Kids Backpack Gregory Wander 70
$189, 70L/4,272 c.i., 3 lbs. 10 oz.
One size, adjustable backcountry.com
There are a couple of groups of people who often have trouble finding a backpack that fits them and functions well: young teenagers and small adults, especially women. Gregory tackles this dilemma head on with the Wander pack series. So I had my 15-year-old son and a woman friend who’s short and slightly built test out the Wander 70 on backpacking and hut trekking trips—and both really liked it. Here’s why.
Kids Backpack Osprey Ace 38
$140, 38L/2,319 c.i., 2 lbs. 4 oz. (my scale, not including the 3-oz. rain cover that comes with the pack)
One size, adjustable, fits torsos 28-38cm/11-15 ins., for ages 6 to 11 (approx.) Osprey Ace 50
$160, 50L/3,051 c.i., 3 lbs. (my scale, not including the 3-oz. rain cover)
One size, adjustable, fits torsos 33-46cm/13-18 ins., for ages 8 to 14 (approx.) Osprey Ace 75
$180, 75L/4,577 c.i., 3 lbs. 9 oz. (weight stated by Osprey)
One size, adjustable, fits torsos 35.5-48cm/14-19 ins., for ages 11 to 18 (approx.) moosejaw.com
If backpacking is sometimes hard on an adult, it presents a particular set of challenges to a kid who weighs 100 pounds or less. One rule I followed when my kids were young was to not ask them to carry a backpack; instead, I waited for them to say they wanted to carry their own pack. (See my popular “10 Tips For Raising Outdoors-Loving Kids.”) And then, I made sure my kids had good-quality gear, to help ensure they’d want to go backpacking again. My kids (now 15 and 13) have carried Osprey Ace backpacks on trips from Southwest canyons to Idaho’s Sawtooth and White Cloud mountains to Canada’s Kootenay National Park. Built for a huge range of children’s body sizes—from the youngest you’d want to put a pack on to bigger teenagers—the Ace packs have made it a little easier to turn your child into a backpacker.
Kids Backpack REI Passage 40
$100, 40L/2,441 c.i., 3 lbs. 4 oz.
One size, adjustable to fit torsos 12 to 15 inches rei.com
What should you look for in a backpack for a young kid? For starters, a good fit, with a wide range of adjustability to accommodate growth. But also quality construction that ensures the pack will be comfortable for your son or daughter and durable—because it will assuredly be treated roughly. Lastly, a set of features designed with a kid’s preferences in mind. REI’s Passage 40 measures up well by those standards.
My 12-year-old son hauled this pack on a couple of trips this summer (with another coming up): a three-day, roughly 26-mile hike into the Big Boulder Lakes basin of Idaho’s White Clouds Mountains—with a significant amount of off-trail hiking—and a five-day, 36-mile loop in Washington’s Glacier Peak Wilderness. As a kid who has accumulated a respectable quiver of packs in his short hiking career, he reported that the Passage 40 felt good even on days up to 10 miles long.
Children’s Backpacks Deuter Fox 40
$109, 40L/2,440 c.i., 3 lbs.
One size, adjustable to fit torsos 11 to 18 inches www.deuterusa.com
Osprey Jib 35
$129, 35L/2,136 c.i., 3 lbs. 3 oz.
One size, adjustable to fit torsos 13 to 19 inches ospreypacks.com
There were two things I made sure of before letting my son carry a backpack instead of a daypack on our family backpacking trips: that he was ready and eager to do it, and that the pack I gave him fit him. The first question I let him answer: I waited until he asked to carry a backpack.