The Most Durable Kids’ Gear for Summer
After years of testing, these five products are still going strong
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Kids are notoriously tough on their outdoor gear—if you want to push the limits of something, give it to a toddler, and you’ll see exactly how long it lasts. As a gear tester and parent who strives to shop sustainably and hand down quality gear whenever I can, my family has put a ton of kids’ gear through the wringer over the past five years with our son, seven cousins, and a network of daycare playmates. After countless hours at the park and pump track, on hiking trails, beaches, sports camps, and at outdoor preschool, these items proved their mettle over rugged terrain and through endless play sessions, standing up to everything that young adventurers can throw at them. They’re all ready to endure years of hard use and then be passed on to another little adventurer to enjoy.
Keen Little Kids’ Newport H2 Hiking Sandals ($60)
Keen’s Newport sandals may not have taken the top spot in our Battle of the Sandals, but for the closed-toe enthusiast, there’s no better choice. It was the first shoe Keen launched 20 years ago, and the Kids’ Newport is a sized-down version of these beloved classics that are just as durable and versatile (it’s not the first, and won’t be the last time we recommend them). My son’s first pair had already been through a few kids before he inherited them, and there was still enough life left in them after a hard-wearing summer to pass them on again. The thick rubber toe bumper offers protection while exploring rocky terrains or wading through streams, and they provide reliable traction on slippery surfaces like wet rocks. There’s seemingly no environment or activity they can’t handle, and the wide toe box gives toes room to splay naturally. When they’re dirty, they can be hosed-off or tossed in the washing machine.
Camelbak Kids’ Mini M.U.L.E. 50oz Hydration Pack ($55)
A hydration backpack offers kids a convenient and hands-free solution to staying hydrated while outdoors and on the go. Plus, they hold more water than a typical kids’ water bottle, which makes them the better choice for big days out. The Mini M.U.L.E. strikes the right balance between size and functionality: the streamlined fit doesn’t throw kids off balance, especially while biking, and the five liters of storage is enough space for essentials like snacks, sunscreen, and an extra layer, including a small organizer pocket for bike tools. The M.U.L.E. holds 50 ounces of water and uses the same Crux hydration system (reservoir, hose, and bite valve) in Camelbak’s adult-sized backpacks. The reservoir is easy for my five-year-old to fill on his own (and easy for me to clean), and the hose and mouthpiece remain leak-free after more than a year of constant use. If your kid’s a chewer, Camelbak does offer replacement bite valves. There are also small reflective strips to keep your kid visible and a safety whistle on the sternum strap.
Hydro Flask 12 oz. Kids’ Wide Mouth ($30)
I have an entire drawer in my house dedicated to leaky, dented, and untrustworthy water bottles, full of everything from the cheap ones to those over $50. The only one that hasn’t leaked in some capacity is this Hydro Flask stainless steel bottle. The durable, high-quality metal is resistant to drops and dings, and the tightly-sealed straw lid minimizes the risk of accidental spills in backpacks or during active play. And the wide-mouth opening is convenient to fill with water, ice cubes, or adding fruits for infused beverages. It also simplifies cleaning, allowing for thorough and hygienic maintenance. The 12-ounce version is suitable for little kids, so big kids should size up to the 20-ounce Wide Mouth bottle to avoid having to refill a bunch throughout the day.
Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike ($140)
A run bike introduces little kids to the thrill of life on two wheels, allowing them to develop confidence and coordination before they’re even out of diapers. These pedal-less bikes prioritize balance development before kids transition to a traditional pedal bike, so they can skip training wheels altogether. There are many balance bikes, but the lightweight and easy-to-maneuver Strider Sport is an excellent choice because it will see your child through years of use, and the durable steel frame will see it through many more kids after that. My son started on it at around 18 months, and in the last few years, it’s let him get comfortable at the pump track, on easy forested trails, and around town. Even though he’s five and pedaling on his own now, he still doesn’t want to give up his Strider. For parents, it’s maintenance- and tool-free, with seat and handlebar adjustments that can be done on-the-fly. It also swaps out traditional air-inflated tires for lighter-weight EVA thermoplastic, a tough, dense molded foam rubber that doesn’t puncture, crack or go flat.
Oaki Rain and Trail One-Piece Suit ($70)
Durable rain gear can help kids build resilience to embrace the day no matter the weather. Living in western Canada where rainfall dominates more than half the year, it’s essential to our daily routine, and lives in a permanent spot in my son’s backpack. The waterproof and breathable Oaki one-piece rain suit is our go-to pick because its beefy construction keeps him dry and comfortable during downpours and rugged outdoor play. The high-quality materials and reinforced seams provide reliable protection against moisture, while its one-piece design offers complete coverage from head to toe—and it’s easy to get on and off. A slightly roomy fit accommodates layers underneath and extends wearability, but there’s also a drawcord waist and adjustable neoprene cuffs to snug it up. Bonus elements include a brimmed hood, waterproof zipper, and reflective stripes for better visibility. In short, it’s full protection for maximum outdoor fun.