Baby Backpacks

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Which frame pack to buy?

July 2011

We are in the market for a frame pack and I am looking for advice as to which one to buy. We need it to meet the following requirements: -Work comfortably for shorter day hikes around the bay area as well as long haul walks when traveling in Europe later this year. (I need a lot more support than even Moby and Ergo provide as I have a bad back). -Have adequate storage room in the backpack area for food and diapers for baby, tourbook, etc. -Fold small enough to fit into a suitcase -Switch easily between my tiny short frame and hubby's large frame -Work for smaller baby up to toddler. Also, some advice to get her to like it. We test drove a few at REI today and she seemed to hate all of them except the one I otherwise liked the least. Thanks! Needs to Ditch the Stroller

We loved the Stallion by Tough Traveler. It was comfortable, had a sunshade option, fit me at 5' 6' and my husband at 6'1'. I went to the website and it looks like they still make it. We did lots of hiking with it. One caveat is that it took awhile to adjust all the straps the first time, so read your directions and make sure your little one is comfy. We also hung a toy on the back so the baby could see it. coco

2009 - 2010 Reviews

2007 - 2008 Reviews

Backpack for hiking with 26-lb toddler

Oct 2008

Hi, I've looked through the archives about this topic but wanted to solicit more current feedback. My husband and I recently tried a Kelty backpack carrier to hike with our 26-lb. son. Neither of us liked the carrier because 1) our son was so far out behind that it felt like you had to lean forward to counterbalance, far more than you do in a regular backpacking pack; 2) it felt like too much weight and pressure ended up on our shoulders, making for really uncomfortable hiking; 3) there was nowhere for our son to rest his head, and he slept with his poor little neck at a 90-degree angle. I've eyedballed other carriers and many of them also seem to hold the child way out behind and offer no head support. Can anyone recommend a hiking carrier for a toddler that you love, that distributes the weight correctly on the parent, gives and child a place to rest his head -- a pack that you can ''wear'' instead of carry awkwardly? Longing to hike again

I have been really happy with our Ergo carrier for hiking. With a little practice, it was really easy to get our son in and out. It's a soft carrier with a padded waist strap for carrying weight on your hips; it can be worn on the front or the back - you will appreciate front-wearing when you're going uphill. It also has a hood with straps that can support a sleeping child's head - it's pretty difficult to attach the hood without another adult's assistance, though. Plus, since there's no frame it's really portable and easy to bring along, say, on an airplane. Ergo dad

You could try an Ergo carrier. That is what I have used. Wear your hair up (if nec.) and your child can rest the head on your back. There is no separation between your bodies, though, so it can get pretty hot and sweaty. anon

We own many slings and carriers and above all our favorite for hiking and just about everything else is the Ergo. Our 3.5 yr old still likes to go in it sometimes! I never could get along with frame carriers, they hurt my back. 2nd favorite for us is the Baby Trekker, similar in design to the Ergo and cheaper but a bit more fiddly. hiking mom

A great backpack is the one by Madden or laFuma; we had it 10 years ago; I hope it is still available. It fit my husband and me comfortably, and we have a 12'' difference in height! Kasia

We really like the Phil & Ted's Escape backpack. We also tried a Kelty backpack before the Escape and it just didn't work out. A friend had the Escape and it looked so much better for everyone -- parent and child -- that we went out and got one. It's great! Lots of adjustments to be made to make the load bearable for the parent. Perhaps the best part is how the child rides in the backpack. The kid seems to be more upright and lower down on the parent's back. They have a wonderful padded headrest that you can adjust to the right height and close the sides in as well. Here's a link to the website: It looks like they've done a bit of a redesign because ours came with a cute little backpack for the kids that attached to the top/back of the big backpack -- more schlepping space for you and a cute little backpack for the little one. Can't recommend it highly enough. We bought ours at Baby World in Oakland. anon

My family uses the Deuter Kid Comfort II. You can find it online, REI, or Rockridge Kids in Oakland. I bought it at Rockridge Kids after trying many on. Take your child with you to feel the weight distribution. We have used it many times and it still looks new. It was the only carrier my husband and I both liked. We have different body types and it is comfortable for both of us. It has a lot of great pockets to store stuff that is easy to get to. Though now that my daughter is 35 pounds I carry another backpack for food and supplies. Loving the outdoors

We used a Deuter brand ''KangaKid,'' which is a soft backpack with an internal frame. It is quite adjustable, with a thick waist band, and held our daughter closely to our body. Also stored lots of gear, which is a plus. Was heavier than a lightweight backpack, but not too bad... MP

You want a soft structured carrier, rather than a frame pack. Not only does an SSC keep the baby's weight close to the wearer's center of gravity, which is much safer and more comfortable, it's also far more versatile than a frame pack because it's much less bulky and you can use it indoors too -- for shopping, household chores, etc. SSCs tend to be easier to adjust for different size wearers, too, and the structured belt (with firm padding) does a good job of distributing most of the baby's weight to your hips.

The best known SSC is the Ergo, and it's a great choice for hiking because it's rugged and has a good storage pocket and hood. But there are other choices, including Patapum, Beco, Nana's Jetpak, Bloo Kangaroo (Kanga J, X or XT models), and many others. Which one will be best for you depends on your body size and shape, your baby's age, size and position preferences, and personal taste in fabrics and features.

