Finding the best hiking backpack carrier for toddlers is a key element to a fun & successful day of family hiking. We’ve used toddler hiking backpacks with our children for years and can tell you from experience that comfort, for both you and your child, is of the utmost important.
In this post, I’ll share our years of experience using hiking backpack carriers for toddlers, so you know the important things to look for. I’ll help you find the best hiking backpacks to carry toddlers, so that you’ll use it for years and make you excited to get out on the trail.
As parents who have hiked around the world using a hiking backpack to carry our toddlers, we recommend getting the best hiking carrier you can afford. While hiking backpack carriers for toddlers can tend to be expensive hiking gear, in our experience you’ll get much more value for your money if you purchase a carrier that you will actually use over and over, because you enjoy using it.
For example, when we first went shopping for a child backpack carrier, we tried on a budget option first, followed by the Deuter Kid Comfort. The difference in quality and comfort was immediately noticeable. Once we had seen the difference, we knew it would be worth the extra money to buy the comfortable, well designed Deuter. And we were right – we used our two Deuter carriers to hike with our children and travel the world. We definitely got our money’s worth.
If you don’t plan on going on many family hikes, then due to the expense of a high-end toddler backpack carrier, I think it’s totally ok to buy a budget option or even just use your soft structured toddler carrier. But for anyone who who wants to do longer distance hiking with a baby or toddler, then it will be well worth your money to buy a toddler backpack carrier from a well-known outdoor gear brand like Deuter, Osprey or Thule.
Hiking Backpack Carriers for Toddlers – Table of Contents
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The Best Hiking Backpacks to Carry Toddlers
Here is a breakdown of the best toddler hiking backpacks available today. I share my first hand knowledge of many of these child backpack carriers, in hopes you can make a decision on the best hiking backpack carrier for your family.
Of all the toddler backpack carriers, the best options are the Osprey or the Deuter carriers. They are similar in features, in price and are the ones most loved by parents. This is really one area where you don’t want to go for the budget version, unless you don’t plan on using it all that much.
Trust me when I say, you’ll be so much happier if you and your child are both comfortable. We’ve talked to countless parents who weren’t happy when going for budget backpack carriers.
Get even more info on buying the best hiking carrier for baby.
Deuter Kid Comfort Backpack Carriers
Deuter now has three levels of backpack carriers for carrying a toddler, coming in a range of prices, weight and features. They also have one specifically made to fit a woman’s body, if you are having a hard time getting a good fit with one of the other toddler carriers.
Weight restrictions on all the Deuter Kid Comfort Backpack Carriers is 48.5 lbs including child and carrier.
I got good use out of this rain cover that fits all of these Deuter backpack carriers. I recommend you have on if there's a chance you'll be hiking in the rain.
Deuter Kid Comfort Active and Active SL
The Deuter Kid Comfort Active and Active SL are the lightest of the Deuter backpack carriers at just under 6 lbs. The Active SL is made specifically for women with slimmer shoulder straps and different shaped hip belt.
Deuter Kid Comfort Active - Pros:
This toddler carrier comes with a cushion for your little one to rest their head, stirrups for your child’s legs, a height adjustable seat and a five point harness for safety. It also has side access which makes it easier for toddlers who want to get in on their own.
Deuter Kid Comfort Active - Cons:
It has less pockets for storing items and though it has a storage pocket at the back, it’s not a secured zipper pocket. It does not have a separate sleeve for a water bladder.
There is no integrated sun canopy, which can be purchased separately.
It also does not have the mesh back system like the two more expensive versions.
Read our full review of the Deuter Kid Comfort Active!
Deuter Kid Comfort
The Deuter Kid Comfort is the replacement for the Deuter Kid Comfort 2. This toddler hiking carrier weighs just over 7 lbs. Though more expensive than the Active and Active SL, it has some added features.
Deuter Kid Comfort - Pros:
This toddler hiking carrier and the Pro version below, both have a mesh back system making the back fully ventilated. It has a zipper secured pocket at the back and extra hip pockets. It also has a sleeve for a water bladder that will fit a hydration system up to 3 litres.
It has the same great features for a baby or toddler with a plush cushion reaching right to the corners, a height adjustable seat, stirrups, a five point safety harness and side access.
Deuter Kid Comfort - Cons:
It does not have an integrated sun canopy. You’ll need to purchase the sun canopy separately, which will account for most of the difference in price compared to the Pro version. You’ll also need to store it separately in the storage pocket.
Deuter Kid Comfort Pro
The Deuter Kid Comfort Pro is the replacement for the Deuter Kid Comfort 3 (the model I used and loved for many years). It’s the heaviest of the Deuter carriers at almost 8 lbs and the most expensive, but it has all the features you’d want in the best hiking backpack carrier.
