What’s inside their packs?? I get asked this more than any other question. In this post, I’m going to give you a peek inside the boys hiking backpacks, our backpacks, and even our dog, Ace’s pack! I always say that you don’t NEED anything but the will to get outside, some water, and an idea of where you’re going in order to hike. I truly believe that. BUT, there certainly are some things that make life easier when you are doing anything with kids….like snacks. Although there are affiliate links, none of this is sponsored. This is my honest opinion on things we use often and love. This is a long, thorough post, so if something doesn’t apply to you, just skip right along to the next item. Here is a list of the topics included to make it easier to navigate:

  1. Kids backpacks
  2. Adult backpacks
  3. Water bottles
  4. Kids hiking shoes
  5. Hiking Poles
  6. Toiletting gear
  7. Trash grabbers
  8. Packable jackets
  9. Dog harness and leash

Without further adieu, here is a look at the 9 hiking item categories that we use regularly…

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Kid’s Hiking Backpacks:

We absolutely love the boys’ Deuter backpacks Out of all the gear we have for hiking, these packs have held up to three rough and tumble little boys. Our oldest two have had theirs for about 4 years. Our youngest started with an earlier version of this Deuter Kikki backpack when he was 3 and recently upgraded to the larger size like his brothers on his 6th birthday.

They have plenty of pockets for any interesting rocks/sticks/gravel/dirt that the boys find. This backpack also has a chest strap which we prefer. The boys have thrown them in the dirt, dunked them in the water, and worn them while sliding down hills without any of them getting a single hole or tear.

So what do we keep inside them?

(This is an old pic from 2018⬆️)
(This is current⬆️)

We don’t put a lot in their packs. (Sometimes they fill them with rocks but they quickly learn what adds weight!) The primary reason we always have them carry a pack is just so they get use to carrying one. We keep them light so it doesn’t become an added issue on the trail. I talked a little more about one experience with that on a recent Instagram post. We would like to take some backpacking trips as they get older, so we figure this is a very early start.

On a typical day hike we include some combination of the following: a basic blank journal, a small box with markers/pens/colored pencils, lunch, hand gel, snacks, a compass, binoculars, and a pocket knife in our oldest sons’ packs, some type of light/compact jacket (more on that below), and a water bottle. Since their water bottles are heavy duty ones, Darrell and I usually put the water bottles in our packs. Sometimes they end up in the boys’ packs, it just depends on the type of hike.

We love to have something for the boys to color with in their packs. If a trail is getting tough, they can take a break and draw pictures of things they see. A lot of times they will pull it out at the summit of the trail and draw the scene. It’s a really great way for them to absorb what they are looking at, plus a wonderful keepsake.

(My youngest drew this one last year. ⬆️ I will cherish these pictures forever.)

We also have these camelbaks:

These are small, light weight packs. They are PERFECT for hikes when you don’t plan to bring lunch, long bike rides like the Virginia Creeper Trail, or even amusement parks. Aside from the water bladder, they have a small pocket for a snack or magnifying glass, but not for things like an extra jacket. One con is the boys tend to drink a lot more water than usual causing more stops along the way.

The boys brought theirs to Dollywood on a hot day and it really simplified the drink situation. At that time we had a stroller to store them in for rides so it might not be something we will do now that everyone is walking and riding rides.

Adult Hiking Backpacks:

My husband has this Osprey Talon 22 Backpack. It has a chest and waist strap for extra support, soft frame and a mesh back for ventilation, a pouch specifically for a water bladder (not included), side hip pockets for easy access, and even has straps specifically for attaching hiking poles should you want to store them temporarily.

My backpack is a very basic Venture Pal from Amazon. It has a chest strap, but that’s about it. No bells and whistles because I didn’t feel like I needed anything extra. It does have a ‘wet pouch’ which can serve as a place for a water bladder and it can be folded up small for travel. It serves its basic purpose for carting around lunches and such. It’s not the most comfortable backpack on a really long hike, but it’s a great affordable option for a simple daypack

In our backpacks, we usually have lunch, bear spray, a first aid kit, a dog first aid kit (yes I’m that extra), all our waters, towels very similar to these towels (we LOVE towels like these for hiking and camping- they are very absorbent and compact!), extra socks when its cold, jackets, empty grocery bags, paper towels, and a few things for any toiletting needs that might arise…more on that in a minute! One thing to note is that microfiber towels can be harmful to oceans if not washed properly. I recently heard about these Guppy friend bags to help wash them properly. We plan to try them out!

Water Bottles:

We have multiple types of water bottles but I’ll talk about our top three.

RTIC is the least expensive of the three and their website has sales often. The bottles themselves have held up well, but we have had issues with the lids breaking.

The boys each have one RTIC bottle that they have used basically every day for a year. These water bottles are put through a lot on our adventures in addition to the daily use. I have 2 of the 36 oz RTIC bottles that I use daily and they have been great. They keep my water cold, but I will admit that the ice does not stay nearly as long as my husband’s YETI.

My husband has a 36 oz Yeti Rambler water bottle that I got him for his birthday one year. We used it for hot chocolate on our winter hikes and it kept everything HOT out in the cold weather. When he puts ice water in it, the ice will not melt for the entire day. I have YETI 20 oz tumblers that I use daily for coffee. When I don’t finish my coffee in the morning at work, it is still piping hot when I come back to my desk at lunch time. My oldest son has a 26 oz Yeti Rambler because he drinks a lot more water than the younger two.