Many parents use woven wraps for hiking, instead of any kind of structured backpack, and find them extremely comfortable, particularly (depending on the type of fabric) in very hot or very cold weather. They are harder to learn to use, though, and take more time to get on and off, so I think they are best for hiking with tiny babies and less wonderful if you're toting a toddler who's going to want to walk some of the way.

For more info and help choosing, check out Bay Area Babywearers ( and (the discussion forums are even more useful than the reviews and articles).

Holly (Volunteer Babywearing Educator and co-leader of Bay Area Babywearers) holly

2005 - 2006 Reviews

Baby backpack for short mom

Aug 2006

I am a short mom (5'2'') looking for a backpack to carry my petite 2-year-old while hiking around Yosemite. We have the REI Piggyback and it does NOT work for me. Any recommendations as to what kind of would work for me? Anyone have one to sell or loan? allyson

Try the Kelty Kids Pathfinder. It works well for me (5'3'') and my husband (5'11'') and our 28 lb. almost 3-year-old loves riding in it. The suspension is incredible compared to the Deuter backpack we used before springing for the Kelty ($190). It is very easy to custom fit (less than 60 seconds) for whomever's wearing it. Try test driving it (with your daughter in it) and other packs some day at REI. That's how we made the decision. At first sight, I thought it was too big for me but I quickly changed my mind after I tried it on. It is very well designed -- has a roomy sun/rain shield, too -- and a great investment if you're a frequent hiker with your kid. Ann

I'm also petite, and short-waisted to boot. The only baby backpack I found that would fit me was a Deuter Kid Comfort. We went with the Kid Comfort I, and have been very happy; if you want more features or cargo space, you could spring for the II or III. I continued to carry my son in it till he was over 30 lb. Amazingly, the deuter also adjusts to fit my 6-foot husband. My only beef was that the sun shade broke within hours of use Happy trails

Hi fellow short mom--I am 5'1'' and a huge fan of my Sutemi Pack: It is a soft carrier similar to the Ergo, but I tried both and found this to be much more comfortable on my small shoulders due to the wider padded straps which cross at the chest. If you are large-chested, this may be a slight problem, but I can't say for sure--best to try it if you can, or try to find reviews online from those better-endowed than I. BTW, I also tried the framed carriers, and despised them. My daughter's center of gravity was so much higher in the frame pack (even in the popular Deuter), that I felt like she was going to fly right out over my head every time she pitched her weight forward (which, at 1 yr, she was very prone to do). It did not feel safe to me at all, and was uncomfortable to boot. My husband had thought he'd prefer the Deuter (we borrowed one from a friend to try), but we tried both that and the Sutemi on hikes and he preferred the Sutemi as well, even though he's 6'2''. And we still use it with our now 2.5 year old ~30 pounder.

Anyway, you can get it at many places online, but back when I got mine a year or two ago, the best price was at (although they don't seem to have them right now), so shop around. Good luck! --Short mom, Sutemi fan

Baby carrier - backpack for short person

April 2006

I am a short person looking for recommendations on a backpack style baby carrier to take my seven month old on walks and hikes. I tried on two types at REI this weekend and found both ill-suited for my size. the REI brand had lots of adjustments and seemed comfortable to my husband. On me the torso adjustment was good, but the top pushed my head forward. the same with the other brand REI had (snuggli?) available. I would like a baby carrier that has a canopy for rainy weather. Please post or send messages with any suggestion on brands, or where to try out various types in the East Bay. Thanks, short torsoed babycarrier

Try the Ergo carrier. I'm short too, and use this all the time for walks and hikes. It doesn't have the rain canopy you wanted, but is comfortable and easily adjustable.

Thank you to all who responded to my request for recommendations. Of the five or six people who wrote me with their experiences - the overwhelming number said the ergo carrier was most comfertable. I went to Rockridge Kids today to try it out. It felt good in the store, and since they had a sale, I bought it. My husband and I spent the afternoon walking about (and what a gourgious afternoon to walk about) trying the ergo. Its a little difficult to get the hang of putting it on. I'm sure we will get the hang of it. Result is - baby fell asleep while we walked and our backs are not sore. thanks again. Evelyn

Baby backpack to fit tall person

June 2005

We are looking to purchase a backpack for our 18 pound daughter. I am 5'7'' and my husband is 6'4'' and I'd love to know of any backbacks that have worked for folks at these heights, and that are comfortable and functional -- for both parent and child. Thanks... Lori

I would recommend the Ergo Carrier. It's a frameless pack that cradles your child against your back. It has a thick padded hip belt so that a lot of the weight rests on your hips. And the shoulder straps don't sit so close to your neck (like a Bjorn) that your shoulders hurt right away. It's really comfortable, and works for both myself (5'4'') and my 6-foot tall much bigger husband. You can also use it with baby in front, but it's less comfortable. Baby sits in it, rather than hangs (like in a Bjorn), so it's more ergonomic and healthy for baby's back and leg development. I can't remember the name of the site, but there is a company that offers a 90-day money- back guarantee when you order it. So you can try it out and see if you like it. I found them by doing a Google search on Ergo Carrier. It also has these straps you can bring over your shoulders when baby is sleeping that help cradle baby's head against your back so it doesn't fall backwards. It's strudy and well-made and comes in 3 colors. Gal

Kelty Summit at REI. It's the top of the line, pricey, but completely worth it if you're actually going to do some hiking. It's really comfortable, and it adjusts in a snap. I thought we'd need to do that, but my husband & I end up using the same size (and I confess I don't remember how to do it, but I remember it was easy). We were checking out all the packs there, and were having a little trouble deciding till we tried this one on, and we both independently concluded that it was more comfortable than the rest. Plus it comes already with the cover, which we use all the time. We don't really use the duffle bag thing that it comes with. I also bought the foot straps, and so far we don't usually use those either. Janet

I recommend the Kelty ''Back Country'' baby backpack. It is very easily adjustable to different heights by just sliding a button. I am 5'7'' and my husband is a little over 6' and we've both found it very comfortable, and our little boy loves it too.

