Photo credit: Chelsey Magness

The Best Kids’ Clothes: Durable Adventure Essentials

After many months of playing in the dirt, mud, and water, we found the most durable, long-lasting kids’ clothes out there.

Whether you’re headed out on a multiday camping trip or need an everyday summer outfit that will last multiple seasons and kids, our picks will have you covered without breaking your budget.

Kids are the best durability testers. They slide down dirt hills, drag themselves and their friends through the mud, and are constantly getting scraped up. And if a shirt or pants can make it through one of our kids’ average days, it’s worth a high recommendation!

We’ve spent months putting these kids’ clothes to the test thanks to our 3-year-old and 11-month-old. We’ve gone on multiple river trips, bikepacking trips, and camping trips to find the perfect shirts, pants, hats, and shoes that will keep them happily adventuring in a variety of weather conditions.

Best Kids’ Shirts

Patagonia Baby Capilene Cool Crew ($29)

Patagonia Baby Capilene Cool Crew

When we’re going to be outside all day long, this long-sleeve kids’ crew shirt checks all the boxes for us. It’s lightweight, has full sun coverage with its 50 UPF rating, and keeps my little guys cool and dry during the day.

My 3-year-old and 11-month-old wore their Cool Crew for 9 straight days on a recent bikepacking trip. And thanks to the HeiQ odor-resistant fabric, it didn’t smell at all when we were done despite how dirty it got. And when I finally did get to give it a good washing, it came out looking brand new again.

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Toddler Insect Shield Zip Hoody ($24)

Toddler Insect Shield Zip Hoody

As a mother, I really hate spraying bug spray on my kids. I’ve tried all the natural sprays and creams, yet my 3-year-old still somehow gets munched by mosquitos. And it’s not pretty. His bites make him swell up, and he gets super cranky. So now, whenever we’re going to a buggy area, I put him in his Insect Shield gear.

Because mosquitos are mostly out when it’s cool, my favorite piece from the brand is the Insect Shield Zip Hoody. In addition to keeping all the bugs away, it’s comfortable and perfect to throw on in the mornings or evenings when we’re camping. It now lives in our “adventure clothes” bag.

The Toddler IS Hoody, for both boys and girls, also comes in big kids’ versions for boys and girls. (The big kids’ hoodie for boys is a zipper-less pullover.)

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Columbia Tamiami Kids’ Shirts ($30-35)

Columbia Tamiami Kids' Shirts

For river trips, creek splashing, digging in the dirt, and big days outside, these button-down shirts are big favorites among the kids. For parents, they’re equally awesome, as they’re made with Columbia’s highly popular in-house UPF 40 sun protection and wicking fabric, which keeps harmful rays and moisture away from the skin.

Besides that his shirt looks just like dad’s, the mesh vents in the back of the shirt plus the chest pockets are my son’s favorite features. The vents keep him cool on hot days, and the pockets provide a safe place for special toys and snacks away from his curious little brother.

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icebreaker Oasis Long Sleeve Crew ($55)

icebreaker Oasis Long Sleeve Crew

For multiday backpacking trips, where every ounce counts, we take only one set of kids’ clothes for each youngster. Wool is perfect for both sleeping and playing in, so we generally take two Oasis long-sleeve shirts: one for the day and one for sleeping.

The shirt is lightweight, comfortable, and keeps my son warm in the evening and cool during the day. Wool is also naturally antimicrobial, so no matter how much he sweats in it, it doesn’t take on any extra odors.

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Stio Kids’ Eddy Shirt ($79)

Stio Kids' Eddy Shirt

This mini-sized classic “mountain town” Stio snap-up long-sleeve shirt is so versatile, it can be worn anytime anywhere. From all-day outdoor adventures to looking nice out on the town, this shirt does it all while keeping your little one protected from the sun and cool. My son calls this shirt his “fancy snappy” shirt, as he can easily take it on and off.

As a mother of two young, wild boys, I love finding full-coverage shirts that can easily be taken on and off. This is my first choice for days at the lake, as I can throw it on them as soon as they get out of the water. And if they happen it get it wet, it dries in minutes and looks good well into the evening for nice family dinners.

I especially love the fact that the whole family has the same shirt. It makes packing for family adventures easier, and, as a bonus, if we happen to get a family picture, it looks like we planned it!

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Best Kids’ Bottoms

Little Boys’ IS Performance Ripstop Insect Shield Pants ($28)

Little Boys' IS Performance Ripstop Insect Shield Pants

These cargo pants from Insect Shield not only repel bugs, but they fit amazingly well. The inside adjustable elastic button makes these pants wearable for a long time. The canvas ripstop fabric makes these pants durable enough for rock climbing, dirt slides, and any other rough outdoor play your little one likes to get up to.

Even after a full summer of use, these workhorse pants will see at least another fall and summer of full-on, bite-free play. These also come in a big kids’ version as well as (albeit non-ripstop) leggings for both little kids and big kids.

