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Studies have shown that spending time outdoors has a multitude of benefits for your child, from improving their sleeping habits to providing sensory stimulation and encouraging healthy lifestyle choices later in life. Exercise and fresh air are also great tonics for tired or over-stressed parents. However, hitting the trails can seem daunting when you have a small child and all of their essentials (from diapers to bottles) to carry along with you. This is where baby carriers come in, and many of them are designed with hiking in mind. Below, we look at options with sturdy metal frames that help to distribute weight and lighten the load, clever storage solutions, and accessories such as sun shades and rain covers.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Deuter Kid Comfort III Framed Child Carrier
The Deuter Kid Comfort III Framed Child Carrier is JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) safety certified and uses the Aircontact Pro back system to guarantee parent comfort. This includes an aluminum frame — which transfers up to 70% of the load to your hips — and hip fins that pivot to fit individual body shapes. Special padding vents heat and wick moisture, while the VariFit-slide adjusts the carrier’s torso length. Baby’s comfort is also taken care of with a padded, high-rise backrest, an adjustable seat, adjustable stirrups, and a removable (and washable) chin pad.
Use the five-point safety harness to secure your little one and the integrated sunroof to protect them on sunny days. A fold-out kickstand allows the carrier to stand independently, making it easier to load and unload your child. There’s even a side entry option. You can keep diapers, wet wipes, snacks, and more in the large zippered cargo space beneath the seat or in the buckle-closure back pocket. It’s meant for children up to 40 pounds and has a total limit of 48.5 pounds including gear.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Thule Sapling Elite Child Carrier
Recommended by reviewers for long-distance hikes, the Thule Sapling Elite Child Carrier is a great option for parents with cash to spare. It boasts a fully adjustable, breathable back panel and hip belt so both parents can achieve a comfortable fit. Load stabilizer straps let you adjust the carrier’s center of gravity on the go, while storage options range from a removable backpack to a large zippered compartment underneath your child’s seat.
Hip belt pockets give easy access to essentials and there’s a sleeve for a hydration reservoir (sold separately). The ergonomic baby seat is height-adjustable and pairs padded inner thigh support with a set of removable stirrups. To load your child, use the carrier’s support stand to rest it on the ground then slide them in from the top or side. Other highlights include a sun shade and a viewing mirror for checking on your passenger when hiking alone. The carrier comes in dark shadow/slate and slate/cobalt; it has a total capacity of 48 pounds.
Best Budget: Clevr Deluxe Baby Backpack
With a price tag well under $100, the Clevr Deluxe Baby Backpack is by far the cheapest option on this list, but it still garners plenty of rave reviews from parents and babies alike. The shoulder and waist straps are thickly padded and the child seat has an adjustable five-point safety harness. Your baby also benefits from a set of stirrups and a removable canopy that keeps the sun and rain off. Designed for kids up to 33 pounds, the carrier has a total weight capacity of 40 pounds.
On the trail, storage options include a large back pocket, two side water bottles, and a detachable backpack. When you’re not hiking, the latter is perfectly sized for your toddler and can be used at home or around town. The carrier has a metal stand that allows it to sit upright on the floor for easy loading and unloading. The whole frame folds flat (great for stowing in the trunk of your car) and weighs just 5.2 pounds. Choose from five colors including red, blue, grey, green, and orange.
Best Midrange: Luvdbaby Premium Baby Backpack Carrier
Made from water-resistant, rip-stop polyester, the Luvdbaby Premium Baby Backpack Carrier is our favorite midrange choice. The padded baby seat features safety straps and adjustable stirrups, while the removable sun visor and rain cover ensure your little one stays comfortable whatever the weather. Parents benefit from a well-ventilated mesh back panel, padded shoulder straps, and a load-bearing hip belt. You can also adjust the torso length making it easy to take turns carrying on longer hikes.