Kelty makes a variety of these backpacks and we got the good advice to buy one that has ''more padding than we think we will need, since you don't want to discover several miles into the trail that it's not comfortable.''

Sports Basement in the Presidio has them for about $169.99, I think, and other places like REI have them for around $200- 220. You could also try them on at a store then try to find one that's gently used on this list or on Craig's List for half the price. Katy

I can't recommend the Deuter backpack enough. They sell it at Rockridge Kids. I think the quality is much better than Kelter, and I found that it distributes weight closer to your body than the Kelter ones. My husband and I have done some serious all day hikes with it and it's very comfortable for wearing for hours on end. There's about 7 - 8'' difference in height between my husband and I and the Deuter backpack is super easy to adjust for differences in height. anon

2004 & Earlier

Baby backpack - lifespan?

Aug 2004

Our son is 13 months old, 22 pounds. We are looking into getting a baby backpack (Deuter, Kelty or Ergo). But how long do people use these for? I don't want to get it if we're only going to be using it for a couple of months. When do kids not want to be carried in those anymore?

this totally varies from kid to kid but our daughter LOVED being in the backpack (we got the higher end REI one) from when she was about one to about two - we got a solid year (or a little more) of using it every single weekend. she hated the stroller - was much happier to be up high seeing and interacting with the world and being close to her papa (who did the carrying). she is extremely tall for her age and i suspect that if she were more average sized we would have used it even longer. so, it was a great investment for us but it would be good if you could borrow someone else's to try a half dozen times (it will take a few times for your child to get used to it) to see if it works for you. Ioana

If you like to hi! ke, get it. Our daughter is almost two-and-a- half and we still haul her everywhere in our Kelty. We bought used, and I'm envious of those comfy-looking new ones, but it's held up great and our daughter loves being out-and-about in it. Douglas

I purchased an Ergo when my daughter was about 13 months old and I still use it now and she in 22 months old. I have heard that this one is used up to about 3 years old. It depends a lot on your childs personality. Some kids just want to be more independent and walk more. My little girl wants to walk a lot, but there are times that we just need to go somewhere quickly and her walking about isn't practical. It also helps when I am trying to make dinner and she wants to be held and I am not able to do that as I need both hands. The Ergo is great because it is soft and fast to put on as well. My only gripe! is that the sleeping hood does not work well for older babies. It only reaches to my babies neck at this age and does not cover her head. I have modified mine to fix this. Julia

Do you have a jogging stroller? If not you might want to consider buying a stroller instead of a backpack. Strollers can go most places a backpack can and it's much easier to manage. Sorry I can't help you with the lifespan question, but I bet you can use a jogging stroller longer than a backpack. anon

I used the Baby Bjorn to carry #1 for almost a whole year (8 to 25 pounds), bought a Tough Traveller and used it every day and for hiking (3 years) until I was pregnant with #2. Baby #2 weighed 10 pounds and I had a persistant hernia, so I hardly carried either one of them (used a stroller)! for 2 years. Now, I'm using the back pack again a lot! For both of them, one at a time of course! They both love to be up there. It's easier to carry them in the back pack and shop at small crowded markets like the Monteray or Farmers, even when they are bigger 2&5 years old) because they are safe and a lot less bored up there. The tough Traveler has a canopy for sun and rain which is great because it also fends off tree branches and people who want to touch your child. I don't know why exactly, but I was worried about them getting disease from strangers and it is all about you and what you can handle as a parent isn't it? Some people invest in lovely equipment that they can't use because it is so big or elaborate, that they don't have it with them when they are out. I was advised to get a Toys R us back pack and an umbrella stroller to keep in the car. I never used them because they were so unccomfortable for me and! the kids. What I did and do find incredibly useful, is the sit-n-stroll combination car seat stroller. You get them from catalogues that just come to you if you have a baby in the hospital. They wear out beacuse they are meant for travel but they are so convenient. I'm on my fourth one! Yes they get bent up and are kind of expensive, but, you always have it with you, they are very safe and comfortable for the kids, and you can pile 2 kids and stuff on it. Actually, as comfortable strollers go, even buying 2 per child isn't that much when you consider that it is a car seat too. Just snapping it shut and hopping into a train or taxi with a sleeping child will convince any one! Annie

April 2004

Re: Carrier for Europe trek with 22-pound baby

Get a Deuter. Not as expensive as the Kelty but don't let that fool you - it's way better! I got the Deuter Kid Comfort 2 because i do a lot of hiking in the hills and it has good baby support and good back support. Plus, the baby sits really close to you, which is good for not throwing off your balance. the hip belt is the best I've seen. The Deuter Kid Comfort 3 is a bit burlier, and may be something to think about because it has so much storage built into it. The only place I've seen them is at Rockridge Kids, so go check them out! It's not non-bulky, but if you're looking for something you can wear for extended periods of time (and it sounds like you are), I promise you that this is the pack you're looking for. Jen

Hi there! My son is also 11 months and 22 pounds and I JUST went through this same issue and would be happy to share what I found out and did about it.

