Best Hiking Backpacks for Kids

Whether you are an avid hiker or just starting out, picking out the best hiking backpack for your kids can be quite overwhelming! With so many choices and features, it is hard to know exactly which backpack will best suit your young adventurer’s needs when heading out on the trail. This is exactly why our TMM Team has pulled together, researched, and thoroughly tested each of the most popular brands of hiking backpacks and created our list of the best hiking backpacks for kids.

From day hikes, travel and everything in between, these backpack reviews will help you find the right backpack to suit your family’s adventure style while encouraging your kiddo to fall in love with hiking.

For a more detailed explanation on things to consider when purchasing your next hiking backpack for your child, hop down and read about our Things to Consider When Shopping for Hiking Backpacks for Kids section. There you will find some common FAQ’s and much more!

Reviews of Best Hiking Backpacks for Kids

We have broken down the best kids’ hiking backpacks into three sections: the youngest adventurers, growing adventurers, and older adventurers. The recommended ages are listed with each of the packs but many of the age ranges do overlap, so be sure to take into consideration when shopping for the right backpack for your adventurer!

After months of researching and putting these packs to the test, here is our roundup of the best hiking backpacks for kids!

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Best Hiking Backpacks for the Youngest Adventurers

Deuter Pico

Specs

  • Best For: Ages 2-4
  • Weight: 7 oz
  • Volume: 5L

Our Favorite Features

  • Bright, fun, reflective designs
  • Adjustable sternum strap
  • Made of durable, easy-to-clean material
  • Toddler-friendly stretch mesh side pockets and zipper pulls

What We Love About This Backpack:

The Deuter Pico is a solidly built, simple, practical introductory pack with excellent toddler appeal.

Lightweight, brightly colored, and comfortable, it is an excellent option for everything from introductory hikes to toting around daycare supplies.

Read Team Member Jessica’s Full Review of the Deuter Pico here!

Deuter Schmusebar

Specs

  • Best For: Ages 3-5
  • Weight: 10 oz
  • Volume: 8L

Our Favorite Features

  • Fun, reflective designs
  • Surprisingly large storage capacity
  • Durable, easy-to-clean material
  • Well-padded and well-ventilated shoulder straps and back panel

What We Love About This Backpack:

The Deuter Schmusebar is a durable, fun, well-made pack that can easily grow with a young child for several years.

Deuter Schmusebar is one of the best hiking backpacks for kids

We love the creative reflective designs, ample storage capacity, and how smoothly the pack adjusts for a comfortable fit.

Read Team Member Jessica’s Full Review of the Deuter Schmusebar here!

CamelBak Mini M.U.L.E. Hydration Pack

Specs

  • Best For: Ages 2+
  • Weight: 7 oz
  • Volume: 1.5L

Our Favorite Features

  • Easy-to-sip CRUX reservoir
  • On/off lever on the straw
  • Narrow construction for use with biking
  • Ultra lightweight design

What We Love About This Backpack:

Whether you are on the trail, at the beach, or at a ballgame, this versatile pack allows kids to have water always at the ready with the easy-to-sip CamelBak bite valve and CRUX reservoir, as well as a few essentials for each adventure. It is the perfect starter pack for little explorers, and is great for day-hikes or rides where the kids don’t need to carry a lot of gear.

The Mini M.U.L.E. makes it easy to carry water and essentials, is one of the lightest and sleekest kids’ packs available, and is able to grow with your child indefinitely. If you are aiming for a minimalist, lightweight pack for your kids, the CamelBak Mini M.U.L.E. is aces.

Read Team Member Emily’s Full Review of the CamelBak Mini M.U.L.E. Hydration Pack here!


Best Hiking Backpacks for the Growing Adventurers

REI Tarn 12

Specs

  • Best For: Ages 5-8
  • Weight: 12 oz
  • Volume: 12L

Our Favorite Features

  • Stowable hip belt
  • Lots of functional storage pockets
  • Made of Bluesign approved recycled materials
  • Well-padded, comfortable shoulder straps and back panel

What We Love About This Backpack:

The Tarn 12 is a well-designed, solidly constructed, and incredibly comfortable backpack for kiddos even when packed to the brim.

REI Tarn 12 is one of the best hiking backpacks for kids

With tons of storage pockets, sternum strap and hip belt for weight distribution, and easy-to-clean water resistant fabric, it’s an excellent go-to pack for all kinds of adventures.

Read Team Member Jessica’s Full Review of the REI Tarn 12 here!

