How to Choose the Best Baby Hiking Backpack for Your Needs
Finding the best hiking kids carrier isn’t all that different from getting one for backpacking. You’ll want to think about how it will be used: short trips, long trips, trips that involve airplane rides.
You’ll always want to plan for growth. If you’ve got a newborn right now, they will grow into a toddler in the near future, and you’ll have to decide whether to buy a new pack to carry them or get one that can work for both ages.
These are some of the most important things to consider when looking for the best baby carrier for hiking.
What Makes a Good Baby Carrier Backpack?
Carrying a child is quite similar to carrying a fully loaded expedition pack. With a toddler, you might be looking at 50+ pounds of weight on your back when you factor in pack weight and any extra gear that’s coming along.
With that in mind, you’ll need to find a pack that can carry that kind of load and carry it while keeping you and your child in relative comfort.
Padding and Structure
Like any good hiking backpack, you want a child carrier that distributes weight well and doesn’t dig into your skin to cause hot spots. If you’re carrying a toddler, choose a pack with a beefier internal frame; it’ll weigh more and take up more storage space, but it’ll save you back trouble in the long run. A thick hip belt keeps the pack’s weight on your knees instead of your shoulders.
Your child will need a decent amount of padding too. The seat in the cockpit should be padded on all sides to give the most comfortable ride. Look for padding around the leg area to, as this can become a pressure/rub point on longer adventures.
As you probably know from backpacking, everyone’s body shape is different, and to get a good fit, a pack should cinch down in a variety of places. Add another body to the equation, and you’ll want even more points of adjustment.
Look for things like load lifter straps, hip belts that can be swapped out for larger or smaller sizes, and straps to adjust the child’s seat to the proper height.
An often forgotten topic, but ventilation is critical for you and your child. Carrying a heavy, child-laden pack is bound to get you sweaty, and your kid will be exposed to the blazing sun. Look for mesh panels that’ll improve airflow and keep you cool on hot days.
This is usually only available on larger, more expensive packs, but some have a deployable sun shade. How useful that is depends on where you’re hiking (absolutely critical above treeline or out in the desert) and if it’s easy to use. Most neatly fold into a pocket on the outside of the pack, so it’s always there when you need it.
Child carriers come with a built-in harness to distribute their weight onto your body. Every major brand on the market has a harness that will prevent your child from falling out of the pack, but some are more comfortable than others.
The older and heavier your child is, the more padding you’ll want on the pack. Toddlers will appreciate leg supports that distribute their weight over a larger area.
The bad news about getting a child carrier for hiking with kids is that they are unusually pretty heavy for their size. Unlike typical day packs or even large-framed backpacking packs, child carriers have a lot of padding. This keeps your kid safe and comfortable while preventing you from getting a nasty backache.
If you are on the trail all day, choose a heavier pack – counterintuitive as that may seem. You’ll need the added structure and padding, and it’s worth the weight. Nobody likes carrying extra pounds, but remember that your child’s weight will probably dwarf that of the pack, so don’t put too much thought into shaving ounces.
In addition to your precious cargo, many parents would like to carry some gear on the trail. Most of a pack’s volume will be taken up by the baby carrier. Still, some models have a small detachable daypack for storage too. Even lightweight wraps have a few small pockets.
If you’re going on all-day adventures, look for a pack that can hold some supplies and do it comfortably. That means a sturdier frame and more straps to distribute the weight.
Which is Better, a Baby Wrap or a Backpack Carrier?
Baby wraps are a popular option because they give infants and very young children a comforting swaddling feeling. They keep your hands free and typically have good airflow. They also pack down to nothing, which makes them great for travel.
The downside is that they’re not meant to carry a lot of weight. It’s not distributed very evenly on you, which will give you shoulder and back pain if you wear it for very long or with a heavier child.
An older baby also don’t care for the swaddled feel, it becomes too restrictive. They like the extra range of motion that comes with a backpack carrier. They can move their arms and legs around, which is good for their development.
If you’ve got a newborn, a wrap will serve you nicely. However, the baby will quickly grow out of it and need a backpack carrier, so just know that purchase is coming up in the near future.
At What Age Can Babies Go in a Hiking Backpack?
Backpack carriers don’t support the child’s head and neck that well, so it’s imperative that they have full control of them before going in one. This usually happens when they’re around six months old.
What Type of Baby Carrier is Best for Newborns?
Since newborns don’t have much muscular control, they need a carrier that can support their weight and keep their limbs in the proper position. The best way to do this is with a wrap, which holds the newborn close to your body where they feel safe and secure.
Should I Get a Frame Carrier or a Soft Carrier for a Toddler?
Two things need to be factored into this choice: your child’s weight and whether you’re traveling. Older kids require sturdier packs to distribute their weight, so a frame carrier will be your best option. The rigid structure also provides more space for your child to move around, making for a better trip for them.
If your child is a newborn or under six months old, a soft carrier is a great option. It doesn’t weigh as much, and it packs down much smaller. If you’re traveling on an airplane, a soft structured carrier is a separate piece of checked luggage. In contrast, a soft carrier easily fits under the seat.
How Can You Check to See If Your Baby Finds the Backpack Carrier Comfortable?
Your baby probably can’t tell you whether their carrier is uncomfortable or where it’s hurting them, so you’ll have to infer from their expressions and body language while looking for problem points.
Every part of the pack that touches your child should be padded. A snug fit while rub against their skin and the pads will prevent pressure points. If it’s a sunny (or rainy) day, put their sunshade/cover-up to protect them from the elements.
Conclusion: What is the Best Hiking Baby Carrier for Your Needs
Finding a suitable backpack carrier is no easy task. The right one for you won’t necessarily be right for everyone else. The size and weight of your child, along with how long you’ll be hiking with them, will determine the ideal baby carrier.
If you’re wondering what the overall best hiking backpack is, it’s probably the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro. It’s well-built, with plenty of padding and an ergonomic frame to distribute your child’s weight. For those searching for the most comfortable baby carrier for hiking, it’s also the Kid Comfort Pro.
Quality materials ensure that this pack will last for several years, meaning you could even use it with future kids. It also comes with more storage space than most child carrier backpacks.
The Kid Comfort Pro is expensive, though, so if you’re trying to figure out the best value baby backpack carrier, that will go to Ergobaby 360. It’s a basic soft carrier, so it won’t work as well with older toddlers, but it’s a lot less expensive than Deuter and is still very well made.