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The Best Child Carriers For Toddlers in 2021

Our guide to the best toddler backpack carriers will help you explore with kids wherever you want to go. We examine child carriers for newborns, toddler carriers, and more to help you explore in comfort.

Getting outside and into nature opens up the best playground in the world for children, and having a great toddler carrier makes it so much easier. Sometimes getting outdoors with kids in tow can be a challenge. We review the best toddler backpack carrier for travel, hiking, and urban exploring.

Getting outside and into nature opens up the best playground in the world for children. Having a great toddler carrier experiencing that wild world so much easier both for parents and kids.

Sometimes getting outdoors with kids in tow can be a challenge. Little legs may not be able to keep up during hiking excursions and piggyback rides may not be the easiest on either the parents or the child.

So we did a LOT of research to come up with the best toddler backpack carrier for hiking and travel and we’ve laid out all of our findings here to help you out!

This post may contain compensated links. These offer us a small commission at no extra cost to you. Find more info in our disclaimer.

Why Trust My Opinion On Kid Carriers?

Man hiking through snow with a child in a kid in a Deuter Kid Comfort III Kid Carrier with a blue rain cover

I’m a father of who who has been traveling with children for the past 10 years. In fact, you might say that family travel has become one of the biggest parts of my life.

My children are 7 and 10-years old. But since they were born they have traveled to more than 21 countries across five continents. In fact, by the time they had turned three, both my children had traveled through several countries, many of which included destinations that were not stroller-friendly.

I’ve made family travel my life. And along the way, I’ve been cited as an adventure family travel expert by organizations including the Lonely Planet, the Family Travel Association, CBC, and TripAdvisor. And for the past 6-years, I have been writing about my own family travel adventures right here on my Wandering Wagars website.

I’ve used several toddler backpack carriers on my world travels with kids including exploring the ruins of Petra Jordan, hiking volcanoes in Iceland, and searching for Incan treasure in Colombia.

And since then I’ve made sure to keep up to date on the best family travel gear to share with my readers and my Family Travel Support Group on Facebook.

I regularly travel to gear events such as Outdoor Retailer in Denver, Colorado to stay abreast of new gear trends and technologies. Because having the right tools can make travel with kids even more enjoyable.

I also make sure to test these kid-carriers on multiple body types. I’m 6’3 and my wife is 5’0. So everything that we recommend is comfortable for both of us.

What Is The Best Child Carrier?

Not everyone has time to read the breakdown of each of my top picks for the best child carrier backpack. So, if you want to jump straight to my picks, check out the chart below.

If you’d like some more details, feel free to read through and check out my detailed breakdowns of what makes the best baby carrier and toddler carriers a little further down.

Best Overall
Deuter Kid Comfort Pro Kid Carrier

Weight: 7.8 lbs

Comfort: 5/5

Capacity: 22L

Durability: 5/5

Most Comfortable Design

Tall Ride Height

Included Sun Shade and Rain Cover

Runner Rup

Weight: 7.89 lbs

Comfort: 5/5

Capacity: 26L

Durability: 5/5

Excellent Build Quality

Built-In Changing Pad

Large Storage Capacity

Best Budget
Kelty Journey PerfectFIT Elite hiking baby carrier

Weight: 7.5 lbs

Comfort: 4/5

Capacity: 26L

Durability: 5/5

Large Storage Capacity

Decent Comfort

Fits Many Body Types

Best Frameless
ErgoBaby Omni 360 Baby Carrier

Weight: 1.1 lbs

Comfort: 4/5

Capacity: 0L

Durability: 3/5

Reinforced Stitching

Lightweight

Keeps Baby Close

What To Look For In A Toddler Backpack Carrier

The best hiking baby carriers need to be comfortable for both the parents and the child. They need to be functional, ergonomic, lightweight, feature-packed, and of course, durable.

I pack 10-years of family travel experience into breaking down what the best child carrier is for the needs of outdoor-loving families.

Toddler backpack carriers come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, and not all the models are perfect for every lifestyle. There are a number of hiking kid carrier backpacks that didn’t make our list as well. Some of them we have extensive reviews on, such as the Freeloader Child carrier.