CamelBak Kids’ Scout Hydration Pack

CamelBak Kids' Scout Hydration Pack

Specs

  • Best For: Ages 4-7
  • Weight: 11 oz
  • Volume: 12.5L

Our Favorite Features

  • This pack holds a LOT of stuff, much more than a regular CamelBak hydration pack
  • All the pockets! There are two external mesh pockets, two internal mesh pockets plus an internal zipper pocket
  • The hose is an appropriate length for kids, so it doesn’t dangle all the way down to their knees. The bite valve also has an easy to use on/off valve to prevent leaks. My son thoroughly chewed up the bite valve, but the on/off switch prevents it from leaking.
  • The reflective accents. I thought this was a silly feature at first, until we were biking at dusk and I noticed I could see my kid!

What We Love About This Backpack:

We absolutely love the carrying capacity! And even when fully loaded with all my kids things, plus 1 liter of water, the whole thing only weighs in at 5 lbs.

The CamelBak Kids Scout is one of the best hiking backpacks for kids

Although this pack is technically a day pack, we’ve used it a ton for biking, and the sternum strap keeps it from flopping around. And my 6 year old thinks it looks really cool – which means he’s more willing to wear it (and carry his own stuff).

Read Team Member Sarah’s Full Review of the CamelBak Kids’ Scout Hydration Pack here!

Deuter Junior

Specs

  • Best For: Ages 5-8
  • Weight: 14.8 oz
  • Volume: 18L

Our Favorite Features

  • Fits kids really well with comfortable shoulder straps and a sternum buckle to keep it in place.
  • A front zippered pocket holds small items and two water bottle pockets on the side stash water bottles AND treasures.
  • A great pack to introduce kids to wearing slightly more for a first backpacking trip.
  • It grows with your child – easy to cinch down for smaller kids and loosen up for bigger kids that just need a small-to-them pack.

What We Love About This Backpack:

This pack is a great transitional pack to go from smaller hiking packs to something that can hold a bit more gear. Our younger kids (like ages 5-7) use this for hiking AND backpacking to carry a few necessities.

I really like how the Deuter Junior has a sternum strap which helps get a great fit so kids can move freely without the pack moving all over their backs. It also ventilates well.

REI Workload Mini

Specs

  • Best For: Ages 5-10
  • Weight: 15 oz
  • Volume: 21.5L

Our Favorite Features

  • The large main compartment
  • Adjustable sternum strap
  • Front pocket with organizer
  • Exterior water bottle pocket

What We Love About This Backpack:

The REI Workload Mini is a durable, lightweight backpack built for the school day and beyond. We love the large main compartment that keeps the school folders, lunch pail, and more.

This pack features large zippers that pull nice and easy, and a sternum strap to help keep the backpack from sliding off little shoulders. The front organizer pocket keeps your pens and pencils handy and the tablet sleeve helps divide the main compartment.

Also perfect for overnight trips to a friend’s house or flying on a plane. Of course, the REI 100% Satisfaction Guarantee is always a bonus!

Read Team Member Jami’s Full Review of the REI Workload Mini here!

Osprey HydraJet 12

Specs

  • Best For: Ages 4-12
  • Weight: 0.84 lbs
  • Volume: 12L

Our Favorite Features

  • Streamlined fit makes it suitable for active pursuits
  • Versatile powermesh pockets especially the large center pocket
  • Included hydration reservoir is easy to fill and insert, and doesn’t leak
  • Fleece-lined straps provide comfort

What We Love About This Backpack:

This is a great step up from a toddler backpack. It’s shaped well to store a variety of items, and it fits close to the body ensuring hiking and biking in comfort.

The pack is very well made and comes with a top of the line hydration reservoir that is easy to fill and insert and has a child-friendly bite valve.

Read Team Member Kristin’s Full Review of the Osprey HydraJet 12 here!

The North Face Recon Squash

Specs

  • Best For: Ages 6-10
  • Weight: 14.5 oz
  • Volume: 17L

Our Favorite Features

  • Stitched foam back panel and padded shoulder straps
  • Interior mesh mini-pockets for small storage
  • Adjustable sternum strap
  • Internal and external compartmentalized storage

What We Love About This Backpack:

This pack is a great option for your 6-10 year old who is ready to start carrying their gear on the trail. When my daughter goes off for a full day at ski-school or summer camp, I know that she can store everything she needs and has a little room leftover for things she might not need (like six bajillion more rocks)!

The pocket placement allows for a balanced approach to filling the pack, which is great for all-day adventures. The side mesh pockets are also great for larger water bottles.

Read Team Member Bethany’s Full Review of The North Face Recon here!


