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Baby carriers packed with features for outdoors

Backpacks with frames comfortably carry heavier kids and have space for gear.
Backpacks with frames comfortably carry heavier kids and have space for gear.

Being a parent doesn’t mean giving up long hikes in the woods.

Modern backpack baby carriers allow children to be brought along in unparalleled comfort for both the packer and the kid being packed.

Carriers allow hands-free exploration of trails that would bar a stroller. Most babies enjoy being held close and are soothed by the walking motion. 

Here are four carriers to consider for features that can get you and your baby outdoors in comfort. 


What: A soft, structured carrier with padded waist belt and shoulder straps.

Pros: Baby can be carried on front or back (usually around 6 months).

• Fits a wide range of people.

• Fits baby from birth (with an insert) to at least 40 pounds (has been tested to 90 pounds).

• Comfortable.

• Some models have lighter weight, quicker dry materials.

• Optional backpack option gives you more carrying space.

Cons: Infant insert is an extra cost for newborns.

• Learning curve to getting baby on your back. May need help to get smaller babies on your back.

• Backpack option is also an extra cost.

• Baby sits very near your body, which could mean you both get sweaty

• Most models are cotton, and therefore slow drying.

Cost: $115 for basic carrier, $135 for performance carrier with lighter-weight material; $25 for infant insert; $48 for add-on backpacks. 



What: A very long, stretchy piece of soft fabric that is wrapped around the body and tied in place.

Pros: Excellent for newborns and small babies.

• Many different ways to carry your baby.

• Fits pretty much anyone.

• One of the few carriers that makes it possible to carry twins.

• Can wear a backpack at the same time without much trouble. 

Cons: Small learning curve to figure out how to tie it and how to insert the baby.

• Hot in warm weather, slow to dry if it gets wet.

• Not suitable to carrying your baby on your back.

• On long hikes, fabric can sag, forcing you to adjust it, perhaps often.

• Not ideal for heavier babies on long hikes.

Cost: $40.


Woven wrap

What: A long piece of rectangular woven fabric that can be tied in a variety of ways to support your child. Comes in a variety of lengths depending upon your size and the carries you want to do.

Pros: Extremely versatile. Baby can be carried on your front, back or hip. It also doubles as a blanket, sun shade, fort material, etc. Comes in beautiful colors and patterns. Some wraps are works of art.

• Can carry a baby from birth until at least 30 pounds, and many wraps go higher

• Fits a wide range of adults. Many options for lengths, materials, styles, colors. 

Cons: Steepest learning curve.

• Bulky knots make it difficult to wear with a backpack.

• Possibly hot, depending upon material.

• Probably slow drying, depending upon material.

Cost: Variable, but expect to spend at least $50 for a short, high quality wrap; more for longer, more deluxe wraps.

Online: offers several options; has a huge list of directions on how to wear a woven wrap.

Framed backpack

What: A framed pack similar to what backpackers use.

Pros: Very supportive. Frame and waist belt help distribute child’s weight well.

• Probably best option for long or overnight trips.

• Many models have extra carrying space for gear.

• Many models have an optional sun or rain cover.

Cons: Heavy.

• Takes up most space while you travel to the trail.

• More specialized than other carriers, not ideal for around the house, for example.

• May be hard to fit adults who are exceptionally tall or short, or couples that have a wide difference in height.

Cost: Starting at $110.