Mom Goes Camping

Best Hiking Child Carriers for Petite Women

best hiking carriers for petite women

As a 5’1” woman, finding hiking gear which fits is often a challenge, but I didn’t expect it to be so difficult to find a hiking child carrier for petite women.  After all, it’s usually the moms I see carrying their kids on the trail.  Yet, most hiking carrier backpacks are made for people who are at least 5’4” and not short women with narrow shoulders and waists.

After doing a lot of research and talking to other small outdoorsy moms, I’ve compiled this list of the best hiking carriers for petite women.  I’ll also talk about specific features petite women should pay attention to when choosing a hiking carrier.

 

Adjustable Baby Hiking Backpacks Aren’t Great for Short Women

Most of the “best” child hiking backpacks today are highly adjustable.  For example, the Deuter Kid Comfort brags that its torso length is adjustable from 15 to 20 inches.

Adjustable hiking carriers are great – but only to a point:  When you put the backpack carrier on the smallest setting, the shoulder straps end up low on the pack, meaning the load (your child) is way up high.   A top-heavy load is hard to carry and balance.

It’s unrealistic to expect a hiking carrier to fit well on both a 5’ woman and 6’ tall man.  Plus there may be issues with the sternum strap location, hip belt size, and shoulder width.

deuter kid comfort fit on tall man

This is how the Deuter Kid Comfort fits on a tall man. On a short woman, the child would be towering overhead.

 

What to Look for in a Hiking Carrier When You Are Petite

Carrying a large, bulky load – especially one that might be flailing and crying – when you are a small woman is not an easy task.  But, like with any good backpack, a carrier can help hold the weight and stay balanced.  Here’s what you specifically need to pay attention to with hiking carriers if you are petite.

 

Soft vs. Framed Backpack Child Carrier

As a general rule, framed child carriers do a much better job of transferring weight and helping you stay balanced.  For long hikes with a heavier/older child, you’ll need a framed carrier. However, framed child carriers are also bulky and most aren’t made for short, petite women.  I’ve tried on backpack carriers which couldn’t even cinch around my waist (which I guess I should be happy about).

If you are just going on short hikes and your child is a good walker, then it might make more sense to bring a soft carrier; let your child walk and use the soft carrier as a backup for carrying if they get tired. Likewise, if you are really petite, you might find that soft carriers are the only ones which give you a good fit.

Read: Soft Carriers vs. Backpack Child Carriers for Hiking

 

Storage Compartment Underneath Carrier

Some backpack hiking carriers have packs on the exterior.  While the extra storage space is nice, it isn’t the smartest design.  It makes much more sense to put the storage under the child seat.  Here’s why.

When packing a backpack, the heaviest items should be placed in the middle of the pack, close to your spine. Unfortunately, there’s no way to get the load (your child) compacted right against your back. The load ends up being far from your spine, which in turn makes it hard to balance – especially if you are short and small to begin with.  Adding extra storage on the back of the carrier just makes it even harder to balance.

The Kelty PerfectFit Elite has storage outside the carrier, putting more weight away from your core and making it harder to balance.

 

Weight Limit

Let’s be realistic here: if you are a petite woman, you probably don’t want to carry a 45lb child on your back on long hiking trips.  As I talk about in my post about hiking with my two year old, I get exhausted quickly and she’s only about 25lbs now.  However, a high weight limit on a hiking carrier is a sign that it’s well-made (so you can use it with future children or sell it later).

 

Carrier Weight

Hiking backpack carriers typically weigh around 6 to 7lbs.  That’s a lot of weight to carry, especially since you are already carrying your child and probably lots of the gear supplies a child requires.  By contrast, a soft-carrier will only weigh 2lbs or so.  However, a good frame will do a better job of distributing weight and helping you stay balanced.  So, don’t get suckered in by hiking carriers which boast they are “lightweight.”  What you really need is a good balance between carrier weight and carrying ability.

 

Load Lifter Straps

Some of the cheap backpack kid carriers don’t have “load stabilizer straps” or “load lifter straps”. These are straps which connect the back panel to the pack.  They can be adjusted while on-the-go and are very important for keeping the load from wobbling around and throwing you off balance.  The load-lifter straps should form a 45-degree angle with the back panel.

