Baby Carriers for Hiking: framed backpacks vs. soft carriers – Pros and Cons

So you want to buy a hiking carrier for hiking with your baby and you’re wondering which style will be right for you.  In this article, I’ll be breaking down the pros and cons of choosing a framed backpack vs. a soft carrier.

Soft Carriers for Hiking with Baby

What they are: The most popular soft carriers for hiking are Soft Structured Carriers (aka SSC aka Buckle Carriers).  These usually have a soft cloth panel which holds the baby against the wearer’s body, along with padded shoulder straps and a padded waistbelt. They fasten with clips or buckles.

In addition to Buckle Carriers, soft carriers that can be comfortably used for hiking with your baby includes wraps, meh dai and onbuhimo carriers.

“I prefer an SSC. Frame carriers throw me too much off balance because they make kiddo higher than me. They’re just as comfy, and my husband doesn’t have that issue, but I do. I’m also a klutz as is so I don’t need the extra off steadiness.” – Stefani H.

“Quick up and downs for Eli would be my biggest pro for using an SSC on a hike.” – Maria M.

“The frame packs definitely allow more airflow, but I find them to be quite bulky and heavy feeling. An SSC is much more comfortable, and you can maneuver around with much more ease, but can run hotter.” – Krista C.

“I’ve used both, and as a smaller framed person, I just couldn’t handle the weight of my child + the carrier in a frame pack. No matter how I adjusted the frame pack, it was painful. I feel much more support in a Tula, and also appreciate the extra comfort granted by the thick shoulder padding.” – Ashley M.

Soft carriers for hiking with your baby
Climbing Rocks at Joshua Tree National Park, photo credit: Erin Cokeh Halla


Pros to Soft Carriers:

Cons to Soft Carriers

Choose a soft carrier for hiking if:

  • you already have one and love it – no need to fix what isn’t broken!
  • you want a carrier that is very versatile and can be used for other situations besides hiking
  • you are typically doing shorter hikes, measured in hours rather than days
  • you don’t need a ton of storage
  • you have ways to protect yourself and baby from the sun/rain/elements while in the carrier
  • framed backpacks are outside your budget

3 Best Soft Structured Baby Carriers

Bestseller No. 1
LÍLLÉbaby 4-in-1 Essentials Original Ergonomic Baby & Child Carrier, Lily Pond - 100% Cotton
  • FOUR POSITIONS: The LÍLLÉbaby ESSENTIALS Original carrier is made from soft, durable cotton and easily transitions between four ergonomic carry styles and is the perfect on-the-go babywearing solution
  • VERSATILE CARRYING: With two-way straps allowing you to carry backpack style or forwards, the LÍLLÉbaby ESSENTIALS Baby Carrier provides comfort & support for you and your child no matter where you go
  • HANDS-FREE COMFORT: When on-the-go, LÍLLÉbaby's baby carriers & toddler carriers let you hold your child in comfort and style. Adjustable side panels widen & narrow the seat for comfortable hip positioning.
  • NATURAL BOND: LÍLLÉbaby makes baby products that bring functional style to parents. We want parents to be able to keep baby close while building a natural bond with comfortable baby carriers and slings.
  • FOR LÍLLÉBABY innovation is always top of mind. We won’t rest until every caretaker has access to the best babywearing solutions, allowing families to keep comfort, closeness, and independence in balance.
Bestseller No. 2
Ergobaby Embrace Cozy Newborn Baby Wrap Carrier (7-25 Pounds), Pure Black
  • COZY: Softness of a baby wrap, the comfy knit fabric nestles baby close to parent
  • SIMPLE: No complicated wrapping or tying
  • COMFORTABLE: Supportive waistbelt and spreadable cross straps
  • LIGHTWEIGHT & COMPACT: Easily rolls up and stores in diaper bag
  • NEWBORN CARRIER: 7-25 lbs.

Framed Backpacks for Hiking with your Baby

Framed backpack baby carriers


What they are: framed backpacks are what many people think of when they think of hiking baby carriers.  They are modeled after traditional hiking backpacks, but instead of the larger compartment, they have a seat for your baby suspended on a frame.

“I definitely prefer a hiking specific frame carrier. Much more airflow and they have better sun protection (if you have shade) without making it stifling for your little one like the hood on an SSC does in the heat. They also often have more/bigger pockets than an SSC allowing you to pack more things within the carrier itself. It also makes it so that you can safely set your little one down as long as you’re staying right next to them because the frame keeps the carrier upright.” – Kayla S.

“We used to hike weekly and hands down the hiking frame made such a difference. Living in the desert meant we could get airflow and shade with a hiking frame carrier and I honestly love that when worn properly it got the weight completely onto my hips and nowhere else. I never felt like it threw me off balance and for once my son could see! Plus there is room for supplies in a hiking carrier.”  – Rachel W.

“I have a lillebaby airflow ($125) and I just bought a deuter comfort 3 (original price:$300, on sale at rei: $175). Went on a 3.2 mile high w/ serious elevation gain. There is no way on God’s good earth I could have done that hike in my lillebaby. The path was too uneven, and I sweated profusely (which would have made my daughter extremely uncomfortable). In the deuter she was able to be extremely comfortable/stable and even slept a good portion of the hike. I rely on my lillebaby on a daily basis, but for serious hikes, the deuter will be my go-to.” – Amaris M.