The bjorn became useless (as you know!) about 5 pounds ago. I explored both options, a hip carrier and a backpack and ended up buying one of each (both used to save some money!)

For a backpack we purchased the Snugli Cross Country (see following link)

I found it at Rockridge Kids for approx. $80 and online from Wal-Mart for approx. $65 but ended up purchasing an almost new one on ebay for only $45, including shipping. (side note: I've found ebay to be a WONDERFUL resource for baby gear, especially if you're patient enough to wait for the right deal). I am 5'4'' and my husband is 6'1''. Although the specifications state that it will fit adults as small as 5', I do not find the backpack to be the *perfect* fit for me. I can use it but the lower lumbar support does not hit me in the right place on my lower back so I think I would find it uncomfortable for a longer walk. It hits a little low, but maybe once I get to know the backpack better I can make an appropriate adjustment. When we're on a ''backpack'' activity, I just let my husband carry the baby. The great thing about the backpack is the kickstand. It makes a great highchair in a jiffy which may be something to think about for a trek through Europe. It also has a big storage area underneath to keep some spare diapers, etc. But I wouldn't load it up too much because it will just add extra weight to the pack.

I also purchased a hip hammock (used through the newsletter for half the price of a new one) which I keep in the car for quick trips into the grocery store, etc. I used it at a 2 hour trip to the zoo once and wasn't even a little tired afterward. No sore neck, no aching back. The *key* to getting it comfortable is the waist adjustment. Make sure it's tight enough around your waist. Once I figured that out, we were set! The benefit of the hip hammock is that it rolls right up and you can easily throw it in the diaper bag. They say it can carry kids up to age 4. After using it now, I think that as long as a child can still be carried on your hip, it will work. See their website for further info.

Both carriers (and other brands) are sold at Rockridge Kids. If I could have afforded to purchase both of them new, I would have given them my business because I love to support small, local businesses as much as I can. I cannot say enough good things about the staff in that store. I would suggest going there and talking with the staff about the carriers and trying them both on with your baby. (and not just for carriers, but for everything!)

We've been using the backpack and the hip hammock for about a month now and completely happy and satisfied with both systems. We don't find the backpack too bulky or awkward in public spaces and the hip hammock is surprisingly useful and comfortable. I would be hard-pressed to pick one over the other but considering a trek through Europe and if I could only pick one or the other I would probably pick the backpack, if for nothing else because it would probably be more comfortable for my son for longer periods of time. (although I'd probably sneak the hip hammock into the storage space...) Hope that helps. Happy baby-carrying! Tiffany

We used the Tough Traveller Stallion extensively for both our children. I tried on all the packs at REI and it was the most comfortable hip belt and straps to fit both my husband (6') and me (5'6''). Plus it has a detachable daypack in addition to the attached zipper compartment, and a detachable sun/rain canopy. We used it around town and for fairly serious hikes. There are alot of straps so take time adjusting it the first time or ask a salesperson to help you. Also, attaching a few toys to the top was very effective as entertainment. kathryn

While a frame backpack, like a Kelty, may work better for, well, hiking, it's not the best choice for walks-about-town, use on trains and in hotels or homes, etc. For that a soft carrier is usually a lot more comfortable and less awkward. I suggest looking at an Ergo, which can be used on your back or on your front, beginning as soon as baby can sit up and up to 60 pounds! If you and your baby are used to the Bjorn, this will probably be an easy transition. (You can buy an Ergo in various places; one source is

If you do plan a lot of long hikes, it's worth taking a look at the frame packs, since they may offer features like sun protection for baby and extra pack space for diapers and other stuff, but getting a good fit is crucial. And if more than one adult (like, both mom and dad) will be wearing it, it has to be adjustable to fit both well. So shop carefully; try-ons are really necessary to know what will work best for you. Have fun! Holly

I'd like to second all the recommendations for the Ergo baby carrier. We originally bought a Kelty backpack. Although it's comfortable, we found it to be way too bulky. It's so bulky we never want to use it/can't fit it in the car. Our other big problem with the Kelty was that our daughter (now 9mo) couldn't fall asleep in it for more than 10minutes. I've seen lots of other babies sacked out in their's but she just couldn't get comfortable. In the Ergo she sleeps with no problem which is huge on long hikes. The only downsides of the ergo. 1. it can be a little awkward to get the baby in by yourself (my husband won't do it, I have no problem) and 2. the baby can get a bit warm/sweaty from being so close. Noreen

Experience with REI backpacks?

