In this text, I present best hiking backpacks for kids and youth in the range from 12 to 70 liters. Most of them are with an adjustable harness and hip belt, and suitable for hiking tours of various lengths dependent on volume.
Essential common features
Hiking backpacks are typically expensive and you do not want to change them frequently. So with a growing kid, it is essential that the pack can be used for several years. The only way to have the pack that will remain comfortable as the kid grows is to have a highly adjustable suspension system.
♦ This includes the adjustable harness in the first place. In this way, the torso length of the pack can be adjusted to fit the changing size of the kid’s back.
♦ The same holds for the adjustable hip belt. Here typically this is about padded fins that are supposed to fit the waist properly in order to be comfortable and to distribute the weight in an optimal way. In such a pack you have a possibility to move them forward and backward to fit the kid’s body.
Other features that are good to bear in mind
The choice of other features that are of importance may depend on the environment where the pack will be used, and on preference. But in any case, my list would include the following:
- Rain cover. This is what I meant by the environment; if you are going to use it in the Alps then this is a must.
- Bottom compartment. This is good for the organization, to have different pieces of equipment in different parts of the pack. Bulky but not heavy stuff should go here. More heavy objects normally go above the waistline and close to the body.
- Pockets. The more the better, this is what I love to have, but this is individual. I believe kids love to have this, in particular, hip belt pockets.
- Weight. This is an important feature in particular when this is about kids. But sometimes small weight may imply the lack of some useful features (like the absence of rain cover, the absence of the bottom compartment, absence of pockets).
I guess I could add some more here, like compression straps on the bottom, attachment loops, the quality of padding on the back, ventilation on the back, does it have a metal frame or not, etc.
Great Hiking Backpacks For Kids
Here is a list of packs from top brands, truly reliable and quality tools, ordered by volume from smaller to larger:
Regarding the weight of the larger packs here, you will see that Gregory Wander 70 is very lightweight. But it lacks some important features, like the bottom compartment, which is important to have in such a huge pack. Such an extra feature implies a long external zipper, plus a divider inside (between the two compartments) with its own zipper. You will notice also that this pack has no side zippered pockets (that imply zippers and extra material).
These are elements that add weight, but they also add great features and functionality which the kid may need. So, the term lightweight should be taken cautiously and with a grain of salt.
You can compare it with Kelty’s pack and you will realize that this pack has all these features missing in Gregory’s pack. But the Kelty’s pack is heavier, though with all good reasons as you will see.
I do not give my rating for these packs; this would not make sense as they are not in the same category. But one thing is certain, these packs are here for reason. Those are all great brands. In fact, these are the top brands in this industry, and these are reliable tools for your kids.
1. CamelBak Kid’s Scout Hydration Pack
This pack comes with an easy-fill 50-oz (1.48 L) reservoir and this is what makes it unique here in the list. The reservoir has its own external compartment behind the harness.
In addition to this, you also have 5 pockets and compartments, who would say for such a tiny pack. These include the main zippered compartment, two mesh side pockets for water bottles, one front zippered pocket with the key clip, and a front pouch.
There is no hip belt here and the pack is without a metal frame. In view of its size, this should not be a problem. It is equipped with a back panel which is just foam. Note that you have also an emergency whistle on the adjustable sternum strap.
- Weight: 14.1 oz.
- Dimensions: 16 x 9.5 x 7 in (41 x 24 x 18 cm).
- Capacity: 600 cu in (10.5 L).
- Liquid capacity: 50 fl oz (1.48 L).
- Fits torso: 15 – 19 in (38 – 48 cm).
2. Osprey Youth Jet 18 Backpack
This small pack comes with a nice foam back panel covered by a very breathable suspended mesh, and with nicely padded and contoured shoulder straps. The hip belt is with a wide and breathable mesh on the hips and with the front strap.
The pack is a top-loading type and there is a lid that has a zippered pocket on the top, and yet another zippered pocket underneath the lid. One nice feature is a small mesh stash pocket on the left shoulder strap, and there is also an emergency whistle on the adjustable sternum strap.
Other pockets here are the usual side pockets for a water bottle, one larger stretch pocket on the front, plus one zippered pocket on the front. So in total, you have 7 pockets here plus the main compartment, plus the external hydration sleeve, very impressive.
Please see this video presenting the Jet 18 pack:
- Weight: 1 lb 3.4 oz (550 g).
- Capacity: 1098 cu in (18 L).
- Dimensions: 20 x 10 x 9 in (51 x 25 x 23 cm).
- Torso fit: 12 – 17 in (30 – 43 cm).
3. Deuter Climber Kid’s Hiking Backpack
This is one of the most technical packs here, a robust yet comfortable tool suitable for ski touring, climbing, or taking on day hikes up high.
