Once your child gets to a certain age you may want to consider getting him some of his (or her) own hiking gear. What age that is, is really up to you, but regardless you want one of the best hiking backpacks for kids available.
Toddler hiking backpacks are made to fit children as young as 2, so you can start early or wait a few more years. Having his own hiking backpack will make him feel special and get him excited about going on a hike with you. Kids like it if you let them pack their own backpacks with snacks and toys for a hike.
In this article I’ll go over some of the best hiking backpacks for kids. I’ll also highlight a few features for each one and why they’ll benefit you and your child when hiking.
Top 10 best youth hiking backpacks
Osprey Ace 50 Kid’s Backpack
Age range: 10-16 years
Osprey is widely known as one of, if not the, best outdoors backpack company anywhere. As shown above, the Ace 50 is made for the older age range from about 10 years old to 16 at which point adult backpacks should be looked at. Now this may be for kids, but it’s not a kiddie backpack. You’ll find that this backpack has all the features of an adult Osprey backpack. This model does not come with a hydration reservoir (although it does have a built in sleeve for one), but you can buy a bladder on Amazon for it separately.
This kids hiking backpack has tons of built in pockets for all of your child’s snacks, hiking gear, and whatever else he decides to bring out on the trail. The quality of Osprey backpacks is second to none in my opinion so don’t hesitate there, just make sure this is the type of backpack you are looking for. This is a real hiking backpack, just for little people. If you are looking for something fun with animals on it for a 5 year old then maybe checkout the Deuter Schmusebar Kid’s Backpack below.
Gonex 35L Small Hiking Backpack for Youth & Adult
Age range: not specified
This backpack from Gonex is actually labelled as for youth and adult. There is no specific age range I can find anywhere in the description so I would just assume it’s going to be for older kids and adults. It’s a water-resistant daypack and is priced significantly more inexpensive than the Osprey. With that cheaper pricing you are going to get cheaper quality though, there’s just no way around it. That doesn’t mean this is a cheaply made backpack though, it just means it’s no Osprey.
This pack has a 35L capacity and is also equipped with a water reservoir in case you want to slip a bladder in it and have easy access to cool water on your hike. In addition, it is loaded with pockets and is a actually a very comfortable day pack with the padded shoulder straps and hip belt. In my opinion a nice budget option for a first hiking backpack, IF your child is old enough. Just guessing but since this pack is also for adults, I wouldn’t buy it for anyone under 12 or 13.
Osprey Youth Jet 12 Backpack
Age range: 3 – 7
Another excellent option from Osprey (they’re actually my favorite backpacks) and this one is targeted at your younger hikers. There is no age range specified from Osprey but based on what Amazon reviewers are saying, ages 3-7 is going to be best for this size backpack. With 4.8 stars on Amazon this is a highly rated backpack and from a great brand. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy this for one of my kids.
The Jet 12 is perfect if your hiker is just getting to be big enough to carry their own hiking gear. If you like this day pack but your child is a little older, checkout the Osprey Packs Jet 18. It is a little bigger and more for the 8-12 years age range.
Deuter Climber Kids’ Hiking Daypack
Age range: 5 – 12
Deuter makes amazing backpacks and is my second favorite brand of backpacks only to Osprey. This day pack has 22 Liters of internal storage volume and weighs in at just 1lb 7oz empty. It’s also waterproof, has a bunch of clips and pockets like you would expect, and compatible with a 2L water reservoir.
This one also doesn’t specify an age range so the above is based on Amazon reviewers and their uses. Deuter states that it was designed for back lengths of 10 up to 18 inches if you want to actually measure your child’s back before purchase.
Mountaintop Kids Toddler Backpack
Age range: Under 5 years old, best for 2-3 year olds
If you are looking for something inexpensive, not too fancy, that can also double as a school backpack for your toddler age child then this could work well. Just keep in mind this backpack is very small since it’s made for toddlers. If you want something that your child can grow into so you won’t have to purchase another backpack in a year or two, then checkout the Osprey Ace or the Jet. Overall though, this backpack has great reviewer ratings and is very inexpensive, it’s just really small and only going to last while your kids are small too.