There are several storage options to choose from including a zippered main compartment and convenient belt pockets for storing your phone or camera. We particularly like that there’s an insulated pocket for keeping bottles warm while the included changing pad gives you a clean surface for diaper duty no matter where your adventures take you. The carrier has a kick-out stand but unlike others on our list, it can only be loaded and unloaded from the top. Available colors include black/grey, green/grey, and orange/grey. The total weight limit for baby and gear is 40 pounds.
Best Design: Be Mindful Retro Scout Baby Carrier Backpack
With its army green fabric and brown leather accents, the streamlined Be Mindful Retro Scout Baby Carrier Backpack epitomizes military chic and is a great choice for style-conscious parents. It’s functional too, with an external aluminum frame that can stand independently on the floor and support babies and toddlers up to 40 pounds. Every aspect of the carrier is adjustable for a custom, comfortable fit. For parents, that means adjustable waist, chest, and shoulder straps, in addition to an extendable torso.
For baby, it means a padded seat that can be altered in both height and depth; adjustable stirrups and an adjustable five-point harness. This carrier also comes with a wealth of accessories. Use the removable sun visor to protect your little one’s sensitive skin and the hydration pack to make sure you get enough water on the trail. There’s a foldable pad for diaper changes and a removable storage compartment that doubles as a toddler backpack. You’ll find zippered pockets in the waist belt as well. The carrier comes with a matching duffel travel bag.
Best Lightweight: phil&teds Parade Child Carrier Frame Backpack
The phil&teds Parade Child Carrier Frame Backpack has fewer features than some of the other carriers on this list — but at 4.4 pounds in weight, it’s a back-saving option for shorter hikes. It also folds flat to just 23.5 x 12 x 6.5 inches and meets the carry-on requirements of most major airlines. Padded shoulder and hip belts can be adjusted to fit different heights and body types while mesh panels on the back of the carrier maximize air flow and contour to fit your spine.
To load the carrier, set it on the floor using the pop-out stand. Adjust the safety harness to fit your baby comfortably then lift the Parade onto your back and pop the stand into place with one hand. It has two bottle holders and several streamlined pockets for your essentials (although nothing as roomy as the heavier carriers listed above). A detachable toddler backpack provides enough space for diapers and other baby necessities. Despite its lightness, the carrier can support children up to 40 pounds.
Best for Storage: Osprey Packs Poco AG Plus Child Carrier
If long-distance hiking is more your thing you’ll need plenty of storage space for all your baby paraphernalia. The Osprey Packs AG Plus Child Carrier more than meets requirements with an extra-large lower zippered compartment, zippered hip belt pockets, and stretch mesh side pockets for stashing things when you’re in a hurry. An internal sleeve holds a hydration pack (sold separately) while the removable daypack makes it easy for parents to share the load. The carrier can support a total of 48 pounds.
The brand uses its award-winning anti-gravity backpack suspension system to counteract heavy loads and distribute weight evenly. The aluminum build helps with load stability, while the mesh shoulder harness and back panel ensure your comfort. Baby is kept snug in the padded cockpit by integrated safety leg loops and a fleece-covered butterfly harness. Deploy the integrated sun shade in summer, remove and wash the drool pad whenever necessary, and use the locking foot bar to keep the carrier steady when top-loading from the ground. The carrier is available in black, seaside blue, and ivy green.
Best for Tiny Babies: BabySteps Ergonomic Baby Carrier
Most hiking carriers are rated for babies aged six months or older and should only be used once your child can sit up independently. If you can’t wait that long to explore the great outdoors together, opt for the BabySteps Ergonomic Baby Carrier instead. It allows you to carry your baby in six different positions, two of which are suitable for babies as young as three months. The integrated hip seat lets your child sit naturally whether they face inwards or outwards and also distributes weight evenly between your hips and shoulders.
The built-in head support folds down to allow baby a clear view when front facing. Breathable material stops them from getting too warm in summer and a removable hood protects your little one if you get caught out in the wind or rain. There are two small zippered pockets — one on the front and one in the waist belt. The carrier is rated for kids up to 44 pounds but unless you stick to short strolls, the other options on this list offer better support and storage for hiking with toddlers.