11 Essential Items To Bring On A Day Hike With Kids

day hike

Packing the right stuff can make a day hike in the Rockies with kids super fun.

A day hike with my kids in the Rocky Mountains is one of my favorite activities.  Here are 11 items I make sure to bring in our back pack with us.

When you go on a hike with kids it is always important that you bring along the right stuff.  If you fail to bring along the right things a day in the mountains could quickly turn unpleasant.  This list of items works for a full day in the mountains or even just a short hour or two walk.  Depending on the season or length of the hike I may pack slightly differently, but these are the 11 essential items I always pack on a day hike.

day hike with kids11 Essential Items To Bring On A Day Hike With Kids

Water – Make sure you bring along plenty of water, more than you think you will need.  It will not be a fun day if you and your kids run out of water.  I know water can be heavy, but it is worth it and it will give you exercise!

day hike with kids

Lots of food and snacks means happy kids on the trails and happy parents.

Food – Snacks and/or lunch – This is super important when hiking with kids.  I always try to bring more food than we can possibly eat during an outing.  I find that keeping the kids and parents full of food will make sure that everyone has energy to hike, explore, and have fun.

Treats – I bring along special treats as an incentive to keep the kids moving on the trail.  This could be a fruit snack, cookie, or after the holidays a few pieces of candy.  Be careful though and remember the goal of the hike is to have fun in nature not to eat candy.  Don’t get into a habit of having to always bring along a treat to get kids to go for a hike.

day hike

A small blanket or towel can come in handy on a day hike with kids.

Blanket – I like to put a small blanket or even a towel (not a big quilt, but a small, thin one that is compact) into the bottom of my backpack.  This comes in handy if everyone stops for a break and snack.  It is easy to pull it out and throw on the ground.  It could be a nice spot for a nap or a picnic or to change a dirty diaper.

Sun block – I leave a small bottle of sun block in my backpack all of the time.  This way you can reapply sunblock if you are gone for more than an hour or so.  In the mountains the sun can be intense and you don’t want to get sunburned.

Check out this old post on must keep items in your backpack at all times to see other things I leave in my backpack so that I am always ready to go.

Sun hats – if it is a sunny day, it is a good idea to make sure everyone has a good sun hat that they will keep on their head.  Don’t bring one for your 6 year old that you think looks cute, but they don’t like and won’t keep on their head.  You want to make sure it is a hat that they will wear the whole time you are hiking.

day hike

A small bag may come in handy on a hike to hold treasures.

Extra plastic bags – I throw in a couple of extra plastic bags in the back pack because you never know when they are going to come in handy.  With babies, they may become the dirty diaper bag.  With older kids they become trash bags, or bags to hold anything the kids may find on the trail, such as fall leaves that have fallen on the ground.

Moist wipes (or more commonly called butt wipes) – I keep some of these in the backpack at all times.  I got into this habit with babies, because with babies you need them to change diapers.  But, as the kids get out of diapers they are still handy to have around to clean hands or faces when you are out on the trail.

Jackets/Sweatshirts and Raincoats – Anytime you head up into the mountains, even in the middle of summer, you never know when the temperature will drop or a storm will blow through.  It is always a good idea to bring along extra warm clothes for everyone.

If there is a slight chance that it could rain, then I bring along raincoats for everyone.  Like everything else here, better safe than sorry.

Cell Phone and Map – I used to be completely against taking a cell phone up to the mountains.  I now realize that a cell phone may be important to have in case of an emergency (of course, many remote areas will not have cell phone coverage).  A map is also essential to bring along even if you are going to a well-travelled area.  It is easy to make a wrong turn and not discover it until much later and you are lost.  Bring along a map of the area and make sure you understand how to read it.

day hike

A whistle, first aid kit, and sunblock are some of the essential items to bring on a day hike with kids.

First Aid Kit – We bring along a small first aid kit that we have put together.  This is small and contains simple things such as pain medicine, benadryl, band aids, bandages, and a few other things.  Along with this is a whistle.  This is good to have just in case you get lost or you need to get someone’s attention from far away.


*I know there are lots of different lists out there.  If you think I am missing something then please let me know in the comments below.