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Recommendations for backpack carriers?

With so many outdoor adventures that await us and our little ones, a backpack carrier can really help make sure that our little ones can share in the joys of the Gorge or other favorite jaunts.  Rebecca is looking for the the pros and cons of the popular models out there - the Kelty, the REI tagalong, any other favorite ones?
We're on the market for a frame backpack carrier for hiking with our 15 month old.  We've gone to REI and done some internet research & we're feeling overwhelmed by the choices so I thought I'd turn to the real experts (urbanMamas of course).  We're looking for good support, light weight, comfortable for baby for for leisurely hiking - nothing longer than a couple hours.  Any recommendations out there?  Also - based on our try out stint at REI - how do you deal with the hair pulling??


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Buy the Ergo baby carrier! You can find it at Milagros in NE or online. I bought mine used on craigslist. They are wonderful for shorter hikes and so comfortable on your shoulders and back. Most babies love the closeness to your body as well. It takes a little getting used to, to hoist the baby on your back, but just have someone experienced show you how (I did), and you'll have it in no time!

FULL DISCLOSER: We carry the ERGO at Milagros but, as with all of our comments, what follows is an honest opinion it is not intended to be an advertisement.

I am a big fan of the Ergo. Jen and I used it with Mila and are now using it with Gael.

We find it as comfortable and supportive as any frame packs (such as a Kelty, which we had until we discovered the Ergo). We have logged countless miles in the city, on the trail, and beyond with it.

It is much lighter than any frame pack and it is much more compact. As a result, we use it almost daily rather that "saving it" for the trail. So we have enjoyed much more "bang for our buck" than we did with the Kelty (which we sold soon after getting the Ergo).

We have used it in all conditions and seasons and it has held up great. We used it with Mila from age 1 to 4.

You can see a picture or her on my back two weeks shy of her fifth birthday in one of my posts:


Ok, that IS an advertisement for my posts on hiking..."No Child Left Inside!" should be everybody's motto in my humble opinion :)...

Another advantage over frame packs is that you can use it on the front or back. Which may gives you some flexibility. If Mila was wanting to falls asleep on the trail, she would often request the front position.

This also lets you be a pack mule if you want. There is a picture of me with Mila on my front and a backpack on my back in this post:


Yes, more advertising - PLEASE take your kids camping :)...

Kristen is right that it may take some practice to get a child on your back unassisted.

Jen picked it up right away, I was more cautious and practiced either with a "spotter" or over a bed until I had it down.

But if you - or anyone - needs some help with using the Ergo, feel free to drop by for some assistance (we don't care where you bought it).

I hope this information is useful. You are also welcome to email me at milagros@milagrosboutique.com if you have any specific questions.


It's overwhelming, the number of choices that are out there now. I think there are more even just 3 years after we bought ours. For us, we do have an ergo but I can see it only being good for short hikes or for jaunting around town/market/parks. I think for proper hiking and perhaps even camping it's important to consider that one extra back that could be carrying things! For us, we had to find a frame pack that would adjust in a lot of ways to fit both my 5'4" frame and my husband's 6'4" frame. This was tricky! In the end we went and tried them on, just as it sounds like you did. After we found one that worked, we checked out how many extra things we needed, like how much it could carry besides the child, and how easy it would be to get on/off fully loaded. We ended up with an REI brand one. The added benefit of using REI of course is earning or using the membership benefits :)

I second the Ergo (or Beco). To be fair, I can only compare it to an older model of the Tough Traveler frame pack that was handed down to us, but the Ergo was so so so much more comfortable than the Tough Traveler. And it's lightweight and very compact, making it good for use anywhere, city or trails.

But I can see the advantages of having the sun/rain shield on a Kelty or similar pack, and the ability to zip on a daypack, for doing "real" hiking.

we've used a kelty frame pack for our three kids for hikes of 1-15 miles in length. although it is bulkier, it also affords several advantages over a soft carrier such as the ergo or patapum. first, and most importantly to me, little ones can see above and around instead of having their view limited by mama/dad's back in front of them. they want to see! touch! also, the kick-out stand allows the child to be set down without being taken out of the pack - a feature we usually reserve only for breaks when the terrain may be a bit dangerous for the littlest one, but an important safety and convenience feature. frame packs also feature a roomy sun/rain cover and a more substantial pack on the back for necessities.

i agree that soft carriers are best for the smaller babes. we carry patapum (italian/euro version of ergo) at lilytoad (full disclosure as well!) and i certainly prefer it for in-town adventures, but in my experience, the frame pack - no matter which version you decide on (more on that in a minute) - wins hands-down... and we've logged ALOT of miles and camping trips!

in terms of which one to choose, you really have to try them on. really. and it takes a while to get it adjusted to your frame - it might take a couple miles of adjustment (maybe try starting out in forest park with a partner), but once you've gotten it, you can try out some great short and long adventures.

...and as for hair pulling, they just have to know it's not ok and that it hurts! if you establish that in the beginning, it becomes part of the routine. on our hikes, that also goes with sticks (ouch!) and berries (natural hair dye anyone?).

enjoy the outdoors!

Another Ergo fan here!

I think it would be great for short hikes of a couple of hours.

OH also, with the hair, I just put mine in braids and if baby yanks on those it doesn't hurt as much as if he's pulling them out one by one. When I get tired of that I'll probably just get it all cut off...

