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Best Backpack Carriers

January 2015

Here are our picks for best baby backpack carriers by subcategory:

Note: Our editors developed this list by summarizing TotScoop parent favorites and adding a few hand-picked editor favorites and new releases. Our picks are 100% unbiased — we never accept compensation in exchange for coverage. That said, this page may contain affiliate links, meaning we may receive a small commission on any purchases that you make (at no cost to you); see our full disclosure.

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Best frame/hiking backpacks

These external frame packs are must haves for serious hiking and other activities where effective weight transfer to the hips is essential.

WINNER: Deuter Kid Comfort II

For top all-around comfort, a Deuter frame pack is your best bet — our favorite (best bang-for-buck) is the Kid Comfort II (MSRP $249). It distributes weight well to your hips, features a ventilated back system and hydration compartment, and adjusts easily to wearers of different sizes. Your child's comfort and safety are also well taken care of, with a five-point safety harness, color-coded buckles, washable drool pad, and kickstand for easy loading. Believe it or not it's one of the lighter frame backpacks, at 7 lbs. 3 oz. On the downside, it does not include a sunshade/rain cover (sold separately, $39) or detachable daypack, typically standard in this category. You can step up to the Kid Comfort III (MSRP $299) for an integrated sun shade and rain cover, and a higher seat (meaning greater visibility) for your child.

Runner up: Osprey Poco Premium

Osprey is a relative newcomer to the kid carrier market, but they've applied their considerable know-how to create the Poco line, which is already receiving rave reviews. The Poco Premium (MSRP $300) is their top-of-the-line carrier, featuring a detachable daypack, changing pad, hydration sleeve, washable drool pad, stirrups, kickstand, and plenty of storage. Two features that really stand out are its innovative pop-out sun and rain cover (the easiest to deploy that we've seen), as well as an exceptionally simple mechanism for adjusting torso height. The Poco is average weight for a frame backpack, at 7 lbs., 9 oz. For $40 less, the Poco Plus (MSRP $260) delivers most of same features, minus the changing pad and detachable daypack.

Runner up: Kelty Pathfinder 3.0

The top-of-the-line child carrier from Kelty, the progenitor of the backpack-style child carrier, is the Pathfinder 3.0 (MSRP $299). It includes a standard set of features, including an adjustable suspension system, five-point harness, zip-off daypack, hydration pocket, kickstand, washable drool pad, changing pad, and sun shade (must be removed to take child in/out). One unique feature is a "roll cage," for extra protection during activities where falls are likely (e.g. skiing). It accommodates younger babies particularly comfortably, but larger children can be difficult to load in. It is our heaviest pick, at 7 lbs., 10 oz. The next step down is the Journey 2.0 (MSRP $240), which lacks the changing pad and detachable daypack.

Best convertible/travel backpacks

These packs aren't for serious hiking — but are just the ticket if you're looking for a lighter and more compact backpack carrier for shorter or intermittent carries (e.g. when your toddler gets tuckered out, or travel). Unlike the external frame packs, these fit into the overhead compartment of an airplane!

WINNER: Deuter KangaKid Child Carrier

The KangaKid (MSRP $159) is our top pick in this category. It looks like a standard daypack, but has a hidden zip-out 5-point harness between the daypack and the straps. It has a waist belt but no metal frame, so support is limited. Torso length is not adjustable, and taller parents may find it too short. An optional sun roof is available separately. 20L storage capacity. Weighs 4 lbs., 3 oz.

Runner up: Kelty Junction 2.0

The Junction 2.0 (MSRP $190, Amazon $180) is very similar to the KangaKid in design, but doesn't get quite as strong ratings for comfort. However, may be a better choice for taller moms and dads, as it does include a sliding torso length adjustment system (14-18"). Optional sun shade available separately. Accommodates kids 16-30 lbs (though toward the top end of this range, you're likely to get uncomfortable fairly quickly). 21L storage capacity. Weighs 4 lbs., 13 oz. For an additional $40, you can step up to the Transit 3.0 (MSRP $230, Amazon $200), which includes a sun hood and changing pad.