There are many things to consider when purchasing a hiking backpack for your child. It is not just a matter of style, but safety as well. Both parent and child to be safe from any dangers on the trail as help may not be easily accessible.
Also, you want to keep it an enjoyable experience for both adults and children. Your backpack should be a structured carrier and suspension system to keep your baby safe, but also a soft carrier with features like multiple pockets, a waist belt, a sun shade, and a comfortable shoulder strap to keep both you and your baby comfortable during long hikes.
To do this, you must consider safety features first. This includes a comfortable and proper shoulder strap, ventilation, and proper positioning of straps. The child should be properly protected from injury in your hiking carrier, no matter what age they are.
Both parties should be protected from the elements, and there should be adequate ventilation in the child harness – especially when transporting a young child which you may not always be checking in on a regular basis.
Top Baby Hiking Backpacks
Best Compact and Lightweight
Bill and Teds Child Carrier is designed from an aluminum frame and only weighs a total of 4.4 lbs. Despite being lightweight, it can easily support children up to 40 lbs.
The soft structured carrier backpack is freestanding, so it is very easy to take the baby in and out of the carrier. The harness system has hip belts and padded shoulders so that you can take your child wherever you please. It has moldable ventilation which allows air to circulate. This will keep both yourself and your child cool on hot days. It will also contour comfortably to the spine.
It is fully adjustable for different body types. The material is durable, waterproof, washable, and made with high-quality fabrics.
It was also designed with kids in mind. The backpack has a detachable mini storage, storage for a drink bottle, pockets for key/money/wallet and a two-year warranty.
It folds flat while not in use, is easy to store in a trunk or closet, and cleaning it involves wiping with a damp cloth.
- Supports the body
- Mini backpack detaches for the child
- Harness adjusts
- Storage from drink bottle
- Metal frame may push through fabric
WIPHA Baby Backpack Carrier is designed to create a more comfortable experience while going for longer hikes. It has a great weight distribution system and can fit both parents easily with its adjustable straps.
The waist band is wide and fully padded. This removes the weight from your shoulders, and evenly distributes it across the largest bones in the body. Parents say that it is very comfortable, and their child doesn’t feel as heavy in this carrier.
This manufacturer wanted to design a carrier that was comfortable enough for a child to fall asleep in. It offers enough room for a child between the weights of 50 lbs. and a height of 39”. The sitting area is completely adjustable as they grow, so parents can use this for many years to come.
It comes equipped with an advanced safety belt which securely fastens the baby to the carrier. They will not fall out of this system. The removable cushions in the back and front permit easy cleaning from spills, and gives the child added comfort.
The sunshade is also collapsible which provides shade for hot days, and it easily folds up when not in use.
Parents do not require an extra backpack. After all, who wants to carry another load while camping! The carrier has a large storage bag located under the seat. It stores all of the baby’s accessories. It also has an insulated pocket inside the backpack to keep things cool/warm.
Additionally, there are two smaller bags on the strap on the waist for quick-find items.
This backpack was designed to be compact and light. Yet despite this, it remains to be durable. It is made with a collapsible aluminum frame, creating additional stability and can be easily folded for storage.
- 90-day money-back guarantee
- Can use for long hikes
- Tons of storage
- Large, padded straps
- Comes in four colors
- No stirrups
Best for Long Hikes
Deuter Kid Comfort Active SL is constructed from nylon. It has a wonderful ventilation system with an Aircontact Lite system which cools off the back. The breathable padding has a hollow chamber of foam to allow cool air to circulate throughout the shoulder straps. This will allow you to carry heavy loads for a longer duration.
The VariQuick length adjustment allows parents to personalize the carrier to provide the best fit possible. The straps all tighten together to provide even weight distribution and to ensure the backpack remains fully secure.
This carrier was designed to withstand abuse. It is made from 210 denier polyamide material with ripstop threads with a PU coating. The nylon is abrasion resistant and light.
