As outdoors-lovers, we spend a lot of time exploring, observing and just plain savoring time in Mother Nature’s wild spaces. As caretakers and parents (or devoted/honorary aunts and uncles), we do our best to pass on that same love—whether it's a passion for biking, camping or enjoying a little trail time—to the young people in our lives. This collection of snuggly, sporty and even safety-conscious gear like helmets (don’t worry, they're kid-approved) will support your quest to raise little adventurers.
Best Campfire Game
Mountaineers Books Campfire Stories Deck—For Kids!: Storytelling Games to Ignite Imagination
Dimensions 5.75 x 4.25 in.
“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 Protect Our National Parks Collage Puzzle - 1,000 Piece
Recommended for Ages 8 and up
Dimensions 14 x 10 x 2.5 in.
Weight 1 lb. 8 oz.
Any puzzle offers a great outlet for quality family time over a shared task, but bestowing the Protect Our National Parks Collage 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 Toddlers' Helmet
Lazer Pnut KinetiCore Bike Helmet - Toddlers'
Weight 8.5 oz.
Shell material Polycarbonate
Protect your little one’s noggin with a bike helmet from Lazer. The adjustable unisize helmet has nine vents for air circulation, an insect net to keep pesky bugs at bay and a buckle at the cheek instead of the chin to avoid skin-pinching (and the tears that come with it). The helmet comes in a kids’ version, too.
Best Kids' Bike
STRIDER 12 Sport Kids' Balance Bike
Bike frame material Steel
Wheel size 12 in.
Number of gears None
It’s never too early to start riding—especially with the help of a balance bike. Introduce your mini to the feeling of moving on two wheels with this pedal-free bike from STRIDER. They can gain confidence on a bike without worrying about pedaling or braking. And because kids grow like weeds, the folks at STRIDER made the seat and handlebar height adjustable to fit children from 18 months to 5 years. You can easily add foot brakes and heavy-duty tires when your kiddo is ready.
Best Kids' Mountain Bike
Co-op Cycles REV 20 6-Speed Plus Kids' Mountain Bike
Wheel size 20 inches
Frame material Aluminum
Drivetrain Shimano/Joytech, 14–28, 6-speed
The real gift here is the memories you'll make watching your little gain confidence navigating trails. Designed for 6- to 10-year-olds (or kiddos up to 80 lbs.), the Co-op Cycles REV 20 6-speed bike features all-terrain tires to absorb bumps for a smooth ride. Mechanical disc brakes ensure quick, responsive stops. An intuitive shifter makes it easy to switch gears.
Best Base Layer
REI Co-op Merino Midweight Base Layer Top - Kids'
Material Merino wool
A warm kiddo is a happy kiddo. This merino wool layer by REI Co-op will keep your youngster toasty on hikes, park hangouts and even at school (if your child runs cold). Flat seams help avoid chafing, underarm gussets provide room to move and the wool is soft for itch-free comfort.
All the gear on this list provides a chance to make a memory—watching your little ride their bike without training wheels for the first time or witnessing them discover a new-to-them flower on a trail. To create more opportunities for memory-making, consider taking your family on an REI Adventure trip. Or, if you're an aunt, uncle or family friend, give an REI gift card that your recipient can spend toward the adventure. Family-friendly trips include guided treks in Shenandoah National Park, Yellowstone, the Great Smoky Mountains and more. The best part: These multi-day excursions require very little prep and planning from attendees (aka busy parents).
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 Kids' Backpack
REI Co-op Tarn 40 Pack - Kids'
Frame type Internal frame
Gear capacity 40 L
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 wants 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 Backpack for Older Kids
Osprey Ace 50 Pack - Kids'
Frame type Internal frame
Gear capacity 50 L
Fits torso length 13–17 in.
Weight 3 lbs. 11 oz.
