Serious backpacks for small kids

For the last two years I’ve been struggling to find good quality backpacks that will fit my two young children (ages 5 and 4).  The best I had been able to do was either a REI FlashUL pack or a small basic Jansport book bag, neither of which were exactly ideal or what I was looking for.

However, it seems that gear manufacturers have noticed that there is a gap in the market for more serious backpacks targeted at small children, many of whom have parents that are avid outdoors people and who want to take their kids along on hikes and start having them carry a small amount of their own gear – that pretty much describes me in a nutshell. Suddenly there was a really good selection of small scaled quality hiking backpacks for younger kids – excellent!

I recently took Jack to our local REI store to try on some of the children’s hiking backpacks to see which ones fit the best, gave him the options he wanted (he wanted one similar to mine), and to see what appealed to his individual sense of style.

Deuter Junior Kids Backpack

He tried on several packs including the Osprey Jet pack, and the REI Super Nova, but the pack he liked the best was the Deuter Junior back pack in green. It is a top-loading pack that is ideal for carrying day-hiking essentials, clothing or a few small toys.  It met all of the requirements that we were looking for:

  • Comfortable to wear
  • Easy to load
  • Good padding
  • Highly adjustable
  • Kid friendly
  • Large capacity
  • Light weight

Jack really liked the padded shoulder straps and back panel because it is soft. Another very important detail was that he could easily open the quick-release buckles himself, unlike some of the other children’s packs that he tried on.  The pack has some nice reflective accents to increase visibility in low light, which appealed to me a lot more than it did to Jack.  There are two side mesh pockets that are adequate enough to hold water bottles or other small snacks or objects.

The pack has an 18 liter capacity which is more than sufficient for Jack’s needs. It is frameless as you would expect for a small child and weighs in at a mere 15 ounces. Overall I am very impressed with the high quality of this pack.  Jack seems to love it and want to carry his own stuff with him on day hikes, which lets him feel like he is more responsible and involved with the adventure.

He’ll be testing his new pack out over the next few weeks to see how it goes and to make adjustments if necessary. So far he’s loved it and hasn’t had to fuss with it hardly at all.  I’m looking forward to being able to bring him along on more and more hikes. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Gear Links: My Store | REI | CampSaver | PatagoniaAltrec

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  • http://www.best-backpack-guide.com/ Rick

    Getting a good backpack for kids gets harder and harder, so these suggestions come in handy for anyone trying to get kids outdoors.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13230104803414566724 Lance Milks

    Deuter makes some great packs for kids. In fact, they are the company who makes the new boy scout packs.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01403246170980775215 Shannon

    Taht is a seriously sweet back pack. They make that in adult sizes too? I love that color… Nice pick Samurai Jack!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12495441507908789479 Robin

    Thanks for the post, I’ve been looking for kids packs for my two (8 & 11), very hard to find. I see some on-line but most stores don’t carry them so no way to have the kids try them on without ordering them.

    Robin

  • http://www.cejcamping.com/ Marc

    Nice review. I’ve been looking at small packs for my kids, I’m not sure why manufacturers don’t make them hydration compatible? That’s somewhat of a deal breaker for me, as the kids love the ease of having their water right their. I like that it lets them keep hiking longer too.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09628095804170935682 Brian

    @Marc, I hear you. I don’t know why it’s taken the manufacturers so long to fill the serious pack gap for smaller kids. My son’s Deuter Junior is not hydration compatible and he’s okay with that because he likes to use water bottles.

    However, the pack we recently bought for my 4 year-old daughter Maggie is hydration compatible and comes with the bladder and drink tube included for $40.

    Also the Deuter Junior was a little too big for Maggie and as she put it “not girly enough” so she opted for a more conventional style pack in pink that came with the hydration system and it fits her perfectly. The pack we got Maggie was the
    REI Squirt Hydration pack
    and it’s really nice for the price point.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09628095804170935682 Brian

    @Lance, I didn’t know they make the new scouts packs – do you have a link to where I can read more about it or see what the pack looks like. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12969421780777507389 ADVENTUREinPROGRESS

    I have been having pretty good luck buying S or XS women’s light-weight packs for my kids. My Older two use a Golite Jam II and my youngest uses a Golite Ion. That may not work for really small kids, but once they hit about 6 or 7, some of the smaller womens packs can work.