CamelBak 2018 Kids Scout Hydration Pack
Age range: 5 – 12
Camelbak is yet another top-shelf, quality backpack brand. They however specialize in hydration backpacks. This Kids Scout hydration pack has a built in 1.5L bladder along with a main zipper pocket, several smaller pockets, a mesh back, and a stylish look. In my opinion it is priced very affordable in the $50 price range.
According to the reviews this backpack fits people as young as 5 years old and one adult that was 5’3″ was able to comfortably put it on her back. If you are looking for a backpack from a quality brand that comes with a water reservoir, has extra pockets for snacks and gear, and won’t break the bank, then this one from Camelbak is one to consider.
Deuter Schmusebar Kid’s Backpack
Age range: 2 – 5
The age range for this little kids hiking backpack is just described as “perfect for ages 3 and up”, however Deuter goes on to say that their kids packs are designed for kids ages 2-5. Either way, I’ll take that to mean that this backpack is for toddlers and you should consider upgrading your little one to something else once they leave the toddler years behind.
This pack is soft, comfortable, and has the quality of a full sized Deuter backpack. Unlike many of the others on this list it also looks like it was made for little kids. I’m not sure if that stuffed animal actual comes with it but the design in general is ver kid-like. Your toddler is sure to love this hiking backpack and get excited to pack it full of their favorite hiking snacks and toys.
Osprey Packs HydraJet 15 Kid’s Hydration Pack
Age range: 3 – 10
There was no age range specified for this backpack but based on the reviews I saw people using this hydration pack for the 3-10 years old age range. This is yet another great option from Osprey and in my opinion is going to be very comparable to the Camelbak Scout above. With a built in 1.5L water reservoir, just like the Scout, your child will have their own water supply at their fingertips.
Like Deuter kids packs, you are going to get the quality you expect from an adult backpack with this Osprey hydration backpack. It has plenty of zipper pockets, side pockets for quick access to snacks, and the front bungee cords for storing a jacket. Another great option from Osprey.
CamelBak Kids Mini M.U.L.E. Hydration Pack
Age range: 5 – 12
Compared to the Camelbak Scout above, this hydration pack is much lighter weight and with less pockets, just 3 compared to 5 exterior pockets on the scout. It holds much less gear obviously but does still have a few pockets. Think of this as just a hydration pack, if you are wanting a backpack that’s also a hydration pack then consider the Hydrajet or the Scout.
This is still a great backpack from a top brand and if what you are going for is just to have your child be able to carry their own water and maybe just a few snacks, then this could work wonderfully. Also, it’s right in that same $50 price range that many of the others on this list are.
Osprey Packs Kid’s Moki 1.5 Hydration Pack
Age range: 3 – 8
This is small hydration pack that closely resembles the Viper 9 from Osprey that I own and use regularly. My Viper 9 is actually a very small pack so I can only assume that this one is going to be much smaller. This one is going to be comparable to the one right above it, the mini MULE from Camelbak.
This hydration pack comes with a 1.5 liter reservoir and is very lightweight. This style of backpacks from Osprey are technically designed for riding bikes, but work just fine for hiking. You just have to decide if you want to sacrifice some storage room for a lighter pack.
How much weight should a child carry hiking?
A child should not be carrying more than 10-15% of his or her bodyweight. Once your child’s backpack is fully packed, you can take them to the bathroom scale and make sure it’s not too heavy.
How to get kids excited about hiking
I think that getting them their own backpack, or other kid’s hiking gear, is a great way to get kids excited about going on a hike. Let them pack their backpacks with whatever they want (within reason). Allow them to pack a few toys, fill up their water reservoir, pack their own snacks and pack it all into their bag themselves. They’ll feel proud that they did it all and will be ready to hit the trails with you!
Any Amazon prices shown were last updated 2020-02-19