For hitting the trail with a little one in tow, it’s hard to beat a baby carrier pack. Their supportive designs allow for a comfortable and safe ride, and we’ve spent countless hours hiking with both a happy child and adult. Because of their feature-rich builds, including quality harnesses, padding, and suspension systems, these backpacks can be pricey, but there are deals to be had. Below we break down the top baby carrier packs of 2017, which range from substantial packs that are strong enough for hauling a growing toddler to lightweight frameless models for short trips. For more background information on baby carriers, see our comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
 

1. Deuter Kid Comfort 3 ($299)

Deuter Kid Comfort 3 child carrierCategory: Comfort pack
Weight: 7 lbs. 11 oz.
Sunshade: Yes
What we like: Very comfortable for both baby and adult.
What we don’t: Pricey.

Deuter’s Kid Comfort 3 is our top pick for 2017 by combining high levels of comfort and safety, premium build quality, and a competitive price. Deuter packs are known for their carrying comfort and this model is a standout: it has a sturdy metal frame that easily handles a growing (and active) child, and the plush padding on the hipbelt mixes comfort and support very nicely. More, we think Deuter has the best baby seat design out there. The buckling process isn’t quite as simple as the Osprey Poco series below, but the harness is easy to adjust to get the child into a comfortable position. More, the tall back, supportive sides, and washable front pad make for great mid-hike naps.

The biggest challenge with the Kid Comfort 3 is cost. Even though the Deuter is competitively priced at the high end of the market, it may be overkill for those that only plan on occasional use. But it’s a great match for people who get outside a lot with durable, high quality materials, thoughtful organization, and an easy-to-use sunshade. By nailing the features and comfort for both baby and adult, the aptly named Kid Comfort 3 is our #1 pick.
See the Deuter Kid Comfort 3

 

2. Osprey Poco AG Plus ($290)

Osprey Poco AG Plus child carrierCategory: Comfort pack
Weight: 7 lbs. 11 oz.
Sunshade: Yes
What we like: High quality build and nice feature set.
What we don’t: Falls a little short of the Deuter in comfort.

From day hiking to backpacking, Osprey makes some of our favorite packs. Their Poco AG line of child carriers has 3 levels, and we like the mid-range “Plus” best: it has a great mix of features while staying under $300. From a carrying standpoint, the pack shares the Anti-Gravity (AG for short) suspension system with their popular backpacking models. The main benefits of the flexible mesh backpanel are great support while keeping your back cool, and it’s very easy to adjust the fit when swapping out hauling duties. The Plus also has a very large storage capacity—measuring 26 liters, it easily exceeds the 18-liter volume of the Deuter above—and comes with a built-in sunshade. For long trail days or if the features match your needs, the Poco AG Plus is a worthwhile investment.

It’s a close call, but stacked up to the Deuter above, we think the Osprey falls short in a couple of important categories. First, the Deuter is a little more comfortable to carry with better use of padding in the hipbelt and shoulder straps. More, we’ve found that when our kid falls asleep, the Deuter provides better support along the front and sides for their heads compared to the Osprey, which can put them at a steep, uncomfortable angle. The Poco AG Plus still is a great pack and does get the edge with an easier to use child harness design.
See the Osprey Poco AG Plus

 

3. Kelty Tour 1.0 ($190)

Kelty Tour 1.0 child carrierCategory: Lightweight/comfort pack
Weight: 4 lbs. 10 oz.
Sunshade: No (separate accessory)
What we like: Good price, lightweight, and well-designed child harness.
What we don’t: Low on features and not as comfortable as the packs above. 

For shorter hikes or if you’re willing to compromise a little on comfort, Kelty’s Tour 1.0 is a great budget baby carrier. What immediately stuck out with the Tour 1.0 is how well the child harness and interior compares to the more expensive models above. The seat is easily adjusted, nicely padded, and an all-around comfortable place to be. As a bonus, the Tour 1.0 saves you almost 3 pounds compared with the packs above and has a similar maximum capacity. 

