Whether you’re heading out on your family’s first camping trip or just hitting the trails, a baby hiking backpack can be downright invaluable.
Our own family of seven has relied on a hiking backpack to go on many adventures with our five kids from helping out on the farm to hikes through the woods to just vacuuming the house (more on that and my giant baby later). If you’re curious on the difference between a regular baby carrier and a hiking backpack, or just want the scoop on what to look for in a hiking baby carrier, here’s what you need to know.
In this article:
- What is a baby hiking backpack?
- Features to look for
- When can you use a hiking backpack? Safety tips to know
- Best overall baby hiking carrier: DeuterKid Comfort Carrier
- Best budget-friendly carrier: Chicco SmartSupport Backpack
- Best for ventilation: Osprey Poco Plus 4400
- Best all-in-one: KeltyJourney Perfectfit 26L Backpack
- Best compact fold: Osprey Packs Poco LT Carrier
Baby Hiking Backpacks: What Are They?
Baby hiking backpacks are a type of heavy-duty baby carrier specifically designed to distribute weight more evenly for carrying the heavy load of a baby or toddler for long periods of time. They’re great for hiking with a baby or toddler, but they’re also ideal if you’re the type of parent to spend a lot of time outside or if your baby has outgrown a baby wrap or carrier.
For instance, my husband and I use a hiking backpack constantly around our farm. We pop our baby in the hiking backpack to work around the farm, feed the animals, and get chores down. It’s allowed our now-toddler to grow up right in the thick of the action!
I also used the same hiking backpack nearly 8 years ago (a good one will last you a long time!) with my son. He was a huge baby and wanted to be held constantly, but a traditional baby wrap or carrier just wasn’t comfortable for me. So, instead, I used a hiking backpack around the house to get everything done–I vacuumed with him in, cooked dinner, and even folded laundry, because sometimes, a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do.
Features to Look for in a Baby Hiking Carrier
A good baby hiking carrier will have several features you’ll want to look for:
- Lumbar support. Essentially, this is back support for you, the parent actually wearing the backpack. If you’ve ever used a baby wrap or carrier or just held a baby for a long time, you know how much your back can hurt. Baby hiking backpacks are designed with lumbar support–either a panel or padding–to provide you support when wearing your child.
- Thick, comfortable straps. When you wear a baby on your back, there’s a lot of weight added to your back that will pull those straps backwards. To counterbalance that and keep the straps from digging in, you’ll want to look for the comfiest straps you can find. You’ll also want to be sure they’re adjustable, because the right fit is everything. If the straps are too short or too long, it will kill your baby. (Take it from me, who once had to use our hiking backpack after my husband did and the straps got stuck–my back hurt for days after that!)
- Weight capacity. Be sure to check the backpack’s weight capacity, because they can vary quite a bit. Personally, I’d recommend you get one that can handle the largest weight possible, because once you invest in a hiking backpack, it’s awesome to get as much use out of it as you can.
- Kickstand. You need a way for the hiking backpack to “stand up” as you get your toddler in and position the carrier on your back. This is an essential feature.
- Extras. Although they may not be totally necessary with a hiking backpack, it’s super handy if your carrier also comes with some additional bells and whistles, such as:
- built-in zippered pockets for toting along a phone, snacks, diapers, wipes
- a water bottle carrier
- a shade canopy
Safety Rules for Hiking with Babies
The #1 rule for using a hiking backpack with a baby is to make sure that your baby is old enough to use it. Your baby will need good head control, which for many babies is around 6 months old.
Your baby will also need to fit correctly in the backpack, with the safety harnesses fitting properly. You’ll want to check that their arms and legs aren’t cut off or pinched with the harnesses and that there are no risks of the straps cutting off their air supply in any way. You can also buy a mirror so you could take a peek at your baby’s face as you hike without having to strain your neck.
On the flip side of a baby being too small to use the backpack, you’ll also want to be sure your child isn’t too tall or heavy for the carrier. For instance, now that my child is a toddler with longer legs, she can push her feet on the frame and practically topple us both over.
The Best Baby Hiking Backpacks
Best Overall Baby Hiking Backpack
This hiking backpack is both luxurious and extremely rugged. You’ll get details like padded straps and back panels, all the pockets you could dream of, two easy grab handles, and an integrated day pack (basically a to-go diaper bag that attaches to your hiking carrier). There’s also an included weather cover, ventilated fabric for your child, and lots of comfy padding for them to rest a weary head. Hey, all that traveling around on your back gets tiring!
- Max weight: 48 lbs.
- Carrier weight: 7 lbs. 8 oz.
