The Best Family Gear For The Great Outdoors

Looking for some adventure? You’d better be well-equipped. Whether you’re backpacking through the Sierras or taking a hike in your local park, tackling whitewater on the Colorado River or canoeing a placid lake, having the right equipment can be the difference between a blister-filled sunburned sufferfest and a comfortable adventure that the whole family will remember forever.

With this in mind, we sought out the most comfort-inducing and functional gear we could find, then took it to the test, camping in Shenandoah National Park, glamping at California’s iconic Patrick’s Point, paddling in deep Maryland creeks, traversing the Poconos, and, well, you get the picture. We took the gear that stood the test, the best of the best, and separated it here into categories for you to pick the right equipment for whatever adventures stoke your interest. From watersports to cycling to camping to gear built for kids, there’s something here that will elevate your whole family’s adventure game. With that, get out and go wild!

Camping and Backpacking

Spending time in the outdoors doesn’t require being uncomfortable in the wild, especially when you’ve got your kids with you. The right camping can turn the outdoors into a playground for you and the little ones. Here, we’ve got cushy sleeping pads, palatial tens, and plenty of convenient gadgets that will take the “rough” out of roughing it.

RollR 60 Rolling Cooler

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If you listed everything that you wished your cooler had, chances are it’d look a lot like RovR’s RollR 60. This 60-quart cooler has a certified bear-resistant rotomolded body and lid, wet and dry compartments, and plenty of accessories like a dry good bag and cupholders. It can hold 60 cans with 20 pounds of ice, the latter of which it can keep for up to 10 days. It’s a beast to carry, so you’re not going to be hauling this to some far-flung campsite. But if you’re car camping or headed to the beach? The all-terrain wheels and stainless-steel handle make it a breeze.

Cloudtouch Indoor/Outdoor Blanket

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Few things in life are as comforting as cozying up to a fire in a warm blanket. And there’s no better camp blanket than Voited’s Cloudtouch Indoor/Outdoor Blanket. With a water-resistant exterior on one side and a fluffy fleece interior, the Cloudtouch is so comfortable that you’ll use it as much at home as you will on the road. Snaps on the edges allow it to transform into a single sleeping bag or fuse with another blanket to be used as a double bag. It also snaps into a hands-free cape for when you need to make coffee on those cold mornings.

Nexgrill Daytona 3-Burner Propane Gas Griddle with Lid

The Home Depot
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No outdoor oasis is complete without a griddle that works overtime. This gas model from Nexgrill offers 630 square inches of cooking space, so you can make eggs in the morning, grilled cheese midday, and burgers for dinner without so much as a second thought. The pair of shelves provides ample room to prep ingredients without breaking your stride, and with the propriety grease management system, you’ll spend less time cleaning and more time fueling up your fam.

Stingray 3-Person Tent

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Tentsile’s flagship model tent is the easiest treehouse you’ll ever set up. Perfect for car camping, the Stingray 3-Person Tent uses three anchor points to create enough tension to create a sturdy floor for up to three people to sleep in. The result is a comfortable hammock-like sleeping surface that’s firm enough to prevent everyone inside from rolling into the middle. You’ll need to find three trees at 90-degree angles to set it up, so if you have the right spot, it’s the perfect car camping upgrade. Bonus: During the day, it’s a perfect tree fort for the kids.

Helm Tech Sunglasses

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The Helm Tech’s understated square styling hides a slew of adventure-ready features. Sweat channels, lightweight and durable Grilamid frame material, and slip-resistant rubber nose pads make the versatile sunglasses as appropriate at the park as they are on a 14,000 summit. For more extreme situations (think snow-covered mountains or open water), removable side shields block out sun rays reflecting from every angle.

Firelight 750 Flask + Tumblers

High Camp
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You won’t find a better drink-toting vessel than High Camp’s Firelight 750 Flask + Tumblers. Weighing just 29 ounces, the vacuum-insulated flask can fit a fifth of your favorite spirit or a full bottle of wine. The tumblers attach to the top and bottom of the flask magnetically, making the 3-piece set a streamlined, lightweight addition to any trunk.

