New Year New Gear
By Amy Whitley
Photo at right: courtesy of Amy Whitley
Spending time in the outdoors with kids is rewarding, but gearing up can be a challenge. The way kids grow, who wants to take a gamble on what products actually work and are worth the investment? Below, are five outdoor products for kids that have treated my family well. Trust me: if they can take the abuse my boys dish out, they’ll work for you, too!
Hiking boots are so hard to buy for kids! No one wants to spend a fortune on boots that will be outgrown within months, and yet kids still need the same support and protection you enjoy in the backcountry and on the hiking trails.
We’ve tried them all, and have favorites in every category. The Breeze 2.0 is the real deal: light, but tough, the Breeze looks just like an adult hiking boot in miniature. Kids’ feet stay dry with the UltraDry waterproofing, no one complains about hot, sweaty feet due to excellent ventilation and kids get full above-ankle protection with the feel of a sneaker. You’ll get your money’s worth out of these boots and still be able to pass them down to the next kid in line.
Retail price: $64.
I love the Camelbak Kicker, and recommend it every chance I get. Small enough for kids as young as 6 to manage, yet fully capable of performing on the hiking trails, ski slopes and at camp, the Kicker is the perfect hydration system for young kids. The hydration tube is fully insolated for ski days, and the reservoir is the perfect size at 1.5 liters (any larger, and kids would have trouble carrying it, any smaller, and why bother?). The Kicker leaves enough room in the outer zip pocket to store a snack, a light jacket or gloves, or a point-and-shoot camera.
Retail price: $50.
My kids had thought they’d outgrown sunhats until we became acquainted with Sunday Afternoons. The Kids’ Cruiser Classic is sophisticated enough to make school-aged kids content, while delivering on the sun protection they need. There’s a wicking sweat liner like in Mom or Dad’s hat, and the SmartStrap is crucial while river rafting or boating. Girls will like the Sun Tripper (I should know… I enjoy the adult version) and toddlers and preschoolers love the color choices of the play hats.
Retail price: $14–26.
I love Liberty Bottleworks—they’re made in Washington out of recycled aluminum—and kids love the manageable size and easy-to-work built-in straw of the kids’ version. They’re lightweight, colorful (over 25 kids’ designs!) and easy to transport. Pick 12- or 15-ounces. They’ll fit in the lunchbox during the school year, and easily slip into the bottle pocket of a backpack when trail hiking. And, yes, they’re BPA-free.
Retail price: $15.
This all-purpose trekking pant from Columbia features tough, durable stain-resistant nylon that wicks away moisture, can be waterproofed and includes built-in sun protection. It’s affordable enough to grab a few pairs.
Our kids love the zip-off convertible option to create shorts, and the fact that they can jump in a lake in these pants and have them dry in no time. We take Columbia Silver Ridge pants on every camping and backpacking trip.
Retail price: $40.