With three boys in the house, my family spends lots of time in the great outdoors. From hiking and camping to surfing and snowboarding, I love how being outdoors keeps my boys active, exploring, learning and pushing themselves. These activities, however, are always easier when we have the right gear. Here are some of my favorite holiday picks for your outdoor explorer.

GET WARM. One of my boys often has trouble dressing appropriately for outdoor activities. We’re talking about a kid who would happily go sledding with just a t-shirt on and loves to wear shorts in the rain. Enter Patagonia’s 3-in-1 Jacket. This new release from Patagonia offers kids (and parents) the versatility of three levels of protection in one jacket. There’s the internal polyester liner that is both waterproof and breathable – perfect for keeping kids warm without too much bulk. Then there’s the outer shell prefect for keeping out drizzle. It has zippered pockets (including a chest pocket), a hood with an extended brim, a mini-powder skirt to keep the snow out of your pants, an internal drawcord and adjustable cuffs to ensure a snug fit. Not only are the liner and shell of the 3-in-1 Jacket excellent pieces by themselves, but they can be zipped together to provide ultimate warmth and protection from the elements. ($229) Also available for girls here.

KID-SIZED BACKPACKS. I love that there is so much outdoor gear designed and constructed with kids in mind. Example A – Deuter’s Junior backpack. This is no over-sized bag that will hang down to your kid’s knee, even when empty. Instead the Deuter’s Junior backpack is sized specifically for kids 5+. The padded S-shaped shoulder straps and chest strap actually fit my 5-year-old and mean that not only can he carry some of his own gear on hikes and adventures, but that backpack will ensure the weight is equally distributed and safe for him to hold. The Deuter’s Junior backpack also has two mesh side pockets, reflector strips, two zippered front pockets, and a name tag on the inside. From an afternoon hike to the first day of kindergarten, the Deuter Junior backpack is durable, well-designed, and geared for kids. ($39)

STAY HYDRATED. One of my boys is constantly thirsty. Another is too busy playing to remember to drink. Both have benefited from a child’s Camelbak hydration pack. These lightweight packs make it easy, fast, and fun to stay hydrated on the go. Camelbak has a number of kid-friendly packs from the very basic, hydration-only Skeeter to the hydration + backpack combo Scout. New for 2012, Camelbak added the 2012 Camelbak Kicker, designed to keep your kid hydrated on the slopes and in the snow. In addition to adjustable straps and large zippered storage compartment, the one-size-fits-all Kicker also has an insulated hydration tube to keep water from freezing. From the slopes to the skate park, now my biggest problem is making sure they pace their water intake and don’t chew on the valve. ($50)

Here’s to hoping that you and your outdoor explorer have a very happy holiday!


Kate Bayless is a writer, editor and reviewer based in Southern California. Visit her on LinkedIn, Twitter or Contently. Samples were provided for the review.

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