Toddler Hiking Gear: The Full Guide



Feb 20, 2023

If you start a toddler hiking you will be amazed when they have grown to become your best adventure buddy. I love going hiking with my toddlers and watching them as I see their love for the outdoors expand. 

Hiking with toddlers group shot
Hiking in the Poconos with friends

The great thing about hiking with a toddler is you don’t need much. With only a small investment in a couple toddler hiking gear you will be ready to hit the trails. Be amazed at how quickly your toddler’s hiking skills improve and what your toddler is capable of.

One item I developed with my toddler is our Momma and Toddler Hiking Journal. Here, my toddlers and I can plan, relive and dream up new hiking adventures together. A great way to increase your toddler's enthusiasm for hiking!

Other resources are my Complete Guide to Hiking with Toddlers, Hiking with a Baby and Dressing Toddler or Baby for a Hike.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. Rest assured all products I suggest are products I have bought or would buy based on personal experience or through my network of other mommas.

Can a 2 Year Old Go Hiking?

Of course! A 2 year old can certainly go hiking with you. A toddler will not be able to hike long distances nor hike on tough terrain but can start hiking easy sections with you. For all the harder sections or to cover meaningful distance you will need toddler hiking gear.

hiking with toddlers brothers
My toddler boys hiking

The great thing about a 2 year old is that they quickly adapt. The more you hike with your toddler the better they will become and before no time will be able to hike all different types of terrain.

I started letting my children out of the hiking backpack as soon as they could walk. At the beginning they would only hike small sections of the trail and boy did we move slow, but it was a start! Now my almost 3 year old can run down trails!

What Do I Need for Hiking with a Toddler?

The main toddler hiking gear you will need is a carrier for toddler when hiking. A toddler carrier hiking backpack opens up hiking options for you and your toddler. You are no longer restricted to distances your toddler can hike, but now you can carry your toddler for parts of the hike. 

hiking with a toddler in a carrier
Me hiking the southwest trail in England with my toddler

Other items will be useful if you hike with a toddler often. Most items you might already own, things like a spill proof snack container, a toddler water bottle and toddler sun hats. 

What Should I Carry When Hiking with Toddlers?

Most toddler carrier hiking backpacks come with storage compartments, making it even more valuable. Besides carrying your toddler at times there are other essentials you will want to bring along.

Water, food, portable changing diaper equipment and a first aid kit are the essential items you will want to carry on all your hikes. Other items like a change of clothes, bug spray and toddler hiking toys will be optional. Keep reading to find out all the suggested items you might want to carry when hiking with a toddler.

Toddler Hiking Gear:** Toddler Carrier Hiking Backpack

The main equipment you need to hike with a toddler is a toddler carrier hiking backpack. This allows you the option of carrying your toddler on hikes. If you want to hike any distance this is a must. A toddler can hike, but won’t be consistent in distance or determination.

A toddler carrier hiking backpack also enables you to bring other items with you when hiking. I will go over what you should pack hiking with a toddler in a bit.

When Can You Start Using a Toddler Carrier Hiking Backpack?

toddler hiking gear child carrier
My daughter at 7 months loves the hiking backpack

You can start to use a carrier for a toddler while hiking when your child is about 6 months old. That is how old each of my three kids were when I started using a hiking backpack. Before 6 months of age a soft structured carrier is best for hiking. 

Your child should have full neck and head control before using a hiking backpack. 

 Features for Selecting the Best Toddler Carrier for Hiking:

  • Sunshade built in: best back toddler carriers will come with a sunshade built in. You then do not have to worry so much about sun exposure
  • Storage Space: The number of storage spaces varies for different hiking backpacks for toddlers. Based on how much you think you want to bring with you while hiking, different backpacks will be best. 
  • Cost: There is a range of cost when considering a toddler carrier for hiking. The more you hike the more you will benefit from a decent carrier.
  • Weight: Each carrier weighs differently and you don’t want to add too much weight unless you need it 
  • Safety: you only should consider toddler carriers for hiking that keep your toddler safe; that means a 5 point harness or equivalent.

