mother and son hiking in a lush pine forest
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DO YOU NEED TODDLER HIKING GEAR? YES! AND NO.

Post Summary: A complete list of toddler hiking gear that is absolutely necessary and what you can skip if you’re on a budget.

Getting your toddler out hiking can be a tremendously rewarding experience for both parent and child. With nothing but the trees and a dirt path, time in nature with your kids can be a welcome salve to our over-connected culture.

If it’s your first time hiking with toddlers or you need a little guidance on what kind of toddler hiking gear to buy, you’ve come to the right place.

We started hiking with our son when he was a wee baby and we’ve learned through experience about what is essential hiking with toddlers gear and what can be passed if you’re looking to stay within a budget.

Finding high-quality toddler hiking gear can be nice and there’s certainly an argument for longer-lasting (but more expensive) items, but toddlers are wonderfully simple in their needs. Outside time to explore and lots of snacks.

Look through our list of the best hiking gear for toddlers to see what inspires you and what doesn’t. The most important thing is spending time outdoors with your family.

NEED MORE TODDLER TIPS?
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*This post may contain affiliate links, which means we might earn a small commission if you purchase from them. This is at no extra cost to you.

THE ESSENTIAL HIKING WITH TODDLERS GEAR GUIDE

mom and toddler running along a bridge onto a hiking trail

Here’s a quick checklist of our hiking with toddler gear.

  1. Hiking Shoes
  2. Backpack Carrier
  3. Toddler Backpack
  4. Sun Protective Clothing
  5. Hiking Hat
  6. Sunglasses
  7. Sunblock
  8. Water Bottle
  9. Snacks
  10. Bug Spray
  11. First Aid Supplies
  12. Hiking Toys

1. TODDLER HIKING FOOTWEAR

Any toddler hiking gear list is going to include finding the best toddler hiking shoes. The main things you’ll want to look for is breathability, a proper fit, a durable material, waterproofing, and good traction. Bonus points if they are machine washable and are slip ons.

These are shoes that are going to get dirty, so while their everyday athletic shoes can work, make sure you’re okay with them getting all kinds of dirty. In other words, buy a pair of toddler hiking shoes if you don’t want their other shoes to get dirty.

  • TODDLER HIKING SHOES
    blue and yellow toddler hiking sneaker
    I am a huge fan of the shoe company Merrell. My last pair of Merrells lasted for 15 years! And I did some serious traveling around the world in them. The Little Kid’s Trail Quest Jr is one the best hiking shoes for toddlers because they’re waterproof, have excellent traction, come in wide sizes and you can toss them in the washing machine. These well-made toddler trail shoes are perfect for an active kid that loves climbing, scrambling, and jumping into puddles. You can compare prices for the shoes on Merrell and Amazon.
  • TODDLER HIKING SANDALS
    toddler hiking sandal
    Hiking with toddlers can often mean playing along river beds and wading through streams. If you know you’ll be doing hikes where water is involved, it might be better to buy toddler hiking sandals that can go from trail to creek. Keen is the gold standard for hiking sandals for toddlers. The Seacamp Sandals come in a variety of fun colors, are machine washable, lightweight, and have excellent grip and arch support. Toddler sizes are available here and little kid sizes are available here.

Is it essential toddler hiking gear? Yes, but you’ll also be fine if you use regular shoes that have good traction.


2. TODDLER HIKING CARRIER

deuter Kid Comfort Pro Child Carrier (midnight)

We are advocates for letting your toddler walk as much as possible on the hiking trail, so we don’t often use a baby carrier. You can read more about why we don’t use baby carriers in our tips for hiking with toddlers post. However, a high-quality hiking carrier can be a godsend for different situations. They’re great for when you’re dealing with multiple children, there are dangerous sections, or you want to nap them while you hike.

If hiking with your toddler is something you’ll be doing a lot, then investing in a high-quality backpack carrier is the way to go. A soft structured carrier can’t replicate the support of a backpack carrier. Hands down, the best backpack carrier is the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro. It’s price point is pretty high, so if you want something more economical, check out the Luvdbaby Backpack Carrier.

