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Top Backpacking Gear Picks for Families

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Backpacking is one of our all time favorite things to do as a family. There’s truly something magical about being together with nobody else around.  No phones, TV, neighbor kids, cars, and not even other campers around.  Some of the best times we’ve had as a family (and best conversations) have happened while we’re in the backcountry for a few days.  It’s the place where we go to connect the best.

Over the years our backpacking has evolved and changed as our kids have grown and their interests and capabilities have increased as well. It’s been 13 years since we first started backpacking with our kids and in that time we’ve found some family backpacking gear that we absolutely love and others that got tossed after just one use because we didn’t like it. Now, we’re compiling our years of experience with family backpacking gear as well as backpacking gear for kids to share with you our top recommendations to buy.


Best Backpacking Tents For Families

One of the most important pieces of backpacking gear for a family is the tent. If you have 2 or three kids, you might be lucky and be able to squeeze into a 4 man tent. Otherwise, you’ll likely need 2 family backpacking tents. Here are favorites and best tents for family backpacking:

Best Budget Backpacking Tent For Families
Teton Sports Mountain Ultra Tent

toddler at camp

This has become one of our go-to tents for family backpacking. This budget backpacking tent can sleep 4 and is really compact and easy to carry on the outside of a backpack. We love that without the rainfly it is mostly mesh so you can really enjoy the scenery on good weather days, however, that feature does require the tent to be extra secured with guy lines in any bad weather or rain. While we love that this is an affordable backpacking tent for families, it does weigh 10 lbs, so its on the heavier side.


Best Large Backpacking Tent For Families
UST House Party 6 Tent

ust house party 6

This is our new favorite backpacking tent for families. This is the lightest 6 person tent that I’ve ever found and it has SO MUCH ROOM. My husband and I can both stand up inside (he’s over 6′) and there is plenty of room for our family of 7 and all our backpacking gear. It’s easy to set up, and best of all it only weighs 14 pounds. If you have more than 2 kids or just want more room on your family backpacking trip, this is hands down the best family backpacking tent on the market. We absolutely love that both ends have full doors that we can open up so the kids can freely go in and out and it’s also a great way to air it out (we have 4 boys and lots of stinky feet).

ust house party 6

The only downside of this tent is that it doesn’t pack up very small, but the lightweight design more than makes up for the bulky packing.
Note: We have not tried this tent in the rain yet.

REI Trail Hut 4 Tent

The REI Trail Hut 4 tent is a great tent for backpacking with a family that’s a decent price as well. We love that it can be carried in weighing as little as 7 lbs (without the footprint) and that it has a small vestibule to keep shoes in as well. Best of all, the top is completely mesh so when the weather is good, you can take the rainfly off and enjoy watching the stars in the backcountry. This is one of the best 4 person backpacking tents for families.

Best Lightweight Backpacking Stoves

We’ve had the same family backpacking stove since we got married over 15 years ago. We use this tiny little stove and it’s seriously amazing. On our last family backpacking trip, we were with another family who had a JetBoil and our tiny little stove heated up water just as fast as the JetBoil. We pair it with this budget camping pot and it works wonders.

Also, the pot we have is great as well. The handle folds in and it’s large enough to cook a pot of pasta for our big family. The best part is that our plastic Walmart bowls that we use for camping (sold every summer for 4/$1) nest perfectly inside of the pot (we can fit 8 bowls inside of it).

If you’re looking for large camp stoves for car camping check out our favorite large camp stoves for families.

Best Backpacking Backpacks For Family Camping – Adults

Purchasing a good backpacking backpack really is an investment. Buy something that’s good quality and fits you well and it will last you for life. When choosing a backpack for family backpacking, make sure to try several on, and only purchase one if it has all the features that you will need now as well as a few years down the road.

If you are going to be backpacking with kids, especially if you have a baby or a toddler, make sure to get a pack with extra room so that you can carry your kids gear as well. Truthfully, we always end up carrying more of the family gear than our kids do, so we recommend that all parents buy a backpacking backpack that’s larger than you think you need.

Deuter Air Contact 75+10

The Deuter Aircontact 75+10 pack is all around a fantastic pack and has been my husbands go-to backpack for nearly a decade.

