Best Toddler Hiking Gear

Author: Celine Brewer

Last Updated:

One of the main reasons why I moved to the Canadian Rocky Mountains is that I love to go hiking with my family. Whether it’s at home in the mountains, or on a family trip, I have hiked a tremendous amount with my toddlers, and I love it. I’m excited to see that you want to go hiking with your toddler too!

The great news is that you don’t need a ton of fancy toddler hiking gear to get out and enjoy nature with your child. I’m here to share my years of experience hiking with my kids to help you decide what hiking gear for toddlers is appropriate for your family.

a toddler, from the BabyCanTravel.com family, plays in the grass while hiking with her family.
My daughter loves to stop and look at all the little things.

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Best Hiking Gear for Toddlers

Before you even start considering toddler hiking gear, I want you to know the most important things about hiking with a toddler. In my experience, the best way to keep a toddler happy on the hiking trail is to make sure they are well fed, hydrated, warm and have enough breaks. It’s also important to keep things positive and fun, so they’ll want to go hiking again and again.

Once the fundamentals are taken care of, it’s time to decide if you want any hiking gear for your toddler. To help you decide what is appropriate for your family, I’ve listed all my favorite toddler hiking gear. As you can see from the photos, I only recommend gear I have personally used for hiking with my toddlers and am comfortable recommending to you.

1. Toddler Hiking Boots

Can’t your toddler just wear running shoes? Yes, but it’s not ideal. Keep in mind that when toddlers hike, they love climbing on rocks, tree stumps, etc. If they just wear normal city running shoes or sneakers, they may struggle with traction. The benefits of toddler hiking boots or hiking shoes is that they give your child some added traction for climbing rocks or over tree roots. Plus, it helps keep their little feet dry if (like mine), they can’t resist jumping in a good puddle!

I have purchased several pairs of Keen waterproof hiking boots for my toddlers and I really liked them. 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.

a toddler wearing Keen hiking boots rests on a wooden bridge with his feet dangling over the edge.
My son models his Keen hiking boots for toddlers on a family hike near the Harry Potter bridge in Scotland.

I consider hiking boots (or hiking shoes) my top toddler hiking gear for two reasons:

  • Toddlers love getting to wear special shoes just like their parents, and
  • Having proper hiking footwear allows your child to properly enjoy all the little adventures along the hiking trail, such as jumping in puddles, walking through mud, climbing rocks, etc. For toddlers, hiking should be about exploring and interacting with nature. If you are not concerned about their footwear, you’ll be much more comfortable letting them explore and learn.

2. Toddler Hiking Sandals

For those summer toddler hikes, I also love Keen toddler sandals. Toddler hiking sandals are great hiking gear for hot summer days, especially if you will be near water. Sport sandals help keep little feet cool and to let your kids easily walk through water without the discomfort of having wet hiking boots.

If you buy sports sandals for your toddler, I recommend bringing a pair of socks just in case of blisters, etc.

a toddler, from the Baby Can Travel website, wears hiking sandals sitting on a picnic table near the Bow River enjoying a break from her family hike.
My daughter shows off her Keen hiking sandals for toddlers on a family hike near Banff National Park, Canada.

3. Toddler Hiking Carrier or Toddler Backpack Carrier

After proper footwear, I’d say the next most important toddler hiking gear items is a hiking carrier. Sure, there are going to be outings when your toddler hikes the entire way, but there will also be hikes when your toddler just doesn’t make it back to the car. Packing a toddler hiking carrier helps you deal with any eventuality.

Celine Brewer, owner of BabyCanTravel.com, carries her toddler in a hiking backpack carrier on a winter hike in Kananaskis Country, Canada.
Yup – I love hiking with toddlers in winter too!

Hiking with a baby and a toddler? I have plenty of tips for hiking with a baby and the best baby carrier for hiking.

When we were on a shorter family hike, I’d pack the toddler hiking carrier in my day bag and only pull it out if & when needed. If we were planning a longer hike, I’d bring the hiking backpack for carrying toddlers.

These are the two hiking carriers I recommend for toddlers:

LILLEBaby CarryOn Toddler – For a soft structure hiking carrier that I could easily pack away in my daybag, my LILLEBaby carrier was amazing! I loved how comfortable it was for both myself and my toddler.

Celine Brewer, owner of BabyCanTravel.com, carries her toddler on a hike in Norway.
I carried my little guy in a LILLEBaby Carryon Toddler on our family trip to Norway.