Some families choose to use a toddler hiking harness. We’ve never used them, but it might be a good option for a younger toddler who wanders off a lot. You can browse through the different options here.

Is it essential toddler hiking gear? For some families, absolutely. We didn’t use ours as much, but some toddlers might need to be held more.

READ NEXT: Our picks for the best toddler carriers for travel and hiking.


3. TODDLER HIKING BACKPACK

Deuter Kikki Kid's Backpack for School and Hiking - Avocado-Alpinegreen



A toddler hiking backpack is a great addition for an older toddler who can start to carry their own stuff. Our son wouldn’t start wearing his until he was three years old, but some younger toddlers might take to wearing their own backpack. A backpack can be a great addition to hiking with a toddler because you can begin to teach them they are responsible for carrying their own stuff. Plus, all those leaves and rocks they want to collect? Great, put it in your backpack.

The best toddler hiking backpack will be lightweight with a print or design that excites them. You can absolutely go economical and get a backpack like this, but we prefer the Deuter Kids backpack for its durability and longer lasting materials.

Is it essential toddler hiking gear? No, but it comes in handy when you want them to hold their own stuff.


4. TODDLER HIKING CLOTHES

Vapor Apparel Toddler UPF 50+ UV Sun Protection Long Sleeve Performance T-Shirt for Sports and Outdoor Lifestyle

The main things to think about when dressing your toddler up for hiking are breathability, comfort, and sun protection. Toddlers tumble and love to explore dirt so only put them in clothes you can easily machine wash and that you don’t mind getting dirty. We typically use regular clothes and don’t buy anything that’s special for hiking.

No need to get special hiking pants for toddlers. They’ll do fine in joggers.

That being said, I do think using SPF clothing is a GREAT idea for sunny hikes so that you only need to use sunblock on parts of the skin that are exposed. Regular clothing simply can not offer the same level of sun protection that a UPF 50+ shirt does.

We use a quick-dry long-sleeved UPF 50+ Vapor Apparel shirt that is lightweight and moisture-wicking so he won’t get sweaty and stinky. He can also get the shirt wet so it’s a great multi-use item of clothing. It’s also on our list of beach essentials for toddlers.

If you’re doing cold weather hiking, a merino wool thermal top is a great base layer with a zipper fleece on top.

Is it essential toddler hiking gear? Yes, hiking naked would be uncomfortable!

TIP: Bring an extra change of clothing in a wet bag so you can change them if they get too dirty.


5. TODDLER HIKING HAT

VAENAIT BABY Newborn-7T Toddler Infant Kids Unisex Boys & Girls Sun Protection Sporty Flap Swim hat UPF 50+ UV Flap Cap

Finding a toddler hiking hat that has ample sun protection is essential to keeping your toddler comfortable on the trail. We’ve used wide-brimmed sun hats and baseball hats, but our favorite toddler hiking hat is a brimmed hat that has flaps that also protect their ears and neck.

The Vaenait Sporty Hat is a great choice because it has UPF 50+ protection, the brim has a slightly rigid nature (it won’t flop into their eyes), it can get wet, and they have an assortment of fun colors.

Is it essential toddler hiking gear? For sunny days, yes. The less you have to use sunblock the better.


6. SUNGLASSES

COCOSAND Kids Sunglasses with Strap Polarized Flexible Frame Soft Silicone Nose Pads for Toddler Boys Girls Ages 2-6

Our son didn’t want to wear sunglasses for a while, but around 1.5 years, he finally deemed sunglasses worth it and now he loves wearing them. We use Cocosand sunglasses because they’re smashproof, offer 100% UV protection, come with an adjustable strap, and have fun colors. If your toddler is under two years old, you can look at the Cocosand sunglasses for young toddlers.

Is it essential toddler hiking gear? No, but it’s a great choice when you’re hiking in sunny conditions.


7. SUNBLOCK

Blue Lizard Baby Mineral Sunscreen with Zinc Oxide, Water Resistant, UVA/UVB Protection with Smart Technology - Fragrance Free, Unscented, SPF 50 - 5 Fl Oz - Bottle

Even with all the sun-blocking hats and clothing, you’ll still need to have sunblock with you at all times. Even when it’s winter! Especially if you’re hiking in a high elevation which will cause you to burn quicker.