If you do hike with a full-frame kid carrier (like the REI one we use and like), I *highly* recommend hiking with hiking poles. Its no longer an option to fall over if you slip. :)

While I love my ergo, after an hour or so my back really started to hurt once my child was in the 25 pound range. We have a Madden child carrier (they are a backpack manufacturer) that we love for extended walks/hikes. It also has a nice sized storage space, though you have to take the carrier off to access it- or get someone else to pull something out. I can't wear the ergo on the front and a backpack on my back comfortably with my child's current size.

It is also nice on a hot day to get a little circulation between you and your child that you don't get with an ergo. I love to be in contact with my kids, but I don't always need to be sharing sweat with them. :)

As for hair pulling- I'll put my hair in a bun or braids, even just a ponytail helps. Also make sure that your hair isn't hanging so it is tickling the child's face.

I also highly recommend getting a mirror so you can see behind you. Some packs come with them, and you can buy them at REI, but they are also easy to make. Get a stick on rounded mirror for a car's side mirror, and a retractable keychain, and stick them together. It is so nice to see what your kid is doing behind you- is he asleep? is there sun in her eyes? We have one on each of our carriers.

Good luck!

The ERGO was the BEST baby item we received upon our adventure into child kingdom. If you are intersted in a full frame...http://www.toughtraveler.com/. Truly the ideal framed backpack carrier.

A few more things...

1) please excuse my early AM spelling...that should have been "Full Disclosure"

2) The Ergo does have limited carrying capacity for gear as Shetha mentioned.

3) Shetha also eluded to a shortcoming for the Ergo and other soft structure backpacks that is worth mentioning: The Ergo may not work well for folks who are especially tall (i.e. 6' 4").

And, of course, let me add my voice to the chorus that you shouldn't be afraid to shop around to find what works best for you and your child.


We have the Ergo and the Sherpani Rumba. The Sherpani is by far our favorite for extended hiking/camping... the main reasons being that our daughter can see over our heads in the Sherpani, it's comfortable, it fits both me and my husband (5'9" and 6'1"), it's got lots of carrying capacity, it's got the rain/sun shield, and our daughter enjoys it. We purchased ours a couple years ago at the Mountain Shop, but REI also carries it.

The Sherpani Rumba is an updated version of the Madden pack I mentioned earlier. If you are looking for a used model look for both the Sherpani and for the Madden Caravan.

We've got the Ergo and the Kelty both...my husband strongly prefers the Kelty and I preferred the Ergo, so both of you should definitely do some trying before you buy, unless you want two styles.

One tip if both of you plan to use the Kelty style and you are very different sizes, is to go ahead and fork over the extra cash to buy the one that allows you to make more adjustments for how the carrier will fit on your body. For the times that we hiked together and took turns carrying Anders in the Kelty, it was great to be able to adjust it to fit on my body perfectly--it really puts the weight on the right parts and takes the strain away from your lower back. We also like the sun/rain shade and zip off day pack that the Kelty has.

As for the Ergo, it's definitely the best for day to day stuff--walks to the park, making dinner on those afternoons that your kid just wants to be held all the time (!) and I love that you can use it for little babes and toddlers alike. We've gotten our money's worth out of both carriers and we've liked them for different reasons.

if what you are seriously looking for is a pack, i recommend the kelty -- i'm a huge fan of baby-wearing, and i use my assortment of cloth slings for most excursions, but i also enjoy the kelty for for a number of important reasons:

1. sun/rain shade (also keeps my hair out of little fingers!)
2. free hands/front
3. heat! since i'm not wearing another human being, it keeps both me and my guy cooler on these very hot days!
4. the view from on high... :)
5. good design -- there are times when i really relish having the weight on my hips instead of shoulders, from all that sling time
6. cargo space -- it's easier to bring along snacks, water, baby paraphernelia, etc. in the pack's many (easily removable!) extra pouches, which makes it a winner for longer hikes when i don't want to be carrying multiple strappy things.

all that said, ours was a very lucky gift, so i don't know how prohibitive the cost of such a fancy gadget may be...

so again, i ditto everything that's been said about the wonderful features of the ergo and other cloth slings, but i also definitely make use of the pack, and i think that my baby likes the change, too. good luck!

Another ergo fan here however, I strongly reccomend a Kelty carrier for long hikes. There is definatley an advantage to having your little one be able to see out and about. The ergo is by far the best soft carrier out there (or something similar) I am an avid baby wearer and started with the bjorn not knowing and quickly made the switch. Kelty framed is what we use for hiking. Sun/rain sheild, extra pockets and storage, stand alone feature. As for hair pulling, I second the mom with the braids. Plus...what kid likes having hair blowing in their face? :) I bought my ergo at pollywogs on Belmont. They have a great selection of slings and carriers available and are very helpful. You can also find baby wearing groups online where mom's bring their different carriers for you to try on! Good luck in your search. Oh one more thing..maybe ask whoever is selling you the framed carrier what their return policy is so if you do take it out on a hike and decide you don't like it, you can bring it back and get a different one that works out better!

Thanks everyone, for your feedback! We do have an ergo, and my daughter and I have really liked it until recently (and it was so much better than the bjorn!). I think she doesn't like not being able to see when she is in the ergo. Especially on my husband, who is taller, she has to turn her head either right or left. I think we will check out the Kelty from REI (where they have a good return policy) - thanks everyone. Looking forward to checking out the new state park!


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