Deuter Kid Comfort Pro - Pros:
This is the “fully loaded” version of the Deuter backpack carriers for toddlers and babies. It has all of the features mentioned above: mesh back system, extra hip pockets, sleeve for water bladder and even an integrated sun canopy that can be tucked away when not in use.
Similar to the Deuter Kid Comfort carriers above it has the same great features for a toddler with the plush cushion reaching right to the corners, a height adjustable seat, stirrups, a five point harness and side access.
It also has an integrated, separately useable daypack.
Deuter Kid Comfort Pro - Cons:
This one comes at a higher price, given all the added features.
If you are considering a Deuter Kid Comfort backpack carrier, the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro is the one we recommend. You’ll be happy to have any extra pockets and having an integrated sun canopy is a great feature, which I always enjoyed.
We’ve owned two Deuter Kid Comfort 3 backpack carriers and hiked around the globe with babies and toddlers, so we speak from years of experience when we say they were well worth the money.
Osprey Poco Hiking Carriers
Osprey makes two toddler backpack carriers, the Osprey Poco and the Osprey Poco Plus, which are virtually identical except for a few differences.
One added benefit is the Osprey Poco has a carrying case (to be purchased separately) which would be useful for traveling with a backpack carrier.
Both Osprey backpack carriers use this rain cover and also have a weight limit of 48.5 lbs including child and carrier.
Osprey Poco Child Carrier
The Osprey Poco is the lower priced version that weighs less than 8 lbs.
Osprey Poco - Pros:
This Osprey Poco child carrier is one of the best options for toddler backpack carriers for hiking. It has all the features you want for both parents and child. It has a mesh back system for good ventilation and an external sleeve for a hydration bladder (up to 1.5 litres).
For your child, it has a padded drool pad, adjustable foot rests, a secure harness and an integrated sun shade.
Osprey Poco - Cons:
Compared to the Plus version, it’s really just missing the extra storage.
Osprey Poco Plus Child Carrier
The Osprey Poco Plus is the premium version of the Osprey Poco carriers. It comes at a higher price tag and weights over 8 lbs. So what do you get for the extra money?
Osprey Poco Plus - Pros:
The Poco Plus has all the same features as the Osprey Poco above. In addition to those, it has a larger storage compartment, zippered hipbelt pockets and extra lower stretch side pockets.
Osprey Poco Plus - Cons:
Similar to the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro, the Osprey Poco Plus is "fully-loaded" and has all the features you’d want in a backpack carrier for toddlers.
Other Hiking Carriers for Toddlers
While the Osprey and Deuter make some of the best toddler carriers for hiking, there are a few other options that are well worth a look.
In this section, I have included toddler carriers that aren't a framed backpack carrier. The benefits of these soft toddler carriers are they pack down smaller and are especially good for when your toddler starts doing a lot more walking.
Thule Sapling Child Carrier
While I haven’t used a Thule child carrier, we love our Thule Chariot bike trailer, so we trust them as a brand when it comes to kid gear. If you are looking for another toddler backpack carrier for hiking to compare to our recommended brands, we’d give this one a try.
It also has a weight limit of 48.5 lbs including the carrier and child. This is the rain cover available for both versions of this carrier.
Thule Sapling Child Carrier - Pros:
For parents, this toddler carrier has a padded hip belt and a fully adjustable back. It has a hydration sleeve and plenty of zippered pockets and weighs around 7.5 lbs.
For your baby or toddler, it has a pillow to rest their head, an adjustable seat, a secure harness and adjustable footrests. It also has an integrated sun shade.
Thule Sapling Child Carrier - Cons:
It doesn’t have a removable backpack like the slightly heavier and more expensive premium version the Thule Sapling Elite Child Carrier.
Other Toddler Carriers for Hiking (That Aren't Backpack Carriers)
While we recommend a good backpack carrier for toddlers for frequent hikers, there are two other options for a toddler hiking carriers I have used for shorter hikes or for carrying our toddler for short amounts of time.
LÍLLÉbaby CarryOn Airflow Toddler Carrier
This soft toddler carrier is specifically designed for toddlers up to 60 lbs. The LILLEBaby CarryOn Toddler Carrier has a taller back and wider seat than most other soft structured carriers.
I was really impressed with how comfortable this carrier was for carrying my toddlers. The LILLEBaby carrier was so versatile, I was able to use it until my child was 4.5 years old!
If your toddler likes to walk but you need a backup plan, this is the best toddler carrier for hiking to pack!
Piggyback Rider Toddler Carrier Backpack
The standing-only Piggyback Rider is a fun and unique option for toddlers, which we tried out on a family hiking trip to Utah. The Piggyback Rider is best to use when your toddler isn’t super tired and don't need to be sitting or napping.
I would recommend the Piggyback Rider for short periods of time when your toddler just needs a little break. It’s a great budget option that makes it easier to carry your toddler than on your shoulders or in a piggy back ride.
