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?
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.
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!
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.
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:
- 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!
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.
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.
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 make. We 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.
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.
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.
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This was not a sposored gear review post, just our personal experience with our Kelty child carriers.