January 23, 2018

Your Guide to Child Backpack Carriers for Hiking

Alex Neill standing in front of Two Medicine Lake while hiking the North Shore to Twin Falls, Glacier National Park, Montana, Copyright Montana Vacation Blog 2015

I have used several kinds of baby carriers for carrying my kids around the mountains. From 11 days old until now (currently have a 3-year-old and 1-year-old), we have used several kinds of carriers and have so many reasons for why I love and why I dislike each carrier in different ways. Here I will go into some detail on the products that have worked for our family, enabling us to get our small babies out into the woods and hiking. 

The first two discussed here are carriers for smaller babies. You won’t want to put babies younger than 6 months of age into the larger backpacks (number 3 and 4 discussed below). You can continue to carry kids in the Ergobaby carrier (number two below) for a long time, but I prefer to switch to the backpack once they can for long hikes so that you have pockets to carry food, water, and all the necessities. 

1) Baby Bjorn

The Baby Bjorn is a fantastic carrier for brand new babies. New babies are so fragile and small, and the Bjorn is perfect for holding your baby close. The main problem with the Bjorn for long hikes is that the shoulder pads have absolutely no support. Carrying babies in this for long periods will weigh on your shoulders. One solution is to tuck small padding or blankets under each shoulder strap to add some support, but if you are going to be doing a lot of long hikes with small ones, I would go with the Ergobaby carrier instead.

The great thing with the Baby Bjorn too is that it can hold your baby forward facing, or outward facing. I have read a lot of things about these being bad for your babies hips. I don’t know whether or not this is true. I occasionally carried my kids outward facing, and it didn’t bother them.

2) Ergobaby carrier

The Ergobaby carrier was my favorite carrier for my kids, and I will keep ours forever. This carrier holds so many memories for our family. This carrier is perfect for babies who are a few months old (maybe larger than around 12 pounds, depending on your child and whether they can hold their head up a bit). I love this carrier for this age because they are cozy, can snuggle into your chest, . Both of my kids loved the Ergo and slept amazing in this carrier. 

There is also the option of buying the newborn insert, which we did with our second child. The newborn insert will work for babies as small as 7 pounds. Both of my babies weighed over 8 pounds at birth, so I never had to be concerned about them being too small for these carriers. While I did use the newborn insert, because I basically had to, I did not really like it. It is more like a thick blanket that wraps around your baby to hold them in the Ergo when they are really small. Suffocation is a concern with the way that your baby’s head sits. Also, the material is thick and hot, and in the heat of the summer, hiking is not ideal with your baby wrapped in hot material.

The Ergo even without the newborn insert can get hot with your baby pressed against you in the heat of the summer in the mountains. But again, it really is one of your few options for new, small babies while hiking.

Ergobaby now sells the Ergo 360- allowing your baby to be forward facing or outward facing. I did not have the 360, because it was not an option when we bought our Ergo. Either one you buy is fine; it is whatever works best for you.

3) Osprey Packs Poco Plus

The Osprey Pack Poco Plus is a recent purchase for us. This daypack is probably one of the most popular packs for hiking, and there are many things that we love about this pack. It has worked well for us, even though there are a few features that I would change. It is also more affordable than the Deuter Kid Comfort III, we got a good deal on Amazon.

The Poco Plus has all of the great features a pack needs, pockets, a drool pad, a great sunshade. The sunshade has mesh siding, which is a great feature, so your kids can see out, but it provides them some protection. It has enough storage to carry food and water and enough for a day hike.

I wish that the drool pad was a bit better (like the Deuter’s), so it was more comfortable to sleep on. The droolpad is not really great for sleeping on in this pack, it kind of folds over strangely, so I always carry an extra blanket to fold over this part for her to sleep on. The other issue with this pack is that the cavity where the child sits is very small. Our 3-year old does not fit in this pack, and our 1-year old doesn’t fit well if she is wearing a jacket. I wish they had made it where the cavity was large and adjustable like the Deuter has.

There is also the Osprey Poco Premium pack. The only difference between the Poco Plus and the Poco Premium is that the Premium also comes with a detachable daypack and changing pad. We did not need these things by the time I bought the pack, so I went with the Poco Plus. I never carry a changing pad by the way, I just use a blanket, or change my child standing up.

4) Deuter Kid Comfort III Carrier

I have written an entire review on the Deuter Kid Comfort III Carrier. You can click here to read my review on the Deuter carrier. This is by far still our favorite pack to carry kids in. The one downside is that it may be slightly heavier than other packs. The sunshade also does not have the mesh on the sides, and is rather just open on both sides, so we wish they had added the mesh.

The Deuter has a large cavity that unclips and adjusts so your child can climb in and out of this backpack on their own. It also has the high back to protect your child’s head if you were to fall and roll (which few of the carriers have this feature!). It has the 5-point harness, and it has an amazing “drool pad,” which is more of a cozy pillow that is perfect for your child to sleep on so they can get their naps in on the trail.

5) Other Carriers

There are also many other brands of carriers available.The Lillebaby seems to be a popular one, but is one that I haven’t tried.

We used a Kelty Kids backpack carrier for awhile, but it was an older version and I did not like it for a few reasons. One reason was that it had no sun shade, and the other main problem was that there was no drool pad or pillow to sleep on, so it seemed uncomfortable for my kids. It also did not have the 5-point harness, which really helps to secure your child if you are to fall. (I fell once hiking to Virginia Falls when my baby was 1, and she did not feel very secure! I am glad she didn’t hurt her head.)

***All of the above links are affiliate links, and I will make money if you purchase the product through my links. However, these companies did not send me these items for free. I purchased them, and these are my honest thoughts and reviews on each of them.***

I hope this helps you in planning what will work best for your family and children, and I hope you are able to get your kids outdoors and hiking a ton! You are never too young or old to get outside!

Warm Wishes from Big Sky Country,

Alex M. Neill

Montana Vacation Blog


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