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Must-Have New-Parent Hiking Packs

Jackson laughs his way out of his first backpacking trip in his Kid Comfort III.
Ryan Ariano

It's tough to get out on the trail when baby arrives. Especially in L.A., where there are already enough excuses not to get out (the traffic is horrible, the sun is too strong, it's too hot). A baby is just another reason to stay comfortably inside and watch adventure films filled with other people living their lives.

But not only is getting out with the infant a guaranteed cure for new parent cabin fever, it’s also a great training technique (you always have an extra 10-30 pounds on your chest or back) and is the best way to guarantee some day your kid will be stoked to join in on family adventures.

So the most important thing for any expecting or newly-minted adventurous mama or papa is a good baby backpack.

0-9 MONTHS: ERGO PERFORMANCE

The best carrier for adventurous parents of newly-minted humans, the Ergobaby Performance Baby Carrier is made specifically for long, strenuous hikes. It’s lightweight and supple enough to be thrown into a pack but strong enough to hold bubby snugly whether snowboarding downhill or heading out on a long cross-country ski (if it ever snows).

It has two pockets that are the perfect size for snacks for the baby, an energy bar or two for you, a few basic backcountry tools (Leatherman, compass) and there’s still enough room for your smartphone so you can get that summit selfie. The built-in shade may be a bit floppy but it’s solid enough to keep baby’s head from shriveling in the sun or getting too wet. And with the inward-facing design, your body heat keeps the little rascal warm on cold desert nights, chilly beach adventures or snowy 10K+ summit pushes.

But at some point, that body heat will build to a sweaty mess and the youngling will start squirming on longer hikes. That’s when it’s time for an upgrade.

1-3 YEARS: DEUTER KID COMFORT III

The Deuter Kid Comfort III is your Mt. Whitney summit pack. This is your overnight backpacking pack. It’s also good for shorter hikes, and even some climbing, should you feel comfortable on class 5 rock with 20-40 pounds of life on your back.

There are plenty of options in this category. The Osprey Poco is a strong contender as well. But when it comes to features, nothing else even comes close to the KC III. From the side clip-in that’s clutch when trying to take the kid out for a quick feeding on a high col to enough pocket space for clothes, food, camp stove and fuel, and more, this pack is essential for any backpacking parent. Its metal frame, useful for propping the kid up when you put the pack down, also serves as a perfect clip for tent, sleeping bag, everything you need. But the feature that lifts it above the rest: a built-in, heavy-duty sun and rain shade, vital to saving your progeny from that dangerous SoCal burn.