9 Best Child Carriers for Hiking the Trails

Looking for the best child carrier for hiking with the family? There are SO many choices out there that it’s really overwhelming trying to choose. From brand names to budget off brands and everything in-between, there are hundreds of baby carrier hiking backpacks to sift through.

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We have four kids who we have always hiked with since they were babies. That means they all went through infant hiking carriers and into child carrier backpacks. We’ve owned a few brands, and watched as brands improve and get innovative.

We’ve had plenty of moments when the kids get tired and can walk no longer. Child backpack carriers got us through so many hikes that would have ended early otherwise.

And now I’ve sifted through reviews, researched brands, and spent hours combing through features of the new and improved carriers for today.

So for families looking to get out on the trails with their kids who may not be able to walk (or walk far), don’t worry.

Let your child nap or sing in your ears as you finish trekking along with them onboard when you find the perfect hiking carrier for them!

man in blue coat and hat with a red hiking baby carrier on his back and a child inside, brown and white dog in front on a least, standing in snow with snow covered trees all around

The List of BEST Child Carriers for Hiking

#1 All-Round Best – Osprey Poco Plus Child Carrier

The Osprey Poco Plus is best for all-round comfort as a child carrier hiking backpack.

This toddler-friendly carrier has something I didn’t see on others: toy loops. Perhaps this doesn’t sound like a big deal. But if you’ve got a younger toddler or a teething child, it’s life-changing to have loops to attach their teether, toys, and pacifier without having to stop hiking every few steps to pick it up.

And while many packs have water bottle holders, this pack has them up high near the child cockpit so your self-sufficient child can grab water on their own and then slide it back in.

There is both a Poco and a Poco Plus model, and while they are mostly the same, the Poco Plus will give you zipper pockets on the hip belt and extra storage space around the carrier. The larger compartment can house all your baby items and more.

The bad part? While past users have used it with smaller kids, the Osprey Poco Plus is more for older children since the minimum weight to carry is listed at 24 pounds. That means you won’t get as much use out of it.

But once they are large enough, they’ll be riding in comfort. The pack offers removable stirrups to help support legs, preventing any legs to tingle from cut off circulation.

The pack is nicely padded for the child and has a removable (and washable) drool pad.

Also, while it’s great that the hip belt pockets zip (unlike the regular Poco model which don’t zip), the pocket isn’t large enough for some of today’s larger-sized phones.

On the plus side, the amount of storage you get with the Poco Plus is incredible and very convenient. You don’t have to leave any essentials home because there will be plenty of space in here!

The child will also have a great view of the hike since this Osprey child carrier seat can adjust up and down as baby grows. It’ll always be the just-right height!

You can adjust the harness vertically by 6 inches, making it so both smaller or taller parents can easily make it the just-right size. And since it adjusts easily, parent’s can quickly and conveniently take turns carrying.

Osprey Poco Plus Quick View

Child Weight RangeStirrupsSun ShadeAdjustable Seat HeightCarrier Weight
24-40 lbsYesYesYes8 lbs

#2 Best Baby-Friendly- LuvdBaby Premium

If you want a more affordable child carrier for hiking, you’ll love the Luvdbaby Premium Baby Carrier Backpack. It still has plenty of features and lots of comfort for both you and baby.

While the Osprey pack (above) required the child to be 24 pounds, this pack has a minimum weight of 16 pounds, buying you a lot more time to use the baby hiking backpack. The max weight remains the same at 40 pounds.

(*regardless of weight, baby should be able to hold their head up on their own.)

Luvdbaby makes a much more affordable hiking backpack carrier that still ranks very high among users. With over 1,500 5-star reviews, this budget child hiking carrier impresses plenty of people for the price.

Hiking will be more comfortable with the aluminum frame, helping the backpack to weigh only 6.4 pounds.

Like the Osprey, Lovdbaby also has stirrups, an adjustable height feature for parents (this one adjusts with a quick change of height via loop adjustment on the back), lots of pockets, and plenty of padding for baby.

Unlike the Osprey, the hip belt has plenty of room for your phone, giving you easy access anytime you’d like to snap a picture.

So what makes it so baby-friendly?

First, there is plenty of heavy padding to ensure your baby has a smooth, comfortable ride. This Luvdbaby hiking carrier has also thought of a few bonus features most brand name hiking baby backpacks don’t have.

On the Lovdbaby, you’ll get an included diaper changing pad, perfect for unpredictable moments out in the woods. You’ll also get an insulated pocket. If you need the bottle of milk to stay warm for a bit, this will extend your time.