Deuter Air contact 75 + 10

This pack just happens to be the largest that Deuter makes.  Not only that, but the hip pads actually move making it more comfortable to carry a heavy load.  No joke.  With his old pack, wearing it was like torture and his hips would often be rubbed raw at the end of a long hike.  With this pack, Andrew and I were fighting over who would wear it and who would “have” to carry the baby backpack.  Although Deuter may not have known it, this is the perfect pack for parents with little kids.  It’s a game changer.

Pros:
–  Comfortable
–  Easily adjustable – we adjusted it between the two of us in less than a minute
–  Front access  – many packs just have top access, but when you have this much stuff, the front access is a life saver!
–   Tons of straps and tie-downs
–  Vari-Flex mobile hip pad system
Cons:
–  When fully loaded it’s hard to fit a nalgene sized bottle into the side pockets
–  The sleeping bag compartment didn’t open up as much as we would like.  There is plenty of room, just the access is small.

Gregory Deva 70 Womens Backpacking Backpack

When choosing a new backpacking pack as a mom, I was incredibly particular. I have a weak back, but knowing that I often am carrying some of the kids gear, I needed a backpack that would make the extra weight as comfortable as possible. In the past, I have been plagued with back problems on backpacking trips, so fit was very important to me.

Gregory deva 70 backpacking

The best feature of the Gregory Deva is that the shoulder straps and hip belt all can move independently of one another, giving me a perfect fit. It didn’t matter if I was bending down to help someone tie their shoe or running to catch up with the older kids, this backpack stayed put and was balanced the entire time. I also love that the lower back is made of a nonslip material so the pack never rubs against my skin.

This Deva 70 has an overall capacity of 70L, but also includes lots of tie downs loops on the outside for strapping a tent, an extra pad, or some poles onto easily. Of course, with a giant capacity, we love that there is a full access front zipper panel so we can easily sort through the pack and find the gear we need without unpacking everything. The hydration sleeve also converts into a removable daypack that we regularly use to carry water and snacks on dayhikes while we’re backpacking.

This is hands down the best backpacking backpack for moms!

Gregory deva 70 backpacking

Best Backpacking Backpacks for Kids

We won’t go too in depth on kids backpacking backpacks, but we do have a few that have become our favorite kids backpacking packs that are worth mentioning. Head here to read our full review of the best backpacking packs for kids.

Best Backpacking Backpack for Preschoolers: Deuter Junior

This is actually just a kids daypack, but the chest strap makes it fit so well that it’s perfect for backpacking with kids ages 4-6.

Deuter Junior Backpack
Deuter Junior in Red on the Right

Best Backpacking Backpack for Young Kids: Deuter Fox 30

This is the smallest full feature kids backpacking backpack and works great for kids ages 6-10. We love that it’s super supportive and is well designed to fit kids bodies as they move down the tra

fox 30 backpacking backpack for kids

Best Backpacking Backpack for Older Kids and Tweens: Osprey Ace 50

This is a good larger sized backpacking backpack for kids that is packed full of features. It has a custom rainfly, no contact mesh back, and is incredibly adjustable.

osprey ace 50 youth backpacking

Best Backpacking Backpack for Teens: Gregory Wander 70

If you’re looking to do some longer backpacking trips with teens, this is the backpack we recommend. It can hold tons of gear (but also can be compressed smaller) and is packed full of great features including a front opening zipper.

fiting a kids backpacking backpack

Best Backpacking Hammock: ENO DoubleNest Hammock

  

In case you missed it here, we’re all about hammock backpacking.  It’s easy, quick, and cuts down on a ton of gear.  Plus, your kids are going to love it like crazy and may never want to sleep in a tent again (like our 6 year old).  The ENO DoubleNest is a great double hammock.  Well actually, it’s a great double hammock if the 2 people are small or one is a kid (it’s a squishy night with 2 adults).  It packs down super small, into an attached stuff sack and is only 20 oz.  My favorite thing about it isn’t actually the hammock itself, but rather the straps.  The Atlas straps are crazy easy to set up and the daisy chain links on it make it really easy to adjust the tension of your hammock with its carabiners.  In my mind, this is what sets ENO hammocks apart from all the rest.  No fancy knots needed, no difficult adjustments, just clip and you’re good.

