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Trail Tested: Top 13 Kids Backpacking Backpacks

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We took our first backpacking trip as a family, 13 years ago, when our oldest was just a year old.  We knew absolutely nothing about backpacking with kids, and even less about backpacking with a baby.  Since then, we’ve taken countless family backpacking trips as the years have gone by and we’ve added more and more kids to the family.  Through the years, we’ve found some backpacking gear for kids that we absolutely love, and other pieces of kids backpacking gear that we’ve discarded after just one trip.  

kids backpacking

Luckily, brands are seeing that families want to be out on the trail together and we’ve had an easier time of finding kids backpacking gear as time has gone on.  Below, you’ll find our favorite backpacking packs for kids.  All of these are backpacks that we’ve owned and used some version of them on the trail (though not necessarily all the sizes). Are there more kids backpacking backpacks out there? Absolutely…these are just THE BEST!

Best Kids Backpacking backpacks
ModelCapacityAge RangeTorso SizePrice
Deuter Junior 154-6 $45
Deuter Climber225-910″-17″$75
Deuter Fox 30306-1010″-17″$120
Gregory Icarus 30306-1013″-18″$110
Osprey Ace 38386-1111″-14″$140
Gregory Icarus 4040 8-1213″-18″ $120
Deuter Fox 40407-1211″-18″$130
REI Tarn 40408-1212″-16″$99
High Sierra Tangent459-15N/A$75
Osprey Ace 50508-1413″-17″$170
Gregory Wander 50509-1613″-18″$170
Gregory Wander 707013-1713″-18″$190
Osprey Ace 757510-1714″-19″$190

What to look for in a kids backpacking backpack

backpacking with kids

Padded Hip Belt for Backpacking

The major feature that sets a backpacking backpack apart from a regular backpack is the padded hip belt. The padded hip belt will allow the weight from your child’s backpack to rest on their hips instead of their shoulders. This will allow them to hike farther and longer and also with more comfort (since all their gear won’t be pressing into their shoulders). Make sure that the hip belt can go small enough so that it is securely on their hips and not too loose. If the hip belt doesn’t tighten far enough it will not function the way it needs to, so resist the urge to buy a backpack that’s too big on the waist.  

backpacking with kids

Chest Strap for Backpacking

A chest strap should hit your child, right in the middle of their rib cage.  The purpose of a chest strap is to stabilize the backpacking straps from side to side and prevent rubbing and unnecessary pack movement.  When a backpack chest strap is worn properly, it allows a child’s pack to fit to their body better and bounce around less.  This is a fantastic feature in both a regular hiking backpack and a backpacking backpack. 

External Water Bottle Holder

When kids are backpacking, or really on any hike, hydration is KEY!  All good backpacking backpacks will have an external water bottle holder on them.  Make sure that the backpack you are buying will fit your child’s water bottle (some are annoyingly small and others are so big that all bottles fall out).   Even better, it’s great to buy a backpack that has both an external water bottle holder and a place to put a hydration pack, since kids often drink more out of a hydration pack than a bottle on the trail.  

Adjustable Torso Heights

A good backpacking pack is fitted to the exact length and size of your torso to get a proper fit.  Look for a backpacking backpack where the torso can be adjusted by making the straps higher or lower.  

How do I know if my kids backpacking backpack fits correctly?

fiting a kids backpacking backpack

For a backpack to fit correctly, here is what you want to look for:

  • Hip belt fits snugly on the child’s hips
  • Torso is adjusted so that the straps are just a little bit above the shoulders.  You want a close fit, but do not want the straps to be resting on their shoulders all the time, especially when empty
  • A chest strap that hits at mid-chest

Beyond that, you are just looking for backpack comfort.  If you’re trying a new backpack on, have your child walk around with it on for a bit, climb up things, jump, and bend down.  If the backpack stays in place and is comfortable, it’s a good kids backpacking backpack.  NOTE:  Not all backpacking backpacks fit all kids the same (much like shoes).  We’ve had backpacks that we’ve loved for one child that just haven’t worked for others.  Make sure to make the proper backpack adjustments between kids and to try more than one pack on if the fit doesn’t seem right.  

How much weight can my child carry in a backpack while backpacking?

backpacking with kids

It’s easy to overload kids when you are backpacking, so remember that everything needs to be LIGHT.  We aim to have our kids carry no more than 25% of their body weight while backpacking, but the less they can carry, the better.  Here is what our kids all recently carried on our last backpacking trip:

Age 4 boy, 38 lbs: 5 lb backpack

Age 7 boy, 50 lbs: 9 lb backpack

Age 9 boy, 60 lbs: 12 lb backpack

Age 11 girl, 75 lbs: 15 lb backpack

Age 14 boy, 110 lbs: 30 lb backpack (pack was extra heavy since he helped haul in water since there was no water where we were camping in the desert)

Best Kids Backpacking Backpacks For Hiking

Best Backpacking Backpack for young kids
Deuter Fox 30

Rating: 5 out of 5.
kids deuter fox 30 backpacking pack

Best For Ages: 6-10
Weight: 2lbs 11oz
Capacity: 30L
Torso:  Fits torsos from 10-17 inches