Oct. 2003

I would like to get a baby backpack now that my daughter is getting too heavy to wear in the Bjorn for extended periods of time. I've read the previous recommendations but was wondering if anyone has had any experience with the REI brand of child carriers. Thanks! shari

I found that every back pack feels/fits differently and so it is a good idea to try them on to see which one works best for you. Rockridge Kids has a few different kinds as well as do other stores in the area. I would try them all on until I found one that fits [you]. anon

After doing a fair amount of research, we ended up buying one from LL Bean. It never worked for me. It was too heavy. They ALL were too heavy. And I had great difficulty lifting the pack and my child onto my back. I never felt safe doing it alone- could not get the right angle from the ground up; too scary to leave it loaded on any elevated surface. I do have friends that had success with KELTY. If my memory serves me correctly, you can try/buy at REI. Leslie

Try it on with as heavy a baby as you can borrow (have a friend with a few months older and heavier baby come along) and then also with your own baby; get a salesperson who can show you all the correct adjustments. I think the quality and features are as good as any of the high-end backpacks, you just have to find the one that fits your body the best. The rei and kelty ones 5 years ago (different models now) didn't fit me at all, I am 5'3 and even though they were rated for 5'1-6'0 tall parents, the Madden and Tough Traveler were the ones that felt comfortable on my back with a 15-20+ lb. baby in them and the REI felt like it was really for 5'6 and up. Chris Z.

We ended up getting a Deuter back pack instead. We found it to be much better than the REI brand or the Kelter brand that REI sells. It's constructed better, easier to use, seems much more comfortable for the child and safer, and can be adjusted significantly when one parent is taller than the other. (My husband is 8'' taller than I am and the Deuter back pack is easy for us to switch back and forth between us when on hikes.) My husband also has a bad back (herniated disc) and is able to wear this backpack without a problem - the weight distribution is amazing -- you don't carry any weight on your shoulders! Apparently it holds the child closer to you than any other one, which also helps. It also has a nice size carrying pouch right below where the child sits, so the weight of what's in there is held close as well. We got ours at Rockridge Kids, where they were much more knowledgeable and helpful than anyone we spoke with at REI. anon

Using a snugli backpack

June 2003

I recently bought the snugli backpack and realized it is a huge hassle to put my 6 month old into! Does anyone have any comments on how to make it easier? I want to use it for a cross country trip since he is now too big for the baby bjorn. Also, it really hurt my back the one time I did use it..... rachel

We got a Snugli and have completely given it up for slings (one to fit each of us). I have a bad back and was getting awful headaches and backaches every time I took our daughter out in it. The sling (we got the New Native ones) I can wear for hours and hours with no pain. I wish I could offer you something more helpful than ''You're not alone,'' but, um, I have grown to hate the Snugli and am actually taking it down to the resale this afternoon. Sara

Backpack for real backpacking

June 2003

I'd like some updated information on baby carrying backpacks. My husband and I would like to buy a backpack for doing ''real'' (overnight) backpacking with our daughter-she's a strong 4 months now so will be perfect this summer. We went to Marin Outdoors and were fitted for the new Kelty Summit which is second from the top of their line. It felt like a real backpack-padded and weighted right and our daughter looked really supported in her compartment. We have heard good things about Maddens and tried one at Rockridge Kids and just aren't sure. It's half the weight but we had trouble adjusting it to my husband who is a little over 6 ft, and the baby just didn't seem as supported for days of hiking. Part of the problem was that we couldn't find anyone really knowledgeable to help us fit it (we were definitely more qualified than anyone there) and we can't find them around anywhere else, despite Madden's website claims. Does anyone have any experience with these? We are well aware that when backpacking, little differences make BIG differences after awhile so we are willing to spend money for comfort. Can anyone comment on the newer Kelty's which seem to be a lot nicer and more comfortable than older models? Another issue is that we'd like Mom (me) to be able to take some gear in addition to the baby so want one we can load a little. I suppose next month we will be having to make decisions about dayhiking packs. Patty

I don't know about packs for real camping, but for daypacks we MUCH preferred the REI brand -- we tried lots, borrowed a Kelty for weeks (hit me in the low back wrong -- too long for me), then went to REI and bought a pack that we've been happy with for a full year now - it's superb. It was their top of the line carrier pack for day trips -- has a pouch in back and side pockets and a mirror so you can see what your little one is doing. Ioana

Hi, YOu mentioned the Madden pack. I have one of these, although not one that is hefty enough for long trips. I absolutely love it. I would recommend that you talk to Christian at Rockridge Kids. He was wonderful and helped fit me! Good luck, Michelle

We have a Madden backpack that we purchased about 4 years ago at Marmot Mountain Works. We love that it fits my husband 6'6'' and myself 5'7''. They were good with fitting it. At the time there were two models. The higher one definately outfitted for backpacking. Good luck. Amy

Hi -- We also do a lot of outdoor backpacking and we bought a Deuter backpack (at Rockridge kids.) It's very comfortable, and has an attached sun/rain fly under a hidden zippered pocket and you can buy a full rain fly separately. It also has a large pocket in the lower frame that can hold a lot of stuff (sleeping bags, etc) in addition to the regular backpack pockets on the back of the pack.. I did a bunch of research and found the Kelty's to be pretty uncomfortable to carry over long distances. They hold the weight in a way that makes you feel like you're tipping over backwards. And the Madden's are good, but I have heard they kickstand part is really tippy. Maddens are also heavier and cost more than the Deuters. I found reviews of all the packs online and the Deuters were recommended for off trail hiking and scrambling -- the baby is really safe and comfortable. - Candace

We have Kelty summit 2002 model and we are very pleased with it because it has adjustments everywhere so we can custom fit it to our baby as he grows and also to me and my husband. We started using it since our son was 4 months old and he has been very happy in it. Also, the sun/rain/wind shade is a must because it also protects him from tree branchs on the trails. We also purchased their diapar bag which fits under the baby so I can carry some stuff other than the baby. The only thing is the weight of the pack. I also tried Kelty Meadow but we didn't like it because the child sits way far from your body and weight of the baby seemed to pull you toward the back. I don't have any experience with the other brand you are interested. But if you have more questions on Kelty backpacks, please feel free to send us an email. jayjay