Best Sleeping Bags For Backpacking With Kids

We are big belivers that one of the best investments that you can make in your kids camping gear is to buy them great sleeping bags. Warm kids just sleep better, so get a high quality kids sleeping bag before your backpacking trip with kids. Here are a few of our favorites:

Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags for Babies and Toddlers: Morrison Outdoors

morrison outdoors sleeping bag for toddlers

These sleeping bags are new to the market and we absolutly love them. Not only do they provide a safe way for babies to sleep in a sleeping bag without the risk of suffocation, but they are also really warm and lightweight. This is the sleeping bag that our youngest uses and it weighs a little over a pound and can pack up to about the size of a 1L bottle (so it’s super easy for little kids to carry their own sleeping bag with this.

Use code 10 BTK21 for 10% off your Morrison Outdoors Order

Check out the other baby and toddler sleeping bags we love.

Kelty Mistral Kids 20

This sleeping bag was just released by Kelty and we are so impressed with it. It’s the most affordable 20 degree sleeping bag for kids and it’s lightweight enough to go backpacking with. We love that it’s warm enough for camping below freezing and that it fits taller kids as well, so it can last longer.

kids sleeping bags

Check out the other kids sleeping bags we love.

Best Sleeping Pads For Family Backpacking

Sleeping pads have come a long way in the last few years. Todays sleeping pads are no longer big and bulky, but tiny and lightweight. Our favorite camping sleeping pads for backpacking are these tiny sleeping pads. They roll up a little larger than a can of soda and weigh just over a pound.

I also love these pads because they’re slightly wider than regular pads and have a full rectangular shape. This allowed us to just put them all side by side and create one giant family pad with no cracks in between for sleeping. The wider pads allowed us to only need 5 pads where we would have normally needed 6 pads, cutting down on the gear we had to bring.

Check out our favorite backpacking sleeping pads on Amazon.

Read about the other camping pads for kids that we love.

Nikwax Gear Protector and Renewal

We are huge fans of Nikwax products over at our house. We regulary use them to add waterproofing to gear and to protect our gear so that it lasts longer. If you’re going backpacking with kids, you’ll want to make sure that all your gear is in good shape before you hit the trail, by using these products.

This is a simple waterproofing spray that works like a charm.  No nasty or toxic aerosols, this simple spray bottle makes it easy to waterproof your gear, with a residual odor similar to vinegar (as opposed to the acetone-like smell that other brands carry).  We used this to re-waterproof our rain jackets and have yet to have a problem.  A perfect way to refresh the waterproofing of your clothing, pack, etc.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Why?  Because you never really think about your tents condition until you’re on a rainy trip where your tent is leaking, your stuff is wet, and you just want to go home and cry.  Trust us, use this first!  Not only does this protect your tent from the sun, but it also adds and extra coating or waterproof protection.  Sun, and water are probably some of the biggest culprits of ruined gear, so be proactive with this and keep your tent awesome for years!

Overall Rating:  4/5

And there you have it.  Great backpacking gear in practically every category to keep your family happy and out on the trail!  Happy backpacking!

 

7 thoughts on “Top Backpacking Gear Picks for Families”

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  2. So I love this gear review, and already read your post about hammock camping with kids. We have a toddler (she is almost two) and have been wanting to take her backpacking. Realizing that we might not need to carry a tent if we can hammock camp with her could be a game changer. What is your advice for getting such a little one to sleep in a hammock? I saw some forums on making her her own, she is pretty petite but very capable. Or do you let the little one sleep with you? I’m having a hard time finding anyone else who is really willing to hammock camp with such a little toddler haha. And if they do, it seems like they share the hammock. Not sure how well that would go…

    1. I would say that you should do a few backyard trial runs. That way, you’ll know what works best for you and her and what you’re willing to commit to in the backcountry. My little guy was just over a year that summer and I had my share of kick-full nights with him in the hammock that year while we shared 🙂 If you decide the hammock route isn’t for you, just put it on the back burner for a couple of years until she’s more comfortable with it.

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