We recently got the boys Hydro Flask bottles to replace the RTIC bottles that are pretty dinged up and so far they have been great. This is a more pricey option but we happened to get theirs deeply discounted during a sale. Since they use them daily, we felt like it was a good investment. So far, they have been very comparable to the Yeti Ramblers. The only critique I have is that the lids are a little tougher to open for the smaller boys. I recently got a 40 oz Hydro Flask bottle for work and I LOVE it! It keeps my ice cold all day and is the perfect size for tracking my water intake.

Kids Hiking Shoes:

The boys hike in either these Keen Chandler Sneakers, these Keen Newport Sandals, or these Keen Stingray Sandals during the spring, summer, and fall. We have mentioned their water shoes many times before because we love them so much. They dry quickly and it makes water crossings much safer for them to have shoes on, in my opinion. We have all gone in barefoot before, but the unfortunate reality on highly trafficked trails is that people don’t only throw trash on the trail, they also throw it in the water at times. Water shoes give me peace of mind that they won’t be stepping on broken glass or other sharp objects with their bare feet.

The oldest two boys got these boots for winter. Our youngest got these winter boots. We had good luck with both of these options and would recommend either.

Hiking Poles:

I never realized how much hiking poles can come in handy on the trail until we got some this year. These hiking poles are similar to the ones we got at a local shop. We got one pair and my husband and I each carry one pole. It really helps going up and down hills or in slick spots. A good stick works just as well and that’s what the boys will find and carry. I like having poles for my husband and I so we know we always have them accessible when needed.

Toiletting Gear

Alright, let’s get down to the literal dirty details here. I’m just going to go ahead and answer the questions that not a lot of people love to ask. What do you do when “nature calls” on the trail? Well, this is different depending on what you have to do exactly and who is doing it. The first thing to clarify is that going to the bathroom on trail should always be done at least 200 ft from any water, campsite, or trail. Then dig a hole at least six inches deep if you have to poop. We have a trowel similar to this trowel for digging that has come in handy for little boys who sometimes urgently need to go. We always carry grocery bags and paper towels or baby wipes and we make sure to pack out the trash!

If it is just urination, you still want to go 200’ off trail, but boys obviously have a much easier time than girls. I didn’t earn the name “Squat Queen” for nothing. ;) Let’s be honest though, there is nothing fun about squatting in the woods. I also hate to be exposed on the trail. So I quickly searched for other options. I finally decided on a pStyle with a case so I could throw it in my bag. It took me a while before I worked up the courage to use it, but let me tell you, I have zero reservations about it any more! It makes going in the woods ridiculously simple, quick, and with much less of your body exposed to the elements than when you squat to go. I HIGHLY recommend one for anyone that is worried about having to go on the trail.

While we are on this subject, we keep these Travel Johns in our car at all times. These come in handy on long car rides, in the car when we first get to the trail and there are too many people around to go in the woods near the trail head, or at night in the tent when camping. I also love these and highly recommend them!

Trash Grabbers:

We are part of the Keep Nature Wild “Wild Keeper” program. We make an effort to pick up trash outside often but that doesn’t mean I want to touch it. We have these grabbers. They make it so much easier for all of us to pick up trash we find

Packable Jackets:

During the pandemic, The North Face offered a 50% discount for healthcare workers, (thank you North Face)! So, if you are noticing a lot of North Face gear in our pictures, that is why. During this sale, we invested in these lightweight and packable puffer jackets for the boys (except theirs had hoods), this ThermoBall Eco Hoodie for me, and this ThermoBall Eco Hoodie for Darrell. We layered these with fleece jackets when it was really cold.

These kept us warm on some pretty frigid winter hikes in the snow with layers underneath. I could do an entire post on winter gear because that is a whole other subject on its own, but for now I will just say that these worked out great as a top layer. We have still been wearing them on cooler days as we transition to spring and they are not too hot. They fold up well so they are easy to pack in our bags just in case. They really came in handy on our most recent Max Patch hike because it was much cooler on the mountain than we were expecting. They boys threw them on and they were good to go.

For summer, we have these rain jackets for 2 boys (our third rain jacket is a hand-me-down from a cousin), this rain jacket for me, and this rain jacket, for Darrell. We really like them so far. The fit is good and they fold up small enough to be packable without adding much weight at all. The rain jackets that we have had in the past have been thick and would take up way too much room in their backpacks to bring along. Rain jackets definitely aren’t a necessity, which is why we haven’t invested in any until this year. We got caught in a pretty big surprise downpour last year and it would have been nice to have them. We are also planning a Disney trip within the year and I think these will work great for those surprise Florida rain showers as well! I will update this post once we get some more use out of them and see how they hold up for any showers that we encounter on our treks this spring and summer.

Dog Gear:

Our youngest dog is a 70 lb, STRONG, 2 year old ball of energy. We really need to work on leash walking a lot more, but right now for hiking, we are loving this leash and harness combination.

The accordion portion of the leash combined with the harness has cut down on his pulling significantly. The leash goes around my husband’s waist so it is less strain on his arm. Plus, it always helps to have two free hands when dealing with multiple children! We keep bags to pick up his poop in his backpack and hook on a collapsible dog water bowl.

I hope that you found this post helpful! Remember, all of these things are not necessary. They are just various things that we have found to be beneficial throughout our years on the trails. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions! Happy hiking!