As mentioned above, the biggest compromise with the Tour 1.0 is felt on longer trails days. The padding is soft and supportive for short jaunts, but the longer you’re out—and the heavier your kids get—the pack becomes less and less enjoyable. The minimal features also can be an issue here, and we particularly miss having a hydration compatible sleeve, hipbelt pockets, and better organization from the 2 storage pockets. But at $100 less than the Osprey above, it’s easy to forgive the Kelty for cutting a few corners, and it is a great option for families that won’t be out every weekend.
See the Kelty Tour 1.0

 

4. Thule Sapling Elite ($320)

Thule Sapling Elite child carrierCategory: Comfort pack
Weight: 7 lbs. 15 oz.
Sunshade: Yes
What we like: Very comfortable to carry and tons of features.
What we don’t: Expensive with a couple design letdowns.

Thule is best known for their car carrier systems, but they’ve made significant inroads in the pack market in the past few years. The Sapling Elite is their top-of-the-line baby carrier and includes just about every bell and whistle you could dream up. In addition to a strong suspension and highly adjustable shoulder straps and hipbelt, the Elite has a zip-off daypack, sunshade, stirrups, and 2 very large hipbelt pockets. More, it has a similar side access design as Deuter that makes it easier to get older children in and out of the seat. All told, the Thule is a great premium alternative to our favorite packs from Osprey and Deuter.

Why is the Sapling Elite #4 on our list? We think the backpanel design isn’t as comfortable compared to the high-end Osprey and Deuter designs. In particular, the padding along the upper back feels a little stiff and doesn't allow for a close fit. We’re also not completely sold that all of the extras are worthwhile—the mirror that’s included is one example, as it’s just a simple handheld mirror that stows in a sleeve in the hipbelt pocket. Thule does offer a trimmed down version of the Sapling ($280) that forgoes the mirror, removable daypack, and trades the very large hipbelt pockets for a smaller size.
See the Thule Sapling Elite

 

5. Deuter Kid Comfort 2 ($249)

Deuter Kid Comfort 2 child carrierCategory: Comfort pack
Weight: 7 lbs. 3 oz.
Sunshade: No (separate accessory)
What we like: Excellent padding and a strong suspension. 
What we don’t: Sunshade costs extra.

Falling just below the Kid Comfort 3 above in price and features, the “2” is Deuter’s mid-range child carrier. What differentiates these models? The Kid Comfort 2 has no sunshade, which is a necessity in our opinion, less storage capacity by a couple of liters, a smaller front drool pad, and a shorter back in the baby's cockpit area. Thankfully, this pack uses the same suspension system so it’s just as comfortable to carry, and the tweaks to this design do shave off 8 ounces in total weight. All told, the Kid Comfort 2 is another great baby carrier from Deuter.

Despite the Kid Comfort 2’s friendlier price, we still think it’s worth spending up for the Kid Comfort 3 above. Again, a sunshade is not included in this midlevel offering, a feature we find essential on almost every trip out. You can purchase one as an accessory for an extra $29, but this omission, along with the other design changes noted above, makes the pack a worse value. Unless you don’t want a sunshade or like having the option of leaving it behind—the Kid Comfort 3’s sunshade is permanently attached—we prefer the premium model.
See the Deuter Kid Comfort 2

 

6. Osprey Poco AG ($250)

Osprey Poco AG child carrierCategory: Comfort pack
Weight: 6 lbs. 14 oz.
Sunshade: Yes
What we like: Quality Osprey design at a cheaper price.
What we don’t: Less storage and not as adjustable as the Poco Plus.

Osprey’s Poco AG sits below the Poco AG Premium and Plus in their kid carrier lineup, but it’s arguably the best value for the feature set. The pack has the same excellent kid seat design and Anti-Gravity mesh backpanel that ventilates well and is easy to adjust. And unlike the Deuter Kid Comfort 2 above, the $250 Osprey retains the built-in sunshade. It’s not our favorite design—the sunshade can get stuck inside the storage space and when deployed sits so high overhead that it doesn’t block low sunlight—but it’s still a nice inclusion for the price.

