You have had enough of the great indoors with your kids. You want to get outside and get some exercise. Maybe you are driven to hike to lose weight. Maybe it’s time to get rid of those few extra pounds that have somehow appeared once baby arrived (or maybe never left). What better way to do that than on a hike? But you know your kids–they tire easily. Maybe they aren’t even walking yet. You need transportation options on the trail and a hiking stroller is an excellent option.
You hear words thrown around, but you have no idea what they mean: all terrain stroller, hiking stroller, trail stroller, off road stroller, jogging stroller… What’s the difference? Which is best? Are you limited to only handicap accessible trails with a stroller? What about child carrier backpacks? Help!
Let’s get you prepared for success on the trail. First, you may want to check out this article about tips on hiking with kids. Then we’ll cover all the bases for hiking strollers so that you can identify your ideal mode of transportation on the trail.
What is an all-terrain stroller?
An all-terrain stroller is child transportation designed to travel over as many different types of terrain as possible. All-terrain strollers easily transition from gravel to concrete to grass, and can be pushed up and down hills, making them useful anywhere from inside a mall to outside on a trail.
These strollers are easily distinguishable from a traditional stroller because of their 3 air-filled, oversized tires. These tires create a smoother ride for the child, regardless of location or activity. The front wheel maneuvers freely, making it easy to turn corners or wind along a path.
The Bob Revolution Flex is a very popular all-terrain stroller on Amazon.
What should I look for in a hiking stroller?
If you are considering a hiking stroller, some important things to look for are:
- Safety. Your stroller should be equipped with a 5-point harness, a parking brake and a tether. The harness will lock your child into place. A good parking brake will lock the stroller into place. The tether on the handlebar wraps around your wrist to protect the stroller from taking off on its own.
- Front wheel lock. All-terrain strollers move well because they do not have a fixed front wheel. However, when the going gets tough or the speed increases, the option to lock the front wheel into place creates a safer ride for your child.
- Tires. The ideal tires are over-sized and air-filled with big tread. They are easily removable for a quick change on the trail. To avoid any fiascos on the trail, always carry one spare tube, a hand pump and some tire levers. Also, consider downloading or watching this video on how to change a tube.
- Handling. There is a good possibility that your child will fall asleep in the stroller. When this happens, you want to avoid stopping if you can (because that wakes them up!). A good hiking stroller is still easily maneuverable with one hand, allowing your free hand to grab water or a snack.
- Handlebars. Comfortably padded handlebars are a must to keep your hands from tiring. Adjustable handlebars offer different settings for drivers of different heights and make it easy to transfer control of the stroller.
- Car Seat Compatibility. Instead of purchasing a hiking stroller as stand-alone item, consider purchasing a travel system. Look for strollers that offer adapters like this one that can work with your infant car seat. The adapter allows you to move your child straight from the car to the stroller with a simple snap into place. These travel systems are excellent for children under 6 months old.
- Storage Size. Most all-terrain strollers take up quite a bit of space. Prior to purchase, measure both your trunk and your home to ensure the folded-up version will fit in both places.
- Canopy. Look for an adjustable canopy that can withstand UV rays and weather. The greater the size of the canopy, the more protection for your child. Some canopies offer a Velcro viewing panel at the top so you can easily check in on your little one.
- Weight Limit. Children grow quickly and all-terrain strollers can be a hefty investment. Maximize your stroller lifespan by checking the maximum capacity for your child. Most strollers should support up to 70 pounds.
- Storage Capacity. Gear multiplies with children in tow. Avoid carrying your gear on your back by looking for big storage compartments under the seat. The ideal compartment allows for easy insertion and removal of a diaper bag.
Is there a difference between an all terrain, hiking, or jogging stroller?
Tomato, toe-mah-to, Potato, Poh-tah-toe. The terms All-Terrain, Off Road, Hiking and Trail Strollers are all interchangeable—the intent for use is the same. In fact, you will not find any of these terms in the name of a stroller, but you will find 2 or 3 of them used in one stroller’s description. The only stand-alone term you will find in the name of a stroller is “Jogging,” though most all-terrain strollers have “Jogging” in their name.
The main differences between a jogging stroller and an all-terrain stroller are the fixed front wheel and the hand brake. Traditional jogging strollers have a hand brake, for those moments when a more abrupt stop is required. Traditional jogging strollers also have a fixed front wheel. “Fixed” means “doesn’t turn.” This locked wheel creates stability for the passenger so the driver can pick up speed. However, jogging parents must lift the front wheel off the ground to take a corner.
Some jogging strollers are designed to be close to the ground, for even greater stability such as the Thule Chariot Cross. But for the less serious athletes, the more popular jogging stroller is the Thule Urban Glide 2. While the terms “jogging” and “all-terrain” have become intermingled, Consumer Reports emphasizes that “All-terrain [strollers] are often mistaken for jogging or running strollers, but should not be used for running unless the user’s manual specifically says so.”
What makes hiking strollers different than regular strollers?
The traditional stroller is commonly called an Umbrella or Lightweight Stroller. The main differences between regular and an all-terrain stroller are that standard strollers have:
- 4 plastic wheels
- No suspension system
- Limited terrain capabilities
- Lower weight capacity
- Limited or no sun canopy
- Lightweight and compact
- Lower price point
The regular stroller is great for the person who has no athletic intentions for its use. It fares well for short walks outdoors such as to the park or across a parking lot. It is great for trips through the mall or an airplane terminal. Strollers like the Maclaren Mark 2 also travel more easily because they weigh less than 10 pounds and can fold up into bags such as these for a quick gate check.