It comes with a suspension system suitable for carrying medium loads in alpine terrain, and the model applied here is what they call the Alpine Back System. It keeps the load close to the body’s center of gravity and it includes the Softstripe pads which adapt to the wearer’s back with every movement for a close and reliable fit. Ventilation is achieved by the channel between the pads, so you have a “chimney” effect in place here.
There are two side pockets for a water bottle, one zippered pocket is on the lid, and yet another is underneath the lid.
The adjustable sternum strap is with an emergency whistle and you also have load lifters straps. The pack is hydration compatible so you have a sleeve in the main compartment and Velcro loops on the right shoulder harness for fixing the hose.
Numerous attachment elements are available here, so you have 4 D-rings on the lid, several attachment loops are on the front, and on the bottom you have dual loops for trekking poles plus a loop for an ice axe, and these are paired with bungee loops on the front. On the hip belt, you have two thick loops for carabiners and similar items. There is also a compression strap on each side of the pack. The pack has attachment loops on the front for a climbing helmet.
Note that the torso length is not adjustable here, I have seen incorrect descriptions at various places. Also, there is no metal frame like what you have in the Fox packs below.
- Weight: 1.7 lb (770 g).
- Capacity: 1343 cu in (22 L).
- Dimensions (H x W x D): 20.5 x 10.6 x 7.9 in (52 x 27 x 20 cm).
- Torso fit: 10 – 17 in (25 – 43 cm).
4. Deuter Fox 30 Pack
Here you have a beautifully designed backpack for kids and youth with all features you would expect to see in backpacks for adults. The pack is a top-loading type, so you have a lid and a collar underneath it. But you also have the bottom entrance with a long U-shaped zipper.
The Fox 30 pack is designed to grow with kids, so the torso size is adjustable. The suspension system is exceptionally strong for such a small pack, and this is what they call the Alpine Back System. So you have an X-shaped set of aluminum stays that provide exceptional flexibility and weight carrying ability. But this is not all, you also have a flexible and tensioned Delrin U-shaped frame designed to provide stability and effective load transfer to the hip belt.
On the sides, you have dual compression straps, and on the front, you have two daisy chains and two bungee cords for trekking poles attachment.
The pack is equipped with many pockets as well, so you have side mesh pockets for water bottles and also upper zippered side pockets which I really love to see in any pack. I have my own Deuter pack with such zippered pockets. Note that they have launched a slightly modified version of this pack in 2018, but it remains very functional as always.
- Weight: 1200 g.
- Volume: 30 (+4 sp) liters.
- Size (H x W x D): 23.6 x 9 x 8.7 in (60 x 23 x 22 cm).
- Torso fit: 10 – 17 in (25 – 43 cm).
5. Kelty Sanitas 34 Backpack for Kids
This Kelty Sanitas 34 Backpack for Kids is an external frame pack built in the classic style as a top-loading pack with a large lid opening. The pack comes with an adjustable torso size and adjustable shoulder harness width. This is convenient because several kids of different ages can use it. The torso fit range is 9 – 14 inches (23 – 36 cm).
The back side of the pack is with mesh and nicely ventilated. The frame is aluminum and the fabric is remarkably durable 600D polyester with ripstop polyester used for reinforcement, not many packs are nowadays built from such material. The volume is 2050 cubic inches (34 L) and the pack weighs 3 lb 8 oz (1.6 kg).
6. Osprey Ace 38 Pack
This is again a backpack with an adjustable torso length, and it also utilizes what they call the Fit-on-the-Fly system for the hip belt. Being designed to grow with the kid, it will remain comfortable for several years, so no need to buy a bigger pack.
The pack is a top-loading type and with the bottom compartment as well, and full of great features. These include a rain cover, bottom compression straps for a sleeping pad, and several useful pockets (on the sides, on the lid, and on the front).
The suspension system is based on Osprey’s LightWire frame and on AirScape back panel. So you have a flexible and ventilated construction with all features needed on the trail.
- Weight: 2 lb 6 oz (1.09 kg).
- Volume: 2319 cu in (38 L).
- Max. dimensions (L x W x D): 23 x 12 x 11 in (58 x 31 x 28 cm).
- Torso fit: 11 – 15 in (28 – 38 cm).
7. Deuter Fox 40 backpack
This great Deuter’s pack is for kids and teenagers, built from durable materials and with a strong suspension system. This implies an X-frame with profiled aluminum stays, plus a flexible and tensioned Delrin U-shaped frame wire which provides stability and load transfer to the hip belt. This all is made flexible to follow the movements of kids.
The pack is with a Vari-Quick torso adjustment system which can be easily adapted to the torso length of a growing kid in the range of 11 – 18 inches.
On the sides, you have lower pockets for water bottles, and higher up you have another pair of zippered pockets. These are huge and designed so that when full they almost take no space from the main compartment.
