Children need outdoor gear they can call their own, and by the time they are 6-9 years old, they are ready (and more willing) to receive fewer toys and more experience-oriented, practical items. Here are 10 gear ideas that will help encourage outdoorsy kids to become lifelong adventurers. 

1. Pocketknife: A versatile tool for a responsible, outdoorsy kid. My son received a small Leatherman for his ninth birthday, and it’s one of his most prized possessions. He takes it along camping, stows it in his fly-fishing bag, and keeps it handy in his bedroom for all types of tool needs. Be sure your kid knows safe knife-handling skills. 

2. Compass: Whether used for geocaching or trail wayfinding, compass navigation skills are essential for correctly reading technical trail maps and safely exploring the backcountry. 

3. Rain pants: When it’s too cold, rainy, or windy for regular pants, but not cold enough for snow pants, that’s when rain pants come in handy. Kids can play outside longer when they are dry and comfortable. Whether worn for hiking, biking through puddles, or backyard playtime, rain pants protect underlayers from becoming a muddy mess and are easy to clean.

4. Non-fiction books: Stories or memoirs about epic survival experiences or amazing adventure achievements can be both instructional and inspirational. A great book can spark stimulating, in-depth conversations between adults and kids and lead to a daughter or son’s goal setting and deeper self-awareness. Find title ideas by visiting your local bookstore, or check out the Mountaineers Books online list.

Photo: Ski Idaho

5. Kiwi Co. or Nomadik subscription box: Kiwi Co. offers a variety of age-targeted, hands on science and art project boxes for kids, from babies to ages 16+, that teach STEM and other skills. One popular example is the science and engineering-oriented Tinker Crate (for ages 9-16+). A Nomadik subscription box, for tweens and teens, provides new, small gear items for future outdoor adventures.

6. Monthly gym pass or classes for climbing, parkour, gymnastics, or trampolining: Motivate kids to stay active during winter with a safe, indoor environment to burn off energy after school, learn a new sport or activity, and get out of the house on weekends—especially if kids aren’t involved in alpine or organized sports. Most businesses have open gym hours or offer daily passes, in addition to monthly or family memberships or multi-visit passes. 

7. Ski/snowboard or ice-skating lessons, season passes, or lift ticket packages: The more days and hours that kids ski, snowboard, or skate, the better they get. It makes an even better gift experience if that cool aunt or uncle takes the kid to the mountain and skis with them.  

8. Snowshoes: Kids can stomp around in the deep snow right outside their front door, around a local park, or venture on a hiking trail when they have youth-sized snowshoes. Snowshoeing is an inexpensive, accessible, all-family sport.

9. Boot & glove dryer: More a gift for the whole family, this useful item is an underestimated home essential for any sporty family. Use it for all kinds of gloves, athletic shoes, boots, and hockey or ice skates. Some models include attachments for drying helmets. 

10. LED headlamp: Hands-free lighting promotes independence and is fun to use. This versatile year-round item can be used while night skiing or snowboarding (worn over the helmet, more to be seen by others on the slopes), camping, and more. Find one that has high, low, and night-vision settings.