Pros of Framed Backpacks

Cons of Framed Backpacks

Choose a framed backpack if:

  • you already have one and love it – no need to fix what isn’t broken!
  • you need a lot of storage on your hike
  • you are going on a multi-day hike, both for the storage and because these carriers are specifically built for hiking and will likely be better on your body over several days.
  • you want or need the rain and sun protection accessories available with these carriers
  • you have an older child and are finding that your soft pack carrier doesn’t provide enough support

3 Best Hiking Baby Backpack Carrier

Bestseller No. 1
Bee Yellow Framed Cute Animal Design Baby Summer Backpack Pu Leather Women Backpack Leather Drawstring Waterproof Pu Leather Backpack Purse Leather Backpack For Teens For Women
  • Material : High quality PU Leather durable polyester lining.This womens leather backpack is super soft with a comfortable hand feeling, simple and fashion.Feminine small leather backpack purse,looking fresh and young,could be used as fashion daypack,college student's school bag, mini travel bag and ect.
  • Size : 10.5 x 5 x 12.5 inch.Interior Pocket---Contain 1 generous pockets, included 1 inner zippered pockets,2 patch pockets and 1 outside zipper bag.Have phone slot and card slot. Easily carry your mobile phone, wallet, cosmetic, umbrella and other daily essential things.
  • Design : Drawstring Closure is designed for the safety of your properties. Beautiful color fit it your personal style. Traveling, Work Place, Dating, Shopping. Perfect for the women or girls who want their hands free.
  • Ocation : Fashion backpack purse perfect for weekend getaway bag,college bag,very snazzy for go shopping or do outdoor activities,cute casual and work bags to carry all your small daily essentials.
  • It's a wonderful gift for ladies on birthday,Thanksgiving,Christmas, New Year, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day etc.
Bestseller No. 2
Diaper Bag Backpack,Daisy Flowers in Different Featured Framed Printed Waterproof Travel Back Pack, Nappy Bag Large Capacity, Unisex and Stylish
  • Daisy Flowers In Different Featured Framed Diaper Bag Backpack,Material Polyester Fabric, Empty Bag Can Also Stand
  • Product Dimensions:11 Inch (L) X 7 Inch (W) X15.7 Inch (H)
  • Large Capacity:Separate Storage Pockets Including Insulated Pockets & Wet Clothes Pocket, You Can Put Milk Bottle, Water Bottle, Clothes, Diaper, Towel, Etc In Different Separate Pockets.
  • Can Be Used As Diaper Bag, Nappy Bag, Travel Daypack, Laptop Backpack, Suit For Young Mummy Who Has A Lot Of Things For Her Baby When Hang Out
  • Created To Improve Your Life:Youâ€ll Love Our Clever Design And Unique Features That Make Your Life Easier- Convenient Wide-Mouth Top Opening And A Rear Zipper Opening For Easy Access Into Main Compartment.
Bestseller No. 3
Ubikort Star Wars Lamp 3D Night Light Millennium Falcon, Great Star Wars Gifts for Men and Kids, Perfect Birthday Gift for Star Wars Decor ROM Fans [Upgrade Version]
  • ☑️ Great Present 3d Lamp Star Wars Gift: Everyone including STAR WARS FANS loves to have the UbiKORT 3D Star Wars Millennium Falcon Lamp! The lamp is a GREAT BIRTHDAY GIFT item for men, women, boys, girls, kids and star wars baby fans of all ages.
  • ☑️ Awesome 3D Lamps: Light up your room, office or even your bathroom with this wonderful night light. Each of our energy efficient Led bulb has a lifespan of 50,000 hours. This means that your 3D Lamp Star Wars Millennium Falcon will LAST A LIFETIME.
  • ☑️ Safe For Kid’s Use: Our Led produces a warm glow, yet it doesn’t over heat. It is cold to the touch so kids can use with total confidence, wether you find your way to your bathroom or have your child drift off to sleep, this nightlight is a perfect home and office Star Wars decorations
  • ☑️ High-Quality Lamp Comes in 7 changeable color modes. You can change the colors with a swipe of the finger to YELLOW, PINK, SKY BLUE, RED, GREEN, BLUE and WHITE. It can also flash and displays all the colors together.
  • ☑️ Make People Say Wow!: Unique gadget for family and friends and a Great decoration for Home, Office, Bedroom, Bars. Comes with USB 2mts Cable and a cool UbiKORT box ready to use. Are you ready to captivate your love ones? 100% Satisfaction Money-Back Guarantee

I hope this helps you make your decision!

For more information on hiking with your baby and choosing a hiking carrier, check out these articles!

The SlingLady’s Survival Guide to Hiking with Your Baby

Baby Hiking Carriers – our favorites for taking day hikes

Baby Carriers for Hiking – why I love a soft carrier over a framed backpack for hiking with my baby any day!

And for more information on Framed Backpacks:

Hard Frame Carrier 101

Framed Backpack Carriers


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