Best Back Carrier for Toddler While Hiking



Apr 03, 2022

Plan on taking your toddler hiking? I love hiking with my toddlers and sometimes letting them walk, but to cover any distance a toddler hiking backpack is a requirement. Toddler hiking backpacks also come in handy for local hikes and another means of transportation for airports or even on a beach day. 

Since having kids most of my family's vacations have been hiking trips. We love to stay active and hiking is a great family activity and a way to enjoy the outdoors. 

Your toddler not loving hiking? Check out my 15 Tips to get your toddler to enjoy hiking. Or you can try getting your toddler a book about hiking to get them interested.

Toddler hiking backpacks (2)
Trip to the White Mountains last summer with our toddler hiking backpacks

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. Rest assured all products I suggest are products I have bought or would buy based on personal experience or through my network of other mommas.

Summary of Toddler Hiking Backpacks

Hiking BackpackFeaturesAwarded
Kelty Journey PerfectFit Signature
Integrated SunShade Machine Washable Grab Handles for Lifting Large Storage Compartments- 2 Waist Band Pockets- 2 5-Point Harness Lightweight: 6 lbs 6 oz Kickstand
Best Overall Toddler Hiking Backpack Best Toddler Backpack for Travel
Deuter Kid Comfort Child Carrier
5-Point Harness Kickstand Large Storage Compartments- 2 Waist Band Pockets- 2 Durable Water Repellent Treatment Aircomfort Mesh Back
Runner Up Best Toddler Hiking Backpack
Osprey Poco Plus Child Carrier Backpack
Hydration Pack Compatible (sold separately) Integrated SunShade Double Halo Child Harness Large Storage Compartments - 3 Hip Belt Pockets- 2 Kickstand Removable Drool Pad and Washable Dual Grab Handles
Best Premium Toddler Hiking Backpack
ClevrPlus Deluxe Adjustable Baby Carrier
Lightweight: 5.5 pounds Integrated Sunshade Large Bottom Storage- 1 Mini Removable Backpack Kickstand 5-Point Harness
Best Budget Toddler Hiking Backpack

What age can you start to use a Child Carrier for Hiking?

8 month old in hiking backpack
My daughter (7 months) in hiking backpack

My daughter (7 months) in hiking backpack

Most structured hiking carriers have a minimum weight requirement of 16 lbs. Additionally, you want to wait until your baby//toddler has full head control. 

For all three of my kids I was able to use a toddler hiking backpack when my baby hit 6 months old.

Is a Hard Structure or Soft Structure Child Carrier Best when Hiking with a Toddler?

There are two ways to carry a toddler; a soft structured and a hard structured backpack. These are the main toddler hiking gear you will need.

A soft structure will not provide the best support for hikes and long days out. The baby is pressed up against your body and it does not allow for optimum air circulation. Storage is very minimal, if any, in soft structured carriers. I love them for walks around the neighborhood, or baby wearing out in a city or around my house, but not for hiking with a toddler.

soft structured vs hard structure toddler carriers for hiking
Left: Soft Structured Lillebaby carrier; Right: Hard Structure Kelty carrier

Left: Soft Structured Lillebaby carrier; Right: Hard Structure Kelty carrier

Soft structured carriers can be used before a baby is ready for a structured backpack. I use these carriers when hiking with a baby.

A hard structured backpack is designed on a frame, normally steel or aluminum, to hold their shape. They will provide the best comfort for both baby and wearer when out on the trails and provide the  best ventilation. Hard structured backpacks normally come with several different compartments for storage and water and have handy built in features such as sun shades and stirrups for a toddler

If you plan on doing any meaningful hiking you will want the structured backpack.

Can I bring a Toddler Hiking Backpack when Traveling?

Simple answer yes. If you plan on flying with your toddler, most airlines will treat the hiking backpack for the toddler as a stroller, a means of transportation, at no extra cost. As long as the airline allows a free stroller you should be okay.

