Best Kids Backpacks
You would assume that the best backpacks for kids is a widely discussed subject in the parents’ circle. However, you would be surprised how limited the choice for kids’ backpacks is. This means that parents tend to avoid bringing their kids with them to hike or on backpacking trips. If you are thinking of getting a regular backpack for your kid, we would advise against it. Backpacks for adults greatly differ from kids’ backpacks. The best way to determine whether a backpack is suitable for your body shape is by measuring your height and torso length. This part is the same for kids. However, their hips are of course narrower and their torso shorter. For this reason, for a good posture during your hike, it is important that your kid also has his own backpack.
Needless to say, you are not going to make him carry a lot of weight, but simply carry his own hydration pack and maybe some other very light items. Kids’ backpacks are less practical and more psychologically satisfying for the kids. Naturally, kids start to imitate their parents from a young age. They are inclined to copy you in every step you make. If you carry a backpack during your hike, it is only natural that they want their own. That said, it is important that you realize that a kid’s backpack is something more than a miniature version of your own backpack. Kids’ backpacks have different designs, they are more comfortable and safer.
Nevertheless, you should always avoid placing a significant amount of weight in his backpack. The total weight that your kid should be able to carry is less than 10% of his own weight. However, if you notice that he is having a hard time keeping up with the pace, make sure you lower his weight even more. It is also important to keep notice on how he is wearing your backpack. Children tend to wear their backpacks a bit differently than recommended which might result with muscle or joint pain or an injury. And for those of you who are still doubting whether your child should get one, rest assured since most osteopathic physicians state that wearing a backpack that is not too heavy for the child is not at all dangerous.
Our Top 3 Picks
10 Best Kids Backpacks
Osprey Ace 75 Internal Frame Pack
The quality and placement of the straps is the main indicator of the comfort of the backpack. This one, has compression straps on both sides in order to keep the load more compact, therefore increase the balance of the user. Or if you intend on packing it extra light, you could maximize the compression and go one a one day hike. This increases the comfort level of the backpack and makes it feel more lightweight. The other additional pair of straps is placed on the bottom compartment which makes attaching a sleeping pad, bag or tent easier.
Other than the lid, the bottom is another place of access which is the perfect place for your kid’s sleeping bag. Inside, there isn’t one main compartment, but it is divided in two major compartments for better organization and weight distribution. There is even a rain cover which is integrated into the backpack and it is placed at the bottom. This allows your kid to use the rain cover and pack it up right after use. Even though this is not recommended, it certainly is useful if it is required.
The only downside is that it lacks pockets. In fact, there aren’t any additional pockets. The design of this backpack is made for your kid to be able to access everything quick and easily, even if it is already packed inside. There are two side mesh pockets for your water bottle though.
- Compression straps
- Two major compartments
- Lack of pockets
Gregory Wander 38
The Wander pack has shoulder straps that are ergonomically designed, like most kids backpacks. However, it also includes a waist belt which is not common in kids backpacks. Both the waist belt and the shoulder straps are adjustable to your kid’s torso size and they are comfortably resting on him. The waist belt is allowing an even weight distribution which is particularly important in kids backpacks since it could improve or deteriorate their posture and stability.
As you can see, the Wonder pack is a kids’ backpack with adult backpack features. And if you are planning a nice fishing day in nature, this is the perfect choice. It has a fishing pole loop which could also be used for placing a trekking pole loop if your kid is not that interested in the fishing sport. And for more organized approach, there is an access to your kid’s gear to the bottom of the pack which is zippered and secured. The one feature that parent appreciate most is the front pocket which is large enough to hold your kid’s jacket. Of course, there are side pockets as extra additions and lash points. And if you are not already loving this Gregory Wander product, there is a ruler graphic made under the pack’s lid that will help your kid and yourself measure how large is the fish you caught.
