Giving a kid a hiking backpack is like giving them a room of their own. It’s an exciting introduction to a larger life, but one that comes with responsibilities — a budding hiker’s first lesson in the ethos of the trail. Luckily, the best hiking backpacks for kids are variously adjustable.

A quality backpack will be useful for several years even if your child grows like a weed during the off-season. It’s a big first purchase and one that will have a lasting influence on your own hiking experiences.

So how do you know what to look for? The Adventure Junkies will help you choose the perfect pack for any occasion, whether it’s a Saturday morning hike with mom and dad or two nights in the forest with a scouting troop.

For more of our top hiking gear recommendations, check out these popular articles: 

TentsHammocks | Bivy Sacks | Tarps

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Backpacks | GPS | Headlamps | PolesWatches

Boots | Shoes | Sandals | Pants | Shorts

Base Layers | Fleeces | Down Jackets | Rain Jackets

 

 

 

 

QUICK ANSWER – THE BEST HIKING BACKPACKS FOR KIDS

1. DEUTER FOX 30

2. OSPREY ACE 38 

3. OSPREY HYDRAJET 

4. DEUTER FOX 40

5. REI CO-OP TARN 18 

6. GREGORY WANDER 

7. REI CO-OP TARN 65 

8. THE NORTH FACE TERRA

9. THE NORTH FACE YOUTH RECON

10. CAMELBAK SCOUT 

 

 

 

COMPARISON TABLE – THE BEST HIKING BACKPACKS FOR KIDS

PICTURE
HIKING BACKPACKS FOR KIDS
BEST USE
VOLUME
WEIGHT
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
HIKING BACKPACKS FOR KIDS
BEST USE
VOLUME
WEIGHT
PRICE
RATING
Deuter Fox 30
Backpacking
30L
2 lbs
$$
4.5
Osprey Ace 38
Backpacking
38L
2 lbs
$$$
5.0
Osprey Hydrajet
Dayhiking
50L
12 oz
$$
5.0
Deuter Fox 40
Overall
40L
2 lbs
$$
4.8
REI Co-op Tarn 18
Overall
18L
17 oz
$
4.8
Gregory Wander
Backpacking
70L
4 lbs
$$$
4.5
REI Co-op Tarn 65
Backpacking
65L
4 lbs
$$$
4.8
The North Face Terra
Backpacking
55L
4 lbs
$$$
4.5
North Face Youth Recon
Budget
17L
15 oz
$
4.5
Camelbak Scout
Budget
10L
14 oz
$
5.0

 

 

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KIDS BACKPACKS REVIEWS

DEUTER FOX 30

Check out the latest price on:
AmazonREI

BEST FOR: 1-2 day backpacking trips, ages 6-10

CAPACITY: 30L

WEIGHT: 2 lbs, 7 oz

PROS: Good size for smaller hikers, big pockets for easy access to snacks and gear, bottom compartment for sleeping bag

CONS: Sleeve for water reservoir may be hard to access with full pack

 

 

 

OSPREY ACE 38

Check out the latest price on:
AmazonREI

BEST FOR: 1-3 day backpacking trips, tweens and young teens

CAPACITY: 50L

WEIGHT: 2 lbs, 15 oz

PROS: Big mesh side pockets, built-in rain cover, hydration sleeve

CONS: No front-panel access to the inside

 

 

 

OSPREY HYDRAJET

Check out the latest price on:
AmazonBackcountry

BEST FOR: Day hikes

CAPACITY: 15L

WEIGHT: 12.32 oz

PROS: External hydration sleeve fits 50.7 fl. oz, easy to refill without spilling

CONS: Expensive for a small pack

 

 

 

DEUTER FOX 40

Check out the latest price on:
AmazonREI

BEST FOR: 1-3 day backpacking trips, tweens and young teens

CAPACITY: 40L

WEIGHT: 2 lbs 14 oz

PROS: Perfect size for young adventurers, easily adjustable, several big pockets for high-use items, hydration-system compatible

CONS: Might be too tall for smaller kids in age-range

 

 

 

REI CO-OP TARN 18

Check out the latest price on:
REI

BEST FOR: Day hikes, 8-12 years old

CAPACITY: 18L

WEIGHT: 17 ounces

PROS: Nice size for all the stuff kids need for a day on the trails, includes padded hip belt with pockets

CONS: Hydration-system compatible but doesn’t include built-in reservoir

 

 

 

GREGORY WANDER

Check out the latest price on:
AmazonREI

BEST FOR: Multi-day backpacking adventures, teenagers

CAPACITY: 70L

WEIGHT: 4 lbs, 3.2 oz

PROS: Removable day pack also fits hydration reservoir, built-in rain cover, lots of outside pockets