We have a Kelty Summit. We didn't do much research before buying it, because it was partly a gift. We did, however, trade up from the Kelty Backcountry. I love the backpack, and I'd recommend this one over all the other Kelty's if that's what you decide, and I bought it partly with the idea that we'd take our daughter backpacking. However, I am appalled that neither Kelty nor the other manufacturers seemed to put much thought into some basic things. For example, my daughter falls asleep almost every single time she's in it (and if your child will be 4 months when you go, I can almost guarantee it will happen to you as well). There is NO head support, and virtually no way to provide it. I had a little baby neck pillow, and put it at the back of her head, but her head just flopped forward onto the rigid, not soft, and not easily cleanable front bar. It's a little uncomfortable to just put towels or blankets underneath, because it's difficult to see if she can breathe. I bought a second baby neck pillow and put it in the front, only to have it fall out sometime on the 1-hr hike I took. Now I have a firmer, wedge of foam that is tucked into the front bar, and it works reasonably well and can be washed. But this would be a really easy addition for Kelty to add, so I don't know why it doesn't already exist. The summit overall is a very comfortable and easy to use backpack. The kickstand thing is great, so you have the backpack standing while you're trying to get the baby secured, then you can pick up the pack relatively easily to put it on your back. The pack adjusts really easily, and though it is more expensive than the others, it holds more weight, and it is more comfortable--and not just because of the easy adjustment. Plus, it comes with the rain/sun hood, a zip-off backpack, and a duffle bag that clips underneath. Still, the storage is really an afterthought (also appalling, coming from Kelty). You'd need to secure the duffle bag better in order to really pack any gear in there and not throw off your balance. But I don't know if other packs are any better. The rain/sun hood is a little annoying in that you have to unhook velcro straps through a loop just to get the baby out--and you probably won't really take it off, since the baby doesn't really need to be in the sun. Plus, I find it just a little annoying that the baby can only really see clearly (not through plastic or mesh) out the sides. And you can't really see her either (I carry a lightweight mirror, which I'd strongly recommend). Again, I don't know if other packs are better-but I did see a Yakima backpack where the rain/sun hood is 90 degrees rotated, so they can't really see out the sides, but they can see out in front. I don't know if that's better or not. Also, you may eventually want some of the accessories: stirrups for their feet ($10 or so at campmor), or possibly the mosquito netting (which is really expensive). keep in mind, too, that any rain that isn't falling straight down can get the baby wet w/o an umbrella overhead or raingear on the baby. janet

When you're looking for a baby backpack for hiking, you should definitely seek the advice of a BACKPACKING expert (not a baby gear expert).. try REI in berkeley -- they'll know all about how the pack should fit and all the features. I agree,, at baby stores, folks don't know much about good backpacks :)

i recommend the kelty -- we use a back country with a diaper duffel (which can be purchased separately) for even more cargo room. its great!! i'm really little -- under 5'4'' and 110 Lbs, but i can still carry my 30LB 2-year-old comfortably in it .. my legs get tired eventually, but not my back!!

Visit REI, try it on with baby in it, and make sure that some one knowledegable is fitting you for it so you know its on there right !! meg

Using a baby backpack while pregnant

Feb 2003

I am pregnant with my second child, and am wondering how long it will be safe and comfortable for me to continue going for walks with my 16 month old in my baby backpack. This has been one of my primary forms of exercise, and I'd like to continue doing it as long as possible. I use an REI Kids First pack with a waist/hip belt, and my daughter weighs about 25 lbs. I'd like to know how long other moms have carried their child in a backpack while pregnant. Thanks! anon

I, too, regularly hiked with my daughter before I became pregnant with my now son. My daughter was a year old when I became pregnant and I carried her in a backpack until I was 7.5 months pregnant. I stopped only because I got too big for the belt to go over my belly. That was the best position for me and the way I ''carried.'' I just went very slowly so that I didn't overexert myself. My son is now 7 months old and I've been backpacking with them both for a couple of months. I alternate one in the backpack and one in the jogger stroller. Believe it or not, they're about the same weight! Good luck to you and keep hiking! Karen

Madden v. Tough Traveler

October 2001

I'm looking for recommendations for an infant/child carrying pack. I've read through the listed recommendations, and see a lot of good words regarding Tough Traveler brand. I didn't see any pros or cons regarding Madden packs (we tried some on at Rockridge Kids). They have internal frames - and the adjustable one is quite expensive. Is it worth it? My husband is 8 taller than I, so it seems necessary that it be adjustable. We will mostly use it for short hikes or shopping, though I still have fantasies of longer hikes out of Tuolumne Meadows (obviously next year). Any advice is appreciated. Thanks. Jenny

If you're going to be using a backpack a lot, say more than a few times a month, I would absolutely buy the Madden backpack. Maddens are far and away the best made and most comfortable kid-carrying packs. However, you pay for it: the last time I priced them they were some $75 - $100 more than Tough Travelers and Keltys. So you have to decide if you're going to use it enough to warrant the extra expense. I was hiking 2 - 3 times a week with my first child, so I knew that I would get my money's worth out of it. On occasion I pull out my old Tough Traveler and I'm always surprised at how uncomfortable it is compared with the Madden. Now don't get me wrong - Tough Travelers are excellent packs and to me felt much better than Keltys, so a TT would be my second choice; but I'm sure glad I have my Madden! Richard