What do you sacrifice with the base Poco AG? First, you get a simplified hipbelt design that trades zippered pockets for much less practical mesh, and you aren’t able to adjust the padded portion of the hipbelt like you can with the Poco AG Plus and Premium. This base model also has less overall storage, although its 20-liter volume stacks up well with most packs on the market. As long as the diminished fit customization and features aren’t deal breakers, Osprey’s Poco AG is a really nice hiking option.
See the Osprey Poco AG

 

7. Kelty Journey 2.0 ($260)

Kelty Journey 2.0 child carrierCategory: Comfort pack
Weight: 7 lbs. 2 oz.
Sunshade: Yes
What we like: Solid build and lots of storage space.
What we like: Expensive for the quality and comfort.

Kelty gets credit for releasing the first backpack-style child carrier, and they currently have one of the most expansive line-ups on the market. From their larger capacity, comfort-oriented line, the Journey 2.0 lands one step below their range-topping Pathfinder 3.0. This popular pack comes with a built-in sunshade, a large 21-liter capacity, and the same comfortable child harness design as the Tour 1.0 above. Overall, the pack doesn’t have the same premium feel as our top rated Deuter and Osprey, but it’s sturdy and very functional.

Kelty gear typically is a good value, but we think the Journey 2.0 falls a little short in that respect. At $260, the pack lands just below our #1 and #2 ranked Deuter and Osprey and can’t match either in carrying comfort. Kelty also hasn’t included zippered hipbelt pockets, which we’ve found to come in handy time and again on a hiking trail. If the pack were priced below the Kid Comfort 2 it’d be easier to bump the Journey 2.0 up our list, but among our premium picks it isn’t a favorite.
See the Kelty Journey 2.0

 

8. Deuter Kid Comfort Air ($239)

Deuter Kid Comfort Air child carrierCategory: Comfort pack
Weight: 6 lbs. 3 oz.
Sunshade: No (separate accessory)
What we like: Excellent ventilation and comfort at a relatively low weight.
What we don’t: No hydration sleeve or sunshade.

Deuter’s Kid Comfort Air stands out in the market for its focused, ventilated design. Everything from the backpanel to the baby's seating area is intended to keep air moving with extensive use of mesh. And Deuter didn’t skimp for the most part on the rest of the pack—the Air has the same side entry as the Kid Comfort 2 and 3, a well-designed harness system, and Deuter’s signature carrying comfort. At just over 6 pounds, it’s also among the lightest comfort-oriented packs available.

The ventilated Comfort Air pack is a great choice for those who hike in warm environments, but we prefer the Deuter Kid Comfort 2 and 3 as all-around packs. Considering the focus on staying cool, it’s odd that Deuter didn’t include a sunshade (it can be purchased as a $29 accessory). We are also surprised Deuter skipped a hydration sleeve, and with no side water bottle pockets, there is limited access to water without stopping. The Kid Comfort Air still is a great pack, but for most people we think it’s worth spending the extra money for the Kid Comfort 2 or 3.
See the Deuter Kid Comfort Air

 

9. Clevr Baby Backpack Cross Country Carrier ($135)

Clevr Baby Backpack Cross Country CarrierCategory: Comfort/lightweight pack
Weight: 5 lbs. 2 oz.
Sunshade: Yes
What we like: Budget price and includes extras like a sunshade.
What we don’t: Cheaply made with a noticeable drop in comfortable.

The name and generic styling may not make a strong first impression, but the Clevr Baby Backpack Cross Country Carrier is our favorite sub-$150 baby carrier pack. Most impressive is the number of extras you get at this price—it includes a sunshade that also provides decent rain protection with its clear plastic sides, a stable kickstand, and a good array of pockets. The pack won’t blow you away with the quality of the materials, but you’re not sacrificing as much as you’d think for a $130-ish baby carrier.