Air-Carrier Cargo Box

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Most car-top boxes are a pain to install and take up far too much real estate in the garage when you’re not using them. Flated solves both of those problems with the Air-Carrier. The inflatable cargo box adds 23 cubic feet of storage space to your rooftop, and only weighs 23 pounds. The drop-stitch fabric inflates to rock-hard rigidity, keeping your gear organized and safe. Deflated, the Air-Carrier can fit in a medium-sized duffel.

Honey Stinger Waffles

Honey Stinger
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Honey Stinger Waffles are an ideal backpacking snack. Thin waffles stuck together with a honey blend, they’re made from all organic ingredients (honey is the only sweetener) and actually taste good. They’re perfect for sustained energy on the trail, a quick snack on the road with the kids, or paired with a hot cup of coffee in the morning. They come in a variety of flavors, from salted caramel and vanilla to chocolate and cookies and cream. A gluten-free version is also available.

Stargaze Reclining Camp Chair

NEMO Equipment
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There’s no rule that says you can’t be comfortable in the wild. NEMO’s Stargaze Reclining Camp Chair is a perfect example. This lightweight camp chair is suspended from its collapsible frame, allowing it to swing freely. It’s too bulky for backpacking, but it’s a simple way to add luxury to any car camping site. A head cushion and padded armrests combine with breezy mesh for hours of comfort, while the mesh cup holder keeps your beverage handy. The best part? The chair strap system allows the chair to recline for napping or, as its name suggests, stargazing.

Peak Series Collapsible Filter Squeeze Bottle

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One of the best ways to get your kids excited about the outdoors is by teaching them survival skills. And one of the easiest skills to teach is how to source and filter water out in the wild. Lifestraw’s Collapsible Filter Squeeze bottle has a filter integrated into the lid that eliminates 99.99 percent of bacteria, parasites, and microplastics. The filter cleans the water as you squeeze it and push the water out. Easy peasy lemon…well, you get the rest.

Camp Kitchen Cleanup Kit

Sea to Summit
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One of the least enjoyable parts of outdoor life is cleaning up after meals. Sea to Summit’s Camp Kitchen Cleanup Kit doesn’t make the task easier…but it does have everything you need to get it done. The kit includes a 10-liter pouch that serves as a carrier/kitchen sink, 50 mL of outdoor-friendly soap, a pot scrubber, washcloth, and dish towel.

Koda 12 Gas Powered Pizza Oven

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The only thing better than homemade pizza is homemade pizza enjoyed in the great outdoors. Ooni’s Koda 12 Gas Powered Pizza Oven is definitely too heavy for backpacking, but if you have spare room in your car and want to serve up some great pizza, it’s perfect for car camping. Its compact frame won’t take up too much space in the trunk, and the oven heats up to 900 degrees, cooking pizzas in two minutes flat. And while it’s designed for use on the road, it’s so quick and simple to use that you’ll probably set it up in the backyard for impromptu pizza parties, too.

Flash Java Kit

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If you’ve spent a good amount of time in the outdoors, you already know about JetBoil. If you don’t know it, the JetBoil Flash is the fastest way to boil water in the outdoors. It’ll only boil a liter of water at a time, but its diminutive size makes it perfect for backpacking, where saving pack space and weight is key. The concentrated flame and insulated cup heat up water in two minutes flat, which is great for those cold mornings when you need a cup of joe ASAP. The Flash Java kit simplifies the process with a custom French press plunger and lid, so you can get caffeinated and back on the trail in no time.

MoonShade Automotive Sun Shade

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Excellent for car camping in the spring and summer, MoonShade’s Automotive Sun Shade is a simple solution for staying out of the sun. Weighing only eight pounds, this portable awning offers 9 feet by 7 feet of coverage, day or night. The setup couldn’t be simpler — it attaches to your vehicle via suction cups or magnets and stands up with telescoping aluminum support poles. It’s perfect when you need some shade in a pinch.

Kelty Low Loveseat

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Why bring two seats when you can bring just one? This double camp chair from Kelty lets you sit next to a loved one and cuddle up to the campfire. The lower base adds stability, while a slightly reclined back lets you kick back with ease. Insulated cup holders keep your beverages at the right temperature, and the roll-tote storage makes it easy to haul wherever you go.

