Gear Reviews

Sometimes the right equipment can be the difference between staying an extra night or going home early.

Here's what works for us. 



Taking them with you has never been easier. Some gear, like a hatchet, water jug or camp chair, has been hard to improve over the years. But baby backpacks are one thing that had plenty of room for upgrades, and Osprey rose to the occasion.

It was designed for the outdoor parent.

Pros: Padded straps fit snug over your little one’s shoulders and snap in the front, ensuring you won’t lose him or her out the top when you inevitably stumble in a boat or over a log. I fell when a dog jumped out of a little fishing boat recently while my 1-year-old slept in the pack. She never woke up.

A sun shield protects her from harmful rays (though mesh sides mean the little one still needs a hat) and the occasional rainstorm. It also has the added benefit of shielding her from runaway hooks when we’re fly fishing, and it stows away nicely when it’s no longer needed.

Pockets on the back store everything from water to snacks, and a bigger, bottom pouch fits all baby must-haves: diapers, wipes, change of clothes and snacks.

Cons: This really could fit in the pro or con category. The waste straps are great for a day of hiking, and keep pressure off your shoulders. A chest strap also makes the Osprey fit more like a backpacking backpack and less like a kid carrier. The downside for multi-day trips: The straps eventually did bruise my hips a bit on day two when the pack was weighed down with extra gear like a tent and water. It’s possible it was an adjustment issue, but it also might not be made for quite that much weight over that much time.

The pack isn’t cheap, but it’s completely worth it when you consider the freedom it offers parents and the additional experiences it gives your little one.

Approx. Cost: $290

Pack-Away® Kitchen

Car camping in undeveloped sites has never been the same. Sure, cooking on a tailgate works fine most of the time, but what if you don’t have a truck? Or you need access to the bed of the truck during dinner?

Answer: get this table. We spent years making it work on the tailgate or propping our Coleman stove on a stump. And it worked, but it wasn’t the definition of convenient.

Now that we have a little person, and eating is on more of a schedule, it’s become critical to be able to pull over anywhere and make oatmeal or heat up those beans (and coffee, for me).

The table folds up to be just a few feet long and foot or so wide, and when opened it stands the perfect height for cooking, and includes a side shelf for your cooler or camp box. A pole extends above the table for a lantern or additional food.

When my brother and sister-in-law bought us the table, I thought it was a luxury we didn’t need. But after a couple of seasons toting it around in our truck or car, I’m not sure what we did without it.

Approx. Cost: $99


Xtratuf Kids® Legacy Boot

I love a good list, a good how-to story, and generally being prepared with the right tool at the right time.  

As a former Alaskan girl I believe that a pair of Xtratuf boots can be fashionable as well as practical.  That is why I was thrilled when I received a tiny pair of boots in the mail for my son’s first birthday.  

Nothing gives him more joy than a good mud puddle.  These are incredibly durable boots that can stand the test of anything a toddler can dream up.  Best of all they are comfortable for my dear child blessed with the feet of Fred Flintstone.

Pros: Boots have thick, durable, non-skid soles and are 100% waterproof.  You are not going to have a seam crack that leads to wet cold toddler toes. 

Cons: The boots do tend to slip off when your toddler is sitting in a highchair.  And, as these are his favorite boots it requires constant reaching down to slip on the boots – again this could be a result of Flintstone feet.  

Approx. Cost: $44.99

Jacket is also good for serious muffin-eating situations

Jacket is also good for serious muffin-eating situations


Patagonia Baby Nano Puff® Jacket

If I could get away with it, I would spend the rest of my life living in Patagonia clothes.  The only items in my closet that stand the test of time bare the iconic sunset mountain-scape emblem.  To indoctrinate my son early, I waited for a seasonal sale and I purchased the Baby Nano Puff® Jacket.  It was the height of summer in Savannah at the time, but I was sure this was going to be a staple.  Now there is hardly a photo without this jacket.  

Pros: Lightweight, incredibly durable, and comes in many great colors.  This jacket is the only piece of clothing my son will run to put on in the morning – to him it means adventure.  The zippers are strong and do not catch and there are no itchy tags.  The jacket holds shape through washes and will be an item to hand down to future crumb-snatchers.

Cons: I find that Patagonia clothes are a little longer in the sleeve, which means rolling up the sleeves for toddlers to keep them from dragging in the mud or getting  filthy.

Approx. Cost: $79

*Waiting for a sale means you can often get one almost half that price.

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