Best Baby Carrier for Hiking – Family Outdoor Fun in Safety and Comfort!
If you are looking to introduce your toddler to the great outdoors then taking them on a hiking trip will be a fun adventure. You know that they will need some assistance in making the journey and that you are going to have to carry them at least some of the way.
Whipping out your standard soft structured baby carrier might be the economical option in the short term, but could leave you feeling worse for wear after a long day treking. The limited storage capacity and droopy design can take its toll. It is not what they are designed for.
In comes the Baby Hiking Carrier! This is a hard framed, and heavy duty model that is specifically designed for these long hikes outdoors. The durability of the material, storage capacity in the design, and ergonomic straps will ensure that you have a comfortable day out.
These hiking backpacks are more complex compared to a standard carrier, but remain fairly lightweight considering the features that are packed into most designs.
We have explored a number of different criteria to bring you a recommendation that will best suit your budget, physique and quality standards. All have been selected with safety as the top priority, but also you and our child’s comfort.
Our review of the top rated models should assist you to find the most suitable option for you to bring along on your next family hiking trip.
Your hiking carrier will be a significant one-time investment that will get you many years of use if you choose wisely. Below are the core aspects that will help you select the most suitable design:
With the majority of suitable hiking carriers being backpacks, your little one will need to be strong enough to hold their neck up and body up confidently. Until this point, they will need to be held in something that can tightly fit to the chest area.
The cockpit area is very supportive on the higher end backpacks, and will be comfortable over a longer period of use. You will need to pay attention to this if your baby is a bit larger so they do not reach a point where the straps are too tight, or the seat becomes a squeeze.
The weight limits for each design will be your best guide here.
If you are a hard core hiker with good fitness levels then a larger backpack will give you the storage capacity, and advanced safety features required for you to head off the beaten track.
For the casual trek, a smaller lightweight model may be more suitable. Or if you have extra hands coming along that can help out carrying all the other stuff you need for your trip.
Being clear on how you will use your carrier will allow you to ensure that you select a model with all the features that you need, and none that you don't. This will ensure you have no excess load to carry and should also save you money on fancy features that are no use to you. We have detailed all of the common features further down in this post. It is up to you to consider which is most important for your intended use.
We have detailed all of the common features and accessories further down in this post. It is up to you to consider which is most important for your intended use.
There is no point buying a large carrier if you drive a hatchback. You might be up to your eyeballs in shoulder straps when on the road. A little foresight into your lifestyle will go a long way when selecting the right carrier for you.
Some designs have elements in the frame that can fold up or be removed. Allowing your to have the best of both worlds.
Best Baby Carriers for Hiking
At first glance this looks like an intimidating piece of equipment. It stands so tall that it looks like hard work to even get it on your back. I was stunned when I first lifted the frame of the Deuter Kid Comfort III - it was light as a feather compared to its size!
The comfortable and intuitive design makes it very user friendly and a pleasure to use.
My only real issue I experienced when reviewing the carrier was that my boy was so excited to be sitting up there in the cockpit that he was yelling right in my ear half the time!
Back Suspension and Arm Straps
It is impressive just how soft and comfortable the padding is on the back, shoulder, and waist straps. The material is very responsive to movement and once strapped in hugs tight to your body at all times, yet it feels very breathable.
The straps are all fully adjustable and will accommodate a range of sizes. We have tested this with wearers from 5ft 1" to 5ft 11" and as long as the person can physically handle the weight then the size of the straps and frame should not cause a problem.
Mobility may become limited the smaller you are though.
The waist pocket was just able to fit an iPhone in there, but it was a tight squeeze. My wallet also fit, but they didn't fit at the same time. So your storage space within reach is limited.
At the back of the carrier there are two levels of storage pockets. The base is the larger one and is deceptively deep. I was able to fit my arm in all the way to the elbow.
Plenty of room for lunch, and some warmer clothing.