Best Toddler Carrier for Hiking

Hiking BackpackFeaturesAwarded
Kelty Journey PerfectFit Signature
Integrated SunShade Machine Washable Grab Handles for Lifting Large Storage Compartments- 2 Waist Band Pockets- 2 5-Point Harness Lightweight: 6 lbs 6 oz Kickstand
Best Overall Toddler Hiking Backpack Best Toddler Backpack for Travel
Deuter Kid Comfort Child Carrier
5-Point Harness Kickstand Large Storage Compartments- 2 Waist Band Pockets- 2 Durable Water Repellent Treatment Aircomfort Mesh Back
Runner Up Best Toddler Hiking Backpack
Osprey Poco Plus Child Carrier Backpack
Hydration Pack Compatible (sold separately) Integrated SunShade Double Halo Child Harness Large Storage Compartments - 3 Hip Belt Pockets- 2 Kickstand Removable Drool Pad and Washable Dual Grab Handles
Best Premium Toddler Hiking Backpack
ClevrPlus Deluxe Adjustable Baby Carrier
Lightweight: 5.5 pounds Integrated Sunshade Large Bottom Storage- 1 Mini Removable Backpack Kickstand 5-Point Harness
Best Budget Toddler Hiking Backpack

My Backpack Toddler Carrier for Hiking

The backpack I recommend and personally use is the Kelty Journey PerfectFit Signature series backpack. I have used this carrier now for over 4 years and love it. We have two so both my husband and I can carry a child.

The Kelty brand has three versions of the hiking backpack, the PerfectFit, PerfectFit Signature and PerfectFit Elite. When comparing the brands I ruled out the PerfectFit because it didn't come with a sunshade built in. I do a lot of hiking and it gives me peace of mind knowing that on a sunny day I can shade our toddler.

kelty toddler carrier for hiking
My two boys in the Kelty PerfectFit Signature Backpacks

The biggest difference between the Signature and Elite is that the Elite has a built in water hydration system. The Signature gives you a place on the belt to carry your own water bottle. I personally have never gotten on well with hydration packs so I prefer to bring my own water bottles.  

Another consideration is that the Elite weighs about a pound more than the Signature and has 7 compartments compared to the 4 compartments the Signature has. I don't know about you, but when I am hiking my kids up a mountain I never wish for more stuff to lug around! 

The 4 compartments the Signature comes with is more than enough space to fit the diaper changing gear, snacks, water and a blanket if desired.  It even carries our coffee making equipment for when my husband comes along...he might have a coffee obsession!  If I am being honest, maybe I do too!

To read further on differences check out Best Back Carrier for Toddler.

Toddler Hiking Gear: Snacks and Water

If you have a toddler you know how much their world revolves around snacks! To keep your toddler happy while hiking plan on packing plenty of snacks and water. 

toddler hiking gear: snack containers
My boys and their SkipHop Snack Containers

When out in nature you should leave it as you found it. That means not allowing your toddlers’ food to be left on the ground. The best solution is to pack snacks in a spill proof snack container. 

I use the Skiphop snack containers when out hiking with my kids. I love the cute animal designs and I have a piece of mind that my toddlers can’t dump their snack on the ground.

Another necessity when hiking with a toddler is to stay hydrated. I don’t like sharing my water bottle with my toddler, they constantly bring home germs from preschool! Also my toddlers enjoy having their own water bottles. 

Skiphop allows you to get a straw water bottle that matches the spillproof snack container. Another decent option is Camelbak water bottle.  Camelbak is a larger bottle. I have a pair of both water bottles.

Toddler Hiking Gear: Toddler Hiking Clothes

Toddlers don’t require specific hiking clothes, but certain clothing items will make hiking easier, or keep your laundry to a minimum. Clothes that are made to get muddy or wet work best. You want your toddler to have a good time which means letting them explore; aka getting dirty. 

Therefore great toddler hiking clothes are actually raingear for toddlers

Toddler Hiking Pants

A good pair of hiking pants are useful to keep your toddler dry even when playing in puddles and mud. A toddler can splash in the puddles and sit in the dirt without worrying about getting cold. 

Different brands offer different features. For winter you could get a pair of toddler hiking pants that have a fleece lining that will double as snow pants. 