I have had no issues traveling with our hiking carriers in replacing a stroller on all our trips. Some airlines I flew with allowed a  stroller as well as a child carrier. It can’t hurt to ask.

My Criteria for Choosing the Best Hiking Carrier for a Toddler

Cost of Hiking Carrier

Value for money is a big consideration. I like to be mindful of my buying habits and ensure I am getting the value I put in. If I am going to spend premium prices I expect nothing less than a premium product.

Comfort of A Toddler

The happier my toddler is when in the backpack the more enjoyable the hiking experience will be. For me that means my child is able to fall asleep in the carrier comfortably as well as be happy just looking around. My toddler shouldn’t be pressed up against me and there should be decent ventilation for hot days.

best hiking backpack for toddler comfortable : Can you toddler fall asleep in it
My middle child having a nap in his Kelty PerfectFit Signature hiking backpack at the beach boardwalk

Comfort of An Adult

I also want to be comfortable. A toddler has weight and I want that weight distributed evenly, through my torso and back, and that the straps don’t dig into my skin. I need to be able to pick up the backpack by myself and adjust it as needed.

The weight of the child hiking carrier comes into play as well. I don’t want to add on pounds for fun. I hike better carrying less weight.

Key Features of Hiking Backpack for A Toddler: Sunshade and Storage

I hike all year long but more often in nicer weather. I prefer a hiking carrier for a toddler to come with a built-in sunshade so I don’t have to worry about finding ways to keep my toddler shaded.

best hiking backpack for toddler sunshade
Integrated sunshade up position on a hike

When hiking solo with my kids I need to carry the toddler essentials; diaper changing items, snacks, water, first aid kit etc. I don’t want to carry a hiking carrier for my toddler and an additional bag. 


The carrier must have a secure way to hold my toddler, for me that is a 5 point harness or equivalent. You do not want to mess around with your toddler’s safety. 

Best Overall Hiking Backpack for a Toddler

Kelty Journey PerfectFit Signature Child Carrier

This is the hiking carrier both my husband and I use to carry our toddlers while hiking. We currently have two toddlers and found this carrier to be perfect for our family. 

Kelty Journey PerfectFit Signature is a step up from Kelty’s base model, Journey PerfectFit, but not as premium as their advanced offering, Journey PerfectFit Elite. Let me take you through why this one is the winner for me. 

Kelty Journey PerfectFit Signature has all the features and comfort I am looking for in a hiking carrier for a toddler. It weighs less and costs less than other options on the market for the same quality and comfort.

best hiking carrier for toddler kelty hiking carrier
Carrying my eldest in the White Mountains with Kelty Signature backpack

I am 5”7” and my husband is 6”7”. The backpack is easily adjustable and both my husband and I can switch who wears it midhike and adjust it to our bodies quickly. It comes with a stand to stabilize the backpack for easy loading and unloading of the toddler and can be pushed in when not in use. There is also a nice thick handle on the backpack to make putting the pack on solo manageable.

kelty signature hiking carrier for toddler
My toddlers in their Kelty Signature backpacks. Nice thick handles to help lift the backpacks up.

The toddler carrier backpack has just the right amount of storage, built in sunshade, and the right safety for our child with a 5 point harness. Both our toddlers find it more than comfortable enough to take naps in the backpack and enjoy the thick drool pad. 

The waist pockets are perfect for easy access items.On one side I keep my phone and the other side a water bottle. 

kelty journey perfectfit Signature hiking backpack for toddler
My water fits perfectly in the side belt of my Kelty.

When not in use you can adjust the straps in the cockpit and compress the backpack. This helps to save car space and makes it easier to take our VW Golf, 2 toddlers and us in one car.