Once your little is ready to upgrade their pack to one with more storage and space, consider the Osprey Ace 50. This load hauler 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-size sunny-Gs—even if it is the holidays. And yet, you also know the importance of protecting their little peepers now. It’s a conundrum, but thankfully, one solved by the folks at Knockaround. The brand's 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 Furry Friends Hat - Toddlers'
Material 70% polyester fleece/30% recycled polyester fleece
Moisture wicking Yes
As cute as it is warm, this beanie from Patagonia will keep your babe or toddler toasty on your next chilly outing. The hat (which features some darn cute animal ears) is made from polyester fleece that’s 30% recycled to help keep waste out of landfills. And the double-layer fabric headband is soft, not scratchy.
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—perhaps even a near-hurricane, as one reviewer whose journal survived a serious soaking will attest.
Best Slip-On Shoes
Teva ReEmber Slip-ons - Kids'
Materials Recycled ripstop polyester with a synthetic textile overlay (upper); recycled polyester microfiber (lining)
Outsole Rubber (50% recycled)
Parents will love the ReEmber slip-ons from Teva for their convenience—there are no laces for little fingers to tie. (Simply push down the backing of the ReEmber to make it a fully slip-on shoe.) Kids, meanwhile, will enjoy the comfort and cool colors. Importantly, the kicks have an antimicrobial treatment that minimizes stinky feet—a feature everyone will appreciate.
Best Down Jacket
REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket - Kids'
Materials Recycled polyester
Insulation 650-fill-power down
Chilly, windy days are no match for the insulated REI Co-op 650 down jacket. The all-season coat features a water-resistant and windproof shell that is made with 100% recycled polyester and a durable water resistant (DWR) coating. A reflective logo keeps kids visible on overcast or dark days outside. And good news for the littlest winter lovers: It’s also available in an infant/toddler version.
Merrell Snow Bank 4.0 Waterproof Boots - Kids'
Upper Material Waterproof leather/mesh upper with fleece lining
Temperature rating -25°F
Waterproof, insulated and temperature rated to -25°F, these boots by Merrell check all the boxes for keeping tiny toes warm in the snow. Insulation in both the top of the boot and the footbeds helps maintain warmth, and rubber outsoles grip the ground for solid traction. Plus, anti-stink linings help keep little feet smelling fresh.
Best Kids' Gloves
REI Co-op Timber Mountain Gloves - Kids'
Glove type Full finger
Best Water Bottle
CamelBak Eddy+ Kids' Renew Water Bottle - 14 fl. oz.
Capacity 14 fl. oz.
Water bottle material Plastic
BPA free Yes
Spillproof water bottles rival the wheel when it comes to ingenious inventions. Not only does this one from CamelBak prevent your toddler from accidentally dumping grape juice in the tent, but it also satisfies the pickiest of children with a multitude of design options. The flip-top bite valve is easy to use, and the 14-ounce bottle also has a handle perfect for little fingers. And praise be: The Eddy+ is top-shelf safe in the dishwasher.
Best Outdoor Game
Outside Inside Backpacker Bocce Set
Recommended for ages 5 years and older
Number of players 2
Weight 12 oz.
Best Card Game
Clarkson Potter National Parks Trivia
Recommended for ages 7 and older
Number of players 1 or more
Test your family’s knowledge of national parks with this trivia set from Clarkson Potter. With nearly 400 questions covering everything from geography and history to wildlife and botany, this game will keep older kids (ages 7+) entertained for hours. It’s great for camping trips as well as road trips or cozy nights at home.
Prism Designs Pocket Flyer Kite
Material Polyester riptstop
Dimensions 5 x 4 x 2 in. (packed); 30 x 21 x 87 in. (assembled)
Weight 3.9 oz.
It doesn’t matter if your kids are 3 or 13, kite flying is always fun and an easy way to soak in some outdoor time with your loved ones. We like the ultralight Pocket Flyer from Prism Designs for its simple design: A single line makes it easily navigable and the unique splittail means the kite can handle rougher winds. It weighs less than 4 ounces too, so your child can carry it to the park all by herself.
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.