If you’re planning any kind of adventure activities on your next family vacation, you’re going to need more than just flip flops and a swimsuit. From hiking and ziplining to kayaking and even scuba diving, we’ve got your essential adventure equipment covered. And remember, when organizing your adventure packing list, be sure to check what the weather’s going to be like in your chosen destination first.
What to Pack for Adventure Travel: The Essentials
No matter what kind of travel you’re doing, a small daypack is essential for carrying your hats, sunglasses, sunblock, camera, first-aid kit and snacks. We like a daypack that collapses into a small pouch, so it takes up zero space in your luggage. Look for a backpack that fits well. Even if you’re not carrying much, a bad fitting backpack will quickly turn your fun family hike into a nightmare. Padded shoulder straps, water-repellent fabrics and watertight seals are all important. If your children want to carry their own bag, there are some cute daypacks for kids available, too.
Related Article: Beyond the Diaper Bag: Best Daypacks for Traveling Families
2. Water Bottle
Whether you’re skiing down the slopes or navigating white water rapids, remember to pack a water bottle. If you’re hiking, you’ll want an insulated water bottle to keep your drink cold; the only problem with these types of flasks, however, is that they are relatively heavy. A good alternative is a collapsible water bottle or even a portable hydration pack. If kids want to carry their own bottles, make sure you choose a spill-proof, leak-proof one.
It doesn’t matter if it’s going to be hot or cold on your adventure vacation, you’ll still need something to protect your eyes from UV rays. You should forget the designer shades, though, and pack some sturdy frames instead. Fortunately, there are plenty of sunglasses that are durable, lightweight and stress resistant that still look good! Popular for babies are these cute Baby Banz sunglasses that protect your little ones against UV A and UV B radiation. For older kids, Rivbos polarized sunglasses are made from unbreakable materials (always a winner with children!) and come in a fun range of colors.
Keep cool on your adventure travels with a good hat. There are lots of options available for babies, kids and adults, depending on what style you like. When traveling, you’ll want one that’s collapsible, easy to pack and with SPF protection. If you’re heading for colder climates, you’ll need a beanie hat and, if you have a little kid traveling with you, this knitted puppy cap is possibly the cutest thing we’ve ever seen!
Related: Best Sun Hats for Babies
What to Pack for Adventure Travel: Hiking Attire
5. Hiking Shoes
If you’re planning to do some serious walking when you’re on vacation (and by serious, we mean walking further than from the hotel to the pool), you’ll want to make sure the whole family has some sturdy hiking shoes. Your choice of shoes will make a big difference in how much you enjoy your hike. For kids, look for shoes that are flexible and light with a good, no-slip sole such as these by Merrell or these unisex shoes from Keen. The mesh means the shoes are breathable and will dry quickly if your son or daughter goes stomping through puddles. Moms and dads should also choose something lightweight and with an all-terrain sole.
Related Article: Blisters, Be Gone: Best Hiking Shoes for Kids
6. Waterproof Jacket and Pants
Keeping dry means keeping happy so invest in some good waterproof jackets for the family; there are lots of options around for kids and adults. To save space when packing, look at foldable rain jackets or ponchos. And don’t forget your waterproof pants, too—you will need them if it unexpectedly starts to rain and you’re in the middle of a hiking trail! For younger children, this HAPIU waterproof coverall will make sure the rain stays away.
What to Pack for Adventure Travel: Ziplining Gear
7. Fanny Pack
You don’t want to lose anything when you’re zipping through the treetops so make sure to invest in a good fanny pack, which work better than a backpack while ziplining. It offers easy access to your smartphone for when you want to take photos between runs, and it won’t get in the way of your safety gear. Some fanny packs are big enough to fit a small point-and-shoot camera as well. If you’re wearing sunglasses, bring a strap so they stay on your head. And don’t forget to bring an elastic band to tie back long hair into a ponytail.
