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Five Essentials for Hiking With Kids

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

Five Things We Never Hike Without

We’ve put a lot of miles on the trails of Vermont this summer. Hiking with four young kids has its challenges, but it’s become our favorite activity to do together as a family. While most of our hikes with kids are enjoyable, we’ve also had some not so fun experiences that we’ve had to learn from. Before you set out on your next hike with your kids, make sure you have the following items packed to make your hike as fun and safe as possible!

Backpack Carrier

For the last eight years, we’ve had at least one baby or toddler in a carrier on our hikes. We’ve tried out so many styles of carriers, but our very favorite is the backpack carrier (for older babies and toddlers.) We’ve been using the same one for the last seve

n years, on three of our four littles! To say we’ll be sad when it’s time to retire it is an understatement.

The Osprey Poco Plus Carrier is always in the trunk of our car, ready to be put to use wherever we go. It’s so comfortable to wear and easily adjustable. (I’m 5’9 and my husband is 6’5, we are constantly switching back and forth and making quick adjustments.) Our babies and toddlers have always been comfortable in it, and the built-in sunshade means we don’t have to stress when they inevitably pull their hat off at some point throughout the hike. There is also a ton of storage…plenty of space for water bottles, snacks, and layers depending on the weather.

When we first started hiking with kids, back when we only had one baby, we opted for a cheaper brand and model. We got about one season out of that one before the straps rippe

d and the fabric started to fray. I’ve been more than impressed with the quality of the Osprey, and it has held up beautifully through three babies turned toddlers, and will, without a doubt, continue to be used when we pass it on once our kids outgrow it

Hiking Poles

Ok, to be perfectly honest I’m new to the hiking pole world. For years I have continued to tell myself that I didn’t need them. Why? I’m honestly not sure. When you’re carrying littles (and even when you’re not,) climbing up and down mountains requires a lot of balance. With a carrier or backpack strapped to you, your center of gravity is altered. In the past, I’ve always used trees (or my husband) to help me balance on more technical trails. Last year for Christmas, I finally got the hint when my husband gifted me these Black Diamond Hiking Poles and I’m not exaggerating when I say I am NEVER going back. They are so light, adjustable, and give me peace of mind when I’m navigating a tricky section of the trail.

Water Bottles and Canteens

We try our best to keep everyone hydrated on our hikes. But carrying water for six people really adds to the weight of what we’re already carrying. (These babies and bottles aren’t light!) For a while we would try to get the kids to carry their own, but they always ended up dropping them, spilling them, drinking too much too fast, or just straight up complaining about having to carry something.

These water canteens were a total game changer. They have a strap, so the kids can wear them over their shoulders. Everyone carries their own water, we take water breaks together, and the kids stay hydrated without us having to carry more in the backpack carrier. Wins all around!

Hiking Boots for the Kids

We didn’t always have the kids wear hiking boots, we used to just throw sneakers or sandals on them and call it good. For a lot of hikes, that totally works. This summer we wanted to challenge ourselves a little more, so we wanted to make sure the kids had some great traction to be as safe as we could be on the trails.

Our kids really struggle to tie their shoes, so although eventually I’d like them in some quality boots they can adjust the tightness on, we went with some hook and loop pairs instead. The kids love their Merrells, and I was excited to discover that their kid shoe quality is just as great as the ones they make for adults. We’ve had some rocky, wet, and slippery hikes this summer, but the traction on these are great. (My kids still fall all the time, but I blame that on their genetics, not their shoes.)

Snacks and a Plan

Our most stressful and least fun hikes are the hikes that we were just straight up not prepared for. Snacks left in the car, underestimating mileage, not being ready for weather…all of these things and more have just made us more prepared for the next trip. We love the All Trails app and use it to plan most of our hikes. We carry snacks on the trail with us, and leave another supply in the car, along with extra water, for the post hike car ride.

I’m sure these tips and tricks will evolve as the kids grow and change, but having these five things in place for each and every hike has made all the difference. We’ve got so many more Vermont trails to explore, and with Fall coming up and hopefully some cooler temps, we’ve got lots of hiking time left in 2022!

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