What are the benefits of hiking with an all terrain stroller?
If you are a parent who wants to hit the trail NOW and get a little distance, the all-terrain stroller is a great choice right out of the gate. Little to no training is involved to get some miles with a stroller because all of the weight is carried by the stroller and only a small amount of effort is required to push it. This benefit only increases with time as children increase in size and weight.
In addition to carrying the majority of the weight of your child, your stroller can also carry your gear. All-terrain strollers come equipped with storage areas underneath the child. Finally, when you get tired of pushing the stroller, it is very simple to trade off with a partner.
Just how off road can I take my hiking stroller?
All-terrain strollers are limited only by your imagination. These strollers can easily transition from an asphalt path to a packed dirt trail complete with hills. They can even maneuver over rocks once the front wheel has been locked into place. The only real limitation of the hiking stroller is the width of the trail. These strollers do not fit on single-track trails.
The best way to find appropriate trails for your hiking stroller is to piggyback on the wisdom of crowds. Apps such as AllTrails host reviews and photos from previous hikers that can give you a good sense of whether or not the trail will be appropriate. Some trails are tagged “handicap accessible” and “kid-friendly.” Within reviews look for descriptions like “gravel path,” or “fire road.”
If you prefer not to use an app, your best bets for hiking stroller friendly trails are: Handicap Accessible Trails, Interpretive Trails, and Nature Trails. These are typically wider trails meant for crowds and exploration. Also, shorter trails meant for the brand new hiker, are more likely to be stroller friendly. These tend to be about 1 mile or so in length and can still lead to some breathtaking views.
Top recommendations on hiking strollers
There is unfortunately no “all-terrain” or hiking stroller category on Amazon. People generally search for “jogging stroller” when looking for any hiking stroller. The 5 most popular hiking strollers on Amazon all offer:
- air-filled tires
- a 5-point harness
- optional front wheel lock
- car seat compatibility
- a solid sun canopy
- a storage compartment
The differentiating factors appear to be price point, weight capacity and the means of folding and storing each stroller.
This stroller has proven it can hold its own on any terrain. Users easily overlook the 6+ pounds this stroller has on others for its ease of folding and storage. It lives up to the “Fast Action” title because it is quick and easy to fold up with just one hand.
- Stores standing up
- Low price point
- One handed, fast fold
- Weighs 35 pounds
- Maximum weight capacity is 50 pounds
The name “Bob” is synonymous with “high quality stroller” in Mom circles. This fully-loaded model offers everything from a mountain bike-style suspension system to 9 positions for its adjustable handlebar. This stroller is made to tackle the toughest terrain while lulling your child to sleep.
- 75 pound weight capacity
- Adjustable handlebars
- Hand brake
- Mountain bike-style suspension system
- Higher price
- Weighs 28.5 pounds
- Bulky to store
This stroller performs well on flatter trails than it does on rougher terrain, though it can take on both. Its price point makes it very affordable. The extra large storage is a big win for parents packing a lot of gear.
- Low price point
- Extra large storage basket
- Extra wide, ergonomic handle
- 50 pound weight capacity
All of the above has been helpful, sure, but what about the parents with 2 little ones to transport? Some companies have taken on the challenge of creating double strollers that can withstand a good hike. The criteria to consider for these strollers is the same as the single stroller, the only difference is that more storage pockets have been added.
This hiking stroller can transition from Disneyland to a hike in the hills. The narrow size of the stroller makes passing through doorways easy. However, it also limits the space in the children’s seats, giving it a shorter lifespan with a family.
- Easy to fold and store
- Stylish appearance
- Narrow fit
- Recline angle of the seats
- Shallow seats
This stroller is ranked highly for its smooth ride and superior maneuverability, regardless of terrain. The biggest complaint was storage and transportation. Even when folded, this unit takes up a lot of space
- Bigger children fit easily
- Adjustable handlebars
- Higher price
- Bulky to store
As you can see there are several interchangeable terms for a hiking stroller.. like jogging stroller, off-road stroller, all-terrain stroller and trail stroller. Regardless of what you choose to call them, here are some final things to consider before making that purchase.
- Make sure that front wheel is not fixed into place. You need a front wheel that can move freely over the terrain you will encounter on the trail.
- You also want big tires filled with air because they create a smoother ride and can better handle the bumps of a trail. Any strollers offering additional suspension systems fine-tune that smoothness.
- Consider how any potential strollers protect your child via harnesses, parking brakes and UV resistant canopies.
- Think about how you will transport the stroller and where you will store it. Decide if the ability to fold it up quickly and store it standing up are important requirements. Make sure to measure your trunk before buying.
- Consider lifespan of the stroller. Look for units that offer a higher weight capacity so that you can use your stroller longer. If your child is very small, make sure to check for car seat compatibility so you can get on the trail sooner.
When you are ready to take the stroller out, make sure to check out the trails in advance to ensure they are stroller-friendly. If in the end you’ve decided a child carrier backpack better suits you then be sure to get some good hiking shoes and slowly working your way up to longer hikes.