Hiking with your family helps teach kids about the value and beauty of nature, all while providing you with a fun activity to do together. However, before you become a true outdoorsy family, you need to make sure you’re prepared with all the right tools.
This is our guide on what to bring on your hiking trip:
Chemical-Free Insect Repellent
Bugs are annoying; there’s no doubt about that. No one wants insects and their pesky bites to get in the way of an otherwise lovely day out on the trail with your family. At the same time, we don’t want to introduce a bunch of harmful chemicals into nature or onto our kids. That’s where The Natural Patch Co. comes in.
Our BuzzPatch Mosquito Repellent Patches repel mosquitos by utilizing powerful essential oils. By using these adorable stickers, both kids and adults can enjoy the positive effects of nature, all while in nature.
No matter what, a bug bite or two is often an unfortunate reality of enjoying the outdoors. On the bright side, there are effective chemical-free ways to relieve discomfort so that you can get back to your day.
Our MagicPatch Itch Relief Patches use Grid-Relief Technology to get you feeling better in no time. Each waterproof patch lasts for seven days for long-term support.
Sun damage can occur quickly while out on the trail, so coming prepared with an appropriate SPF sunscreen is essential. Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen on you and your kids every two hours, especially if you are sweating or have gone swimming.
A First Aid Kit
Your first aid kit should include multiple necessary items, but it can also be customized further to fit your family’s needs.
Your first aid kit can include:
- Antiseptic wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Adhesive bandages
- Blister treatments
- Medical tape
If gathering all of these components sounds overwhelming, you can also get a pre-stocked first aid kit to keep on hand at all times.
A Multi-Function Base Layer
Since space is at such a premium when it comes to hiking, choosing clothes that are either multi-purpose or are specifically made for exactly what you need is key.
On shorter trips, a t-shirt and leggings could serve as a sufficient base layer. If you and your family are trekking through anything other than a short walk, though, it might be best to invest in more heavy-duty options.
Long sleeve, moisture-wicking shirts will provide you with the most versatility and comfort. Similarly, special hiking pants offer more protection against the elements while still being easy to move in. However, base layers don’t just stop at shirts and pants.
Never underestimate the importance of socks when deciding what to wear hiking. We can lose a lot of heat through our feet. Choosing the right kind of quick-drying hiking socks ahead of time can make a world of difference.
Many experienced hikers swear by Merino wool, as it is lightweight and breathable while still helping to regulate temperature. This will not be the ideal option for everyone, so be sure to do your research and get all of the hiking clothes you need before setting off on your adventure.
An Outer Layer for Different Types of Weather
When we are out there on the trail, we are completely in Mother Nature’s hands. That’s part of what we love so much about hiking and find to be such a grounding (pun slightly intended) experience. All we can do is plan ahead of time for multiple possibilities so that we are never caught unawares.
One of the best ways to plan ahead is by bringing an ultralight but effective outer layer that will protect us and our kids from all sorts of weather patterns. A windbreaker or rain jacket is always wise to bring along, especially in the spring and summer months. Even if the forecast predicted sunny skies all day long, the weather could change on a dime.
With that in mind, even perfectly sunny days can pose their own challenges. Pack some kind of sun hat to help shield your eyes from the rays and keep prolonged sun exposure to a minimum.
Cold weather day hiking essentials include a heavier jacket and possibly even an emergency blanket. Consider how far out you are planning to venture on your hike. Also, think about how much daylight you are working with. If you’re going on an extended trip on one or more hiking trails, always bring along appropriate weather protection.
Even if you end up shedding your outer layer soon into your hike, you will always feel more comfortable knowing that you and your family have options. Layering is essential, so bringing compact extra clothing is always wise, especially on a long hike.
This principle also applies to gear like a pair of warming gloves, mittens, and a beanie. These items take up relatively little space in your daypack but could end up saving the day later on.
Hiking Boots, Hiking Shoes, or Trail Runners
Having the correct shoes can make all the difference on a hike. Depending on the terrain, you and your family might need any number of different types of footwear.
When deciding what shoes fit your needs, consider the terrain you will be dealing with the most. No matter what kind of shoe you choose, make sure that you have adequate ankle support.
On more difficult or rocky terrain, hiking boots will provide you with the most versatility and protection. On smoother terrain and hikes, trail runners could be a more comfortable and lightweight option. For an added barrier against the elements, some people wear gaiters as well as their trail runners or running shoes.
A Headlamp, if Planning an Overnight
We say that a headlamp is best to take with you on an overnight trip, but we should also stress that unexpected complications can arise while on a hike. Even something as simple as losing track of time could lead you to extend your trip longer than expected. In these situations, having a headlamp and proper hiking gear to help guide the way back to civilization is crucial.
