A backpack baby carrier is a must-have for parents who like the outdoors. Made for older babies with full head control, these framed carriers have child seats where you would normally find a place for a sleeping bag or bed roll.
The best of the best of these is the Deuter Kid Comfort III (*Est. $290). Pricey? Maybe, but experts and parents say you'll never regret this purchase. It's super-safe for the child, with a five-point harness and great head support for napping. Most importantly, the weight is so well distributed that even small women say they can hike with it for hours without fatigue or strain. It's also so easy to load and unload the baby that one person can do so without assistance. It's equipped for serious hiking, too, with space for a 2-liter hydration system.
The Kelty Transit 3.0 (*Est. $200) doesn't get the high marks for parental comfort as the Deuter, but it comes pretty close. It has a lower weight limit than the Deuter -- 40 pounds versus 48.5 pounds -- but it's also better suited for non-trail uses. Compared to the Deuter, which is a dedicated backpack that happens to be fitted to carry a child, the Kelty is almost like a diaper bag you can wear on your back, complete with changing pad.
The Chicco Smart Support Backpack (*Est. $90) is less expensive, but reviewers say it is not in a class with either the Deuter or the Kelty when it comes to serious hiking. However, it's a good choice for light hikes and using around town or around the house while doing housework, according to some parents. However, we saw a lot of complaints from shorter women who said this was very uncomfortable for them. As long as you're tall enough for a good fit, experts and owners say your child will love this carrier. It gets raves for comfort for kids, and, like the Deuter and Kelty, the seat adjusts in height as your child grows. It also folds flat for easy transport.
These three carriers are more closely ranked than the carriers in any other category, making any of the three a worthwhile purchase. However, more than any other type of carrier, the backpack baby carrier you choose is highly dependent upon how you're going to use it.
If you're off on a demanding hike, take the Deuter. The Kelty is great for less strenuous hikes or even just for long walks through scenic park trails or through town. The Chicco, light and easy to put on and take off, is a great choice for carrying your baby around the neighborhood or for a trip to the zoo, where your child may want to walk part of the time and ride part of the time -- while still being able to see what's going on around him.