    I also hear that Backpacking Light is going to be making a light-weight kids pack for scouts: http://www.ryanjordan.com/weblog/2010/05/lightweight-backpacking-for-scouts.html

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12969421780777507389 ADVENTUREinPROGRESS

    I have been having pretty good luck buying S or XS women’s light-weight packs for my kids. My Older two use a Golite Jam II and my youngest uses a Golite Ion. That may not work for really small kids, but once they hit about 6 or 7, some of the smaller womens packs can work.

    I also hear that Backpacking Light is going to be making a light-weight kids pack for scouts: http://www.ryanjordan.com/weblog/2010/05/lightweight-backpacking-for-scouts.html

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13230104803414566724 Lance Milks

    Deuter makes some great packs for kids. In fact, they are the company who makes the new boy scout packs.

  • Terry

    Great article. Me and my wife just recently purchased our kids some kids fusion backpacks from swack and they love them. http://www.swackonline.com/default.aspx

  • tritan

    brian did someone comment on getting kids ULA size small packs for 11 year olds. I remember seeing a pic of a couple with two kids next to a sleeping bear dones sign. For the life of me can’t find it back. by the way how do you direct message you by email. can’t find it on your home page.

  • tritan

    brian did someone comment on getting kids ULA size small packs for 11 year olds. I remember seeing a pic of a couple with two kids next to a sleeping bear dones sign. For the life of me can’t find it back. by the way how do you direct message you by email. can’t find it on your home page.

  • tritan
    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Oh yes on Facebook. You might notice that I had already joined in the discussion there too!

  • tritan
  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Oh yes on Facebook. You might notice that I had already joined in the discussion there too!

  • http://skunkapeblog.com/ Skunkape Blog

    Great article.  I was on the same search a couple of years ago and went with the Kelty Lynx 2200 ST.  Great pack.  My only complaints would be it needs more compression straps and smoother adjusting suspension straps.  Everything else about it is perfect.

  • Ron

    Great article.  I was on the same search a couple of years ago and went with the Kelty Lynx 2200 ST.  Great pack.  My only complaints would be it needs more compression straps and smoother adjusting suspension straps.  Everything else about it is perfect.

  • CinnaOne

    Does the Deuter pack have an adjustable hip belt? I can’t tell from any of the images I’ve seen of it…

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Cinna, the Deuter pack that my son Jack has on in the photos above is a great little pack but it doen’t have any hip belt at all. That’s one of my issues with packs for small kids, many of them do not have any form of hip belt for load bearing – that’s nuts!

      I wrote this post a few years ago now and my son has grown considerably since then. He now wears a REI Tarn 18 pack that does have hip belts. It’s very simple but he loves it and it comes in blue!

      Let me know if you have any other questions. ^BG

  • CinnaOne

    Does the Deuter pack have an adjustable hip belt? I can’t tell from any of the images I’ve seen of it…

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Cinna, the Deuter pack that my son Jack has on in the photos above is a great little pack but it doen’t have any hip belt at all. That’s one of my issues with packs for small kids, many of them do not have any form of hip belt for load bearing – that’s nuts!

    I wrote this post a few years ago now and my son has grown considerably since then. He now wears a REI Tarn 18 pack that does have hip belts. It’s very simple but he loves it and it comes in blue!

    Let me know if you have any other questions. ^BG

  • a54studio

    I am in the same boat, glad I saw your post and discussion.

  • george

    I continue to have one concern for finding a serious backpack for ten year olds. My son is able to now carry more weight but the packs that have hip padding are too large. The packs with many nice features do not have the hip padding. I recently took my son on a short winter camping trip in which we snowshoed in. Winter camping even overnight necessitated having additional gear and of course I carried the bulk of it. He stpped it up using one of my wifes day packs but again it did not have a hip pad so all of the weight was on his shoulders.