Good gear for little people

Good gear for little people

Take it from a parent of a kid who loves to camp, paddle, explore and generally get down and dirty outside: it's hard to find good gear for little people—but not impossible.

And it matters. Good gear will make taking junior to your favourite playground easier and more fun for everyone. Luckily, more and more manufacturers are stepping up to get the next generation outfitted for any adventure. Here are a few of our faves for 2012— kid-tested, parent-approved.
Geopalz ($25)
Credit: Geopalz

Geopalz ($25)

Sometimes you need a little motivation to turn a perceived one-kilometre death march into a good time. This kid-friendly pedometer might be all you need. Designed to look like a lady bug and other animals, this pedometer tracks daily footsteps from the hip or shoelace. Plus, kids can enter their daily totals online to win prizes.
Keen Newport H2 Sandals ($65)
Credit: Keen

Keen Newport H2 Sandals ($65)

These mini versions look better than the adult-sized originals and work just as well. Offered in a huge range of colours and patterns, any kid will find a style they like. The Newports can be a little tough to get on, even with the bungy lace undone and velcro strap open, but once on these off-road sandals can go anywhere. They've got good grip and plenty of protection. Cinch them tight and they wear a lot like a shoe.
Patagonia Sun-Lite Cover-Up ($55)
Credit: Patagonia

Patagonia Sun-Lite Cover-Up ($55)

Can you take the little girl out of the city, but not the girl out of the kid? Perfect for princesses, this sun-proof, long-sleeve ensemble is ideal as a post-swimming warmup or as a camping dress—don't we all need one? The quick-drying polyester blocks rays like SPF 50 sunscreen. It's tough, looks cute and, most importantly, comes in pink.
Deuter Fox 30 Backpack ($83)
Credit: Deuter Sport

Deuter Fox 30 Backpack ($83)

While you don't want to load your kid up with 30 pounds (especially if you want to make it to camp), most kids can handle shouldering their clothes and a sleeping bag. It's no coincidence there's just enough room for all that, and maybe a few toys, in the Fox 30 backpack. Built for a growing kid, the torso can be adjusted by six or seven inches. Comfort-wise, there's the same padding and support as you'd find on an adult pack from Deuter. The pack is a top loader with a lid, sleeping bag compartment and side zip access.
La Sportiva Wildkid ($75)
Credit: La Sportiva

La Sportiva Wildkid ($75)

The Wildkid is a smaller version of the Wildcat, a wicked, multi-purpose trail runner. It looses little in its Lilliputian iteration: EVA cushioning, TPU heel stabilizer, moisture wicking mesh liner, Frixion AF rubber and La Sportiva's Impact Break System grip pattern. A quick pull system means you won't be dealing with loose laces all day long. While they're meant to be used as a running shoe, they're burly enough for most kids to wear them on just about any adventure.
Piggyback Rider ($80)
Credit: Piggyback Rider

Piggyback Rider ($80)

If your kid is too little to walk the whole time, but too big to sit in a backpack all day, this may be the ticket to get to wherever you're going. It's essentially a pack shoulder and hip harness set up for a little one to hang on safely. It's simple, compact and light and gives a kid a good view from adult height. With the Rider on the adult, the kid stands on a bar and hangs on to two handles. An optional safety strap can keep kids in place should they decide to nap.
Gibbon Fun Line ($80)
Credit: Gibbon

Gibbon Fun Line ($80)

Set up a slackline at home or a campsite and everyone will be having a good time. The only drawback is watching your kids show you up—they tend to have better balance than stiff oldies. And even if they don't, a couple of sticks or poles will have them walking the line quickly. In a fun print that's a little sticky to help with grip, this 15 metre slack line is easy to set up and disassemble.
Ring Stix ($20)
Credit: Ring Stix

Ring Stix ($20)

It may not live up to its claim as the "coolest 21st century outdoor game," but Ring Stix is a fun game at almost any age. Drop a ring on two of the sword-like sticks, shaped like an arcing cutlass, and then pull them apart quickly to send the ring flying through the air. The object of the game is for the other person to catch the ring you throw. That's tough, but hucking them around is fun and when you get bored of that, the sticks double as excellent play swords.
Mountain Equipment Co-Op Lucy Sunglasses ($10)
Credit: Mountain Equipment Co-Op

Mountain Equipment Co-Op Lucy Sunglasses ($10)

Kids' eyes are more sensitive to the sun than adults', but kids are harder on shades than anyone else. We hate to recommend a disposable product, but when it comes to something that's as easily lost, scratched and broken as a pair of shades, price is key. MEC has a range of kids' shades to fit any head at a price that small budgets can handle. And they all have plenty of sun protection. The Lucys are a girly style with a modern big frame, just like mom's.
Princeton Tec Bot ($20)
Credit: Princeton Tec

Princeton Tec Bot ($20)

As reviewed in the March issue of explore, the Bot is a simple, affordable and functional headlamp built for little people. The two LEDs cast 15 lumens, plenty of light for most purposes and it runs on two AA batteries. Simple on-off button and a swivelling head on an adjustable stretchy bang keeps things simple. Plus, fun colour combos.