Distraction toolbox

Sometimes, you’ve driven an hour and have planned to hike for a bit before heading anywhere else. And your kids aren’t having it. They’re tired, hungry, bored, what have you, but you need them to last a bit longer. Ever happened to you? I feel like this is a super common experience. Here’s a little list of some ideas to put in your distraction toolbox.

-wildlife brochure: guys you know I LOVE these. I can’t get enough of the Pocket Naturalist guides and everything similar. I’ve gotten some on Amazon, some from local buy/sell/trade pages, and some at National Park gift shops.

-plant and flower brochure: spring and summer are perfect times to whip these out and work on your plant and flower identification. We’ve been practicing for a couple of years now and have a good handle on identifying a few plants.

-bird brochure: another Pocket Naturalist guide. We have tons of interesting birds here (pelicans, grouse, warblers, eagles, falcons, hawks, vultures) and they’re mesmerizing.

-magnifying glasses: get up close! examine the different shapes and colors found on the plants and rocks you come across.

-binoculars: looking at waterfalls, specific rock outcrops, even animals can help focus kids on something besides how tired they are.

-snacks: obviously. We pack lots of Annie’s bunnies, fig bars, trail mix, sometimes protein bars to feed these littles. Sometimes I have to remind the littlest to keep walking while she’s eating.

-small toys to hold: not my favorite because they can get lost, but small toys helps my kids use their imagination and can keep them going pretty well.

-songs and games: we like taking turns picking songs to sing (plus it helps us make more noise so we don’t surprise any wildlife). We also love playing what we call “The Rainbow Game”. We try to find every color of the rainbow in nature. Sometimes we do two sets, one of just wildflowers and another of anything else. It gets my kids observing what’s around them and describing it too.

-friends: it’s surprising how much better my kids hike with friends around. The complaining drops almost completely and we move so much faster. Hike with friends when you can!

Any tips I should add to my toolbox? What helps your kids hike?

Footwear for the Family

As mentioned in my About Me, I didn’t own snowboots for the first 4-5 years I lived in Utah. I lived in denial and rainboots, and was always too cold. The right footwear can be a deciding factor for enjoying hiking.

My first pair of snowboots were from WalMart. While I avoid that store, the boots worked very well for years. Costco (again!) had affordable Khombu snowboots a couple of years ago that I invested in. They’re comfortable and flexible and good for day-to-day wear, hiking, and snowshoeing. In the summer, I feel like there are many more options. I’ve hiked in old tennis shoes which work just fine on 3-4 mile hikes. Our go tos in the warm months are our Keens. I like being able to get our feet wet and know they’ll dry shortly. I’ve found some secondhand, and been lucky to get hand me downs from friends as well. My oldest has even hiked in flip flops with the back strap, but that’s not for me! I talk about the kids’ snowboots in the Kids’ Winter Gear post. Basically, I’ve been lucky in finding good options at Kid to Kid, and Zula and Northside are the brands they have now. We also have a Columbia outlet near us that has consistent amazing deals. A month or two ago we found waterproof tennis shoes for the kids for around $15 each. They’re slip ons which is a plus (less work for me!), and they seem to be quite comfortable. 

Another great option, especially with more demanding hikes, is dedicated hiking boots. I have fairly weak ankles that roll often, so mid height boots have helped a lot. My feet are also really big. If yours are too, don’t be afraid to try out men’s boots. My hiking boots are men’s and they’re great. My husband wears regular tennis shoes for hiking. 

When you’re looking for hiking specific shoes, you’ll want to size up at least a half size to a full size. This is because going downhill causes your toes to slide forward, and if you don’t have enough room you’ll end up with sore and potentially bleeding toes. I sized up one full size (pushing me into men’s) and even still my toes graze the front of my boots while going downhill.

One thing I haven’t quite figured out is which shoes will keep my feet comfortable for longer hikes. Generally, by mile 4 or 5, my feet are hurting.  I’m not sure if that’s because I’m carrying an extra 35+ lb on my back, or if my shoes are not good quality, or if it’s due to lack of conditioning. It doesn’t stop me but is definitely an inconvenience.

What are your favorite hiking shoes? Any tips for hurting feet?

Kids’ Winter Gear

I really believe that appropriate gear makes all the difference. Since we’re in winter, I’m going to start with cold weather gear.

4 year old in winter gear

Kid Winter Gear Basics


-Insulating layers

-Windproof/waterproof shell

-Wool socks




-Hydration pack


We have had fantastic results with Costco’s selection of baselayers, snowsuit and hat combos, and gloves for our kids. The brand of baselayers is 32 Degrees, and the snowsuit, hat, and gloves are Gerry. I’m not finding a specific website, but Amazon sells this brand.  We got four years out of one snowsuit between our two kids, and passed it to a friend because it has years left. I’ve tried an Old Navy bib and snow jacket on my oldest, but the bib had a hole in the knee in one winter of use. The Costco one held up much better.

My five year old loves his baselayers, by the way. Pro tip: put on baselayer bottoms, then put wool socks over the bottom of the pants, and then pull on the fleece or whatever type pants you’re putting on top. The socks keep the baselayers from rolling up.

We’ve loved these wool socks off Amazon, and have found snowboots second hand at Kid to Kid. I also like having fleece pants on hand to go on top of the baselayers. These have worked well, though they run small (especially if you cloth diaper!). I’ve used fleece pajamas as an alternative as well. Cutting off the feet can help the socks fit into boots.

My son has had this hydration pack for almost a year now. It holds enough snacks for him and his sister, and enough water. I love the whistle on the buckle (well, in theory) and the magnet that keeps the tube in place.

Hiking mama and kids (and fleece)

What am I missing? What are your favorites?