Gear Guide 2012: Kids' Gear

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

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.;