Hiking and scouting can be great activities for children and adolescents, but while there are many backpacks for adults available the offer of backpacks suitable for children is quite limited. Backpacks for kids differ from backpacks for adults by having smaller and more adjustable harnesses and narrower hip belts. This not only provides the young outdoor enthusiast with a great-fitting backpack, but also ensures that the backpack can be extended according to the growth of the child into adolescence. Quality backpacks for children thus quickly make the money back as it will not be necessary to buy a new backpack every other year for the ever-growing child.
Here we selected and reviewed the best backpacks for kids in order to make your buying decision easier. We included backpacks for different age groups with a volume from 15 to 55 liters. All backpacks listed in this review are known for their functionality, comfort and adjustability.
If you are looking for a backpack for adults, please check our reviews of the Best Daypacks (volume between 15 and 35 liters), Best Backpacks (volume between 40 and 50 liters) and Best Large Backpacks (volume of 55 liters and up).This selection was updated on the 12th of November 2016.
1. Buying a backpack for a child – What is important?
As hiking is a strenuous activity, a backpack should be as light as possible. This is especially important when it comes to kids as their strength is not yet at the level of an adult. Light equipment will allow them to hike faster and delay exhaustion.
Not every backpack is suitable for every hiking trip as the backpack should be packed relatively full (but not necessarily heavily) to remain stable. We thus recommend backpacks with a volume of less than 25 liters for one day trips while backpacks with a volume of up to 40 liters are suitable for two to three days long trips. Backpacks with a volume above 40 liters are mainly intended for trips that last more than 3 days. However, the required size of a backpack also depends on the required equipment for a particular trip. It is not recommended to equip a child or adolescent with a very large backpack for a one day trip, unless it is adequately filled up.
Children grow and their backpacks should grow with them by having adjustable harnesses. A backpack with an adjustable harness can fit a child for years and thus you don’t have to buy a new backpack every other year. The backpacks we have selected below have harnesses that can be extended so much that the backpacks can fit your child for nine years or longer, depending on their growth and final height at adulthood.
In the table below we have described which harness sizes typically fit various age groups, but it really all depends on the torso length and growth of the individual child as some will grow to be very tall, others remain petite. To determine the torso length of any person, you need to measure the length from the bony bump (the seventh cervical vertebra – C7; tilt head forward to make it easier to find) at the base of your neck where the slope of the shoulder meets the neck, and down to the point on the spine which is placed in between the tops of your hipbones (iliac crest). Make sure that the person being measured is standing up straight.
Modern hiking backpacks are equipped with sophisticated backpanels that provide good comfort, stability and breathability. In order to achieve the highest level of breathability, manufacturers often add air channels to backpanels. In some cases backpanels are made of durable mesh fabric so that they create distance between the back and the backpack thus providing superb ventilation.
A backpack should be equipped with many easy accessible pockets so that the user can easily organize the necessary gear.
Hydration System Compatibility
Hydration system compatible backpacks are equipped with a special compartment/pocket for a water reservoir and feature an opening for a water tube. Water reservoirs are becoming increasingly popular among hikers as they allow them to drink without first taking off the backpack to get to the water bottles.
2. The Best Backpacks for Kids
- Deuter Fox 40 Kids
- Osprey Ace 50 Youth
- The North Face Youth Terra 55
- Camelbak Trailblazer Kids
- Deuter Junior Pack
|Feature/Product||Deuter Fox 40 Kids||Osprey Ace 50 Youth||The North Face Youth Terra 55||Camelbak Trailblazer Kids||Deuter Junior Pack|
|Weight||2 lbs. 14 oz.||2 lbs. 15 oz.||4 lbs. 4 oz.||15 oz.||15 oz.|
|Weight (Metric)||1300 g||1340 g||1935 g||420 g||420 g|
|Material||600d Polyester, 420d Nylon||Nylon||Nylon||Nylon||210d Nylon|
|Volume||40 liters||50 liters||55 liters||13.5 + 1.5 liters||18 liters|
|Backpanel||Ventilated, Alpine Back||Ventilated, AirScape||Ventilated, OptiFit||Padded with foam||Padded with foam|
|Harness fits torso||11" – 18"||13" – 18"||12" - 16"||Up to 15"||Up to 14"|
|Typical Age Group||8 - 16||10 – 16||9 - 15||6 - 14||5 – 14|
1. Deuter Fox 40 Kids
The Deuter Fox 40 Kids is a high-quality backpack suitable for two to three day long hiking or scouting trips and thus perfect for weekend expeditions. The backpack fits children and adolescents with a torso length from 11 to 18 inches (approx. 8-16 years) due to the super adjustable harness with a Velcro system. It is made of 600d polyester (Deuter Super Polytex) and 420d nylon (Deuter Ballistic) and therefore offers great abrasion resistance and durability. The fabrics also feature PU coating in order to provide basic protection against rain. The backpanel consists of two padded foam panels and an air channel between them. Behind the foam panels are two aluminum stays that ensure the stability of the backpack when carrying a heavy load. The shoulder straps and hip belt are made of breathable foam and thus provide good comfort. The hip belt can be also easily be removed in case that it is not needed – for example when the backpack is not filled with heavy items. In addition to that, the backpack features a spacious main compartment (can be accessed from the top as well as through zippered opening at the bottom), conveniently placed pockets and attachment points for ice axe and hiking poles. The Deuter Fox 40 Kids offers great performance and adjustability. Therefore, it is highly recommended for young outdoor enthusiasts.
