Favorites: Hiking Nice-to-haves!

As we are getting back into hiking and hitting a groove, there are a few things we require (and a couple of other things we just really like). Anything to make hiking with kids easier and more fun is worth it. Here are a couple of things we really like. None of these are really ‘necessary’ (outside of the first aid stuff and the kid’s sunglass…I am serious here!) but we are happy with them and wanted to share them with you.

CamelBak Water System

My husband and I have always loved our small packs with water bladders and a drinking tube, but we hadn’t gotten one for the lad before. REI was having a sale and we found a child’s version, called the Camelbak Skeeter Hydration Pack. It fits him well and isn’t too heavy at 50 fl oz. The manufacturer says this is good for kids 5-8, but he is on the taller end and the straps let out quite a bit so he will be able wear it longer (although as he grows he might need more water than that for longer hikes). The beauty of the size is he didn’t complain once of it being too heavy as packs can be. He loves having on-demand water which means there was no constant stopping unless mom and dad needed a break! This is going to be a great pack for our short hikes. For longer hikes he will need his pack and more water. There is no storage at all in this pack, which I find as a negative of this model. The Skeeter normally runs about $40, but it was on sale for $29.99. There may be less expensive versions out there, and I am sure they are great too. I am of the opinion that kids need to carry gear and any pack of this sort is fantastic for that. Plus, I doubt we are the only family who has a hard time wearing our kid out (I wish I could plug into some of that…seriously!).

FitBit Surge

I am a Type-A person who loves to track her steps. I just like it. I think it is pretty cool to see how active I am in a day. The thing I love about my new FitBit Surge watch is that we can go on a hike and my son can see how many steps we did (he of course does more than us with his shorter legs), how many miles we have gone, and with the GPS feature it will map our route so he can see where we walked (how cool is that?!). I like it also because it tells me my heart rate, tracks my lack of sleep (seriously, what is sleep?), and gets me up and moving more. My husband likes it because I seldom actually hear my phone ring when he calls. Now my watch buzzes on my wrist via bluetooth when I have a call so I don’t have as much of an excuse to miss his calls (unless I don’t have my phone or I am out of range). Unlike the Apple Watch, it works independently of my phone, so if I leave my phone at home, most of the features on the watch work (save the text messages or the caller ID). It runs right around $250, which is less than the Apple Watch, but it also isn’t as pretty and is lacking a few features (which frankly, I don’t think I am really missing). For me, it is enough and I love it!

A Really Good Pair of Kids Sunglasses

We found a great pair of sunglasses for the lad after learning just how important it is to make sure kids have proper eye protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Kid’s pupils tend to be bigger which lets in more light and the UV rays can cause damage on really bright, sunny days. Plus, kids are spending a lot of time outside during the summer (I hope!) and while they often have sunscreen on, seldom do they wear anything to protect their eyes. According to studies this can lead to cataracts and eventual possible blindness.

The pair we bought is made by Julbo and have nice polarized lenses. This particular model was recommended to us by an optometrist. The size is great for kids 6-10 (according to the lady at the shop and Julbo’s website) and my son finds them very comfortable. The best part is he doesn’t mind wearing them. Here are some tips on what to look for when buying the glasses for your kids from VSP (which is a big health insurance for eye care company…if you are unfamiliar).

I remember these glasses costing around $50 which seemed a lot to spend, but protecting our bodies is really important and worth the investment, and he has been mostly responsible with them. We have established rules about where we keep them and ‘they must stay in their case if they’re not on your face’! It has been more than a year, and so far so good(UPDATE: we still have them 2 years later and after several trips around the world)! We haven’t lost them once. Now excuse me while I find some wood to knock on.

First Aid Kits

We always have a first aid kit with us when we are out. We have them in the car. We have them in the trailer. We don’t leave home without them and there is a very good reason for that…it is easy to get hurt. We like these ones from REI. 

This is the smallest one we carry and you can see everything that is included inside the handy zippered pouch on the outside of the zippered pouch.