Foamy Sleeping Pad

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Even with most sleeping pads, sleeping on the ground isn’t always comfortable. HEST solves this problem with the Foamy Sleeping Pad’s two layers of enhanced memory foam. The result is the most comfortable night’s sleep you’ll have in the outdoors. While it’s too bulky and heavy for backpacking, the roll-up pad is perfect for car camping and van life, thanks to its perfect mix of softness and support. Bonus: the bottom of is water and abrasion-resistant, so you can use it as a sitting pad or sleep out in the open.

M16 Folding Knife

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Sturdy yet compact, the M16 Folding Knife from CRKT is perfect for both camp use and everyday carry. The aluminum handle is lightweight but strong, and the D2 blade steel keeps its edge. The flipper-assisted opening is responsive and easy to use, while the button-style lock is solid and simple to deploy. There’s no reason not to take it wherever you go.

Biolite Headlamp 330

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A good headlamp is handy for everything from exploring the woods to cleaning out the shed or changing your car’s oil. Charging via a micro-USB, the 330 has a 40-hour power reserve as well as multiple beam widths, a red light mode, and a strobe function. The headlamp itself tilts with the pull of a fingernail, throwing out 330 lumens of directional light. And the best part? It weighs less than three ounces. Buy it in multiples.

Jazz Double Sleeping Bag

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For most parents, the best night’s sleep is a night to yourself, without your kids’ feet in your face or your partner crowding your side of the bed. But for those cuddlers out there, this two-person sleeping bag is your solution. Designed to mimic your real bed, it includes a removable sheet for use in warmer weather as well as an under-sleeve to keep your sleeping pad in place regardless of how much you toss and turn. While not true down, its down-like quilted layer feels awesome on your back as you tuck in after a full day of summer adventures.

Bivvy Stick Satellite Communication Device

ACR Electronics
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One of the Great Outdoors greatest strengths — the lack of real world intrusions — can also be one of its greatest dangers (see: 127 Hours). Unless the specter of cutting your arm off with a jackknife holds no terror, the cell-signal-boosting Bivvy Stick is a great inclusion in your wilderness pursuits. Provided you can see the sky, you can send and receive text messages, contact rescue services, check-in with a tap, receive weather forecasts, and track your location, mileage, and more. The best part? It weighs just over three ounces and carries 120 hours’ worth of charge.

Moonlander Dual-Height Table

NEMO Equipment
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The ultimate car camping accompaniment, the Moonlander will hold your morning coffee, afternoon Uno games, and evening meals while packing down to the size of a laptop. The nylon table surface wipes clean with ease, while the aluminum legs are strong and stable so you can linger around the table. At full height, it’s 16 inches above the ground, with a secondary “picnic” setting four inches high. It packs down to 14.5 x 9.5 x 1.5 in, which means it can fit in a backpack’s laptop sleeve, but at four pounds, it might be a bit much for backpacking.

Daybreak 6-Person Tent

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The ultimate slumber-party structure, the Daybreak unfolds to a massive size — and with a minimal weight. Set up, it has 91 square feet of floor space for crisscrossing sleeping bags as well as room for all your child’s friends. Even better, your son or daughter’s companions will be able to navigate easily, even in the dark, thanks to almost six feet of height. While a tent like this would normally be associated with car camping, at 16 pounds, it’s not impossible for kids to hike in with it on their backs.

Big Agnes Wyoming Trail 4 Tent

Big Agnes
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This car-camping fortress weighs a respectable 20 pounds and provides an expansive footprint that includes two “rooms,” two entries, and a vestibule. It’s great for sequestering kids on one side so you and the Mr. or Mrs. can enjoy some time to yourselves. On rainy days, join in the central meeting area for cards and meals.

Travelline Treewear Slackline

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If you’re looking for a fun activity for the outdoors, slacklining is a great option. Basically a balance beam made of webbing strung between two trees, learning to walk on a slackline is a great way to spend an afternoon. Gibbon’s 50-foot Travelline slackline is perfect for stowing in a car or throwing in a pack for camp fun for all ages. It includes the two-inch webbing, a ratchet, and two pads to protect the trees to which it anchors. Pro tip: Slide your sleeping pads underneath for added protection when first starting out and save that trip to the urgent care.

Helio Pressure Shower

NEMO Equipment
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This camp-friendly shower jets water out through pressure, ensuring you don’t have to tenuously hoist it into a tree. Its 2.9-gallon reservoir pressurizes via foot pump even while spraying, allowing you enough reserves for a seven-minute shower. While it lacks a heating element, its dark color was designed so that you could leave it in the sun to naturally warm your post-activity wash.