Key Features of Kelty Journey Perfect Fit Signature Toddler Backpack Carrier

  • Weight: 6 lbs 6 oz
  • Price: Less than $300
  • Dimensions:28 X 15.5 X 22 in
  • Max weight load (child+gear+pack): 48.5 lbs
  • Min Child Weight: 16 lb
  • Exterior pockets: 4

Pros of Kelty Journey Perfect Fit Signature Toddler Backpack Carrier

  • Easily adjustable to fit different height adults
  • Integrated sunshade
  • 5 point safety harness
  • Wide seat base
  • Adjustable feet stirrups
  • 2 Large zippered pockets in the back
  • 2 Zippered hip belt pockets
  • Kickstand for easy loading and unloading
  • Padded chin rest

Cons of Kelty Journey Perfect Fit Signature Toddler Backpack Carrier

  • No hydration built in

Kelty Journey PerfectFit vs Kelty Journey PerfectFit Signature Toddler Backpack Carrier

The base model weighs the same as the Signature, but doesn’t come with a built in sunshade and only has 2 pockets compared to 4. When hiking alone the additional back pocket the Signature has is worth it. I can separate out dirty diapers or muddy clothes from my food and snack section. Also the sunshade is essential for me.

Kelty Journey PerfectFit Signature vs Kelty Journey PerfectFit Elite Toddler Backpack Carrier

The Kelty Elite weighs almost a pound more, has 7 pockets and a hydration compatibility. The 4 pockets are ample space while hiking and don’t wish to carry more backpack or the extra pound. I personally don’t get on well with hydration packs and prefer my own water bottles. I find them easier to clean and more easily shareable with my kids.

Runner Up Best Overall Back Carrier for Toddler

Deuter Kid Comfort Child Carrier and Backpack

A great option that I have tried out and one of my mom friends uses is the Deuter Kid Comfort Child Carrier. This is a great backpack, but for me not my winner for two main reasons. It weighs more than the Kelty Journey PerfectFit Signature by almost a pound and doesn’t have the sunshade integrated into the backpack.

Most features are the same as the Kelty: adjustable pack for the wearer, 5 point harness, pockets on the waist straps, kickstand, padded chin rest, and 4 exterior pockets. 

Some of the differences is that Deuter backpacks come with a durable water repellent treatment for water and are dirt repellent. They feature an aircomfort mesh back system to promote maximum ventilation between wearer and the toddler and they also have two grab handles to help put on the pack instead of one. 

All the differences sound nice, but they weren’t  enough to sway me to use this carrier as my main toddler carrier. The two grab handles didn’t make it any easier to put on. The Kelty has held up great for over 3 years, being out in rain and placed in the dirt, and I don’t find the ventilation very different when wearing it.

Deuter has other options as well that you might want to consider, Kid Comfort Pro and Kid Comfort Active.

Key Features of Deuter Kid Comfort Child Carrier and Backpack

  • Weight: 7 lbs 8 oz
  • Price: over $300
  • Dimensions: 32 X 17 X 13 in
  • Max weight load (child+gear+pack): 48.8 lbs
  • Min Child Weight: 16 lb
  • Exterior pockets: 4

Pros of Deuter Kid Comfort Child Carrier and Backpack

  • Adjustable back length with VariSlide
  • Durable Water Repellent treatments
  • Aircomfort Systems flexible spring steel frame
  • 5 point safety harness
  • Adjustable foot stirrups
  • 2 Large zippered pockets on back
  • 2 Zippered hip belt pockets 
  • Kickstand for easy loading and unloading
  • Padded chin rest

Cons of Deuter Kid Comfort Child Carrier and Backpack

  • More expensive
  • No built in sunshade, comes as accessory you need to store
  • No hydration built in

Deuter Kid Comfort vs Deuter Kid Comfort Pro Child Carrier and Backpack

Kid Comfort Pro is around $50 more than the Kid Comfort. The Pro comes with the built in sunshade and weighs almost a pound more.   It has more storage space and has a detachable small backpack.

Deuter Kid Comfort vs Deuter Kid Comfort Active Child Carrier and Backpack

Kid Comfort Active was made to be a lightweight option at 5lb 13 oz and cost about $70 less than Kid Comfort. To cut down the weight it has less storage space, in my opinion not enough space to hike solo and carry the necessities you will need on your day out. However, if you are hiking with someone else who can carry some items this is a great lightweight option. 