The drop in comfort and finicky sizing adjustments are what hurt the Clevr Baby Backpack on our list. The padded hipbelt and shoulder straps are noticeably cheaper than our top-rated models, and the pack isn’t comfortable on anything more than a short hike. And for those that share carrying duties, the Clevr Baby doesn’t have the same level of fit customization and can feel unwieldy for shorter adults. The good news is that these complaints don’t matter very much if you’ll be on the trail for short stretches. For the occasional hour or two family hike, the Clevr Baby is a nice budget option.
See the Clevr Baby Backpack Cross Country Carrier

 

10. Kelty Junction 2.0 ($190)

Kelty Junction 2.0 child carrierCategory: Lightweight/comfort pack
Weight: 4 lbs. 13 oz.
Sunshade: No (separate accessory)
What we like: Light and compact.
What we don’t: Less comfortable for the adult and baby.

The picks above are built like full-size backpacking packs, but Kelty’s pared down Junction 2.0 more closely resembles a compact daypack. The main advantages here are size and weight: the Junction 2.0 is small enough to carry on a plane and light for a child carrier at under 5 pounds. There also is good all-around organization considering the $190 price, with 2 large pockets at the front and mesh pockets along the sides and hipbelt.

The Junction 2.0 excels on quick hikes or daily use, but isn’t as strong an option as a dedicated hiking pack. The simplistic design doesn’t have as robust of a structure, so you feel the extra weight on your hips and shoulders more than Kelty’s Journey 2.0 above. It’s also not as comfortable for a baby over long stretches as there isn’t as much neck and head support if they fall asleep, and the cockpit area is a little snug for growing toddlers. But if storage space is minimal or you want a pack you can take while traveling, the Junction 2.0 is very practical.
See the Kelty Junction 2.0

 

11. Phil & Teds Escape ($250)

Phil & Teds Escape child carrierCategory: Comfort pack
Weight: 6 lbs. 10 oz.
Sunshade: Yes
What we like: Reasonably light with lots of extras.
What we don’t: Child’s cockpit is too far away from your back.

New Zealand-based Phil & Ted is a company dedicated to baby products, and the Escape pack is their premium hiking model. You can see their focus on keeping kids happy with a great assortment of features including a sunshade with fantastic protection, stirrups, and a mat for changing diapers. The Escape also comes with a small daypack that can be zipped off to distribute carrying duties. For transport, the Escape compresses smaller than most of the comfort packs above and undercuts them in weight at less than 7 pounds.

The Escape’s $250 price tag puts it head-to-head with our favorite packs, and unfortunately it falls short in a number of ways. Most importantly, the pack isn’t as comfortable to carry older children or on longer hikes. The child’s seat sits too far away from your back and can be a strain on your neck over time. More, the pack’s fit adjustments aren’t as user-friendly as we’d expect for the price. The rest of the pieces are there, but the Escape pack needs to improve on these all-important features to move up our list.
See the Phil & Teds Escape

 

12. Ergobaby 360 Cool Air Mesh ($179)

Ergobaby 360 baby carrierCategory: Lightweight pack
Weight: 1 lb. 10 oz.
Sunshade: Yes
What we like: Superlight and packable.
What we don’t: Frameless design is limited for hiking.

The other models on this list are dedicated hiking packs, but for cold weather or with small children, a simple baby carrier can be ideal. The Ergobaby 360 is the classic choice with a comfortable waistband and a number of carrying options for a child. For hiking purposes—and when the baby is old enough to hold up their own head—the rear backpack-style position is what we’ve found to be most comfortable on the trail. Another plus of the Ergobaby is its compact size which makes it much easier to haul around than a typical child carrier.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are a number of downsides with the Ergobaby 360. To start, the carrier doesn’t have any frame system, so it’s far less comfortable over long distances and doesn’t have any exterior pockets. And by keeping the baby close to you, you aren’t able to move as freely and it’s easy to get very sweaty when working hard. We’ve found the Ergobaby to be a nice compliment to a true child carrier, but it’s not the single answer for most hiking families.
See the Ergobaby 360 Cool Air Mesh

 

13. Phil & Teds Parade ($140)

Phil & Teds Parade child carrierCategory: Lightweight pack
Weight: 4 lbs. 6 oz.
Sunshade: No
What we like: Simple build and folds down flat.
What we don’t: Low on features and comfort.