And lastly, while some carriers come with a sun shade, this one has both a sunshade and a rain cover. We have gotten stuck out in Rocky Mountain National Park in a storm, and it would have been really great if our carrier had a rain cover!

There aren’t many things not to love about the Luvdbaby hiking carrier. But some people said a zipper or kickstand broke after a couple uses. This was only a few people, and if that happens to happen to you, you can return for free within 30 days.

Speaking of kickstand, the kickstand will fold in like many carriers do. This is as compacted as it gets, as the entire carrier does not collapse.

Real reviews agree the pack is plenty of value considering the lower price, the pack is well-made and well-thought out for parents, and many find the insulated pocket very useful.

LuvdBaby Quick View

Child Weight RangeStirrupsSunshadeAdjustable Seat HeightCarrier Weight
16-40 lbsYesYesNo6.4 pounds

#3 Best Most-Collapsible – WIPHA Creeper II Carrier

One thing I hated about our baby hiking carrier was that it didn’t collapse. Many carriers have a kickstand that pushes in and they call it collapsed. But really this didn’t save any space in the car. These things can be massive!

So I was thrilled to find the WIPHA Creeper II, which actually collapses.

The pack is made from lightweight aluminum, bringing the carrier in at just under 6 pounds. That’s less weight for you to carry all day!

Bring what you need in the larger storage area and keep your phone and keys in the hip belt pocket.

The removable drool pad can be washed, you can adjust the height and straps, plus you can adjust the baby seat to the proper and most comfortable height for your child.

Users love that the pack is light and can really adjust to smaller, plus size, and taller users.

Like the Luvdbaby, this one comes with both a sunshade and a rain cover to keep your baby comfortable in any weather, as well as an insulated pocket.

While a few users didn’t like how the straps got less comfortable with larger/older children, most praised the pack for its sturdy construction and high quality materials.

The real gem here is the ability to collapse though. You can bring this pack on trips, in the car, or on the airplane much easier than a standard bulky baby backpack carrier.

WIPHA Creeper II Quick View

Child Weight RangeStirrupsSunshadeAdjustable Seat HeightCarrier Weight
16-40 lbsNoYesYes5.95 lbs

#4 Best Affordable Brand Name Carrier – Kelty Journey PerfectFIT

The Kelty Journey PerfectFIT gives you a reputable brand name with all the necessities of a hiking carrier without the higher price tag of other brand names.

While it may not have all the bells and whistles of the other packs, it has everything you need for a great hike to keep both you and baby comfortable. Hikers can put the majority of their items in the larger zip pocket while smaller items can go in the mesh hip belt pocket.

It’s comfortable and padded with a removable drool pad and padded roll cage, and even comes with adjustable stirrups for your child to relax their legs in.

Adults will still get the adjustable height to make the pack a perfect fit.

However, it doesn’t include a sunshade unless you step up a model or buy it separately.

Child Weight RangeStirrupsSunshadeAdjustable Seat HeightCarrier Weight
16-40 lbsYesNoNo6 lbs 6 oz

#5 Best Airflow and Ventilation – Deuter Kid Comfort

Want to make hiking more fun for everyone? Get a pack that allows some air flow!

What makes Deuter a step above the others comes with their design for breathability. Lightweight material allow for ventilation, but it’s the space that’s kept between child and parent that really allows air flow.

If you’ve ever hiked with a carrier before, then you know that body heat transfers quickly and easily, making for an extra-sweaty back. So that space between parent and child is a great feature to help keep you cooler on a hot day.

You’ll get a height adjuster for taller or smaller parents, and you’ll also get a hip belt pocket on each side, making smaller items handy to get to.

Children 16-40 pounds can ride in comfort as the name says. The Deuter has a nice big, soft padded pillow area in front, giving your child the perfect atmosphere for a nap (and many users attest to it working its magic!)

Another feature that is newer to the baby hiking carrier field is the ability to load from the side by opening the side panel. No more having to deal with straps and buckles and lifting the child in from the top.

Child Weight RangeStirrupsSunshadeAdjustable Seat HeightCarrier Weight
16-40YesYesYes7 lbs

#6 Best Affordable, Any Brand – ClevrPlus Canyonero

While this may not be a big brand name, the ClevrPlus Canyonero has a lot to brag about, and the price tag isn’t one of them.

This is the lowest cost carrier noted, but user love the comfort, sturdiness, and storage space it offers. Users also love how adjustable it is, with one noting how parents were an entire 12″ apart in height and could still adjust this to a comfortable fit.

The Canyonero has all the bells and whistles of hiking backpacks. You’ll get a sun shade, rain cover, adjustable child seat, water bottle holders, hip belt pockets, drool pad, stirrups, an insulated pocket for bottles (or anything else), stirrups, and a diaper changing pad.

