What kind of hiking carrier should we use for our infant?

Updated Oct 12 2015
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Rachael sent us this question about hiking with a baby — what kind of carrier do you hiking mamas use?

On a hike 2009 4th of July  weekend my husbnad snapped this photo. I adore it beyond words.
Photo by Heather M.
As it warms here in Southern California, the family is getting ready to don our hiking boots and hit the trails. However, my partner and I have NO IDEA how to choose a good backpack/carrier for our six-month-old son (who is 22 pounds already!).

We've found lots of options, but since we've never hiked with a little droid before, it's getting overwhelming trying to choose. I know there are lots of outdoorsy mamas on this site and I would love any references and/or advice for choosing a great hiking backpack so hiking can be a family outing!

Tell us — which hiking backpacks and/or infant carriers work best for you and why?

    • ERGO!!!! Worth every penny!! I have tried so many with my 3 kids and when we found Ergo we quit looking!!! You will love it so much, you will use it for everything not just hiking!! =)

  1. Another vote for Ergo:

    Can be worn front, or back

    Super easy to pop baby in and out

    Very comfy

    Easy to adjust from wearer to wearer (in case you want to switch mid hike)

    Also handy for hiking: the attachable backpack and the built in pouch for storing whatever little things you'd like to bring along means you don't need an extra backpack

    If you're like almost all other Ergo users I know, you'll like it so much you'll want to use it for everything, not just hiking.

    If you were thinking of a frame style carrier, I like Kokopax fro their simplicity and comfort. Plus they come in pretty prints 🙂 They're also much more compact than other frame style carriers. Also good for day to day use (but I love my Ergo more…its basically my purse these days)

    • I have an ergo and we loooooove it, but the last time we tried to hike with him in it, he was totally fighting it, I don't know if it's because he doesn't like the shade snappy thing over his head or if the softness of it got old after a long hike. Thank you for the frame style suggestion, though!

      But yes, I use the ergo on a daily basis. He pretty much lives in that thing!

  2. We have used five different carriers depending on the circumstance. The ergo is great but for longer hikes my partners prefers the Keltie- it is a frame backpack. I think it provides more support and the child can see more from their higher vantage point.

    Happy hiking!

    • My kids hated soft carriers but loved the framed kind. I agree one reason is the vantage point. I think another reason is that I am able to walk a lot farther and faster in one that snaps around my chest and waist like a hiking pack.

    • I prefer the Kelty as well. My son wouldn't stop screaming in the Ergo … he hated it … and couldn't see anything. He giggles the whole time he's in the Kelty, cries when we put it away, and tries to climb into it if he sees it sitting out. It adjusts easily for both my 6'4" husband and 5'2" me. It also conveniently carries a changing pad, diaper, and wipes; two water bottles (one belongs to the baby and he loves his!); and plenty of space for hats, coats, socks, and snacks (or a well-packed lunch).

      Before the Kelty, when he was tiny, we mostly used the Baby Bjorn; he likewise hated a ring sling and a mobi … I think he just prefers a bit more structure in a carrier.

      • Awesome! These are exactly the suggestions I was looking for. I think the vantage point is the reason why my son loves the ergo for normal running errands stuff but didn't like it for hiking! Thank you!

    • This is exactly our situation, too. For shorter walks and around-town stuff, we love the ergo. For longer hikes, though, we all really prefer the frame pack. We have a Kelty and a Deuter (both hand-me-downs) and like both of them. I think it's easier to walk far and on terrain with the frame pack, and Miles seems to really like being able to see.

  3. the photo used which my husband took is of a Beco. We were hiking that day. It actually worked great until he got to heavy. After that we purchased a used Kelty.

    I choose to go with a Beco instead of the Egro because my son has always been very tall, and the Egro had a shorter body.

  4. My only issue with the Ergo is that it's not friendly for plus-sized mamas and papas. In order for me to use an Ergo, I would have to purchase an extension for the waist belt–for which they only have one size. We didn't have an ergo when our kids were little so we bought a 70s-style frame pack from the Goodwill and stitched on a belt. That worked great and we hiked many miles with our kids in it!

    • I agree with the plus-size caveat. I bought the extender so it would fit my husband and it's still too small. For a frame of reference, he's about 6' and 240, so there are probably many people his size or larger who would have trouble with the ergo.

    • I'm a plus sized mama and I love my Ergo. I have an Ergo Sport which has a little more length in the waist belt and is made of lighter fabric. I'm pretty big but I can put the Ergo Sport on without an extender belt. It's a lot more comfortable with the extender on, though, and it's only $10 extra.

  5. Anyone use the Baby Bjorn carrier? Im getting one soon from a friend and was wondering if they are good for long distances?

