You’ve probably heard how useful a child carrier backpack can be, whether you’ve got kids already or are expecting your first. Not only can you use them to wear your child when you travel, go hiking, or venture around a theme park, but you can keep them close when putzing around the house. Regular front-facing baby carriers are great, too (and an essential piece of gear if you’ve got a newborn), but ring slings and wraps aren’t designed to be worn as a backpack or during long outdoor excursions. As your tot gets older (and heavier), it’s more convenient to put ’em on your back, and you can even get a carrier that works in both front and back positions.
Wondering what type of baby backpack carrier to choose? Here’s the down-low on the different types, plus our top recommendations for casual use and outdoor adventuring.
What age can babies go in backpack carriers?
Backpack carriers are best used for babies who can sit up without any help, or at least 6 months old (ask your pediatrician if you’re not quite sure).
Soft-structured backpack carriers vs. structured/framed backpack carriers
Soft Structured Backpack Carriers: These carriers are usually made of fabric and padding, so they have a flexible shape. Many are versatile and can be worn in front or back, and they’re designed to be easy to put your child in and take them out. They’re also especially lightweight and portable, so they’re ideal for traveling. This is a comfortable option to use around the house, around town, or on casual walks or hikes.
Some downsides: Soft structured backpacks can get hot since they hold Baby’s body close to yours (though some are made with mesh or breathable materials to help with airflow). Also, they won’t hold their shape as firmly as a framed backpack, so your little one can sink in the seat as they get heavier, making them unable to look over your shoulder and adding excess strain.
Structured / Framed Backpack Carriers: Designed on a sturdy metal frame to hold their shape, these carriers are best for avid trekkers and all-day adventures. They offer more support for the adult wearing them, and since they hold Baby a few inches away from their body, they are much cooler to wear on warmer days. Some negative aspects of these carriers are that they are big and bulky to transport as well as put on and take off, and they tend to be much more expensive than soft carriers.
So, there you have it. If you want to take your toddler out for some fun in the sun, take a look at some of the best child carrier backpacks out there.
Best Child Carrier Backpack
Of the two kinds of child carriers– structured and soft structured– I personally prefer soft structured carriers like my trusty Ergobaby here. I’ve hiked with both my kiddos in this carrier and can’t say enough about its comfort, both on the trails and in the grocery store. (Of course, I’m not scaling any crazy-high mountains, and avid hikers may want to find a more heavy-duty option.) This versatile pick grows with your needs and can be worn in the front, on your side, or on your back, plus it has an attached hood to protect Baby from the elements. It has a weight capacity of 45 lbs, and for all this, it’s also one of Ergobaby’s more budget-friendly options.
Boba is known for making soft, stretchy wrap carriers, but this is their soft structured version. It’s commonly used as a front carrier, as pictured, but has no problem switching around so you can be all business in the front and baby party in the back! This particular carrier has an insert that boosts your child’s bum so their legs maintain the natural “froggy” position. This one’s suitable for little ones from 7 to 45 lbs.
If you’re primarily looking for an affordable carrier that can turn your toddler into the Yoda to your Luke, this is the one you want. I’ve had multiple friends use their Infantinos on both big hikes as well as around the house on a daily basis. All kiddos can sit in the backpack configuration once they can sit up unassisted (or roughly between 6 and 9 months). You can wear your babe in 3 different positions up front or carry them on your back.
One downside for some who use soft structured carriers is the heat! So much of baby’s skin touching yours can lead to sweat, chafing, and, *ahem* seriously funky smells. To combat this, the folks at BabyBjorn have come out with a 100% mesh baby carrier for great breathability.
Though I’m in love with my original Ergobaby, the Omni360 is known for being FAR more comfortable in the hot summer months, thanks to the mesh fabric. Also, like any child carrier worth their salt, they’ve been acknowledged as “Hip Healthy” by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute. This parent goes into a deep dive on their Ergobaby Omni360, which they describe as “ridiculously comfortable, lightweight, and the exact opposite of bulky.”
Best Child Carrier Hiking Backpack
The Kelty Journey PerfectFIT is one of the highest-quality hiking packs out there. The materials are top notch. The quality of the padding is especially noticeable compared to cheaper versions. If you’re going on a long or even multi-day hike with your toddlers in tow, you’re going to want the real padding, not some knock-off stuff.
