As outdoors-lovers, we spend as much time exploring, observing and just plain savoring time in Mother Nature’s wild spaces as possible. As caretakers and parents, we do our best to pass on that love for outside-sy spots to the young people in our lives. This collection of snuggly, sporty and even safety-first gear like helmets (don’t worry, it’s kid-approved too) will help you in your adventuring quest.
Best Campfire Game
Mountaineers Books Campfire Stories Deck—For Kids!: Storytelling Games to Ignite Imagination
Dimensions 5.75 x 4.25 inches
“Once upon a time, a shy moose disappeared into a snowdrift.” What happens next? Your little camper decides! The Mountaineers Books Campfire Stories Deck–For Kids! includes a collection of 25 character cards and 25 action cards—all with outdoor themes—that serve as prompts to make up a story. Take turns drawing one card from each set to get the creative juices flowing and then spin a tale all your own.
Lantern Press Explore Our National Parks Puzzle - 1,000 Piece
Recommended for Ages 8 and up
Dimensions 14 x 10 x 2.5 inches
Weight 1 lb. 8 oz.
Any puzzle offers a great outlet for quality family time over a shared task, but bestowing the “Explore Our National Parks” 1,000-piece from Lantern Press uniquely incites reflection on past outdoor adventures: “Remember when we saw a grizzly in the Grand Tetons?” “Those cascades in the Great Smoky Mountains were incredible!” Plus, the whimsical imagery of our public lands may just inspire your family’s next trip.
Best Kids' Bike
Cannondale Quick 24 Kids' Bike - Acid Red
Bike frame material Aluminum
Wheel size 24 in.
Number of gears 7
What kid wouldn’t want a shiny new bike? Younger riders who are ready for handbrakes and shifting will love how the gearing on the Cannondale Quick 24 makes it easier to charge up hills and find speed on the flats. That, plus a lightweight aluminum frame, stable handling and 24-inch multisurface tires make this our pick for cyclists ages 7–12.
Best Kids' Bike Helmet
Thousand Jr. Bike Helmet - Kids'
Weight 13.8 oz.
If this is the year you surprise your child with their very own two-wheeled steed, make sure they have a noggin-protector to go with it. Parents, you’ll appreciate how the Thousand Jr. Bike Helmet provides coverage to the occipital bone (that’s the one around the brain) and features an adjustment dial that lets the helmet grow with your kiddo. Littles will love the packet of reflective, removable stickers that turns their new helmet into a veritable canvas. Want to be twinsies? Snag a Thousand Heritage Bike Helmet for yourself.
Best Base Layer
Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino Crew Base Layer Top - Kids'
Fabric Merino wool
Underwear weight Midweight
Giving your kids underwear for as a present is considered totally taboo. Gifting them ubersoft long underwear, however, is definitely inbounds—especially when it comes in their favorite colors and funky patterns inspired by the outdoor places where they play. Enter the Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino Crew Base Layer Top, which provides next-to-skin comfort, breathability and natural odor resistance.
Best Fleece Jacket
REI Co-op Trailsmith Fleece Jacket - Kids'
Fabric 80% recycled polyester/20% polyester Polartec® Micro Series microfleece
Fleece Weight Light
Back Length Hip-length
Snow-day sledding excursions, chilly study hall rooms or just lazy Saturday-morning pancake-eating: The Trailsmith Fleece Jacket from REI Co-op is ready for it all thanks to breathable, fast-drying and ultrasnuggly Polartec® Micro Series fleece. Retro zipper pulls (authentic to the design's original 1992 release) add a dash of panache. With adult men’s and women’s versions available too, the whole family can kick it old-school.
Best Backpack for Older Kids
Osprey Ace 50 Pack - Kids'
Gear capacity (L) 50 liters
Gear Capacity (cu. in.) 3,051 cu. in.
Weight 3 lbs. 11 oz.
Fits Torso Length (in.) 13–17 in.
