Q&A: Backpacking with kids [Backpacks for small kids]

I love it when our readers contacts us for more information! That is what we are about here! Sharing information, having conversation, making adventures possible simply by creating more ideas for HOW to make it happen! Recently my friend Amelia from Tales of a Mountain Mama and I got to field some questions regarding backpacking with kids. Our discussion is as follows:


Hello, I stumbled across your website during my ongoing exhaustive search for backpacking gear for young children. I agree quality gear is justified but there isn’t a lot of viable items out there and I was hoping you might suggest any options you know of. Especially bags, packs, and pads.

I have a history of camping, backpacking, climbing, skiing, canoeing, and etc. Since the kids were born we have transitioned to the dark side: car camping. My (petite) daughters are about to be 7 and 9. Over the last 2 years they have enjoyed extended day long hikes and canoe trips. I believe they have reached a viable age to begin overnight trips. I have a handle on the logistics for a first overnight canoe trip.

In prep for a first overnight backpacking trip I have considered what I would like them to carry and worked backwards from the weight I think they should carry and most gear doesn’t add up. They need ultralight technical gear proportional to their tiny bodies. I may have found a very few options for packs but fewer still for bags. None in the USA. 

With a little water and snacks and maybe a few articles of light clothing they are at their weight limit which I am estimating to be 5-10 lbs. And it has to fit in a tiny pack. The objective is to reduce the weight and bulk I carry but more to let them be involved. I will carry food, shelter, stove, mess, etc…


Backpacking past Clyde Lake, Uintas

Dear Fred,
I so get your issue! Honestly, most Americans don’t backpack with their kids unless it is Boy Scouts and then they only make specific gear for teens.

Most people think we are psycho when I even ask for ideas… We are in the same boat and started doing overnight trips with our kids two summers ago, ages 3, 5, 7 at the time. This last summer was awesome as we nailed down some gear. And for the most part it is an on-going journey, starting small and hoping for longer trips soon.

First, check out our site, I’ve detailed much of our suggestions:

Our oldest daughter is petite as well, she is 8 and barely hitting 50 lbs. We’ve found two packs that work great: the Deuter Climber,  And the Teton Sports Summit 1500, an adult day pack that adjusts small enough for my 6 and 8-year-old. The detailed reviews are on our site.

Deuter CLimber pack for backpacking with kids

We stay in the 5-10 lb. range with light/ less bulky gear, two in specific: Big Agnes insulated core pad (light, small, warm) and backcountry quilts by Enlightened Equipment. Let me know if you want more info. I’ll be honest, they aren’t cheap. But if bought strategically could last until they are adults or teens.

In addition, while the Deuter Climber is “thin”or narrow, it isn’t overly so. This last summer my daughter wore it with her Enlightened Equipment backcountry quilt stuffed in the bottom (no compression sac, we remove them to save on weight and stuff our quilts/sleeping bags, minus any sort of stuff sac, in the bottom of our packs and pack around them. All the packs are lined with a garbage compactor bag for water resistance.

On top of that she had her clothing and small stuffed animal. In the side pocket she had a MSR insulated mug with spork stowed inside, this was used for both drinking and meals. (She could have carrier her camping pad, room wise, but I wanted to make sure she wasn’t overloaded.)

When we used the Deuter youth sleeping bags on a previous trip we couldn’t fit almost anything else in the kid‘s bags.

Last summer the camping pads, tent parts and water were all on mom and dad. My daughter did have a water bottle, but it was empty and just for water storage after we reached camp.

And yes, dad’s pack was probably around 60 lbs… but mine was around 40 lbs.  We also have one more kid than you…

I hope this helps, let’s keep the conversation going!


Kids and dog backpacking in high uintas


What are your tips for finding the right back pack for your young kids venturing on overnight trips?

3 comments on “Q&A: Backpacking with kids [Backpacks for small kids]
  1. We’re lucky that our local MEC now has several packs designed for kids. The one thing that I’d recommend when sizing any pack is to make sure to add a load as bags fit differently once there’s weight in them. Other than that keep the load light (10% of body weight is the recommendation), get them use to it before a trip (let them carry a small load such as a snack and their jacket on day trips) and make it fun (we always included a special treat as part of his load).

  2. What a great discussion. We’ve only been on a few overnight backpacking trips with our two kiddos, but we expect to do many more in the upcoming years. My kids are 2 and 5 so they aren’t carrying their own gear yet, but i’ve had my eye on these Gossamer Gear backpacks that are ultralight and come highly recommended by author/backpacker extraordinaire, Patricia Herr (mother of Alex and Sage). Trish and her daughters just hiked the JMT and she has great tips on gear selection etc on her blog. Her book, UP, is an inspiring read. This article about the recommended packs is found on the Gossamer Gear website, but be sure to look up the personal blog of the family as well. http://gossamergear.com/wp/customer-feedback/backpacking-with-kids.

  3. Pingback: Hiking in the Arizona Desert with Kids: Tips Learned with Ladybug

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