Luckily, you don’t have to invest in full-suspension bikes and carbon fiber stand-up paddleboards for your little tykes just yet. (You may consider creating a gear stash fund on par with that of college tuition, however.) But you do need a few key items to make getting outside with your baby safe and enjoyable. Think burly footwear for new walkers, rain- and wind-blocking outerwear, baby-toting carriers for trekking them up mountains, and more. Here are some essential products that will keep you and your baby or toddler outdoors until the sun goes down.
Wishbone Recycled Edition Bike
If a kid’s balance bike could win an award for versatility, this would be it. The Wishbone RE Bike features the New Zealand-based company’s downright smart Rotafix Three-Way Adjustment: A simple tweak to the central bolt and a flip of the “main tube” make it possible to grow the bike with your child, from 12 months old to six years. Plus, removable rear wheels transform it from a trike into a two-wheeler as your little one learns to balance. Best of all, the RE bike is made of nylon sourced entirely from recycled residential US carpet, preempting 7.5 pounds of the shaggy stuff from ending up in the landfill.
Black Diamond Wiz Headlamp
We’re pretty sure your two-year-old won’t keep this thing on, but the Wiz is the go-to when your child is able to reason and wants to see while camping without using a cumbersome flashlight. This 30-lumen headlamp comes chock-full of kid-friendly features like a child-safe screw closure, a breakaway elastic safety strap and an automatic shut-off after two hours. Mainly, it’s a simple on/off light that works just as well upside down.
Chaco Kids OutCross Shoes
River trips, stream-ridden hiking trails, camping, the Chaco Kids OutCross slots easily onto any family adventure because of its durability. Created with all of the same burly features as the adult version, the Kids OutCross keeps kids from stubbing their toes, helps them ramble over uneven ground with four-wheel-drive traction and breathes exceptionally well thanks to open sides and airy mesh. We can’t think of better footwear for everything from the playground to rocky beaches. Available in toddler sizes.
Stohlquist Nemo Infant PFD
Built for infants weighing less than 30 pounds, the Stohlquist Nemo Infant PFD calmed our nerves on a choppy paddle around Seattle’s Lake Union with our 20-pound 10-month-old. High-visibility colors like red and yellow paired with tons of float, an easy-to-grab handle and a strap system she couldn’t wriggle out of are just a few of the PFD’s key features. Bonus: our daughter was so comfortable in it, she fell asleep — the dual support collars moonlight as pillows.
Osprey Poco Premium Backpack
Think of this as the Land Rover of kid carriers. The Poco Premium comes decked out with bells and whistles like a sunshade, integrated changing pad, detachable daypack, rain cover and more. On a six-mile day hike in Washington’s Cascade Mountains, our 10-month-old happily took in the view on the way up and then took a nap on the drool pad when she got sleepy. The best part? The pack harness is adjustable within an expansive six-inch range, which means mom and dad (no matter how far apart in height) can use the same pack. And, it’s incredibly easy to adjust on the fly.
Columbia Infant Packable Booney
Every infant needs sun protection atop his or her dome because sunscreen is a no-no until six months of age. Of all of the sun hats we’ve tried, the nylon Packable Booney by Columbia had the largest brim, which meant our babe’s face, neck and shoulders were often shaded in full sun conditions. Lightweight, easy to strap on, and armed with UPF 50, the Packable Booney — which packs neatly down into its own fun whale shape so that it doubles as a toy — comes with us everywhere because it’s so easy (and small) to pop in any bag.
The North Face Reversible Grizzly Peak Wind Jacket
With wind and water protection on one side and soft cozy fleece on the other, the Grizzly Peak was our go-to almost every time the weather looked sour. Whether for hiking or bike riding, the hood fit tightly but comfortably for extra warmth, elastic cuffs seal heat into the arms and around the torso and sprinkles of rain beaded up on the taffeta exterior. We didn’t expect to use this jacket as often as we did.
Cotopaxi 35L Volta Rolltop Backpack
Cotopaxi will tell you this 35-liter pack is made for a single traveler who is packing it all into one bag or for long days around campus. We’ll tell you, it also works perfectly as a diaper bag, especially when you are jet-setting. Stick your laptop in the protected sleeve in the back and use the rest of the pack’s four pockets to micro-organize your necessities like diapers, wipes, cream, extra outfits and more. We found it particularly useful as a carry-on because it has multiple entry points into the large compartment, making digging for toys, books and pacifiers a cinch. A key tether and internal mesh pockets keep the small stuff in check.
