5 Best Baby Backpack Carriers for Hiking and Exploring
When you’re a parent of a little one, everyday outings can feel pretty challenging—there are diapers, snacks and extra clothes to pack, bags to carry and a kiddo to hold or chase after. It’s no wonder, then, that adventuring in the great outdoors with baby in tow can feel downright daunting. How are you going to carry your little one and all your stuff and still cover the terrain you’ve set out to explore? That’s where a baby backpack carrier can come in handy.
When you’re looking to hit the trails, a baby hiking backpack can make you and baby infinitely more comfortable. Sure, in theory you could put your little one in a baby wrap or structured carrier and keep your hands free—but as anyone who has ever carried a baby or toddler for extended distances, it’s a tiring task. Add in rugged terrain, winding paths and steep climbs and descents to the mix, and the exhaustion can escalate quickly. Not only will a baby hiking backpack allow you to carry baby and stow all your things, but the specialized pack frame will also help alleviate the weight of your heavy load and make sure baby is hitching a snug and satisfying ride on the back of an equally happy hauler. That frame essentially acts as an exoskeleton to absorb the weight of your child and your kit while taking pressure off your back and shoulders. And with less strain on your body, you can last much longer toting your tot around, whether you’re out exploring the wilderness or sightseeing in a new city. Before shopping for the best baby backpack to suit your needs, keep reading to find out when you can use one with baby and what to look for.
Unlike soft, structured carriers or wraps that you can often use in the newborn period and onward, backpack carriers should be postponed until baby is at least 6 months old, when they can sit upright with solid head and neck control. If baby hasn’t reached that all-important milestone yet, a front-facing soft carrier is advisable for hiking, so you can see their face and they can see all the beautiful sights you’re taking in too.
As baby grows, carrying them for as little as half an hour can start to wreak havoc on your back and hips; this is when you’ll want to have a more structured baby backpack carrier to relieve some of the weight. The specific features you’ll want in a baby backpack will vary depending on the type of trip you’re planning (a day of hiking versus a weekend camping or an extended backpacking expedition), so weigh the following points of comparison before making your decision. The best baby backpack will be:
Capable of being passed between caregivers. Whether you’re tired and need to trade off with your partner, or your opinionated toddler suddenly decides they want their other parent to carry them, you’ll want to find a baby backpack that can easily go between caregivers. Adjustability is everything, so look for packs with top-notch, variable suspension. Sizing up the back panel to match each of your torso lengths lets you transfer the weight to your hips, instead of literally shouldering your heavy load.
Comfortable for the caregiver. Especially if you plan on covering long distances, a baby backpack with strong suspension is key. A sturdy frame construction can accommodate more weight and disperse it (to the hips) for greater comfort and walkability. A padded hip belt and adjustable chest clips can also make a world of difference. To avoid getting overly sticky or sweaty during your hike, opt for a pack with a breathable design with a mesh back panel that allows for ventilation.
Comfortable for your child. Nothing cuts a hike short like an uncomfortable and therefore cranky kiddo. To make sure your little one is happily and safely situated, look for a baby backpack with a comfortable and adjustable harness system; non-irritating, breathable fabrics and a soft spot in front for their head to land on if (and when) baby falls asleep while on the go. Some baby hiking backpacks offer protection from the elements, such as rain covers, which come in handy when you’re caught in an unexpected shower, and sun shades, which we’ve found to be critical in shielding sensitive baby eyes and skin from the sun’s powerful rays.
Equipped with storage for all your stuff. Most baby backpack carriers will come equipped with removable daypacks, lower storage pockets (for clothing layers, snacks, diapering essentials, etc.) and compartments to stash small items like your phone, keys and money. Storage capacity is given via liter measurements. If you’re having trouble visualizing how much stuff you can really carry, look at the pack’s total carrying capacity number, and subtract your child’s weight. What’s leftover is the weight maximum for all your gear. Just remember that larger packs translate to a heavier load for you to lug around. Take special note of packs sporting space for a hydration reservoir. Having a water source—whether it’s with a hydration pack or a more basic water bottle—within arm’s reach is really non-negotiable when you’re on the move with your mini.
If you’re a family that likes to take trips that involve hiking, camping, sightseeing and the like, you’ll need baby gear that can go the extra mile (or two… or 10!). Here, check out our picks for the best baby backpacks.