Tactical Tomahawk

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Unless you’ve just walked away from a plane crash in Alaska, you don’t need this tool, but for all the hatchet fans out there — it’s a very nice thing to have. Patterned after the combat tomahawk issued to G.I.s in Vietnam, SOG’s version is designed to be a multipurpose tool of all trades while in the field. Whether you’re clearing brush, digging holes, chopping firewood, or just winging it into a stump for fun, its steel head and fiberglass handle are perfectly balanced and incredibly durable. It includes a nylon sheath for safe, secure carry when not in use.

TowerBall Bundle

Caliber Games
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Forget cornhole or croquet; TowerBall is the next big outdoor game, and this kit includes everything you need to get started. Its toss-style play is fun for every age, and the pyramid collapses flat and stores in a backpack carry case when not in use. No one’s eye will get put out should he or she be struck with one of eight hacky-sack-like bags — so go ahead and have a cold one or three during the match.

Terra Firma Luxury RV

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We had to throw one money-is-no-object piece in here. In a word, Bolus’s Terra Firma is beautiful. Sleeping four comfortably and with a six-foot, four-inch interior height, every detail is elevated with minimalist elegance, from the real wood walls and ceilings to dual skylights, heated floors, and more. It’s even got built-in pet dishes that slide out when man’s best friend needs its dinner. If we didn’t know it could be towed, we’d swear this trailer was at a boutique glamping site.


Your clothes are your first line of defense against the elements. The right clothes will not only keep you comfortable, but they’ll also be tough enough to survive season after season of wear and tear (and look good doing it. Here are some of the best options for outdoor apparel, including boots that double as sneakers, pants that’ll do everything, and the comfiest hoodie you’ll ever wear.

Outback Merino Beanie

Sunday Afternoons
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Any company can make a beanie with merino wool, but Sunday Afternoons goes the extra mile with its Outback. Selecting Everwool for its yarn, the company can guarantee its sourcing sheep are humanely raised and free from the painful practice of mulesing (if you don’t know, don’t Google it). A fleece ear band on its interior adds warmth with little bulk, and the whole package carries a lifetime warranty.

Wagyu Hoodie

California Cowboy
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Hands down, this hoodie is one of the most comfortable we’ve ever worn. It’s buttery soft and lives up to its oh-so-tender namesake. It certainly seems basic at first — it sports a generous hood and kangaroo pocket, as well as a smaller phone pocket that’s hidden in the side hem. But the second you put it on, you’ll understand why we can’t stop gushing about the soft, comfortable bamboo and spandex blend.

ACG Smith Summit Cargo Pants

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If you want a pant that’ll do it all, this is the pair. Durable recycled nylon is bolstered by reinforced knees, while the water-repellant treatment will keep you dry in light rain. The zip-off pant legs make it simple to cool off when the sun beats down, while the cargo pockets are perfect for carrying essentials.

Halden Boot

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Forsake’s Halden boot is a true hybrid – a hiking boot that’s tough enough to handle the trails, but stylish enough to double as an in-town sneaker. The waterproof leather is bolstered with a waterproof/breathable membrane, a composite shank provides added support on rough trails, and the EVA midsole smoothes out bumps on both dirt and concrete.

Ferus Tech Wool Hoodie

Black Crows
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The Ferus Tech Wool Hoodie is our desert-island outerwear (it’s a cold island). Its blend of warm, insulating wool and durable, water-repellent polyester is a one-two punch for cold, wet days, and a built-in hood and rugged YKK zippers ensure nasty weather stays out. Whether you’re in the mountains, packing light during shoulder seasons, or just looking for a stylish piece to protect against chilly nights, Black Crows has you covered.

Renegade Shorts

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This do-it-all short covers a number of uses. From through-hiking days to Saturday morning errands, its soft nylon and Spandex blend allows as aggressive of movement as you’d need. It also resists abrasions in the skatepark and dries quickly after a dip in the lake while keeping all your child’s treasures safe and secure in its eight pockets. In fact, the Renegade is so versatile it might be faster for you to start a list of what you can’t do in it: namely, most weddings.

