Getting outdoors with your small children is a great way to spend family time, to introduce them to nature, to model healthy activities and to get some exercise. Plus, babies and small children usually love being outside, so it’s a win-win!
Having a great hiking carrier that is comfortable for both of you is essential to successfully hiking with your baby or toddler.
When my kids were small, I hiked a lot with them, along as well as with friends and family. Although we owned a framed backpack that we took on our multi-day trips, both my husband and I preferred our soft structured buckle carriers for single-day hiking. For more on this see my and her post here and here
My Favorite Baby Hiking Carriers
Best all around baby hiking carrier: Tula Carrier
Why I love it : Tulas are simple and streamlined to use, which is key when you just want to get moving. Tulas also fit a wide range of people – both plus-size and petite wearers find this carrier supportive and comfortable. PFAs on the shoulders make breastfeeding a cinch. Best for babies 5 months and up. Can be worn on front or back.
Good to know: Tula Carriers cannot face forward or cross straps on your back.
Best for Hot Weather: Tula Coast
Why I love it: The Tula Coast combines everything I love about the Tula Carrier with the addition of a mesh panel and mesh hood for added airflow and coolness. If you live in a hot weather climate or just run warm, this is the carrier for you. Can be worn on your front or back, best for babies 5 months to 2 years.
Good to know: Cannot face forward or cross straps on your back. Some people have found the mesh to be slightly less supportive than the standard canvas fabric.
Best for infants: Tula Free-to- Grow
Why I love it: The Tula Free-To-Grow Carriers are super simple and can be used right away with your baby – no need for a bulky insert! The Free-to-Grow Tula is adjustable so that it grows with your baby up through age two or bigger. The Free-to-Grow also has Coast options (with a mesh panel for coolness) if you run hot or live in a warm place.
Good to know: The FTG can’t face forward or cross straps on your back.
Best for facing baby forward: Ergobaby 360
Why I love it: The Ergobaby 360 has a super ergonomic forward facing carry – it’s a bit funny looking but it’s healthy! This carrier can be worn on your front or back as well. There is a cool mesh version which is great for hot weather and also has a lumbar support belt, which rocks.
Good to know: Ergobaby 360 Carriers cannot cross straps in back and requires an infant insert for use with newborns and smaller babies. For smaller babies, check out the Ergobaby Omni.
Runner up, best facing forward: Beco 8
Why I love it: Straps that cross in back and a polyester body makes this a great sporty carrier that also lets you face baby forward when needed. Fits plus size wearers well.
Good to know: People used to an all-cotton body may not love the sporty fabric.
Best if you are pregnant (or don’t like anything around your waist): Soul Onbuhimo
Why I love it:This waistless wonder is backpack carrier that holds baby high up on your back. It’s amazing for pregnant moms or anyone who doesn’t love padded waist belts. These carriers are minimalist and pack down small. Plus, they are very affordable. Best for babies who are already sitting up (6 months and up).
Good to know: if you haven’t used an Onbuhimo before, they can take a bit of practice to get comfortable in. The key is to get baby as high as possible on your back.
Best Budget: Lillebaby Essential All Seasons
Why I love it: The Lillebaby Essentials line is a great basic carrier that is still very comfortable. The all-Seasons carrier allows you to cross straps on your back and even has a zip-down panel to reveal mesh for additional airflow if you want it. For kids 5-6 months and older.
Good to know: Cannot face forward or be used for newborns.
Best for Big Kids – Beco Toddler
Why I love it: The Beco Toddler carrier is really a big kid carrier. It’s wide & tall body panel with it’s deep, darted seat and cushy straps makes this carrier great for wearing older kids. The ability to cross straps in back when wearing on your front is great (although for hiking I recommend back carries if you can!). There is a Cool version that my friend in Phoenix, AZ swears by.
Good to know: The Beco Toddler really is a big kid carrier, so it’s best for kids 2 and up. The Cool! Carrier can be less supportive so works better as a dedicated carrier for hot weather.
I generally recommend carrying baby on your back for hiking. This is both more comfortable for the wearer (our bodies are built to carry heavy loads on our backs) and safer in that you can watch your step and maneuver more easily. My favorite carriers for day hiking are:
- Ergobaby Carrier – this carrier is a favorite for both men and women. The padded waist is great for putting baby’s weight on your hips instead of your shoulders. The Ergobaby is also comfortable for almost everyone. The Ergobaby Carrier can be worn on the back or on the front if you prefer. Best for babies with good head control. Consider the ERGO Performance carriers if you get sweaty easily – they are much cooler than the standard and original version! I have a slight preference for the Performance for hiking – it has more pockets.
- Beco Gemini Baby Carrier – one of our best-selling baby carriers for infants. Our customers love the Beco Gemini for hiking. This carrier is suitable for infants as well as older babies and even toddlers. It has the benefit of allowing your baby to face out, which many babies love for hiking (warning: this position tends to be less comfy for you, though!)
- Beco Toddler carrier – our favorite option for hiking with bigger kids (best for kids 2 and up).
- Boba Carrier – this carrier is awesome for hiking, especially with an older toddler or child. The foot rests on the Boba mean that your child’s legs can be supported instead of dangling, making this a very comfy ride for them, too.
- Tula Carriers – Tulas are generally comfortable for a wide range of babywearers and the adjustable shoulder makes breastfeeding easy. Tula’s Free to Grow carrier is amazing for hiking with smaller babies. They also make Standard carrier and the Tula Toddler carrier, which is a great choice for toddler baby carrying (suitable only for toddlers least 18 months, 25 lbs and wearing 2T or longer pants). If you are hiking in warm weather or get hot easily, Tula has a Coast version, which has a center mesh panel for additional airflow and coolness – see the Tula Coast standard size and the Tula Coast Toddler size
- Pikkolo Baby Carrier – our most versatile carrier. For hiking, I recommend the support belt accessory for kids over 20 lbs. The Pikkolo is a great choice if you’d like a small baby to be able to look over your shoulder or if you would really prefer for your baby to be in the front facing forward position.
- Kol Kol Meh Dai– great choice if you want something without buckles. Many people love to hike with meh dais because they are much more minimalist and streamlined than buckle carriers. They also pack up more tightly!
For serious hikes of several days or more, I recommend a frame backpack. My favorite was a Kelty carrier from REI but there are lots of options out there!
For more information on hiking with your baby and choosing a hiking carrier, check out these articles!
And for more information on Framed Backpacks: