The holiday’s are quickly approaching, which inevitably means the family will start asking for your kid’s wish lists. If you have an nature loving kiddo to buy for, this is your go-to guide! My son is an outdoor fanatic and loves everything that relates to the outdoors from gear, to toys and even art supplies that can be used outside. Here are some of his (and our) favorite holiday gift ideas for outdoor kids.
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Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoor Loving Kids
Osprey Ace 38 Backpack
In our search to find the perfect bag for travel and overnight camping backpacking trips, we finally settled on the Osprey Ace 38 Backpack. We first got this bag when my son was 8 years old. It has gone around the world for a year and backpacked over 200 miles. He adores it and even though he could move up to a larger bag this is still his favorite. The fit is great and even though we could overstuff it when he was younger, we tried to keep it at 12 lbs for him to carry easily.
To date he has used it around the world on our travels, overnight hiking up a volcano and miles and miles of backpacking. It worked perfectly for all instances and has been a favorite for both of us. Highly recommend this bag for outdoor loving kiddos who are looking to become independent.
REI Tarn 18 Day Pack
If you aren’t looking to backpack, but would rather get a daypack for your kids, we love our REI Tarn 18 Daypack. It holds so much stuff, has a waist belt and plenty of bells and whistles for kids to enjoy. My son particularly loves the little pockets on the waist belt where he can hide his collection of rocks he picks up on the way! Again, this bag has seen much love since it was first purchased 6 years ago and it is still going strong!
Buff for Kids
My son was gifted a buff this summer and it has become his number 1 outdoor accessory. He uses it when he’s hot to keep his hair back and when he’s cold to cover his head and ears! He wears it almost every day, which if you know him is a total change from his normal hat wearing days! There are tons of options on Amazon.
The Garmin VivoFit is the perfect gift for outdoor loving kiddos, especially if they like to keep track of their daily step count. In addition to steps, it also tracks sleep and has a watch and several timer options. My son uses all the functions almost every single day.
The benefit of this “fitbit” versus other ones made for kids is that this does not need to be charged! It uses a watch battery so should last about 1 year. Also, it is waterproof. My son has swam with it and takes a shower with it most days. After testing out several different step trackers, this was the best fit for a busy kid lifestyle.
My kid has aged since the first publication of this Outdoor gift guide and has moved onto an Apple Watch. He LOVED his Garmin for many years, but now that he’s 12 he was looking to have connectivity to call me or his dad as well. We are super happy with the SE watch as it allows him to track his workouts, check the weather, ask Siri questions, but not get lost on the internet. It’s not super easy to text which means he doesn’t get sucked into that world either.
Camelbak Water Backpack
The Mini M.U.L.E Backpack is one of my son’s favorite possessions. He loves to use it, wear it and show it off. He thinks it’s pretty awesome how when he wears it he looks like the grown up hikers he sees on the trails. The Mini M.U.L.E. has a zipper pocket for little accessories and an organizer pocket between the water reservoir and the zipper pocket to store sweaters or other belongings. It also has a built in whistle for emergencies, that you can also easily keep secret from whistle wild children. If this model is above your price range, Camelbak also has a cheaper backpack, the Skeeter model that holds the same amount of water, but doesn’t have extra storage for things like binoculars.
Eco Friendly Gift Items
Do you have a kid who is all about being eco friendly? My son is all about reducing our plastic consumption to almost zero. His favorite go to item is a Sea to Summit Cutlery set. This makes a great stocking stuffer! My son hangs his from his backpack so we always remember to use it when we are eating on the road. In addition to that, you can also think about switching to metal straws. We have both the curved and the straight, but prefer the straight straws for ease of cleaning. This set includes some of both with a cleaning brush that is easy to travel with. While at home we keep some in the car as well! Don’t forget a reusable water bottle too.
Black Diamond Hiking Poles
I would have never thought to buy these hiking poles for my son except that walking sticks were a recommended item for hiking the Narrows in Zion. I knew he would need something lightweight to be able to carry for long periods of time (or in case I had to carry them!), so I bought these. They are amazing. My son uses them every time we hike on any hills and says it makes him go ‘superfast’. I think it actually does..because I’m usually trailing far behind! The set comes with two poles, but for the most part he uses one and I use the other. Win win!
Keen Water Shoes
Water shoes are a kids best friend, especially when you live in Southern California. Even if you aren’t lucky enough to live in year round warm temperatures, Keen sandals are a great buy for spring/summer/fall hiking with kids. They are rough and rugged enough for loose dirt and varied terrain hikes, don’t scuff up floors inside the house and dry quickly when little feet pop into water (on purpose or accidentally!).
