The Best Gear for Active Families

From quality Oakley sunglasses to pint-size Chacos, this high-performance gear is designed for kids who like to play big. (Michael Karsh)
OutsideOnline essentials Active Families 2014

From quality Oakley sunglasses to pint-size Chacos, this high-performance gear is designed for kids who like to play big.

Kids want the same things in their sports shades as adults: quality optics and a comfortable fit. The Quarter Jacket, a smaller version of Oakley’s long-popular Flak Jacket adult model, delivers both, with interchangeable poly lenses (choose from six options) and a lightweight and flexible frame that that sits close to the brow for aerodynamic efficiency. Sticky rubber at the temples and nose keep them in perfect position on narrow faces while the wide, contouring lens shape fends off wind and boosts peripheral vision. From $90; oakley.com

Oakley Quarter Jacket Sunglasses
(Michael Karsh)


Most stand-up paddleboards on the market are unwieldy for smaller paddlers. Not the Vibe 80. This seven-foot-long SUP, crafted from durable high-density plastic, was engineered specifically with wee ones in mind. A concave standing area lends stability while deep grooves under the hull improve tracking. The single removable fin is made out of rubber, so it won’t break when smashed into submerged rocks. And a smart indentation behind the nose securely holds a water bottle. Designed for SUPers weighing up to 140 pounds. $280; pelicansport.com

Pelican Sports Vibe 80 Stand-Up Paddleboard
(Michael Karsh)


Buh-bye banana seat, hullo first road bike. The 19-pound Speedy T6 is a full-featured ride with shrunken geometry. Built from the same aluminum used on adult racing bikes, the frame has a top tube length of 46.5 centimeters and pairs with 24-inch wheels and wide-range gearing for a bike that’s ideally suited to eight- to 13-year-old cyclists. Spec’d with durable race-ready components, it should last through several siblings. $900; pinarello.com

Pinarello Speedy T6 Road Bike
(Michael Karsh)


Long gone are the days of Boy Scout–style rucksacks on big metal frames for multi-day backpacking trips. The Passage 40 is equipped with all the handy features of adult packs, like a sleeping-bag compartment, a floating lid with organizational pockets, cinch straps, and contoured, molded shoulder straps and back panel for extra comfort. But most important, the adjustable harness system allows the pack to fit torsos from 12 to 15 inches, meaning it grows with kids from ages six to 11. $100; rei.com

REI Passage 40 Backpack Kids
(Michael Karsh)


These pint-size Z/1s are just as durable as the pair you’ve been rafting in since college. Our favorite part: the footbeds support natural body alignment with noticeable arch support and heel cradling that helps avoid pronation. Got ’em muddy on that all-day summer creek hike? Throw ’em in the washing machine. $55; chacos.com

Chaco Kids Z/1 EcoTread Sandals
(Michael Karsh)


The key to getting kids excited about a difficult sport like fly-fishing? Make it less difficult. The Redington Minnow Combo ($100) matches an easy-casting two-piece, 5/6-weight, eight-foot graphite rod with a Crosswater reel that’s pre-spooled with line and a knotless leader. Also included in the kit are games and cutout targets for backyard casting practice. For developing anglers, the Crosswater Youth Outfit ($140) includes a moderate-fast action eight-foot, six-inch rod that breaks down into four pieces. redington.com

Redington Minnow and Crosswater Youth Combos
(Michael Karsh)


With high school and middle school mountain-bike programs on the rise, there’s a new breed of higher-quality youth-size mountain bikes coming to market. Our favorite is the Trek Superfly 24 Disc, a race-ready version of Trek’s superfast adult Superfly. The hydraulic disc brakes add superior stopping power (and safety) to a lightweight size-24 aluminum hardtail frame outfitted with lightweight Bontrager components and a durable Shimano drivetrain. Designed for ages seven to 11. $660; trekbikes.com

Trek Superfly 24 Disc Mountain Bike
(Michael Karsh)


Past versions of this suit have twice won the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association’s Wetsuit of the Year award. Rip Curl claims the 2014 edition is 20 percent lighter and 30 percent more flexible in the arms, back, and knees. Arguably the highest-performing youth wetsuit on the market, the Flashbomb features an easy-entry chest closure system and internal layers designed to funnel water out of the suit when it’s hung up. The size range covers kids four-foot-two and 45 pounds to five-foot-six and 135 lbs. Also comes in a 3/2 thickness for warmer waters. $240; shop.ripcurl.com

Rip Curl Youth Flashbomb Chest Zip 4/3 Wetsuit
(Michael Karsh)


Is there a more fun POV video than the one you get from a five-year-old? The Junior Chesty, a smaller version of the adult Chesty, lets your rug rat capture the nonstop action that defines his days, from swings and sandboxes to pools and skate parks. Tip: on family ski trips, let junior chase you around and capture footy of Dad’s best lines. $40; gopro.com

GoPro Junior Chesty
(Michael Karsh)


It’s the ultimate summer outer layer. This easy-to-scrunch-down-and-stow-away jacket from hip new mountain apparel company Stio, out of Jackson, Wyoming, is made with tons of stretch so young adventurers won’t feel constrained no matter what they’re up to. Water-resistant with quick-drying, airy mesh-backed pockets, the CFS is ideal for backpacking adventures or river trips that require some—but not total—protection from the elements. $79; stio.com

Stio Kids’ CFS Jacket
(Michael Karsh)


It looks like it just came off Tony Hawk’s head, but the Diablo is a multisport brain bucket that offers as much protection on mountain-bike trails and sidewalks as it does on the skate ramp. Going skiing? Add a knit liner ($25) that plugs the four top vents to keep out cold and snow. $45; bernunlimited.com

Bern Diablo Helmet
(Michael Karsh)


A serious sit harness for hard-charging little monkeys, the lightweight Singing Rock Nemo is both comfortable and extremely safe. The padded kid-size waist belt and leg loops are constructed from breathable polyester and secure with Singing’s Rock and Lock buckles, a simple hook-and-loop closure system that eliminates the need to double webbing back through buckles. $50; libertymountain.com

Singing Rock Nemo Harness
(Michael Karsh)


Think of it as a multitool with training wheels. Lightweight and smaller than standard multitools so it can be operated easily by young hands, it includes pliers, wire cutters, saw, ruler, tweezers, soda-bottle opener, and screwdrivers—but no knife, at first. When your kid is ready to handle a blade, permanently install the provided knife, which features a rounded tip for better control. The ergonomic grip, designed to train the user to cut away from herself, is a bonus. $54; leatherman.com

Leatherman Leap
(Michael Karsh)


To accommodate a growing child in the same bag for many years, the Big Dipper 30 has a trick: unzip the footbox and the sack can expand from 57 to 69 inches in length, for kids up to five feet tall. Stuffed with durable, high-loft polyester insulation, it’s rated for temperatures down to 30 degrees and can be easily vented at both ends of the single zipper on warmer nights. The simple contoured hood and anti-snag zipper mean comfortable slumber even for active sleepers. $80; kelty.com

Kelty Big Dipper 30 Sleeping Bag
(Michael Karsh)


Call it a tandem-plus boat. There are two cockpits, one in the bow that comfortably seats an adult, and a large central cockpit that features a rear-facing jump seat (in front of the paddler) for a small child or a pet. The result: Mom, Dad, and toddler can all head out on the water together. Though designed for recreational paddling, with a wide and stable hull, the Manitou II glides more like a smooth-tracking touring boat. A rear 3,880-cubic-inch storage hatch accommodates a small picnic and splash gear. $1,200; neckykayaks.com

Necky Manitou II Kayak
(Michael Karsh)

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