Phil & Teds’ lightweight Parade pack is a great option for travel or quick family adventures. Resembling a compact daypack, the Parade has an aluminum frame and adjustable harness system that provides sufficient support. It’s not something you want on your back for hours at a time, but the minimalist design is easy to carry and folds flat—small enough to fit as a carry on for most airlines. The Parade also is a fairly good value at $140.

In keeping things simple, however, the Parade is less appealing for hiking trips. There is hardly any storage, and the detachable mini backpack, while a fun idea for allowing kids to have a pack of their own, isn’t very functional. More, the hipbelt and shoulder straps aren’t comfortable for anything more than a short walk. But if you stick to the Parade pack’s around town and travel intentions, it’s a solid option.
See the Phil & Teds Parade

 

14. Piggyback Rider SCOUT ($110)

Piggyback Rider SCOUT model child carrierCategory: Lightweight pack
Weight: 3 lbs. 0 oz.
Sunshade: No
What we like: Unique, piggyback-like carrier.
What we don’t: Not very comfortable and limited uses.

For something completely different, Piggyback Rider’s SCOUT gives toddlers and young children the chance to stand and enjoy a unique perspective of the trail. The system works by connecting harnesses worn by both the child and adult and having the child step onto an aluminum bar. It’s surprisingly easy to set up and the on-off process doesn’t take long to get down. The price feels steep considering the simplistic design, but there’s nothing else like it on the market.

Piggyback’s Rider SCOUT is, however, less of an all-in-one pack compared to the other options on our list. To start, it’s recommended for children that are 2+ years of age, and at that stage they may only find standing in one place entertaining for short stretches. And for use while hiking, the SCOUT is not very comfortable for the adult because a lot of the weight is focused on the shoulders (you can purchase a hipbelt for about $30). Despite the limitations, the SCOUT is a fun product that serves as a lightweight and packable replacement for a stroller or baby carrier.
See the Piggyback Rider SCOUT

 

Baby Carrier Comparison Table

Pack Price Category Weight Sunshade Capacity Max Weight
Deuter Kid Comfort 3 $299 Comfort 7 lbs. 11 oz. Yes 18L 48 lbs. 8 oz.
Osprey Poco AG Plus $290 Comfort 7 lbs. 11 oz. Yes 26L 48 lbs. 8 oz.
Kelty Tour 1.0 $190 Lightweight/comfort 4 lbs. 10 oz. No 13L 50 lbs.
Thule Sapling Elite $320 Comfort 7 lbs. 15 oz. Yes Unavail. 48 lbs.
Deuter Kid Comfort 2 $249 Comfort 7 lbs. 3 oz. No 16L 48 lbs. 8 oz.
Osprey Poco AG $250 Comfort 6 lbs. 14 oz. Yes 20L 48 lbs. 8 oz.
Kelty Journey 2.0 $260 Comfort 7 lbs. 2 oz. Yes 21L 50 lbs.
Deuter Kid Comfort Air $239 Comfort 6 lbs. 3 oz. No 14L 48 lbs. 8 oz.
Clevr Baby Backpack $135 Comfort/lightweight 5 lbs. 2 oz. Yes Unavail. 40 lbs.
Kelty Junction 2.0 $190 Lightweight/comfort 4 lbs. 13 oz. No 21L 40 lbs.
Phil & Teds Escape $250 Comfort 6 lbs. 10 oz. Yes 30L 39 lbs. 11 oz.
Ergobaby 360 Cool Air $179 Lightweight 1 lb. 10 oz. Yes 0L 33 lbs.
Phil & Teds Parade $140 Lightweight 4 lbs. 6 oz. No Unavail. 40 lbs.
Piggyback Rider SCOUT $110 Lightweight 3 lbs. No 0L 60 lbs.

