Must-Have Hiking Gear for Families and New Hikers

When my husband and I go on a hike on our own, it’s a bit different than when we hike with the kids. We can go at a faster pace, more difficult terrain, and go for longer. But we love when the kids get in on the action and we’re able to create a great memory for the whole family. We also realize that we pack a little differently when we take kids hiking. So whether you are hiking as a family or just new at hiking, here are things you must bring when you hike!

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Best Day Packs for Hiking

These day packs are on the lighter side. You can fit plenty of snacks, waters, and other things you might need in these packs without feeling like you are going on a week-long backpacking trip. We’ve used a few of these ourselves are really like the ease of use.

The Venture Pal hiking pack is the lightest. It has plenty of space, and it rolls up into itself into a small little ball. Unroll it and you’ve got a large pack with spots to hold a few waters on the outside as well.

man with a green hiking pack

The Samit hiking pack has padded straps, making it feel a bit better on the shoulders. It’s a bit more comfortable than the Venture Pal, so it you are adding more than a couple waters, the Samit can handle the weight better and ease the weight on your shoulders better. The 40 liter capacity bag has plenty of space, water bottle holders on the sides, and pockets to stay organized.

green hiking backpack

^ 📷 The Samit it really comfortable to wear.

If you’re trekking to a waterfall or other spot where you risk getting wet, the Diamond Candy pack is perfect. This lightweight bag has a 40 liter capacity, plus it’s made of water resistant material. Need extra protection? It comes with a rain cover.

Kids can even get the perfect hiking pack with the Osprey Kid’s backpack. The design is comfy and simply, with a main pocket, mesh side pockets for water bottles, and a front pocket that can hold a hydration pack, if desired. It’s always nice when they can carry some of their own stuff!

Hiking Gear for Kids- Awesome Baby Carriers for Hiking

One piece of hiking gear that really came in handy over and over was our frame backpack. Sometimes I would think “we can’t go hiking, we have a baby!”, and then I’d remember that we have the backpack. A framed backpack is designed to carry a baby or toddler along as comfortably as possible. We’ve done some pretty great hikes without leaving anyone out! We always used a Kelty framed pack, and we used it through 4 children. It’s still in great shape. These are sturdy, durable, and convenient. We never had to miss a hike.

man holding child in a back carrier

Best Water Bottles to Take Hiking

Having water on your hike is always important. We’ve definitely been in a situation where we thought the hike was short enough and we’d be fine. We were wrong. It gets hot, and no matter how short the hike it, you have to stay hydrated. Check out these great kids’ water bottles for hiking.

For shorter hikes, these Camelbak water bottles are perfect for the kids. We love them because they hold plenty for those short outings and they don’t leak, plus they come in all sorts of fun designs for the kids. Depending on the length of hike, we either use the smaller 12oz eddy or the larger 25oz eddy.

various camelbak bottles
two girls hiking on reddish sandy trail

We adults like to take a larger water bottle, especially for those longer hikes. One, that way we know we’ll have plenty of water. And two, if they kids end up drinking all their water, we’ll have enough to share. We’ve learned to always bring more water than you think you need. Sometimes we’ll bring two water bottles per person.

My daughter will often grab a 32 oz Nalgene bottle. They come in plenty of colors, so everyone can choose their own and not get them mixed up. These days, they are BPA-free. You can choose a wide mouth or narrow spout according to your preference.

large nalgene bottle

Great Hiking Shoes for Kids and Adults

When it comes to hiking, the terrain can vary greatly depending on where you are going. Even within just one hike we find that the terrain changes from smooth dirt trails to climbing over rocks. Getting specific hiking shoes will help as most are water resistant, helping keep your feet dry in rain or water scenarios. Most importantly, hiking shoes are durable as you cross terrain and built to handle rough trails. Lastly, they help provide stability on the foot and ankle as you trek across different terrains.

Are hiking shoes absolutely necessary for beginner hikers? Probably not if you are going on easy, paved, or dirt roads. But if you venture off into rocky areas, hiking shoes can really save your ankle from being sore the next day (or even during the hike) and give your feet some good support. So I strongly recommend them.