- 25% less sweat
- Increases air flow circulation allowing users to remain cooler
- Dirt and water repellant
- PFC free
- Shoulder straps are thinner
- No water reservoir
Best for Longer Hikes
Kelty Journey PerfectFIT Child Carrier adjusts easily to the body type of both parents so that both can carry the baby. It has an integrated sunshade to prevent the baby from burning and overheating. The baby/child is held securely in the cockpit by a five-point safety harness with padded roll cage for the utmost safety on any type of terrain.
There is a wide seat base with adjustable stirrups. A mirror is on the backpack so that you can continually view your child. It provides added peace of mind.
The reservoir sleeve keeps the parent hydrated – especially on long treks. Can be used for children as well.
The zippered “dirty duds” bag can wipe completely clean from life’s messes, and there are several grab handles so the bag can easily be shifted. The pockets are large and are stretchy for even greater storage capabilities. They can store pretty much anything a parent and child will need while on a hiking trip.
- Seven exterior pockets
- Hydration sleeve
- Good safety system for children
- A bit heavier than other brands
- Straps could be more padded
Best for Any Age
RSC 306 All Position Newborn Baby Carrier has a metal frame that is lightweight and strong 600D oxford cloth. It has many pockets for storage, two side holders for water bottles and a large storage area for items like diapers, change tables and toys.
It is comfortable with extra thick padded shoulder straps, and a wide waist strap for even weight distribution. It will not place stress on the shoulders or back. The straps are completely adjustable, so it allows the carrier to securely fit any body shape.
It comes with a metal stand so that it can sit on any flat surface. Packs down flat for portability.
- Sun and wind shield
- Metal stand for durability and to place child easily in carrier
- Protects baby from elements
- Stirrups for children
- Five-point child safety harness
- Not as breathable
RSC All-Position Carrier comes in a close second in the same category. It is made from strong material with a lightweight frame. The material is 600D oxford cloth. This enables the backpack to endure the weather and can be used daily. It is designed for camping, hiking, and walking trips.
There is a large back pocket to store diapers and larger items and has a reflective strip for added safety if hiking in the dark. The sun and rain canopy are easily removed and stored within the backpack.
There is an easy adjustment in the child carrier which provides a secure, comfortable fit. Metal stands make it easy to place it upright on flat surfaces and can be easily folded for storage. This backpack stores completely flat.
- Tons of storage
- Wide padded straps
- Sturdy child seat
- For children 6 months to five-years old
- No stirrups
- While the bottom rests flat, it may get dirty as it will meet the ground. It doesn’t rise off the ground like other products.
Best Design for Moms and Dads
Baby JM Hiking Carrier comes in six different unisex colors for both moms and dads. It has a removable backpack with a large, zippered storage compartment. There are two easily accessible pockets on the hip belt to keep necessities such as food or small toys within reach.
There is a height adjustable seat for when your child grows and a sunshade for added protection. The back panel is adjustable, and the waist belt creates a perfectly snug, secure fit.
- Easy to clean
- Easily packs down flat for storage
- Detachable child bag
- Load stabilizer straps
- Safety harness for child
- No stirrups
Things to Consider
When the label reads “comfort pack”, this refers to a backpack that is comfortable and feature rich. They follow a set formula of a hiking backpack with an open cockpit to place your child. These carriers have sturdy metal frames to provide superior support in carrying a child.
They tend to be a bit heavier despite having a folding kickstand which may take up significant room in the trunk of a car. However, despite these features, for parents who intend on doing a great deal of hiking, they are highly recommended due to their safety and durability.
“Lightweight packs” eliminate bulk and don’t have as many features. They are designed for shorter treks and shopping trips. Size-wise, these carriers are smaller and lighter. They are easier to transport in a vehicle, store and carry over the comfort packs.
Comfort and Padding
Especially during a long hike, comfort becomes one of the most important features. A good carrier should have a durable suspension so that it can handle a 16-pound infant to a 40-pound toddler.