It’s finally here: the year your youngster will undergo the rite of passage that is carrying their share of the backpacking supplies. Just make sure they have the right equipment—namely a good-fitting backpack. The Osprey Ace 50 Pack delivers with key comfort-enhancing features like a frame that effectively transfers the load from the harness to the hipbelt; a springy, mesh back panel that allows plenty of airflow; and up to 5 inches of torso adjustability to ensure a Goldilocks-approved “just right” fit. This hauler also houses 50 liters of gear-carrying capacity and hipbelt pockets for easy snack access.
Knockaround Premiums Polarized Sunglasses - Kids'
UV Protection 100%
Lens Material Polycarbonate
Keeping track of your kid’s sunglasses is about as hard as remembering the whereabouts of their left sock, which means there’s no way you’re splurging on expensive pint-sized sunny-Gs—even if it is the holidays. And yet, you also know how important protecting their little peepers now . It’s a conundrum, but thankfully, one solved by the folks at Knockaround. Their polarized kids’ shades ring up at just $22 but block an impressive 99–100% of UV rays and reduce visible glare from water, snow, sand and pavement.
Best Infant Hat
Patagonia Baby Furry Friends Hat - Infants'
Material Recycled polyester
Sustainability Fair Trade Certified™ sewing; contains recycled materials
Baby stuff is always cute, so it’s not the adorable bear ears that set apart this Patagonia Baby Furry Friends Hat. Rather, it’s the warmth-boosting, double-layered fabric at the hem; the snuggly, high-pile, double-faced fleece; and the fact that the materials are 100% recycled and Fair Trade Certified™ sewn.
Rite in the Rain Outdoor Journal - Large
Dimensions 7 x 4.6 in.
Weight 3.2 oz.
The bright yellow (read: easy to find), spiral-bound Rite in the Rain Outdoor Journal is the perfect place for your budding ecologist to record all of their observations about the natural world. Whether they write in pencil or pen, their tallies of goldfinches or sketches of aspen trees will hold steady without bleeding on the 32 sheets (64 pages) of all-weather paper, no matter the conditions—even a near-hurricane, as one reviewer whose journal survived a serious soaking will attest.
Best Kids' Boots
Merrell Snow Bank 3.0 Waterproof Boots - Kids'
Upper material Leather
Footwear height 6 in.
Insulation 200 g on top; 400 g on footbed
Kids with warm feet are much happier than kids with cold feet. Thankfully, the waterproof Merrell Snow Bank 3.0 boots should allow children to tromp to school, craft magnificent snow forts and roll wicked snowballs without feeling a hint of chill. The secret is 200 grams of insulation in the upper linings and 400 grams of insulation on the footbeds, helping these boots achieve a comfort rating down to -25°F. They also boast a bungee lacing system that is pretty easy for younger children to navigate.
Best Kids' Gloves
REI Co-op Timber Mountain Gloves - Kids'
Glove type Full finger
Best Kids' Backpack
REI Co-op Tarn 40 Pack - Kids'
Frame type Internal frame
Gear capacity 40 liters
Fits torso length 12–16 in.
Weight 2 lbs. 10 oz.
At some point, your child will start carrying their own weight. When that day blessedly arrives, consider the REI Co-op Tarn 40 for the job. The main packbag can swallow a sleep system, layers, water bottles and even a stuffed friend who may want to join the adventure, while a toplid pouch and stuff-it pocket help kids stay organized. It has a padded hipbelt and back panel that are adjustable like technical adults’ packs, plus it’s made with a durable recycled ripstop nylon that will shrug off moisture.
Best Card Game
Recommended for ages 7 and up
Number of players 2–10
A classic game of Mattel UNO can be a perfect outdoor activity on wind-free days once your kiddo knows their numbers and colors. If you’ve got little ones, opt for teams to start building number sense and strategic thinking.
Need more inspiration? Check out our Best Gifts for Less Than $50, Best Gifts for Runners, Best Gifts for Outdoorsy Dogs (and Their Humans), Best Gifts for Campers, Best Gifts for Skiers, Best Gifts for Hikers and Best Gifts for Snowboarders.