For the Kids

The elements can be harsh for little ones. Here, we’ve got stuff that’ll keep your kids comfortable in the outdoors and teach them some fun skills. We’ve also thrown in a few packs that’ll help you haul little ones around.

Fork Stream Hoodie

Columbia Sportswear
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Rather than chasing your child for sunscreen reapplication every 90 minutes, cover as much of him or her as you can with the Fork Stream. Its UPF-50 protection won’t wash out, while the lightweight, moisture-wicking fabric is comfortable mile after mile on the trail. For little kids, the thumb loops are a great way to keep the sleeves down when layering under pieces, saving you time from fishing them out. Help them on with the hoodie, apply zinc to the nose, and you’re ready to go for hours.

Namuk Avan Bio Fleece Kid’s Jacket

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Fleece has been an outdoor staple for decades because of its warmth and light weight. But many question whether it’s worth it when its manufacture can be so detrimental to the environment. Not to worry: Namuk created its Avan with post-consumer-recycled PrimaLoft Bio fleece, which was designed to shed next to zero microplastic waste in the wash. The kid-friendly chest patches keep its appearance fun.

My First Book of Knots: A Beginner’s Guide

Sky Pony Publishing
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Whether you were paying attention in Scouts or not (or attended at all, for that matter), this book will get you up to speed, as well as your son or daughter. Designed with kids in mind, its 45 pages of illustrations will teach you and your kiddo knots for a variety of applications, from fishing to camping, ranching (whether or not you encounter cattle in your daily lives), wrapping presents, tying shoelaces, and more. It will pay dividends for years to come.

Poco Plus Baby Backpack

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This kid carrier is designed to pack in your progeny with a surprising amount of comfort. Its adjustable shoulder straps and waist belt accommodate dads of all sizes and builds, while the front-facing arm loops secure your kid fast when it’s time to break camp. It also includes a removable drool pad, toy attachment loops, a zippered lower compartment for diapers and other essentials, as well as a built-in sunshade for those exposed faces — yours, your child’s, and the mountain’s.

Junior Mountain Trainer

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Just because your child isn’t as big as you — yet — doesn’t mean he or she can’t benefit from a proper trail shoe. At $70, the Junior Mountain Trainer is a pricey kid’s shoe, but in this case, you get what you pay for. Outfitted with a Michelin outsole with aggressive nubs for all-terrain performance, the shoe also protects young feet via a waterproof-breathable membrane in the upper. A quick lacing system holds the foot securely while ensuring you’re not futzing with laces when you should be putting miles behind you.

Spire Training Knife

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A knife for kids? Now, hear us out: being familiar with a knife is a key part of knife safety. Helle’s Spire Knife is a great starter knife, thanks in part to its blunt tip. Designed for beginners, the handle is proportioned for ease of use. It’s also perfect for smaller hands, making it ideal for a child under adult supervision. But it also has all the features you’d want in a quality knife: the 12C27 Sandvik stainless steel blade and birch handle make it a sturdy, yet safe tool.

Journey PerfectFit Elite Kid Carrier

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Leave it to a backpack company like Kelty to create the ultimate child hiker. Versatile enough for both you and your partner to carry (it only takes a few miles uphill to gain perspective on how fast your child is growing), it also includes a sunshade and a roll cage for protecting your little one. Multiple pockets, including one for soiled garments, are arrayed throughout for functionality and organization along your journey.

On the Water

Safety comes first when it comes to water sports. Below you’ll find some great personal flotation devices, some excellent watercraft, and a bombproof way to keep your gear dry.

Body Glove Performer 11 Inflatable Paddleboard

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Stand-up paddleboarding is great low-impact exercise as well as a surefire way to put some distance between yourself and screaming kids on the shoreline. But boards can prove cumbersome when not in the water. Enter the Performer, which rolls up small enough for most garage shelves and some daypacks, yet still inflates to an uber-stable 11 feet with durability to spare. The package also includes hand- and electric-powered pumps for ultimate inflation versatility.

Trance 85 Adjustable Straight Shaft Paddleboard Paddle

Werner Paddles
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If your ideal paddleboarding day is a long, chill cruise, the Trance 85 is the paddle for you. At just over a pound, this paddle is the perfect choice for paddleboarders who want to go farther with less effort. The buoyant carbon blade makes the paddle feel even lighter in the water, and the 10-degree shaft-to-blade offset adds effortless power during your stroke.

