I loved hiking with my toddlers, and now that warm days are here, we bet you you can’t wait 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 our and enjoy nature with your child. I’m here to share my years of experience hiking with my young children to help you decide what hiking gear for toddlers is appropriate for your family.
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 husband 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 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 toddler hiking 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 family hike to go slower than planned. Our best advice is to go into your hike with no expectations other than to enjoy nature with your toddler.
Best Toddler Hiking Gear
- Why Go Hiking with Toddlers?
- Preparing to Hike with a Toddler
- Best Hiking Gear for Toddlers
- Toddler Hiking Checklist
- Pin It For Later!
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Best Hiking Gear for Toddlers
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. To make sure you haven’t forgotten anything, I’ve listed all my favorite toddler hiking gear. As you can see from the photos, it is all 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.
We owned several pairs of Keen waterproof hiking boots for our 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.
Hiking shoes or boots are toddler hiking essentials 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.
2. Toddler Hiking Sandals
For those summer toddler hikes, I love Keen toddler sandals. Our kids often wore sandals for hiking in the summer. 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.
3. 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).
Tip: I like to use my .
4. Toddler Hiking 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, 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.
When we were on a shorter family hike, we’d pack the toddler hiking carrier in our backpack and only pull it out if & when needed. If we were planning a longer hike, we’d bring the backpack for carrying toddlers.
These are the two hiking carrier for toddlers I recommend:
- For a soft structure hiking carrier that I could easily pack away in my daybag, the LILLEBaby CarryOn Toddler was amazing! I loved how comfortable it was 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. 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!
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 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 my post about all the best hiking backpack carrier options.
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!
6. Wide Brimmed Sun Hat
For good sun protection for while hiking, I love the wide brimmed hats by Sunday Afternoons. Our kids have been wearing Sunday Afternoon sun hats for years. The wide brim plus coverage over the neck provides excellent protection from the sun. This is the best toddler sun hat, it comes with us everywhere and our kids are more than happy to wear them. Your child’s sun protection won’t be complete without a pair of toddler sunglasses.
7. Spill Proof Snack Cup
Toddlers love snacks on hikes, so bring plenty of snacks, and maybe a few treats too… Our 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. Our little guy was an expert at spilling food, so we 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 honesty, toddler snack food is very bad for the wildlife we love so much, and with these snack cups, you won’t be spending all your time picking all your toddlers food off the hiking trail.
8. Toddler Hiking Clothes
While having a specific toddler hiking outfit really isn’t necessary, there are two important items to consider:
- 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 our zip off hiking pants for toddlers. These versatile hiking pants are perfect for those days that start out cold but turn hot.
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.
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). 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 sanitizer wipes to wipe down the seat).
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:
- We 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 you 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.
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.
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 both you and your toddler. If you are using a large day bag or 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.
Another great option is to use one of these CamelBak kids water bottles, which they can carry in their own backpack. Our 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 andy when they are older).
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
Find this entire list in our Toddler Hiking Gear Idea List on Amazon.
Happy trails! We hope you enjoy getting out hiking with your toddler as much as we 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.
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This post was written & edited by:
Celine is the owner of Baby Can Travel. Not only does she have years of experience traveling with babies & toddlers, but she's been helping new parents travel with their babies and toddlers for over a decade. In addition to writing on her baby travel blog, she has contributed to articles about traveling with a baby with the Washington Post, 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.