbon footprint and educate their children about a green lifestyle, Khala Cloths are available in various pack sizes and prices. Buy the Khala & Company Beeswax Wrap Combo Pack on Amazon.
Hiking sticks and trekking poles, the optional hiking gear
Hiking sticks and trekking poles, do you really need them? It really depends on where you’re hiking and how long you plan to hike for. I like using them to help get up inclines, brace myself when walking downhill, balance myself when walking on stones in a stream, and to help keep my hands from swelling up too much when I hike.
Over the years, I’ve been sent different hiking poles to review and I have yet to find the perfect pair. Most seem to break after a few uses. Collapsible hiking poles can be great because you can collapse them down to make them easier to carry when you’re not using them. Though, they are sometimes more likely to come apart at the adjoining parts. And there’s some trial and error involved in figuring out the right height and then remembering what height works best for you.
I’ve had the best luck with wooden hiking poles. My favorite hiking stick was one I purchased at the Historic Batsto Village gift shop. It was beautifully carved and I had been collecting hiking pole medallions from various NJ State Parks. Sadly, that one snapped in half during a grueling uphill hike during the winter at Norvin Green State Forest. We were hiking through the slippery snow to find the wateralls. You can read more about it in our guide to NJ hiking trails with waterfalls.
Amazon does offer a collection of wooden hiking poles or visit a state park gift shop or sports store to try out hiking poles in person. If you aren’t going with a wooden hiking pole, I definitely recommend buying the poles in person so you can try them out in the store to test their quality.
Hiking gear for hiking emergencies
While hiking you can encounter all kinds of emergencies. From the minor ’emergencies’ of having to go out in the woods or a minor scrape to a more serious cut, sting, or fall being prepared can help you handle the unexpected emergencies better.
Options for outdoor potty time
It never fails, no matter how many times you may have told the kids to ‘try and go’ before you left inevitably someone is going to need to make a pit stop. Many hiking trails do not have restrooms or port-a-potties, or they can be further apart than you’d like, so before heading out to hike make sure you discuss what will happen if someone needs to go.
Come up with a plan and visit our guide to Portable Potties Help Kids Pee & Poop Outside. We’ve packed it with our recommendations of products that make it easier to go outdoors as well as provide you some privacy while doing so.
First Aid while on the trail
First aid kits are an essential item to bring with you while on the trail. You can keep a small travel-size first aid kit with the essentials such as gauze, wipes, and bandages like this first aid kit, or you can get this first aid kit in a pouch with 100 pieces of first aid equipment! I also like this Surviveware Small First Aid Kit for Hiking, backpacking, and camping. It has all your first aid supplies neatly organized.
At a minimum here are some things you should make sure your hiking first aid kit includes.
- Self Adhesive Bandage Wrap
- Antiseptic ointment or wipes
- Cellphone or way to communicate with others
- Mini GPS Navigation,Portable Outdoor Location Finder
Nexcare bandages for cuts, blisters, and other boo-boos
3M’s Nexcare Brand has just launched Nexcare Duo – a new line of bandages featuring silicone adhesive that lets consumers say goodbye to the dreaded pain of bandage removal. The new adhesive provides an all-day hold and pain-free removal while protecting minor cuts, burns and scratches. You can purchase Nexcare bandages on Amazon. We did recieve two complimentary boxes of Nexcare bandages.
Bee stings & snake bites
Unfortunately, bee stings and snake bites can happen. A child accidentally steps on a beehive on the ground. An adult mistakenly sits close to a snack. We haven’t had that happen to us, but we know other hikers it has happened to. With that in mind, we’ve added these additional first aid products to our hiking first aid kit.
- Sawyer Products Venom Extractor & Suction Pump Kit for Snake Bite, & Bee, Wasp, and Mosquito Stings
- Sting-Kill First Aid Anesthetic Swabs, Instant Pain + Itch Relief From Bee Stings and Bug Bites
SelfSafe a USB emergency identification bracelet
SelfSafe is an emergency identification bracelet that holds all your important documents/images/information: medical, financial, insurance, travel documents, personal identifications and more. Simple drag-and-drop features make adding and updating information easy. We were sent a complimentary set for us to use on each of our hiking adventures.
All of that imporant health information is in one place on your wrist in case of emergency. Simply pop the USB out of the bracelet to put into a PC drive, input password and all information will be brought up in one place in an instant. If a family is traveling together, mom or dad can wear the bracelet with all info uploaded i.e. travel documents, medical history, lists of medications for each family member, etc.
The founder recently used his SelfSafe in the event of an emergency. He slipped and fell, hitting his head while hiking on a rock in Colorado and was able to provide the emergency response team with all his info in an instant.
Prevent hiking emergencies
We’ve spent some time talking about hiking gear for emergencies, but let’s talk about a few products that can help you prevent a hiking emergency.
- Coming soon
Get the kids excited for hiking with this hiking gear
I get it. Kids aren’t always excited to go hiking, but it’s always worth the work it might take to get them on the trail. Once there, my kids have always enjoyed it… even now as teens. Here’s a few products we like (even one we’ve created) to hel get your kids excited to hike.
New Jersey State Parks & Forests Family Travel Journal
With our love for New Jersey state parks, but with nothing out there to document our experiences, I created a New Jersey State Parks and Forests family travel journal. With 2 pages dedicated to each NJ State Park, I’ve made it easy for kids to teens to document their experiences at our state parks without it feeling like it’s work to do so. You can purchase our NJ State Parks Family Travel Journal on Amazon.
52 Hike Challenge for New Jersey Kids
Get the kids excited for hiking by signing them up for the 52 Hike Challenge for New Jersey Kids. There’s no charge to sign up and for an extra fee you can purchase patches, rewards, and other items to encourage them to hike often.
Preparation = Amazing Hiking Memories
The desire to go hiking with kids can be a random occurrence, say when you find a great trail at a park or campsite. Or hiking can be a planned adventure like when you’re visiting a NJ State Park with hiking trails. Whether it’s an impulse decision or a preplanned trip being ready with this hiking gear for kids, tweens, teens, and adults will help ensure that every family hiking trip will be one you remember.
Now that you’re ready to go hiking, we have a few suggestions on great places to hike in and near New Jersey.
- NJ State Parks with hiking trails
- Places to Hike in New Jersey With Kids or Without
- Best Hiking Trails Near Rancocas Creek
- NJ Hiking Trails with Waterfalls
- Hike the Stairway to Heaven Trail in Wawayanda State Park
- Hike NJ Hacklebarney State Park Hiking Trails with your Kids
- Hike Mount Tammany of the Kittatinny Mountains in NJ With your Kids
- Hike Up Anthony’s Nose in New York
- Hike the Ice Caves Trail at Sam’s Point Preserve
- Hunterdon County Hiking for Kids at the Hunterdon County Arboretum
- Hawk Rise Sanctuary ~ Linden’s Nature & Wildlife Trail
- Discovering a Kid’s Love for Nature in Blackwater National Wildlife Reserve