Whether you’re looking for the best baby carrier or the best child carrier for hiking, the features need to be able to accommodate everyone.

And of course, the child’s needs and comfort have to be part of the equation. We have used the following criteria to rank our favorite kid carrier backpack:

  • Weight – Weight can be a huge factor. The lighter the unit, the easier it is on the carrier.
  • Comfort – Comfort is measured for both the child and the carrier. Factors such as let straps, headrests, shoulder padding, and waist belts are all important.
  • Ease-of-use – The best toddler backpack carriers must be easy to use. The more complicated a product, the less likely they are to be used effectively.
  • Sitting Position – This is all about the child and their happiness with the view. The best child carriers let the children sit high where they can have an unobstructed view of the world around them.
  • Storage capacity – Adults don’t want to have to carry multiple bags with them. The best kid carriers have storage areas where things such as snacks, bottles, and extra clothes can be stored safely.
  • Price – The best child carrier backpacks can be expensive. These units come in a range of prices, and not all of them are worth the money.
  • Features – We examine features such as hydration packs, standing frames, weather covers, and many of the extra features that make some child backpack carriers a better deal than others.

All of the best baby hiking backpacks that we tested performed very well. There were of course advantages and disadvantages to each one, and we’ll list those a little more in-depth further down in the article.

But through all of our tests, one toddler hiking carrier consistently stood above the rest. With that in mind our Top Baby Carrier Backpack is:

Deuter Kid Comfort Pro Child Carrier – Our Choice For The Best Toddler Backpack Carrier

During our early family travels, the Deuter Kid Comfort III was our go-to child carrier for travel. That unit has served us well but was replaced in the Deuter lineup by the Kid Comfort Active and Kid Comfort Pro series.

The newest model includes one of the coolest and most useful features of any child carrier, a detachable front daypack. All other child carrier models require you to remove your pack to access the main storage area. But the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro puts items within easy reach while also helping to balance out your weight.

The Deuter Kid Comfort Pro wins our vote for the best baby backpack carrier in the market. It’s lighter, more versatile, and somehow packs even more storage space. This has become the benchmark child carrier hiking backpack for families.

We’ll get deeper into what makes the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro the best toddler carrier later. But if you want to check the best prices on the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro, you can find that here. 

And if you want to skip the reading and just see our best child carriers for active families, you can see our features list below.

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The Best Child Carriers for Hiking and Travel

Now that our winner has been announced, let’s sort out our ranking for the best baby carrier backpack for hiking and travel.

Because every family has different needs, different budgets, and their own unique travel style, it’s good to understand what makes each hiking baby carrier unique in order to determine which one is perfect for you.

Deuter Kid Comfort Pro

Deuter Kid Comfort Pro Kid Carrier

We spoke earlier about how the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro is our top-rated child carrier. But what makes it the best toddler backpack carrier?

The Deuter Kid Comfort Pro is neither the cheapest nor the lightest option among the child carriers listed. But while it is isn’t light, the way the child carrier backpack is designed to sit on your body makes it feel fantastic.

The Deuter Varifit system creates a cushion of comfort for the wearer, and the space for the child is roomy, upright, and high-up, giving the child an unprecedented view of the world around them.

The Deuter child carrier compares very closely with the Kelty Pathfinder 3.0 and the Thule Sapling Elite for features. However, the Deuter baby carrier beats both competitors out for both build quality and price, which lifted it to the top of the pack. You can check out more about the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro here.

Deuter Kid Comfort Pro Pros

  • Comfort – This was the most comfortable unit for both adults and children
  • High Ride Height – The Deuter was the best child carrier for ride height. Views for the child were nearly unobstructed when set up correctly.
  • Durable – The Deuter is well-built and is designed to handle anything an adventurous family throws at it.
  • Included Sun Shade and Rain Cover – The Deuter Kid Comfort Pro includes both a built-in sunshade and a pullover rain cover.
  • Storage – The latest model of the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro includes a detachable front pack. This, in my opinion, is one of the best features of this product. You now have

Deuter Kid Comfort Pro Cons

  • Hydration Pack not Included – The Deuter is compatible with hydration packs. But for the price of the unit, it would be nice to have the hydration pack included. That being said, they aren’t expensive and are easy to install. You can pick one up here.
  • Weight – The Kid Comfort Pro child carrier is among the heaviest units we reviewed. While it is the most comfortable baby carrier, it would be nice if the next model shed a pound.