We have the Madden, the pricey one that is adjustable, and really like it. Though my husband and I are close to the same height, I am very short-waisted and he is long waisted. After trying on all the choices, it was the only possible one that we could both wear comfortably. Do try it with your child in it before you buy. We've used it several times and it's quite comfortable. It also includes a little backpack and the sunshade. I think it's worth the price if you plan to get good use out of it. We are happy with ours! Kate

I think the usable time for a backpack is about 1 year of a toddler's life. I say that b/c an infant is too small to go into the backpack until they're at least 6 months, but more likely closer to a year. Then by the time they are close to 2 years old, they could walk, or actually run all over. We purchased a Madden backpack and I think it was not necessary, particularly b/c we used the back pack only about 20 times (mostly at Point Isabelle). It's reportedly more supportive, and a better fit for folks 5'6 and under. I think if we were to do it again, I would have gotten a Tough Traveler, b/c it's a better buy. I've myself used the Madden pack only once, and my husband used it the rest of the time, so we could have gone w/ the Tough Traveler after all and saved some bucks. Susan

Backpack for light hiking

Jan 2000

I have a 5 month old daughter and am in the market for a backpack-type carrier. I hope to get one soon that will last through toddlerhood. I'm interested in using one for light hiking (three miles or so) and traipsing around the city, etc. I'd greatly appreciate any suggestions on brands and qualities to look out for when shopping and comparing one carrier to the next. Thanks!

We have a Kelty Kids carrier that we love. They make 5 or 6 different models with the Town being the entry model and then it goes up from there. We have the Trek model (mid range). It retails for $149, but REI on-line was having a special in December for $99 - you might want to check it out. We looked at a lot of these packs and the Kelty Kids packs were really superior in our opinion. I think you can carry a child up to 40-45 pounds + some equipment. This would be great for day hikes, around town, even backpacking.

When my daughter was an infant, I bought a Kelty kid pack, as well as an additional matching backpack that could be zipped on and off the pack. The pack itself *looked* like it was engineered well, and it felt okay when I tried it in the store, with my daughter in it and giggling. However, after repeated use, I can say that I wouldn't recommend it at all. It wasn't balance properly, and although it had many, many adjustments, it never quite seem to fit comfortably -- for either me or my daughter's dad, and we are quite different in size and shape. It should have at least worked for *one* of us, neh? But no. Let me add that I am also a former mountain ranger -- maybe that makes me a qualified judge, or maybe I'm just too picky. :) At any rate, I kept it and used it because 1)it was expensive and I was stuck with it and 2)it was still much more convenient than a stroller for some types of outings, both urban and rural.

The matching backpack, however, RULES and is still what I use today. It has zippers and pockets in all the right places, and the bottom half of the bag can be collapsed and zipped in, or expanded to full size. My kid is almost three, and the pack shows no wear and tear and still fits everything I could conceivably want to carry with us, including her padded potty seat, a small soft cooler, a blanket, small toys, and extra clothes. I never carried a diaper bag, just this wonderful pack.

We started out with a cheaper model, the Tough Traveler, but found it quite uncomfortable. We then spentsome money on the Kelty, which we've never regretted. Could be because we're both tall, or that the Kelty is actually designed like a hiking backpack? I gave my old TT to a friend who finds it acceptable but not all that great. One Kelty complaint: not enough storage compartments! You have to buy them separately. I believe all the Kelty models have the same load-carrying infrastructure, but the higher end ones offer more storage, fancy rain canopies and such.

The ONLY way to know whether a carrier works for you is to try each one you can get your hands on. They are VERY different, and each fits differently on different-sized people. Make sure you're getting help from someone who knows how to fit them well. I hear the owner of Rockridge Kids is good. Also, make sure you have the baby (or a heavier baby preferably) on your back in the carrier for a good amount of time before deciding, or see if you can buy the carrier and return if it's not comfortable. We bought and returned two, then ended up using a hand-me-down.

I have a pack from Tough Traveler which is over 10 years old as its a hand me down from my brother. This pack has been around the world and been used by at least 5 kids for everything from trips to the park and store, to real hikes in Yosemite, etc. Before getting this we bought a much more expensive Kelty pack at REI and after testing it at home realized that the hand me down was much better in comfort and function so we saved over $100 and have a much better pack. I'd recommend the basic version, and you can add accessories, ie sun/rain hood, additional pouches if necessary. They were available at REI last time I was there, right next to the higher priced Kelty I returned.

A nice alternative to a frame backpack for children is a Baby Trekker. It's all cloth, with straps that go around your shoulders and waist. We've used it since our baby was 3 or 4 months old; he's a very tall 32-pound year-and-a-half now, and it's still very comfortable. Both my husband and I have found it to be much more comfortable than backpacks we tried. The baby can face in or out, or your front or back. We often still carry him on the front, which wouldn't be feasible in any other carrier we've tried at his size, and it's also quite comfortable with him on our back, for long hikes or if we're climbing up rocks on our walks. It took a little getting-used-to at first because the straps are long and seem a little complicated, but pretty quickly it seemed easy to use. It adapts well to different sized adults; my husband and I are very different in size. The Baby Trekker keeps the baby very close to your body, which I've found throws off my center of gravity less than backpacks do, which makes carrying the baby a lot less tiring. And I haven't felt any strain in my back as I did with backpacks; the weight just seems to be distributed better. It's made by a small company in Canada. Their number is 800-665-3957. You can mail-order it, and return it if it doesn't work for you. I think it cost about $60.

