Stay happy on the trails with these high-quality baby carriers for hiking. We compared the top models to find the safest, toughest, and best hiking child carrier in 2021.
Hiking with little ones is one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors. And it’s hard to beat a baby carrier for hiking as a way to help introduce tots to the great outdoors.
The support, structure, and safety of a baby carrier pack let adults enjoy long hikes while the child sits comfortably up high with panoramic views of the amazing world around them.
The best baby carriers for hiking often have rock-solid harnesses, ample padding, and rigid frames that will keep both parent and child safe and comfortable for long days out on the trails.
Child carriers aren’t cheap, but with the number of features jammed into them, that isn’t really a surprise. But which hiking child carriers are worth the money? And which hiking baby carriers fall short of expectations? We break down the best baby carrier packs to discover which models fit the needs of the modern outdoor family.
What Is The Best Baby Carrier For Hiking?
There’s a lot that goes into finding the best baby carrier pack. If you don’t have time to read all of our reviews and want to jump straight to our pick for the best baby carrier for hiking, you can check our handy chart below.
But if you want to dig into why we picked that one and compare some of the features from our other top hiking kid carriers, read on to see all of the details. We’ll get into what makes the best hiking toddler carriers and why we rate some of the others.
Weight: 7.8 lbs
Detachable Storage Pack
Weight: 7.89 lbs
Built-In Changing Pad
Weight: 7.5 lbs
Best For Babies
Best Overall Baby Carrier for Hikers – Deuter Kid Comfort Pro
The Deuter Kid Comfort Pro is neither the lightest nor the cheapest baby carrier for hiking. But it’s the most full-featured and best baby carrier for most outdoor lovers.
The Deuter Varifit system makes for what we believe is the most comfortable fit for most body types. The shoulder straps, waist belt, and back system make for what we believe is the most supportive and comfortable baby carrier on the market.
The built-in rain cover is easy to use and set up. And the standard sun cover is well built to keep the harsh afternoon rays off of your little one. The ride height is also one of the best for the child. They sit up high with an excellent view of the world around them.
The Deuter Kid Comfort Pro matches with the Kelty Pathfinder 3.0 and Thule Sapling Elite when it comes to available features; the Deuter wins when it comes to the quality of build and value for the money. You can check out all of the features of the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro here.
What We Love About The Deuter Kid Comfort Pro
- Ride Height – The Deuter Kid Comfort Pro has the tallest ride height of all the models, which is great for the kids.
- Comfort – This is the most comfortable baby carrier for hiking by far.
- Build Quality – This is one of the most well-built child carriers available.
- Included Sun Shade and Rain Cover – This baby carrier has both a quality rain and sunshade built-in.
- Storage – The latest model of the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro has a detachable front pack. The Deuter Kid Comfort Pro is the only model that has this feature. And we think that it’s one of the best storage options available.
Where We Think The Deuter Kid Comfort Pro Can Improve?
- Hydration Pack – Unlike the Deuter Kid Comfort Active, the Pro does have a hydration reservoir. Although, in a premium model, I would like to see the hydration pack itself included in the price.
Find the latest prices below:
Runner Up – Osprey Poco Plus
Osprey is a brand known for its incredibly high quality of build. And the Osprey Poco Plus hiking child carrier matches their reputation.
The Poco baby carriers have always ranked near the top of the list for the best baby carriers for hiking. And the latest version to hit the shelves keeps up that momentum. And to be honest, if it wasn’t for an edge in comfort and that AMAZING detachable storage pack, the Osprey Poco might have edged out the Deuter Kid Comfort.
This child carrier improves on earlier models with better padding on the shoulders and waist belt. The child harness has also been greatly improved for both access and functionality.
Like Deuter, there are two separate hiking carrier designs to choose from, the Poco and the Poco Plus. The Plus definitely wins out in terms of value for money thanks to its 26-liter storage capacity. As anyone who has hiked with a baby knows, you can never have too much carrying room.
What We Love About The Osprey Poco Plus
- Durability – The Osprey Poco Plus is built to take a beating. Even in our roughest tests, this hiking child carrier withstood the abuse.
- Storage – At 26 liters, the Poco matches the Kelty Journey for most storage.
- Built-in changing pad – This little nicety raises the value of the Poco by thinking about the little things.
Where We Think The Osprey Poco Plus Can Improve
- Comfort – The Poco Plus still has a long way to go to match the comfort level of the Deuter. A support bar by the neck can cause pain when the hiker is looking up, and the general build is not quite as comfortable as it should be. This may not be an issue for short hikes, but it definitely wears on you for longer hikes.
- Price – It comes in a little cheaper than the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro, but not cheap enough to warrant the trade-off.