 

Baby Carrier Buying Advice

Baby Carrier Pack Categories

Comfort Packs
Packs that fall into our “comfort” category are just that: comfortable and feature-rich designs. Most follow a basic formula that resembles a backpacking pack with an open cockpit for a child to sit. Their strong metal frames provide excellent support for hauling a toddler (many are rated for up to 50 pounds total) and include a number of pockets for carrying multiple hours worth of essentials. These are heavy items, and even with their folding kickstands take up a noticeable portion of a trunk or closet. But for those that plan to get out hiking a lot with their little ones, a comfort pack is what we recommend.

Lightweight Packs
Lightweight packs trim bulk and features from comfort-oriented designs, and are a great option for short trips and use around town. The biggest upside is their significantly smaller size and lighter weight that’s easier to carry, store, and transport in a car. Lightweight pack options range from the Kelty Junction 2.0, which resembles a shrunken down version of a comfort pack, to the frameless and minimalist Ergobaby. What you give up with a lightweight pack is storage and often carrying comfort. They’re great for quick jaunts, but for longer day hikes, we find it well worth the upgrade to a comfort pack.
Child Carrier Packs line-up

Carrying Comfort and Padding

Comfort is a big factor in how often you get out on the trail, so we’ve put a high value on it in our rankings. The packs that excel in this category have strong suspensions to handle anything from a 16-pound baby up to a 40-pound toddler. The hipbelt plays an important role in this, and we look for padding that molds to your hips and provides enough firm support (overly soft cushioning typically isn’t as comfortable over the long haul). You can certainly skimp on carrying comfort if you stick to short hikes, and in those cases, any of the packs that made our list will do the trick. But we like the flexibility to spend more than a couple hours on the trail, which is why we put Deuter’s very comfortable Kid Comfort 3 at the top of our list.
 

Harness and Cockpit Comfort for the Child

A secure child harness and seat is a prerequisite to making our list, and all of the major players provide plenty of support, adjustability, and comfort around the arms, shoulders, and legs. More expensive baby carrier models make greater use of soft touch fabrics, but even long stretches of hiking with a budget-friendly pack like the Kelty Tour 1.0 hasn’t led to any complaints. In terms of ease of use, we’ve found that the centralized button and high placement of Osprey’s harness is a standout, but we consider harness design to be a strong suit for all products featured above.
Osprey Poco AG (cockpit)

In the product descriptions above, we make a number of references to the child’s cockpit area. While it’s a bit of a funny term, this refers to the space surrounding the baby while they’re seated in the pack. A well-designed cockpit like Deuter’s Kid Comfort 3 has a tall back and sides, and a large, cushioned pad in the front, which makes it a comfortable place for children if they fall asleep. This is one area where lightweight packs make some sacrifices, as children typically sit very high in the seat and end up in funny, contorted positions if they drift off for a nap.
Deuter Kid Comfort 3 (drool pad)

Sun and Rain Protection

Hiking and even walking around town can lead to a lot of sun exposure for a baby, so all major carriers either include or offer a sunshade with their packs. We find them to be absolutely mandatory for protecting that sensitive baby skin. The built-in designs typically store right behind the cockpit area and can be quickly deployed. And the accessory sunshades are just about as easy to connect and use. Among designs currently on the market, we give the edge to Deuter and Phil & Ted, which are sized right to protect against low sun—something the tall Osprey cover doesn’t do as well.

None of the packs listed above come with a dedicated rain cover—although all of the sunshades will provide a degree of protection against rain—but Osprey, Kelty, Thule, and Deuter do offer separate covers for purchase. Rain covers are differentiated from sunshades by their water resistant coatings and greater side, back, and front protection. They do not ventilate very well, so they’re not as helpful in hot climates, but rain covers are nice backups to have in case of a surprise storm. Expect to pay $25 to $40 for a manufacturer-specific design.
Child Carrier Pack (sunshade)

Pack Weight

The empty weight of a pack may not be the first thing you check on when researching baby carrier packs—it certainly wasn’t for us—but there are significant differences to be aware of. Packs in our lightweight category are usually around 4 to 5 pounds, while comfort-oriented models can reach 8 pounds and more. Tack on the child in the pack and anything else you’re carrying, and your total weight is equivalent to or even a more than a loaded backpacking pack. Unfortunately, this is mostly unavoidable as the most comfortable packs are by far and away the heaviest (Deuter’s 6-pound 3-ounce Kid Comfort Air is one exception, but it’s low on features). Consider it a nice way to get or stay in shape!
 