 

Thick, Padded Hip Belt

The hip belt is really important when you are holding a heavy load. It will transfer the weight of your child from your back to your hips.   You’d be surprised what a difference a lot of thick padding can make towards your comfort.

 

Buckle Placements in Soft Carriers

If you are getting a soft child hiking carrier, pay careful attention to where the adjustment buckles are located.  Sometimes the buckles end up in the dumbest location when on the smallest setting.  For example, the popular BabyBjorn Air One has giant buckles that end up right under the arms and chaff you as you hike.

 

Best Baby Hiking Carriers for Petite Women

1. Deuter Kid Comfort Active SL

deuter kid comfort active womens SL hiking carrier for women

Best For: Petite women who won’t be sharing the carrier with a tall partner

  • Torso Length: 14-18”
  • Weight: 5lbs 13oz
  • weight: 48lbs
  • Storage capacity: 14L
  • Buy at: Amazon, REI

Review:

In virtually every article about the best child carrier backpacks, the Deuter Kid Comfort carrier comes out #1.  However, if you read the reviews, you’ll see that most short or petite women don’t like how the carrier fits.  Even on the smallest settings, the backpack carrier is looming overhead and unbalanced.

Luckily Deuter realized this and made the Deuter Kid Comfort Active SL, a backpack carrier specifically for women (or slender, shorter men).  The torso length is adjustable, but only from 14” to 18”.  This makes the Kid Comfort Active SL the backpack carrier with the shortest torso length currently available; most carriers only go down to 15”.

The pack has almost all of the comfort features of the other Deuter kid carriers: Incredibly comfortable straps, back ventilation, safety straps, storage compartments…  It holds a child up to 40lbs (48lb weight limit with the pack and load). At 5lbs 13oz, it weighs less than most other backpack carriers.

The only real downside of the Deuter KC Active SL is that it doesn’t have a water bladder compartment.  If you are hiking alone, it’s very difficult to reach your water bottles – you’ll probably have to take off the carrier to get it. I’ve trained my toddler to hand me my water bottle from the side pockets, and tied them to the pack so she won’t drop them, but a water bladder compartment is definitely nice to have.

Pros:

  • Actually made for petite women
  • Great fit and easy to adjust
  • Child seat and feet stirrups are highly adjustable
  • Lightweight carrier that still distributes weight like a proper hiking pack
  • 14 liters of storage under child seat

Cons:

  • No water bladder compartment
  • Chin rest, sun shade, and rain cover sold separately

Check price at Amazon and REI


 

2. Thule Sapling Child Carrier

Thule Sapling frame child carrier for hiking and backpacking

Best For: An adjustable backpack carrier which is actually comfortable for people of different heights

  • Torso Length: 15-21”
  • Weight: 7lbs 3oz
  • Max. weight: 48lbs
  • Storage capacity: 20L
  • Buy at: Amazon, REI

Review

The Thule Sapling is pricy, but it is probably the best option if you need to switch between a short woman and tall partner.  Compared to other backpack carriers, the child seat is fairly low.  So, even when you have the Sapling carrier at its smallest setting, the load is still balanced well instead of towering overhead.  It’s also only 12.25” wide, which makes it narrower than other backpack carriers (even narrower than the women’s Deuter carrier above).

The lumbar support on the Thule Sapling make this particularly comfortable to wear.  There are load adjustment straps, ventilation, and nice padded straps – everything you’d expect from a professional backpack.

I’m not too pleased with the placement of the foot stirrups on the carrier, especially for younger children.  However, the seat is made in a way that they can actually rest their thighs on the storage compartment and sit without having their feet in the stirrups.  There is also no pillow for your child; just a kind of drool pad.

The main downside of this hiking carrier for short women is the kickstand: it is very difficult to deploy with short arms. Depending on how small you are, you might have trouble retracting the kickstand too – not fun if you are hiking alone on overgrown paths!

