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Searching for the right backpack carrier for your family? We purchased 11 well-regarded baby-carrying packs and sent them through extensive testing and side-by-side comparisons for 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 believe that a top-notch backpack should provide an elevated user experience when getting around with your baby in tow; therefore, our tests analyzed each contender for parent comfort, child comfort, storage, ease of use, and more. Continue reading to find out which packs stood out from the "pack."
Baby wearing can be a great way to bond and get your child from place to place. Some parents even opt for a great baby carrier or backpack when adventuring or walking instead of investing in a bulky and expensive a stroller. Is your little one getting bigger? Don't forget to consider your convertible car seat options before you need one.
Editor's Note: We updated this review on September 7, 2022, as we tested new products and compared them to the competition.
Maximum Pack Load: 48.5 lbs | Hydration Bladder Capable: Yes
REASONS TO BUY
Loads of storage
Easier to use
REASONS TO AVOID
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 a higher price tag. 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.
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
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 many features for comfort for both the wearer and the passenger, but it lacks advantageous storage features making it less suitable for longer trips requiring 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 more petite wearers. We can overlook the storage problem and encourage users to pack lite with only the essentials.
Maximum Pack Load: 40 lbs | Hydration Bladder Capable: No
REASONS TO BUY
Easy to use
REASONS TO AVOID
No canopy or hydration pocket
The LuvdBaby Premium is a wallet-friendly choice for families who only need a backpack occasionally or for shorter adventures. The LuvdBaby offers more storage than some contenders, incorporates some useful features that parents may enjoy, and comes with a few accessories, like a changing pad and rain cover. It's also a fairly lightweight pack, limiting the extra weight you need to carry that isn't a baby or supplies.
Comfort isn't the LuvdBaby's forte. It lacks features and design elements that create a truly comfortable backpack for kids or parents. But, it's better than some, and 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. The LuvdBaby doesn't contend with higher-end competitors but brings a decent amount to the table for its price point. It works for quick trips or tourist activities where long-term comfort is less of a concern.
Maximum Pack Load: 48.5 lbs | Hydration Bladder Capable: Yes
REASONS TO BUY
Small fold footprint
REASONS TO AVOID
Waist belt storage
The Osprey Poco LT is a travel-friendly backpack, thanks to some space-saving attributes. It's lightweight, slimmer, has a smaller fold, built-in sunshade for sun protection, and a zip cover to keep the shoulder and waist straps contained and protected, which is particularly helpful when storing and transporting the pack. Whether traveling by plane or car or navigating busy or limited destinations where strollers can't go, the Poco LT backpack can be handy.
The Osprey Poco LT lacks some comfort features, keeping it from scoring as high as top-shelf options. It has no child stirrups and would benefit from better storage on the waist belt. But, despite those drawbacks, we still prefer this contender and think it excels in travel-specific needs.
Our baby backpack carrier review includes 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 guided 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, 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 11 popular baby backpacks for this review. Our testing period lasted several months and included side-by-side analysis in determining 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.
Simply put, we think a good baby backpack carrier is an investment, and a valuable one, 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 valuable 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.
A comfortable backpack to support your baby's weight can make all the difference between a fun all-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. Similar to 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 Deuter Kid Comfort Active SL has one of the top scores for parent comfort with various features to optimize comfort for the wearer, including padded shoulder straps, a comfortable waist strap, and smooth strap movement for adjustments. The contour of the shoulder straps is less comfortable for our male testers, with pressure falling too high for most of them. But, this design makes sense as the company claims to fit women specifically, which is supported by our female testers, who felt it was one of the best in the group, giving it a score of 9 for comfort.
The Osprey Poco, Kelty Journey PerfectFIT Elite, and the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro are runner-ups with higher scores in this metric and are more comfortable than most competitors. Among this group, we appreciated the Osprey Poco's structured back that provided lumbar support and ample ventilation for the wearer.
Some of the lowest-scoring options are the Phil and Teds Parade and Chicco SmartSupport Backpack 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. The Chicco offers no torso adjustment or load lifters, and it has a waist strap with nearly no padding.
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 Kelty Journey PerfectFIT Elite, Deuter Kid Comfort Pro, and Deuter Kid Comfort Active SL (below) all earn 9s with features for child comfort. 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 has a wide seat with padded leg holes, seat height adjustments, and soft-covered harness clips.
The lowest scoring option is the Chicco SmartSupport Backpack, followed by the Phil and Teds Parade. The Chicco's cockpit features a padded bar but no drool pad or side support for a sleepy child's head, and it has no stirrups for feet. It also lacks padding on the child's harness. The Parade has a cockpit with limited adjustability and never feels entirely secure. It also lacks a napping face rest (hello, floppy head).
Follow User Manual Guidelines and Check Fit
Don't forget to pay attention to how your child fits in a baby backpack carrier. It's important to follow the user's manual guidelines for weight and height and assess how your child fits in the pack, especially since children come in all shapes and sizes.
Ease of Use
How easy or challenging a pack is to use impacts your overall experience when heading out with your baby. Straightforward features and easy functionality can differentiate between a quick prep and an enjoyable journey on the go 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 highest score is only 7 of 10, which includes the Osprey Poco LT, Kelty Journey PerfectFIT Elite, and Deuter Kid Comfort Active SL. Each pack has decently easy adjustments you can make on the fly, and you can adjust most child cockpit needs with your child in the backpack carrier.
Although the Thule Sapling Backpack has no foot stirrups and could use more padding in certain areas around the cockpit, we think the Thule Sapling should get an honorable mention for its dual-access cockpit. It effortlessly opens for loading and unloading a child, allowing easy access to the child's harness.
Some of the most complicated or challenging-to-use backpacks include the Clevr Cross Country, scoring a 2, and Phil and Teds Escape, scoring a 4. The lower-ranking options have challenging adjustments, such as straps that are hard or stiff to adjust and features that can cause frustration while hiking.
While testing the Osprey Poco, fastening the red cockpit buckles (pictured above) took both muscle power and some maneuvering of the backpack to find the best position with leverage. This issue docked the Osprey some points in this metric. Although the problem seems unusually challenging, it's what we experienced on the Osprey backpack we purchased and tested.
When carrying your child, you'll need to pack supplies, which means you will need storage. Our favorite baby backpacks are those with space for necessary items like a couple of disposable diapers, wipes for diaper changes, a spare baby outfit, and other hiking essentials such as water, snacks, a canopy, baby-friendly sunscreen, and rain protection. Backpacks with various pockets and internal organization features are more impressive than those with single open pouches, even if the storage pocket is large. Contenders with bigger waist pockets and storage within reach of the pack wearer are also an advantage.
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 lowest scoring contender is the Chicco SmartSupport Backpack, with a score of 1. This pack has absolutely no storage, not even one pocket. No storage means you'll have to come up with another solution for supplies, or you'll have to plan shorter trips. The Clevr Cross Country also scores low with a 3. This option has fewer pockets than the competitors, with nuisance fabric flaps that make the pockets stupidly hard to use.
Today, with several baby backpacks to choose from, 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 babies and toddlers, we can honestly attest that the best way to choose a baby backpack 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 make an informed decision for your family.
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Honest, objective reviews. Led by a Pediatrician.
BabyGearLab was founded by a Pediatrician Mom with a mission to provide a reliable, independent, source of information to new parents. Our experts have tested thousands of baby and kids products to share key performance, health, and safety findings. We spend tens of thousands of dollars crash testing car seats to inform our ratings. And, we combine our review work with gobs of expert parenting advice. To assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing by people who care.