How to Choose a Hiking Backpack for Kids? — A Short Guide

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By: Sonia Zannoni

Simply put, a kid’s hiking backpack is a smaller version of an adult’s backpack. Kids usually like backpacks with attractive designs. However, keep in mind, when buying a knapsack for your child, you should take into account the construction and design of their chosen backpacks while considering their attractive look.

By picking a backpack this way, you can guarantee the comfort and safety of your child while carrying and enjoying the rucksack.

It is a known fact to many moms that kids are naturally possessive. Once they are given a backpack that they like, it is tough to take it back because you have to replace it with a better one. 

That is why it is a must to choose the backpack carefully before turning it over to the child. According to Pam Jones, senior designer of the travel division at L.L. Bean, kids usually want a knapsack that will translate their personality and reflect their interests.

However, because kids are kids, you will need to intervene to make sure that the backpack will not only reflect the likes of your child but will also bring safety. So, as parents, how are you going to choose a hiking backpack for your child?

Here is how:

Look for More Comfortable Straps and Back Panels

Backpacks with wide straps are ideal for kids. By using straps, the load of the rucksack is distributed evenly, without causing too much pressure on your kid’s shoulders. Knapsacks with narrow straps will only dig into your child’s shoulder.

Also, it is wise to look for a cushioned back panel since it will lessen the moisture and sweat of the child while hiking. A ventilated mesh that covers the shoulder straps and the cushioned back panel usually protects the child from shoulders strain, which is why it is important to tell them always to wear these straps.

While hiking, encourage them always to tighten the shoulder straps to keep the burden of the load on their back and not on their butt. Many backpacks are provided with a hip belt; this belt can help the child transfer the weight of the backpack from the shoulder to the back. Make sure that the belt is secured above the hipbones of the child, and not on his waist.

Look for a Perfect Fit 

It is paramount when selecting a hiking backpack for a child to follow a few ground rules. First off, make sure that the pack is not larger than his back; doing otherwise will not make a perfect fit for your child. Also, the bottom of the backpack should rest at the top of his pelvis, and the upper part of the bag should be around 2-5 cm below the top of his shoulder.

When buying a backpack online, a different approach is used. First, measure the width and length of your child’s torso. By following his vertebral column, measure a straight line, starting from the shoulders and then down to the level of the hipbone. Next, after getting the right measurements of the child, compare them to the given back length of the backpack, you want to buy for your kid.

Look for Quality Materials

It is always best to find a water-resistant backpack for your children. Backpacks that are made of nylon or polyester are usually water-resistant and durable.  While hiking, temperatures may vary, and you will never know if it will rain or not, but when your child is carrying a waterproof bag, all his things inside will be protected from the rain.

Some rucksacks are not only waterproof but can also float on the water. You should find such kind of hiking backpack for your kid. Be aware that being water-resistant does not make it equally waterproof. A water-resistant bag can withstand a slight shower, or a splash, but will not protect its contents in case of a deluge.

Another thing that you should look for in a backpack is the quality of its zippers. A quality zipper is one that zips smoothly and does not catch the fabric when zipped. Therefore, when choosing a quality rucksack, always test the zippers. A jammed zipper is a sign of a poor-quality zipper.

It is also essential to look at the stitching as it means sturdy construction for the backpack.  Some high-stress areas should be checked to see if they have extra stitching, areas such as the main compartments, and the shoulder straps. Also, check the base of the backpack as it should be made of heavier fabric since it holds the weight of the items inside.

Check if It Has a Reflector

A hiking backpack with a reflector will make it highly visible at night or dusk, as it reflects the light that shines on it. This also means safety for your child while they are using the bag. For instance, any approaching vehicle at night will immediately notice the presence of the child because of the reflector on his backpack. However, if the pack has no reflector, you can buy one that can be clipped on the knapsack, or sewed on reflective strips.

Check the Capacity of the Backpack

The load capacity of your child’s hiking backpack has a direct impact on his safety. The general rule is not to exceed the capacity of the knapsack. The weight of the bag should not exceed 20% of your kid’s weight. Therefore, if your child weighs 50 pounds, his backpack load should not exceed 10 pounds.

One of the ill effects of a child carrying a load beyond his capacity is musculoskeletal problems. When carrying a heavy backpack, the child tends to lean forward, which may lead to bad posture.

When the load is beyond the capacity of the child, the disks, muscles, and ligaments surrounding his vertebrae may be disturbed, and will likely bend sideways or forward. In short, the physical development of the child may be affected when he carries loads in his backpack that are beyond his capacity.

Check out the video below for tips on how to choose the right backpack for your kids:

Final Words of Wisdom…

Even though your child wants the coolest backpack, as a parent, when buying a hiking backpack, you should look for a bag with sturdy construction, design, and safe to use.

These are the quintessential features to focus on when choosing a hiking backpack for your kids.

So now, where to start to find hiking backpacks online for children? You should first read my review of the best hiking backpacks for kids by clicking here.

How to Choose a Hiking Backpack — Family Walking on a Trail.

2 thoughts on “How to Choose a Hiking Backpack for Kids? — A Short Guide”

  1. Thanks for the info on picking a good backpack for kids. I like to do a lot of hiking and use a fifteen year old Alice Pack. It’s old and rugged but gets the job done.

    I have a handful of your grand daughters that like to go tagging along with me hiking the Ice Age Trail in part of Wisconsin, just day trips. But I usually end up hauling all our food prep, food, and water. Been thinking how nice it would be to spread that load out in my older age and let the kids at least carry their own water!

    • You are absolutely right, having kids carry their own hiking backpack sure lightens the load for the parent! They are nowadays great backpacks available for kids on the market. If you are interested in learning more about the best backpacks for kids, click here to read my full review.


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