8. Closed-Toed Sandals
Most ziplining experiences won’t let you fly through the air unless you have closed-toe shoes. A good option for moms are quick drying slip-on water shoes that are not only practical, but look cute too. Dads can choose from hiking sports sandals or regular sneakers. There are lots of closed-toe shoe options for kids including Native shoes, which we love. Keep toddlers from feeling left out by getting them some anti-slip sandals, which you can also use by the pool and on the beach.
9. Go Pro
Make sure you have something to show the folks back home with a GoPro video of your ziplining adventure. The best way to capture your zipping experience is by fixing your GoPro to a chest strap or a head strap.
What to Pack for Adventure Travel: Kayaking Essentials
10. Waterproof Shoes
If you’re going to be on the water, you’ll need some good waterproof shoes. There are a number of different designs to protect your feet, and one of the best choices for kayaking is water sandals. If you’re going to be walking in between paddling, Keen water shoes are a good option. Designed to be more like hiking shoes, these have extra support for walking over rugged terrain and they protect toes. There are lots of kids’ water shoes to choose from, too.
Related Article: Best Water Shoes for the Whole Family
Even the most experienced of kayakers will want to bring a dry bag with them to store cell phones and other electronics. The Aqua Quest Mariner is durable, waterproof and has padded shoulder straps so you can wear it like a backpack. Not only can you use this when kayaking or white water rafting, but it will also be useful on family vacations to the beach and pool, as well as water parks.
What to Pack for Adventure Travel: Scuba and Snorkel Gear
12. Mask and Fins
If scuba diving is on your adventure wish list, it’s definitely worth investing in a mask that fits well. A poorly fitting rental mask that leaks or is uncomfortable can ruin your dive. It’s also worth buying your own fins. You can get some great sets for kids that include masks, snorkel and fins, like this one by Seavenger, which gets rave reviews. If your children prefer to snorkel, or are too young to scuba, then a full-face snorkeling mask is a winner. The TriMagic Full Face Snorkel Mask is an integrated mask and snorkel that makes snorkeling a breeze.
What to Pack for Adventure Travel: Ski and Snowboard Basics
13. Ski Goggles
A good pair of ski goggles are essential for all family ski and snowboard vacations. UV light is amplified at altitude, which makes the glare reflected from the snow even stronger so you need to make sure your eyes are well protected. The Anon M3 MFI goggles have interchangeable lenses, meaning you’re ready to tackle both blue skies and blizzards. Ski goggles for children are also made specifically to shield their eyes from the sun and UV rays: Odoland is a trusted brand that makes very good goggles for kids and teenagers.
14. Hand Warmers
If the forecast is for cold weather where you’re skiing, hand warmers should definitely be in your day pack. These odorless and environmentally safe hand warmers can heat up even the coldest of hands with an average activated temperature of 135 degreees Fahrenheit. All you have to do is remove the pouch from its plastic wrapper, shake it to activate the contents and then place it in an enclosed area such as a jacket pocket to heat up.
15. Ski Socks
When you’re spending all day on the slopes, you want to make sure your feet are comfortable, which means you need good ski socks. The best ski socks are made from a combination of organic fibers such as Merino Wool and synthetic fibers like nylon. This combination provides the best breathability and moisture management. (If you try skiing in regular cotton socks, you’ll quickly find that you get cold feet!) Ski socks are generally longer, so you can pull them above your boot, and have slight padding on the heel and shins. Ski sock technology has come a long way over the years and there are lots of options for men, women and kids.
Katja Gaskell is a travel writer and family travel blogger who recently returned to live in London after 12 years abroad in Australia, India and Mexico. She has written guidebooks for Lonely Planet, reviewed hotels for the British boutique hotel site Mr & Mrs Smith, and has contributed articles to publications including BBC Food, The Australian, Lonely Planet online and more. She’s also the European Editor of Twist Travel Magazine. Katja is a firm believer that you can —and should!—travel with your kids everywhere. Find Katja on her own site, Globetotting.com.