Features that we love: Easy to use sleeping bag compartment at the bottom, wide and easy to load interior, carries a 3L hydration pack, lots of external straps for attaching gear

Things we didn’t like: The manufacturer recommends this pack for ages 5 and up, but we found that most kids can’t fit the hip belt until age 6 (age 7 for our skinny boy).

kids deuter fox 30 backpacking pack

The Deuter Fox 30 is the smallest full functioning backpacking backpack that you can find for kids. It’s an incredible pack that allows kids as young as age 6 to hit the trail carrying their own gear with a full functioning chest strap and waist belt.  Our son recently wore this on a 3 day backpacking trip and it was perfect.  He has a slender frame and at age 7, this just barely got small enough for him (would fit most kids at age 6).  It was incredibly easy to load and was wide enough that we could get things in and out of it with ease.  The top panel is fantastic because there is both an internal and external storage pocket which gives kids a good place to put thing that need to be accessed often, like snacks.

The Deuter Fox is also available in a 40L version, which has the same great features that we love in the Fox 30, but for kids who are a bit older and can carry more gear.  The Deuter Fox 40 is great for kids ages 8-11.

Deuter Fox 40

Best For Ages: 7-12
Weight: 2 lbs 14 oz
Capacity: 40L
Torso: 11-18 inches
Waist: 24-36 inches

We did not test this backpack, though the features are nearly identical to the Deuter Fox 30.

Best Backpacking Backpack For Older Kids and Tweens
Osprey Ace 50

Rating: 5 out of 5.
osprey ace 50 backpacking backpack for kids

Best For Ages:  8-14
Weight:  3.7 lbs
Capacity: 50L
Torso: Fits torsos from 13-17 inches

Features that we love:  The stretchy external pocket is amazing for throwing gear in, and the side water bottle pockets can fit even a 1L bottle, easy to adjust straps to make the pack more compact, easy to adjust hip belt

Things we didn’t like:  On the more expensive side.

kids backpacking backpacks

My daughter absolutely loves her Osprey Ace 50.  She’s worn it on several hikes and has declared that she’s going to keep it forever 😉  It really is one of the best backpacking backpacks for kids and is packed full of features.  We love Osprey day packs, and this backpack for kids had lots of features that you would commonly find in an adult pack, but made for kids.  One of our favorite features of the Osprey Ace kids backpacking pack is that the hip belt is incredibly easy to adjust and pulls to the middle instead of outside (so much easier for kids to adjust independently).  

The back panel is separated from the body to maximize both comfort and air circulation, so it’s an excellent backpacking backpack for hiking in hot conditions.  The zippered sleeping bag panel opened up easily and the pack was easy to load.  The top compartment is very generously sized and fit a variety of odds and ends that she wanted easy access to.  The Osprey Ace 50 also comes with a rain fly for wet conditions.  

The Osprey Ace series is also available in these other sizes:

Osprey Ace 38

Best For Ages: 6-11
Weight: 2 lbs 14 oz
Capacity: 38L
Torso: 11-14 inches

We did not test the Osprey Ace 38, but the features are nearly identical to the Osprey Ace 50 that we did test, but just on a smaller scale.

Osprey Ace 75

Best For Ages: 10-17
Weight: 4.12 lbs
Capacity 75L
Torso: 14-19 inches

This backpack is great for teens who need extra storage space for longer hikes. This is a bigger version of the Osprey Ace 50 with almost identical features, but more capacity. It also fits kids with larger torsos better!

Best Backpacking Backpack for Teens
Gregory Wander 70

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
gregory wanderer 70 kids backpacking backpack

Best For Ages: 13-17
Weight: 4 lbs 3oz 
Capacity: 70L
Torso: 13-18 inches
Waist: 22-40+ inches

Features that we love:Can carry up to 70 L but cinches down a lot for smaller trips, front zipper access to easily see and reach all your gear without unloading, stretchy outer pocket, easily adjustable hip belt

Things we didn’t like: Very wide

gregory wanderer 70 kids backpacking backpack

This summer our 14 year old son is going on a 50 mile backpacking trip with his scout group, so we searched really hard to find him a good backpacking backpack that would work well for his trip (since we 100% know that good gear makes a difference).  We wanted a pack that had full adult features, but that would still fit his smaller and slender frame well.  After TONS of research, we got him the Gregory Wander 70.  This backpacking backpack for teens is packed just as full of features as a Gregory adult pack, and is incredibly versatile.  We got the 70L version so that he could take it on long hikes, but also love that it can cinch down pretty small for smaller hikes as well.  He’s been doing training hikes weeking while wearing it for a few months and we still love it.  

Our favorite feature of this pack is that it can be loaded from the top of the front, which gives you an easy way to access and find things in the pack without unloading the entire thing.  

Here are some of the great features in the Gregory kids backpacking backpack:  Built in custom rainfly, front stretch pocket, easy to adjust (center pull) hip belt), tons of straps to make the pack bigger or smaller, hydration compatible, generous water bottle pockets, and a mesh back panel for lots of air ventilation.  The only thing that’s not our favorite is that we wish it were taller instead of being as wide as it is.  