Not everyone will need trekking poles on a hike, but they can be very helpful under the right circumstances. Trekking poles are most often used during steep inclines or declines, as they provide added stability and help redistribute your weight. Not only that but giving a pair of trekking poles to a kid can make them feel like a real, rugged hiker.
Don’t Forget the Snacks
While hiking with your family, you’ll want kid-friendly snacks that are high in protein. For instance, a trail mix with nuts and dried fruit would provide necessary nutrients. The best hiking snacks are compact and easy to transport, so anything from granola to jerky can be perfect.
Water, Water, and More Water
Above all, hydration is key. Take plenty of stocked water bottles with you, and bringing extra water is a wise practice. For added protection, you could even bring a water filter along on your journey.
Keep an eye out for symptoms of dehydration in both you and your family members, and make sure to keep everyone well-stocked with water before that happens.
One of the most multi-purpose tools out there, duct tape, can be used for anything from constructing an emergency shelter to patching holes in clothing. Duct tape is waterproof and famously durable, making it ideal if your tent springs a leak and many other possibilities.
Duct tape is an essential part of any hiker’s repair kit, no matter the experience of the hiker or the length of the hike itself. No packing list is complete without it.
A Hiking Multi-Tool
When traversing through the backcountry, the last thing we want is to realize we need pliers, a can opener, or a pocket knife that we don’t have. Taking all of these items individually could start taking up valuable space in a hiking backpack, but thankfully there is a solution.
Multi-tools allow you to carry many of the most important devices you’ll need while on your hike, all in one compact package. When many people hear about multi-tools, their minds immediately jump to Swiss Army Knives. However, there are tools that are specifically made to address any and all of your hiking needs.
This essential item can be found at any number of hiking goods stores as well as online. While you certainly can comparison-shop your options on the web, going in-person to a store provides an opportunity to ask questions in real-time. This opportunity can be immensely helpful to first-time and newbie hikers.
Keep multi-tools away from kids since these have potentially dangerous mechanisms. That being said, we would also recommend discussing with your kids ahead of time that this is not a toy and should not be played with. This way, just in case they do somehow get their hands on the tool, they will know to take it seriously and give it back immediately.
A Fire Starter
Whether you’re looking to toast some marshmallows with your kids or if you need an alternate source of warmth or light, the ability to start a fire is essential. When looking for your fire starter, know that you’ll be spoiled for choice. There is an abundance of flint-based options, as well as fire starters that will complement any budget.
An External Power Bank
Depending on how far out into the wilderness you go, you might not have access to cell phone reception or service. However, you will still want to keep your phone on you and fully charged, just in case you need it.
Having a cell phone during a hike is far from only being helpful in emergencies. You can also use your phone to take lovely pictures that will turn into lifelong memories and use any apps that help you plan ahead.
Though this is hardly the most glamorous part of hiking, a trowel can be immensely helpful when it comes to digging a cat hole. To review: cat holes are small trenches that are dug into the ground so that you can use the bathroom. Again, not the chicest part of the process, but certainly a necessity nonetheless.
When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go, and no one knows that better than kids. On longer hikes, bringing a small trowel will give you the ability to discreetly excrete.
Afterward, you can put the dirt back where it belongs, bringing nature back to how it was. This is an integral part of the Leave No Trace principles, which dictate that we should only be observers of nature, and never negatively impact the outdoors.
A biodegradable or compostable toilet paper might be helpful to bring along on your adventure, too — just saying.
A Tent, Bivy, or Sleeping Bag
No overnight into the woods would be complete without proper shelter to keep you safe. A tent might be the most widely-known outdoor shelter, but there are other compact options if that isn’t quite your style.
A tent is fantastic for multiple people and might feel like it provides a bit more privacy and protection from the outside world. For instance, a hiking or camping trip with your family would probably be better served by using a tent for multiple people, plus sleeping bags and possibly a sleeping pad.
Meanwhile, a bivy is great for those primarily looking for protection from rain and bugs. A bivy will give you the protection you need, but there won’t be any additional frills. Since they are lightweight and compact, this option can be ideal for those who aren’t planning on staying overnight but know that it’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.
An Adventure for the Whole Family
Planning a hike should be an exciting experience rather than a stressful one. By going through our comprehensive guide of what you need, you can make sure your trip is one to remember.
Sunscreen and Your Morning Routine | Johns Hopkins Medicine
Heat Loss Caused by Cooling the Feet | National Institutes of Health
Hiking Boots vs. Hiking Shoes vs. Trail Runners: Choosing What's Right for You | Appalachian Mountain Club