Should I Use a Jogging Stroller or a Carrier Backpack When Hiking With a Baby?

Carrying a child in a carrier backpack is not for the faint of heart and certainly not for the faint of leg. For many a good all terrain stroller is the best choice, others like the challenge the carrier gives them. The big differences between the 2 are:

  • Workout Difficulty
  • Available Trails
  • Lifespan
  • Ease of Transportation
  • Location of Child to Parent

Hiking Stroller Advantages

An all-terrain stroller manages the weight of your baby and your gear with a minimal effort on your part. It also has a longer lifespan with your family. Most all-terrain strollers can hold up to 70 pounds (or a 5 year old). One advantage that won’t appear in the instruction manual is the location of the child. A hiking stroller keeps an inconsolable child at arm’s distance, which can be a huge benefit on a long day.

Hiking Stroller Disadvantages

The disadvantages of the stroller are that it can be more difficult to transport and can limit your hike. These strollers are heavy and can weigh anywhere from 22 to 35 pounds. They are also not very compact. They do fold in half, but that half can still take up the trunk of a car. As previously discussed, the stroller limits the trails you can hike. Stroller-friendly trails are typically shorter and less challenging than single-track trails.

Child Carrier Backpack Advantages

Enter the Child Carrier Backpack. Unlike the stroller, some of these backpacks take up only 1/3 of the trunk or can be stowed on the floor. In addition, the world of trails is now wide open to you. Now the only limitations to your trek are your legs: how much weight can they carry and for how long? For the die-hard athlete, the challenge is welcome. Carrying your child can burn 30% more calories.

The weight increase of a child carrier backpack can be significant. The Osprey Poco AG (link to Amazon) weighs a bit under 7 pounds before you place the child inside. If your baby weighs 15 pounds, that is now a 22-pound pack. Add in water (2 pounds per liter), snacks, diapers, your 10 hiking essentials, etc. You are looking at 25-30 pounds perhaps.

It’s very doable at that weight when they are still small, especially on short hikes, but once they get bigger you might want to consider a jogging stroller. Because you will be carrying an increased load with the carrier, it is recommended to start with small distances and build up to longer ones over time.

Child Carrier Backpack Disadvantages

A couple of other things to consider about the child carrier backpack are lifespan and location of your passenger. The maximum lifespan you will be able to eek out of most carriers is about 2.5 years, per this article on child carriers by age group. Child location is a big one here–an upset child can be located right in your face or above your ear. And if the child is on your back, don’t forget to watch for low-hanging branches!

When can I start hiking with my baby in a jogging stroller?

Age could be a determining factor for you. If your baby is small and under 6 months you should probably go with the hiking carrier. According to this article, you shouldn’t begin running with your baby until they are at least 6 months old. Most are unable to hold their heads up at this age and you should wait until they are better equipped for the constant jostling that comes with rough terrain of a hike.

When can I start hiking with my baby in a carrier?

As long as your baby isn’t a newborn (1 month or younger) you can take him/her hiking at least in a limited capacity. Being able to keep them so close allows you to support their little heads so you won’t have to worry about that aspect like you would with a stroller. So if your baby is say 1-6 months old and you are in pretty good shape, then a hiking carrier may be a good fit for you. Check out the link at the bottom of the page for 4 excellent choices for hiking carriers, broken down by age group.

Other Considerations

Shoes

In your quest for the right stroller or carrier backpack don’t forget your feet. One major benefit of a hiking stroller is that it carries your child’s weight. This means you can pick a much lighter shoe. Heavy shoes can tire your legs more quickly, cutting your hike short. Something lightweight like a Salomon Speedcross 4 would do fine.

If you are considering using a child carrier backpack, your shoes will need to be more equipped for the extra weight. You could be carrying 30+ pounds on your back and you may need to consider the bit more ankle support that comes with a mid-sized hiking shoe like this one from Merrell.

Be sure to do your research when buying shoes online. I’ve never had any problems (knock on wood) but I always read the Amazon reviews and search for things like “fit”. You’ll get back things like “these shoes fit a half size too big” or “the fit was a bit tight, order a half size up”.

If you see a bunch of reviews that say something similar about the fit, then take it into consideration when you make your size choice.  You can take a shoe downhill, uphill and over rocks and it needs to fit properly. You do not want your first hill climb with your kids to be agony for your feet.

Clothes

Once your feet are comfortable, its time to consider what you will wear. Summertime can be great for a hiking skirt or some convertible pants that allow you to zip off the bottom half and create shorts. Avoid cotton shirts and opt instead for something that is a polyester blend or wicking material. Check out this post on fashion tips for hiking.


 

You have seen a few pros and cons for jogging strollers and carrier backpacks and are dressed for your hike. If you are still undecided about which is right for you, here are some articles that may help you:

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