Adjustability

If multiple adults will wear the baby carrier, a highly adjustable fit system can be an important feature. In particular, your pack will need a wide enough torso range to be comfortable for all users. Premium, comfort packs like the top models from Deuter, Thule, Osprey, and Kelty are standouts in this respect, giving close fits for most people. Taking it a step further, Osprey’s Poco AG Plus and Premium also allow you to shorten or length the padded portion of the hipbelt, which guarantees the cushioned areas are supporting you correctly. On the other end of the spectrum, budget-oriented packs don’t offer as high of levels of customization. This is one notable downside of the Kelty Tour 1.0, for example, which only allows you to slide the hipbelt up and down and is less comfortable as a result.
Child carrier packs (padding)

Pockets and Storage Capacity

Outside of minimalist designs like the Piggyback Rider or Ergobaby, baby carrier packs include an array of pockets for organization and storage. The primary storage in most packs is at the front with 1 or 2 pockets along the top and a larger, zippered pocket at the bottom. We appreciate a range of pocket sizes to make it easy to distribute items we want close at hand, and large hipbelt pockets are great for storing snacks to keep your little one happy. As with most features, organization improves as price goes up, but most packs on our list have a functional pocket design.

Outside of the number and placement of pockets, overall capacity can be an important storage consideration. From our list above, packs that come with pockets range from 13 liters to 26 liters in volume. There are a number of factors that will decide your ideal capacity—including how long you’ll be out, time of year and weather, and if you’ll be sharing hauling duties—but we’ve found that 15 liters is often plenty for most hiking trips. For those that need to carry a lot of extras, Osprey’s Poco packs offer high storage capacities. The Poco AG Plus has 26 liters worth of storage, and the Poco AG Premium, which includes a removable daypack, increases that to 39 liters.
 

Ventilation

A baby carrier pack’s ventilation is a two-part assessment: the ventilation along the backpanel for the adult and around the child’s seat. Ventilation for the baby usually is pretty good: the openings at the top and sides do a good job moving air, and there’s enough space that they don’t get too much of your body heat. But there are more substantial differences in backpanel design. The best back breathers are packs with a full mesh panel, including the Osprey Poco AG and Kelty’s Tour 1.0. Deuter’s Kid Comfort Air takes it a step further and uses mesh all around the child’s harness and cockpit. While these models offer impressive ventilation, unless you’re really particular about a sweaty back or live in a hot climate, we’ve found most packs are acceptable in almost all conditions.
Child Carrier Pack (suspension systems)

Features

Water Storage
As with any pack used for hiking, water storage is an important consideration for a baby carrier. Due to the space taken up by the child seat, you won’t find an array of mesh side pockets that will fit something as large as a Nalgene bottle. We often have to fit ours inside the pack, which can be a pain because you’ll need to either ask for help or completely remove the pack to access the water. Thankfully, most child carriers over $200 include a hydration sleeve (one notable exception is the Deuter Kid Comfort Air), so you can slide in a water reservoir and drink tube for water on the go. For longer day hikes, this is our preferred hydration option.

Removable Daypacks
At the upper echelon of the market are baby carrier packs that include zip-off daypacks. Osprey, Thule, and Kelty all have this design feature on their top-tier models that cost $300 or more. The main benefits of a removable pack are a larger carrying capacity as well as the option to split up the hauling duties with another person. We appreciate the all-in-one design, but we’re usually inclined to save a few dollars and just use one of our own daypacks instead. The zip in and out feature is nice, but it doesn’t come in handy enough to justify the extra expense in most cases.

