How to Choose the Best Baby Backpack

Outdoor adventures with little ones can be a great way to bond with your baby and commune with nature.
Article By:
Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz

Last Updated:
Monday
November 20, 2017

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After several months of extensive, hands-on testing with 9 of the industry's leading baby backpacks, we learned what's important and which features and functions really matter when you're out on an adventure. With their lists of features, competing baby backpacks can be challenging to sort through. After putting each pack through the wringer, we've determined which qualities make some baby backpacks superior to others. In this article, we'll be sharing the lessons we learned testing all 9 options so you won't have to! This article will help you narrow your choice to find the very best backpack for you and your baby.

Purchasing a baby backpack means you and your little one can head out on the open trail.
Purchasing a baby backpack means you and your little one can head out on the open trail.

Why Get a Baby Backpack?


In the early months of your baby's life, you'll find that they are happiest snuggled up to you in your arms or a baby carrier.
As baby gets older and more alert, you may decide that you're ready for a new carrying option for more exciting adventures away from home. While a baby carrier works great for younger babies, you may want to consider a baby backpack as your little ones get older.

Baby backpacks have sturdy frames designed to support your baby for long periods of time. They allow you to carry your baby hands-free in comfort with designs that provide structure and support for both the passenger and the wearer. Wearing your baby provides a safer environment by keeping them contained in a 5-point harness away from possible hazards, and it promotes bonding by keeping them close for interaction and soothing. The packs have a variety of uses that make them an economical choice for outings with your baby:
  • Active Lifestyle — Pushing baby in a stroller through the woods is usually not an option (at least in our experience), so if you want to enjoy the great outdoors hiking, walking, or camping with baby consider investing in a quality pack.
  • Running Errands — A great pack can be useful for running errands like trips to the farmer's market, shopping, or grabbing a cup of coffee.
  • Playing the Tourist — Carriers are also great for visiting cool tourist traps like museums, aquariums, strolling through downtown, and the zoo.
  • Exercise — Staying in shape after having a baby is challenging in more ways than one. With weight capacities up to 40 lbs, you'll be getting a workout wearing baby no matter what the activity is. Quality time with baby plus a quality workout = win, win!

Safety Tips
Carrying your baby on your back is a great bonding activity, but you need to use common sense and check the following things for safety before heading out on the trail:
  • fit the pack correctly for both wearer and passenger
  • Attach all of the buckles and straps and double-check them before use including the clips for the 5-point harness and waist belt
  • Do not bend at the hips for any reason, always bend at the knees to keep baby upright and safely contained
  • Be aware of the environment around you to avoid bumping your baby into things
  • Stay away from areas with risky footing including loose gravel, slippy or wet rocks, and trail edges



The top scoring backpacks in this review offer something for everyone no matter what you feel is most important.
The top scoring backpacks in this review offer something for everyone no matter what you feel is most important.

Important Considerations


Once you decide that investing in a Baby Backpack is right for you, you'll want to consider a few things as you navigate your choices to make your best buying decision.

The Sapling straps can be adjusted easily by pulling forward to relieve some of the pressure from carrying the baby's weight.
The Sapling straps can be adjusted easily by pulling forward to relieve some of the pressure from carrying the baby's weight.

Parent Comfort


Most people look at purchasing a baby backpack with the intention of using it for extended periods of time. Therefore, we think it's important that you feel comfortable while wearing the pack with or without a baby on board. Given that the baby backpacks, on average, will hold around 40 lbs you'll want to choose an option with quality padding, firm internal structures, and versatile adjustment properties for a great fit. A backpack with wide, well-padded shoulder straps, torso adjustments, and an adjustable waist belt is typically the best bet.
  • Padding — Well distributed padding over contact points will increase overall comfort for parents by reducing the amount of direct weight resting on the pressure points.
  • Waistband — A thick solid waist belt can make all the difference in helping support the baby's weight and taking some of the burden off your shoulders.
  • Weight Distribution — Backpacks that hold baby close to your center of gravity are ideal, creating the most balance for you, which is critical for comfort and keeping your footing.

