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When you’re looking for hiking carriers for 3-year-olds, there are so many different options to choose from and things to consider.
You have to take different things into consideration with an older child than you would with a baby. For instance, an older child usually will want to walk some of the way, and therefore you might want to have the ability for them to easily get in and out on the go.
The weight will also be a bigger consideration than it is with a tiny baby. Shoulder straps and support need to be a lot better for a 35-pound child than it is for a 16-pound 6-month-old.
I personally loved carrying my babies, and love to be able to continue into the toddler and preschool years.
I have tried several different hiking carriers for 3-year-olds and will let you in on the pros and cons of the four styles that I have used.
I’ve wanted a Tula baby carrier since my first baby was born, but the price always seemed pretty steep, especially when there seemed to be other similar carriers on the market.
I never actually tried a Tula carrier until last year, when I borrowed one from a friend. And I was wrong- the other similar carriers don’t really compare!
Tula makes several different style carriers that work for 3-year-olds. The one pictured is the Free-to-Grow. This style fits newborns to toddlers or 7 to 45 pounds.
Let’s talk about the pros and cons of the Tula Free-to-Grow:
- It can grow with your baby, up to 45 pounds.
- It has two carrying positions – front and back-carrying.
- The shoulder straps are extra thick and cushy. I mean, more than any other carrier I’ve ever tried.
- With the huge variety of colors and patterns, you will definitely find one that fits your style.
- You can get one with a breathable mesh panel for warmer climates.
- The carrier itself is lightweight, at only 2 pounds.
- Has a small pocket on the waist strap that can fit a phone and keys.
- Machine washable on delicate cycle. Hang to dry.
- The price is on the higher end for this style of carrier, at about $180.
- It’s not easy to get a child into this carrier on your back all by yourself, although it can be done.
Like I said, Tula has other styles as well. One of them is the Preschool Carrier, which says it has a taller, wider panel and fits children 35-70 pounds. So if your child is already at 35 pounds, and you aren’t looking to use it for the next baby, I would probably choose this one instead.
The Toddler Carrier is used for children 2 to 6 years old, and between 25 and 60 pounds. Again, it is the same style as the others, with 2 carrying positions and a pocket for small personal items.
Overall, I thought this was a super comfortable carrier! It was great for our trip to Mammoth Cave National Park, just to carry her through the cave tour. I definitely prefer to carry her in the back-carrying position at this age, but Mammoth Cave doesn’t allow back-carriers on their tours for safety reasons.
2. Piggyback Rider Standing Carrier
I first saw this hiking carrier for toddlers on Instagram. I thought a standing toddler carrier was such a genius idea! I was super excited when they reached out to me and asked if I wanted to try one!
I’ve never seen another carrier like this one, which made it really exciting to try! The general idea of this carrier is that the adult wears the carrier with a non-slip metal bar that the child will stand on. The child wears a safety harness that connects to the carrier on the adult.
The Piggyback Rider is recommended for children 2+ years old, up to 50 pounds. The child needs to be able to stand well by themselves.
You can purchase this carrier as just the carrier and safety harness, or as bundles with different accessories, such as a mud flap to protect your clothes from your child’s dirty shoes.
Now let’s look at the positives and negatives of this carrier:
- Very lightweight (2 pounds)
- Folds up small (“smaller than a rolled towel”) to fit into a backpack when not in use.
- Gets the child’s head above yours, so they get a good view of what’s going on.
- Child can easily step on and off (while the adult is squatting down or sitting on a bench) without extra help. (This is my favorite aspect of this carrier – it’s so quick and easy!)
- It’s made with high-quality climbing components and military-grade buckles.
- There’s a small pocket on the back that can fit the child’s safety harness or small personal items.
- Although the shoulder straps are padded and I wouldn’t consider them uncomfortable at all, they aren’t nearly as padded and soft as the Tula straps, and after a longer hike, it’s a noticeable difference.
- This isn’t a good carrier for a child to fall asleep in, although that’s not quite as likely to be a problem with a toddler or preschooler.
I think the Piggyback Rider Standing Carrier is one of the best hiking carriers for 3-year-olds. It’s like giving them a piggyback ride, but you still get to be hands-free!
They even gave me a code for you to get free shipping if you decide to order. Just use “KRISTA23” at checkout!
3. Kelty backpack child carrier
I want to start out by saying that our Kelty hiking carrier is an older model that isn’t carried anymore.
However, looking at the website, it is the most similar to the Journey PerfectFIT Signature. It’s rated for children 16 to 45 pounds, so it should be a good fit hiking carrier for 3-year-olds.
- Multiple storage compartments to carry everything you need with you, including a hip pocket for easy accessibility.
- A very comfortable seat for the child, with more airflow than a carrier style like the Tula.
- Comes with a sunshade.
- Has multiple grab handles to safely get it on and off. My husband can get this carrier on and off completely on his own.
- Has a “padded aluminum roll cage” for safety, meaning it’s a great carrier for any terrain.
- The price is steep, at $320. I will say, we found & purchased one used, which saved a lot of money!
- The heaviest type of hiking carrier, at 6 pounds and 6 ounces, and that doesn’t include whatever you intend to pack inside all the pockets!
- Not machine washable – spot clean only.
I have to admit, I can’t really carry this pack with our 38-pound 3-year-old in it. It’s just too much weight for me to try to lug around, especially when you start putting more things in the pockets!
However, my husband claims this carrier as his favorite of all carriers and claims that it’s not that heavy. So I’d say how much you love this will really depend on your size and strength!
One thing I do really love about this is that when she falls asleep in it, it can be taken off and she can just remain sleeping.
4. Sunveno Hip Seat Ergonomic Carrier
This was the first toddler carrier I tried. It kept being suggested to me on social media ads, and eventually I gave in and ordered it!
The Sunveno Hip Seat Carrier is for babies to kids, 6 to 48 pounds. What’s different about this style is that it features a padded seat that the child sits on, with no back support or shoulder straps.
It’s kind of like a big fanny pack that they sit on top of.
Let’s talk about the pros and cons of this hiking carrier for toddlers.
- Much more affordable than the other carriers on this list, at only $40.
- Can be worn on the front or the side of the hip.
- Wide hip strap for support.
- Having a hip seat is better for your back than carrying a child with no support.
- Has pockets to carry personal items.
- Don’t need any extra help to get it on and off.
- Easiest carrier for the child to get on and off of.
- Machine washable fabric.
- I didn’t think this was the most comfortable carrier, although it is better than carrying a child with no support at all. I just couldn’t find a super comfortable position for the waist strap not to dig into me anywhere.
- You have to still have at least one arm around the child, so it’s not a hands-free carrier.
I like all these different styles of hiking carriers for 3-year-olds for different reasons. I think the Tula wins in comfort, hands down. And comfort is a pretty big necessity with any carrier!
The Piggyback Rider is my favorite for going out on adventures with no other adults to help get her in and out of the carrier. Plus I love being able to stick it into my bag when I’m not using it and how quickly she can step on and off. (Don’t forget to use code “KRISTA23” for free shipping if you decide to go this route!)
Like I mentioned before, the Kelty backpack carrier is my husband’s favorite above all. I think it’s ideal for more serious hikers.
The Sunveno hipseat is just really easy, but if I had to give up one of these carriers, it would be this one, mostly because of comfort. I do like to keep this one in the back of my car though, in case I need it in a pinch.
Let me know in the comments – What’s your favorite of all the available hiking carriers for 3-year-olds these days?
Check out these relevant posts next:
- 6 Ways to Make Hiking Fun for Kids
- 9 Reasons to Take Your Kids Hiking
- Ultimate Guide to National Parks for Families
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