This is a top-loading pack with a lid and with a zippered pocket on the top of it. Yet another zippered pocket is underneath the lid.
In the main compartment, you have a hydration sleeve for a water bladder of up to 3 liters. Yet another access point is on the bottom where you have the classic U-shaped zippered entrance for a sleeping bag.
There are two versions of this pack available on the market, one is the new 2018 version shown in the picture above.
- Weight: 2 lb 14 oz (1300 g).
- Volume: 2440 + 240 cu in, 40 + 4 liters.
- Size (H x W x D): 27 x 12 x 9.4 in (68 x 30 x 24 cm).
- Torso fit: 11 – 18 in (28 – 46 cm).
- Waste fit: 24 – 36 in (61 – 91 cm).
8. Gregory Mountain Products Icarus 40 Pack for Youth
This Icarus 40 is the larger in the series which includes also Icarus 30. So this is a backpack with an adjustable torso length and it will grow with the kid. The adjustability is very easy and you also have some markers which will guide you.
Note that this is an ultralight backpack and this partly because it has no metal frame. It offers two access points, from the top and from the bottom. It has 5 pockets and a full set of compression straps and attachment points.
You might want to know that it comes with a great price tag for such a top brand.
9. Kelty Yukon 48 external frame pack
You have realized from the name of this pack that this is something special. The external frame packs are rare nowadays and it is really great that Kelty has built this model for the growing youths.
Here you have the pack growing with the kid in a full sense because you have both torso length and torso width adjustment.
The pack is top loading and you have an enormously large top opening that is rigid, so you have an aluminum pole that goes around its perimeter. There are two main compartments. The upper is large and rectangular in shape, and it contains a sleeve for a water bladder. The lower is a large zippered sleeping bag compartment, and the divider between the two is removable.
There are many pockets here, 6 in total plus a drop pocket. Being the pack with the frame outside, the attachment possibilities are endless. Many years ago, I started my own mountaineering adventures with a pack of this kind.
- Weight: 5 lb 1 oz (2.3 kg).
- Volume: 2900 cu in (48 liters).
- Dimensions: 22.5 x 23 x 11 in (57 x 58 x 28 cm).
- Frame: external.
- Torso fit: 13 – 19 in (33 – 48 cm).
10. Osprey Ace 50 pack for youth
This pack has been on the market for a number of years already, previously as a 48 liters version. What you have here is a lightweight and functional pack with all features available in the packs for adults. The size is such that your kid can use it for the weekend and overnight tours.
So this is again a top-loading pack with a removable lid and it comes with an integrated rain cover stored in a bottom pocket. The pack is also hydration compatible and you have a hydration sleeve in the main compartment.
As you realize from the picture, there is a separate sleeping bag compartment as well.
The Ace 50 pack is suitable for the age range 10 – 16 years and this is due to its torso adjustability in the range 13 – 18 inches.
The suspension is based on a LightWire frame. Similar to the other Ace packs, you also have the Fit-on-the-Fly hip belt system.
Apart from the usual pockets, here you also have two nicely designed zippered pockets on the hip belt.
- Weight: 2 lb 15 oz (1.34 kg).
- Volume: 3051 cu in (50 L).
- Maximum dimensions (L x W x D): 26 x 13 x 12 in (67 x 33 x 30 cm).
- Torso fit: 13 – 18 in (33 – 46 cm).
11. Gregory Wander 50 backpack
This pack is great for overnight and weekend tours for kids and teenagers. It is built with an adjustable harness and hip belt, and your kid can use it for many years.
It has some unique features among the packs here, and one of them is dual access to the main compartment. So you have the usual top lid and the collar for the top access, but the pack is also with zippered front access. However, the pack is without the traditional bottom compartment; the front access is there for this purpose.
The Gregory Wander 50 pack can be used by kids and youth in the age range of 10 – 20 years. This is due to Gregory’s VersaFit suspension system, supported by the Wishbone Wire internal frame. You adjust the harness length by simply breaking the Velcro and sliding it up or down to the desired length, so several kids in a family can use this pack.
Numerous pockets are available, on the sides, on the lid, on the front, and on the hip belt as well, so this is something kids will love to have. The pack comes with a rain cover.
- Weight: 3 lb 4 oz (1.47 kg).
- Size: 27 x 12.5 x 13 in (68.6 x 31.8 x 33 cm).
- Volume: 3051 cu in (50 L).
- Fits torso: 13 – 18 in (33 – 46 cm).
- Fits waist: 22 – 40 in (56 – 102 cm).
12. Mountainsmith Youth Pursuit backpack
Mountainsmith is known for the durability of its products, and this Youth Pursuit backpack is not an exception. It is built from a very durable Cordura fabric. Its design is for youth and for users with a smaller body frame in general.