Women’s Hiking Shoes

I have Lowa hiking shoes, made with a water resistant Gortex outer layer. Mine have lasted a long time, and now there are plenty of styles to choose from.

brown women's hiking shoes

Recommended Men’s and Women’s Hiking Shoes

Other reputable brands make great hiking shoes and boots as well, like Columbia, Keen, and Merrell. My husband loves his Merrells!

Kid’s Hiking Gear- Best Kid’s Hiking Shoes

For Kids, we love Merrell hiking shoes. My son uses the Moab 2 style, which provides a good support, thick sole, and waterproof protection. It’s hard to go wrong with any style of Merrell, though.

brown men's hiking shoes

Merrell’s Trail Chaser shoe is unisex and comes in many colors. It’s a nice, simple starter hiking shoe for kids. The Chameleon also comes in a few colors, and has a higher back to it, giving your child a bit more ankle support on rocky trails. It is also waterproof.

Hiking Socks to Protect Your Feet

To be honest, I use regular workout socks when I go hiking. Some people blister easier and require a better, cushioned sock when they hike though. Here are a few highly rated socks created just for hiking.

These socks are a lesser-known brand, but have thousands of high reviews. The wicking material will help keep your feet dry, helping with blister control. Or, try Smartwool socks, a reputable brand in outdoor gear. These will help keep your feet dry and provide a nice cushioning to keep them comfortable as well.


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Hydration Packs for Day Hikes

One thing that makes carrying water a bit easier is giving everyone a hydration pack. These are basically smaller backpacks that hold a large bladder with an attached tube/straw. This makes getting a drink really easy and convenient. The kids really like being able to drink out of a hydration pack, plus there’s a pocket to store a snack or two in. There are a great way for kids to carry their own water (and adults) if you don’t want to pack up a bunch of water bottles. If you don’t need to pack a ton of items (perhaps you’re setting out on a shorter hike,) a hydration pack is a great way to hydrate without carrying a bunch of water bottles.

Hydration packs come in a variety of styles and brands. They also come in kid sizes! I have a Camelbak and have used it for quite a while. The convenience is so nice. Osprey has a great kids one (pictured below) so your child can manage their own hydration on the hike.

Bonus: They are also great for using on bike rides or other activities where you don’t want to carry around a water bottle.

Best Snacks for Kids and Adults on Hikes

If there’s one thing that motivates my kids to hike, it’s knowing we’ve brought snacks with us. Besides motivation, snacks are necessary for refueling when you’re using up energy and in need of a few more calories. A few of my kids favorite snacks include banana chips, peanut butter pretzels (grab at your local grocery store, Costco, or here), and these kids bars. They all provide calories and flavor.

Another obvious option is a trail mix. Scavenge for your favorite mix at the store, try this mix, or toss together your own nuts, dried fruit, and some small pieces of chocolate for your own custom mix.

Other Important Hiking Needs

In addition to the big items above, there are a few other great items to take hiking.

Hiking Apparel for Women

I prefer to wear work out apparel when I hike, as it helps keep me a bit cooler and is flexible to move in. If you burn easily, you might want to opt for something with sleeves. Or lather on the sunscreen and choose a sleeveless tank to keep cool!

Under Armor is always a favorite brand of ours. It keep your cooler, and these short sleeve shirts are comfy and easy to move in.

I like the Nike tank for the same reasons, but it’s nice to go sleeveless when it’s hot.

I have a couple of the Vapor long sleeve tops, which are great in cooler weather. They are 50+ SPF to keep you safe, plus their flexible and light. Plus, they are not very expensive.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Hiking Shirts for Men

Men want to be comfy too. Here are a few of my husband’s favorites. (Told ya we love Under Armor)

Pro Tip: These make awesome gifts for birthdays and holidays!

Sunscreen– You can quickly go from comfortable to hot and toasty, thanks to not only hiking but the sun’s strong rays. No one likes to come home burned from any outdoor activity. Even if you think you don’t need sunscreen…you do. We love using this gentler, more natural sunscreen made with zinc oxide. It works really well and is gentle on my kids skin (even with eczema.) We adults use it too! Pick your favorite brand and make sure to lather up before you head out.

