Family hiking is a fantastic activity and an excellent way of introducing your little one to the wonder that is the great outdoors. When your intrepid young one is all set to go on their first big hike, what they will need is the right backpack which will make them love hitting the trail. Hiking backpacks for kids differ from those for adults in more than just a few ways. The best hiking backpacks for kids have narrower hip belts and smaller, more adjustable harnesses. Such aspects ensure not only comfort but also the longevity of the backpack as your child grows. What’s more, a robust, good quality backpack will also be required to keep up with the boundless amounts of energy that the children of today seem to have.
Here’s our carefully chosen list of kids’ hiking backpacks, for which we’ve sifted through a range of products with different volumes and for various age groups. From carrying everything from water and snacks to their favorite toy, these backpacks are equipped for all that, and more. Check out our recommendations for the 11 best hiking backpacks for kids.
For hiking gear recommendations for parents, check out the best hiking backpacks for men as well as for women.
Things to Consider While Buying Hiking Backpacks for Kids
Volume and Weight
Hiking is strenuous as it is, so the backpack needs to be as light as it can possibly be. Lighter equipment also allows them to hike easily and quickly. A small day pack will suffice for kids hiking for the first time carrying their own gear. Older children and teens can go a level up and choose a backpack with greater carrying capacity and volume.
Generally speaking, day trip backpacks have volumes less than 25 liters, while up to 40 liters is suitable for a 2-3-day hiking volume. Week-long trips are where backpacks with volumes of more than 40 liters will work best.
Children grow at a crazy rate, so the best backpacks should have amazingly adjustable suspension systems to be able to grow with them. A highly adjustable hip belt not only distributes weight optimally but can also be moved front and back. Similarly, highly adjustable harnesses will allow for torso lengths to be adjusted to fit a growing child.
The best hiking backpacks for kids are equipped with a fantastic feature set. One is compression straps, which cinch down the volume of the backpack, streamline the load, and keep it balanced and secure as the child hikes. Some kids backpacks also have their own sleeping bag compartments, which will prepare them well for when they grow up. Lots of pockets help with storage, including the nifty ‘daisy chain’ loops sewn on the exterior wherefrom quick-access or odd-shaped objects can be hung. Some great kids backpacks also come with sternum straps and a whistle, which is great if kids lose their way on hikes.
Deuter Fox 40 Kids
The Fox 40 is Deuter at its best and has an excellent set of features. With children, it’s always best to have tons of stash pockets, and Deuter delivers in this regard. It boasts of elasticized side pockets for water bottles, compression straps, and another pair of higher, zippered pockets. The top-loading pack has a lid with a zippered pocket atop, as well as an internal one. Attachment loops, hydration sleeve, and a bottom access point are just some of the other benefits this pack has. To top it all, there’s even an extremely emergency whistle on the chest strap.
The backpack fits children and teens of 8-16 years with torso lengths of 11-18 inches, thanks to its super-adjustable harness with velcro. It boasts of Deuter’s Alpine back X-framed system with a tensioned U-shaped frame wire to offer kids flexibility of movements. The pack offers great durability and abrasion resistance due to the polyester-nylon fabric. What’s more, it also features a PU coating for basic rain protection. The padded foam back panel keeps the pack ventilated and the children from feeling hot. There are also two aluminum stays offering stability when heavy loads are carried. Deuter Fox 40’s adjustment system is equally excellent. The hip belt and shoulder straps feature breathable foam, with the hip belt even being removable. Rounding up the backpack is the spacious main compartment, with access from the top and the bottom.
- Lightweight and comfortable.
- Highly adjustable harness.
- Fixed top lid.
- No hip belt pockets.
Gregory Wander 50 Kids
The Gregory Wander 50 is one of those hiking backpacks for kids that’s specially designed to grow with them.
The well-designed backpack is chock-full of features that children will come to love. Apart from two vertical daisy chains on the front, the backpack also has dual compression side straps, and nifty lower straps with an inside-out characteristic. Two compression straps on the bottom are excellent for attaching a sleeping bag, pad, or tent. Two front-bottom attachment loops, along with a couple of others, are excellent for attaching walking/trekking poles or even ice-axes. Moreover, the main compartment has dual access from the top as well as via the front panel.
The pack boasts of a harness that grows with the child between the ages of 10 and 20 years, all thanks to the VersaFit suspension system. Supported by a Wishbone Wire internal frame, the torso length is easily adjustable via the velcro-ridden harness. Similarly, the hip fins on the belt can be moved forward and backward, allowing for a fully customized fit. Padded, ergonomic shoulder straps, adjustable sternum straps, an integrated rain cover, tons of pockets, and an emergency whistle round up the bells and whistles on this excellent kiddo backpack.
- Dual access.
- Excellent adjustment.
- Integrated rain cover.
- No bottom compartment.
- Lack of side zippered pockets.