CONS: Size and weight limits use to bigger trips

 

 

 

REI CO-OP TARN 65

Check out the latest price on:
REI

BEST FOR: Multi-day backpacking adventures, tweens and young teens

CAPACITY: 65L

WEIGHT: 4 lbs 5 oz

PROS: Converts into day pack, big outside pocket, very breathable

CONS: Might be too big for smaller kids in age range

 

 

 

THE NORTH FACE TERRA

Check out the latest price on:

Amazon

BEST FOR: 1-3 day backpacking trips, tweens and young teens

CAPACITY: 55L

WEIGHT: 4 lbs, 1 oz

PROS: Seven easily accessible pockets, built-in hydration sleeve

CONS: Reservoir sleeve sold separately

 

 

 

NORTH FACE YOUTH RECON

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

BEST FOR: Short day hikes, tweens and young teens

CAPACITY: 17L

WEIGHT: 14.5 oz

PROS:Doubles as book bag when not on trail, mesh external pockets for water bottles

CONS: Very basic, no hydration sleeve

 

 

 

CAMELBAK SCOUT

Check out the latest price on:
AmazonREI

BEST FOR: short day hikes, young kids and tweens

CAPACITY: 10.5L

WEIGHT: 14.1 oz

PROS: 50 fl. oz built-in water reservoir with drinking tube, leak-proof lever, safety whistle included

CONS: Too small for anything but shorter day hikes.

 

 

LEARN HOW TO CHOOSE HIKING GEAR FOR YOUR NEXT ADVENTURE

 

 

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST HIKING BACKPACKS FOR KIDS

SIZE AND CAPACITY

First, consider the type of hiking your kid will be doing. Is it a day hike with the family at a national park or an overnight adventure with their class or club?

For day hikes up to five miles, most tweens and young teens should carry a small pack with a capacity of between 10 and 18 liters. For trips lasting one to three nights, they’ll need a pack with an internal frame and a capacity between 40 and 70 liters.

So that’s the pack, but what about the kid? What’s their size and capacity? First and foremost, you must know your child especially their limitations. While some kids will want to carry their own gear from an early age, others may find it too strenuous.

You shouldn’t force a backpack on them when they’re just starting out; let them ask for one. Start slow, with a light load, and try not to overwork or overburden kids who are just beginning to love the trail and the outdoors.

According to the Pacific Coast Trails Association, children as young as four can start carrying some of their own stuff especially water.

By age six or seven, they can carry their own sleeping bag and other gear on an overnight hike. Remember, though, that it’s really more about the individual child rather than a hard-and-fast age range. No matter the length of the hike, your kid’s backpack should include water, food, extra clothing and other hiking essentials.

The Wilderness Society also recommends packing in a variety of “kid-friendly” supplies, such as wet wipes, safety whistles, and even magnifying glasses for getting up close and personal with the flowers and bugs.

 

FIT

Many of the top gear companies design backpacks specifically for kids, with adjustable shoulder harnesses, suspension systems and hip belts that allow the pack to grow along with its young owner.

To find the right fit, the most important things to know are the length of your child’s torso and the position and feel of the shoulder straps. Make sure to take the child with you when you’re shopping for a backpack, even if it ruins the surprise of a birthday or holiday gift.

A hiking backpack must fit comfortably or else it becomes a burden rather than a beloved tool. And the only way to make sure is to try it on.

 

WEIGHT

For tweens and younger kids, try to keep backpacks as light as possible. Most of the larger backpacks designed for young hikers weigh about 2 – 2.5 lbs empty.

For bigger tweens and teenagers up to about 16, look for multi-day backpacks that weigh about 4 – 4.5 lbs empty. Kids’ day packs should weigh under 1 lbs empty.

 

POCKETS

When you’re out on the trail and you’re feeling at one with your trusty backpack, the last thing you want to do is take it off and rummage around for your snacks or your camera. Kids especially may find the frequent taking off and putting on of a heavy backpack quite tiresome.

This is exactly the kind of potentially tantrum-causing fatigue you want to avoid when you’re two miles in from the trailhead with another mile to go. A backpack with several large mesh and zip-up pockets within easy reach will save time, energy, and maybe even a few tears.

 

HYDRATION SYSTEM

Consider choosing a kids’ backpack with a built-in hydration system, or at least one with a pocket designed to hold a water reservoir. It’s easier and safer for kids to drink through a tube than to use multiple water bottles, which could fall out of their backpack or be left behind accidentally.

Best Hiking Backpacks for Kids - Hiking Tips For Beginners – Backpacking Tips and Tricks for Women and Men

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