Here’s the gear to make getting outside with kids fun. From hiking with toddlers to biking with babies, we’ve got you covered.
As lovers of the outdoors ourselves, we wanted to create a family habit of getting outside with our baby. Since he was just a few weeks old, we’ve made an effort to take our son Max (now 10 months old) everywhere with us.
From camping, hiking, biking, and running around town, we love getting outside as a family. While it does present some new challenges and a different pace, the emotional and physical payback is worth every minute.
Favorite Gear for Outdoor Families
The list below doesn’t contain every piece of family outdoor gear, but it encompasses the gear we’ve been using and testing. This is the gear we love and recommend to our family and friends. We hope it helps you have as much fun outside with kids as we do.
Thule Chariot Cross – $899.95
Designed with safety and comfort (for both parent and child) as its number-one priority, we found it works great for daily walks, bike commuting across town, and longer outdoor adventures. We’ve even gone on multi-night bike trips and ski tour outings (with additional ski attachments) and found it comfortable and easy to use.
Complete with a plastic covering, sun-shade, and bug screen, the Chariot is ready for any and all weather conditions. Plus, it folds up small enough to put in the back of the car and sets up in less than a minute. Read the full Chariot Review here.
KidRunner – $895
The newly released KidRunner is perfect for the serious runners out there. Physical therapists and professional runners, including ultra-runner Max King, have put their mark of approval on it.
Unlike a stroller, where you have to sacrifice your running form by pushing, the KidRunner is designed so that you are pulling your child with a specially designed harness attached to your waist.
Pulling weight versus pushing is beneficial for both your stride and your joints. And our little guy loves it because he can see us the whole time.
Biomechanically, we found it infinitely more natural and enjoyable than pushing even a top-of-the-line running stroller.
The lightweight and durable cockpit has two easy-to-remove wheels on either side, allowing it to easily glide over a variety of terrains. And the fiberglass suspension tongue keeps the runner nearly perfectly balanced and smooth while running.
It’s important to note that the KidRunner excels only at running. It is bouncy and awkward when walking, so it won’t totally replace a stroller. The KidRunner is made in batches and is currently taking orders for the next limited round of production.
Veer Cruiser – $599
New this year, the Cruiser bridges the gap between a premium stroller and a wagon. It’s built solidly and rolls smoothly. You can place two small kids and gear (or groceries) inside. The oversize handle gives strong control, and a brake lever puts it in “park” when you stop. The company sells accessories to outfit the Cruiser for your needs, from a small tabletop or a sun shade, to an infant car-seat adapter. We use it for slow-pace adventures around the neighborhood and to the park. The uber-wagon provides a great “base camp” for little ones you want to take along.
Boba Carrier – $150
Wearable on front (for babies) or on back (with bigger kids), the all-cloth Boba Baby has toted our kids likely thousands of collective miles over the years. It’s a simple, go-to carrier that puts a kid close against your body. The company cites kids 7–45 pounds can ride in the cotton carrier. It’s machine-washable. The belt and shoulder straps adjust to fit parents of differing size and/or for use during different seasons when, for example, you might tote a kid with a bulky winter jacket on through the snow.
Strider with Rocking Base – $199.98
We haven’t seen a kid who doesn’t love their Strider Bike. And thanks to the rocker accessory for the Strider Bike, we have been able to fit Max onto it since he was 8 months old. He loves rocking back and forth, and we like that he is getting used to bikes and balance at such a young age. When he gets older, we will then just take off the base for an easy transition to the trails. Rocking horses are cool and all, but in our family, we prefer a rocking bike.
The Osprey Poco Pack has gone everywhere with us. On a recent trip to Europe, we opted for the pack instead of a stroller. It worked out surprisingly well in the cities and airports and allowed us to tackle hikes along Italy’s rugged coastline, where a stroller would have been impossible. It’s comfortable, fits a ton of gear, and Max loves it because he can see everything. We also like that it has an integrated shade cover for keeping him out of the sun. For parents looking to hike with a tot in tow, the Poco Pack is a must-have.