- Ergonomically designed straps
- Great weight distribution
- Fishing pole loop
- Not too many external pockets
- Not a childish design
Patagonia Kids Bonsai Pack
The material is quite durable as it is made from a tough polyester fabric. It is made from recycled material and it is quite tear resistant which is a pretty useful feature for a kid’s backpack. The material is also treated with a water repelling coating which ensures that your kid’s stuff stay safe and dry in case a rain surprises you.
The shoulder straps of the Bonsai pack are ergonomically designed which increases the comfort. However, its comfort significantly increases if you add more weight to the pack since it does not have internal structure that will support it. This makes it perfect for kids who are symbolically wearing a backpack, instead of carrying their necessary stuff for backpacking.
- Without internal structure
Osprey Jet 18
The backpanel is padded with foam which makes it highly breathable and more comfortable. The shouldered straps are contoured and they are perfectly resting on your kid’s shoulders. Because of the padded foam addition to the shoulder straps, they don’t leave marks even if you fully fill it up.
The shoulder straps are enriched with mesh pockets that are perfect for small easily reachable stuff. There are also side pockets which are ideal for water packs or similar items that you don’t mind losing since the pockets are not zippered. The main compartment is bucket style designed which is typical for daily kids backpacks. A water reservoir is one of the additional features this pack possesses. However, if you prefer a backpack without it, it is removable. What’s quite useful regarding the water reservoir is that is can be refilled without having to take it off. Instead, it is placed in a sleeve between the backpanel and the body of the backpack.
- Many pockets
- Spacious main compartment
- Padded backpanel
- Made from relatively thin material
The material is very durable which is the most necessary feature for kids’ backpacks. It is built to endure the abuse that is inevitable considering that the owner would be a bit smaller than expected. The material used in the production process is ripstop nylon which is quite common in the kids’ backpacks manufacturing process.
What makes this pack capable of carrying a bigger amount of weight is its internal frame which is very lightweight and does not add up weight to the pack. It is built to carry larger weight and more moderate loads and how much you pack it, is your choice.
This Deuter backpack even has a waist belt which is helping in weight distribution and it has many gear loops. This leads us to the name of the backpack, climber, because it has all the necessary features for this more demanding outdoor sport.
It is convenient for use in higher temperatures because it features a ventilation channel placed on the back of the backpack. This makes the entire backpack more breathable which is why you would be required to carry less extra clothes for changing.
The additional features of the Deuter pack also include side pockets and a large zipped lid. This makes your kid’s stuff easily accessable and more organized.
- Internal frame
- Waist belt
- Limited color options
REI Co-op Tarn 12 Pack
The shoulder straps are padded and they add to the comfort of the entire backpack. The back panel is also padded and it has an excellent ventilation system which means that it will help your kid stay dry and comfortable.
It is important for your kid to stay hydrated while hiking. However, if the hydration pack is hard to access, it is only logical that your kid drinks water less frequently. The Co-op Tarn has solved this issue by adding bottle pockets on the sides of the backpack.
The pack includes a large main compartment and the side panels are with stretch mesh. There is also a front pocket which is perfect for a jacket or a rain coat. The front pocket is zippered which suggests that you could pack your child stuff that need to be secured.
Since this is a backpack that supports a larger weight, it also has a high-quality adjustable hipbelt.
- Spacious main compartment
- Rain coat
- Excellent ventilation system
- Might be too small for longer trips
The two shoulder straps are padded and they feel quite comfortable as the little ones witness. Unlike many competitive backpacks from the same price range, this one also contains a chest strap which additionally distributes the weight. This makes it seem as if the load the user is carrying is much lower than the actual amount of weight. It is allowing your kid to carry an increased weight without feeling too burdened.
The main compartment is spacious and the additional pockets are smaller. The side pockets are tape ones which make it hard to use them for water bottles. The fabric used in the manufacturing process is with high quality, which makes the backpack quite durable.
- Great design
- High-quality straps
- Might be too childish for bigger children
Deuter Pico Backpack
The shoulder straps are padded but they are not very breathable which might lead to sweating on that specific place. However, they are very comfortable and completely adjustable to any torso length.
