Kids? gear can be a bit confusing as parents wade through a seemingly endless list of ?must have? items for outdoor enjoyment. What is practical? Essential? Or, in the case of many youngsters, fashionable?
For adults who must conduct the cost-benefit analysis of all this stuff, function remains a driving force behind much of the gear found at outdoor stores and on websites. Price does not always equal quality, many families have discovered, and knowing where and how to shop can be frustrating.
Outdoor Families Magazine asked for help from a small team of savvy parents who attended the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City last month. They scoured the showroom floor in search of the functional, the fashionable, and the fun, reporting back with a nice cross-section of gear for outdoor adventures big and small, no matter where you might be headed.
–Erin Kirkland, editor
Often overlooked in the list of ?essentials? for safe and happy outdoor experiences, footwear is nonetheless an extremely important element. Sneakers, sandals, or boots should reflect the level of activity and a child?s age, and manufacturers are beginning to respond to pleas from parents for high-level performance in a variety of sizes.
Kamik is a longtime staple boot of many cold-country shoppers, but this Canadian company took things a step further in 2015 with the Boa System, whereby kids can adjust fit by twisting a dial connected to a lightweight cable, thus skipping laces or fabric fasteners, even with mittens. Win. $89.99, www.kamik.com.
Even babies need toasty tootsies. Polar Feet has designed a bootie to provide warmth without restricting babies? need to wiggle their tiny toes. This small Canadian company prides itself on high-quality fleece for its products, and makes a line of mitts and hats, too. $25.99, www.polarfeet.com.
The most notable contender among rain boots this year is the innovative MyMayu Muddy Munchkin, a flexible, waterproof boot that allows all kids freedom of movement. Warm in all but the coldest climates, the Muddy Munchkin comes with liners and a variety of kid-friendly designs. $58.95, www.mymayu.com.
Many kids (and adults) are finding lightweight to be a winner for hiking and running, so Salomon delivers this year with a breathable, durable, and fashionable trail shoe. A waterproof version is even available for those who spend a lot of time in and out of the water, making this a great shoe for multi-sport kids. Salomon sizes available in Kids 9-12, and Juniors 13K-6. $60-$80, www.salomon.com/us/range/trail-running-footwear.html.
Kids? clothing can be a deciding factor for family experiences in the great outdoors. When children are warm, dry, and comfortable, they are more likely to continue down the trail of adventure. From babies to big kids, here are a few top picks seen at the Outdoor Retailer Show.
Oakiwear, a staple company among rain gear manufacturers that cater to kids, keeps plugging away with its signature Rain Jacket and Overall set. Often on sale, this is the original polyurethane outer shell with a cozy fleece lining, moms and dads, and it?s a real winner with outdoor-loving families. Our love? The ankle cuffs with stirrups to prevent annoying slide-ups. Five sizes, two colors. $59.95, www.oakiwear.com.
For families with little ones, Cozey7 has developed the Trailhopper?Caribou to provide warmth without bulk. A thoughtful design made from fleece, the Trailhopper is part bunting, part blanket, and won?t get caught in carriers or under wheels of strollers or trailers. A prototype is also being tested made from cozy down for colder climates. $165, www.cozey7.com.
Keep the entire family warm this year with Ninja Suits, quite possibly the coolest base layer on the planet. Jumping into the youth market with a range of sizes for bigger kids (6+), these suits are one-piece wonders, with two-way front zips, a middle zip, stretchy fabric, and a variety of colors and designs. Makes great pajamas, too. $69.99, www.myninjasuit.com.
Fjallraven of Sweden makes a nearly bullet-proof Greenland Jacket for kids who spend much of the cooler seasons outdoors. Finished with a wax outer layer, these are tough coats for tough kids. Deep pockets, close-fitting hoods, and a stylish fit will ensure years of wear, no matter how many times you hand it down. $140, www.fjallraven.com.
Packing up the family for an overnight adventure has never been easier with these superstars.
The Eagle Creek Flatbed No Matter What Duffel 32 offers over 6,000 cubic inches of space in one enormous space, great for loads of outdoor gear. Pair this cavernous duffel with Eagle Creek?s Pack-It Specter Cubes, and viola! A place for everything, and everything in its place. Cubes come in six colors and three sizes so everyone can pick their favorite. Eagle Creek also offers a ?No Matter What? warranty on the duffel, so if anything fails, the company will fix it or replace the entire bag, no questions asked. Eagle Creek Flatbed Duffel 32 $220; Pack-It Specter Cube set $38, www.eaglecreek.com.
Mountainsmith has developed a new way for trip organization and gear storage with its Modular Hauler 4. Color-coded ballistic nylon cubes are included in one affordable price, so parents need only to decide whose stuff goes where. With huge 7,500 cubic inches of space, the Hauler can take your family from home to mountains, beach, or campsite with relative ease. $99, www.mountainsmith.com
What?s an activity without fun? Kids and kids-at-heart will enjoy these light-hearted options for families spending their free time playing in the great outdoors.
Aquabot is a creative way to keep cool, clean up, or annoy your little sister (don?t tell her we said that). A spray tool allows up to 25 feet of mist, stream, or shower, perfect for doing dishes, taking a break after a long, hot hike, or playing in the backyard with the kids. $24.95, www.lunatecgear.com
Nature is full of crawling, flying, or swimming creatures, so why not take a closer look with these Oakiwear Explorer Nets, available for a low price in a variety of colors. P.S.: Be sure to put any living creatures back where you found them when done. $2.99, www.oakiwear.com.
Oakiwear also has Explorer Journals on sale, allowing kids the pleasure of recording their thoughts, photos, and drawings in this hard-backed book. Comes with a pen. $2.99, www.oakiwear.com.
Pocket Disc is one of the hottest toys our gear team found at Outdoor Retailer this year. These 100% cotton flying discs are free-trade products, made in Guatemala by talented craftsmen and women who make each one unique. The discs float and fly like crazy, and won?t cause injuries if little hands miss the catch. They also pack well, making them perfect for families on the go. $9.99-$49.99, www.pocketdisc.com.