Hiking With Babies and Toddlers ~ Child Carrier Tips

HIking with toddler in child carrier 2I’ve spent many fond hours hiking a trail, with my baby or even toddler children right along with me, in a child carrier on my back.

This is an ideal activity for many reasons.  Babies and toddlers generally love being outside, and are so content when they are in motion.

Hiking with them in a child carrier allows them to enjoy themselves, while you are also able to have fun and get some exercise in the process.

We’ve hiked with a few different child carriers now, with a couple of different kids.  We’ve tried an inexpensive carrier, and a couple of higher-end styles, so can offer some feedback on each.

Here are my child carrier tips and best advice from our experience in hiking with babies and toddlers over miles of terrain and with a variety of gear.

(Note:  This is NOT a sponsored review post for a brand… just my authentic hiking mom advice!)

When Can My Baby Start Riding in a Child Carrier?

Hiking with Babies and Toddlers Valuable Child Carrier Tips

For safety reasons, it’s always a good idea to check the manufacturers instructions.  The earliest age a baby can ride in a pack will vary with the style of child carrier.  They typically say you can start around 6 months old, or when their neck is strong enough to easily hold their head up.  (I believe there are also soft carriers that work for even younger ages, but I don’t have any experience hiking with those.)

Make sure your little one will be comfortable on their journey.   I’ve found that dressing them in soft pants that cover their legs works well, and will protect from both chaffing and the sun.

Mom hiking with child carrier

They do make carriers with arched sunshades over their head, but this will not entirely keep the sun off of their arms.  A good sunhat will work wonders, if you don’t have a sun shade.

And either long sleeves, or good sunscreen (and possibly a gentle bugspray) is a good idea for those tender little arms.

I’ve had skin cancer on my face before, and it’s no walk in the park.  Be sure to protect yourself from the sun, too!

Baby in Child Carrier with Uncle

Uncles can help carry, too! Hiking on Grand Mesa, Colorado – that’s my cool brother, toting my baby girl.


What’s the Oldest Age to Ride a Child Carrier?

The great thing is, your child can ride in most carriers up until they are 50 pounds.  Do you want to have them riding in a carrier on your back when they are 50 pounds – probably not!

But we found as our daughter got to be 2 1/2-3 years old, we would bring it along on longer hikes in case she needed to take a break.

This was a solid backup plan, and a great option to have when their batteries start to run low.  Do you see now why hiking with your kids is such a beautiful thing … it can run their batteries low.

Reason enough right there, I say.

Baby in Child Carrier with Dad 3

Hiking at Black Canyon, Gunnison, CO


Child Carrier Tips ~ Which Brand Should I Choose?

Beyond making sure the child harness seems secure, and that the seat is well padded and nicely adjustable for your baby – this decision is going to boil down to:

  • Price
  • Comfort… for you, wearing the pack!

Most of them have a small backpack attached behind the child seat, which is a nice feature.  Although I didn’t use this as much as I thought I would, on short hikes by myself.  You are already carrying enough weight, and you can’t reach it while wearing it stuffed full o’ baby!   Certainly great to carry those extra diapers and wet wipes, though.

While there’s a wide range of how much you can spend on a child carrier – I would just be sure to try it on and make your decision based on how it feels.

The higher the price, it’s likely the more possible adjustments that can be made.  For me, that’s not always necessarily a good thing.  (47 available settings… virtually guaranteeing I’m using it in a sub-optimal way…)

While we shopped online, we also combined this with going to local gear shops and trying on the models they had available.  If doing this is possible for you, it’s extremely helpful.  It’s amazing the range of how different packs can feel once you slip them on, and an uncomfortable child carrier isn’t going to get used nearly as often as a comfortable one!

UPDATE:  I’m 5’10”, so the following experience with the Kelty may not be helpful to you.  Per a petite reader question, I polled several outdoor mom friends for their advice, and have collected their tips here:  Best Hiking Carrier Backpack for Petite Parents

Kelty FC3 and Pathfinder Child Carriers

With a second child imminent, a knowledge of how much we had used and loved our second hand carrier, and an opportunity to get a great deal… we upgraded to a new, deluxe Kelty FC3 Child Carrier.

Baby in Child Carrier with Dad and Dog

Kelty FC3 Child Carrier

Now don’t get me wrong, this is a beautiful pack with lots of fun extras – like a mirror (to check in with baby’s expression occasionally), and a great “kick stand” that pops out automatically when you take the pack off, so you can set it on the ground.  And I love the sunshade, although we don’t always go to the hassle of using it.

But I confess at times I miss my humble $30 used child carrier.  It never did anything wrong, to deserve being replaced!  It was very comfortable, and easy to use.  I feel like I fell victim to the “want to have cooler gear, just for the sake of having cool gear” syndrome.

Here in Western Colorado, outdoor lovers are typically pretty authentic and very down to earth.  It’s not about the hot new North Face colors out this season, or having the shiniest, newest gear.   It’s actually a greater Badge of Honor to have a well worn, clearly loved, and used pack.

Baby in Child Carrier with Dad 2

Hiking at McInnis Canyon, CO


It was probably for that reason that one day while wearing my Fancy Smancy, brand new Kelty FC3 Child Carrier, I was a bit embarrassed when a passing hiker declared (and not entirely in a complimentary tone), “Wow.  Talk about the Cadillac of backpacks.”  I felt a little judged, and sheepish about it.

The only other issue I have with this pack, is that it took me a really long time to get the Kelty adjusted just right, so that it was as comfortable as my old carrier had always been.  Again – my theory is, this is simply the result of “too many available adjustments” syndrome.