It comes with a built-in sunshade, multiple pockets, and a max child weight of 40lbs, which includes most kids under three. This family has had a great experience with theirs, going as far as saying, “honestly this is something that was a bit over our price range, but it is worth EVERY penny!”
One of the big problems a lot of women have with the heavy-duty hiking carriers is how they sit on their hips. To try and answer this complaint, Deuter has come out with this SL version specifically designed for women or anyone with a smaller build.
One reviewer specifically tried the SL version (as opposed to the original Deuter Comfort) because it was designed for her smaller frame and was totally satisfied. “I am 5’3” and 128lbs for reference and it fits perfectly. It’s super comfortable and I can’t feel that I am carrying my child.”
If you need to break out the big guns child carrier-wise, this is the one you need. One of the biggest advantages it has over the slightly more budget-friendly original Kid Comfort Carrier is its nice integrated sunshade. If the angle of the sun shifts when the trail turns, you can just reach back, unzip, and unfold to keep the sun out of your little guy or gal’s eyes.
Osprey is another well-known name in the hiking world, so it makes sense that their child carrier backpack lives up to the brand. The padding is legit, it comes with plenty of pockets, and it even has space for a water bladder. Plus, it’s actually possible to mount and dismount your child in this by yourself, which isn’t the case for every hiking carrier.
In this in-depth review, a husband describes his weeks-long comparison between the Osprey child carrier and another. He goes into details of comfort, durability, ergonomics, pack size, and more. This family has been using their Osprey for HUNDREDS of hours at this point and is still going strong. Whew!
While Luvdbaby isn’t as well known in the hiking community compared to Deuter, Osprey, or Kelty, this hiking carrier has a number of things going for it. First of all, it has a TON of accessories that come with it: diaper changing pad, sun shade, tons of pockets, rain cover, and even an insulated bottle pocket.
One problem some carriers have is that even if a child is under the weight limit (in this case, 40lbs) a particularly tall child might end up poking the carrying parent in the back, arms, or even legs. This avid hiker reviewer, however, reports that his extra-tall 3 year old does just fine in this one!
Sometimes, the more expensive child carrier backpacks aren’t going to work best for everyone. In fact, there are a number of people who find the Clevr Canyonero worked even better for their needs than some of the above brands!
This mom was especially excited about how versatile the Clevr carrier is for both her tiny 5 ft frame and her husband’s towering 6 ft, 2 in size.
Best Child Backpack Carrier For 50 lbs (Or More)
LILLEbaby is one of the brands that set the gold standard for soft structured carriers. Not only do they have great infant carrying options, but this toddler carrier is designed to carry up to a 60 POUND child. That’s the highest I’ve seen on the market. It also uses breathable mesh fabric so both you and your kiddo stay cool when using it on hikes or to the beach.
This reviewer especially loves how flexible the soft structured carrier is for her 3-year-old compared to the bulky styles of carrying backpacks. “Usually mid-hike when our little man is complaining he is tired, we pull it out and I give him a “piggyback ride” for a bit so he can rest but we can keep moving. When he is ready to do his own adventuring again, we fold it back up and cram it back into my husband’s pack. It works out great for our hiking needs!”
And now, for something completely different! This one-of-a-kind backpack style is perfect for the kiddo who wants to walk on their own, then gets tired … then wants to walk, then gets tired. In any other style of backpack carrier, you’d spend more time putting them in and out than getting where you need to go!
With the piggyback rider, you simply need to kneel down, let them step up, and slip on the safety harness before you’re off again! I’ve especially heard great things about this product for places like parades or amusement parks where the nature of the event is kids getting up and down, but strollers are too cumbersome.
This is another carrier that boasts an incredible 60 lb child size limit. The Beco is supportive, breathable, and super adjustable. It’s also designed so your toddler can safely take a nap while being carried around on your back, lulled to sleep by all your movements. (Can anyone say “miracle product”?)
This reviewer has especially good things to say about this model over the original, which is made of a heavier fabric.
There are some special circumstances where you really need a carrier that can handle an older, larger child. Special needs like cerebral palsy, certain heart conditions, and muscular dystrophy can impact the physical stamina a child has, and autism or sensory processing disorders can make crowded spaces a challenge.
This mom, who has a four-year-old who doesn’t walk, has found the Tula toddler carrier (which can accommodate a child up to 60lbs) fits those needs in her family perfectly!