Warm days are here and you are ready to hit the trails with your toddler. While you can still expect meltdowns and tantrums on the trail, toddlers make excellent hiking companions. If ever you wanted someone to help you truly appreciate nature, it’s a toddler. Hiking with toddlers will give you a whole new perspective, as you stop for every ant, find interesting rocks, sit by the river to throw rocks in and chase butterflies.
Before you plan your first adventure along the hiking trails with your toddler, read all our tips for hiking with toddlers first.
Now, let’s make sure you are fully prepared. Being prepared in advance will help you get out the door much faster. As we suggested in our tips, start by planning your day. Will your toddler nap during the hike or are you trying to be home for nap time. How much time does that leave you to hike?
Once you’ve chosen your toddler-friendly hike and figured out how much time you need (including driving and snack time), add on another hour or so. You can expect your hike to go slower than planned. Our best advice is to go into it with no expectations other than to enjoy nature with your toddler.
The best way to keep a toddler happy on the trail is to make sure they are well fed, hydrated, warm and have enough breaks. To make sure you haven’t forgotten anything, here we’ve included all our favorite toddler hiking gear.
Best Toddler Hiking Gear
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Best Toddler Hiking Gear
Toddler Hiking Boots
Can’t your toddler just wear running shoes? Yes, absolutely, but they may struggle with traction. The benefits of toddler hiking shoes or boots is that they give some added traction for climbing rocks or over tree roots.
We really like the Keen waterproof hiking boots for toddlers. While they won’t keep feet completely dry if fully immersed in a puddle, they do a great job in small puddles or a light rain.
Toddler Hiking Sandals
For those summer toddler hikes, we like Keen toddler sandals. Our kids often wore sandals for hiking in the summer. We recommend bringing a pair of socks just in case of blisters, etc.
Toddler Hiking Backpack
Having your toddler carry her own backpack will help get them excited about going out in nature. Make sure it’s a small backpack and don’t let your toddler pack too much. Keep it to 1-2 small toys, a snack and maybe your toddlers water bottle.
You’ll likely end up carrying your toddlers backpack, at least for a portion of the time. Bring some carabiners to attach it to yours (which also work for attaching toys).
Toddler Carrier or Toddler Backpack Carrier
Probably one of the most important toddler hiking gear items is a toddler hiking carrier. Sure, there are going to be hikes when your toddler hikes the entire way. There will also be hikes when your toddler just doesn’t make it back to the car.
When we wanted to encourage our toddler to hike more, we’d pack the toddler carrier in our backpack and only pull it out when needed. If we were planning a longer hike, we’d bring the backpack for carrying toddlers.
These are the two we’d recommend for a hiking carrier for toddlers:
- For a soft structure hiking carrier that we could pack away, the LILLEBaby CarryOn Toddler was amazing! It was comfortable for both parent and toddler.
- Of the backpack carriers for toddlers, we had the Deuter Kid Comfort 3 which is now called the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro. It has all the features you’d want in a backpack carrier for toddlers.
Get the most use out of your hiking backpack carrier by traveling with it. We give all the details on travel plus flying with a hiking backpack carrier from doing it several times with our Deuter Kid Comfort 3 backpack carriers.
Don’t forget the rain cover for your hiking carrier. It will provide good protection from the rain and wind.
Find your best toddler carrier for hiking in this post that has all the best hiking backpack carrier options.
Toddler Rain Suit
Rain isn’t likely to bother your toddler all that much, in fact they might like it even more! A toddler rain suit is a great way to keep your toddler warm and dry! They pack pretty small too, so throw it in your backpack if the forecast is threatening rain.
Don’t miss all our Resources for Hiking with a Baby or Toddler. We cover everything from hiking tips to the best carriers for hiking.
Wide Brimmed Sun Hat
For good coverage and being able to secure it on a toddler, we can’t recommend the Sunday Afternoons hats enough. Our kids have been wearing their hats for years. The wide brim plus coverage over the neck provides excellent protection from the sun. This hat comes with us everywhere and our kids are more than happy to wear them.
Don’t forget toddler proof sunglasses!
Spill Proof Cup
Snacks! Bring all the snacks. And maybe a few treats too… But if there’s one thing toddlers are good at, it’s spilling all their food. We had a spill proof snack cup and that thing came with us everywhere! I can’t even count how many of our travel pictures have our toddler holding his snack cup.
These are perfect for hiking so you won’t be picking all your toddlers food out of the dirt.
Toddler Hiking Clothes
While specific toddler hiking clothes really isn’t necessary, there are two items to consider. A warm hoodie makes a great layer to pack and provides extra warmth under a rain suit. It’s worth having just in case the weather changes.
We also have a pair of zip off pants, which are great for those days that start out cold but turn hot. You probably won’t find these much smaller than a 3T-4T size.
If nothing else, just make sure to pack an extra outfit or two in case your toddler gets too deep in the puddle or has an accident.
If your toddler is working on potty training, you might want to consider a travel potty (even just to have in the car). We knew we’d be out hiking frequently, so we made an effort to teach our toddler how to go in the bushes, but we recognize this isn’t feasible for all toddlers or families.
We also made sure our toddler was capable of going in regular public toilets, so they could use the trail toilets (bring wipes to wipe down the seat).
If neither of those options works for your toddler, this is the most compact travel potty making it a good option to pack.
Hiking games are an excellent way to get your toddler moving on the trail. A few good options are a scavenger hunt (get one with pictures like this one) or hiding small animals along the trail (you might need a partner in crime to hike some up ahead or get creative hiding them without your little hiker seeing you).
Kids binoculars are also a great way to keep your little one engaged while on the hiking trail. They will love getting to see the critters on the trail up close or looking at wildlife from a distance. These are great for kids as young as 3 years old. Make sure to get some with shock proof for when your toddler inevitably drops them.
Finally, knowing a few simple hiking songs is also a fun way to keep your toddlers happily moving along the trail.
Wondering where to hike? We have an amazing list of the best hikes with toddlers and babies around the globe plus a list of the best hikes with a baby or toddler in the USA.
Bring plenty of water for both you and your toddler. If you are using a toddler backpack carrier, get a water bladder (for backpack carriers that have a space for water bladders). If you teach your toddler how to drink out of it, you won’t need to bring extra water bottles.
Otherwise, get your toddler a fun water cup or water bottle they can carry in their backpack.
Toddler Hiking Checklist
Want a quick toddler hiking checklist? Just highlight and copy this section into your notes app on your phone:
- Hiking boots or sandals
- Hiking backpack
- Hiking carrier (soft structures, backpack carrier or both) & rain cover
- Rain suit
- Travel potty
- Extra outfit or two
- Sun hat
- Sun glasses
- Bug spray
- Extra warmth layer
- Mitts and wool hat
- First aid kit
- Diaper change mat
- Diapers & wipes
- Wet/dry bag
- Hiking games
- Spill proof cup
- Lunch / Snacks
- Carabiners to attach toys or toddlers backpack to your own
Find this entire list in our Toddler Hiking Gear Idea List on Amazon.
Happy trails! We hope you enjoy getting out on the trail with your toddler as much as we do. Just remember, not all days will be perfect. Be persistent with your hikes, you’ll find a good groove for both you and your toddler.