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For adventurous parents who like to take the road less traveled, a baby backpack carrier is a must-have. Made with a sturdy frame like a regular camping backpack, baby backpack carriers have all the benefits of baby-wearing, and make it possible to safely and comfortably bring your child along on camping trips and hikes. We analyzed reviews in the BabyCenter Community, plus used our editors' research and experience, to find the best baby backpack carriers according to moms and dads. Read on for the best baby carrier backpack for hiking, the best baby carrier backpack for travel, and more.
Best baby backpack carrier overall
Osprey Poco Child Carrier
The Osprey Poco is a feature-packed baby backpack with everything parents and kids need to stay comfortable and happy. For little ones, there's a padded cockpit and harness, ventilated side panels, adjustable stirrups to support little legs, a sturdy sun shade, and a removable, washable drool pad. For parents, there's lots of storage, including pockets in the hip belt for easy access to small items. The backpack is highly adjustable to fit parents of all sizes, and has a lightweight folding aluminum frame.
There's a slightly more expensive model – the Poco Plus – that offers more storage and a more adjustable hip belt.
"The Poco is a fantastic carrier; it's amazing how comfortable and cool it is. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it!"
"We have the Osprey Poco Plus. We are in love with it. So far, we have taken it on hikes that have been upward of six miles. I use it in downtown Chicago because it's way easier to get on and off the train with it than with a stroller. Not once have I been sore or achy, because every aspect of the carrier is adjustable."
- Weighs 8 pounds
- For children 16 to 40 pounds
- 32 x 16 x 11 inches
Best lightweight baby backpack carrier
Phil & Teds Parade Backpack
This lightweight and compact carrier is perfect for travel, with a fold-flat frame that's easy to bring on a plane or pack in your trunk. The Parade has padded shoulder and hip belts, and both the parent and child harnesses adjust to suit different bodies and ages. Air-tech mesh panels across the back keep you cool while also contouring to your spine and back for added comfort. Thoughtful features include two bottle holders and pockets to store keys, wallets, and other essentials. The Parade also comes with a mini backpack for your little hiking buddy.
Parents say they wish that there was better head support for little ones so they could nap more comfortably in this backpack. And some say this backpack is suited to urban adventures, but isn't comfortable for long hikes.
- Weighs 4.4 pounds
- For children 17 to 40 pounds
- 23.62 x 6.69 x 11.81 inches
Best baby backpack carrier for travel
Chicco SmartSupport Backpack Carrier
The Chicco SmartSupport backpack checks all the boxes. It has a padded, adjustable seat that grows with your child and a five-point harness for safety. Parents appreciate the lightweight aluminum frame, padded waist, and shoulder straps, as well as the energy-absorbing lumbar support, which reduces strain on your back and shoulders. Plus, the Chicco folds flat, so it's travel-friendly and easy to store.
Some parents say this backpack fits smaller parents well but not larger ones. Others say that the sun shade doesn't extend far enough to offer much protection.
"We've used the Chicco backpack for two kids now, and it's awesome. We also lent it to another family and they loved it so much that when we needed it back, they bought their own."
- Weighs 6.5 pounds
- For children between 17 and 40 pounds
- 18 x 16.8 x 30.7 inches
Best cheap baby backpack carrier
Luvdbaby Premium Baby Backpack Carrier
The Luvdbaby backpack has the features of a more expensive baby backpack at a more modest price. The backpack has an adjustable torso and distributes weight evenly for less strain for parents. For little ones, there's a mesh hood for sun protection and a rain hood for wet days, adjustable stirrups to support little legs, and a changing pad for on-the-go diaper changes. There's also an insulated zipper pocket to keep bottles or food warm, and a removable backpack for storage.
Some parents say this backpack isn't as durable or comfortable as they'd like – and that the zipper on the detachable backpack broke.
- Weighs 6.4 pounds
- For children between 17 and 40 pounds
- 29.75 x 15.8 x 8.2 inches
What is a baby backpack?
A baby backpack is a carrier thatdistributes your child's weight evenly so you canwalk longer distances and carry heavier children more comfortably. Another upside: Most youngsters enjoy riding on your back. It gives them a good view of the world around them and puts their head closer to yours.
Outdoorsy parents often get a baby backpack for hikes or camping, but they work as well on subway escalators and at street festivals as they do in the woods. Baby backpacks look like camping backpacks: fabric on a rigid – generally aluminum – frame, with a seat for your child. They come in a variety of sizes and models.
You can use a baby backpack as soon as your baby can sit up on his own – usually when he is about 5 or 6 months old. Until then, stick with a carrier like a wrap, a pouch, a structured carrier, a mei tai, or a ring sling. Usually, you can use a baby backpack until your child weighs about 40 pounds, which tends to be around age 4.
What to look for in a baby backpack
Here's what to consider when shopping for a baby backpack:
Safety: Make sure the backpack has a sturdy child-restraint system. The safest models have waist belts, straps that go over the shoulders, and a strap between the child’s legs. For younger babies, check that the leg openings aren't so large that your child could slip through.
Comfort: If possible, try the backpack on with your child inside and check to make sure it's not too heavy. Notice how the weight is distributed: Does your neck or back feel strained, or does the weight sit nicely on your hips? Are the shoulder straps and hip belt well padded? Is there a chest strap to take the weight off your shoulders and prevent you from slouching? If you have back trouble, look for a pack with a lumbar pad for added support at the back of the waist belt.
Of course, you'll want your backpack to be equally comfortable for your child. Make sure that the cockpit and leg openings are padded and the fabric is soft enough not to irritate your child's skin. Mesh panels will help keep your little one cool on a hot day, and a sun canopy will shield your child's face. Some backpacks feature adjustable stirrups to support your child's growing legs. And a backpack with plenty of head and neck support – and extra padding that functions as a pillow – will make it easier for your little one to take naps on the go.
Versatility: Choose a pack that will meet your needs over the long haul. One with an adjustable seat will grow with your child. Storage is important, so look for a backpack with plenty of pockets for cellphones, water bottles, food, and diapers. Other nice features include a built-in mirror so you can easily check on your child, a loop for attaching toys, and a removable, regular-sized backpack to carry separately.
Simplicity: You'll want a baby backpack that's simple to put on, take off, and adjust. It should have a kickstand that keeps the backpack stable and upright while you load your baby. Check to be sure all the straps are easily adjustable, especially if other adults plan to use the pack. If a pack has removable items, like a sun/rain canopy; ideally, they'll be easy to take on and off. Also, check to see how easy it is to access the storage pockets and other features while you're wearing the backpack.
Size: Today's baby backpacks tend to be lightweight (less than 10 pounds) and compact. Some baby backpacks fold down almost flat, which is very helpful for easy storage and portability.
Maintenance: The fabric should be durable and easy to wipe clean; rip-stop nylon and polyester are typical materials. Some backpacks have fabric parts (like baby drool guards) that can be removed and machine- or hand-washed.
When can babies go in a hiking backpack?
Most backpack carriers are designed for children who can sit up independently and have good head and neck control, which happens at about 6 months.