Deuter Kid Comfort Pro – For our backpack carriers for toddlers, we had the Deuter Kid Comfort 3 which is now called the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro. We used our Deuter Kid Comfort backpack carriers a ton, both hiking around home and on our family vacations, so even though they are a bit expensive, we certainly got our money’s worth!

Dan Brewer and Celine Brewer, of the Baby Can Travel website, wear Deuter Kid Comfort 3 backpack carriers while hiking at the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto with their kids.
We loved our Deuter backpack carriers so much, we got one for each child!

Get the most use out of your hiking backpack carrier by traveling with it. I share all the details on flying with a hiking backpack carrier based on my experiences with our Deuter backpack carriers.

Celine Brewer, the owner behind Baby Can Travel.com, carries her toddler in a Lillebaby Carrier for while hiking with her children.
My “too-old-to-be-carried” daughter catches a ride in my LILLEBaby CarryOn Toddler carrier.

Don’t forget the rain cover for your hiking carrier. It will provide good protection from the rain and wind.

Find the best toddler carrier for hiking in my post about all the best hiking backpack carrier options.

4. Toddler Hiking Backpack

Just like having their own toddler hiking boots, having your child carry her own backpack will help them feel like a real hiker and get them excited about going out in nature. I like to buy multi-purpose travel gear, so I make sure my kids’ toddler travel backpack doubles as their hiking backpack.

Don’t let them toddler pack too much – keep it to 1 – 2 small toys, a snack and maybe your toddlers water bottle. A small bug catcher with magnifying glass is a super fun (and educational) toy for toddlers to bring on family hikes.

If your kids are like mine, you’ll likely end up carrying your toddlers backpack, at least for a portion of the time. Bring some carabiners to attach it to your daybag (which also work for attaching toys).

a young boy, from the Baby Can Travel website, wears a toddler hiking backpack on a family hike in Utah.
My son wears his toddler hiking backpack on a family hike in Utah.

For more information, please read my post on the best toddler backpacks for travel.

5. Toddler Rain Suit

Rain isn’t likely to bother your toddler all that much, in fact they might like hiking in the rain even more! A toddler rain suit is a great way to keep your toddler warm and dry on your family hikes! They pack pretty small too, so throw it in your backpack if the forecast is threatening rain.

Personally, I’m not sure if there’s anything cuter than a toddler hiking in a rain suit and boots!

a toddler, from the Baby Can Travel family,  wears a rain suit and rain boots while hiking in the rain with his parents.
My son was so cute in his little rain suit!

6. Wide Brimmed Sun Hat

For good sun protection for while hiking, I love the wide brimmed hats by Sunday Afternoons. My kids have been wearing Sunday Afternoons sun hats for years. The combination of a wide brim and ample neck coverage provides excellent protection from the sun.

Based on how much I used them, how well they worked and how long they lasted, the Sunday Afternoons hat must be the best toddler sun hat. Your child’s sun protection won’t be complete without a pair of toddler sunglasses.

a young hiker, from the Baby Can Travel family, wears a Sunday Afternoons sun hat while on a hike in Shenandoah National Park with his parents (and stuffy).
My kids love their Sunday Afternoon sun hats – which is good because they lasted for years!

7. Spill Proof Snack Cup

Toddlers love snacks on hikes, so bring plenty of snacks, and maybe a few treats too… My toddler travel snacks list is a great place to start for hiking snacks.

But if there’s one thing toddlers are good at, it’s spilling all their food. My little guy was an expert at spilling food, so I got him 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.

As funny as it sounds, spill proof snack cups are really important hiking gear for toddlers. In all seriousness, toddler snack food left lying on the trail is very bad for the wildlife we love so much. With these snack cups, you won’t be spending all your time picking all your toddlers food off the hiking trail.

a hiking toddler, from the BabyCanTravel.com family, holds on to a spill proof snack cup in the forest.
This is just 1 of 100,000 pictures I have of my son with his spill proof snack cup.

8. Toddler Hiking Clothes

While having a specific toddler hiking outfit really isn’t necessary, I recommend you consider these two important items depending on your climate:

  • A warm fleece jacket is a versatile piece of toddler hiking clothes for days when you need to dress in layers. They pack small and provides extra warmth under a rain suit. Weather can be unpredictable on a family hike, so packing a small fleece jacket is worth it just in case.

