Best Carriers for Toddlers & Hiking Carriers in 2023

What to look for when purchasing a toddler carrier for travel

Toddlers often act like they have boundless energy, running and playing for hours seemingly fueled by nothing more than hugs and goldfish crackers.  Sometimes as parents, we can take this for granted, until all of the steam seems to suddenly fizzle out. 

In the middle of the grocery store. On a walk. At the airport. On vacation. When your hands are full with basically anything else. 

It’s precisely in situations like these when a toddler carrier will quickly become one of your most prized possessions, and the good news is, most toddler baby carriers are made to accommodate your growing child. 

We’re here to guide you on your journey to finding the Best Toddler Carrier.  In this article, we’ll explore: 

This post is part of our Tried & Tested essential gear series – learn more about all our favourite baby & toddler travel products

What to look for in a toddler carrier

Carriers v hiking backpacks

The most common toddler baby carriers come in the form of either a soft-frame, front-or-side buckle carrier or a framed backpack-style carrier.  Each style comes with its own pros and cons, which we’ll discuss below.

Features to Look For in Both Styles:

Lightweight: When you’re carrying around your bub for any length of time, it’s important to find a toddler baby carrier that doesn’t add unnecessary pounds to what you’re already carrying.

Durable, easy to clean material: You’ll want to choose a toddler carrier with machine-washable fabric, or at the very least, fabric that can be wiped off. It’s much easier to toss a carrier in the washing machine than having to scrub something that can only be hand-washed.

Breathable fabric for warmer climates: Few things are more miserable than carrying around another human being when both of you are hot and sweaty.  Look for carriers for toddlers that have breathable, easily washable fabric.  

Multiple Carrying Modes: Different situations call for different carrying modes.  It’s helpful to find a toddler carrier that is adaptable to your individual needs.

Adequate padding and support structure for both wearer and toddler: The best toddler carriers for any type of travel have a high quality support structure in place.  Look for a carrier with padded straps to distribute weight evenly across your back and hips.  

Additional features: Everyone loves getting more for their money, and added features like cup holders and sunshades can be quite enticing.  I would recommend making sure that these additional features don’t add much weight to what you’ll already be carrying, though.

Differences Between Baby Carriers and Toddler Carriers

The main difference between baby carriers and toddler carriers is the size, height, and structure of the support panel.  While baby slings and other carriers are made to cradle the baby, toddler carriers require more room for movement and a more reinforced panel for supporting posture.

Toddler carriers are also made to be worn in other ways than the traditional chest hugging position of baby carriers.  This is as much for the wearer’s comfort as the child’s, an essential requirement in the event of extended walks and hikes.  There are few things worse than having to carry a heavier child without the proper support.  

You can see all our top tips for travelling with toddlers here

Best Position to Wear a Toddler

Most toddler carriers allow children to be worn forward facing, on the hip, or on the back.  However, which position is the best one? It really depends on the situation at hand.  What I would recommend is that you choose a carrier that has multiple options or works best for the activity you do the most.  

Forward Facing Position: Most buckle toddler baby carriers allow children to be worn on the chest facing inward or outward.  By the time your child is a toddler, they’re much more interested in the outside world and want to see as much of it as possible.  This position works well for shorter outings, such as through the grocery store or as an alternative option when taking a walk. 

For extended wear, this may not always be the best option, as straps can put a strain on your back over time, and sometimes little toddler legs can bang into your own, depending on their size. 

Hip Position: The hip position is made to mimic one of the most common natural ways that I have carried my bub, but with the added support of additional straps and panels.  This allows mum or dad to move the bulk of the weight from the front, relieving pressure on the back.  As with the forward-facing position, this is suited more for shorter periods of walking and standing.  

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Back Position:  If you’re looking for the best toddler position for hikes and extended walks, I would recommend carrying your toddler in a backpack carrier.  This is achievable with both buckle carriers and backpack-style hiking carriers, and we’ll explore options for each.