Find The Latest Price Below:
Best Budget Hiking Carrier – Kelty Journey PerfectFit Series
I mentioned earlier in this gear review that there are no bad baby carriers for hiking on this list. The Kelty Journey PerfectFit Series, which comes in between $50-$100 cheaper than the most expensive models on this list, is still a great product.
This is an excellent child carrier for hikers who enjoy shorter hikes or urban exploring. The cockpit, where the child sits, is among the most intelligently designed of the bunch. The child harness connects, and the padding around the child ranks right up there with the most expensive models.
The Kelty also comes out slightly lighter than both the Kid Comfort Pro and the Osprey Poco. Although not nearly the featherweight that the lightest kid carrier, the Deuter Kid Comfort Active is. However, there is no sacrifice when it comes to carrying capacity. We did, however, find that the Kelty PerfectFit was less comfortable for those with smaller bodies.
The Kelty Journey PerfectFIT comes in two models, the Signature Series and the Elite. The Elite will set you back an additional $40 but includes a hydration bladder holder, additional storage, and a much-better organized compartment. For these reasons, I would spend the extra money for the upgrade.
What We Love About The Kelty Journey PerfectFit
- Price – The Kelty Journey PerfectFit Elite and Signature Series offer the best value for the money of all of the hiking child carriers.
- Storage – At 26 liters, the Kelty PerfectFit ties with the Osprey Poco for the most storage capacity of our best baby backpack carriers.
Where We Think The Kelty Journey PerfectFit Can Improve
- No Footrests – Most baby backpack carriers have footrests where children can place their legs. This helps to avoid circulation issues on long outings. The Kelty was the only model of framed child carriers that didn’t include stirrups.
- Comfort – While the Kelty offered an excellent fit for the rider, it was the least comfortable unit for the hiker.
Find The Latest Price Below:
Best Frameless Child Carrier – ErgoBaby Omni 360 Cool Air Mesh
Not every situation calls for a framed baby carrier. In fact, framed carriers are often only rated for children above a certain weight or height. When hiking with small babies or toddlers that don’t enjoy towering above the adult’s head, a frameless baby carrier might be the best way to go.
Not only are frameless child carriers lighter, but they also help young children regulate body temperature thanks to the proximity and physical connection with the carrier themselves. As the child grows and can hold their own head up without effort, moving to the framed baby carriers allows them to better view the world around them.
The ErgoBaby Omni 360 is our latest winner in frameless hiking carriers. Its ultra-lightweight design, breathable mesh material, and comfort for both the child and the hiker make it one of the best carriers for hiking with young babies.
I wouldn’t want to wear a frameless carrier for long hikes. But for short tours and urban exploring, they do a fantastic job. The ErgoBaby Omni 360 offers a great introduction to the outdoors for babies and small toddlers. And using them will make moving to the larger framed carriers much easier when the time is right.
What We Love About The ErgoBaby Omni 360 Cool Air Mesh
- Weight – At just 1.1 lbs, the ErgoBaby Omni 360 is by far the lightest baby carrier of the group.
- Front and Rear Facing – The ErgoBaby Omni 360 allows the child to face the adult for sleeping or face outwards to see the world around them.
Where We Think The ErgoBaby Omni 360 Cool Air Mesh Can Improve
- Comfort – This style of hiking baby carrier is great for short hikes, but uncomfortable and hot after long distances.
Find The Latest Price Below:
Lightest – Deuter Kid Comfort Active
The Deuter Kid Comfort Active is the lightest child carrier for hikers. This high-quality unit is the lightest of the Deuter Kid Comfort series. The Active is the little brother of the Kid Comfort Pro. It may not have as many features, but coming in at a whopping 2 lbs lighter, it’s much more practical for long days out on the trail.
This kid carrier for hiking is in its third year, and it has consistently been rated as one of the top models for outdoor thanks to its solid frame and lightweight design.
Although it’s incredibly lightweight, the Active is no slouch. It’s made of durable material that can take a beating.
What We Love About The Deuter Kid Comfort Air
- Weight – Made of lightweight aluminum, the Deuter Kid Comfort Air is among the most lightweight child carriers for hiking.
- Footrests – The unit features height-adjustable footrests that are intelligently placed.
- Style – I have to admit, the Deuter Kid Comfort Active looks fantastic. It’s sleek and streamlined, making it excellent for hiking through the forest.
Where The Deuter Kid Comfort Active Improve
- Storage – At 14 liters, the Active has one of the smallest available storage compartments.
- No Sun Shade or Rain Cover – While I understand the desire to keep weight down, the lack of sunshade and rain cover is shameful.
- No Hydration Compartment – I don’t understand how this was overlooked. A hydration compartment doesn’t add much weight. It’s a shame that Deuter skipped out on this one.
Find The Latest Price Below:
Choosing The Best Child Carrier For Hiking
Several factors go into choosing the best baby carrier for hiking. And while all of the models we show fit our requirements, not everyone is suitable for each unique hiking and travel style. We aim to be the best hiking with kids blog, so being honest about how we judge our products is important.