Runner Up – Osprey Poco Plus

Osprey is one of the top names in travel backpacks. In fact, they make several of our favorite hiking daypacks.

There is absolutely no denying the quality of the build of the Osprey backpacks. The Osprey Poco Plus is no exception.

This child carrier is built to last the toughest family activities and the wildest children. I really appreciate that the main storage compartment can be detached and used as a separate travel bag. It increases the general-purpose usability of the Osprey Poco kid carrier a great deal.

As far as toddler backpack carriers go, the Osprey Poco Plus is a high-quality unit. And the Osprey adjustable fitting system makes it very quick to fit different body types when you’re on the go. You can read more about the Osprey Poco Plus here.

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Osprey Poco Plus Pros

  • Well-Built– The Osprey child carrier is built with the high-quality materials and attention to detail that you would expect of an Osprey pack
  • Built-in-Changing Pad – It’s a little thing, but having a diaper changing pad included in the pack is a great thing for changing babies on the trail.
  • Storage – At 26L, the Osprey kid carrier has a lot of room for gear. And the convenient under-seat location helps keep the weight down low.

Osprey Poco Plus Cons

  • Comfort – There is no doubt that the Osprey baby carrier is comfortable, but it falls short of the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro levels.
  • Ride Height – We found that the seating height of the Osprey Poco makes visibility difficult for younger children.
  • Hip Belt– The Hip Belt is the main weakness of the Osprey child carrier. It does not seem to be designed with all body types in mind.

Best Budget Kid Carrier – Kelty Journey PerfectFIT Elite Child Carrier

Kelty Journey PerfectFIT Elite hiking baby carrier

The Kelty Journey series is an update from their older Kelty Pathfinder design. The Journey child carrier is a premium hiking kid carrier that sits at the top of the Kelty product line.

This kid carrier is designed with adjustable straps to help fit most body types and does a great job of distributing the weight of the pack and its passenger to the hips rather than the shoulders.

At 7lbs 6oz, this unit comes out near the top for overall pack weight, and with it being recently released, I would have hoped that they were able to reduce the weight more than the 4oz shaved off from the older Pathfinder model.  You can read more about the Kelty Journey PerfectFIT Elite here.

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Kelty PerfectFIT Elite Pros

  • Comfort – Next to the Deuter Kid Comfort III, the Kelty Pathfinder 3.0 offers the most comfortable cockpit for children.
  • Storage – The Kelty backpack child carrier finds a good balance between storage and weight balance.
  • Price – The Kelty Pathfinder 3.0 is one of the lowest-priced framed toddler carriers on the market.

Kelty PerfectFIT Elite Cons

  • No Stirrups – As comfortable as the cockpit of the Kelty Pathfinder is, it has no stirrups for children to place their legs. This means long hikes could make for tired or uncomfortable legs.
  • Fit – The Kelty kid carrier fits great. And all but the smallest body frames would be very comfortable carrying it.
  • Setup – The manual for the Kelty Pathfinder 3.0 is a bit confusing.

Best Frameless Baby Carrier – ErgoBaby Omni 360

ErgoBaby Omni 360 Baby Carrier

Many framed child carriers have height or weight limits due to the safety and height that the children sit at. In some cases, factors such as cold weather, tight spaces, or small children mean going with a smaller, more secure baby carrier for hiking.

The Ergobaby Omni 360 is new to our list, replacing last year’s winner, the Baby Bjorn One Air. The Baby Bjorn is still a fantastic product, but the brand new Ergobaby 360 nudges it out of top position thanks to the option of rear- backpack position option.