Best Standard Carriers

Toddler Carrier NameProduct WeightMax Capacity (incl gear)Recommended Age/WeightKey Features
LÍLLÉbaby Ergonomic Baby and Child Carrier 1.6 lbs45 lbs7 lbs to 45 lbsSix carrying positions, extendable waist belt, padded carry straps
ECCOMUM Multi-Function Baby Carrier1.95 lbs
41 lbs3 to 36 monthsCotton shoulder straps, double lock catches, 3D support belt
Beco Toddler Carrier2.25 lbs60 lbs20 lbs to 60 lbsCotton & performance mesh option; wear crossed or straight straps, detachable sleep hood
BabyBjörn Baby Carrier One Air 2.81 lbs33 lbsBirth to 3 yearsLightweight & breathable, padded shoulders and waist, teething bib included
Baby Tula Explore Baby Carrier 2.69 lbs45 lbsBirth to 4 yearsAdjustable width support panel, padded neck support & shoulder straps
LÍLLÉbaby toddler baby carrier1.75 lbs60 lbs20 lbs to 60 lbsPadded two-way straps, lumbar support in beathable mesh
Ergo Baby Carrier Infant to Toddler1.7 lbs45lbsBirth to 48 monthsCrossable padded straps, ergonomic positioning, lumbar support

Best Overall Toddler Carrier

LÍLLÉbaby Complete All Seasons Six-Position 360° Ergonomic Baby and Child Carrier

Why we love it: The LÍLLÉbaby Ergonomic Baby and Child Carrier is truly a carrier for all seasons.  The front panel zips down to reveal breathable mesh fabric underneath to help control your toddler’s body temperature.  This carrier grows with your bub, allowing you to use it for longer.  Toddler carrying positions include front, side, and back, and this toddler baby carrier offers unbeatable lumbar support for both mum and dad.

  • Product Weight: 1.6 lbs
  • Recommended Age Range: Babies and Toddlers ranging from 7 lbs-45 lbs
  • Max Capacity with Gear: 45 lbs
  • Comfort Features: Six carrying positions, zip-down panel for warmer weather conditions, extendable waist belt, and padded carrying straps
  • Material: 100% Cotton and Breathable, 3D Mesh 

Best Value Toddler Carrier

ECCOMUM Multi-Function Baby Carrier

Why we love it: This 6-in-1 toddler baby carrier has a memory cotton seat that adjusts to your bub’s bottom.  Who doesn’t love that?  In addition, thick shoulder straps and adjustable lumbar support distribute weight evenly to prevent back pain during extended wear.  At under $40, this is a versatile and affordable option for almost anyone.

Possible Cons: The included windproof sleeping hood is on the smaller side, making it more suited for infants than toddlers.  Will only last you to around 3 years old.

  • Product Weight: 1.95 lbs
  • Recommended Age Range: 3-36 months
  • Max Capacity with Gear: 41 lbs
  • Comfort Features: Memory cotton shoulder straps, double lock catches on straps and 3D support belt
  • Material: Polyester, Cotton

Best Storage Toddler Carrier

Beco Toddler Carrier

Why we love it: The Beco Toddler Carrier can be thrown in with a regular load of laundry, making it convenient and quick to clean.  The zippered bag is ideal for extra storage, and it’s also available in a performance mesh option for warmer climates as well as traditional cotton fabric. The design allows for your larger, heavier toddler to still be carried with comfort.

Possible Cons: This carrier for toddlers only has two carrier positions (front and back), so it’s not as versatile as other options.  The weight of the product itself is also double that of other carriers.

  • Product Weight: 2.25 lbs
  • Recommended Age Range: Children ranging from 20-60 lbs 
  • Max Capacity with Gear: 60 lbs
  • Comfort Features: Adjustable, padded straps can be worn crossed or straight, comes with a detachable sleep hood
  • Material: Available in both Cotton and Performance Fabric/Mesh

Other Recommended Standard Toddler Carriers

BabyBjörn Baby Carrier One Air, 3D Mesh

Why we love it: The BabyBjörn Baby Carrier One Air has been certified by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute and has four ergonomic carrying positions for infants up to 36 months.  Incredibly soft mesh fabric is well suited for warmer climates, and the durable fabric is machine washable and easy to clean. 

Possible Cons: Although the actual age range extends to 36 months, the maximum carrying capacity is only 33 lbs. This, along with the high price point, can be limiting for many families.

  • Product Weight: 2.81 lbs
  • Recommended Age Range: Birth to 36 Months
  • Max Capacity with Gear: 33 lbs
  • Comfort Features: Lightweight, super-soft mesh fabric keeps both bub and mum/dad cool and dry, padded shoulder straps and waist belt, absorbent teething bib included
  • Material: Machine washable polyester and cotton 

Baby Tula Explore Baby Carrier

Why we love it: Not only does the Baby Tula Explore Baby Carrier come in many beautiful and eye-catching designs, it also has an innovative expandable panel with three width adjustments.  The breathable cotton material is also machine washable and extra soft for your bub.