Best Hiking Backpacks for Older Adventurers

REI Tarn 18

Specs

  • Best For: Ages 7-12
  • Weight: 17 oz
  • Volume: 18L

Our Favorite Features

  • Waist belt pockets
  • Front stuff pocket
  • Comfortable straps
  • Interior pocket

What We Love About This Backpack:

We highly recommend this kid’s day pack for its full-feature set at an affordable price point. One of our favorite features are the double waist belt pockets. They seriously have made my daughter love wearing the pack!

This pack was tested on 3 children, ages 6-10. They all liked that it was the perfect size for daytime adventures. All the kids found it comfortable and easy to wear, with room for essentials and fun extras.

Read Team Member Rita’s Full Review of the REI Tarn 18 here!

REI Tarn Hydro 15

Specs

  • Best For: Ages 8-12
  • Weight: 15 oz
  • Volume: 15L

Our Favorite Features

  • Easy to fill bladder
  • Waist and sternum strap
  • Outside mesh pocket
  • Multiple organization pockets

What We Love About This Backpack:

I love that the material of the pack is easy to clean and water resistant. My kids are disgusting and rough on gear. I try, I really do. It’s nice to have help! I like the easy to pull ties on all the zippers. My kids have a frustration-free experience opening and closing each pocket. My littlest loves the whistle and while I hate to admit it, I’m glad it works too.

I love the waist belt. It stabilizes the pack while running, jumping and biking. I appreciate the easy to loosen and easy to tighten straps. On any given adventure, I will start wearing the pack, my eldest will take over so I can carry my youngest and then my youngest will finish off carrying it at its lightest (after we’ve eaten all the snacks and drank all the water). Quick adjustments make these transitions smooth. Given nobody on my team fits the 8-12 year old range, I’d say this pack has ultimate versatility.

Read Team Member Jen’s Full Review of the REI Tarn Hydro 15 here!

Deuter Climber

Specs

  • Best For: Ages 6-9
  • Weight: 1 lb 8 oz
  • Volume: 22L

Our Favorite Features

  • While it doesn’t come with a hydration bladder, there is a hydration compartment to add a bladder to. This helps remind kids to be drinking on the trail.
  • Tons of gear loops, straps and some pockets. My kids always love to have gear hanging off their packs for easy access. This pack makes that easy with adult-like gear loops to add some carabiners and gear.
  • Waist and sternum buckles mean that the pack stays exactly where it should be as kids tackle any terrain.
  • Top flap zippered pocket for snacks and gear kids need to quickly access.

What We Love About This Backpack:

This is our favorite beginner backpacking pack. It works primarily for kids aged 6-9 who want to be able to carry more gear, but need it to be comfortable and secure.

We add carabiners to the gear loops and hang sandals, hats and exploration gear to the outside to dry while we hike. It also has a great back system for comfort even on long backpacking days.

Gregory Nano 16

Specs

  • Best For: Ages 10+ (Depends on size of child – fits torso 16″ – 21″)
  • Weight: 12.8 oz
  • Volume: 16L

Our Favorite Features

  • Internal Hydration Reservoir Sleeve with Hydration Port
  • Convenient Top Zippered Pocket
  • Breathable Die-Cut Back Panel
  • Adjustable Sternum Strap

What We Love About This Backpack:

The Gregory Nano 16 is a great choice for an older-kid adventurer. The hydration reservoir compatibility and comfortable back panel makes this an excellent option for day hiking and everyday adventures.

The pack is quality made and comes in several appealing colors that preteens and teens will love. This backpack was built with versatility in mind and will easily grow with them well into adulthood.

Read Team Member Michelle’s Full Review of the Gregory Nano 16 here!

Osprey Jet 18

Specs

  • Best For: Ages 6-12
  • Weight: 1.14 lbs
  • Volume: 18L

Our Favorite Features

  • Lightweight
  • Reservoir Sleeve
  • Breathable back panel
  • Chest clip and waist belt

What We Love About This Backpack:

The simplicity of the Jet 18 is one of its greatest strengths. It has just the right amount of carrying capacity, a large bucket style opening and an external sleeve for a hydration reservoir.

Ventilation alongside a close fit seems impossible but the Jet 18 nails it. The airscape backpanel is unique. Functional. And according to my kids, very comfortable.

Read Team Member Valerie’s Full Review of the Osprey Jet 1`8 here!