That’s all the features of a brand name carrier, plus more!

And the best part? This child hiking carrier totally folds flat.

One reason is collapses? Unlike the other carriers, there is no barrier between the child and the hiker on the back. There are pads and safety belts, of course, but you’ll have direct contact with your child while hiking. This can make the hiker (and child) a little warmer.

This didn’t seem to bother many users, and contributed to the lightweight feel of the carrier.

Child Weight RangeStirrupsSunshadeAdjustable Seat HeightCarrier Weight
16-42 lbs (9+ months)YesYesYes6.5 lbs
woman with green hiking backpack on and child in orange sling carrier in front, standing among green grasses with trees to the side.  She has one hand under the child and one on his head, looking at him.

#7 Best Front Carry Hiking Carrier for Kids – Trail Magik

This is the only pack that is front-carry specifically for toddlers (non-infant) that you’ll see on this list.

Trail Magik is unique in that you can still have a full-size hiking backpack on your back, while you carry your child on the front.

Tral Magik is a very basic carry pack. It’s made for those longer journeys since you must attach it to a 30L backpack (or larger). That said, there are no pockets or any sort of features. This is strictly a carrier.

The carrier folds up completely as there is NO frame. It weighs less than a pound and is easy to pack anywhere.

The carrier is not for babies. It is to be used for kids around 1-year-old that can fully support themselves, and can hold kids up to 43 pounds.

Carrying a fully loaded backpack on the back and a child on the front, especially if the child is older, can be a lot. But it’s a great alternative if you need to pack more than what other carries provide for storage and carry a child.

I see this as an ideal option for kids around 1 or 2 years old. But older than that, I see this as a great backup for if older kids twist an ankle or something. The family can still continue their hike in relative comfort.

And when your kid wants to walk? It hardly takes up any space in your hiking backpack.

The Travel Magik is attached by using caribbeaners to connect it to the main hiking backpack. You simply open the top straps, place the child in, and reattach.

Child Weight RangeStirrupsSunshadeAdjustable Seat HeightCarrier Weight
1 year to 43 lbsNoNoNo< 1 lb

#8 Best Child Backpack Carrier for 4 year old (older kids)- The Freeloader

The only hiking carrier for kids on this list that can accommodate not just 50 pounds or 60 pounds but up to 80 pounds in the Freeloader.

The Freeloader is no traditional hiking backpack carrier. The Freeloader is designed specifically to carry older kids around who aren’t quite ready to hike the full trail.

You may look at it and wonder if this is safe. Rest assured that the carrier is 100% CPSC certified (US Consumer Product Safety Commission).

This innovative design was a SharkTank success, where I feel many many products are supported to make life easier.

So what exactly is the Freeloader carrier?

It’s a carrier made for kids 2.5 years and up and up to 80 pounds. Instead of sitting in a backpack, the child sits without being surrounded and encapsulated. Though the child is still harnessed in safely, they are free to move more.

The child sits on a seat which is attached to the parent via safety straps. Then the child is harnessed in with buckles from behind. They can put their feet in the stirrups below.

While the Freeloader doesn’t have large storage pockets, it does have a hip belt bag for basics like keys, phone and wallet.

Parents will love the nicely padded shoulder straps and ability to collapse it much smaller than a typical hiking frame pack.

The Freeloader was designed and created by two firefighter dads who know how important safety is.

One thing I love about it is how inclusive it is. Many people have responded that is has been great to take their special needs children on hikes or just out for a day easily, safely, and conveniently.

Freeloader is my top pick if you need a hiking backpack carrier for special needs children or a hiking carrier for older children. While most max out at 40 pounds, you can carry double the weight in this unique carrier.

Child Weight RangeStirrupsSunshadeAdjustable Seat HeightCarrier Weight
25 to 80 lbsYesNoNo5.8 lbs

#9 Best Infant Hiking Carrier – LílléBaby Complete All Seasons

Another untraditional one, but if you are looking for an infant hiking carrier, then you won’t be able to use one of the frame ones.

You’ll need a carrier specifically made for infants as they will have support for their body and head.

The LílléBaby Carrier makes for the best front carriers for hiking. Not only do 4,800+ past customers give it 5 stars, but it allows plenty of options to keep baby comfy.

The seat widens as the baby grows, giving him a more natural seat. You can pack baby in fetal position, allowing for the youngest of infants to come along.

And when baby grows, he can face in, out, or flip to the back and be worn backpack style.

The All-Seasons model is great as it provides a temperature control panel. This zips/unzips to allow air in to cool down, or to keep a little more warm and cozy.