The pockets higher up are only shallow but ideal for those smaller bits and pieces that you need to access quickly. Like diapers and wet wipes.
Your little one will slide in fairly easily as long as they are in a cooperative mood. I would encourage you try and connect the five point safety harness before you put your child.
Once they are in it can get a bit tricky due to the middle buckle almost appearing as two halves that clip together.
You can loosen the side panels on either side of your baby to create more space to get them clipped in if you need it. Once they are secure you can then tighten up those side panels again creating a secure and enclosed space.
The cushioned chin rest was too hard to resist for my little guy. He chewed and rubbed his face on it non stop. No rashes on his face, and no wear and tear on the cushion material itself.
I can see this getting a bit grubby over time if he doesn't lose interest in it. But it is a great safety feature if he were to jerk his head forward while on the trail.
The quality of material is consistent on the underside of the seat and is just as soft and comfortable for your toddler to sit on.
Canopy and Additional Rain Cover
The canopy can be folded back entirely and secured inside a zipped up pocket when not in use.
I was initially concerned the canopy would impede the view too much. But my boy did not seem concerned at all and continued to look around at the views without issue.
There is an additional cover (pictured) that you can place over the top of the canopy if the weather turns bad.
As you can see this does impede the view a bit more, but if you are trekking through high wind or rain then the additional protection for your baby is a must.
This is fully removable and sits in one of the pockets when not in use.
There is a centre handle at the top of the back area that is very strong. This allows for a simple one handed pickup. Even with a toddler inside the weight is manageable - in this case he was around 35lbs.
After lifting, place the opposite arm inside the first shoulder strap and maneuver the carrier behind you until you can reach your second arm through the second strap.
You need to be careful doing this to keep the carrier as upright as possible. While your baby is strapped in pretty tight, you don't want to scare your little one while in motion or they may be screaming to get out pretty quickly. Fortunately in my case the little guy was having a blast!
Once your arms are strapped in you can clip in the chest strap. This prevents your shoulder straps from moving around and keeps the weight distribution stable.
Last step is to clip in the waist strap and tighten. Again this helps keep the weight distributed across the hips
Oh, and remember to pull in the kick stand when you are upright so this does not get caught on anything. I could reach this well enough, but I just kept forgetting to do it.
"A great hiking carrier for toddlers"
The integration of assorted features in Kelty Pathfinder 3.0 makes the hiking experience superb. To start with, the carrier features utmost comfort for both the child and the parent. This is facilitated by the evenly padded straps and interior part.
The adjustable suspension system provides a perfect fit for both mums and dads. More to the point, the carrier has a 5-point harness to ensure that your toddler is held in position comfortably. The leg-secure straps are an additional complement to the safety and comfort of your little one.
The design of the hood and canopy provides thorough protection from the harsh sun and wind, while retaining good ventilation in the space. We keep saying the word comfort in reference to the Kelty 3.0, but they really have thought of everything to keep the little one happy.
It also comes with an under-seat storage which is large enough to accommodate all the necessary items required for a day out like diapers, liners, milk bottles etc.
"Great entry level option for those on a budget"
The Baby Back Pack Cross Country comes with many favorable features that both the parents and toddlers enjoy.
First, the cockpit has a retractable canopy which is meant to bar harsh sun rays from hitting your baby directly.
Secondly, the padded straps and seat offer top-notch comfort for both parties (child and parent).
The aluminum frame is very light for easy carriage, yet very strong to withstand the weight of a toddler. It is possible to cover very long distances with the carrier without tiring or subjecting your child to any form of discomfort.
This is a great option for taller parents with the weight of the child sitting at the upper end of the frame. Your little one will get a great view up there, but watch out for any tree branches on the trail!!
Babies of age between 6 months to 4 years and maximum weight 40 pounds can be carried using it comfortably.