  • I also love zip off hiking pants for toddlers. These versatile hiking pants are perfect for those days that start out cold but turn hot.
a young hiker, from the Baby Can Travel website, wears toddler hiking clothes in the forest.
My son conveniently models both a fleece jacket and zip-off hiking pants for toddlers.

If nothing else, just make sure to pack an extra toddler hiking outfit or two in case your little hiker gets too deep in a puddle or has an accident.

Love sharing the outdoors with your toddler? The good news is that if you go camping with a toddler, a lot of this hiking gear also doubles as camping gear for toddlers.

9. Toddler Travel Potty

If your toddler is working on potty training, you might want to consider a travel potty (even just to have in the car). To be honest, I knew we’d be out hiking frequently, so I made an effort to teach our toddler how to go in the bushes, but I recognize this isn’t feasible for all toddlers or families.

I also made sure our toddler was capable of going in regular public toilets, so they could use the trail toilets (bring sanitizer 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. For more options, check out my other recommended toddler travel potties.

10. Hiking Games

Hiking games are an excellent way to get your toddler moving on the trail. A few good options for toddler hiking games are:

  • I discovered that keeping our toddlers mentally engaged really helps distract them from the effort of hiking and keeps them happily moving along the trail. A great idea to keep your toddler engaged, while learning to be observant in nature is to bring along a set of outdoor toddler scavenger hunt cards.

  • A favorite hiking game for our toddlers was to hide small plastic jungle animals along the trail. One adult runs ahead to hide the animals, while the other helps the kids look. It’s amazing how this simple hiking game for toddlers keeps them moving swiftly along the trail!

  • 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 sturdy binoculars 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.
two kids, from BabyCanTravel.com, play hiking games for toddlers while out with their parents in the woods.
My kids loved to play hide-and-seek while on our family hikes.

Wondering where to hike? I 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.

11. Water Bottle

Water is an easy thing to overlook, but a lack of it can ruin your family hike in a hurry, so take my advice and bring plenty of water for everyone. If you are using a large day bag or a toddler backpack carrier, I recommend a water bladder. If you teach your toddler how to drink out of it, you won’t need to bring extra water bottles. I found that my kids enjoyed drinking from the water bladder so much, my problem was that they drank too much water!

Another great option is to use one of these CamelBak kids water bottles, which they can carry in their own backpack. My kids used these CamelBak water bottles for many years. The spout is the same as you’ll find on CamelBak hydration bladders, so it will help train your younger kids how to use one (which will come in handy when they are older).

the BabyCanTravel.com kids drink water out of hydration bladders while sitting in their Deuter Kid Comfort 3 hiking backpack carriers.
My kids drink from their hydration bladders while taking a break in their Deuter backpack carriers.

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
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Extra warmth layer
  • Mitts and wool hat
  • First aid kit
  • Diaper change mat
  • Diapers & wipes
  • Wet/dry bag
  • Hiking games
  • Water
  • Spill proof snack cup
  • Lunch / Snacks
  • Carabiners to attach toys or toddlers backpack to your own

Why Go Hiking with Toddlers?

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.

My partner and I are usually very goal-oriented hikers and we often found it challenging to slow down and hike at a child’s pace. But, the biggest piece of advice I can give you based on my years experience hiking with toddlers, is to force yourself slow down. The goal is not to finish the hike; the goal is to make hiking fun and pleasurable for your child. And don’t be surprised if your toddler teaches you a little something about the wonders of nature along the way!

Preparing to Hike with a Toddler

Before you plan your first adventure along the hiking trails with your toddler, be sure to read all my best tips for hiking with toddlers first.

Happy trails! I hope you enjoy getting out hiking with your toddler as much as I did. 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.

The Best Hiking Gear for Toddlers

This post was written & edited by:

info@babycantravel.com | Website | + posts

Celine Brewer is the owner of Baby Can Travel. Not only does she have years of experience traveling with babies & toddlers, but she's helped millions of new parents travel with their babies and toddlers for over a decade. In addition to writing on her baby travel blog, she has shared her expertise on traveling with a baby or toddler by contributing to articles about traveling with a baby with the Washington Post, USA Today, the Lonely Planet magazine and Pregnancy & Newborn magazine.

Celine also writes about family travel on the site FamilyCanTravel.com, which she co-owns with her husband. Being from the Canadian Rockies, she shares her passion about her home and travel to Banff National Park and area on their site TravelBanffCanada.com.

Read more about Celine Brewer.