Comfort For The Hiker
Comfort is crucial for a hiking toddler carrier. The longer the hike, the more of a factor comfort plays into the equation. We put many points in this category because if a kid carrier isn’t comfortable, it’s not worth using.
The most comfortable baby carriers are built with suspension systems that can hold small toddlers up to children around 40-50 lbs. And when you’re looking at carrying that amount of weight, the distribution is crucial.
Hip belts play a big role in getting that hefty weight off the shoulders and distributing it to the hips and legs, which are usually much stronger and better equipped to deal with it. Good hip belts should be padded and shape easily to the dimensions of the wearer.
There should also be good chest straps that help the weight stay centered on the body. Without this feature, the weight tends to shift from side to side with motion adding unnecessary stress to the shoulders and back.
Comfort For The Baby
Framed baby carriers have a “cockpit,” which is the area that the child sits in while they are being carried. The cockpit usually has a seat, a harness, and footrests. The quality of the cockpit goes a long way to ensuring that the baby carrier is comfortable ad safe for the child.
Higher-end baby carrier models use soft-touch fabrics, breathable material, and straps that won’t irritate when rubbing occurs.
Footrests are important as well. Having stirrups or places for the child to put their feet allow them to rest their legs on long hikes. Without this feature, the carrier will have to stop every 45-minutes or so to let the child stretch and increase blood flow to their legs.
The harness is important for several reasons. First off, in most child carriers for hikers, the child sits very high, often with their head above the adult. The harness is there to ensure that they don’t fall out and injure themselves. It also helps to keep them relatively still so that they don’t shift their weight in a way that throws off the person carrying them.
Rain Covers and Sun Shades
The best days of hiking with kids involve blue skies and sunshine. But with that comes sunburns and dehydration. Having an integrated sunshade helps to keep the harsh rays off of the little one so that they can enjoy the ride in style.
The best hiking carriers for kids have integrated sun shades that sit up above the head and provide ample protection from all sides. They should also do this in a way that doesn’t impede the views of the child.
Not every day of hiking includes ideal weather, though. When hiking in the rain, sleet, or hail, having a rain or weather cover will help your child stay dry and comfortable. These are usually packed into a pouch within the child carrier and can be easily deployed in the event of bad weather. The best rain covers should have windows that will allow your child to see even when deployed around them.
Weight often goes hand-in-hand with comfort. Most framed kid carriers are not the lightest backpacks available. And strapping an extra 5-10 lbs on your back can affect you, especially on longer hiking trails. Once you add on the child’s weight, which can often dwarf the carrier weight, this is amplified.
Many hiking child carriers such as the Deuter, Osprey, and Thule offer multiple designs that enable them to fit almost all body types. Generally, their standard designs fit best for those of average height and weight and up. The smaller fits are generally the same pack design but with a slimmer waist and strap system designed to fit smaller body frames.
That being said, the standard designs of most kid carriers fit most body types. The best hiking carriers have adjustable straps, waist belts, shoulder harnesses, and back supports that you can move around to accommodate medium to large-bodied people.
Storage Capacity is something that plays a large role in hiking with kids. While frameless carriers and specialty carriers might not offer storage, most framed baby carriers for hiking do. This can be especially important for those who hike solo with children. You’ll need a place to put things such as snacks, diapers, first aid kits, and more.
We appreciate the designs that many of the top models offer, including pockets in the waist belts, detachable storage packs, easily accessible mesh side pockets, and more.
It goes without saying that carrying a baby carrier while hiking can create a lot of heat. The ventilation system of a child carrier is crucial to the comfort and enjoyment of both the child and the carrier.
Back ventilation is vital for the carrier. As much of the weight should be transferred to the hips, the back should have areas where there is room for airflow to cool down the body.
The best models have mesh panels with full separation between the body and the backpack. This ventilation is often appreciated in both hot and cold weather experiences.
We at Trekking with Tykes are suckers for innovation and smart design. We love it when baby carrier brands think outside of the box and find ways to make the lives of children, parent’s and adults easier by including things that other brands hadn’t thought about.
That being said there are a few features that we always like to see in hiking child carriers. These include:
- Hydration Reservoirs – Hydration is super important when hiking. We feel that every framed child carrier should include a hydration reservoir. These are excellent for both the carrier and the child to keep everyone hydrated and safe while on the hiking trails.
- Footrests – These are often overlooked in budget carriers. But footrests are very important for child health and should be included in every baby carrier.
- Storage – As a parent, I understand the need for carrying plus the kitchen sink when hiking. Having storage is something crucially important, especially for those who don’t hike with a partner.
Do You Love Hiking With Kids?
Swing over to our Trekking With Tykes Facebook community; we have discussions on all aspects of family hiking, from hiking with teens to tottering with tots.