A good hiking baby carrier makes exploring the great outdoors with your little one a bit easier for everyone.
As an outdoor enthusiast, I hiked throughout the duration of my pregnancy and knew that hiking would continue to play a large role in our lives after we brought our son home from the hospital. Finding the right hiking carrier for our baby was a priority. With so many options available, we went through a few models and brands before we landed on what worked for us. Within his first 7 months, we hiked 6 different mountains covering over 30 miles of trails. Equipped with the right gear, we were able to avoid unnecessary pain and meltdowns and put our focus back on the natural beauty around us.
Each model of carrier is built with a specific hiking style in mind, therefore they can vary greatly in comfort, quality, features, and price. There are a number of innovative designs built specifically for short day hikes, multi-day backpacking adventures, or even destination hiking trips.
So which baby carrier is best for you? You’ve come to the right place. This guide is a great starting point to finding the perfect hiking carrier just for you and your baby.
When can I start hiking with my baby?
Now. As long as you have the go-ahead from your pediatrician and obstetrician. There are many great baby carriers and wraps on the market, some geared toward infants with additional neck support, and others geared for older babies with additional seat space and cushioning for the adult. Whether you plan to trek 10 miles up a mountain or 1 mile along flat terrain, it is important to choose a hiking carrier that best fits your needs and adventure style.
What to look for in a hiking baby carrier?
Child safety should always be the number 1 priority when selecting a hiking carrier for babies and toddlers. The carrier should be appropriate for the child’s age, height and weight. This is because a baby’s safety needs change as they develop and grow. For example, it is recommended that infants remain facing inward until they have gained adequate head and neck support (around 6 months old). After that age, front-facing and backpack carriers can be used safely.
A good design will always prioritize child safety features, however, there are a few other components to consider when choosing which hiking baby carrier is best for you.
Whether you are wearing a backpack or hiking carrier, having the right fit goes a long way. If you know that you will be sharing the carrier with another adult, consider a pack with an adjustable suspension system and a highly adjustable hip belt, back support, and shoulder straps. By adjusting straps appropriately, the wearer can redistribute weight to the hips taking pressure off the lower back and shoulders.
If you know that you will be using the carrier often and for longer hikes, I would highly recommend investing in a “top-shelf” model that will maximize comfort and last a lifetime. Many stores like REI will allow customers to try on various packs and carriers to help you make a confident and informed purchase.
Between your child, gear, and the pack itself, weight can add up quickly. When choosing a carrier, consider how long you intend to hike and how much additional gear you intend to bring. For a short day hike or if you are a frequent traveler, a lightweight easy to transport carrier may be best. For longer hikes, you may want to consider sacrificing a light carrier weight for additional padding and storage space for gear.
Comfort + Support
An ideal hiking carrier should be comfortable for both the wearer and the child. Features like extra padding and ventilation can add to a carrier’s weight and cost, but for longer hikes it is well worth it. Many models like the Osprey Poco feature stirrups to help take some of the pressure off a baby’s bum after sitting in the cockpit for so many hours.
You are not going to want to hit the trails with your baby without a few essentials including a diaper, wipes, and possibly a bottle. Depending on the temperature and the duration of your hike, you might also consider bringing a change of baby clothes, warm layers, a hat and gloves, toys, and snacks. Larger hiking carriers like the Osprey Poco and Kelty weigh a bit more but come with an array of side pockets, zippered compartments, and surplus storage space including an external water bladder compartment. If you know that your hike will be on the shorter side, opt for a lightweight minimalist design like the LÍLLÉbaby or Tula.
Now, with no further ado…
Best Hiking Carriers for Babies and Toddlers (with frame)
Recommended by Candice, CS Ginger
Weight: 7 lb 14.4 oz
Gear Capacity: 26 Liters
Child weight range: 16lb – 48lb
Pros: Super functional and well-built
Osprey’s Poco carriers are one of the most popular child carriers for hiking. It has a large number of features and it is easily adjustable making it a great pack for exploring with your little one.
One thing that we love about the Poco Plus is the good cushioning that it has. Recent models of the Poco Plus have upgraded the padding around the waist. The padding has a good balance of softness and support whereas older versions used too much mesh which dug in.