The fabric is made from a high-quality polyester material. This makes it durable and able to support a small amount of weight.
The main compartment is spacious and it gives the user a quick access to his stuff. The side pockets look like wings and they are perfect for keeping small stuff inside. Even though it is a very comfortable backpack, it is a small one and it is made for one-day hikes only. It does not have an internal frame and larger load would represent a problem for the carrier.
- Breathable shoulder straps
- Adjustable straps
- Might be too small
ZippyRooz Toddler & Little Kids Small Hiking Backpack
The back of the backpack is padded and it is highly breathable. This feature allows airflow which keeps your kids back dry and cool. However, if the temperatures drop, the main compartment has enough space for a sweater or a windproof jacket.
The chest strap is usually not too adored from the kids, and making them use it, it not an easy task. The zippy backpack has solved this issue by adding a whistle to the chest clasp. Even though this might be misused a couple of times, it can be a lifesaver if your kid gets lost. The whistle is loud enough so it can be heard from miles away. If something like this happens, you would be able to locate him by following the sound from the whistle. However, before going on the hike, it is important to teach him which situations are emergencies and require the use of this feature.
- Highly breathable backpanel
- Added whistle
- Suitable for toddlers only
The material this backpack is made of is 600D polyester which suggests that its quality is excellent. This makes the backpack very durable. The stitching is also made with top of the notch quality. Even though this backpack is made with 800 cubic inches of volume, it is able to carry a significant amount of weight without damaging it. In order to prove this, the manufacturer offers a lifetime warranty which means that if you manage to tear it or damage it somehow, they will change it immediately.
As additional features, the Dakine backpack possesses many pockets that are large enough to pack your essentials. There is a special place for your kid’s hydration pack, sunglasses or additional gear. The main compartment is pretty spacious and in addition to this, you have 2 front pockets and 2 side mesh pockets for stuff that you need an easy access to. And if you plan on hiking next to a road, don’t worry, Dakine’s got you covered. It has reflective webbing that will allow motorists to notice your kid from far and avoid dangerous situations.
- Limited color designs
Criteria for Evaluation
How to choose the best fit for your child’s backpack?
When choosing the best fitting backpack it is important to consider several factors that will influence the comfort level. Sure enough, your child will not be able to explain whether it fits him correctly and if it is comfortable for him. However, he will not pass the opportunity to choose the design by himself.
For a more comfortable fit, it is recommended that you avoid narrow straps for the shoulders. Wider straps will not leave marks on your child’s shoulders and the weight will be distributed evenly. The shoulder straps with a higher quality will also be padded with a soft material and the most exclusive ones will also allow the body to breathe and have excellent breathability properties.
If you are planning on going on a hiking or backpacking trip in the summer, it is best that you choose shoulder straps with mesh fabric which will increase the comfort and it will allow for the excessive moisture to escape.
The question without an answer is why most kids prefer wearing their backpack low. This is an everlasting struggle between kids and parents. However, remind him to place the backpack to the right position, to his lower back instead of his butt. This would be done by simply tightening up the shoulder straps. And of course, no matter the media influence, a backpack should be used with both straps in order to reduce strain and bad posture.
Even though hipbelts are recommended for heavier packs, when it comes to children, it is better to take notes for every safety precaution. The hipbelt will transfer the little weight that he carries, from the shoulders of your child to his hips. It is also responsible for keeping the balance during your hike or backpacking adventure. It will keep the backpack in position and it will prevent any shifting or bouncing that may occur. However, the hipbelt has its own fitting rules. It is important that it holds to his hip bones instead of resting on his waist or even worse, being placed bellow his hips.
Unwritten fitting rules
The most important rule is that your kid’s backpack must be smaller than his back. This means that the top of the backpack should be bellow the shoulders and the bottom of the backpack should rest above his pelvis. If you manage to match all of this with his favorite design, half of the job is done! It is better to check the sizes online since all of the distributors have stated them on their sites. Even though there is a way that your too small backpack will fit your child, this is the certain way to know.