Pros:

  • Comfortable for different heights
  • Very well balanced
  • Water bladder compartment
  • Comfortable seat for child
  • Sunshade included
  • Lots of storage
  • Suitable for serious backpacking

Cons:

  • Kickstand difficult to extend with short arms
  • Chin rest isn’t padded
  • Expensive

Check price on Amazon and REI


 

3. ErgoBaby Omni 360 Cool Air

ErgoBaby Omni 360 for hiking

Best For: Everyday carrier that can be used for hiking with infants or toddlers

  • weight: 7-45lbs
  • Carrier weight: 2lbs
  • Buy at: Amazon

Review:

The ErgoBaby Omni 360 is one of the most “advanced” child carriers from the company.  It can be used from birth to 45lbs without an infant insert. The straps can be worn in an H shape or crossed over, depending on the type of support you need.  There is also a detachable storage compartment.  By comparison, the ErgoBaby 360 needs an infant insert, doesn’t have a storage compartment, and the straps can’t be crossed.  For this reason, it’s worth paying a bit more for the Omni 360.

As expeted from ErgoBaby, the child carrier is really comfortable.  There’s a very wide hip belt with built-in lumbar support, so it can be worn on longer hikes.  You have the option of carrying your child in front, on your back, or on the side (though I wouldn’t recommend that position on hikes).

There are two versions of the Omni 360 carrier: Cool Air Mesh and Cotton.  For hiking, the Cool Air Mesh is much more breathable and dries quickly.  It also uses sliders instead of buttons for size adjustments.  However, some people do say that the mesh material is scratchy and chaffs at their or their baby’s skin.  Your baby should have some clothes on as a barrier against the mesh.

Other than the mesh, the main issue with the Omni 360 carrier is that the straps are pretty bulky.  For short women, this can be annoying as the padding can push under your arms.  Another small issue is that the child sits low in the back position, so they won’t get much of a view.

Pros:

  • Suitable for infants and toddlers
  • Highly adjustable
  • Great lumbar support
  • Hiking and everyday use

Cons:

  • Mesh material is scratchy
  • A bit bulky

Check price on Amazon


 

4. Lillebaby Complete Airflow

lillebaby complete airflow for hiking

Best For: Soft carrier for longer hikes with babies or young toddlers

  • Max weight: 7-45lbs
  • Carrier weight: 2.5lbs
  • Buy at: Amazon

Review:

As far as soft carriers go, the Lillebaby Complete is one of the best for hiking with babies or young toddlers.  Compared to most soft carriers (including the Ergo), it has a very wide waist belt and also built-in lumbar support.  While this does make the carrier heavier and bulkier, it makes it much more comfortable to wear for long periods of time.

The carrier is adjustable in many areas, including having the option of wearing the straps in an H position or crossed.  For your child, there is an adjustable seat and a neck support panel which can be up or down.  The built-in hood is detachable and keeps your child’s head steady if they fall asleep on the hike.

The “Airflow” version of the Lillebaby Complete has a front panel which zips down to expose mesh, allowing for ventilation in hot weather.  There’s also an “All Seasons” mesh version of the hiking carrier, but the mesh can be a bit scratchy on the skin.  If you don’t want any mesh, then opt for the original cotton version.

If your child is a bit older, then consider getting the Lillebaby CarryOn instead.  It is suitable for 20 to 60lbs.

Pros:

  • Lumbar support
  • Straps worn in H or cross position
  • Very comfortable
  • Adjustable and detachable hood
  • Zip-down mesh panel option
  • Affordable carrier

Cons:

  • Waist belt might not fit very skinny women
  • Bulky

Check price on Amazon


 

5. Tula Toddler Carrier

Toddler tula carrier for hiking

Best For: Toddlers and children who will mostly be walking but may need to be carried occasionally

  • Carrier weight: 5lbs
  • weight: 25-60lbs
  • Hip belt: 28-61 inches
  • Buy at: Amazon

Review:

Tula is favorite brand for child carriers.  They make a toddler version of their ergonomic carrier and it’s pretty good for hiking.  It’s suitable for children 25 to 60lbs.

The design of the Tula carrier is pretty simple, which makes it easy to adjust and get your child inside.  The wide waistband helps distribute the weight well.  Your toddler will also be comfortable because there is a lot of padding in the leg area.

You can wear your child in front or back position.  In my opinion, the front position only makes sense if your child is right at the bottom of the 25lb weight limit.  After that, they get too big and will obstruct your view.  The back position is better and not as hot for hiking.