2. Osprey Ace 50 Youth
The Osprey Ace 50 Youth is an extremely light backpack that offers superb performance for longer hiking or scouting trips. With a volume of 50 liters it is a lot bigger than the Deuter Fox 40 Kids above but still it weighs merely 1340 grams. The backpack features an adjustable harness which, unlike other backpacks, can be adjusted very precisely. Most backpacks take multiple steps to adjust the harness length while Osprey allows you to simply slide the harness up and down until you find the best fit and then secure the right position with a reliable Velcro system. The backpack is equipped with a backpanel that is made of ergonomically shaped foam covered with durable mesh fabric for increased ventilation. The main compartment features a sleeve for a hydration system and can be accessed from the top or through the zipper at the bottom (sleeping bag compartment). Besides the spacious main compartment, the Osprey Ace 50 Youth is also equipped with an external lid pocket, internal lid pocket, two zippered hip belt pockets, two mesh side pockets and a big front stash pocket. The hip belt pockets are easily accessible even when wearing the backpack and can thus be used for accessories like camera, gps device or a cell phone. The side mesh pockets are perfect for storing bottles while the front stash pocket can be used for wet clothes and other gear that does should not go directly in the main compartment. At the bottom of the backpack there are also straps for attaching a sleeping pad and a pocket in which a rain cover is stored. All in all the Osprey Ace 50 Youth is a great lightweight backpack that will satisfy every young outdoor enthusiast.
3. The North Face Youth Terra 55
The North Face Youth Terra 55 backpack is extremely popular among scouts as it does not only offer a lot of space but also great functionality for longer hiking or scouting trips. The backpack is made of very rugged nylon and thus offers great abrasion-resistance and durability. However, the durability and big volume comes for a price – this is the heaviest backpack in the review. The North Face Youth Terra 55 is equipped with an OptiFit harness that provides good comfort, load stability and adjustability for the age group 9 to 15 years (12 -16 inches in torso length). The backpanel consists of two heavily padded panels on the sides and an airflow channel between them. Due to this construction, the backpanel offers decent breathability. The shoulder straps and (fully adjustable) hip belt are like the backpanel heavily padded for maximum comfort. The main compartment offers great accessibility – it can be accessed from the top, through the zipper at the bottom or through the side zipper. This comes in handy when the backpack is fully loaded. In addition to the main compartment, the backpack also features a zippered stash pocket on the front side, zippered lid pocket, two zippered hip belt pockets and two side pockets for water bottles. The North Face Youth Terra 55 backpack is best for those who need a spacious and very rugged backpack for longer expeditions.
4. Camelbak Trailblazer Kids
- Everyday use
The Camelbak Trailblazer Kids is a great daypack featuring a hydration system and thus perfect for youth that wants a light multi-purpose backpack for one day adventures. Due to the relatively small size (13,5 liters plus 1,5 liters hydration sleeve), the backpack does not have a hipbelt as this is only necessary to have on bigger backpacks when carrying a heavy load. Therefore it also doesn’t have an adjustable harness (because there is no need to regulate the hipbelt position according to growth), but it will fit children and adolescents from 6 to 14 years (up to 15 inches in torso length). It is equipped with a backpanel that is made of foam and offers good comfort but limited breathability – especially in comparison to the above listed backpacks. The shoulder straps are the same as the backpanel well-padded for increased comfort. There is also a chest strap (with an emergency whistle) for better fit and increased stability. The Camelbak Trailblazer is equipped with a main compartment, external water reservoir sleeve, mesh side pockets for water bottles and front pocket with the key clip. There are also reflective tabs on the backpack for increased visibility. The Camelbak Trailblazer Kids is best for those who want a backpack for outdoor activities as well as for everyday use.
5. Deuter Junior Pack
- Everyday use
The Deuter Junior Pack is a great multi-purpose backpack for kids aged 5 and above (up to 14 inches in torso length). As it merely has a volume of 18 liters, it is best for one day trips in nature or everyday use. The backpack is very light (it weighs only 420 grams) and features a well-padded foam backpanel and shoulder straps. Like the Camelbak above, this backpack is not intended for carrying a heavy load and thus not equipped with a hip belt. It does, however, have a chest strap for better fit. The Deuter Junior Pack features a main compartment, two side mesh pockets, two zippered front pockets and an additional zippered pocket for valuables on the top. The side mesh pockets are great for storing water bottles. On the front side of the backpack there are also 3M reflectors for increased visibility. All in all the Deuter Junior Pack is a great multi-purpose backpack for various activities.
3. The most attractive product in the review