Osprey Ace 50
Osprey is known for its excellent range of outdoor gear for adults, and now it comes for children as well. Enter the Osprey Ace 50, which not only allows kids to carry more weight but do so comfortably as well. The backpack is ideally designed for comfortably carrying weights of 20-30 pounds. Plus, it can be adjusted to fit a child between the ages of 10 and 18 years.
It takes all of 30 seconds to adjust the Osprey Ace 50 t the optimal fit. The suspension is built on a LightWire frame. The first step towards adjustability is the easily movable harness which fits torso lengths of 13–18 inches. The backstraps feature a slider for quickly adjusting their heights. Furthermore, the pack boasts of Osprey’s Fit-on-the-Fly adjustability in the hip belt. It not only extends the hip fit range by as much as five inches but also adds hip belt support. To top that, the pack back panel has great padding and is well ventilated, thanks to Osprey’s AirScape back panel system.
The top-loading backpack has other neat features too. For one, it seems to have pockets just about everywhere. Apart from the usual side mesh pockets, there’s a large external zippered pocket, a frontal stretch mesh pocket, and even two zippered hip belt. Moreover, there’s also a separately stored rain cover, sleeping bag compartment, dual compression straps, attachment loops, an emergency whistle, and even two frontal daisy chains.
- Excellent design.
- Reliable and durable.
- Integrated rain cover.
- Great adjustability.
- Lack of side zippered pockets.
Kelty Red Cloud 65 Junior
The heavy hauler Kelty Redcloud 65 Junior backpack offers excellent, ‘grown-ups’ performance in kid-friendly dimensions. This hybrid front/top-loading backpack features an extendable collar that adds a little extra volume. The removable lid with an extra strap can even be used as a daypack once you make camp. The hydration-compatible pack’s main compartment can also be accessed via the U-shaped frontal zipper. To top that, a removable divider separates the main compartment from the bottom sleeping bag compartment, which can be used either way. Plus, the pack has dual compression straps to cinch it down, two strong handles, two attachment loops for axes and poles, and a daisy chain.
Adults will vouch for Kelty’s Perfect Fit suspension system, which is also used in the Kelty Redcloud 65 Junior. It incorporates torso lengths of 14-18 inches, thanks to the easily movable harness and thus making for a customized, snug fit. The back HDPE panel sits on a single aluminum stay and features an open, wide mesh that keeps the back ventilated. The structure also provides support to the hip belt, lumbar area, and shoulder straps so your kid doesn’t feel the strain.
Children will be overjoyed by just how many pockets the Kelty Redcloud 65 Junior has. It has no less than 10 exterior pockets, including two stretchy zippered hip belt pockets and side zippered pockets that are missing in many backpacks. Additionally, there’s a pass-through space ideal for storing tent/walking poles, ice-axes and the likes.
- Great suspension system.
- Durable and reliable with excellent quality.
- Presence of side zippered pockets.
- No rain cover.
Osprey Ace 38
Osprey Ace 38 is one of the hiking backpacks for kids that combines all characteristics of an adult backpack in a smaller size. It boasts of the complete functionality that is comparable to any adult-sized Osprey pack.
To begin with, the Ace 38 is perfect for growing kids due to its innate adjustability feature. Not only is the torso length ultra-adjustable, but so is the hip belt due to Osprey’s signature Fit-on-the-Fly system. What’s more, the back panel is nicely ventilated to cool down your child’s back on hot hikes. The pack’s accessibility features are also on point. It’s a top-loading pack, but with dual access to the main compartment. A zippered bottom sleeping bag space is an excellent practice for kids to be carrying their own sleeping equipment right from the very beginning. If it isn’t required, the space can be opened up by removing the nifty divider between the two compartments. Plus, the Osprey Ace 38 also has the usual pockets found in the majority of its competitors.
Apart from these, the Osprey Ace 38 also has many accouterments. There are two frontal daisy chains, side compression straps, and several attachment loops too. A particular bonus is the integrated rain cover stored separately.
- Reliable and durable.
- Great adjustability.
- Lack of hip belt and side zippered pockets.
CamelBak Kid’s Scout Hydration Pack
The CamelBak Kid’s Scout Hydration Pack is perfect for those parents whose main concern is keeping their child well-hydrated during hikes. This backpack boasts of a hydration bladder which delivers 20% more water per sip above the average. Plus, its bite valve possesses on/off mechanism ensuring no leakages post it being flicked off.
There’s more to this hydration backpack than the above. This lightweight backpack also comes in a wide range of colors like azalea, purple sapphire, Maui blue, and crimson red which will appeal immensely to children. This backpack ideally fits children from an age of 5 to 12 years. The backpack is spacious to boot and features many pockets as well, including two side pockets and a front pocket just like other backpacks. If that wasn’t enough, the fabric is durable, repels dirt and water, and is breathable as well. Topping off this excellent value product is an emergency built-in whistle on the front buckle.
- Quality construction.
- Lots of storage.
- When fully-loaded, it’s heavy.
