Gear For Day Hiking With Kids

With over a decade of hiking as a couple, and almost nine of those years with at least one child, we have settled into a solid routine of packing and preparing for a hike. During that time, we have also become loyal to several specific brands and types of things we prefer to take on our family excursions. Here are a few of those things with a brief description or explanation of why these make it into the back of the car each time we head out the door.

Big Stuff

Deuter Child Carrier – We couldn’t make it this far without an easier way to travel with a baby and now toddler. We used to have a Kelty carrier we bought used, and worked great for a couple of years, and then recently upgraded to a Deuter carrier after some extensive research.

Hiking Sticks – These help us balance, take down spiderwebs ahead of us, and really take the strain off our knees on some of the steeper inclines and declines. We have a basic set that has held up fairly from Walmart (Outdoor Products brand) and a better set from Amazon that is Pacemaker Stix brand.


We bring water no matter how long or short the hike. For a day trip, we will bring the Lifestraw water bottle. We always packed but never had to use iodine tablets prior to getting that water bottle.

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Camelbacks – Both the bladders and water bottles are a household favorite. We each have the bladder / backpacks, and we even have a child-size version for Benjamin. My bladder goes in a Camelback pack that serves as a daypack to keep extra things Josh doesn’t want to carry in the Deuter. Benjamin’s is small enough he can only fit a couple of snacks in it. The baby carrier includes a space to store Josh’s Camelback bladder when we are out as a family.

Lifestraw Water Bottle – This hasn’t ever been needed during our hikes with the kids, but Josh and I have used this on some of our longer and more intense or overnight backpacking days and it’s already proven its worth. It is difficult to drink from and I wouldn’t want to have it as my primary way to filter water.

In the Packs

First Aid Kit – What we carry in our pack is somewhat small for day hikes, with a more extensive first aid kit kept in the car or camper for emergencies.

Snacks – Our family favorites are beef jerky, Cliff Bars, raisins, trail mix, and nuts. We’ve also brought candy to use as distractions and rewards on the trail as needed.

Solar phone chargers – We each have solar powered cell phone chargers from Amazon and charge them in advance to keep phones charged as needed during the day.

Maps, guide books, compass – Tim Ernst writes our favorite guide books, and we have nearly all of them. When we hike, we use our phones to snap pictures of the maps and trail descriptions we will need as we hike that day.

Safety: Pocket knife or multi tool, lighter or matches, a whistle (one for each kid hiking independently as well).

Childcare: Diapers, wipes, and a change of clothes.

Camera – We sometimes bring our Canon DSLR and have added a mic to take video of our trips.

What We Wear

We all dress in layers, and dress our children the same, and avoid jeans and cotton, but we don’t necessarily have certain brands we prefer or avoid wearing.

Wool socks – Smart Wool is my absolute favorite brand of socks. I’ve bought some less expensive versions of wool socks off Amazon and they didn’t hold up. My Merrell hiking socks are a close second place to the Smart Wool.

Merrells – This is a shoe brand we both swear by. I’ve tried several other major brands, and keep coming back to buy new Merrells when my previous pair gets too worn out or looses too much support. We have traded out the insoles that come with our Merrells to extend the life of the shoes, once the original insole looses its shape.

Water Shoes – Ben and I prefer Velcro secure sandals (mine are Chacos and Ben’s are Columbia brand), and Josh and Maddie each have traditional water shoes. A large number of trails in the Ozarks require stream or creek crossings and it’s hard to predict the water levels in advance. We also commonly run into swimming / wading holes that could have sharp rocks or other hazards that can be avoided by splashing in with something on our feet.

Sun protection and bug spray – Bug spray and sunscreen for everyone, and hats for those who will wear them. I especially love the face sunscreen that comes in a deodorant-type stick for myself and the kids.

Anything Else?

All Trails App – We often use this app to search for hikes in a given area, read trail reviews, and look over maps. When you turn the app on at the start of a trail, it will track your location, elevation, and distance, and provide you with interesting statistics of your hike.

I’m sure there are other things we have and will get in the coming years, but I think we’ve finally hit a spot where we are confident with the gear we have.



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