- Fits torso length: 15-21 inches
We live in the PNW and with the pandemic in full swing, we decided that hiking our area was a great way to get out of the house. We had a standard baby carrier that we used when going shopping and the like, but for hiking, it wasn’t nearly robust enough and would likely wear us out on longer hikes. So we researched and out the highly recommended Deuter Kid Comfort, but we gawked at the price! How in the world could this be so expensive!? Once it showed up, we could see why. I went for long back packing trips as a teenage boy scout, and this backpack was nicer, more comfortable, and better designed than anything I ever used as a teen. The best part is how airflow pocket between your back and the child carrier. Absolutely amazing given our previous baby carrier had the baby nestled right up against you. Would highly recommend this product to anyone looking for a phenomenal carrier.”-Amazon review
Keep in mind:
Although this is definitely the hiking backpack we’d recommend for anyone who’s serious about exploring the great outdoors with their little one, it is an investment piece, so be sure it’s something you’ll get your money’s worth before buying
Best Budget Carrier
The Chicco carrier is an ideal one in my mind, primarily because it’s so lightweight and compact (throwing the hiking backpack we currently own in the car is not ideal, nor is storing it in the house.) It also includes an infant insert, so you can get extra support for your little one for any adventures. Plus, it’s pretty darn affordable for a hiking backpack, so it’s definitely worth considering.
- Can use from 6 months – 36 months old
- Max weight: 48 lbs.
- Carrier weight: 6.5 lbs.
“I searched high and low for a carrier that would work for my family. I have a much larger carrier from a different brand but it was just too bulky for short spur of the moment hikes. After reading other reviews for this carrier, I knew it would work for us. We needed a no frills carrier that was lightweight and easy to load in a small car. This pack is very durable and sturdy. I love the sun shade that is included. my toddler has no issues with it and seems very comfortable while hiking with us. if you need a light weight hiking backpack carrier this is all you need. My toddler is 25 lbs. 32″ tall and has plenty of room. this pack is comfortable to wear and adjusts easily so that my husband and I can take turns wearing it. 10/10 would buy again.” BuyBuyBaby review
Keep in mind:
There’s not a lot of storage built-in to this backpack and some parents have mentioned that the straps aren’t quite as wide as they could be.
Best for Ventilation
Hiking with a baby on your back will inevitably mean things are going to get sweaty, but the Osprey does try its best to alleviate that. Our favorite features on this baby hiking backpack are the super generous sunshade canopy (seriously, we should put those things on adult shirts, just a thought) and the breathable material. It also comes with attached toy loops and an external hydration sleeve so you can sip-and-stroll.
- Minimum weight: 16 lbs.
- Max weight: 48.5 lbs.
- 6″ torso adjustability
“Awesome carrier for hiking! My 9 month old loved riding in this carrier and was comfortable enough to fall asleep mid hike. The sun shade is a great feature and kept the baby very well protected on a sunny day. This carrier is well made, as expected from Osprey, and is also surprisingly light weight for it’s size.
There’s a large selection of different pockets for storing gear and baby supplies which meant we could carry everything we needed for a long hike in one bag! Super happy with his purchase, worth the price!”-Amazon review
Keep in mind:
Although this hiking backpack has a lot to love, some parents noted that the straps on the carrier could be wider, which would make it much more comfortable to wear and use.
This hiking carrier has a lot of the basics, so it will definitely get the job done at a more affordable price than some of the other carriers, but it may not be the top-notch choice for extended use and long hikes. However, it has a lot of pluses, from a built-in sunshade to a super roomy backpack to a padded hip belt that also boosts built-in pockets (that touch is especially convenient if you need to quickly reach your phone or sunscreen, for instance).
- Recommended for use with children from 16 lbs. – 40 lbs.
- Capacity: 48.5 lbs.
- Carrier weight: 6 lbs. 6 ounces
- Built-in sunshade
“Great backpack to have. Marine dad needed the best in the market and after months of research this is it. Light weight and I carry my son for long and short distances. So many compartments for supplies and a pocket for my secured blade for any wild dog on our walks. It needs a water bottle holder but that’s a simple attachment to buy. Also buy a retractable mirror to monitor your young ones.” –Amazon review
Keep in mind:
While the wide seat base is helpful for keeping your child comfortable throughout hikes, a few reviews mentioned that the actual seat padding can be tricky to clean since it’s not removable.
Best Compact Fold
We’re big fans of the Osprey, but if you want a more compact fold carrier for shorter trips, this is the option for you. You’ll want to make sure your baby is at least 16 pounds before you use this carrier with them, but once they reach the limit, you two can hit the open road.
- Carrier dimensions: 24 x 13 x 15 inches
- Carrier weight: 5 lbs.
- Drool pad
“This is definitely on the lesser end of the osprey hiking carrier models. We have an older osprey hiking carrier we inherited from my nephew that’s about 8 years old now (the poco premium). Looks like the poco plus is the equivalent of that one. I would say if you’re going to do some serious hiking and hike often, spend the extra for that one….it has MUCH nicer features. However, if you’re like us and will only hike every so often, this one will do just fine.” –Amazon review
Even Osprey describes this carrier as best for shorter hikes, so if you want something for longer hauls or a larger child, you may want to spring for the Osprey Poco Plus. Also, keep in mind that there are no stirrups for your child’s feet.
Frequently Asked Questions
What age can a baby go in a hiking backpack?
You can use a baby hiking backpack when your baby has good head control, usually around 6 months old.
Do you need a hiking backpack for baby?
If you plan on spending a lot of time outside with your baby, it’s a great investment.
When can I start hiking with my baby?
You can get outside with your baby as soon as you feel comfortable and your baby meets the weight recommendations for the carrier.
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