Best Premium Back Carrier for Toddler

Osprey Poco Plus Child Carrier Backpack

If you are looking for a backpack with ultimate storage space and child comfort the Osprey Poco Plus Child Carrier should be your pick.

Osprey Poco Plus has all the features and space you need to hike with a toddler for any length of time. It comes with a 7 year guarantee, which is longer than your child can use the backpack.

best child carrier for toddler osprey poco plus hiking

The hiking toddler carrier is the most sturdily built, however, it doesn’t compact for storage and transportation as easily as the Deuter or Kelty.  It allows your toddler the most room while in the cockpit. The sunshade covers the most area with mesh siding as well as top cover. 

best hiking backpack carrier for toddler osprey poco plus
My hiking buddy with their Osprey Poco Plus with sunshade up- best coverage

Most other features are the same as the other two hiking child carriers for toddlers except a couple other points. The Osprey Poco Plus has a built in hydration system. But the hydration pack is sold separately. The harness is a double halo with a front facing arm loop, instead of front clipping harness style.

Key Features of Osprey Poco Plus Child Carrier

  • Weight: 7 lbs 14 oz
  • Price: More than $325
  • Dimensions:28.74 X 15.75 X 18.9 in
  • Max weight load (child+gear+pack): 48.5 lbs
  • Min Child Weight: 16l b
  • Exterior pockets: 9

Pros of Osprey Poco Plus Child Carrier

  • Hydration pack- sold separately
  • Drool pad is removable and washable 
  • Easily adjustable to fit different height adults
  • Integrated sunshade
  • Double Halo child harness
  • Adjustable and removable foot stirrups
  • Large zippered pocket 
  • Zippered hip belt pockets - one with safety mirror
  • Cockpit side mesh pockets
  • 6 in adjustable torso adjustability
  • Kickstand for easy loading and unloading

Cons of Osprey Poco Plus Child Carrier

  • More expensive
  • Not as compatible

Best Budget Friendly Back Carrier for Toddler

ClevrPlus Deluxe Adjustable Baby Carrier

If you do not have a lot to spend on a hiking carrier for your toddler, but still want to get outside, the ClevrPlus Deluxe Adjustable baby carrier is still a great option. It is also a great option if you plan on only doing shorter hikes and can compromise on some points. 

The ClevrPlus Deluxe Adjustable Carrier weighs only 5.5lbs and comes with a detachable backpack. The straps are all padded and adjustable and the backpack has a built in sunshade. This backpack also is more than half the price of the other options!

The main things it doesn’t have are the thick drool pad which is nice for toddler naps, padded harness straps, ventilation features, and there is less space. Also the overall weight capacity is only 40 lbs compared to 48 lbs with the other hiking toddler backpacks, meaning the backpack won’t last as long.

Key Features of ClevrPlus Deluxe Adjustable Baby Carrier

  • Weight: 5.5lbs
  • Price: Less than $125
  • Max weight load (child+gear+pack): 40 lbs
  • Exterior Pockets: 3

Pros of ClevrPlus Deluxe Adjustable Baby Carrier

  • Lightweight
  • Built in sunshade
  • Large bottom storage area
  • Mini backpack that is removable
  • Metal stand for easy loading and unloading
  • 2 water bottle pockets
  • Safety 5 point harness
  • Largest color selection

Cons of ClevrPlus Deluxe Adjustable Baby Carrier

  • No hip belt pockets
  • Not built as sturdy 
  • Less ventilation, as baby space is more limited and pressed against you
  • Not as comfortable for your toddler
  • No drool pad

I hope this was helpful in your selection of toddler carriers for hiking. If you are looking for a fun nature craft to do with your toddler after your hike? Try making a nature suncatcher out of the items you collect on your hike. Or looking to go camping check out 30 Fun Camping Activities for Toddlers.

toddler nature arts and crafts

Happy Hiking!