Gear Guide 2012: Kids' Gear

Our littlest testers give a thumbs-up to these field-proven products.


Big Agnes Floyd (Courtesy Photo)


La Sportiva Wildkids (Courtesy Photo)


Deuter Fox 30 (Courtesy Photo)


Black Diamond First Strike (Courtesy Photo)

Sleeping Bag

Most adult bags are too big for kids, so they’re heavier than necessary—and colder—since there’s extra space to heat. Solution: the Big Agnes Floyd (and girl’s Maggie), which are scaled for youngsters’ smaller proportions, but don’t dumb down the tech features. The 600-fill down bags include a snug hood and vertical baffles that keep the down from migrating, and the water-resistant nylon shell survived two spilled water bottles in a tent full of middle schoolers. And the legit 15°F rating ensures your kid won’t grow up thinking camping equals cold. As our 9-year-old tester put it, “I liked it because it was really comfortable, warm, and soft.” A pad sleeve on the bottom accommodates a 20-inch-wide mattress. Bonus: Kids can’t lose the stitched-on stuffsack. Fits kids (or small adults) up to 5’6”. It’s spendy for a kid bag, but it’s hand-me-down durable. $240; 2 lbs. 10 oz.; 15° F;


Our 6-year-old tester’s big brothers wished the La Sportiva Wildkids had been around when they were little. They liked the looks; he liked the sticky-rubber traction, breathable mesh uppers, easy-pull lacing, and kick-anything toecap. He also praised the way they made him “look fast.” $75; 2 lbs. (pair); 29-35;


Common sense: If you want your kid to love backpacking, don’t saddle him or her with a too-big adult pack or a glorified book bag that makes every step a chore. The Deuter Fox 30 packages the best of the company’s Aircontact series—a perennial staff favorite for its easy-access packbag, rugged materials, and well-padded, adjustable suspension—in a model sized for kids down to about kindergarten age (also available in a slightly bigger 40-liter version). $99; 2 lbs. 12 oz.; 30 liters;

Trekking Poles

Little hands can operate the lever-lock adjustment on the two-section Black Diamond First Strike poles. And with downsized rubber grips, the aluminum sticks—length adjusts from 26 to 43 inches—were a hit with testers from 6 to 12 years old (and one height-challenged grandma, who loved the low weight). $50; 14 oz.;