Blue Lizard Mineral Sunscreen is an excellent choice for the sensitive skin of toddlers. It’s a mineral-based sunscreen that is fragrance-free and paraben-free. Since it uses Zinc, it will have a white cast on the skin, but it’s definitely not as bad as other mineral sunscreens.

Is it essential toddler hiking gear? Yes. 100%.


8. WATER BOTTLE

Hydro Flask 12 Oz Kids Wide Mouth Straw Cap And Boot Wisteria

Having water while you’re hiking is an absolute must. We use the Hydro Flask water bottle and love it because we can fill it with ice before we go and it’s still ice-cold 24 hours later. It’s also smashproof and can withstand the rough play of toddlers. It’s also durable unlike other water bottles that may have cuter designs but, they all inevitably scrape off with time.

Is it essential toddler hiking gear? Yes. 100%.


9. SNACKS

BEAR Real Fruit Snack Rolls - Gluten Free, Vegan, and Non-GMO - Strawberry – Healthy School And Lunch Snacks For Kids And Adults, 0.7 Ounce (Pack of 12)

Does any parent need an explanation for why snacks are the answer to everything?

Great, be sure to bring enough snacks for an apocalypse.

Our favorite hiking snacks are peanut butter pretzels, almonds, apples, and for a sweet treat I’ll pack a fruit roll up from Bear. I like them because they are sweetened with fruit only.

Another cute idea is to bring a bento box with snacks and a blanket to have a picnic mid-hike.

Is it essential toddler hiking gear? Yes. 100%.


10. BUG SPRAY

Babyganics Insect Spray, 6oz, 2 pack, Made with Plant and Essential Oils, Packaging May Vary

Hiking often comes with mosquitoes. If you are hiking in a place known for mosquitoes or ticks you’ll want to buy some DEET-free bug repellent to keep the bugs at bay. Babyganics has a great spray that is designed for the sensitive skin of babies and toddlers. You can check current prices HERE.

Is it essential toddler hiking gear? Yes.


11. FIRST AID SUPPLIES

Welly Bandages | Adhesive Flexible Fabric Bravery Badges | Assorted Shapes for Minor Cuts, Scrapes, and Wounds | Colorful and Fun First Aid Tin | Monster Patterns - 48 Count

It’s always a good practice to have a first aid kit for your hike at all times. At the very least, you want to be sure to have band aids since cuts and scrapes are an inevitable part of hiking with toddlers.

Is it essential toddler hiking gear? Yes.


12. TODDLER HIKING TOYS

Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. Kidnoculars - Binoculars for Kids Ages 3+, STEM and Outdoor Toys for Toddlers, Gifts for Toddlers

I’m not of the outlook that toys are needed at all for a great hiking experience. Toddlers are more than happy with leaves, bugs, rocks, and sticks. But, some toys are fun and can enhance the outdoor experience. Our favorite hiking toys are a smashproof magnifying glass and toddler binoculars. When we hiked in Yellowstone with a toddler, he LOVED having his own binoculars. He looked at every darn hole there was. It was pretty cute.

A kid’s digital camera is also a cute toy, especially if you’re like us and enjoy taking nature photos. Our son sees his father taking photos with his high-end camera and wants to be able to do the same. A camera that’s built specifically for the rambunctiousness of a toddler can be a great hiking toy.

Is it essential toddler hiking gear? No.


That’s it! Finding toddler hiking gear doesn’t have to be complicated. While you could scour through countless outdoor gear reviews, your toddlers will be happy with the most basic supplies. What’s really important is teaching your kids about the value of a life spent outdoors.

Happy hiking!

CHECK OUT MORE OF OUR TODDLER TRAVEL POSTS:
12 Amazing National Parks For Kids
The Best Camping Toys For Toddlers
Essential Camping Gear For Toddlers
Our Picks For The Best Travel Cribs For Toddlers

pinterest graphic about toddler hiking  gear you need

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