Gregory Nano 18

Specs

  • Best For: Ages 10+ (Depends on size of child – fits torso 16″ – 21″)
  • Weight: 1.00 lb
  • Volume: 18L

Our Favorite Features

  • Breathable Die-Cut Back Panel
  • Comfortable mesh padded shoulder straps
  • Designated zippered pocket for hydration reservoir
  • Versatility for everyday adventures

What We Love About This Backpack:

The Gregory Nano 18 is a fantastic choice for a tween or teen adventurer. This quality made pack is built to be versatile and long-lasting, and will easily grow with your child (and bonus…Mom or Dad can use it, too!)

The mesh shoulder straps and the breathable die-cut back panel provide extra comfort for those longer hiking adventures as well as for everyday use. This pack will serve your older adventurers for many years to come.

Read Team Member Michelle’s Full Review of the Gregory Nano 18 here!

Cotopaxi Batac 16L

Specs

  • Best For: Ages 10+ (Depends on size of child)
  • Weight: 12 oz
  • Volume: 16L

Our Favorite Features

  • Adjustable sternum strap
  • Ultralight mesh shoulder straps and ultralight design
  • Versatility for everyday adventures

What We Love About This Backpack:

The Cotopaxi Batac 16L is a great choice for everyday adventures for older kids. This environmentally friendly pack is made from remnant materials and is repurposed to help reduce waste.

These unique backpacks come in many color combinations and no two backpacks are exactly the same. They are lightweight and great for stowing in larger bags when traveling as well. This is a great go-to bag for everyday adventures, hiking and so much more!

Read Team Member Michelle’s Full Review of the Cotopaxi Batac 16L here!


Things to Consider When Shopping for the Best Hiking Backpacks for Kids

There are so many things to take into consideration when you begin hiking as a family. Of course you will always want to keep your kiddos properly nourished with kid friendly snacks to help them stay happy when hiking.

Or even use some of the many hiking hacks for families that will help boost the family morale while out on the trail! But one of our favorite tips for encouraging kids down the trail is to buy a hiking backpack that they absolutely love!

When shopping for the best hiking backpack for your child, below are several common features and options to take into consideration before you purchase your next kids’ backpack!

Volume

The age and abilities of the child will determine the length and distance for your family hikes. If just starting out, a smaller day pack will be just fine for your child to carry their own snacks, water and a few other items that they deem necessary (that stuffed animal just HAS to come along, Mom!)

For older kids and preteens, consider a slightly larger day pack that will allow them plenty of room to grow and also to carry additional supplies as they begin hiking longer distances.

Adjustability

Most of the hiking backpacks for kids are designed to grow with the child, which will keep you from having to replace them every time they hit a growth spurt! Things to look for are adjustable straps (like sternum straps, etc.) that will adapt as they grow so you can get more life out of the backpack!

Price

For really young hikers, it’s more about making it a fun experience and building their confidence as they begin hiking. Get a backpack that is lightweight and durable but also reasonably priced. As they get a little older and have more hiking experience under the belt, then consider investing in a backpack that is going to offer more functionality and comfort for longer hikes.

Favorite Features

Here are some of our favorite features to look for when shopping for hiking backpacks for kids!

Sternum Strap

This is a great feature that keeps the shoulder straps from sliding off your little hiker’s shoulders, which is super helpful! Often times the sternum strap buckle will have a whistle which is an extra safety feature that will give you a peace of mind when hiking with your little ones.

Hydration Reservoir Compatibility

Most kids find a hydration reservoir system a super fun addition to hiking. Some backpacks include a hydration reservoir (take the price into accountability.) And some backpacks are hydration compatible (but do NOT include the reservoir) so you will need to purchase the reservoir separately.

Waist Belt

While not always necessary for shorter day hikes, this feature can be helpful on longer hikes which will help distribute the weight of the pack more evenly. Some waist belts have padding and zippered pockets which are also super fun for kids to store their treasures on the trail!

Padded Shoulder Straps

While kids should never carry more than 10-20% of their weight in their backpack, the padded shoulder straps will help add extra comfort for your child when out on the trail.

Daisy Chains

These loop are typically sewn on the outside of the pack and are perfect for hooking hats, key chains, and other items that kids may want to clip on the outside of their backpack.

Outer Mesh Pockets

If the backpack doesn’t come with a hydration reservoir option, these outer mesh pockets are perfect for storing water bottles or other items for easy accessibility.

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2 thoughts on “Best Hiking Backpacks for Kids”

  1. thank you for this! i’ve been looking for pack for my daughter (9yo), and haven’t been able to find anything that’s really good (for a reasonable price). thanks for the REI recommendation(s). The Tarn series looks like it’s just what the doctor, er, hiker ordered!

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