I don’t really know when I morphed into a gearhead but it’s been a subtle evolution. We could blame it on hours and hours on the trails, or just trying to make life easier as we schlep our kids up and down mountains.
Whatever the reason it’s the perfect time of year to talk about our current favorite pieces of gear.
We aren’t sponsored by any of the companies that we’re about to mention, this isn’t a promoted post and most of the equipment we’ve purchased ourselves and used for years so we can say without a doubt that these are our favorite pieces of gear.
1. Thule Chariot
When I was pregnant with William (who is now 3 1/2) the first thing I did was try to figure out where to purchase a Chariot. This piece of equipment is vital when it comes to getting outdoors with children. We opted for a single Chariot over a double and I’m glad we did, it’s much more maneuverable and less cumbersome to pull when skiing and cycling.
I love that I can push one kid in the Chariot, and carry another on my back over easy trails. I also love that we can use it cycling around town and especially cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in the winter. Our Chariot logged hundreds of miles on dirt trails this summer, often with a sleeping toddler inside.
My biggest complaint about the Chariot is that the company has recently been purchased by Thule. Chariot had amazing customer service but we’ve learned that Thule does not.
My second complaint is that it’s easy to lose the pins that connect the telescoping poles to the Chariot when using the ski attachment and it’s nearly impossible to get replacements (sigh, Chariot did sell replacement parts but Thule does not). We have since improvised with zip-ties, something that I think I shouldn’t have to do on such an expensive piece of equipment.
But nonetheless, I love this thing and it is worth every penny. If you’re an outdoor family with babies, toddlers or preschoolers you need a Chariot. Don’t forget the bicycle and cross-country ski kits.
Check it out on Amazon.
2. Ergo Performance Carrier
On our group hikes I get asked about baby carriers a lot. I confess that I can’t tell you about the Boba or Onya baby carriers that are all the rage but I can tell you that I’ve used the same Ergo carrier every day for 3 1/2 years. From walks around the block, to traveling, to scaling 13,000 foot mountain peaks. I’ve front carried infants around the block in the middle of the night to get them to stop fussing and back carried toddlers through airports. This thing is amazing, durable and able to withstand some serious use and abuse.
My current favorite thing about it, it’s size and ability able to fit it into the back of our Kelty Journey backpack carrier just in case I end up carrying both children.
Check it out on Amazon: ERGO Baby Carrier – Performance Grey
3. MyMayu boots
A few weeks ago I was grocery shopping (one kid in the cart, another on my back in the Ergo). The kid in the Ergo fell asleep and just as he did both of the rain boots that he was wearing slipped off. We were in the middle of Walmart on a busy Saturday afternoon and there I was missing two expensive kids rainboots. Had my kid been wearing a pair of MyMayu boots this wouldn’t have happened.
My Mayu boots are a relatively new addition to our family. After hiking through endless puddles this fall and noticing that my kids always had wet shoes and not so much support in regular old rubber boots I decided to try out a pair of MyMayu’s. So far I’m impressed with the quality, material, soft rubber sole, packability, and customer service offered by MyMayu. I love that they have a built in gaiter that can be cinched up to keep water and snow out and keep them from falling off.
But here’s the best part, they stay on a little hiker’s feet even when you’re pulling them in and out of a baby carrier. If that’s not a win after fighting rubber boots all autumn then I don’t know what is.
4. Kelty Trailridge 6
If you’re a parent you know the feeling–when suddenly you realize that your growing family will not fit inside the small 2 man backpacking tent you’ve had since college. That was us two years ago.
Enter into our lives the Kelty Trailridge 6, the mother of all family car camping tents.
I think it’s important to have a quality tent and spend a little extra money on a tent (a Walmart tent simply won’t cut it in harsh weather conditions). I’m not going to lie, I was skeptical when we were tent shopping. I wasn’t sure about a Kelty, especially since the price (on sale at Sierra Trading Post) wasn’t all that much more than what we’d spend at a big box store.
But, this tent has won our love. All it took was one high altitude thunderstorm with rain and wind were coming at us from every direction to realize that this tent is now part of our family. Anytime we’ve been camping in the rain we stay dry, including our gear which we store into the huge vestibules where it can wait out any storm.
Amazon has tents too! Check it out: Kelty Trail Ridge 6 Basecamp 6 Person Tent
5. Deuter Little Star Sleeping Bag
William has put the Deuter Little Star through two summer’s worth of abuse. While the bag is only rated to 40-degrees this sleeping bag is awesome for warm nights. What we love about this bag is that it grows with the child. With a simple zip or unzip you can make the sleeping bag small enough to fit a 1 year old or large enough to easily fit a 3 year old (and probably even a 4 year old). Kids gear that will last several seasons for the same kid always wins.
I’ll confess that this bag gets just as much use during naptime at home as it does in a tent, cabin or yurt.
Get your sleeping bag here: Deuter Little Star EXP Sleeping Bag Sun / Mandarine Left Zip
7. GSI Commuter Java Press
Let’s say that you’re camping and you don’t get an awesome nights sleep. Here’s a piece of gear that is vital for any sleep deprived coffee or tea loving parent. The price is a bonus, you get a full french press with built-in mug for less money than most travel mugs! Check out a full review over at Seattle Backpackers Magazine. You can purchase one here:GSI Outdoors Commuter Java Press Mug, Blue Mountain
8. Steri pen
We don’t leave home without the Steri-pen. We’ll do a full review later but it’s a great way to purify water using ultraviolet rays. The only con is that it requires a battery, so make sure you pack a fresh one. More details here: SteriPEN Adventurer Opti Handheld UV Water Purifier
9. North Face Sprout
Our little William has been using the North Face Sprout almost daily since May 31, 2013. I only know this because I was pregnant, a week overdue and having some serious contractions at REI when this clever little pack caught our eye. Finn was born just a few hours later.
This pack has logged more hours on the trails the past 18 months than most adults do in a lifetime and it’s gone through some serious abuse. Not only is it adorable, but the perfect size for a toddler or preschooler. I’m afraid that next summer we’ll have to hand this down to Finn and upgrade William to a larger daypack (recommendations anyone?) Grab a sprout for your little sprout here: The North Face Sprout Backpack Youth (Shocking Pink Ditsy Stripe Print)
This should actually be first on our list, not last but so I digress.
If you don’t hike with a whistle you should and here’s why, it can save your life. I carry a small whistle in my Ribz front pack. William wears one around his neck at all times when we’re on the trails. It’s just the safe thing to do.
Any whistle will work, my recommendation is to start kids wearing whistles as soon as they won’t be a choking hazard and to teach your kid how to blow a whistle if they become lost. Pick up a whistle here or anywhere really. Coghlan’s Six Function Whistle
What pieces of gear do YOU consider essential?
Thru 11-30-14 take 30% off some Sierra Trading Post purchases by shopping through this link: http://stp.me/Trails
ps We are Amazon affiliates, if you shop through the Amazon links we posted we get a few pennies from every purchase. But as a small business we’ll love you even more if you buy local instead of through Amazon 🙂