I also really liked how easy it was it to pack it away until I needed it.
Not finding what you are looking for, we also recommend checking here for hiking backpack carriers.
What is a Hiking Backpack Carrier?
A backpack carrier for a toddler is a framed carrier with a seat for your toddler (or older baby). You carry it on your back like a backpack and your child sits in the carrier, up high where they can see over your shoulders.
For safety, your child is strapped securely into the backpack carrier, typically with a 5-point harness. If, you’d like to start using a backpack carrier for a baby, ensure that they can sit independently before using this type of backpack carrier for hiking.
9 Benefits of Using a Hiking Backpack Carrier for Toddlers
1. A Rain Cover
When hiking with toddlers, a good rain cover ensures your little one stays warm and dry if you get caught hiking in the rain. You can just leave your rain cover in the your backpack carrier, so it’s there when you need it.
2. Sun Protection
Your toddler backpack carrier for hiking should have a sun canopy (either integrated or purchased as a second piece). This essential accessory will offer your toddler good sun protection on family hikes with minimal shade.
3. Added Storage
The best backpack carriers for toddlers have plenty of storage. I always took advantage of this extra storage, so I didn’t need to pack a second bag with my toddler hiking gear.
4. Room for a Hydration System
In addition to the storage compartment, often you’ll find a spot for a water bladder. This eco-friendly alternative to carrying water bottles makes drinking water on the trails so much easier. If you can teach your toddler to drink out of the straw, you don’t have to worry about them staying hydrated as they’ll be having so much fun drinking from the straw. If anything, we had to stop more for potty breaks as our kids were well hydrated.
5. Adjustable Fit for Both Parents
Hiking backpack carriers often have several different ways they can be adjusted to get the perfect fit for both parents.
6. Less Heat and Sweat Transfer
Hiking with a toddler on your back is hard work, especially if you are lugging them up a mountain. When are are using a soft toddler carrier for hiking, this means a lot of heat transfer (and sweat!) between the two of you. Trust me – it’s not a pleasant feeling for either of you.
A child backpack carrier will keep airflow between your back and your toddler. This way, if your family hike has you sweating, you won’t be transferring it to your child. Just remember to dress your baby or toddler in an extra layer since she’s not moving in the carrier or getting your body heat.
7. Great Visibility for the Kids
My kids LOVED the extra visibility they got from inside their hiking backpack, and I suspect this will be true for most kids. A toddler backpack carrier for hiking should have a way to adjust your little ones seat so they can sit up high enough to get a great vantage point for your family hike. In my experience, an engaged and interested child is a much more co-operative child out on the hiking trail.
8. A Pillow for Sleeping
Most good backpack carriers will have a pillow for your little hiker to rest her head on when she falls asleep.
9. Travel with a Backpack Carrier for Toddlers
While we didn’t purchase our backpack carrier for travel, we found it ours to be must-have toddler travel gear. We usually go hiking on our family trips, but we also loved having our backpack carriers in the big cities too. We didn’t have to worry about navigating strollers in big crowds or on uneven cobblestone streets. Once we started traveling with our backpack carriers, we rarely used a stroller for travel again.
How to Choose the Best Child Backpack Carrier for Hiking
Based on my experience, I have identified a few key things to look for when shopping for a toddler hiking backpack. The most important will be how well it fits you and the comfort of your little hiking companion.
Here are the 11 things I recommend you consider when purchasing a backpack carrier for your toddler:
- How much storage does it have? Does it have enough storage that you won’t need a second day bag?
- Does the backpack carrier have a spot for a hydration system? I love having a water bladder for hikes so much, that I rarely ever go without one.
- Is there a canopy or sunshade? Is it integrated or does it need to be purchased separately?
- Can you purchase a rain cover for the hiking backpack carrier?
- How well can you adjust the fit to work for yourself and your partner? Is it easy to adjust on-the-go?
- How much does the backpack for carrying toddlers weigh?
- Are there any weight or height minimums or restrictions for the child backpack carrier than you need to be aware of?
- How is your toddler strapped into the backpack carrier? I always liked how securely the 5 point harness kept my kids inside the backpack carrier.
- How easily can you adjust the height of the seat for your little one?
- Are there additional accessories like footrests for your baby, a plush pillow or extra pockets?
- How much does it cost?
Looking for some great hikes? Don’t miss this list of best hikes in the USA with a baby or toddler. These are all either hikes I enjoyed with my kids, or trails shared with us by other parents just like you.
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This post was written & edited by:
Celine is the owner of Baby Can Travel. Not only does she have years of experience traveling with babies & toddlers, but she's been helping new parents travel with their babies and toddlers for over a decade.
Celine also writes about family travel on the site FamilyCanTravel.com, which she co-owns with her husband. Being from the Canadian Rockies, she shares her passion about her home and travel to Banff National Park and area on their site TravelBanffCanada.com.