Gear for Adventurous Families

These items will make the great outdoors feel as comfortable as home

By Leslie Hsu Oh

May 14, 2017


Photo by cookelma/iStock

If you’re like me, you’d rather spend Mother’s Day on the trail than in a stuffy restaurant having brunch. I make my home in the outdoors as much as I do anywhere else, and my family is typically right there with me. The man who bought me the lightest sleeping bag on the market ultimately won my heart. Today, he’s my husband, and we have four kids, all of whom are gear freaks. That’s why we have so many outdoor gear items around the house, where you’re likely to find us all rolled up in our Rumpl puffy blankets.

Those blankets, in addition to a lot of other gear intended for the great outdoors, often vastly outperform our regular housewares and clothing items. From my jacket down to my underwear, and my accessories to my shoes, most of what I own is arguably over-engineered thanks to brands that prioritize wicking moisture away from my skin, resisting odors, and protecting me from insects that carry debilitating viruses. When it comes to utilizing performance materials, the home industry is way behind the outdoor industry.

But some companies are tuning in, producing innovative, sustainable solutions for everything from car seats to footwear that utilize advances from the outdoor gear world. Here are just a few that may come in handy for hitting the trail on Mother’s Day and beyond.

Courtesy of Rumpl


Helinox’s alloy tubing makes for the strongest, lightest, and most compact poles. What’s more, they’re anodized in a uniquely green fashion. Aluminum alloy needs to be anodized, or treated with acids, so it won’t corrode; however, that process typically releases nitric and phosphoric acids into the environment. Helinox tents’ tubing is treated without acids or other industrial pollutants, and it snaps into place so easily that my eight-month-old can do it. Plus, the company’s chair, table, and cot are all strong enough to support her weight as she learns how to walk. My 11-year-old spotted the Chair Two Rocker ($179.95) at an outdoor recreation store and, thanks to its packed size of two feet in length, both of us had to have one. When I’m not enjoying this rocker before campfires, I’m using it to rock our kids to sleep at home. (Meanwhile, my husband is likely trying to steal it for some NBA Xbox One playtime.)

Courtesy of Helinox


The North Face partnered with Gore-Tex for years to research, design, and test a versatile jacket that a busy mom or dad could wear any day. The Apex Flex GTX ($199) is incredibly soft. It’s why I often wrap my young ones in it—they love to snuggle inside the woven stretch face fabric. At the same time, it’s waterproof, breathable, windproof, and warm—ideal for split-ups or for unpredictable weather. Case in point: I took it out for a test during a rain so heavy that trails had turned into rivers. This jacket’s fully seam-taped seals kept me perfectly dry, so I could simply savor what it might feel like to stand beneath a waterfall.

Courtesy of The North Face


The innovators behind Safe Traffic System, Inc. were frustrated with the statistic that seven out of every 10 children travel via an incorrectly installed car seat. So, it became the first company to develop a wearable child restraint system. Their latest version is the RideSafer®3 Delight ($145), which comes in two sizes. The small is for children three to six years old, weighing between 30 and 60 pounds; the large is for children ages five to eight, who weigh between 50 and 80 pounds. These travel vests pack small and light, and my kids tell me they’re comfy, which is why we love using them for both car trips and flights.

Courtesy of Safe Traffic Systems, Inc.


Hate the smell and feel of insect repellent on your skin? Did you know the scientists behind the outdoor outfitters Toad&Co have developed insect shield technology, which binds fabric fibers with a proprietary permethrin formula? EPA-approved since 1977, this odorless, invisible treatment effectively repels ants, chiggers, fleas, flies, midges, mosquitoes, and ticks for up to 70 launderings. Having witnessed friends suffer from Lyme disease, West Nile virus, Zika, and malaria, I also keep Toad&Co’s Debug Ground Cover ($55) handy in the car and in my hiking pack. The material is lightweight and moisture-wicking, and also boasts innovative heat- and light-reflecting polyester yarn, proven to block up to 98 percent of UV rays. It comes in handy whether camping in the backcountry or grilling in a buggy backyard.

Courtesy of Toad&Co.


During camping and backpacking trips, my husband and I keep a Yeti Rambler ($20-$50) nearby at all times. It keeps our coffee hot and our water cold. Thanks to its double-wall vacuum insulation and 18/8 kitchen-grade stainless steel, ice cubes have stayed intact overnight. You can easily take it to work or just use it around the house.

Courtesy of Yeti


Studies prove that Superfeet Footwear insoles reduce neck strain, back pain, lower back strain, hip joint stress, knee stress, and foot and ankle pain. Now, the company has taken all those lessons learned from podiatric medicine and constructed shoes built from the inside out. For quick runs to the bus stop to pick up the kids, or for relaxing at camp, I slip on the Superfeet Fir Bungee Cord ($120). The cork, slip-resistant synthetic rubber keeps these shoes looking new. They keep me plenty supported on flat surfaces such as sidewalks, and after long travel days I can see exactly how these insoles have interacted with the contours of my feet.

Courtesy of Superfeet