This is a great choice for hiking once the baby is able to hold their own head up. It’s simple, lightweight, and comfortable. And unlike larger, framed child carriers, these models keep the little-one close to the parent for safety and comfort.

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ErgoBaby Omni 360 Pros

  • Comfort – Models such as this and the BabyBjorn are ultra-comfortable as the baby stays very close to the body.
  • Fit – The ErgoBaby conforms nicely to practically any body type.
  • Safety – With the snug fit, the baby is in a very safe position both from falls and from inadvertent bumps on the trail.

ErgoBaby Omni 360 Cons

  • Storage – It should come as no surprise due to its size, but the ErgoBaby has no internal storage options.

Honorable Mention – Thule Sapling

Thule Sapling toddler backpack carrier

The Thule Sapling is a premium toddler carrier from a company that understands precious cargo. Thule built a very sturdy, rugged, and durable hiking backpack carrier. And for its size, the Thule Sapling comes out the lightest of the premium kid carrier models.

The Thule child carrier also looks great. It’s bulky, but the design and color range is attractive and neat, making it a nice addition to those who value aesthetics on the hiking trail. You can read more about the Thule Sapling Elite here.

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Thule Sapling Elite Pros

  • Build Quality – The Thule Sapling is built for heavy use. The stitching is fantastic and the unit can withstand a beating.
  • Storage – The Thule child carrier has a lot of storage. However, we have been unable to determine that exact capacity and have reached out to Thule for confirmation.
  • Stomp Pad – This is a nice addition that comes out of the bottom of the back panel. Placing your foot on it adds extra stability when putting your child in the hiking backpack or taking them out.

Thule Sapling Cons

  • SizeThe Thule Sapling Elite is a big unit. While this is great for storage and functionality, the size adds weight, and makes it less compatible for those with smaller frames.
  • Price – The Thule Sapling Elite is tied only with the Kelty Pathfinder 3.0 as the highest-priced child carrying hiking backpack in the list. Because of the price, the Thule Sapling Elite is marketed almost entirely to parents who are on the trails a lot.
  • No Rain Cover – The rain cover for the Thule Sapling Elite is not included. For this price range, we don’t think it should be an optional accessory.

Honorable Mention: Deuter Kid Comfort Active

Deuter Kid Comfort Active

Now in its third year, the Deuter is the Kid Comfort Active is built similar to the Kid Comfort Pro, but with lighter material and less storage. As the name suggests, this helps keep the weight down, making this lightweight baby carrier ring in at a shocking 5 lbs. over 2 lbs less than its big brother.

The lightweight material does not impact the durability of this product. In fact, the material is similar to those used in our Deuter Kikki backpacks, and those can take a beating. The Deuter Kid Comfort Active, in our opinion, is the best toddler carrier for hiking on short trails or in cities. You can find out more about the Deuter Kid Comfort Active here.

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Deuter Kid Comfort Active Pros

  • Lightweight – The lightweight material and small storage make this the best infant carrier for short hikes and city exploring.
  • Footrests – The height-adjustable footrests are well placed and, unlike some models, might actually be used by children.
  • Great looks – The Deuter Kid Comfort Active looks less bulky and more streamlined than its big brother.

Deuter Kid Comfort Active Cons

  • Storage – At 14L, this Deuter kid carrier has the smallest available storage.
  • No Sun Shade or Rain Cover – I understand that this is designed to help keep the weight down, but available sun and rain covers would be nice.
  • No Hydration Compartment – This was a big surprise of the unit. The Deuter Kid Comfort Active was the only model not to have a hydration compartment.

What To Consider When Buying a Baby Carrier Backpack

A father carries a child along a beach. The child sitting high on the Freeloader Child Carrier as they pass by a sunset and rain clouds
Hiking the waterfront with a Freeloader Child Carrier

Comfort

From the baby harness to the hip belt to the shoulder straps, every piece of a baby hiking backpack should be comfortable. A hiking baby carrier should be able to be worn for long periods of time with minimal strain on either the child or the person carrying them.

Weight

Because of how much engineering goes into building a toddler back carrier, they can get heavy. But there needs to be a balance between durability, weight, and storage capacity.