I don’t think I would have paid full retail price for one (a pretty penny), but now we are quite happy with it.  We have gotten quite a bit of use out of it, with my second child.

Kelty FC3 to Pathfinder Warranty Claim

Just a quick side note on the Kelty warranty claim we had to makeWe began to experience issues with the adjustable suspension on our Kelty FC3 Carrier – the mechanism that slides the adult shoulder straps up and down to adjust for torso length.  It began slipping out of place while in use.  Kelty stood by their product, and fully warrantied it.  Since the FC3 is no longer in production, they replaced it at no cost with their newer equivalent- the Kelty Pathfinder.

We’ve found that the Pathfinder is great, and even has a few improvements, such as a redesigned suspension system, a pocket on the waist belt for a water bottle, and a compartment to hold a hydration system for the pack wearer.   Thanks, Kelty!  It does pay to purchase from a company who will stand behind the quality of their products.

Mom wearing baby in child carrier

Kelty Pathfinder Child Carrier

Your Child Carrier ~ Your Choice

I guess the overall moral of this story is:  Just get the child carrier that works best for your family, that is both comfortable and affordable for you.  If it fits that criteria, don’t worry too much about the brand.   Second hand ones can perform wonderfully, too.

Child Carrier Hiking Introduces a Love of Outdoors

I believe by hiking with your child at an early age, you are starting them off right – with a love of the great outdoors and being active.  It’s such an affordable, enjoyable, and healthy way for families to spend time together.

Baby in Child Carrier with Dad

Hiking in Yellowstone National Park

So get out there and start having some fun exploring the trails with those little ones!  Before you know it, they’ll be the one bugging you to go for a hike … and racing ahead of you, blazing that trail.

*o*    *o*     *o*

This was not a sposored gear review post, just our personal experience with our Kelty child carriers.


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About COMtnMom

Hi, I'm Tami! Writer, Influencer, and mom of two who loves travel, the outdoors, staying active, photography, reading books, and eating desserts. We are pretty much always planning our next trip to Disney World.


  1. Thank you for your great info! Do you know how long a child can ride before they need a break (safety/circulation)?

    • COMtnMom says:

      Hello! In our experience, the kids were so darn comfortable that they often slept. But they were probably riding for 2-3 hour stretches at the most, at one time (then stop for a break/snack/etc where they got out of the pack awhile).

      This was a great question, so I asked some other outdoor blogging moms for their input. Hopefully this is helpful! 🙂


      “We let our kids out every 2 hours or so…..definitely necessary!” ~ Amelia, Tales of a Mountain Mama

      “I’ve never timed it but they’re never in there too long. They prop their legs inside as well as just dangling.” ~ Melissa, Chasqui Mom

      “I never worried about it with a wrap. I’m sure both of my kids were there for hours and hours at time sometimes when they were small babies napping on a big hike. Of course, as they got older, they wanted out more, and we certainly obliged.” ~ Erin, Ground Truth Trekking

      “[My daughter] spent lots of time as we traveled Europe – did her 2-3 hour naps in our Deuter – but it’s super supportive. Not sure she’d do that well in an Ergo.” ~ Jen, Adventurous Moms

  2. Lindsay says:

    Hi, we took our 10 month old for her first hike yesterday. I just carried her on my back in our trusty Boba carrier. She fell asleep within the first 30 min and spent the last hour and a half with her little head just bobbing around. Periodically, I’d lean forward so she was resting against my back but mostly she’d have her head hanging over the side or just straight back! We’re interested in getting a backpack for hiking but what do you do about head support for a sleeping child?

    • COMtnMom says:

      Hi Lindsay,

      Aaaah… the ever challenging floppy napping baby head problem. I wish I had a perfect solution for you! With our kids riding in the full backpack carriers, their weight did seem to shift forward enough that the default asleep position was leaning their head on the front pad (you can see this in the shot above, where my daughter is asleep). Sometimes we’d wedge an extra piece of fleece clothing in front of them, as a pillow – although it had to be small, or else it ended up pushing them too far upright/backwards and they’d slump to the side. Ugh! Maybe we need to invent something?? 😉

      Enjoy and have fun on that trail!

  3. I use Osprey Packs Plus and my husband, being tall, uses Kelty and its really good in terms of quality and value for money.

    • COMtnMom says:

      Thanks for your input, k! 🙂 Now that I’m no longer wearing a child carrier, I’ve switched to a small-ish women’s Osprey & I love it.

      Appreciate you stopping by.

  4. I absolutely love my Osprey, and so glad to see more and more people bringing their little ones along for a hike.

  5. What was the old humble $30 carrier you mentioned using prior to Kelty?

    • COMtnMom says:

      I really wish I knew. 🙁 It had no labels or tags whatsoever. I’d love to be able to recommend it more specifically! Boy, we were in the right place at the right time when we scored that sucker at a consignment shop.

      Thanks for swinging by, Lincy – sorry I couldn’t be or more help!

  6. Christine Dmitriev says:

    I’m 5’1 and can’t seem to find a toddler hiking carrier that fits me right. I have a kelty kids with the sunshade I love it but it doesn’t love me back. Any suggestions for hiking carriers that are a good fit for petite moms?


  1. […] you’d like more information on child carriers, check out my post Hiking With Babies and Toddlers – Child Carrier Tips.  But here I’d like to talk about the business of mom hiking alone with a child […]

  2. […] Source: http://coloradomountainmom.com/2013/04/hiking-with-babies-and-toddlers-child-carrier-tips/ […]

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