Merrell Hiking Boots
If you know my son, you know that at home he lives in his cowboy boots, but when we are on the road he takes only two pairs of shoes – his water sandals and his Merrell Hiking Boots. These boots are comfortable, waterproof and light making them perfect for traveling in a range of conditions. These boots have already seen black sand beaches in Iceland, volcanoes in Guatemala and city streets of Ireland!
Crampons for Winter Hiking
If you are like us and enjoy getting out into the mountains year round, these micro-spike crampons are great to have on hand. They fit over your hiking boots and offer just a bit more grip and security while hiking in snowy or icy conditions. We keep ours in the back of our car during the winter months in case we need them while out and about.
My motto is you can never have enough headlamps. When you travel off the beaten path, you often find yourselves in areas with limited electricity. This has been the case with us several times and we have wished we had our headlamps. There are several small light options that make a perfect gift for outdoor loving kiddos. This year we added this super lightweight one to our backpacking supplies and we love it!
Pocket Naturalist Guides
My son LOVES these foldable pocket guides. From animal tracks, the weather, geology to edible wild plants there are so many to choose from to keep your little ones occupied while out in the wilderness. Inevitably at every national park we go to my son ends up with another one, often specifically focused on that region of the US. How can you say no when your child wants to buy something super educational?! These are great to take out on hikes or even to have in the car (the weather one is great for the car). The guides are laminated to endure the abuse of kids, but can also be marked on with dry erase markers making nature explorations even more interactive.
Is your kid obsessing over a pocket knife? Mine was for ages and he finally got gifted one for his birthday. He is in love! The Opinel, a common fixture in French families is the perfect starter knife for kids. It’s sharp, but does not have a pointed end making it a little safer for smaller hands. Additionally, it has an easy locking mechanism to make sure it doesn’t flip open or closed when least expected. This is a perfect buy for the outdoor kid – big or small!
This version is great for kids after they have gotten used to the rounded edge knife and are ready to move on to the pointed end.
If your kid has moved on from the Opinel knives, a great option for whittling or carving is the Morakniv. This one is a favorite with the outdoor enthusiasts. It is sharp, so make sure your little one knows this in advance! They will love the grown-up feel of this knife with it’s sheath covering.
Every outdoor (and indoor) kid loves walkie talkies. After testing out several different types made specifically for kids that didn’t hold up, we found our way to these Uniden 16-mile 22 channel walkie talkies. I don’t think we have ever gotten the advertised 16 miles of distance with these, or even a mile to be honest, but the big positive is that when you are in range, the voices come through super clear which cannot be said for most of the kid versions. In addition to just being fun, these walkie talkies have come in super handy while visiting national parks where phone service is non-existent. We have also gotten great use of them at the beach when one half of the family is off exploring and we want to get the other half to join us. Fun, functional and useful, what more can you ask for!
We have finally found a hammock that we love as a family! I have to say, it’s not totally a kid gift, but mine is obsessed with ours and I am too! We have the Serac Double Hammock that works perfect for all of us to pile into or just for me (or my son!). The material is so light and soft, but amazingly durable. And.. for me, the novice, it’s super easy to set up with everything included in the tiny little package that it comes in! This is a fun gift for the whole family!
And for the parent who likes hammocking, check out my favorite portable hammock stand that has changed my camping life!
My kid might just be weird, but he loves his Luci Inflatable Solar Lantern. It’s a huge hit – one version can change colors like a disco ball, which the kids love. They can be hung in a tent as a lantern or carried around. He loves the idea that the sun is where it gets its power. It’s a pretty popular addition to our outdoor equipment, so much so that he even uses it as a night light when he remembers to set it out to charge in the window. And they pack so small, that you can take them everywhere!
This is one item that it’s worth spending the extra cash on! We tried the “kids” sleeping bags, but my son never took to them. However, as soon as he tried his REI Co-Op Lumen Sleeping Bag, he was hooked! This sleeping bag is super soft and lightweight, while also keeping him toasty even on a 27 degree night!
However, if all you need is something for sleepovers, the Wenzel Moose Sleeping Bag is great. If you are in colder climates or want one to grow with your younger kids, the Kelty Woobie is also an economical option.
For the Budding Weatherman
One of my son’s favorite items of recent years is this handheld weather machine. It’s not cheap, but it’s such fun for kids who like gadgets while out exploring. My son loves to take his on our hikes up to the mountains to check the wind speed, temperature changes and humidity. There are cheaper versions that do less and higher end machines that do so much that even firefighters use this while out in the field.
Outdoor Toys & Accessories
I’m putting these all together as there are just too many to list out. All of these items are small toys and accessories that would make great stocking stuffers. My son uses at least one of these items on every outdoor adventure we take, in the backyard and to store some of his finds! Without further ado, his favorites are:
- Magnifying Bug Viewer
- Bug Loupe Magnifying Glass
- Backyard Safari Clip on Field Tools
- 7 in 1 Survival Tool for the Outdoors (whistle, mirror, compass & more)
- Backyard Safari Vest
- Swiss Army Knife (plastic version)
- Compass (with a backlight!)
- Bird Call
Pee Cloth for the Girls
I know many of the girls don’t love going to the bathroom outdoors, but one great thing to have on hand to make those moments a bit easier is this amazing reusable clippable pee cloth! I use mine every single time we are out for a hike as well as when we are backpacking. It has made life on the trail so much nicer.
For most binoculars, they would need to be listed in the toy section above, however I am not going to recommend any of those. We have a ton and none of them work with any real efficiency. The BlueCabi brand of binoculars are different. They are made for kids, but provide real magnification using glass, not plastic. They come with a 2 year warranty if that tells you anything! If you have a bird enthusiast or explorer to buy for, these are a great option.
With so many adults taking photos from their phones these days, children are exposed to the art of photography from a much younger age. Photography is a great way for kids to explore their surroundings and for us as adults to get insight in how they see the world around them. For the super young kids, we had good luck with this VTech Kids Camera. As our son has gotten older and more into photography, we have looked at other options for him. My son bought himself the Nikon Coolpix, which is waterproof and quite rugged. He has wagged this camera everywhere for the last several months taking videos and photos of everything! He loves this little camera bag to wear his camera around and to keep it safe. Another waterproof option for kids is the Fuji FinePix camera which also takes high quality photos in or out of the water.
Now that he is 8, he has moved on to my old Sony Alpha a6000. It is super light, easy to carry around and takes great shots even with the kit lens. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend buying a new one for small kids, but a refurbished or used one would be awesome.
Knot Tying Guide
If you have a scout, you will understand how important this knot tying guide is, but my son has had his long before he needed one for scout ranks! We love this one because it comes with a carabiner to hold your cards and rope to practice on! A great gift idea for kids who like to fidget as well.
When I was growing up I only knew about Highlights. Now there are so many amazing magazine subscription options for kids, especially outdoor loving kids. National Geographic Kids is a gift that keeps on giving. My son LOVES getting the mail each day with the hopes that one of his favorite magazines will be there. Another great option for nature loving kids is Ranger Rick or Ranger Rick Jr. I asked my son which he prefers – NatGeo or Ranger Rick and he said both! So there you go, get them both!
Books are always a hit with kids. One of our favorite outdoor themed books is The Kids Outdoor Adventure book which lists out 448 things kids should do in nature before they grow up. It’s a great book for grown-ups as well in that it helps remind you of nature activities you can do with kids inside or outside!
For a beautiful look at nature, check out one of our favorites, The Nature Anatomy. For fun every day reading, check out some of Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library books that explore space, butterflies, baby animals, the rainforest and so much more. These are consistently in the reading pile at night. For my son’s birthday he was gifted this really great book – Hello Nature – Draw, Color, Make & Grow.
Some other cool nature and outdoor focused books we have checked out this year that you might like include:
This isn’t something to do outdoors necessarily, but for nature loving kids (and families) the Camp Board Game is an awesome game for family game nights. Think Trivial Pursuit with a (US) nature focus. They also have a great travel edition which is easy to take anywhere. Kids will LOVE using the included decoder to find out the correct answers. Spot It “Gone Camping” card game is also a fun outdoors themed game that is good on the go. For older kids, check out this awesome National Parks edition of Monopoly! This is already wrapped and under our Christmas tree! I have been waiting years for him to be old enough to enjoy it.
Our son loves to produce art – of any kind. He loves making art with found items in nature as well as drawing and recreating the landscapes he sees. One of his favorite on the go kits is the Sakura Watercolor set. It’s meant for grown ups, but is great for little artists on the go. This Nature Kaleidoscope Kit is also a super hit that can be refilled over and over with items found in nature. This year he has gotten super into this book – Botanical Line Drawing, to really hone in on his nature drawing skills.
Anything we missed that your outdoor kids love? Please let us know, I’m sure my son would love to put it on his list for this year!
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