In-depth baby product reviews led by a Pediatrician

Best Baby Backpack Carriers

We tested the best packs from Kelty, Thule, Osprey, and more to find the most comfortable packs on the trail
Best Baby Backpack Carriers
We tested the popular top baby backpack carriers side-by-side and on the trail to find the best options available.
Credit: Abriah Wofford
Friday April 29, 2022
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Looking for the right backpack carrier for older babies and kids in your family? We purchased 10 well-regarded packs for side-by-side testing over a few months to determine which products are the best. Whether you're an avid hiker trekking through the Rocky Mountains, traveling abroad for sightseeing adventures, or cheering on the home team, we have the details you need to make an informed decision for your family. We analyzed each backpack for parent comfort, child comfort, storage, and ease of use. Continue reading to find out which packs stood out from the "pack."

Baby wearing can be a great way to bond and get your little one from place to place. Some parents even opt for a great carrier or backpack over a stroller.

Editor's Note: This review was updated on April 29, 2022, with information about the Thule Sapling and products related to babywearing.

Top 10 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 10
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Value Award  
Price $430 List
$429.95 at Amazon
$340 List
$339.59 at Amazon
Check Price at Amazon$280 List
$248.99 at Amazon
$385 List
$385.00 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
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84
81
79
78
Star Rating
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Pros Useful storage features, comfortable fit and seat, removable day packComfy to wear and ride in, lots of storage, canopy and hydration pocketBest child comfort, custom fit possibilities, loads of storageEasy on the wallet, fit for narrower builds, comfy for passengers and parentsVari-flex waistband, day pack, comfy for baby
Cons Stiffer shoulder strapsHigher price, hard to adjust seat, may be too long for shorter torsosDoesn't fit all usersVery limited storage, canopy costs extra, no dedicated spot for a hydration bladderExpensive, harder to use
Bottom Line Comfortable fitting pack with cozy seat and useful featuresComfortable pack with lots of storage, a canopy, and easy to use featuresSuper comfortable carrier for parents and children with lots of useful storageThis high-quality, less expensive pack is comfortable for babies and parents with narrower builds but the storage is limitedExpensive, high-end pack that is cozy for kids, but harder to use
Rating Categories Thule Sapling Elite Kelty Journey Perfe... Osprey Poco Plus Deuter Kid Comfort... Deuter Kid Comfort Pro
Parent Comfort (30%)
10.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
Storage (20%)
9.0
10.0
7.0
6.0
8.0
Child Comfort (25%)
9.0
9.0
10.0
9.0
9.0
Ease of Use (25%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Specs Thule Sapling Elite Kelty Journey Perfe... Osprey Poco Plus Deuter Kid Comfort... Deuter Kid Comfort Pro
Usage Ranges Min-Max: 16 lbs - 48 lbs Min-Max: 16 lbs - 40 lbs Min-Max: 16 lbs - 40 lbs Min-Max: When child can sit upright independently - 48 lbs Min-Max: When child can sit upright independently - 40 lbs
Max Pack Load 48 lbs 48.5 lbs 48.5 lbs 48 lbs 48 lbs
Weight 8.25 lbs 7.4 lbs 7.9 lbs 6 lbs 8.5 lbs
BGL Folded/Flat Dimensions 14" W x 14" H x 31" L 16" W x 10" H x 31" L 15" W x 11" H x 30" L 16.5W" x 10"H x 31"L 16.4" W x 9.5" H x 34.8" L
Frame Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum
Fabric 210D Cordura nylon, 420D nylon Body: Poly 420D Small Back Stafford
Interior: 75D Poly x 140D Nylon Blend
Main: 210D Nylon Shadow Box
Accent: 400HD Nylon Packcloth
Bottom: 400HD Nylon Packcloth
210 denier polyamide fabric. Tear and abrasion resistant, watertight to 1500 mm 210 denier polyamide fabric with strong ripstop threads and PU coating.
Stirrups Yes, adjustable Yes, adjustable Yes, adjustable Yes Yes
Canopy Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Hydration Bladder Compatible Yes Yes Yes No No
Included Accessories Mirror, removable day pack Journey Sunshade Mirror Daypack, Mirror
Care Instructions Hand Wash Spot Clean Hand Wash Hand Wash Hand Wash