This is where the hip belt plays an important role in the backpack. The hip belt must be a wide, padded strap to be both comfortable, and aid in weight distribution. The goal of the hip belt is to take the weight off the shoulders and back so that the weight is distributed over the largest bones in the torso.
These bones evenly take the weight absorption and prevent injury. They are less likely to experience injury when weight is evenly distributed across the back and chest. If the weight is too high in one area, it can cause injury and strain. This makes hiking uncomfortable and painful. It will also make the person carrying it prone to injury over time.
Select a hip band that is wide for the best support, and so that it doesn’t cut into the flesh.
This area also serves a dual purpose because many carriers have additional storage pockets in this area for items that you quickly need access to.
Wide, padded straps and a buckle that goes over the chest will also prevent back strain on a long hike. Padded straps will prevent the item from digging into the shoulders especially as your child grows, and the chest buckle aids in weight distribution.
A beneficial feature are straps that allow for air flow. When you are on a longer hike, you don’t want to experience any overheating. Proper ventilation is essential in maintaining good health while on a trip.
The back should also have proper airflow as well. If it doesn’t, your back will be hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable. You will lose moisture more quickly due to perspiration and have to hydrate more.
Cockpit Comfort and Harness for Safety
There must be a secure harness for the child, and the best types come with a five-point harness. While some parents may find this excessive (after all, what could possibly happen on a hike?), there is a potential for the person carrying the child to fall. Additionally, children are squirmy. If they are not properly secured, they can fall out and injury can occur.
The cockpit area is defined as the space around the child in the carrier. It should contain a high back and deep sides. There should also be a cushioned pad located in the front making it comfortable for a child to fall asleep.
This is a detriment when it comes to lightweight carriers as it is an area that they sacrifice to be lighter. Children usually sit up higher in the seats and are in awkward positions if they nap.
Protection from the Elements
If you are hiking for any length of time, it is good to invest in sun and rain protection. Hiking for even short durations can expose your baby to harmful UV rays, and can burn their delicate skin.
All major carriers include/offer a sunshade with their backpacks for this reason. They generally store behind the cockpit and can quickly be used when needed. Accessory sunshades are easy to attach and use.
Some packs do come with a rain cover and parents can purchase them as well. Thule offers a rain cover that covers most carriers. It is made of a strong 70D ripstop nylon material and is completely waterproof.
It has clear side windows to protect your child yet allows them to view the scenery. It has a 36-° protection and has a reflective logo on the back.
A rain cover differs from sunshades because they are more waterproof and offer fuller protection. They aren’t well ventilated and aren’t designed for hot climates. However, they are a great backup in the event of an unexpected rain shower.
Weight of Backpack
The empty weight of a backpack is what customers first notice. However, it should be one of the most important features to take note of. Users need to consider how heavy it will feel once it is fully loaded and with the weight of the child. This will determine whether it will be comfortable and easy to carry.
Lightweight models usually weigh 4-5 lbs. Meanwhile, comfort carriers weigh 8 lbs. plus. Unfortunately, comfort models are the heaviest, but the most necessary while hiking. The weight is a detriment in some cases.
Adjustability of Backpack
If several people are using the backpack, an adjustable system must be in place. It needs to be wide enough in the body to be comfortable for both users to wear and must accommodate both body types.
The backpack must be able to fit both users comfortably and not dig in. When buying a backpack, try it on both people. This will determine if it is a good fit.
If a man and woman are sharing the backpack, there are special considerations. Men tend to be broader along the chest and shoulders. They are narrower in the torso. Meanwhile, women are not as broad in the chest area, but are wider in the hips than a male. The backpack needs to take these differences into consideration to be comfortable for both parties.
Avoid budget carriers as often they skimp on adjustability. They don’t generally offer much in the way of customization when it comes to straps. They tend to support an overall body type, but don’t have precise adjustments.
There are carriers that are quite minimalistic. These usually tend to appeal to men more than women as they are more neutral in their colors. Choose a carrier that offers enough storage to accommodate what your child will need on the trip, as well as yourself.