REI carries these in several sizes for multi day hikes, for full families, for longer day hikes and more. We always add a few extra things to our kits (like individual eye drops, medicine for stings, extra band aids, etc). We highly recommend one person in your group always carry a good first aid kit that will cover you for anything that could happen.

First Aid App

Ever wondered what to do if someone is choking? Trying to remember that class you took 20 years ago for CPR and can’t remember if the song to sing is ‘Staying Alive’ or something else? And didn’t they change the CPR technique anyway? Is it just me who thinks like this? I would be horrible in certain emergencies due to not being certain I am doing the right thing. Luckily, I have a point of reference!
First Aid by American Red Cross is a great app to reference when you need help or someone near you does. Best thing, this is a free app

It can help you with cuts, broken bones, burns, how to help if someone is unconscious and breathing (or not), where the nearest hospital is, if you have been learning first aid there are tests to see where you might need to improve, and they give you list of things you need to do from chemical spills to natural disasters, plus even more!

I like the way they have set it up as well. They not only have step by step instructions, but there is a short video to walk you through those steps. This app has won all sorts of awards and has earned high marks. We consider this a must have for sure, and at free there is no reason not to have this on your phone! AmIright?

Binoculars and a local bird guide

Over the last few years we have been creating a better habitat in our backyard by planting native plants, installing houses for birds, mason bees, and (as of this last weekend) bats! We also have a great bird feeder we can see from our kitchen table allowing us to watch chestnut breasted chickadees, dark eyed juncos, and various sparrows swoop in and have a snack. We even saw a Pine Siskin for the first time recently! We are learning a lot about our local birds and have started watching for them while hiking. 

To make this easier, I just bought us a nice pair of binoculars. You could spend thousands on a set, but as we are amateurs and have a child who will be using them, I decided I didn’t want my investment to be that big (plus who has thousands to spend on a pair of specs when you have kids anyway?). I went in to the Portland Audubon Society and chatted with them and found a great pair of binoculars. The Leupold Yosemite BX-1 is fantastic because it is designed with a wider interpupillary range (meaning it can go wide enough for my big head and narrow enough for our son’s small head, and will fit my husbands head which is somewhere in between!). We went with an 8×30, although there are different ranges of magnification in this model. It comes with a carrying case and a strap and we got it there for around $107 (with our membership discount). Amazon is carrying them for about the same price

 The other thing we carry along with the binoculars is a pocket bird guide for our local area (when we stay in town, when we travel,  we have a bird book we take along). Our Portland Bird guide is laminated (which is important for being outside in Oregon) and folds up easier than a map. It has most of the birds we can see locally and it is fun for our son when he is able to match the bird to the picture and tell us what he sees. We also keep it on the kitchen table so we know who comes to visit. 

Yoga Studio

After a good hike or run, I need a good stretch. I am a recent yoga convert, which was hard at first as I am not a flexible person. I was having a hard time touching my toes after years of sitting. I have found yoga helps limber me up and it has decreased pain in my body. Not to mention that “After Yoga Glow” is pretty awesome. Yoga really is for everyone and you don’t have to do poses that will get you into Cirque du Soleil, you just have to do what you can. When I am on the road or I can’t get into the yoga studio, I love to use my Yoga Studio app. I bought it for $2.99 in the App Store and it is on all of my devices which makes it easy to take with me. There are different classes available based on level and what you want to work on (what does your body want to do?).

I have found their beginner classes great to practice skills, improve my balance and feel it is perfect for the beginner. I worked my way through them and have become very comfortable with the intermediate classes (I have not ventured into the advanced yet, since I am not THAT comfortable). You can go at your own pace and use it when you need it. I love the shorter classes for good stretching after hikes and they even have a special section for stretching after running (I love this class!).

You can read about the poses and how to get into them and they tell you how they should feel and what they are working. This app has really been a great partner to my studio time and has been really great for my mental health and coming back to center. Especially after a challenging day.

Your turn!

What are some of your favorite things to have with you while hiking with your kids or recovering after? Share with us below in the comments section!

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