There’s a built-in hood in the carrier which will keep your child’s head stable if they fall asleep – though it is admittedly almost impossible to get on by yourself when your kid is in the back position.

I wouldn’t want to wear a 25+lb child in the Tula carrier for long hikes.  However, it is a really good solution for if your child gets tired while hiking and needs to be carried a bit. It isn’t as bulky as other hiking carriers so you can keep it in your pack until you need it. The design makes it one of the best fits for short women and the waistband adjusts from small to plus-sizes.

 

Pros:

  • Carriers up to 60lbs
  • Easy to get on/off
  • Built-in hood for sleeping
  • Not bulky

Cons:

  • Front position is awkward
  • Fabric lacks ventilation
  • A bit pricy for a soft carrier
  • Not for very skinny women

Check price on Amazon


 

6. Beco Gemini

Beco gemini child carrier for hiking

Best For: A soft hiking carrier which works for petite and larger parents

  • Max weight: 7-35lbs
  • Carrier weight: 6lbs
  • Hip belt: 28-57 inches
  • Buy at: Amazon

Review:

A lot of moms love the Beco carriers and find them very comfortable to wear, even on longer hikes. The design is simple but effective.  You use snaps to adjust the seat size for your child (there are two size options). A neck support panel can go up or down.  There’s a sternum strap and hip belt.  There are some nice features like two pockets and sleep hood, but no lumbar support.

The simplicity of the design means Beco carriers are easy to get on and off without much fiddling.  They are also affordable for the quality. However, your child will quickly outgrow the Gemini carrier, which means you’ll need to get their toddler carrier.  Still, Beco carriers are one of the better options when it comes to adjusting between different sized parents.  The straps do sit a bit awkward on the smallest setting, but are still overall comfortable.

Note that there is a cool air mesh option of Beco carriers.  Many parents complain that the mesh is scratchy and uncomfortable, so it’s probably best to choose a cotton option.

Pros:

  • Adjusts well to different body sizes
  • Very easy to use
  • Not as bulky as most hiking carriers
  • Straps in H or cross position

Cons:

  • Baby will quickly outgrow Gemini
  • Not breathable and mesh version is scratchy
  • Hip belt won’t fit very skinny women

Check price on Amazon


 

7. Boba Classic 4Gs

Boba Classic 4Gs for hiking

Best for: When you need a good-enough, packable hiking carrier on a budget

  • Max weight: 7-45lbs
  • Carrier weight: 2lbs
  • Hip belt: 25-58 inches
  • Buy at: Amazon

Review:

This is the most affordable hiking child carrier on the list. It comes with a pillow insert so it can be used for infants starting at 7lbs.  Remove the pillow and use with toddlers up to 45lbs.

A cool thing about the Boba Classic 4GS that I haven’t seen with other soft carriers is that it includes removable foot straps. Just slide your child’s feet into the straps; your child will be more comfortable and you won’t have to deal with feet swinging around.

Removable foot straps for the Boba carrier

Other cool features about the Boba carrier are that it has a waist pocket and the hood pocket is large enough to store some small items too. There is a holder on the shoulder to keep your purse strap from falling down.

The carrier will fit most parents, regardless of size.  The waist band adjusts from 25 inches to 58 inches, and they have extenders for plus-sized parents. There is a plastic adjustment buckle under the arm area, but it is low enough that it shouldn’t rub against your arms.

Unfortunately, this carrier doesn’t give the best back support.  There’s no additional lumbar support and the straps cannot be crossed. The waist band is also very soft, so won’t take as much weight as a hiking carrier with a harder, thicker waist band.

Pros:

  • Affordable option
  • Good from infancy to 45lbs
  • Removable feet straps
  • Pockets, hood, and purse strap holder

Cons:

  • Straps cannot be crossed
  • Not the best back support

Check price on Amazon


Image credit: “Taman Negara” (CC BY 2.0) by Phalinn Ooi,

About the author /


Diane Vukovic grew up camping and backpacking in upstate New York. Now, she takes her own daughters on wilderness adventures so they can connect with nature and learn resiliency. With dozens of trips under her belt, Diane is an expert in minimalist camping, going lightweight, planning, and keeping her kids entertained without screens.

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