Stirrups
Another notable feature on premium packs is stirrups on either side of the child seat. These are intended for toddlers or older babies to get them in a proper sitting position or take some of the pressure off resting in the child’s seat for hours at a time. While it’s certainly not an essential item and we’ve found the stirrups can be hit or miss depending on the child, it’s a nice thing to have if you’ll be out on longer trips. And in most cases, the stirrups are removable, so you can store them away until your child is old enough or interested in using them.
Child Carrier Packs (stirrups)

Child Age and Weight Recommendations

If you’re like a lot of outdoors-minded parents, you’re pretty excited about getting your baby out on a hike. You can certainly get started at a young age with an option like the Ergobaby 360 or similar product that provides sufficient neck and head support, but there are some specific recommendations for using a dedicated child carrier pack. Because children develop at different rates, most manufacturers stick to recommending a minimum weight of 16 pounds and that the child can support their head for extended stretches while in the pack. This will vary slightly, so be sure to check the specific instructions on your pack, and ensure the harness can cinch down small enough to safely hold your child. The maximum weight capacity also will vary depending on the design, but typically is around 30 to 50 pounds. And be sure to note if the maximum weight factors in the pack itself as well as any gear stored inside.
 

Pack Safety: JPMA Certification

All child carriers sold in the United States have to adhere to the Frame Child Carrier Standard from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which prohibits hazards like sharp edges, exposed springs, and unintentional folding. Taking it a step further, you’ll see some packs reference a JPMA safety certification, which means they have gone through a separate testing process through an independent 3rd party. These tests ensure the packs follow ASTM, state, and federal restrictions (for more information, see JPMA’s website). While getting a JPMA certification does not mean that a certain pack is safer than other packs on the market—and there are other global testing standards like TÜV for Deuter in Germany—it is nice to see that some are taking this voluntary step.
Back to Our Top Baby Carrier Picks  Back to Our Baby Carrier Comparison Table

Hiking Boots

Best Hiking Boots of 2017

Hiking boots are critical to your comfort and performance on the trail, but this no longer means a stiff and burly model that will weigh you down. The trend is toward lighter materials that still offer decent support, and waterproof boots...
Hiking

Hiking and Backpacking Gear Reviews

Of all the outdoor activities we cover here at Switchback Travel, hiking and backpacking are two of the dearest to our hearts. They are some of the easiest ways to get outdoors for people...
Daypacks for Hiking (2017)

Best Daypacks for Hiking of 2017

A key piece of any gear closet is a go-to daypack. It’s what you grab for nearly any type of outdoor adventure, whether it’s a hike, bike ride, or day on the slopes. Generally, what most people look for…
Backpacking Pack

Best Backpacking Packs of 2017

Gone are the days when backpacking consisted of strapping on a huge external frame and lumbering through the forest with an aching body. Trends in backpacks these days err towards minimalism and...
Water Bottles

Best Water Bottles of 2017

There’s no need for us to tell you the value in staying hydrated, no matter what your day has in store. But for advice on which reusable water bottle to choose? That’s something we can help with...
Camping Tents (2017)

Best Camping Tents of 2017

Spacious, bulky, and feature-rich, tents for camping are made for a relatively luxurious experience in the outdoors. These behemoths offer plenty of room to set up cots or even chairs and a table for card games on a rainy day...
Merrell Moab 2 shoes

Review: Merrell Moab 2

More than 10 years after the original Moab was released, Merrell has given us the Moab 2 for 2017. The first edition reached legendary status, so we were excited to see what Merrell had done for the reboot. To cut right to the chase...
Lightweight Hiking Shoes

Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes of 2017

The momentum in hiking footwear is moving away from bulky boots toward lightweight shoes and even trail runners that are faster and more comfortable. You do lose some ankle support when carrying...
Down Jacket (2017-2018)

Best Down Jackets of 2017-2018

Nothing beats a great down jacket, whether it’s for causal use or tearing around the backcountry. Below we break down the best down jackets of 2017-2018, including the top down sweaters, ultralights...