I have had very good luck with the Tough Traveler pack. I can comfortably carry my 25-lb daughter for extended periods of time, and the attached pocket is large enough for pretty much anything you need on an extended jaunt. My husband (who is 6 taller) finds it equally comfortable, and it takes only seconds to adjust it from my setting to his or vice versa. (This is their high-end Stallion pack; some of the other models don't have the same adjustability. The Kelty packs, which I tried at REI, didn't seem easily adjustable either.) After a year of almost daily use, it shows no signs of wear. The features that keep me using it even now that my daughter is getting heavy are 1) she will happily stay in the pack for WAY longer than she'll put up with a stroller and 2) with an oversized umbrella, it's jsut the thing for walks in the rain. But to reiterate what someone else has said: what works for someone else may not work for you. All babies are not created equal, and just 'cause mine is happy as a clam in the pack doesn't mean yours will enjoy it as much. Likewise, a given design may be comfortable for one person but not for others, and some of us just show more aptitude as pack animals.

Earlier Recommendations

From: Laurel (May 1999)

We ended up buying the Tough Traveler, Stallion model. It was 50 % off at REI; I don't think we would have paid full price ($160!). It is very comfortable, but the best part is that it is adjustable for different heights. My husband is 6 feet tall and I'm 5'3, so we needed something that could accommodate both of us. You might want to keep that in mind when you're considering backpack models. The only thing I don't like about the Stallion is that the zipper bag under the baby seat does not come off, so unless you're a contortionist, things (keys, wallet, etc.) are difficult to get to. Good luck, Laurel

From: Kateri (7/98)

re: baby back pack. We have hiked extensively with our kids, and there is definitely a time when the Baby Bjorn/sling is too painful for a long hike with a 14 lb'er or so, and the Tough Traveler deluxe backpacks (which we definitely recommend for ages 8 mos to 4 years!) don't offer enough support for the child, esp. if they need to sleep. Answer: a good old Gerry back pack, with a waist band to put weight on your hips. The child is very well supported, but in close contact to your back, and can rest his/her head on your shoulders when they sleep.

From: Tahani (Jan 1998)

We were able to buy one of the good, expensive, heavy-duty yuppie hiker frame type backpacks -- I can't remember the brand -- Kelty? -- through a friend of ours for far less than the list price. Later on I picked up at a resale store one of the much smaller ones (again, I can't remember the brand -- some very well-known manufacturer of baby stuff) which was just a seat slung between a metal frame that folds out when you want to sit the baby on the floor and in when it's on your back.

Anyway, we used the small cheapo one perhaps 99% of the time. The main problem with the bigger ones is just that -- their size. You knock people over when you turn around in stores, and fill up half the trunk with them. The cheapo ones fold flat. (They're rather like a very simple camping stool.) I'm sure the big backpack provides far more support, etc. etc., but it's just not worth it unless you're hiking for miles and miles.

Funny, I was just earnestly giving my brother this same advice over Christmas!

From: Nils (Jan 1998)

RE: Baby backpacks, we have a Tough Traveller Stallion w/ added rain/sun shade (optional, + $30 or so). At over 150.00, not cheap, but well made as any backpack (it has external frame), light, and adjusts all over. You MUST adjust it properly for different size parents! or risk back problems, but that could be so with any carrier. I carried our elder boy until over 2 yrs (30+lbs) in the mountains, and did fine.

From: David (Jan 1998)

Re: the kids backpack, we just received an aluminum frame Kelty Kids pack as a holiday gift. It seems excellent, though we haven't used it yet. Others have said it's a Cadillac. I know it can be purchased at REI.

From: Natasha (Jan 1998)

Although Kelty and Gerry have come out with new models since we first bought our baby backpack several years ago, I believe that the Tough Traveler brand is the best. Go to REI to have a look at all the options, and then call around to the consignment shops to see if you can save some money by buying a used backpack. (Toy World, Lillian's and Darla's have them occasionally). The Tough Traveler has several models: the Pony, the Stallion, the Colt, etc. The differences have to do with the amount of weight they can accommodate, and whether it is possible to clip on some of the accessories such as a rain/wind hood and additional carrying pouches. We have one of the larger/accessorized models which we have used for long hikes, inclement weather,or a heavier child, and we also have one of the smaller, simpler models for errands around town or short hikes. By the way, check out my web page for local hikes to take with babies:

From: Susan

REI on San Pablo has some excellent baby backpacks. Make sure you get a salesperson to help you fit one properly. I tried several on and gave up, finding them all much too large--until the salesman showed me all the rather complicated adjustments. We had had a Tough Traveler backpack from several years back that my husband used but that was always uncomfortable for me--it was built for a bigger person. The new Tough Traveler we got from REI has a key adjustment--the parents' back length--which is very important if you're short like me. Sorry, I can't find any model name or number on it, but if you work with the people at REI and take a good test run around the store with your baby in the pack I'm sure you'll find a good one. It's been a lifesaver for me--I wear it around the house a good part of the day and it keeps my ten-month-old happy. My husband wears it as he does the dishes at night and she falls asleep in it.