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Hiking with kids

We have twin three-year-olds and a new baby. We have Osprey Poco kid-carrying backpacks for the twins, but now we're not sure if they'd be happier hiking so the baby can hitch a ride and one adult can carry gear.

So, two questions:

1. best way to wrangle two very active toddlers on a hike?

2. best lightweight day-pack for carrying assorted family gear?


thanks in advance!

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5 Replies

@fence007 , great questions! So much of this depends on the personality of the kids. The Osprey Poco is a great carrier and can be used intermittently for a balance of letting the kids explore and giving them (and the adults) an opportunity to rest. With this in mind, perhaps one adult can carry a Poco and the other adult can carry the day pack and the infant. I don't have experience wrangling TWO toddlers on the trail but when my son was little I found it effective to give him a scavenger hunt or a specific task to keep him focused and on the trail. Making a list of things that you are likely to encounter on the hike such as wildflowers, a stream, a heart-shaped rock or leaf, a squirrel, really whatever you can come up with, is an effective way to occupy their minds.

As for carrying gear, you could look into getting small backpacks for the kids to wear that contain just snacks and maybe a water bottle. The amount of weight that they can carry is minimal so it's really just to motivate them. My son loved carrying his own items and I like to think that it slowed him down just a little.

There are a lot of great day pack options in various brands, sizes, and styles. The REI Flash 22 pack is great for day hikes and travel. It's a versatile pack and doesn't weigh much on its own. I'd recommend stopping into your local REI to check out various pack options and make sure that the pack you choose is a good fit.

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Sounds like an adventure! We have two kids close in age, and at about three, they were each ready to start some of their own hiking. You might consider having two carriers — one for the baby and on for the twins to switch in and out of. 

Scavenger hunt, "I spy," and leaf rubbings in notebooks are all fun activities to keep the kiddos occupied, too.

As for packs, I had an old REI pack that I loved and finally gave out. I replaced it with the Gregory Sketch 28 that I can use for work gear and on family hikes. My wife has a smaller 18L Gregory that she loves for day hikes. I personally like having something with at least 28L for myself because I end up carrying extra water bottles, layers, etc.

Hope that helps!

I have learned to slow down and manage my expectations.  Hiking to a fixed destination may be worth it for adults, but I have had some of my best kid hikes just rambling around the woods - enjoying the journey (no matter how short).  At around age 2 or 3, my kids loved finding balance-beam logs, climbing small rocks,finding flowers, or bees on flowers, and looking under logs for bugs.  My two year old daughter loves to find ants - we don't get far, because she has a great eyes for finding them, and she gets super excited  We don't always get far, but they love the low-pressure opportunity to explore.  It is great watching their faces beam with pride for accomplishing small feats (stepping over rocks or branches).  We have done longer hikes to destinations with the aide of the carrier backpack, and my now 5-year old son is an avid destination hiker.  

This is all very relateable and helpful! Thank you!

We'll be looking at our vast treasure trove of underutlized equipment and then probably making some choices and maybe even going shopping. Great tip about the 28L backpacks!


I agree with athomas above that a 28L with compression straps is an incredibly versatile pack. You’ll be able to fill it with jackets and thermos for fall/winter hiking, and compress it down for lighter loads in the spring and summer. 

- One foot in front of the other -