_My Toddler_s Hiking Pants

I have Oakiwear Toddlers Trail and Rain splash pants for my kids during the non-summer months.

toddler hiking pants: Oakiwear Trail Pants
My boys in their Oakiwear Trail Pants

They gravitate to all the puddles and mud on the trails and with these pants I am not concerned. I can let them play and they stay warm and dry.

I have my kids place their hiking pants over their normal pants in cold weather. Layering is a great way to keep your toddler warm.

In the summer time my toddlers either hike in Columbia Silver Ridge Pull-On Pant or shorts. The toddler hiking pants give the advantages of sun and foliage protection. They are lightweight, dry quickly and durable, just like my hiking pants.

Hiking Shoes for Toddlers

Toddlers don’t require hiking boots, a pair of athletic shoes is sufficient. Most toddlers are not hiking the tough sections of a trail to require expensive hiking boots. 

However there are things to consider when purchasing a hiking shoe for toddlers. Toddlers are new walkers and you want a shoe that is flexible and has good traction as they develop this skill. 

A toddler is still strengthening the muscles in their feet and ankles and a more flexible shoe aides in their development. Although you want a toddler hiking shoe to be flexible and lightweight you still need it to protect their feet from nature; think rocks and sticks.

Main Things to Look for in Hiking Shoes for Toddlers

  • Rubber Sole for protection
  • Traction for Grip
  • Lightweight and flexible 
  • Comfortable
  • Dry Quickly

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Hiking Sandals for Toddlers

During the warmer months of the year a hiking sandal for toddlers is ideal. A good hiking sandal for toddlers is made to get wet and dry quickly. Your toddler will be able to run through every puddle or play in the stream beds.

toddler hiking sandals on the trail
My toddler hiking in his Keen sandals

A hiking sandal for toddlers should have good traction; you don’t want your toddler slipping on rocks in the water. The hiking sandal should be comfortable to wear and stay securely on your toddler’s feet. 

Main Things to Look for in Hiking Shoes for Toddlers

  • Stay Securely on Toddlers Feet 
  • Quick Drying
  • Comfortable
  • Rubber Sole for protection
  • Traction for Grip
  • Lightweight and flexible 

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All of my kids have Keen Newport H2 Sandal. These aren’t just great hiking sandals but also summer sandals. My kids find them comfortable to wear all day and they provide all the support they need. 

My kids are able to climb on the rocks, play in the water or hike on all terrain with Keens Newport H2 Sandals. A pair has never broken on me and I was able to hand down each pair to my next child.


You will need to protect your toddler’s face when hiking in the summer months. The best sun protection when your toddler is hiking out of the backpack is for your toddler to wear a sunhat. A hat with a wide brim works best at covering your toddler’s face. A 3 inch brim is recommended. 

toddlersunhat for hiking
1.5 year old wearing his sunhat on our hike

Features of Different Toddler Sun Hats

  • Brim Width
  • Neck Coverage
  • Closure mechanism
  • Adjustability
  • Quick drying ability

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Sunglasses are not required to hike with a toddler, but your toddler might not agree. If you hike in sunglasses it won’t be long before your toddler also wants a pair. 

One thing I learned about toddler sunglasses is I don’t want to spend too much on them. My toddlers have lost several pairs and are notorious for not keeping them on for very long. 

The sunglasses should be polarized and the more colors the better, according to my toddlers! My kids wear DYLB Kids Polarized sunglasses. It comes in a pack of 3 and in different colors. 

To read further on Toddler Hiking Clothes check out How to Dress Your Baby/Toddler For Hiking.

Hiking Clothes for Women

Adult specific hiking clothes are not 100% required to hike with a toddler. In general, working out clothes are a good substitute until you want to invest in hiking specific clothing.

The more you hike, the further you go and more time carrying your toddler while hiking will make you wish you had certain hiking clothes. 

Since I only like to comment on specific products I use I can only suggest women’s hiking clothes, sorry men!

Hiking Pants for Women

Hiking pants are designed to be lightweight, versatile and quick drying. A pant leg will protect your legs from shrubs or poison ivy and provide sun protection. 

A great hiking pants can get wet and dry out during the hike. The material will be rain and stain repellent and flexible. It is made to be durable so you don’t wear out your normal clothes. Once you try on hiking pants you will wonder what took so long. 