"High quality, with fewer features, equals great value"
While this is not the cheapest model around, it is certainly the best quality carrier you can buy for those on a mid to lower range budget. There is a reason that Kelty brand carriers feature on this list twice – they make an excellent product!
The weight limit is just 40 pounds, compared to the 50 pounds of the 3.0 model. This compares favorably to most other options on the market though. So unless your baby is getting into late toddler stage you should be well short of the weight limit.
The other major difference is that the 1.0 does not have a sun hood or canopy. So your baby will not get the same protection from the sun, wind, and rain that they would otherwise get. If this is important to you then the Clevr Cross Country may be more suitable.
When you look at the quality of the fabric, and design you will find the same standard as the 3.0 model.
"Ultimate in comfort, with price tag to match"
The Osprey Packs Poco is a combination of both fabric and nylon which makes this design very strong. It is designed in a manner that it can withstand heavy tension without ruining its form and shape yet light-weight.
The tension mesh back-panel allows for easy carriage of your baby. It also ensures proper ventilation hence offering your child the best air circulation when hiking.
With an adjustable shoulder harness, parents are assured of utmost comfort and a perfect fit with the carrier. The harness can be adjusted to the length of 6 inches 15 cm hence offering ample room for your shoulders and belly.
Putting on this backpack is very simple and hassle-free. All you need is to clip the hook on the loop enclosures. Getting it off is as simple as undoing the hook and the loop enclosures.
Laden with built-in instant sun shades, lots of compartments for all you will need; changing pad, detachable backpack, hydration sleeve and a lifetime warranty.
"Light as a feather, compact and mobile"
Weighing in at only 4.4 pounds, this lightweight option will ensure the load is kept to the bare minimum. The detachable mini backpack allows you to lighten the load even further if you do not have much to carry with you on the trail.
The cockpit has plenty of space in the frame for air to flow through. So your child will not get too hot, compared to other carriers with an enclosed space. The trade off though is you have less storage space, and no canopy to provide some cover from the elements for your kid.
The shape of the carrier is short and stocky. This provides great stability when placed on the ground. It is less prone to tipping over compared to other, taller, models. It is steady enough to leave your baby sitting in there when you stop for lunch if you have a flat enough surface. Like a mobile high chair.
The size of the back rest does not adjust at all. So if you are shorter then it may sit a little too low to be comfortable.
The position of the seat can also feel a little too far back from where the weight is on your shoulders. This places some extra strain on your frame on a longer trip. It would have been better if the baby hugged up to the front of the carrier a bit more than it does.
Alternative to a Framed Carrier
"Strong, adventurous kids only"
For the stronger and more self sufficient you can turn the whole backpack carrier model on its head with the Piggyback Rider.
Instead of a hard framed backpack with cockpit area, you have a platform for the child to stand on rather than sit. There are safety straps in place to prevent the child from falling backward. This will not have the same strength and all round protection of a framed carrier so you do have to be careful.
The bag itself is a hydration pack and the little one gets one to match. The storage space will be limited though without the frame. But for a shorter day on the trail, this is a unique, fun and lightweight option.
Hiking Baby Carrier Features
To make the best decision you should be clear on the features you must have before buy. That way you will not be paying extra for bells and whistles that you may never use.
Below is a range of common features that you will find on the various models of hiking carriers:
Shoulder and Waste Straps
When you combine the weight of the carrier, and your child you are likely to be hauling around a significant load on your shoulders. The quality of straps are what you will notice the most when you start to use your backpack.
An ergonomic design is important to ensure that the weight is spread evenly across your body so that it does not place any muscles under stress for long periods of time. This will inevitably lead to injury if you are careless here.
This can also be the first feature to start to show wear and tear. The strong fabric and stitching on the higher priced models will get you the longevity of use for your investment.
The sitting position of the baby is going to determine their comfort, and therefore the quality of your day. If the baby is not happy then it will not be a peaceful trip.