Don’t neglect what you will need over the child. Both people need to be considered.
The primary storage component on carriers tends to be in the front. It may contain one to two pockets along the top component, and a larger zippered part at the bottom. This area is to keep important items such as snacks, keys and wallets close at hand.
The capacity can be an important consideration when buying a backpack carrier. Most packs come with a storage capacity of 12-26 liters. The determining factor in your purchase will be the duration of time spent hiking, the season, weather, and if you are sharing a carrier.
For most users, 15 liters is ample storage space.
This aspect is not only important for the person carrying the backpack but is more important for the child. Babies can overheat quite quickly. If parents aren’t continually checking in with their child, injury can occur.
Most ventilation systems for adults are in the back panel. For children, there are openings at the top and sides. This allows air to move freely replacing warm air with cool air to remove perspiration. They are also close enough to help your child maintain body warmth as well for cooler seasons.
Look for back breathers with a full mesh paneling. The ideal situation is to have mesh surrounding the cockpit and the child’s harness. These are suitable for most conditions.
Important Features to Consider
Hydration is an important factor especially while hiking in warm climates/seasons. Since most backpacks won’t accommodate very large water bottles, most users need to place them inside the pack. This can be a detriment when trying to access water as you may have to set the child down, and root through the storage compartments.
When purchasing a carrier, choose one with a hydration sleeve. This will help you to slide in a water reservoir with a drink tube to remain hydrated while moving.
Some carriers contain removable daypacks. The benefit of this feature is so that there is a larger carrying capacity and the option of restructuring the weight of a load.
Footrests or Stirrups
This feature is designed for toddlers to allow them to be in a proper sitting position. They also take pressure off of the discomfort of remaining in a seat for prolonged periods. They aren’t an essential feature as some children don’t like them but are nice for long trips.
Most of them can also be removed for easy storage or when they are younger.
Child’s Weight and Age
Most parents are excited about taking their child with them on a hiking expedition! However, consider their age when purchasing a carrier.
For newborns, it isn’t always advisable to take them on hiking trips until they demonstrate neck and head control. Parents always want to prevent injury, so it’s usually best to wait. However, there are some carriers that will properly support a newborn’s neck and head.
Most tend not to be fully designed for hiking trips, and parents may need to buy another carrier when their child reaches the age of six months. This can add up, monetary wise.
Most companies recommend children weighing 16 lbs. and that can support their head can begin using a backpack. Requirements do vary between manufacturers, so be sure to read the labels carefully to make sure your child falls within its parameters.
Make sure the harness can secure your child snugly, but not tightly. It shouldn’t be too restrictive to prevent movement, but not too loose that they could fall or escape.
Also note the maximum weight capacity. Parents want to ensure the child’s weight can be supported without the carrier breaking or causing injury to the child.
All carriers must adhere to the Frame Child Carrier Standard as outlined by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. They prohibit features like sharp, jagged edges, unintentional folding, and exposed spring which could harm the child.
JPMA certification indicates the product has gone through a separate testing by an independent third party. The tests make sure packs adhere to ASTM state and federal standards. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one pack is safer over another. It just adds an additional level of security.
There are many features and considerations when selecting a child backpack carrier for hiking. Safety, storage, and hydration rank high on the list of musts when choosing an appropriate carrier for your child.
The carrier must have proper ventilation for both the user and the child. You don’t want any accidents to occur, nor do you want to lose significant fluid due to perspiration.
For longer hikes, hydration sleeves are recommended because they are easier and more convenient to get to. They will keep you adequately hydrated without having to pack/carry another bottle.
The carrier should have an even weight distribution to prevent injuries and should hold the child securely without being too restrictive. The child- especially if they are an infant- should be properly ventilated in the cockpit. They should also have a sunshade and protective cover if it rains.
The other choices are up to the individual’s needs and personal tastes. Make sure, though, that you can carry the backpack without tiring easily. This will make for a more enjoyable experience.