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Here at Fulltime Families, hiking is one of our favorite activities. What better way to reconnect with both family and nature, and see the beauty of each and every area you visit? We love the challenge of hiking, the fresh air and sunshine, and the exercise involved.
In fact, we’d even go so far as to say that hiking is the ideal activity for travelers!
We recently shared a list of our absolute favorite hikes in our country’s national parks. That said, we have yet to share the best hiking gear to use when exploring these awesome trails. We will use this article to cover hiking essentials so you can be well equipped for your next hiking adventure.
The very first thing you’ll want to grab when stocking up on essential hiking gear is a good quality hiking backpack. Something durable, waterproof, and easy to pack is ideal. A lightweight bag sure does make things easier for those long hikes, and something relatively affordable is of course appreciated.
Enter the Kelty Redwing 50. This bag meets all of the criteria listed above and comes in at about $100, making it one of the least expensive hiking backpacks on the market. We also love that it comes in a variety of colors, meaning you can pick one that suits your style.
Hiking in heavy clothes in summertime temperatures is miserable, but hiking in the cold without enough layers might be even more so. In fact, we’d go ahead and say the only thing more miserable than going on a cold hike without dry and cozy clothing is doing so with cold and whiny kids.
Fortunately, you can avoid this situation by being prepared. Dressing in layers will ensure you always have enough clothing if the weather decides to turn cold, and bringing along a waterproof windshell will keep you dry and block out the wind.
To ensure you stay cool, use moisture-wicking fabrics for that bottom layer. Bringing a hat and sunglasses to protect from UV rays is also a good move.
Hiking Boots or Shoes
While hiking in regular old sneakers is totally doable on many easy trails, if you plan to hike often or on more advanced trails, hiking boots or shoes may be necessary. The type of footwear you purchase should depend on where you plan to hike and what kinds of weather you anticipate.
Cooler or rainy weather tends to call for boots. Meanwhile, those looking to hike in warm weather might prefer hiking sandals. Finally, there are lightweight trail runners, i.e. shoes that are perfect for those looking to run or jog along trails.
Not sure which boots or sandals to purchase? We love the Keens brand for hikers of all ages.
Water and Snacks
Perhaps the most important of the hiking essentials is water. While some long-term hikers find it best to bring a filter of some sort and restock when they find a water source, bringing containers of water is usually sufficient for the family day hike.
In order to ensure you have enough water for each person—and to encourage your kids to drink water throughout the hike—we highly recommend Camelbak Hydration Packs. These are great because they allow each hiker to carry water on their back and they have an easy-to-access drinking straw attached, making taking regular sips a cinch.
Of course, snacks are important too, especially if you’ll be hiking for hours or if your kids tend to get “hangry.” For hiking snacks, we like to pack trail mix or granola bars. Both pack well, give a nice boost of energy, and leave you feeling relatively full until you can get to your next meal.
What you intended to be a short day-hike can easily turn into much more if you get lost. Since a phone GPS won’t necessarily be reliable while out in the middle of nowhere on a hiking trail, it’s important to have other ways to find your way around. A good compass such as the Brunton TruArc 3 is a great place to start and should definitely be on your list of hiking essentials.
A map of the park you’re visiting and the trail you are on is also a good thing to have. Be sure to pick up or print out hard copies before you begin.
First Aid Kit, Knife, and Flashlight
You never know what may happen while out on a trail. Therefore, it’s important to be prepared for anything the trail may throw your way. These small hiking essentials will help ensure you are.
We like to keep this first aid kit in our essential hiking gear. It’s small, light, and waterproof, making it perfect for hiking. However, despite its size, the kit includes everything we might need to take care of a minor injury.
A knife is always a good thing to have on hand, and can serve a number of purposes. While you could choose to use an expensive knife, the Mora Companion works just as well in many situations and comes in under $20, making it an excellent value.
Finally, you will want a flashlight for exploring caves, lighting your way during storms, and other dark adventures. Again, you could choose something fancy, but we find something like the J5 Tactical V1-PRO works fine for our needs.
If you’ll be hiking with a baby or toddler, a carrier absolutely must go onto your hiking essentials checklist. After all, 1) a stroller won’t make it down a hiking trail, 2) carrying your little one in your arms is going to get tiring pretty quickly, and 3) even the most energetic of toddlers is likely to be worn out long before the rest of your crew.
For this purpose we love the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro Backpack. This carrier provides a lightweight frame, comfortable seat, breathable fabric, and adjustable fit to give everyone involved a comfortable experience.
It’s no secret that hiking can be a dirty activity, especially when kids are involved. Whether you’re looking to clean up before a meal or snack on the trail or need a way to wash off the dirt of the day while dry camping, Venture Wipes are just the thing.
Venture Wipes are much bigger than the average wipe, meaning you can clean more with a single wipe. Additionally, they are stronger and nicely textured. The cleaning solution used on these wipes uses no harsh chemicals and leaves you feeling fresh, and the fact that the wipes are in individual pouches means they are easily carried in a hiking bag.
Ultimate Hiking Logbook
Want an awesome place to take notes on each hike? Need a way to look back on your hiking adventures years from now? The Ultimate Hiking Logbook is the perfect addition to your hiking essentials.
This is a beautiful, high quality book that makes note taking easy by providing prompts, quick fill-in-the-blanks, and additional places to take notes. The checklist at the front of the book helps ensure you don’t forget anything, and the hiking terms included help you communicate with other hikers. Best of all, the book can be purchased with a variety of different covers, meaning you can find a logbook to suit your style.
Good Attitudes and a Sense of Adventure
Before you hit the trail, there is one final piece of essential hiking gear you should grab. Possibly the best hiking gear out there, this one weighs nothing, costs nothing, and adds heaps of fun to the whole hiking experience. What is it? Your good attitudes and sense of adventure, of course!
In order to keep your kids in a good mood and involve them in the adventure, try to create games along the way such as scavenger hunts or I Spy. Binoculars, magnifying glasses, and kid cameras all help encourage little ones to really observe their surroundings. Lastly, you will want to remember to stay in a good mood yourself. Kids feed off your energy, and your smile and happy attitude will influence their mood.
There you have it—with this list of hiking essentials gathered and packed, you’re ready to get out there and start exploring. Why not go on a hike today?
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