And if it’s a nice sunny day, you can put on the included sun shade to keep baby from burning.

The lumbar support is praised by customers by being helpful and taking weight off their back. It’s well padded, as is the rest of the carrier.

While some users didn’t like that the back strap took more effort to buckle on themselves, many praised the high quality carrier as the best carrier ever.

You’ll especially love that you can just throw it in the laundry to get it nice and fresh for the next hike.

Child Weight RangeStirrupsSunshadeAdjustable Seat HeightCarrier Weight
7-45 lbsNoYesNo1 lb

Hiking Kid Carrier Comparison Chart

Here is a quick chart that compares some key stats on various carriers. This should help you get a side-by-side idea in one quick glance.

(D= Denier)

Budget Carrier = $200 or less

Carry PositionMaterialCollapsibleBudget Carrier?
Osprey Poco PlusBackAluminum Frame, PolyesterNoNo
LuvdBaby PremiumBackAluminum Frame, Waterproof 600D & 300D Ripstop NylonNoYes
WIPHABackAluminum Frame, unlisted materialYesYes
Kelty Journey PerfectFITBackAluminum Frame, NylonNoNo
Deuter Kid ComfortBackFrame, 210 Denier Polyamide
NoNo
ClevrPlus CanyoneroBackMetal Frame, 600d oxford clothYesYes
TravelMagikFront100% Cordura and 100% Heavy NylonYesYes
FreeloaderBackNylonYesNo
LílléBabyFront (or back)Polyester
& Cotton
YesYes

What is Denier?

You’ll notice that some fabrics mention what number Denier the fabric is. What does this mean?

Denier refers to the thickness of the fabric, or more specifically, the thickness of the fibers that the fabric is made of.

The higher number Denier, the more durable and sturdy the fabric will be. The lower the Denier, the softer the fabric will be.

Benefits of a Hiking Carrier Backpack

Is it really worth investing in a backpack child carrier for hiking? I will easily answer this as YES.

One reason is that you don’t have to stop your family adventures just because you have a little one in tow. They can come anywhere you are willing to hike!

While strollers are great and some can handle terrain better than others, many trails are not stroller-friendly.

Even if a trail is stroller friendly, sometimes it’s just easier to have a pack on because it’s easier to maneuver.

And with the packs available today, there is plenty of space for all your hiking items or baby items.

.

Frame vs Soft Carrier Hiking Backpack

As a short answer, frame backpacks are often better for older babies and kids while softer carriers are better (and really, the only option) for young babies.

A frame carrier can last longer due to its hard and sturdy construction. It’s also more convenient and often more comfortable on long-distance hikes. You’ll get more storage space than a soft carrier provides plus better support.

On the flip side, soft carriers allow parents to go hiking when their child is an infant. The soft infant front carriers are built in a way that provides head support, and also (as seen in the LílléBaby above) can often support a fetal position.

While soft carriers aren’t as rough and tough, they are much easier to wash as most can be thrown into the washing machine.

Framed carriers take a little more manual effort to wipe everything down.

How Many Pounds does a Hiking Carrier Hold?

Each specific hiking carrier may hold a different amount, but in general, most can carry children anywhere from 16-40 pounds. Most then also allow from 8-12 pounds of extra carrying capacity for waters, supplies, and other items.

What Age Can a Child Go in A Hiking Carrier?

A framed Child carrier for hiking can typically hold a child from a couple months old to around 4 or 5 years old. What’s more important is making sure the young child can support its own head and body, and an older child is within the weight limit of the pack.

Is There a Carrier for a 4 Year Old?

As long as your child is under 40 pounds or whatever specific weight limit your carrier lists, they can still ride in a hiking backpack carrier. If your child is larger, try the Freeloader carrier which can handle children up to 80 pounds.

How to Travel with a Baby Hiking Backpack

Traveling with a baby hiking backpack can be tricky because they take up lot of space! If you will be traveling a lot with your pack, consider purchasing the WIPHA, which can collapse and really save space. If you are traveling with a larger pack, check your airlines policy on baby items…they may offer free checked baby items!

Best Child Carriers for Hiking- Wrap Up

As you already know, there are so many options to choose from when selecting a hiking carrier for kids. This list will help you quickly sift through to the best ones, whether you are looking for an affordable hiking carrier, a carrier for special needs children, or a child backpack carrier for a 4 or 5 year old.

While many carriers are incredibly similar, there are many unique ones and carriers with unique features.

So decide what’s most important to you in a hiking carrier and then find which one is best on this list!

Happy Trails!

man in blue coat and hat with a red child carrier for hiking on his back and a child inside, brown and white dog in front on a least, standing in snow with snow covered trees all around

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