Possible Cons: Some customers said that the buttons on the front make it complicated to switch your bub from outward to inward facing position.  It is also on the high end, price-wise.

  • Product Weight: 2.69 lbs
  • Recommended Age Range: 0 months to 4 years
  • Max Capacity with Gear: 45 lbs
  • Comfort Features: Adjustable width support panel, one-size-fits-all waistband, padded neck support and dual-padded shoulder straps
  • Material: Machine Washable Cotton
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LÍLLÉbaby CarryOn Airflow 3-in-1 Ergonomic Toddler and Child Carrier

Why we love it: The LÍLLÉbaby toddler baby carrier is ultra-customizable, with a wider and taller torso and adjustable side panels to provide comfort for both you and your toddler. Carry your toddler in front, on your hip, or on your back with this breathable baby carrier for toddlers.  With overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon, this is a definite contender. 

Possible Cons: The price point is high, making it an unaffordable option for prospective buyers, and some reviewers mentioned that they experienced back pain and discomfort during prolonged use. 

  • Product Weight: 1.75 lbs
  • Recommended Age Range: Babies and toddlers ranging from 20-60 lbs
  • Max Capacity with Gear: 60 lbs
  • Comfort Features: Padded two-way straps, lumbar support, and breathable mesh
  • Material: Cotton

Ergobaby Baby Carrier Adapt Infant to Toddler Carrier with Cool Air Mesh

Why we love it: The Ergobaby Baby Carrier is all about ergonomic comfort for everyone involved.  Bub can be carried in front, on the hip, or on the back. A more affordable price point and the carrier buyback and restoration program are a few additional reasons to love this toddler carrier.

Possible Cons: Parents looking for something that will last from birth through to the toddler years, do note you will need to add an infant insert as well which adds to the cost. It is ideal through as a baby to toddler carrier.

  • Product Weight: 1.7 lbs
  • Recommended Age Range: 0 to 48 months
  • Max Capacity with Gear: 45 lbs
  • Comfort Features: Crossable padded straps, ergonomic in all positions, padded lumbar support strap
  • Material: Cotton with Cool Air Mesh

Best Toddler Carrier for Hiking

Hiking Carrier NameProduct WeightMax Capacity (incl gear)Recommended Age/WeightKey Features
Deuter Kid Comfort Child Carrier Backpack7 lbs 1 oz48 lbs
Max child weight 40 lbsBack length adjustment, adjustable footrests, plush chin pad & integrated head rest, fold out sunroof
ClevrPlus Deluxe Adjustable Baby Carrier 5.5 lbs38.5 lbs9 to 48 months
Max weight 33 lbs
Padded straps & hip belt large storage areas & detachable backpack
ClevrPlus Cross Country Baby Backpack Hiking Child Carrier5.5 lbs38.5 lbs9 to 48 months
Max weight 33 lbs
Easy Adjustment system, padded waist straps, sun canopy & rain cover
Kelty Journey PerfectFIT Elite Child Carrier7 lbs 4 oz48.5 lbsMin 16 lbs max 40 lbsAdjustable, 6 point safety harness, padded roll cage, multi grab handles
Osprey Poco Plus Child Carrier 9 lbs48.5 lbsMin 16 lbs Built in sunshade, Double Halo child harness

Best Overall Hiking Toddler Carrier

Deuter Kid Comfort – Child Carrier Backpack

Why we love it: The Deuter Kid Comfort Child Carrier Backpack is the ultimate carrier for hiking in comfort.  A color-coded safety harness system helps you to get bub settled safely and securely, and multiple customizable measures have been put into place to suit all sizes and shapes.  

  • Product Weight: 7 lbs 1 oz
  • Recommended Age Range: 40 lbs Maximum Weight
  • Max Capacity with Gear: 48 lbs
  • Comfort Features: VariSlide precise back length adjustment system, Energy-efficient VariFlex hip belt, and ergonomic load distribution for carrier/Adjustable height footrests, plush wraparound chin pad (machine washable!), an integrated headrest, and a fold-out sunroof for bub 

Don’t forget to think about weather extremes when hiking. The Deuter comes with custom accessories to protect against both the sun and a raincover.

Most Affordable Hiking Carrier for Toddlers

ClevrPlus Deluxe Adjustable Baby Carrier Outdoor Hiking Child Backpack

Why we love it: This ClevrPlus Deluxe Adjustable Baby Carrier has a lightweight, foldable metal frame and plenty of storage for a day on the trails.  It’s affordable and comes in several eye-catching colors.