The other thing we love about our carrier is how versatile it is. It is very easy to adjust the torso and waist belt to fit properly. When it is time to change who is carrying the pack, it is easy to make the needed adjustments for the new adult carrying the pack. There is a handle that allows you to easily adjust the shoulder straps either up or down.
The Poco Plus also comes with large areas for storage and organization. Along the front, there are two pockets you can use to store smaller things like a phone or keys. The bottom pocket is the highlight of the carrier for us because it is so large. When we went hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park, we stored coats, hats, snacks, and water bottles in there without running out of room.
The downfalls in our opinion of the carrier are the price and weight. At $330 it is one of the most expensive carriers on the market today. It is also on the heavier side coming in at almost eight pounds.
Recommended by Scott and Cecilia, Lovicarious
Weight: 7lb 11.2 oz
Gear Capacity: 20 L
Child weight range: 16 lbs – 48 lbs
Pros: Easily adjustable to fit a number of body types
Cons: Sunshade can be difficult to open and close
We have been fans of Osprey products for a long time. They are durable, long-lasting, and comfortable. The Osprey Poco baby hiking carrier is no exception. It is the slimmer version of the Poco Plus. With slightly less storage and padding, it is lighter than its counterpart.
The full-wrap aluminum frame provides a lightweight but sturdy suspension system. Even with the double halo harness, built-in sunshade, and removable “drool pad”, the deluxe padded cockpit has abundant space for a growing child. The breathable Osprey AirSpeed back panel conforms to the body providing important lumbar support while keeping the back cool and dry. The Osprey Poco also houses several compartments for storage including an external hydration sleeve (fits up to 1.5L). While the carrier is not being worn, it can sit upright with a pop-out foot bar or can be collapsed to lie flat for easy storage.
One thing that particularly stood out about the Poco is how adjustable it is. Scott and I frequently take turns carrying our son and holding on to our 60 lb Golden Doodle. An easily adjustable hiking carrier that adapts to both our body types is a feature that we highly value. Scott is 6 feet tall and wears the Poco comfortably. With a few tightening of the straps in the right areas, I can wear the same Poco and I am just under 5 feet tall. This feature alone is enough for us to recommend the Osprey Poco for hiking parents.
Recommended by Erin, Solsalute
Weight: 7lb 2 oz
Gear Capacity: 14 liters
Child weight range: 16 lb – 48 oz
Pros: Great storage space
Cons: May need patience or assistance to find the best fit
My husband and I are enthusiastic hikers and for a recent trip to Patagonia, we were desperate to still enjoy the best hikes in El Chalten (Argentina’s hiking capital) even with our one-year-old in tow. We live in Argentina and all of the best hiking baby carriers are hard to come by due to strict import regulations. Lucky for us, there was one Deuter Kid Comfort hiking carrier for sale on an online marketplace.
After 7 days of hiking in the Andes, we were very pleased with this hiking carrier for our baby. It features a hard frame and a comfortable seat to keep your baby or toddler comfortable. He’ll have a great view and it was very easy to lower him in and out throughout the day when he wanted to stretch his legs. Aside from the baby’s comfort, the absolute best thing about the Deuter is the storage. There is a large pocket under the seat where we stored our water, snacks, and diapers for the day. Small side pockets were great for easy access toys to distract from tantrums and quick snacks.
The only con to the Deuter, and all carriers like it, in my opinion, is that it does need to be adjusted for different bodies and torso lengths. To avoid any issues with this I recommend purchasing it in person if possible. Employees at stores like REI can make sure you have the settings down for both parents. Since we purchased one used already here in Argentina I didn’t have that luxury and I had a hard time finding the settings that worked for my body. It hit my hips at a weird place but my husband had absolutely zero problems or pain. Having the right settings down before you leave home will avoid any problems on the trail.
Recommended by Julie, Koskers Idle Wild
Weight: 6lb 6 oz
Gear Capacity: 26 liters
Child weight range: 16 – 48lb
Pros: Easily adjustable for both baby and the parent
Cons: Not hydration bladder compatible
When we first found out we were pregnant, my parents asked what we would like for a gift from them… of course, we asked for a BABY CARRIER BACKPACK! At the time, we lived across the country from my parents, so they sent us to REI to try out the different models and report back to them.
We tried on a handful of different models and the Kelty Child Carrier was our favorite. Our priorities were comfort (for both the adult and the child) and storage space so that we could take the baby backpacking.