The Gregory Wander Pack line is also available in a 50L size

Gregory Wander 50 Backpacking Backpack For Kids

Best For Ages: 9-16
Weight: 3 lbs 5.6 oz
Capacity: 50L
Torso: 13-18 inches
Waist: 22-48 inches

The Gregory Wander 50 is very similar to the Gregory Wander 70 in many regards. The big difference between these two backpacks is that the 50L version DOES NOT have a sleeping bag zippered pouch like the 70L version does. While normally I consider this a drawback, the Wander 50 opens from the top as well as the whole front so gear access is incredibly easy still.

Gregory Icarus 40 Kids Backpacking Backpack

Rating: 4 out of 5.
gregory Icarus Backpacking Backpack

Best for Ages: 8-12
Weight: 2.27 lbs
Capacity: 40L
Torso: 13-18 inches
Waist: 26-45”

Features that we love: Perfect for older kids and teens, plenty of storage room inside and extra loops on the outside, love the easy access pocket on the front.

Things we didn’t like: Narrow straps were difficult to adjust, sleeping bag compartment access is too small.

gregory Icarus Backpacking Backpack

The Gregory Icarus 40 is a great backpacking pack for tweens and older kids.  This is our go-to pack for our 9-year-old son.  He’s on the smaller side, but this pack would be great for kids ages 8 and older.  We love that it has plenty of storage for kids backpacking, but is still a super lightweight backpack.  The waist is likely the limiting factor when getting this backpack for smaller kids since it only goes down to 26”.  My son had it tightened quite a bit, but once it was adjusted, the fit was fantastic and he never once complained about his pack rubbing, pulling or irritating him in any way. 

There are two things that were downsides to this pack for us. The first was that a few of the straps, including the adjustment straps for the shoulder straps were narrow and very difficult for my son to easily adjust on his own (without lots of work).  The other improvement I would like to see is a bigger zipper opening for the sleeping bag compartment.  We have a normal kids sleeping bag in a small stuff sack, and we couldn’t get it in sideways through the bottom zipper.  

Overall, this is a great backpack to introduce kids to backpacking with.

The Gregory Icarus is also available in a smaller size as well

Gregory Icarus 30

Best for Ages: 6-10
Weight: 2.15 lbs
Capacity: 30L
Torso: 13-18 inches
Waist: 26-45”

High Sierra Tangent 45

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Best for Ages: 9-15
Capacity: 45L

high sierra tangent 45 backpack

This backpacking backpack is no longer in production, but if you can find one online or a used one, it’s a great starter backpack. While technically an adult backpacking backpack, it is incredibly adjustable and can fit kids as young as 9 or 10. We love that it has plenty of pockets for storage, a zippered sleeping bag compartment, and plenty of storage for kids to carry all their gear. This backpack is also very narrow and tall which works well for tall and slender kids!

Deuter Climber Backpack for Younger Kids

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Deuter Climber backpack

Best for Ages 5-9
Weight: 1 lb 7 oz
Capacity: 40L
Torso: 10-17 inches
Waist: No Waist Belt

If you’re looking for a lightweight backpack that can work for backpacking, without being a kids backpacking specific pack, this is the pack to get.  The Deuter Climber accompanies us on almost every hiking trip we take and it’s a great little backpack for kids.  It DOES NOT have a hip or waist belt, but it does have a chest strap.  This is a simple top loading pack that can work well for introducing kids to backpacking with light weight, but if you’re ready for them to carry more, we suggest getting a more rugged backpacking pack for kids.  

Deuter Climber

Deuter Junior Backpack for Young Kids

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Deuter Junior Backpack

Best for Ages 4-6
Weight: 15 oz
Capacity: 15L

If you are taking younger kids backpacking and want a backpack that they can wear long distances and carry a bit of weight, this is the backpack that we recommend the most.  We like it because it can carry a decent amount of gear with a 15L storage capacity, but it still fits younger kids well.  The chest strap helps it to stay put and even though it doesn’t have a waist or hip strap, it works well for introducing kids to longer hikes.  Our 4-year-old wore this on our recent backpacking trip and it worked great for him.  He was able to carry his sleeping bag, clothes, a few snacks, and his water and still stay at a 5lb backpack.  

kids backpacking

REI Tarn 40

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Best for Ages 8-12
Weight: 2 lbs 10 oz
Capacity: 40L
Torso: 12-16 inches
Waist: 22-36”

We bought this backpack for our 8 year old and after wearing it around the neighborhood, we decided to return this pack.  Not only was this pack not as adjustable as we were hoping, it also only had one major compartment so it was more difficult to load and unload.  For kids, we really prefer them to have at least one access point besides the top to get to their gear, so they don’t end up dumping everything out every time they are looking for something.  While this is an okay backpack in a pinch, compared to the other backpacks we tested, I would not recommend it.  However, if you really just want a simple and more affordable backpack, this may be just the backpack for you!

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