The Osprey provides the most comfortable riding experience for little ones compared to the competition.
The Osprey provides the most comfortable riding experience for little ones compared to the competition.

Child Comfort


Keeping little ones cozy and providing a great place to nap will be crucial in creating happy memories and having grand adventures with a baby on board.
  • Harness — Look for a 5-point, padded harness with quick and easy adjustment points.
  • Secure Cockpit — Finding a snug cockpit helps prevent floppy and sloppy movements in the pack that are uncomfortable for your baby and could potentially throw you off balance or makes the backpack hard to wear.
  • Canopy — A great canopy keeps your baby cozy by preventing overheating and sunburn while protecting little ones for other elements like rain and wind.
  • Seat Pad — A wider seat provides a stable and firm surface for little ones to sit on. The size, shape, and firmness of the seat impacts comfort and can influence the risk of hip dysplasia. While potential hip problems decrease with age (infants having the highest risk), it is still something to consider.

Hip Dysplasia Information
We'd urge you to read our article on Best Practice Tips for Baby Wearing for some great information on hip dysplasia, and of course, be sure to make time for breaks that allow passengers to get out of the backpack and move around freely.

Finding the right backpack in a sea of similar options can be daunting.
Finding the right backpack in a sea of similar options can be daunting.

Choosing Your Ideal Baby Backpack


Choosing a backpack carrier can be difficult if you aren't sure what is important or which features you should consider. Considering a few key questions can help you find the best pack for you.

The Thule has an adjustable torso which is the only one in the group.
The Thule has an adjustable torso which is the only one in the group.

First: Comfort


We believe that finding a pack that is comfortable for you and your baby should be a top priority. We encourage narrowing down your options to those packs that provide superior features for comfort for both the parent and the passengers. While it might be tempting to purchase an inexpensive backpack, you won't use an uncomfortable pack which means the money you did spend will be for nothing.

Second: Storage


Adventures require supplies and depending on the length or kind of adventures you plan to take you may need more or less storage. If you only plan to take short trips, then you can get away with fewer pockets or smaller pockets. However, if you plan to be gone all day or camp overnight, then you'll need additional storage and versatile pockets for different kinds of supplies from hydration bladders to smartphones.

Budget is always a concern when it comes to baby gear but the Kelty Tour 1.0 is a good choice for a reasonable price.
Budget is always a concern when it comes to baby gear but the Kelty Tour 1.0 is a good choice for a reasonable price.

Final: Price


A backpack carrier is not an essential piece of baby gear. But, it is a useful type of baby gear you can use for years and frequently for several different activities. If you have multiple children, you can use the pack even longer. Don't forget the ability to sell the pack once you are finished to recoup some of the cost. So, while the price of a quality pack may be over $200, we think the usefulness of the higher ranking products is worth the price of admission and we suggest you purchase the best option that meets your need and what your budget will allow.

We tested popular baby backpack carriers side-by-side and on the trail to find the best options available.
We tested popular baby backpack carriers side-by-side and on the trail to find the best options available.

Conclusion


In conclusion, we say go for a comfortable backpack with the storage that will best fit your lifestyle. We think a baby backpack should be a one-time investment that suits your family that is so comfortable you'll want to wear it again and again, therefore, making it a worth-while purchase. We think there is a backpack carrier in our award winners and top-ranking products that will fit every family.

Happy Trails!

Dr. Juliet Spurrier is founder and Mom-in-Chief at BabyGearLab
Juliet Spurrier, MD
About the Author
Dr. Juliet Baciocco Spurrier is a board certified pediatrician, mother of two, and founder of BabyGearLab. Juliet earned her Bachelor of Arts degrees in Anthropology and Italian Literature from the University of California at Berkeley and her Medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington DC. She completed her pediatric residency at the Doernbecher Children's Hospital at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, OR, and subsequently practiced pediatrics in both the Pacific Northwest and Silicon Valley. Juliet serves as Mom-in-Chief at BabyGearLab, where she oversees all baby product review activity, assuring that each review delivers on our commitment to quality.

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