When it comes to packing your kid’s backpack it is all about the weight. It should not exceed the limit and all of the “heavy” items should be placed near the back in order for him to be more stable while he is walking.
Best features all at one place
Even though when it comes to our kids we are always aiming for natural products, this is not the case to do so. Natural material backpacks tend to be less durable and have a lower quality. Even though they exist, they are certainly not made for hiking. Instead, aim for a synthetic blend of polyester and nylon material. The base of the backpack should also be reinforced with a heavier fabric that will support the weight and help in its even distribution.
Although we are aware that he will overgrow it in a short period of time if looking for a high-quality backpack, search for one that is sturdier. That means that the stitching should be reinforced in some areas such as the base of the backpack and the shoulder straps. Also, the zippers should not get stuck easily since this could cause panic to your child and a nice situation can easily turn into a difficult one. Instead, look for wider zippers that would be easier to use without much effort.
If you wish for him to use his backpack as long as possible, we recommend sticking to adjustable shoulder straps and adjustable hip belt. Finally, it is a kid’s backpack, so don’t leave the house without a label. Although, the possibility of someone finding it in the woods and getting it back to you is indeed low.
When the weight of a kid’s backpack is discussed, it usually indicates the weight of the items inside. However, the weight of the backpack itself is significant as well. It should be as lightweight as possible in order to allow them to focus on their hike instead of the weight on their backs. The reason for this is because the strength of a child is not at the same level as adults. They are still physically developing their bodies which make them subject to any outer influences.
We have previously mentioned that adjustable shoulder straps and hipbelt are needed in order for the backpack to be more durable and comfortable. However, it should also have an adjustable harness. An adjustable harness is more of a parent feature that will allow the child to use the same backpack for up to 8 years. This makes it possible for the backpack to extend to the desired height of the kid and still be the perfect fit after few years. This feature is making possible that a child owns only one kid’s backpack during his childhood.
Back panels are as important for adult backpacks as they are for a kid’s one. Back panels are making the backpacks more comfortable, breathable and stable. The backpacks with high quality have air channels in order to increase the breathability. This allows your kid’s skin to breathe and you don’t have to change his clothes as often since the sweating will be significantly decreased. Back panels made from mesh fabric are the ones that possess a superior quality and they provide the small user excellent ventilation properties, and the benefits are visible.
Additional tips for backpacking or hiking with your kids
Before you start your journey, it is important to prepare for it. Otherwise, everything could very quickly come to an end. Preparation for a hiking trip is the same for children as it is for adults. You need to get their body in shape first. This means that before the “big event” you should make small hikes to shorter destinations in order for them to get used to the activity. During your hike, you could psychologically prepare them and get them excited about the upcoming trip. After all, preparation is half the fun! Make them enthusiastic about the trip by being enthusiastic yourself. If you are planning on going camping, you could simulate a camping environment at home. Pitch them a small tent inside the house and let them sleep inside if they express such a desire. This will make them feel more excited about the upcoming trip and if any fear exists, which is not as uncommon as you might presume, it will definitely disappear.
And of course, let them be part of choosing their own backpack. They will certainly know how to appreciate this, or at least they will enjoy it for a long time!
Q: How heavy should a child’s backpack be?
Although different manufacturers have different recommendations to the same question, the answer depends on many factors. One of them is the weight distribution. A proper weight distribution allows the user to carry a large amount of weight and still have the feeling of carrying few pounds less. If a backpack has high weight distribution features, you could load it for up to 20% of the child’s weight. However, if it comes with suspicious weight distribution properties it is better not to go over the recommendation of 10% of the child’s weight.