Possible Cons: While this hiking backpack for toddlers is an excellent option for occasional hikes, it may not be as durable as higher-end carriers. Although they say suitable to 48 months, the weight capacity likely limits most toddlers over 3 years old.

  • Product Weight: 5.5 lbs
  • Recommended Age Range: 9 months to 48 months
  • Max Capacity with Gear: 38.5 lbs (Max child weight of 33 lbs)
  • Comfort Features: Padded straps and hip belt, large storage areas, detachable backpack 
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Other Recommended Toddler Carriers for Hiking

Kelty Journey PerfectFIT Elite Child Carrier

Why we love it: Many toddler backpack carriers are more suited for larger frames, but the Kelty Journey PerfectFIT Elite Child Carrier easily adjusts to many body sizes.  Large storage compartments are perfect for diapers, snacks, and other supplies.  The wide seat base and adjustable stirrups mimic your bub’s natural resting state.  

Possible Cons: This was a close runner up as our favourite, similarly priced to the Deuter Kid Comfort though could be out of budget for many.

  • Product Weight: 7 lbs 4 oz
  • Recommended Age Range: Minimum 16 lbs/Maximum 40 lbs
  • Max Capacity with Gear: 48.5 lbs
  • Comfort Features: Kelty PerfectFIT Suspension System easily adjusts to fit both mum and dad, 5-point safety harness and padded aluminium roll cage, multiple grab handles
  • Material: Poly 420D Small Back Stafford75D Poly x 140D Nylon Blend

ClevrPlus Cross Country Baby Backpack Hiking Child Carrier

Why we love it: This lightweight and affordable toddler carrier for hiking has energy absorbent padding, large storage areas, and grows with your child through age four.  The durable fabric stands up to the elements in rain or shine.

Possible Cons: Women with smaller frames may have trouble adjusting the straps tight enough to suit them. The weight limit specified again really limits your larger toddlers.

  • Product Weight: 5.5 lbs
  • Recommended Age Range: 9 months to 48 months
  • Max Capacity with Gear: 38.5 lbs (Max child weight 33 lbs)
  • Comfort Features: Easy adjustment system, thick padded shoulder pads, padded waist straps, sun canopy and rain cover
  • Material: 600D Oxford Cloth

Osprey Poco Plus Child Carrier

Why we love it: The Osprey Poco Plus Child Carrier is built with your bub’s every comfort in mind and has plenty of storage for extra supplies, snacks, and room for an extra water reservoir. We love the generous UPF 50+ sun canopy and the 7-year Osprey All Mighty Guarantee.

Possible Cons: The product weight alone is on the heftier side, and may not be the most ideal choice for people with smaller body frames. It does not fold up much so is bulky to store. The price differential to it’s nearest competitors is also off-putting.

  • Product Weight: 9 lbs
  • Recommended Age Range: Minimum 16 lbs, Maximum 30 lbs
  • Max Capacity with Gear: 48.5 lbs
  • Comfort Features: Built-in sunshade, deluxe child cockpit with Double Halo child harness, adjustable torso

Pop over here to see our complete guide to family hiking gear you will need, plus we have this detailed guide on how to encourage your toddlers to love hiking too.

Whether you’re looking for the perfect hiking backpack carrier for your toddler or a standard toddler carrier for shorter walks, we hope that this article has helped provide insightful information and affordable options that fit your family’s needs.  

Simply put, the best toddler carrier for you is the one that makes your bub the happiest and is versatile enough to fit multiple stages in your child’s life.  Now, what are you waiting for?  Go explore! 

Looking for more toddler travel inspiration, hiking tips and gear reviews?

You may also like to check out these articles:

  • Toddler Sleeping Bags – why you may want to invest in a specialised toddler sleeping bag on your next camping trip.
  • Best waterproof baby carriers Looking for a carrier you can wear in the water? Check out our comprehensive guide to ring slings, wraps and carriers for wearing at the pool or beach.
  • Best wetsuits for toddlers – ideal for those cooler days at the beach, a wetsuit will ensure your little one can still enjoy some splashing good fun no matter the weather.
  • Essentials for Hiking with a Dog – don’t forget your fur-children too! If your family dog will be joining you on the trails here are some further considerations and packing items to think about.

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Selection of different design toddler carriers

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