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. Finding the best child carrier backpack for hiking can be a daunting task. Ideally you want to get it right the first time. I’ll show you some of the best options on the market in this article.
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. The images below show average weight ranges for boys and girls.
Best Infant Carrier Backpack for Hiking (Newborn to 6 months)
When you’re just getting (gently) out on the trailhead with your baby, a soft-structured carrier is the best way. Since your baby won’t be able to sit up on their own until they are about 6 months old, this style of baby carrier will be the most comfortable. They’ll be ready to graduate to a backpack-style carrier at that time.
For now, you’ll be looking for an ergonomic model that allows you to carry your child on your front, back or side – giving you easy access to any immediate needs.
This is a highly portable, comfortable baby carrier that will keep both of you comfortable, even in hotter weather. It comes with all the features you should look for, and a few extra. This is the perfect way to get your infant out on the trail.
- Adjustability: The Baby Outback has low-profile shoulder straps that can be criss-crossed for more comfort. The double-lock security buckle connects in the center for safety.
- Safety and comfort: Newborns are the most comfortable when they are held closely, and the Outback Carrier does just that. The angled leg openings provide support and hold the baby’s legs in the correct “spread-squat” position that is recommended for tiny hips. The carrier can be used safely with your baby on your back, side or front.
And, amazingly, this carrier features a built-in chair! The smart design allows you to sit your child down in almost chair while they are still safely secured in the carrier.
The Outback also features breathable mesh in its design that will keep both of you comfortable. The lower back support is exceptional, and helps distribute the weight off the shoulders for your comfort.
- Weather protection: Your infant will be protected from the elements out on the trail with a waterproof pull-out hood that gives SPF 50+ sun protection.
This baby carrier has a large pocket for supplies and is also completely washable. It’s made of rip-stop nylon and comes in a variety of cool color combinations. On its own, it weighs under 2 pounds, and can be easily rolled up into a diaper bag. It’s the perfect infant carrier to introduce your newborn to the trails.
- Cons: Although most infants like being held closely while they’re in a carrier, your mileage may vary with your child. The Outback does hold the baby in quite snugly, and they may not be as comfortable as they would in a more structured style of carrier.
Best Hiking Baby Carrier – 6 months to 2 years
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.
The pop-out shade is not rain-proof. The rain shade can be purchased separately.
Best Child Carrier Backpack for 2 and 3 Year Olds
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 either a sun or Deuter rain guard. However, one can be added on easily.
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!
The complete lack of a weather guard is perplexing; I recommend ordering the “Sun/Rain Roof” with the carrier.
Best Child Carrier Backpacks for a 4 Year Old
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 4 year old 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.
Here are a couple options when it comes to the best child carrier backpacks for 4 year olds that I think you might like.
First I am going to recommend the newer version of the Deuter Kid Comfort 2, the Kid Comfort 3 of course. It is going to have all the features of it’s predecessor that you can see above, with a few new additions. As usual though, 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 on the smaller side then this may work great for you for a few years to come. Heck, I have a 10 year old little girl that weighs just 53 pounds. This is a serious hiking carrier. Provided that your child is within the weight limits, you should be able to go on longer day hikes with this one. If you are wanting something good for short distances and inexpensive, then see the Piggyback Rider below.
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.
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.
• No padding between you and active 4 year old.
• Meant for short-term use, not a long hike.
Now that you’ve picked out your ideal backpack carrier, here are some of the best tips I could find for making a perfect trail day with your child.
- 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. Be prepared to stop frequently and 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.
Any Amazon prices shown were last updated 2019-08-12