Best Overall Backpack Carrier


Thule Sapling Elite


88
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Parent Comfort 10.0
  • Storage 9.0
  • Child Comfort 9.0
  • Ease of Use 7.0
Maximum Pack Load: 48 lbs | Hydration Bladder Capable: Yes
REASONS TO BUY
Best parent comfort
Impressive child comfort
Ample storage, accessible water bottle holder
REASONS TO AVOID
Less supportive seat
Heavier

The Thule Sapling Elite is the highest-ranking pack in the review, with a perfect score for parent comfort thanks to padded adjustable shoulder straps, a structured waistband, and a close-fitting cockpit. We liked the firm, stable seat pad and the nap-able face rest/drool pad. This pack has lots of storage, a removable day pack, a designated location for a hydration bladder, and a canopy. With adjustments you can make on the go, it is difficult to go wrong with the Elite.

While the price of this pack is higher than budget competitors, we think the quality and thoughtful design of the Elite makes it a real contender for families who love being outdoors or going on adventures where a pack will be a benefit. The potential years of use make this option worth the price of admission.

Thule Sapling
The Sapling Elite is no longer available, and Thule is now offering the Thule Sapling (non-Elite). The two packs are similar, with slightly fewer features on the non-Elite version. One big difference is that the non-Elite does not include the detachable day pack. We now link to the Sapling.

Read review: Thule Sapling Elite

baby backpack - best overall backpack carrier
The headrest on the Elite isn't as contoured as the old Sapling, but still supportive and comfortable. It also has a bottle or treasure pocket within reach of the passenger which is very useful.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Best Pack Storage


Kelty Journey PerfectFIT Elite


84
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Parent Comfort 8.0
  • Storage 10.0
  • Child Comfort 9.0
  • Ease of Use 7.0
Maximum Pack Load: 48.5 lbs | Hydration Bladder Capable: Yes
REASONS TO BUY
Loads of storage
Comfortable fit
Easier to use
REASONS TO AVOID
Higher price
Not a great fit for shorter torsos

The Kelty Journey PerfectFit Elite has more storage pockets than you can handle with internal and zippered waistband pockets, a waterproof pocket for wet/dirty items, and water bottle holders the wearer can reach while donning the pack. This pack includes a canopy pocket and a hydration space for a lumbar bladder bag (sold separately). In addition to the variety of pockets, this option is very comfortable for children and parents, with adjustable straps you can shift on the go. The Elite provides a snug cockpit, breathable back pad, and load lifters for help with weight distribution or minor adjustments to increase comfort.

This backpack is not a good choice if you are on a budget, as it sports one of the highest prices in our review. It may also be a less than ideal option for shorter torsos, as some petite testers had trouble finding a great fit. Despite these issues, it is an excellent pack if you want a comfortable fit with lots of versatile storage and your budget allows.

Read review: Kelty Journey PerfectFit Elite

baby backpack
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Best Bang for the Buck


Deuter Kid Comfort Active SL


79
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Parent Comfort 9.0
  • Storage 6.0
  • Child Comfort 9.0
  • Ease of Use 7.0
Maximum Pack Load: 48 lbs | Hydration Bladder Capable: No
REASONS TO BUY
Easy on the wallet
Comfy for baby and wearer
Fit for women
REASONS TO AVOID
No included canopy
Less Storage

The Deuter Kid Comfort Active SL says it has a fit for women, and the narrow design and shoulder straps make it a better fit and more comfortable than most packs for those with narrow shoulders or less expansive backs. Our testers feel it is less restrictive than other packs and keeps little ones close to the wearer, increasing comfort for longer adventures and less fatigue. Babies seemed to like the close contact, and the cockpit has adjustable features to customize fit with little ones in mind.

This pack has a plethora of features for comfort for both the wearer and the passenger, but it lacks advantageous storage features making it less suitable for longer trips that require more supplies. It also doesn't come standard with a canopy or hydration bladder, and while you can buy them separately, it is an added expense, and they will take up some of the limited storage space you find on this pack. However, the Comfort Active is so comfortable to wear, especially for smaller wearers, that we can overlook the storage problem and encourage users to pack lite with only the essentials.