One of our favorite features of this child carrier is how easy it is to adjust for the size of the child. At one point, we were constantly switching between our daughters and it took less than a minute to make it a safe, comfortable carrier for each. It also uses Kelty’s Perfectfit™ Suspension System which made it really easy to adjust between parents (aka pack horses).
We not only used the pack for outdoor adventures, but we found it much more convenient when exploring cities (no stroller!) and for doing outdoor chores. Our daughters loved having a view over their parents’ shoulders and were truly the HAPPIEST when they were in this pack!
Best Hiking Carriers for Babies and Toddlers (soft carriers)
Recommended by Emilie, Love Life Abroad
Weight: 2 lbs
Gear Capacity: N/A
Child weight range: 15 – 45 lbs
Pros: Versatile and does not take up much space
Cons: Heavy fabric making it uncomfortable during hotter months; only wearable for front and back carry
My husband and I have been hiking with our kids since they were babies. We tried a few different brands and styles (soft versus structured carriers) of carriers and fell in love with the brand Tula.
While it may have a little less support than a structured hiking carrier, the Tula carrier is more versatile, especially at an age where our kids half wanted to hike. Because it’s a soft carrier, the Tula doesn’t take up much space in the car (or in suitcases when traveling). It can even fit in a day backpack allowing us to pack it away when the kids were feeling like “hiking like big boys”.
One thing I really liked about Tula is that there is also a Toddler size carrier that goes up to 60 lbs (instead of 45 lbs for the standard one). It’s thus the perfect carrier for older toddlers that are able to hike but can get tired before the end of the trail. And having the Tula soft carrier, we didn’t need to have multiple carriers, we would use the same one for hiking, traveling, and comforting the baby.
The downside of this carrier is that it’s made in a thick fabric so it can get warm in the summer. Also, there is no storage space like in a structured hiking carrier to carry snacks and water. It can be a little more tricky when hiking alone with kids.
Recommended by Debbie, World Adventurists
Gear Capacity: n/a
Child weight range: 7 – 45lbs
Pros: comfortable with three useable positions; neutral colors available
Cons: No storage
After trying different carriers on hikes with our first two kids, we finally found one that was comfortable for longer journeys with the Onya Baby Outback Carrier.
The thick padded straps keep it comfortable for the entire hike, and the hip belt transfers the weight well. I have never felt a sore back from extended wear. Its breathable and lightweight fabric makes for a sweatless ride. The straps stay adjusted well, and there are a couple of small storage pockets and a rain hood for the baby.
The Onya Baby is suitable for children from 7lbs to 45lbs. There is a baby booster insert for newborn babies and can be used without the insert for children (15 – 45lbs) up to three years old. It also has three useable positions: front, back, and hip carrying. I have brought it along for use with my three year old too, for when his legs would get tired during longer distances, and it worked like a charm. It also rolled up nicely in the backpack.
The Onya Baby Carrier has been a must-have for making our family adventures easier. The carrier has seen a lot of miles during all our adventures near and far, and especially during our family-friendly hikes near Vancouver! If you are looking for a frameless carrier, the Onya Baby Outback Carrier gets two thumbs up from us! If you are looking for a carrier with more storage options, this carrier is not the right one for you.
Recommended by Shelly, Almost There Adventures
Weight: 2.25 lbs
Gear Capacity: N/A
Child weight range: 7 – 45lbs
Pros: Breathable fabric with airflow
Cons: a bit pricier than other soft carriers
This carrier can be used with newborns, starting at 7lbs can be worn with their legs out (as long as the seat is in the narrow position) or tucked in, froggy style. It can accommodate six different positions for carrying up to 45 pounds so it truly grows with your child. Although I think this carrier does best with infants and early toddler stage. The LÍLLÉbaby website also provides great tutorial videos that show the different ways to wear it.
I loved this carrier because it’s very easy to put on and easily adjustable for varying sizes of caregivers. I actually wore one on my back and one on my front with my twins as this was the best option for hiking alone with them. This breathable style carrier allows for airflow and offers a 3D mesh body panel that makes it perfect for hiking in the summer or in warmer climates. There is a small storage pocket on the front for carrying keys or essentials. It feels very supportive with lumbar support and back clasp. The LÍLLÉbaby Complete Airflow is great for hiking or adventuring with your child.
Like what you see? Pin me for later!