Shop Little Boys’ Ripstop PantsShop Boys’ Ripstop PantsShop Little Girls’ IS LeggingsShop Girls’ IS Leggings

Chasing Windmills Thermal Long Johns ($74)

Chasing Windmills Thermal Long Johns

Chasing Windmills specializes in making wool clothes for kids that are durable, comfortable, and functional. As parents who live in wool for all of our big adventures, we know how hard it is to make wool durable.

So after putting these thermal long johns through our toddler test on a multiday bikepacking trip where he repeatedly dragged himself along rocks and through multiple puddles, we were thoroughly impressed that they not only held up but also came out looking mostly clean and ready for more after a good washing.

Our son calls them his “play PJs,” as they’re cozy and durable. The reinforced knees coupled with the stylish stitching and cute colors make both moms and kids happy. My only warning is that you will want to buy multiple pairs.

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Patagonia Baby Baggies ($29)

Patagonia Baby Baggies

Patagonia baggies are symbols of summer and adventure in our household. From the ages of 3 months up to 45 years old, our whole family is a big fan. The baggie style coupled with the elastic and comfortable waistband makes them fit a multitude of sizes for a long time.

My 11-month-old can still fit into his 3- to 6-month-old baggies, and my 3-year-old can fit both his 3T and 2T baggies just fine. As far as kids’ clothes go, that’s a win.

Both boys wear their baggies almost every day of the summer. Whether they’re playing in the sandbox, on a river trip, or wearing them over their long johns before heading into the tent for the night, the Patagonia baggies are apart of our everyday outfits all summer long.

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Columbia French Terry Jogger ($50-60)

Columbia French Terry Jogger

Who doesn’t like a good pair of sweatpants? These extra-comfy, durable, and tapered joggers come with an added UPF 50 feature that parents are especially fond of. We love these pants for early mornings while camping or heading to the local park.

They’re the perfect layering piece to throw in your bag for the drive or bike home after a long day at the lake and are great for crisp yet sunny fall days.

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Best Kids’ Shoes

Teva Omnium Drift ($30)

Teva Omnium Drift kids' shoe

These sandals are my 3-year-old’s favorite summer everyday shoes. The Velcro buckle coupled with a roomy toebox makes them the easiest pair of shoes he has that he can put on and take off himself.

They’re also super lightweight, have great traction for slippery surfaces, and have a reinforced toebox which helps protect him from constantly stubbing his toes.

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Columbia Little Kids’ Drainmaker IV Water Shoe ($55)

Columbia Little Kids' Drainmaker IV Water Shoe

If you’re on the hunt for a good water sneaker, you can go ahead and end your search with these. For river trips when we get in and out of the water a lot, or for hiking trips where cross a lot of rivers, we put our little guy in these.

They’re lightweight, easily drain all water, and, thanks to the mesh, will keep our son’s feet warm despite being in and out of cold water all day. Although they’re harder for my son to take on and off, I actually like that feature, as I know they won’t accidentally slip off during activity.

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Vivobarefoot Fulman Toddler Boot ($85)

Vivobarefoot Fulman Toddler Boot

For the boot-loving kid, these four-season boots are perfect for all adventures. These puddle-proof boots can be worn with or without socks and are easy to slip on and off. My son loves to be barefoot most of the time, but if it’s at all chilly out, he always asks for his “puddle boots.”

The crushable and flexible rubber outer and sole make them both durable and comfortable as they mold around the foot. And the removable thermal sole can be taken out for the warmer months and put back in for chillier days.

These are on the spendier side, but they still look brand new after three seasons of high use and will easily get passed down to many more kids.

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Best Kids’ Hats

Sunday Afternoon Hats ($29)

Sunday Afternoon Hats
Photo credit: Author Chelsey Magness

Putting sunscreen on my kids’ faces is the worst ever. Whenever they see me coming with any sort of cream, they go running. While I do manage to get one quick smear on them, to make it easier on everyone, I also just instituted a rule when Max was 2 months old: If you’re in the sun, you have to wear your sun hat.

Luckily, my boys don’t seem to mind the sun hats at all. In fact, Max asks for his hat before he heads out the door every morning. I love them because they’re lightweight, comfortable (I own a few of the same hats myself), and they cover the neck.

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Skida Alpine Hats ($32)

Skida Alpine Hats

For chilly mornings and nights, we love Skida’s alpine hats. They’re soft, fit perfectly on the head, and come in great patterns. The only complaint I have is the fact that they have too many awesome color and pattern choices!

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Patagonia Baby Baggies Cap ($29)

Patagonia Baby Baggies Cap

For itty-bitty newborn babies, this Baggies Cap molds perfectly to their heads and keeps the sun off of their tiny faces. We got one when our youngest was 3 months old, and at 11 months it still fits him perfectly. And because the material is both breathable and comfortable, he doesn’t fight it and keeps it on the whole day.

You can flip the brim up for a stylish hipster look, or flip it down for a more functional sun hat effect.

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