Cockpit for the Child

The area where a child sits in a baby hiking backpack is normally called the cockpit. They should include padded areas that breathe well to keep the child from overheating on hot days. Cockpits should also include a 5-point harness that is easily accessed by the parent but can’t be unlatched by the child.

Sun and Rain Protection

Although often sold as extra accessories, having included sunshade and rain covers is a good feature to look for in a baby carrier hiking backpack. Having to purchase these items separately can quickly boost a child carrier price beyond the competition.

Adjustable Straps and Harness

Having adjustable harnesses is important if more than one person will be carrying the hiking backpack carrier. The most comfortable baby carrier should fit all body types.

This is also important for the child in the cockpit. Seats, stirrups, and straps need to be able to be adjusted to fit the child as they grow.

Storage Options

Keeping weight down is important, but having enough room to store your gear when on the trail or in the city is important too. You don’t want to have to carry multiple packs around with you, so having enough storage to fit clothes, snacks, and gear can make a big difference.

Other features to look for in the top baby carriers

Water Storage/Hydration Packs

These are great for keeping hydrated when using a hiking child carrier on-the-go. The best child carriers should have hydration slots accessible for both the child and parent to access should they get thirsty.

Stirrups

Stirrups in a toddler baby carrier offer children a spot to rest their legs while they are in the cockpit. A lack of stirrups could mean that the child’s legs dangle unnecessarily. This can cause a lack of blood flow, causing the child’s legs to fall asleep.

Size and Weight Limits

Make sure your child fits between the size and weight limitations listed by the manufacturer. The top baby carriers should be very clear about what those limitations are.

What Is Your Favorite Toddler Backpack Carrier?

Whether you’re traveling locally or internationally, these kid carriers will help make your potty training a lot easier. If you’re passionate about family travel, head over to our Family Travel Facebook Community and share your tips. We would love to hear about your favorite experiences.

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Getting outside and into nature opens up the best playground in the world for children, and having a great toddler carrier makes it so much easier. Sometimes getting outdoors with kids in tow can be a challenge. We review the best toddler backpack carrier for travel, hiking, and urban exploring.

Annie

Wednesday 4th of September 2019

Can you comment at all about the Deuter active model? It looks to be lighter but I’m worried that may mean a sacrifice in comfort...

Kevin Wagar

Sunday 8th of September 2019

Hi Annie,

The Deuter Active was designed with weight in mind. It's definitely lighter than many of the units out there and retains quite a bit of comfort still. Although it does sacrifice some of the amenities along the way. There is also a Deuter Active SL model that was designed specifically for women with slimmer figures.

Myth

Wednesday 15th of May 2019

And, would you recommend it over a reasonably good umbrella stroller (summer infant 3d lite plus)

Kevin Wagar

Thursday 16th of May 2019

This depends quite a bit on where you are traveling. Many people prefer umbrella strollers for urban travel. If you are heading into rougher terrain or old cities with cobblestone streets and sidewalks, an umbrella stroller can quickly become more of a disadvantage than an advantage.

Myth

Wednesday 15th of May 2019

How terrible is that extra pound on the deuter kid comfort 3 (compared to air) for city travelling (DC & NY).

Kevin Wagar

Thursday 16th of May 2019

That's really a matter of personal taste. For me, it doesn't bother me at all. And for the extra carrying space, I love it. But I'm a big guy. For smaller frames, the extra pound (plus the additional weight of what you put inside those storage packs) might be uncomfortable over long days.

Ellen Gomes

Wednesday 3rd of April 2019

Do you have any thoughts on which one is best to take on an overseas trip?

Kevin Wagar

Wednesday 3rd of April 2019

Hi Ellen, We have traveled internationally extensively with the Deuter and it's been excellent. The Poco is slightly smaller for transport, and the Deuter Air is lighter if packing weight is a problem.

Kimberly Miller

Thursday 3rd of January 2019

Thanks for a great article. Definitely will help me come to a decision on which one to choose.

Kevin Wagar

Friday 4th of January 2019

So glad we could help! If you can, let us know which one you choose and why.