Finding the best child carrier backpack for hiking can be a daunting task. Ideally you want to get it right the first time because it’s a large purchase and returning an item is a pain. I’ll show you 3 of the best options on the market in this article as well as a 1 that isn’t really a hiking carrier but great child carriers nonetheless. Let’s jump right into the best child carrier backpacks for hiking. You can also scroll down to how to choose a child carrier backpack first if you’d like.
Best child carrier backpack for hiking – 3 options
1. Deuter Kid Comfort Pro – Top Pick
overall best child carrier backpack available
For kids anywhere from 6 months to 4 years old I highly recommend first the latest flagship model in the Deuter Kid Comfort line of products, the Kid Comfort Pro. It is going to have all the features of it’s predecessors (Kid Comfort 1, 2 , and 3), with a few new additions. This one even comes with a detachable daypack. As usual, you’ll get Deuter’s limited lifetime warranty and the 48.5 pound weight limit. Most of the other options you’ll find max out at 40 pounds. If your child is 4-6 but on the smaller side then this may work great for you for a few years to come.
This is really the industry standard in child carrier backpacks, but it comes with a price. If you want the best you gotta pay for it though. (Consider the regular Kid Comfort if you want to save a few bucks and still get a high quality carrier.) Could this work as a child carrier for hiking for a 5 year old? A six year old? It all depends on your child. Have them hop on the scale, if they’re around 40 lbs or under you could get some real use out of a hiking carrier like this before they reach the weight limit of 48.5 pounds.
for 6 months and up Once your child is about six months old and can sit up on their own, they can graduate to a more traditional style baby carrier. This means a model with a frame, foot stirrups, and more of a “cockpit” style for your child to ride in. You may have heard of Osprey. They’re widely known for high quality backpacks, I own a few myself. They have the best set of features in their Poco AG baby carrier.
- Adjustability: Osprey is well-known for their fit, and the Poco baby carrier is no exception. It can easily fit parents from petite on up. Osprey even offers videos on their websites to assure that the fit is perfect and that the straps are adjusted currently.
- Safety and Comfort: Osprey has employed their backpack “Anti-gravity” system to the Poco carrier. The aluminum frame helps stabilize the load while the shoulder harness works with the back panel to give better support. Your child rides in a fleece-covered harness, while protected by the frame. There are removable padded foot stirrups to support their legs comfortably, as well as leg safety straps. When you need to set the carrier down, there is a sturdy wide base and a locking foot bar for safety.
- Weather Protection: The Poco AG features a pop-out sun shade.
Other great features of this baby carrier include multiple storage pockets, a removable drool pad, toy and pacifier loops, and handy grab handles for easily hoisting the whole pack, even with the child inside. Cons: The pop-out shade is not rain-proof. The rain shade can be purchased separately.
great for toddlers When your child is a little older, and you’re looking for the best toddler carrier for hiking, Deuter has your back, so to speak. Deuter has been making high-quality equipment since 1898. Their Kid Comfort child carriers are serious protection for your child as well as ergonomically designed comfort for you.
- Adjustability: The flexibility of the Kid Comfort’s system is incredible, making this the perfect choice for your growing 2 year old or 3 year old. The height of the seat adjusts easily – and the width of the seat is adjusted at the same time. Even if you have a taller-or-smaller than average child, there is a setting to accommodate them. The foot stirrups are also completely adjustable for height. For the adult, Deuter’s VariFit system allows the carrier to be adjusted for the length of your back without removing the child. The entire back panel is ventilated for comfort.
- Safety and Comfort: The carrier frame is made of spring steel and is designed to distribute the load evenly. The hip belt has pivoting fins that allow for ease of movement. You might say that the Kid Comfort is almost like not wearing a backpack at all. Except for your little buddy kicking their feet around. For your child – life in the cockpit is great. This carrier has a comfortable wide saddle that is ergonomically designed to place their little legs and feet in the right positions. There’s a headrest, plenty of padding, and the seat gets rave reviews from parents. When putting the carrier down, there’s a wide and sturdy kickstand support that holds it steady.
- Weather protection: Strangely, the Kid Comfort does not come with a rain guard, but it does come with a sun shade. A rain cover can be purchased separately.
More great features of the Kid Comfort are tough 600 denier nylon construction, tons of storage for big and small items, and a bonus teddy bear!
- Cons: No rain cover included. Check out our article on child carrier backpack accessories like rear view mirrors, juice cup holders, rain covers, etc.
Bonus option – not a quite a hiking carrier
What do you do when you have an active 4 year old who wants to go on longer hikes, but can’t always keep up? Meet the Piggyback Rider! This brilliant product is the way to move up from a backpack carrier and cut down on what you’re carrying on the trail. It’s a little different, but your child will love it. It’s not not like the others on this list in that it’s not really a hiking carrier, but it is neat nonetheless.
This carrier is worn like a backpack, but features a small platform for your child to stand on once they’ve been safely buckled in. It keeps your hands free, while allowing you to safely piggyback your child. Seriously, it’s an amazing compromise.