Rogue Lite X Inflatable Packraft

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When the river beckons, the Rogue-Lite X rises to the occasion. Cut and assembled from kevlar fabric on the floor and sidewalls, the 11-pound packraft is durable enough to be rated up to Class I rapids and can port a max of 300 pounds. It includes two different inflation methods that can be packed in or left at home should you prefer your own electric inflation device. Fully filled, it’s just over seven feet long.

Ninja PFD

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No matter how old you are, you still need a floatie. The Ninja PFD from NRS is perfect for paddlesports, thanks to its smaller floatation element which gives your arms a full range of motion for paddling (or if need be, swimming back to your packraft). The Airmesh fabric on the panels provides plenty of insulation, and dual-entry zippers create a pocket that’s perfect for storing a frosty beverage. Bonus: the floating front panel doubles as a handwarmer on cold days.

Lil Legends Child’s Foam Vest

Mustang Survival
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Designed for kids weighing 33-35 pounds, this has every amenity you’d want in a child’s life vest. Ultra-soft fabric and a ventilated mesh back keep your kid comfortable, and the zipper, buckle, and leg strap keeps them secure. If your little sailor goes overboard, a three-piece collar cradles the head, and the grab loop makes it easy to haul them back on board. Plus, the stain-resistant front keeps it looking like new after a messy lunch.

65L Bill’s Bag Dry Bag

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If you’re going to be on the water, make sure you stash your gear in a good dry bag. The 65L Bill’s Bag from NRS is completely waterproof, thanks its proprietary closure system and waterproof TobaTex material. TobaTex has the same properties as PVC minus the harmful elements, plus it makes the back nearly indestructible. Further bolstering its durability is the bag’s reinforced bottom, so leaks or punctures won’t be a worry.


Looking to cover more ground? We’ve got a great first bike for little ones, a do-everything bike for people who don’t know what bike they want, and a bomber helmet. Check out these great options for cyclists of all stripes.

Straggler Gravel Bike

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The closest thing to an SUV on two wheels, gravel bikes are built to withstand everything from potholes to singletrack. Built for rough roads, but equally at home on dirt, Surly’s Straggler gravel bike has a supple steel frame that will take the vibration out of rough roads and accommodation for racks and fenders for when you want to go touring. Surly considers the Straggler a “mountain biker’s road bike,” which perfectly captures its versatility. If you’re looking for one bike that’ll do it all, it’s this one.

woom 1

woom Bikes USA
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Taking a great thing — balance bikes — woom made them even better. The woom 1’s rust-impervious aluminum frame can take plenty of knocks and keep its shape, while the step-through design is obvious enough for even young children to understand immediately. We love the inclusion of a hand brake which, while not necessary, is a great training aid as your child prepares for a real bike in the near future. But until then, an adjustable seat post ensures the perfect fit even as your son or daughter is growing like a weed.

RadWagon 4 Electric Bike

Rad Power Bikes
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The RadWagon 4 cargo bike is the perfect way to ditch the car and get outside on your way to work. With the benefit of an electric motor, you can cover up to 45 miles on a single charge while hauling as much as 350 pounds. It also makes a great family commuter, integrating a variety of child seats and running boards so that you can leave the car parked during milder weather.

Omne Air SPIN Bike Helmet

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If you’re going to ride, you’re going to need a helmet. And the Omne Air SPIN from POC is one of the best helmets out there. The all-around protection is bolstered by POC’s SPIN (Shearing Pad INside) tech, which uses silicone gel-like padding in specific parts of the helmet to provide multidirectional protection against the effects of oblique and rotational impacts. In addition, copious amounts of air vents keep your head cool on hot days, and the onboard sunglass storage gives you a place to stash your sunnies on overcast days.

Back-Roller Classic Panniers

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With a combined 40-liter capacity, these dual Back-Roller Panniers from Ortlieb can carry food, extra layers, or anything else you could want on a bike tour or commute. The coated polyester fabric and roll-top closure make them totally waterproof, and the polyester fabric will withstand abrasions if you veer off-trail. And once you get where you’re going, the shoulder carrying strap allows you to bring your gear along with you.

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