I’m often asked what someone should bring to the forest with children. When we go, we typically visit for a minimum of an hour and up to 4-6hr stretches. I usually take my cues from the kids. Going into it I can’t usually tell how the day may wind up. There have been many times that I thought that we would be lucky to make it an hour when we’ve happily spent 3-4 and other days where I’m looking forward to spending the better part of the day outside soaking in the sun and we make it barely an hour before we are packing it in. So in order to be prepared for either scenario, I have a list of items I usually keep stocked in my backpack.
Here are the items that I typically include:
Summer Hiking with Children Packing List
- Sheet or Blanket – Sheets work great because they are light and thin, easily packable and can be thrown into the wash. The one drawback to a regular sheet is if the ground is wet as it doesn’t provide much protection. For that reason I did purchase a water resistant compact outdoor blanket similar to this<OuTera Outdoor Beach Blanket, Compact Pocket Blanket 55″x60″ – Waterproof Ground Cover, Sand Proof Picnic Mat for Travel, Hiking, Camping- Picnic Blanket. I would recommend getting a larger one though. We can fit 4 people on it if we all keep our feet off but it’s pretty tight. This one looks much better and wouldn’t take up too much extra space.</OuTera Outdoor Beach Blanket, Compact Pocket Blanket 55″x60″ – Waterproof Ground Cover, Sand Proof Picnic Mat for Travel, Hiking, Camping- Picnic Blanket
- Extra clothes – It never fails that a trip to the forest winds up with someone getting wet.
- Wet bag – We use cloth diaper wet/dry bags. Throw the extra clothes in the dry side and the wet side is perfect for wet and muddy clothing to keep the rest of your bag dry. I like Planetwise their quality if great. We have stuffed this full many times and never had any issues. It’s still in perfect condition after many years of use. Planet Wise Wet/Dry Bag, Aim Twill
- Towel(s)– A small one usually works fine unless you’re going somewhere specifically where you’ll be getting very wet. I usually just use regular towels, but have been looking into purchasing some Quickdry towels to be more efficient and have less to carry. Full size towels can take up a lot of space in the bag. These are the kind I’m considering purchasing. RainLeaf Antibacterial Microfiber Towel, Large (24 x 48 inches), Blue
- Snacks – If I forget anything else, snacks are a must, especially for the toddlers. They can spend hours in the forest as long as they have a steady supply of snacks for sustenance. When we don’t pack a full lunch, we at least keep a few dry snacks on hand. Trail mix, popcorn, dried fruit, pretzels are all easily portable.
- First Aid Kit – I keep a first aid kit in the car but have just a small travel size one that I keep in my bag with a few bandaids, alcohol wipes, tweezers, etc.
- Tick Twister – So far we haven’t had to use these (thankfully) but I keep these tick tweezers in case we find a tick so that we can ensure its removed effectively. Tick Twister Tick Remover Set with Small and Large (Pack of 2 Sets)
- Bug Spray – I prefer less chemicals in our bugs spray and try to find more natural alternatives. We’ve used a couple but I’m looking for better alternatives, I’ll update if I find anything that works really well.
- Sunscreen – California Baby SPF30+ Sunscreen Lotion, Everyday/Year Round, Water Resistant and Hypo-Allergenic, 2.9 Ounce .
- Water – We keep a couple water bottles with us. I like the Contigo Autoseal.
- Kids –Contigo AUTOSEAL Trekker Kids Water Bottles, 14 oz, Navy & Nectarine, 2-Pack – The only truly leakproof that I’ve found. We usually pack one for each kid. There can be issues with cleaning – we only use them for water and haven’t had too much of a problem. It also doesn’t have the temperature control that the adult autoseal ones do.
- Adult –Contigo AUTOSEAL West Loop Stainless Steel Travel Mug, 20 oz, Matte Black These one are temperature control and they keep things hot or cold for hours. Perfect for icy water on a humid day or hot beverages on a cold day. They are also very easy to clean. If they made this style in a 12 or 14oz, I would get them for the kids too. As it is I usually fill a couple of these up with lots of ice and water. I take one with us and leave one in the car and then can cool down their water if it gets too hot and we still have cool water in the car for the ride home.
- Plastic Bag for Garbage – We keep a few extra shopping bags to use for garbage or litter that we find while out.
- Kids Backpacks
- Deuter Pico Toddler’s School and Hiking Backpack, Alpine Green/Kiwi – This one is great for small children and toddlers. It doesn’t carry a lot but they can put a few of their items in the bag. My only complaint (and I really have to consider if it’s a complaint) is that it doesn’t have a whistle on the buckle, which is a bit of a blessing or that’s probably all we’d here while out but would be nice in case they ever got lost or needed assistance.
- Deuter Junior Kid’s Backpack, Petrol/Arctic – We have an REI backpack for my son that’s about this size, but I don’t believe they make it anymore. This one is similar size and we do like the brand. It’s good for kids starting around age 5.
- Forest Guides
- Animal Tracks: A Folding Pocket Guide to the Tracks & Signs of Familiar North American Species (A Pocket Naturalist Guide)
- Edible Wild Plants: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar North American Species (A Pocket Naturalist Guide)
- Weather: A Folding Pocket Guide to to Clouds, Storms and Weather Patterns (A Pocket Naturalist Guide)
- Kids Binoculars
- Educational Insights GeoSafari Compass Binoculars – We have this pair and like them. They have a small compass to play with and are adjustable so they can be interchanged between children.
- Net – We’ve just used a cheap net I got at the dollar store for attempting to catch insects, frogs and fish. It’s held up alright.
- Swimsuit – If we are going somewhere with a lake, creek or pond that I know will be waded in; I just pack swimsuits instead of dealing with wet muddy clothes.
Other items you may wish to include in your own adventures: shovels or containers for digging and/water play – there have been many times my explorers have requested a cup or bowl to add water to some sand or mud; although rainboots do work for this as well, I have considered adding these items to our rotation. Compass and knife for older kids. Tarps, rope and stakes to create tents, lean to etc. Notebook and pencil, watercolors or colored pencils or crayons for taking notes and drawing pictures of what they find.
What are your must have’s for summer?