Read review: Deuter Kid Comfort Active SL

baby backpack
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Best for the Tightest of Budgets


LuvdBaby Premium


60
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Parent Comfort 6.0
  • Storage 7.0
  • Child Comfort 5.0
  • Ease of Use 6.0
Maximum Pack Load: 40 lbs | Hydration Bladder Capable: No
REASONS TO BUY
Budget-friendly
Easy to use
REASONS TO AVOID
No canopy or hydration pocket
Limited storage

The LuvdBaby is a wallet-friendly choice for families who only need a backpack occasionally or shorter adventures. This pack has good storage for the price point, and some features parents will find helpful when traveling with a baby on board. It is one of the lightest packs in the review, limiting the extra weight you need to carry that isn't a baby or supplies.

This pack lacks some features and design elements that create a truly comfortable pack for kids or parents. However, if your trip is short or your baby is smaller, you probably won't know what you are missing. Also, it cannot store a hydration bladder, so you'll need to carry a water bottle, which could be less crucial if you aren't going far. Overall, the Luvdbaby is a basic pack for parents who need something for quick trips or tourist activities where long-term comfort is less of a concern.

Read review: LuvdBaby

baby backpack
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Most Comfortable Pack for Baby


Osprey Poco Plus


81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Parent Comfort 8.0
  • Storage 7.0
  • Child Comfort 10.0
  • Ease of Use 7.0
Maximum Pack Load: 48.5 lbs | Hydration Bladder Capable: Yes
REASONS TO BUY
Secure cockpit
Supportive seat pad
Easy to use
REASONS TO AVOID
Price
No cup holders

The Osprey Poco Plus provides the most comfortable riding experience for children, including a secure cockpit, wide padded seat and harness, and an angled, removable, cozy drool pad/face rest. Little ones will enjoy the added comfort features of adjustable stirrups and a canopy with side protection. This pack comes with toy loops to keep treasures secure and a side mirror for keeping an eye on your passenger. Parents will appreciate the easy-to-use adjustments and features and the close-fitting cockpit and breathable back pad with adjustable torso length.

Not Recalled
This version of the Poco is not included in the 2017 recall that affects Poco packs made from 2012-2014.

The Osprey has a higher price tag than most competition, making it a poor choice for families on a budget or parents who only hike occasionally. However, it brings a lot to the table, and we think it is the best choice for parents who favor passenger comfort over other metrics.

Read review: Osprey Poco Plus

baby backpack - the poco lt offers average comfort for the wearer with no real...
The Poco LT offers average comfort for the wearer with no real advantage over more comfortable packs.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
88
$430
Editors' Choice Award
Useful features with a comfortable seat and parent fit
84
$340
Editors' Choice Award
Easy to use, comfortable pack with a canopy, hydration pocket, and ample storage
81
$370
Top Pick Award
Versatile storage combines with an adjustable fit for a comfortable carrier for kids and parents
79
$280
Best Value Award
Despite a lack of storage, this comfortable pack is good for those on a budget or narrower builds
78
$385
Harder to use and spendy price can't be overcome with a comfy cockpit
70
$285
While it has a lower price than some of the high-quality competition it is generally average in most tests
60
$200
Best Value Award
Uncomfortable, lower quality pack with a budget price and comfort level
41
$135
Poor fitting pack with disappointing features and functionality
39
$250
Unimpressive features and adjustment in a hard to wear pack
29
$140
Uncomfortable pack with larger cockpit leaves parents and kids wanting more

baby backpack - the kelty pathfinder 3.0 is a high quality comfortable pack with...
The Kelty Pathfinder 3.0 is a high quality comfortable pack with versatile storage options.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Why You Should Trust Us


Our baby backpack carrier review had so many contributors and testers it is hard to pay justice to them all. With a background in outdoor products from our sister company OutdoorGearLab, we were poised to create a testing process with the true outdoorsman and adventurer in mind.

Our founder led this review, Dr. Juliet Spurrier, a board-certified pediatrician. Bob Wofford, father of 7, outdoor adventurer, and Senior Review Analyst for the last 7 years, worked with the OutdoorGearLab founder to create testing processes and choose outdoor trails for testing the packs. Multiple testers and parents assisted in the testing process, wearing the packs on trails with their littles. Senior Review Editor Wendy Schmitz wraps up the analysis with her 8-years of experience in gear reviews and hiking with children literally on board. Abriah Wofford, Senior Review Editor, rounds out the team with product testing and photos.