    • I have a Baby Bjorn, and we LOVED it when our daughter was tiny, but now that she's 9 months and 19 pounds, it's a real back-breaker. PLus it's only meant to be worn in the front. Now that she's bigger, we're having to go back and purchase a new ergo or other frame back carrier. If I could do it all over, I'd have spent my money the first time on an Ergo since it works with tiny babies as well as big ones and can be worn front or back

    • baby bjorns are also known as crotch danglers. they're hard on your childs hips and backs. i generally wouldnt recommend them. although i severely dislike babycenter.com they have an awesome babywearing board over there and they can give you some super awesome alternatives

  6. For long distances I would also say the Kelty. I used a moby exclusively until my son hit five months. Then at 21 pounds he was just too big to carry in front. The Ergo never appealed to me. We hike a lot living in Northern California and the frame pack helps me carry his weight longer distances. He also LOVES it! He can see everything and is right next to my face laughing away. He seems very comfortable in the pack too, and will fall asleep. I cannot wait until the summer when we start going to festivals with him in the Kelty Pack.

  7. ERGO!! I walked 3 miles with a 3yo on the back and a 7mo on the front. no problems, and i have hip and back issues.

  8. I prefer the Deuter frame packs over the Keltys – they can be a little more expensive, but they are SO adjustable and well designed. Go down to REI and try on a bunch and pick what feels best, I say.

  9. It depends on the age of the baby. I got a Kelty on Craigslist ($15!!!) when my son was 8 months, and we used it until he was well over a year.

  10. Lots of Ergo fans here. Does anyone have experience with other soft structure carriers like the Ergo, like BabyHawk's Oh Snap, or anything by Beco? They look similar to the Ergo but you can get custom colors and fabric patterns. (Now that I think about it, independent carrier makers should advertise here on OBM!)

  11. we LOVE our ERGO. i've never tried a more structured carrier so i'm no help there but the ERGO is so versatile. 5 stars!

  12. We have a Deuter and I love that- I'm fairly short and the Deuter is adjustable to me and my 6ft husband. Also, because it is more finely adjustable like a good frame backpack, it really does a much better job at distributing weight than the Ergo. I love our Ergo for everyday use, but the Deuter is much better for hiking on our bodies. It's also good for adjusting to the baby's changing size, though I would say you wouldn't want to put a baby younger than 8-9 months unless they are huge and have excellent posture & muscle strength.

    Also, the Deuter has mesh sides for ventilation, and the baby is set off from your back so it keeps you really cool– unlike the Ergo, which brings the baby's tummy against your back and on warm days/long hikes that means sweat. Lots of it. The Deuter also has a canopy, and a good amount of pockets to stash snacks, sippy cups and toys. The whole thing is just incredibly well made too. I have a Deuter large day pack that I've used for years and on several rough trips abroad and it looks like I bought it yesterday – no fading, no fraying, no straps breaking.

  13. i love my wrap. it is so versatile! there are a million different ways carry your baby with the one wrap! front, back, side. it is completely customizable for who is carrying the wrap and how they like to carry the baby. my husband likes different wraps than i do because we are built differently. We have learned new wraps as our baby has grown. it washes in the washing machine. it is so fast to put on and take off. it is 110% secure! it is the best way to carry a baby hands down! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RE4eP4WlZzc this is my favorite wrap and this woman is very knowledgeable!

  14. Our kidlet is 11 months and 23 + pounds. We (two moms, both about 5'5") have both the ergo and the boba. The ergo was great for awhile…but our guy is a back archer and it didn't provide him enough back support. The boba has a higher back and keeps his weight closer to my own center of gravity which makes it much more comfortable. We've worn him for 4+ hour hikes thus far and found it works well for us.

  15. I originally bought an Ergo but my baby and i are on the smaller side so she did not fit when it was time to wear her on my back. We trialled and bought a Manduca, so much better. Its just way more adjustable than the Ergo and the straps arent as wide so they fit round the arms better.

  16. I have been using my Beco carrier with my son since he was about 4 months old and he's almost 18 months now (and over 25 lbs.) I know tons of parents rave about the Ergo, but I love that we can switch the Beco from front to back or from me to my husband without taking our son out of the carrier. I wear him a lot and can wear him on my back for hikes or long walks as long as my MIL hasn't messed with the straps. 🙂

    If we did more hiking, I think I'd look into getting one of the frame backpacks, so my son could have the higher view. It looks like fun to ride up that high.

  17. Another Ergo vote. We had ours for almost 8 years and its will be used on its 5th kid when our new baby comes next fall. We have a Kelty too and yes they can see better but it gets heavy A LOT faster. Ergo is light weight, simple, a front and back carrier, and I toss it into my purse still and take it with me every were. When ever my 3 yr old or even her brother who is 4 tires out they still will climb on my back (well dads back since I am pregnant) into the carrier and take a rest and we can keep on doing what ever it is we are doing and they catch a little nap to regain their energy. I heard great things about Boba (a local company for me) but not tried it since our ergo, 8 yrs later, is still as good a new – just a little fade from all the washes.

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