Lalabu Soothe Shirt – $75
When Max was a newborn, these shirts were our most prized possessions. We took him cross country skiing, to the movies, on hikes and everywhere in the house as we did our everyday tasks, all in the security of the Lalabu top. The shirts are comfortably snug, and I especially love how they make a dad-specific shirt. Some people swear by fabric wraps or other baby-wearing options, but as new, tired parents, we wanted something that was easy. And putting on a shirt is about as simple as it gets.
Nothing says “let’s get in bed and cuddle” like Rumpl’s Super Fleece blanket. After long days outside, we look forward to curling up in this ultra warm, cozy, water-resistant blanket. It’s soft like your favorite hoodie, heavy like your first sleeping bag, and, best of all, spill-proof, making it perfect for babies and the outdoors. Plus the Jeremy Collins artwork makes it beautiful enough to use as a comforter on our own bed at home.
Patagonia Down Bunting ($149) or Infant Micro D Bunting ($65)
When the weather outside gets nasty, these buntings are amazing for keeping your little one warm. When it comes to keeping babies comfortable, toasty, and looking stylish, Patagonia has it figured out. From putting the buttons and zippers on the side for easy dressing and undressing, to the fun prints that will pass Grandma’s “cuteness” standards, there is nothing that they haven’t thought of.
If there is just a little chill in the air, I put Max in the Micro D Fleece; if the temp drops below 35 degrees F, I put him in the Down Bunting. Both are easy to throw on top of whatever they are wearing and have either attached mittens and booties or extra length to keep their extremities covered.
Tentsile Stingray Tree Tent – $650
The Tentsile Stingray Tree tent is every kid’s dream. Really, it’s every adult’s dream too. The Stingray Tree tent is suspended between three points (trees, boulders, or even trucks). We set ours up in our backyard as well as at a remote base camp for a few days. It served as an amazing suspended “pack-and-play” for the kids in the group. The entrance hole in the floor can be sealed, which helps nervous parents relax. Do note that babies, toddlers, and young children should never be left unattended in it. But, with proper supervision, it kept the kiddos happy and the adults equally excited to have their little ones up away from spiders and snakes while they cooked dinner.
By nightfall, we used it as our sleeping quarters – my husband and I on the sides and Max in the middle. While it didn’t lend itself to cuddling, it was quite cool to sleep high up in the trees and feel the cool breeze come from every angle. The Stingray is easy to set up and easy to transport yet durable enough to leave up for a long time. At 19 pounds, it’s most appropriate for car camping.
Thule Yepp RideAlong Child Bike Seat – $169.95
This is one of our favorite ways to take Max around town. Appropriate for bike rides to the grocery store, to the park, or to visit Nanny and Grandpa, the RideAlong attaches securely in just seconds. Max likes it because he can see ahead with the wind in his face, and we love it because we can talk to him while we ride. The seat is light and easily mounts and dismounts just behind the stem of multiple bikes.
The straps and foot pegs are adjustable, ensuring that we can use this seat for at least a few more years. We even have several friends who use this on their mountain bikes to take their 2-year-olds on the local easy single track. Thule does sell an optional fairing for the RideAlong, but it only protects your child from wind, not the elements, which makes the whole thing best suited to fair-weather endeavors.
Gearing Babies up on a Budget
We hear you: Gear is expensive.
We’ve found a few strategies for gearing up for winter without breaking the bank. First, before you drop a ton of money on gear for your baby, tot, or kid, check out your local thrift stores and used gear stores. Ask your fellow parent friends if they have anything they want to get rid of. Having a go-to source for secondhand gear can be a real treasure.
Next, prioritize and think about how often you’ll really use something. We splurged on a couple things like the Chariot. We use it multiple times, every single day, making it a worthwhile investment
Most of all, just get out there. Whatever gear you end up choosing, your kid, your sanity, and your memories will thank you for making the effort to get outside.
Looking to keep your kids warm this winter? Check out our favorite cold weather layers:
Have a favorite we didn’t cover? Let us know, and we’ll check it out for future updates to the article.