Deuter is a go-to brand among avid hikers, and its popular Kid Comfort baby backpack series earns thousands of 5-star reviews from happy-camper customers. We’re not surprised: This hiking baby carrier has everything you need for a variety of outdoor trips. At 8 pounds, 5 ounces, the pack certainly isn’t the lightest on the market, but it allows you to shoulder a lot, with its 14 liter gear capacity and 48 pound weight maximum. The back length adjusts to easily toggle between wearers, and its Aircomfort mesh back system helps put an end to your heavy, sweaty days on the trail. A durable, arched aluminum frame designed from flexible and tear-proof spring steel makes for balanced weight distribution while also creating a ventilation space between the wearer and pack. As for your second in command, they’re also well taken care of: A height-and-width adjustable seat and safety harness system with color-coordinated buckles help secure your kiddo with ease, while the fully integrated sunroof, pillow and side cushions support a smooth, relaxing hike for the rider.
- Removable daypack allows for quick diaper changes or potty breaks
- Pack folds up, with two grab handles at the top for easy transport
- Pull-forward hip fins, a padded hip belt, load adjustment straps and an adjustable sternum belt work together to significantly lighten the load
- Heavy option, some parents say
Kelty got it right with its Journey PerfectFIT Elite edition. Though the frame is on the heavy end at 7 pounds, 4 ounces, you’re able to carry up to 50 pounds (including a 40-pound weight limit for your child) and the total gear capacity is 26 liters—the largest volume on our list. The magic behind this workhorse comes from the stabilizing load lifters that bring the pack closer to your body, and a suspension system that can be tailored to any wearer. As for your kiddo? They won’t mind being plopped in the carrier, courtesy of a flexible 5-point safety harness, a wide seat base and adjustable foot stirrups that support their legs and prevent circulation deprivation. Add to that an integrated sunshade and hip belt pockets to make their snacks more easily accessible, and you’ve got a pack that any baby or toddler will contentedly snuggle into.
- Includes a built-in, waterproof wet/dry compartment to keep your little’s “dirties” somewhere safe until you get home
- Features nine pockets for extra storage
- Wide kickstand lets you set baby down safely
- Built with an internal hydration sleeve, but you’ll need to purchase a compatible hydration reservoir to fit
- Rain cover not included
Osprey is an American brand renowned for its outdoor pack portfolio, and its Poco LT model is a fantastic option if you’re on the hunt for something super light (at just over 5 pounds) that can also hold a ton (21 liters, to be exact). The high-quality AirScape suspension system is what really sets this carrier apart, transferring all of the weight from the harness to your hip belt in a very scaled-down, maneuverable carrier size. Moreover, the continuous panel of lightweight framesheet (which helps with the weight distribution) with its mesh-covered foam provides a great fit, with maximum ventilation and flexibility for whoever’s wearing the pack. (It can be either of you, thanks to 6 inches of torso adjustment.) The built-in UPF 50 sunshade will protect baby’s skin and help “turn down the lights” when they’re ready to nap.
- Lightweight stainless steel frame folds smaller than other standard child carriers, making it a cinch to travel with and store
- Internal pockets can accommodate luggage trackers
- Deluxe child cockpit boasts a nap-ready drool pad
- Sunshade is fixed too low, some parents say, so any time you look up, you might hit your head
- Stirrups aren’t included
Baby hiking backpacks aren’t cheap, but you can find models that don’t break the bank and still offer excellent benefits for you and boo! This lightweight baby carrier backpack from Besrey (5 pounds, 8 ounces in total carry with a 44-pound weight limit) features an easily adjustable torso, hip belt and sternum straps to fit a number of different adult silhouettes and provide unrestricted movement. Meanwhile, a well-designed, super comfy seat with adjustable height and a 5-point harness ensures your tiny rider’s comfort while they’re in tow, while foot stirrups help match their natural resting posture. But the best part, by far? Just how affordable this well-rounded baby backpack is.
- Dual sunshade and clear rain cover provide protection while still letting baby explore
- Easily folds flat and can be loaded into a small storage bag that fits most airlines’ carry-on compartment
- Ventilation isn’t a top priority, as parents say that their littles get sweaty quickly
- The oversized compartment at the bottom doesn’t provide enough storage for multi-day hikes
If you’re a casual hiker or shopping for a one-off trip and don’t want to splurge on something that’ll get occasional use, the Luvdbaby hiking backpack is a great choice. You’ll appreciate the height-adjustable back with mesh fabric, padded straps and load-bearing belt, as well as the kickstand—key for getting your little one in and out easily. Your kiddo will love the adjustable foot stirrups, removable sun canopy and rain cover. And there’s plenty of space for all your stuff, from zippered compartments to mesh side pockets and handy hip pockets. There’s even an insulated zipper pocket for baby’s bottle and an included changing pad for middle-of-the-trail changes. This baby backpack offers a max carry weight of 40 pounds.
- Comfort features for you and baby
- Extra details like an insulated bottle pocket and changing pad
- Well-equipped backpack for under $200
- Kickstand can be hard to close on your own, some parents say
- Adjustable back height may still be too long for shorter parents