A Hat- a hat can be really helpful in keeping the sun out of your face, helping to keep you cool. I will also add sunglasses for that same reason. It’s quite awful coming home from a day of hiking with dry, stinging eyes because you didn’t protect them.

Bug Spray– Chances are good that if you and the kids are hiking, you are going somewhere that bugs live. Make sure to spray up with bug spray before setting out so you don’t spend the next week scratching! I’ll note that using Deet is the most effective way to keep the bugs off. However, we aren’t fans of Deet, so we go for a more natural spray and it has worked well for us!

Animal Safety Devices- The idea of coming across a moose or bear might sound cool…until you actually see one. Remember that when you are hiking, you are going into their habitat, so they may respond accordingly if they are frightened. The best way to avoid a wildlife encounter is to make sure you never surprise wildlife of your presence. Grab some bells and hang them on your backpacks, that way the sounds will alert anything that you are in the area (instead of surprising them.)

Consider purchasing bear spray, should you need some. Better to be prepared!

In addition to devices, make sure to check the Visitor’s Center or signage in the area you are hiking. They will have “what to do” info in case you see wildlife. Always be aware of what animals live in the area and what to do should you see one. (Tip: taking a picture isn’t always the best response!)

Hiking Gear for Beginners and Kids

Once you start taking those longer treks and the kids get older and can manage a bigger hike, this list will get bigger. But for new hikers and younger kids, this list of hiking needs for beginners is a perfect place to start to get you out on the trail.

Where are you most looking forward to taking your first (or next) hike?

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29 thoughts on “Must-Have Hiking Gear for Families and New Hikers”

  1. These hiking essentials are great suggestions! We bought a hydration pack a couple of years ago and it was a brilliant investment! It makes carrying large volumes of water super easy! My hiking boots are due an upgrade though, I’m going to look into your recommendations! Thanks for the great guide!

  2. As hikers too, I really focus on good breathable socks and footwear. It makes those longer hikes bearable.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this. I’m usually so underprepared with proper footwear and quite often my back hurts when I have the wrong gear on my back. Love these tips and saved for later. Thank you!

  4. There are so many water bottles and hiking backpacks to choose from, so I’m glad you pointed out a few that work well! Loving all of these gear tips!

  5. The socks are key! They make a HUGE difference! I also have a hydration bladder that makes everything sooooo much easier. No more bottles on long distance hikes!

    • Yes, those are awesome! We switch off between bladders and bottles depending on how far / how much water we need!

  6. I recently bought my first hiking bots and wow, what a difference! I will look into these backpacks, they look so useful!

  7. That’s a lot of water bottles! I love my Nalgene. It’s the perfect size for a day hike but I have a hydration reservoir for longer ones. Love the backpack choices. I’m kind of addicted to buying backpacks right now so this might have been a dangerous post to read

  8. This is super helpful! Whenever I go hiking I always manage to forget water (+ bear spray). This has inspired me to prepare everything I need well before I go hiking – especially a hat!

    • Don’t ever forget water! I used to never wear a hat, but I started wearing one and I love that extra layer of keeping the sun off my eyes and face!

  9. We don’t have bears in the UK and I’ve always wanted to see them in the wild but you’re right, it sounds cool but I bet its really scary. The bell idea is great.

  10. I love your list of essentials. The Lowa hiking shoes look really nice. Also, love the colorful Camelbak water bottles. Thanks for the great suggestions.

    • Thank you! Yes, it definitely takes some preparation, which is definitely worth it to just be able and enjoy the hike 🙂

  11. Such a great list! I’m about to be doing a ton of hiking this next month and have been trying to find great hiking boots and a backpack–so this was very helpful!

    • oh NO! I’m happy to hear there was moisture on the ground, at least! But it doesn’t make for fun feet after a day of hiking!

  12. These are all really great picks! I have an (okay, a couple in varying sizes, haha) Osprey pack that I love and bug spray is definitely a must since mosquitoes seem to really like me.

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