- Adjustability: The Piggyback Rider is fully adjustable for all sizes of parents and children. The shoulder harness for the parent buckles in front below the shoulders, and across the chest. There are several spots to adjust the fit for best weight distribution and comfort. A safety harness is clipped onto the top of the parent’s harness for the child. The shoulder straps are fully adjustable for children up to 50 lbs.
- Safety and Comfort: When your little one has stepped up onto the platform, his/her harness is buckled to your harness with sturdy industrial hooks. There are two handholds placed on the shoulders of the parent’s harness that allow your child to brace themselves and not grab at your neck. For the adult, the Piggyback Rider’s design is meant to transfer the weight to the shoulders. There are thick padded straps, and the child’s feet are meant to go around your hip area, so that there’s no kicking or gouging involved.
Weather Protection: Your child is on their own with the Piggyback Rider, as there’s no room for an umbrella. This is designed for an active child who is dressed for the weather. This is a simple but innovative product that gives you the next best thing to a carrier backpack for your 4 year old. It easily rolls up when not in use. It can also be stashed away in your or their backpack while you’re out on the trail.
Kids love being up high and getting to see things from a grown-up’s perspective. It’s a great way to give them a break on the trail while still moving on, and then allowing them to hop back down when they’re ready to go again. Cons: • No padding between you and active 4 year old. • Not really meant for hiking. Could work for parades, concerts and performances, etc.
How to choose a child carrier backpack
Continuing your outdoor excursions as a new parent may not require as many sacrifices as you think. The hiking child carrier backpack has evolved just like the rest of backpacks and camping gear. New technologies offer lighter and stronger versions every year, if not more often.
Even though you’ve managed to successfully navigate the complicated maze of choosing the best car seat, you may be a bit at a loss on how to choose a good child carrier backpack. Your own comfort, of course, is an important factor.
Choosing the features that will make your baby, child or toddler happy are just as vital to setting up successful hikes. Some of the most crucial areas to focus on in choosing a baby or toddler carrier for hiking are:
- Adjustability: Not just for your child, but for you, too. Being able to switch the carrier from person to person will make your lives a lot simpler. I’ve chosen packs that are highly customizable.
- Safety: Just like a car seat, the best packs are going to offer secure harnesses and adequate padding. Kickstands should be strong and secure, so that you don’t feel anxious about setting the carrier down with your child in it. Hiking with children should be fun, not nerve-wracking. These carriers have been evaluated for comfort and safety.
- Weather protection: When the rain is coming down or the sun is straight overhead, you’ll want to make sure that your child is protected from the elements. The best carriers will have this option built in.
These child carrier backpacks are all great options, whether you’re looking for the best toddler carrier for hiking, a hiking baby carrier, or a child carrier backpack for your 2 year old to 4 year old.
A note about 4 year olds and up
Finding the best hiking carrier for a 4 year old, or even older, can be tricky. They are at that age where they are almost too old for child carrier backpacks, getting a little too big for a hiking stroller, but will still get tired out on a hike. So guess who gets to carry them? Yep.. you! There are child carrier backpacks for 4 year olds that will work for hiking. This all depends on the size of your child too. The backpacks have weight limits and that’s what they go by.
According to Kidshealth.org, the average weight and height of a 4 year old is 40 pounds and 40 inches. The average max weight for most child carriers is anywhere from 40-50 pounds. This puts your average 4 year old right at the upper range of the weight limits. There are a couple options above when it comes to the best child carrier backpacks for 4 year olds that will work for you, the Kid Comfort Pro is my pick.
Tips for hiking with kids
Now that you’ve picked out your ideal backpack carrier, here are a few tips for making a perfect trail day with your child. If you want to see more, here’s an article with even more tips for hiking with kids we wrote.
- Don’t forget to pack it out Babies and kids can make a lot of extra trash – diapers, baby wipes, juice boxes…be prepared to follow the rules of the trail, Leave No Trace, and bring along extra bags to take your trash back out with you.
- Be prepared for lots of breaks – Once your child is a little older, there will be plenty of breaks for any number of reasons – lunch, tiredness, potty breaks, diaper changes and so on. You’ll likely have to stop frequently so don’t worry about how far you’re getting. It’s all about the experience.
- Make it fun AND a learning experience Use your time out on the trail to practice things like colors, numbers, and shapes. You should take this as an opportunity to learn that not everything is brightly colored and perfectly round. Talk about smells, textures, noises, and really let them use all their senses.
- Keep some distractions handy for your baby. Even though hiking is known for soothing babies and making them sleepy, there will still be fussy moments. You should always be prepared for those with the usual fun distractions like rattlers, teething toys, simple snacks and things to keep their little hands busy.
- Head out at nap time Since hiking makes them sleepy, start your hikes out at around their usual nap time. That way, your baby’s sleep cycle is not disturbed, and you won’t be dealing with a wide-awake baby later on that night.