Osprey Youth Jet 18 Backpack
Osprey backpacks tend to be on the lightweight end of the spectrum, which is what makes the Osprey Youth Jet 18 so perfect for the serious young hiker. The backpack offers excellent comfort and advanced features in a smaller-size pack for torso sizes ranging between 13 and 18 inches.
It’s easy to see why this top-loading Osprey backpack scores on the storage front. The main compartment can be accessed via the fixed-top lid which also possesses a great zippered compartment. Woven stretch pockets on the side and the harness front is great for stashing away mid-hike essentials like snacks, napkins, and more. What’s more, the pack is even hydration-compatible in the form of a lined exterior compartment.
However, it is the Osprey Jet 18’s construction that is its highlight. The pack’s AirScape back panel features inbuilt air channels and molded foam for both breathability and flexible support for your kid. Their smaller shoulders are served well by the fleece-lined, edgeless, and smooth harness which provides a comfortable feel and fit. Plus, the hip belt is minimalist and made of breathable mesh. The harness and hip belt together not only augment comfort but also allow for an extremely customized fit.
- Great features.
- Excellent quality of construction.
- It allows for a customized fit.
- Lacks loops for trekking poles.
The North Face Unisex Recon Squash
Parents who swear by the North Face’s popular Recon backpack will love its half-sized version, the North face Unisex Recon Squash for their children. The backpack is built to mirror the aesthetics of its bigger brethren while keeping children in mind.
The easy-to-use backpack features kids-specific shoulder straps and straightforward sternum straps. When it comes to storage and number of pockets, the North Face Recon Squash has kids covered. It is spacious to boot and allows kids to stuff anything and everything they will possibly need during their hike. The main compartment has extra layers for organizing things within, while the external zippered pocket is ideal for stuffing smaller, quick-access stuff. The foam back panel is comfortable and ventilated. However, the most distinctive feature is the reflective elements allowing parents to spot their little hikers even in low light.
What makes this North Face kids backpack so great is its versatility. It is a simple backpacking solution usable for a wide range of activities.
- Mesh front pocket
- Internal zipped pocket
- Highly versatile
- Little less durable as compared to its peers.
The Deuter Schmusebar is an out-and-out hiking backpack for kids right from the ground up. The ergonomic, lightweight, and comfy pack is also available in a range of offbeat colors including orange, pink, green, and even turquoise. So, for children who go stir-crazy when it comes to colors, Deuter Schmusebar is it.
The standout quality of the backpack is the mesh-lining, well-ventilated back panel and the nicely padded, S-shaped shoulder straps. It leaves the children feeling comfortable on the trail and not too uncomfortable or hot. Plus, the straps are long and highly adjustable for children of various ages. Adding to the customized fit is the chest strap, which makes the backpack really secure on the child and allows them to move better. A highly effective waterproof exterior and roomy interior are excellent characteristics. For parents with younger children, however, the USP is definitely the front pocket reflectors that allow them to keep an eye no matter where their child runs off to. Oh, and the bag even comes with a cutesy stuffed toy bear too.
- Great customized fit.
- Reflectors in the front.
- Buckle clips might be too tough for some children.
Get your little tyke excited about hiking by gifting him the great multipurpose backpack that is the Deuter Junior. Ideal for children over the age of five years, the backpack is perfect for everyday use, day trips, or short overnight hiking trips.
One of the biggest selling features of the Deuter Junior is the fact that it weighs just about half-a-kg, so it is extremely lightweight. Plus, the torso lengths are adjustable up to 14 inches, so the backpack can be continually used by your child growing up. Well-padded shoulder straps and a foam back panel make carrying more than light loads comfy. However, the backpack might buckle under heavy loads due to the lack of a hip belt. That being said, it does possess a chest strap for a better and customized fit.
Deuter Junior does great in the organizational department too. It features a main compartment, two zippered front pockets, two side mesh pockets for water bottles, and an extra top zippered pocket. Last but not the least, the backpack’s front features 3M reflectors for augmented visibility.
- Reflective panels.
- Lots of pockets.
Osprey Ace 75
Topping the list of best hiking backpacks for children is the Osprey Ace 75, which is the largest in Osprey’s Ace series for kids.
Everything about the Osprey Ace 75 is extra. The top-loading backpack has a floating lid that can be raised to stuff it or removed to lessen the weight. It also has another access via the bottom sleeping bag compartment, with a nifty removable divider to be used both ways. Dual side compression straps are great for cinching the pack when it’s less loaded and for a better fit. Plus, a pair of straps running beneath the bottom make for fabulous attachment loops. The pack also has several other attachment loops, two daisy chains, and even Osprey’s patented feature, the Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment. Other accouterments include an integrated rain cover and the main water bladder sleeve which makes the pack hydration compatible.
However, its the pack’s highly-adjustable hip belt and harness that make it a perfect hiking tool for children. Both can be adjusted to suit children with torso lengths of 14-19 inches, with the robust structure adding both support and comfort.
- Integrated rain cover.
- Good adjustable suspension system.
- Reliable and durable.
- No side zippered pockets.