We tested each product with various wearers and passengers to ensure a good cross-section of shapes and sizes to help find the average for comfort and usability by identifying the differences between packs and which have the best features and functionality. We considered the parent and child comfort and storage and ease of use. With parents and children varying in size and ability, this diverse testing group helps provide a good overview of each product's capabilities. Our on-the-trail hiking and in-house lab comparisons are designed to help ferret out the details you'll want to help you make the right decision for your needs. We rank the packs based on overall performance and tester feedback from regular use. Metric scores determine the pack's overall scores, emphasizing comfort for all.


Analysis and Test Results


We bought, tested, and compared 10 popular baby backpacks for this review. Our testing period lasted several months and included side-by-side analysis to determine which contenders are the best and why.

Do Your Homework
We believe a backpack for carrying a baby is a long-term investment you can use for multiple children up to around 40 lbs depending on the pack guidelines and parent ability. As the going prices are somewhat high, ideally, you want to purchase only one pack for the duration, so doing your homework and wisely choosing is crucial.


Value


A good backpack should be viewed as an investment, as we feel packs are valuable for helping families have more adventures with their babies. The investment pays off in more ways than just the convenience of the pack itself. The Luvdbaby offers an affordable price that most families can manage. While it failed to score as high as some award winners, it can be a useful pack for those who take only occasional or shorter adventures, allowing parents to stick to a budget without skipping out on the fun. The high-scoring Deuter Kid Comfort Active SL is more expensive, but we feel it is still worth considering if your budget allows it. It offers more comfort for both the passenger and the wearer and is especially popular for those with a narrow build. While cheap packs can be very tempting, we caution that you get what you pay for when it comes to baby backpacks. In our experience, less expensive options quickly become uncomfortable to wear and are less than ideal for longer periods. They offer poor-quality and hard-to-use features you aren't likely to be happy with in the long run.

baby backpack - a pack needs to be as comfortable as possible if you are going to...
A pack needs to be as comfortable as possible if you are going to wear it on a regular basis. The Thule Sapling is most comfortable pack for parents.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Parent Comfort


Comfortably supporting your baby's weight can make all the difference between a fun day adventure and a short, uncomfortable walk around the block. We test each backpack for parent comfort by assessing shoulder straps, load lifters, waistbands, torso adjustment, back padding, and breathability. As with typical hiking backpacks, adjusting the pack on the fly can be critical for overall comfort as loads can shift and change throughout the day. Backpacks aren't as useful if they don't offer adequate padding or structure or are challenging to adjust. If we can't find a fit that doesn't result in discomfort or rubbing a pack earns a lower score.


The Thule Sapling Elite has the top score for parents' comfort with a 10 of 10. This comfy pack has various features to optimize comfort for the wearer, including a stronger waistband structure, smooth strap movement for adjustments, padded shoulder straps, a torso height range of 6 inches across four settings, and a breathable back design (goodbye sweaty back!). The Deuter Kid Comfort Active SL has a design that makes the contour of the shoulder straps less comfortable for our male testers, with pressure falling too high for most of them. This design makes sense as the company claims to fit women specifically. However, our female testers felt it was one of the best in the group, giving it a score of 9 for comfort.

baby backpack - the parade has limited padding on the straps and an unsupportive...
The Parade has limited padding on the straps and an unsupportive waistband. The cockpit is also large which results in parents leaning forward to get baby closer to their body where it is more comfortable to carry them.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

The Osprey Poco Plus, Kelty Journey PerfectFit Elite, and the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro earned score of 8. The lowest-scoring options were the Phil and Teds Parade with a 1 and the Phil and Teds Escape with a 3. The Parade lacks adjustability in the shoulder straps and torso, and the Escape has shoulder straps that don't tighten enough and a saggy waist strap that isn't supportive.

baby backpack - the osprey provides the most comfortable riding experience for...
The Osprey provides the most comfortable riding experience for little ones compared to the competition.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Child Comfort


Keeping little ones cozy creates the ideal environment for fewer complaints and more successful adventures. Little details like angled drool pads, stirrups, padded harnesses, supportive seats, and secure cockpits all make backpack riding more enjoyable for your little one. Our little testers influenced test results in pack reactions, including napping positions, signs of discomfort, and how secure we could make the cockpit through adjustments without upsetting the passenger.