The pack is a top-loading and with a floating lid so you can move it up and down considerably and have an extra 5 L of volume. But you also have a bottom compartment with a zippered U-shaped entrance, and there is a floating divider between the two compartments.
You have full harness adjustability in the range of 13 – 17 inches (33 – 43 cm). The hip belt is also adjustable in the range of 26 – 48 inches (66 – 122 cm). The internal frame is X-shaped and you have one additional horizontal stabilizer.
Apart from the usual side pockets, you also have dual upper zippered side pockets, a great feature indeed. On the hip belt, you have one zippered pocket. Please read more in my detailed review.
- Weight: 3 lb 9 oz (1.6 kg).
- Size (H x W x D): 20.5 x 11.25 x 8.5 in (52 x 28.5 x 21.6 cm).
– 2745 cubic inches (45 L).
– 3050 cubic inches (50 L Ext.)
- Torso fit: 13 – 17 in (33 – 43 cm).
13. Kelty Red Cloud 65 Junior
This is a giant in the group here, and Kelty at its best. The pack is with an adjustable torso length, and also designed with a narrower space between shoulder straps as suitable for youth, and also with a specifically designed lumbar and hip belt design. It is ideal for extended backpacking and hiking tours and for scouts.
The lid is a removable and floating type, and when removed it can be used as a lumbar pack. Note that you have the usual top access under the lid, plus the zippered front access to the main compartment. But you also have bottom access because of the sleeping bag compartment with a standard U-shaped zipper. The divider between the compartments is removable.
There are many attachment elements, and those include a daisy chain on the bottom, two attachment loops for walking poles and an ice axe, dual compression straps on both sides, etc.
But its best part is the suspension and its great padding. This is what they call Perfect Fit suspension system. It implies that the harness can be shifted to adjust the torso length in the range from 14 to 18 inches, and this is done when the pack is on your back. You just pull the two straps which you have on both sides. A great design indeed.
- Weight: 4 lb 10 oz (2.1 kg).
- Volume: 3950 cu in (65 L).
- Torso fit: 14 – 18 in (36 – 46 cm).
- Dimensions: 33 x 17 x 14 in (84 x 43 x 36 cm).
14. Gregory Wander 70 backpack
This huge pack is suitable for multi-day tours, and in spite of its size, this is a pack for youth and kids. This means that you have lost of adjustability in the suspension system.
The pack is with similar features as its smaller brother the Wander 50 above. So again, you do not have a bottom compartment, but you have dual access to the main compartment, and one includes the front access.
The harness adjustability is based on Gregory’s VersaFit system which includes a Velcro tab so moving the harness in any direction is very easy. Obviously, you need the corresponding adjustability on the hip belt, and you have it here. The hip fins can be moved forward and backward to adjust to the kid’s body changes, or when the pack is used by several kids of different age.
As you realize from the specifications below, this pack is very lightweight for its huge capacity.
- Weight: 3.7 lb (1.56 kg).
- Size: 28 x 13 x 13 in (71 x 33 x 33 cm).
- Torso fit: 13 – 18 in (33 – 46 cm).
- Waist fit: 22 – 40 in (56 – 101 cm).
15. Osprey Ace 75 pack
So this is the largest pack from the Osprey’s Ace series for kids and youth, and the largest pack here in the list. As you realize from the picture, you have classic top access under the floating lid. There is yet another entrance on the bottom where you have the sleeping bag compartment.
The pack comes with an integrated rain cover in a pocket completely on the bottom. The pockets are the same as in the other Ace models presented above.
There are many attachment options available, but I would point out only one (for the rest please check my full review): here you have Osprey’s patented Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment system. This is to temporarily attach trekking poles when you need free hands for eating or drinking on the go, or for taking a photo.
- Weight: 3 lb 9 oz (1.62 kg).
- Volume: 4577 cu in (75 l).
- Torso fit: 14 – 19 in (35 – 48 cm).
- Size: 31 x 13 x 14 in (79 x 33 x 35 cm).
How to measure torso length
Having a properly determined torso length is important if you want that the pack fits you comfortably. So have a look at this video:
How to adjust the backpack
See how to adjust the pack properly:
How to pack the backpack
Here are some rules on how to properly pack your backpack. This is important for balance and stability.
So you have these best hiking backpacks for kids and youth and I guess it is not easy to choose. The choice depends on the age of the kid, and on the purpose. You will not buy the largest of these packs for a 12 years old kid, it would be too big. But those up to 40 might work well, and in view of the adjustment system, such packs will serve the kid for many years. But if this is a teenager of 15 or 16 and you search for a multi-day pack, then surely those bigger packs should be in your focus.
Please follow the links in the text to read about those packs in detail. I hope the text has been useful to you, so please share it with others.
It will be great to have some comment from you, there is a comment box below. Thank you and have a nice day.