Alite Designs Meadow Mat
Keep your bottom dry and clean with Alite’s Meadow Mat, a waterproof picnic blanket that rolls up smaller than a yoga mat and has handles for easy toting to and from the park. Most new walkers and crawlers are more interested in the grass and bugs than staying put on the hip graphic print on the Meadow Mat; that’s why this one’s more for you than them. Windy? Tack down the corner with the stake-ready loop.
Thule Coaster Bicycle Trailer
Big, shock-absorbing back wheels mean kiddos will be comfortable as they ride along in the new Coaster Bicycle Trailer, even on gravel or dirt paths. The roomy cabin — complete with seating for two — comes equipped with multiple layers of protection from the elements over the opening, including mesh overlays, rain-shielding plastic and a shade layer. The handlebar can be flip-flopped for height-adjusting comfort and a front wheel easily converts the trailer to a stroller when you arrive at your destination.
Garnet Hill UPF 50 Long-Sleeve Swim Tee
Getting sunscreen on little wrigglers can be challenging. Instead, opt for a swim tee that has sun protection woven right into it, like Garnet Hill’s UPF 50 Long-Sleeve Swim Tee. This stretchy nylon-spandex tee is thick with high-quality construction — no thin fabric here, so it won’t wear out quickly — and comes in classic stripes. You can skip the sunscreen altogether, which is the eco-friendly way to go if you’re playing in the ocean; sunscreen is known for killing reefs.
Xtracycle EdgeRunner 27D
Tote your kids around town with an Xtracycle EdgeRunner. This steel cargo bike may look different than regular bikes because of its long tail, but it rides just like your smooth-sailing commuter. It’s light, easy to handle and can be adjusted to fit anyone between 5 feet and six feet two, making it easy for mom or dad to carry the load. Plus, big burly tires smooth out uneven terrain. In her first days of bike riding, our little lady was stoked to sit as high as mom and see everything from the rider’s perspective, compared to a bike trailer. Xtracycle’s Family Package includes everything you need like cargo bags and a hip, Dutch Yepp Maxi EasyFit child’s bike seat, which holds babies as small as nine months.
Patagonia Baby Fleecy Ears Jacket
A fleece is the perfect layer for getting outside and will come in handy more often than you’d think. This jacket, made from Polartec’s Classic Fleece fabric (which is 87 percent recycled), is durable, stain repellant, fast drying and breathable. Whether as a layer or on its own, it doesn’t get much more adorable — and practical — than this.
Tekhni Olympos Woven Wrap
Yes, you can carry baby in a backpack or in a carrier (we like Stokke’s MyCarrier for its ability to carry baby three ways), but you can also wrap baby using a piece of woven fabric. Incredibly versatile, woven wraps can be used to port baby around on your front, side and back and many babies find them incredibly calming because they put baby skin to skin with mom or dad. Throw one in your hiking backpack and use it when your little one is ready for a nap. We like Tekhni’s wraps made of wool-like Repreve fabric, a soft, luxuriously thick knit made from 25 percent recycled plastic water bottles that is naturally water and stain resistant, not to mention incredibly breathable.
Big Agnes King Solomon 15
If you’re used to co-sleeping at home, than sharing a sleeping bag while camping will feel natural. Instead of opting for a pack ‘n play in the tent, try a double-wide sleeping bag like the Solomon 15. Packed with water-resistant Downtek insulation, the 15-degree bag also has an integrated sleeping pad pocket so you and baby will never roll off the sleeping pad.
Nuna Sena Mini
Setting up camp is a chore. Trying to do it with a baby in one arm? Impossible. Corral your kiddo while you bang out the tent and sleep setups in a travel crib like Nuna’s sturdy Sena Mini. This smaller version of a full-size portable crib is simple to set up and breaks down with one hand (just pull the tab in the center), making it easy to transport. Get it camp ready with the additional bug netting accessory.
Nutcase Baby Nutty Helmet
Nutcase completes its family of helmets this year with the introduction of Baby Nutty, a helmet sized perfectly for kiddos 12 months and older. It’s not only the size that’s kid friendly, though. Smart features include a “no-pinch” magnetic chin-strap closure, an adjustable Velcro strap that lets the helmet grow with your kids, as well as bee protection in the form of netting at the front openings. Plus, our little ones love the graphics.