I wear Columbia Saturday Trail Stretch Pants. On hot days I can roll up the legs to convert them to capris. These lightweight stretch pants have been going strong for 5+ years. The flexibility doesn’t inhibit any leg movement as I hike on all different types of terrain. 

Hiking Boots for Women

Another piece of hiking gear I can’t recommend enough is a great pair of hiking boots. Hiking boots provide great support for your ankles and feet and amazing traction for hiking.

hiking while pregnant
Hiking while pregnant in my Columbia hiking boots

Hiking while pregnant in my Columbia hiking boots

I played sports growing up and have sprained my ankles and torn ligaments in my foot. Hiking boots ensure I don’t turn my ankles during hiking or lose my grip. The last thing I want is to fall over with a toddler in my hiking backpack.

I wear Columbia Women’s  Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Hiking Boots and love them. If I forget my boots and am forced to wear athletic shoes I immediately miss the ankle support and grip the Columbia boot provides me.

The only time I don’t wear hiking boots is if in the summer I am going on a flat short hike that includes water play. Only in this instance do I wear my Keen hiking sandals.

Toddler Hiking Gear: Essentials to Pack in Hiking Backpack

The more prepared you are for your day out hiking with a toddler the better. Toddlers can be unpredictable and you never quite know what will set them off next. As moms or parents we can try to plan.

Toddler Diaper Essentials

Nothing is worse than your toddler desperately needing a diaper change and you have nothing with you. Always bring changing essentials. Even if you plan a short hike you never know how long it will take with your toddler or if you stop and play by a creek for an hour.

Diaper Changing Gear

If your toddler is potty trained you will still want to bring an extra pair of underwear, pants and a pull up. Toddlers can often forget they have to pee when outside and having a good time. If an accident occurs you want to be prepared.

My almost 3 year old barely ever has an accident. However, on a recent hike he forgot to pull down his pants to pee and had an accident. I forgot to bring a change of pants and underwear for him and was forced to put him in his baby sister’s diaper and pants. 

Potty trained toddlers do have accidents and it’s normal!

Other Essentials for Hiking with a Toddler

  • Bug Spray: Kid Friendly
  • First Aid Kit: In case of falls
  • Phone: In case you need help

Toddler Hiking Gear: Items for Toddlers

This section is just for fun. These suggestions are not needed but are items my toddlers enjoy having on hikes. Great items if you are trying to get your toddler more excited about hiking.

Toddler Binoculars

My kids love to bring binoculars when hiking. They often stop to look at what they can see in the distance. 

Toddler Camera

My oldest got a camera when he turned 4. He loves to take it hiking with him to document what he sees on his hikes or take pictures of his siblings and me. He later looks at the photos he took while hiking and gets excited for the next hike.

toddler hiking camera
My 3 year old and his camera

You want a toddler camera that can be dropped, waterproof and is easy to use. This camera will get abused! We have the Agoigo Kids Waterproof camera and I think it's a great first camera. No matter how many times my kids drop it it continues to work!

Outdoor Explorer & Bug Catcher Kit

If you have a toddler that is interested in bugs this kit will have them running outside. This bug catcher kit allows you to search for bugs and capture them without injuring the bugs. I release them when finished.

Bring this kit on a hike and use it while on breaks. Search the area or water for bugs or butterflies. After a while of hiking it is a great distraction to reinvigorate your toddler’s attention and improve their mood for the outdoors.

Toddler Backpack

What's cuter then a toddler carrying their own backpack when hiking? Toddler like to be like you and may ask if they can bring their backpack on the hike.

toddler hiking backpack
My toddler hiking with his backpack

My 3 year old will go around and "pack" his "hiking backpack". He might not carry it the whole way, but it's small enough to fit within my hiking backpack and makes him very proud of himself!

The backpack doesn't have to be a hiking specific backpack, just one your toddler likes. My kids have SkipHop Toddler Backpacks and those work great for us. There is a side pouch for water and enough room in the main for change of clothes and snacks.

Fun Things for Toddlers after a Hike

Nature crafts from objects found on your hike is a great activity do with your toddler. Your toddler will have a great time collecting objects and having a mento of their hike.

My favorite Nature Art Crafts for Toddlers are:

nature craft for toddler suncatcher