Another important factor to consider is the age and physical condition of the child. If you are not sure where to stop between the 10%-20% range it is better to test it. When you put different amount of weight in your kid’s backpack he will behave differently. For instance, his pace will be slower if he has too much weight on his back and he might even experience some muscle problems if he is not ready to endure the physical pressure. Statistics show that girls are much more likely to experience back issues that boys. The main reason for this lies in the fact that girls have a lower muscle body mass than boys and their structure is also more tender, as their lifestyle tends to be. However, this is not the case for everyone as some girls are prepared from a small age.
Q: How a child’s backpack is any different from an adult’s one?
A child has a different body structure than an adult, therefore their backpacks are different in size to start with. However, their features also differ. A child’s backpack is usually built to carry much less weight than an adult’s backpack. For this reason, most kids’ backpacks don’t have an internal frame. However, those kids’ backpacks that are made to carry bigger loads have to have a great suspension which is why they also offer internal frames. Nevertheless, this is for bigger children only and of course, for those parents who’s little ones are more physically prepared than most adults. Even though this seems like a myth, hikers’ and backpackers’ kids are in excellent physical shape.
A child’s torso is also much smaller than an adult’s one. This is why the straps, the waistband and the height of the backpack are adjusted to the child. Although, most backpacks are adjustable and they could be adjusted to almost any size. If you choose to give your old backpack to your kid, first make him try it at home to see if the size fits him correctly. If it does not, we recommend against going with it since it could influence his posture and his entire growth. If your child is too small, no matter how many strap adjustments you make, you are probably not going to manage to make it comfortable for your child. However, if you somehow manage to do so, there is no reason why he should not carry it to your next hiking trip.
Q: When hiking with toddlers, what features do I need in a backpack?
Even though most parents consider this age to be too soon to start hiking or backpacking, there are brave parents who vote against this claim. When hiking with toddlers it is important to remember few pointers and to look for certain features in a backpack for your youngest one. Since this is a trip that will test his adaptability skills, it is important to encourage him to drink water as often as possible. This means placing the water bottle at a place that is easily accessible. Side mesh pockets are the perfect choice for this. However, the zippered side pockets are more suitable for older children that have different requirements.
Another thing to look for in a toddler’s backpack is that you are going to need to pack a lot of extra clothes. This starts with extra socks. It is necessary that his small feet are dry and toddlers tend to explore everywhere so the possibility of wet socks is significantly greater in this age. Besides socks, you should also pack some extra clothes which means that you are going to need a backpack that is spacious and it doesn’t have to support a lot of weight.
Q: What features should kid’s backpack have?
If your child is bellow the age of 4, it is certain that you are not going to make him carry everything he needs on his back. Since at this age, he definitely needs more than he can carry. However, if your child is ready for bigger adventures and longer hikes, it might be a better idea to consider a higher capacity that he is going to use for years to come. A backpack that is able to support a bigger weight should come with an internal frame. The frame should be lightweight and durable. Durable means that it should be made with a material that is corrosion resistant. Another thing to look for is a backpack that has many compartments or at least many pockets. This way, you could pack it up and simply let him know where everything is. This approach is more organized and it is easier for the child to find what he is looking for. If however, your kid is younger, simply look for a design that he will like since the only thing you would pack inside is a water bottle and maybe some clothes. Even the water bottle will be small sized.
The quality of the straps is also very important. The shoulder straps should be ergonomic and well padded. This will make it feel more comfortable. A waistband is needed for larger loads and for smaller children a backpack with a whistle is recommended. The straps and the back of the backpack should also be made from highly breathable material in order to prevent sweating and more frequent clothes changing.
And as last, the most important thing: kids love to have gear of their own. However, the pleasure is much greater if you leave him to choose his most preferred design.
It is important for adults to spend some time adults. However, it is necessary for your kids to do so. Even though a hike with them could be relatively short and it might leave you will a lot of energy, they should be given the chance to see the nature from close. After a while, you will notice that they are observing and detecting every little miracle that nature offers. In fact, kids are much more perceptive than adults and you might even get some questions that require you to do a good research on the subject. Nevertheless, they will learn and you will certainly learn something!