The most comfortable pack for little ones is the Osprey Poco Plus, earning a 10 of 10 for child comfort. A firm, supportive face rest that curves out on the ends for additional napping support (less head lolling) and easy-to-adjust stirrups that help avoid dangling legs make this backpack a standout.

baby backpack - the comfort active sl is cozy for little ones with a padded seat...
The Comfort Active SL is cozy for little ones with a padded seat, high headrest, and a cockpit that pulls them closer to the wearer of the pack for a secure feeling while riding.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

The Thule Sapling Elite, the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro, and the Deuter Kid Comfort Active SL (above) all earned 9s with features for comfort like a secure cockpit on the Thule Sapling Elite. The Active SL seat is contoured to be wide under the tushie and narrows between the legs. It has thick padding that offers good support for passengers without being bulky and awkward. The Kelty PerfectFit also earned 9 with a wide seat with padded leg holes, seat height adjustments, and soft-covered harness clips. The lowest scoring option is the Phil and Teds Parade with a cockpit with limited adjustability and never feels entirely secure. It also lacks a napping face rest (hello, floppy head).

baby backpack - the thule is easy to use including adjustments to the seat height.
The Thule is easy to use including adjustments to the seat height.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Ease of Use


How easy or challenging a pack is to use impacts your overall experience when heading out to enjoy the great outdoors. Straightforward features and easy functionality can differentiate between a quick prep and an enjoyable journey versus a frustrated baby and parent. Our ease-of-use ratings rank each pack on adjustability, on-the-go alterations, canopy, user manual, and hydration bladder capabilities.


The high score for ease of use is only 7 of 10 for the Thule Sapling Elite, Kelty Journey PerfectFit Elite, and the Osprey Poco Plus. Each pack has easy adjustments you can do on the fly, and you can adjust most child cockpit needs with your child in the pack.

baby backpack - the chest clip on the escape&#039;s harness is stiff but workable.
The chest clip on the Escape's harness is stiff but workable.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

The second-place product for ease of use is the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro with a 6. The most complicated or challenging to use packs earned 4s and include the Clevr Cross Country and Phil and Teds Escape. The lower-ranking options have challenging adjustments and features that can cause frustration during hikes.

baby backpack - the kelty elite has two storage pockets on the back of the pack.
The Kelty Elite has two storage pockets on the back of the pack.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Storage


Taking children anywhere means you'll need supplies, and for supplies, you need storage. Our favorites are those with space for necessary items like diapers, wipes, clothes, and hiking essentials such as water, snacks, canopy, sunscreen, and rain protection. Backpacks with various pockets and internal organization features are more impressive than those with single open pouches, even if the pocket is large. Packs with larger waist pockets and storage within reach of the pack wearer are also an advantage. A removable daypack is also a great feature, as seen on the Thule Sapling Elite.


The Kelty Journey PerfectFit Elite scored a 10 of 10 for storage features with more pockets than any competitor, including a designated pocket for a hydration bladder. It is also the only pack with a reachable water bottle holder in the group and a large waterproof pocket for dirty or wet supplies. The Elite has two zippered waistband pockets, one that holds an average-sized smartphone and the other has a mesh pouch for a water bottle.

The waist pockets on the Elite are so large you can fit all your...
The waist pockets on the Elite are so large you can fit all your quick access items inside.
The Clevr waistband has a zippered pocket that may not be large...
The Clevr waistband has a zippered pocket that may not be large enough for your smartphone. The zipper is covered by a flap of fabric that gets caught in the zipper teeth when you try to use it.

The Thule Sapling Elite (above left) also offers impressive storage with a score of 9. It has waistband pockets that fit a larger mobile phone and wide openings in the main pockets. The Deuter Kid Comfort Active SL has some storage, but overall, it is largely lacking and potentially insufficient for longer adventures earning a score of 6 in this metric. The lowest storage result is the Clevr Cross Country with a 3 (above right). The Clevr has fewer pockets than the competitors, with nuisance fabric flaps that make the pockets stupidly hard to use.

we&#039;ve tested the most popular baby backpacks on the market to find...
We've tested the most popular baby backpacks on the market to find the best options for every adventure.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Conclusion


Today, there are so many backpack styles to choose from that it might be challenging to figure out which are the best and why. Many packs look the same, and it is hard to tell from an advertisement if it is the right pack for you. After days of real-world testing with little ones, we can honestly attest that the best way to choose a bag is to get your hands on one. Some carriers are better than others, and some features are more useful. Some contenders didn't meet our expectations, with a significant disparity across packs for features and quality. Luckily, we've done the dirty, uncomfortable, and often fun work for you, so you can skip the trial and error and make your best buying decision for your needs and budget.

Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz


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