Pre-baby, you hit the trail two or three times per week at least. But postpartum, it’s easy to understand why outdoor playtime falls to the wayside for families. It takes work! Thankfully, outdoor gear companies understand that new parents still want to log trail time with their new family members. Below, I’ve included my four favorite kid carriers that come from personal experience with our daughter, Liliana. At 15 months, she has hiked—err, been carried—through 11 national parks, four countries, and every type of snowy-and-rainy environment one can imagine. Rest assured: these kid carriers are tried, tested, and Liliana-approved.
Most Versatile: Lillebaby Complete All Seasons
When kiddos are younger (less than one year) and especially when they are infants without any neck support, it’s ideal to have a front carrier. To that end, the Lillebaby Complete All Seasons was the most versatile we tested. Thanks to various configurations, you can carry your baby in one of six different positions, including against your chest (facing in or out), on your hip, and on your back. But the versatility doesn’t end there. A zip-down pocket in the front helps regulate heat on warm days, and another small zippered pocket gives you a place to stash lip balm or a car key. Double win: this carrier is approved as hip healthy and doesn’t require an additional infant insert, so you get everything you need with one purchase.
Best for Warm Weather: Ergobaby Cool Air Mesh
With four carrying positions, versatility is lessened with the Ergobaby Cool Air Mesh, but it still covers the carrying options that most parents use. However, the Cool Air really shined in warm and muggy environments thanks to the breathable mesh material and included UPF 50 baby privacy hood that you can pull over your infant’s head. As with the Lillebaby, this front carrier is also considered hip healthy. Bummer: Ergobaby carriers aren’t compatible with newborns unless you purchase the additional ($38) infant insert.
Most Comfortable: Deuter Kid Comfort 2
It’s hard to tell who loves this pack more: Liliana or me. Thanks to easily-adjustable straps and an uber comfortable hip belt, I could carry our 24-pound daughter for multiple hours without any complaints (aside from my lack of fitness). A plush pillow makes for a soft and cushioned place for kids to lay their heads for naptime. A side-entry buckle makes it easy to pop the kiddo in from the side rather than the top, and sizing is fully customizable: both my husband (6’) and I (5’5”) used this pack on a recent trip to Florida’s Everglades National Park. Major bummer: A sun shade is available for an additional $30, but nothing comes standard with the carrier.
Best for Backpacking: Osprey Poco AG Plus
It may not seem like a lot, but we loved the built-in sun shade that comes standard with this kid carrier. It slides down a back pocket so it’s easy to store, but we almost always deploy the shade to provide Liliana with full-sun protection. Added bonus: the mesh sides of the sun shade make a great place for your child to lean her head while taking a snooze. Suspension is amazing thanks to Osprey’s anti-gravity suspension system, but the design was hit or miss on this pack. Some people love the snug hip belt while others found that it caused chafing on the hips. Storage space is ample with two zippered compartments and an additional stretchy mesh pocket, meaning this carrier is your best for long hauls and multiple days on trail.