An adjustable seat will give you flexibility, and ensures that you get the longest possible use out of your backpack as your baby grows.
In addition, the seat should be properly padded to further enhance the comfort of your baby.
Your baby’s safety must come before anything else. When you are tracking unpredictable terrain there is a risk that you could slip, or jolt in a way that could move your baby around in their seat unexpectedly. The safety harness is therefore the most important feature to look at closely.
A multi-position harness will again allow you to keep the pressure tight enough to achieve a safe lock, while also given them enough room to move around as desired.
The kickstands that you can see in most models are made from the same material as the metal frame.
For such a large pack it is convenient to be able to have a stable platform. Especially when you are taking your child in and out of the carrier.
This is the biggest contributor to the overall weight of the pack. If you will struggle to handle a larger pack then look for the lightweight designs that minimise features that you will not use, and are clever with their use of space.
The aluminium frames are very durable and lightweight. Great for those who intend on moving larger toddlers in the backpack carrier.
Choose a carrier that has an all-weather fabric because it is going to be exposed to all the elements – sun, rain, wind and much more.
Make sure that the fabric doesn’t fade, tear or shear so that you get longevity out of your carrier.
Other accessories to check for when deciding on the carrier that will most suit your needs are:
- Sunshade/Rain Hood
- Hydration System
- Diaper changing pads
- Standing platform
- Rain cover
The Consumer Product Safety Commission have set manufacturing standard for hiking carriers.
The guidelines include:
- Proper leg openings.
- No sudden opening and closing for kickstands
- No lead content.
- Stability, especially when the carrier is standing on its own.
- Proper restraint for your child.
- Weight capacity and handling capacity. Carriers with CPSC certification are subjected to weight testing with a weight that’s almost thrice its maximum weight capacity.
Tips for Safe Use
Test Before Hitting the Trail
It is a must that you do this before putting your child inside the carrier.
Fit the waist and shoulder straps to your body size and height. Adjust all the necessary straps in the carrier in the shoulder straps and the hip belt area.
Try all the buckles to check if everything locks in place.
Pull the straps to make sure that it stays in place while your child is inside the cockpit.
You also need to test the cabin that’s designed for the child. Check the buckles and harnesses to make sure that everything locks properly. Check the back support, leg opening and the cushioned as well.
You might look a bit silly carrying your child around the front yard, but better to be comfortable now before heading out.
Practice Hoisting Your Hiking Backpack
- Try hoisting an empty backpack. Lift the top handle first and then slip on the shoulder straps. Buckle the hip belt for safety.
- Practice removing an empty carrier by unbuckling the hip belt and loosening the shoulder straps. Then grab the top handle again and try to bring the carrier in front of you.
- Activate the kickstand and safely put the carrier on the ground. You can now get your child out of the carrier.
This will always be easier if you have a partner there to help you, but you should build some confidence doing it your self regardless.
Always Prioritize Safety
Always check for safety. Make sure that all the buckles and harnesses are working properly.
Check the position of your child occasionally. Some carriers come with a small peep mirror to allow you to check your child without putting your child down.
Avoid use when there is evidence of damage to the frame, or straps.
Check for tears or any malfunction in locks, buckles, and harnesses. Read all the safety guidelines in the instruction manual of the carrier.
If you cannot hoist the carrier alone, it is best to have someone assist you to avoid any untoward incidents.
The process of selecting the right carrier for you can be a complicated task. At the end of the day they all; achieve the same result and will get your kid from point A to B. The quality of the journey in between will be determined by practicality and comfort.
All of the above-suggested baby and toddler carriers for hiking are great choices, and each will suit a specific type of person.
If you work through the design and features that each brand includes then you can be confident that you are making a good decision and your new carrier should serve you well.
Getting your little one exposed to the outdoors will be a fun experience for you both. By choosing the right model for you then you can enjoy these days out in comfort and with convenience.
This will make you and your baby’s trekking experience an enjoyable one!