10 Best Kids Backpacking Packs of 2022

10 Best Backpacks for Kids

Buying a kid’s backpack is very different from buying an adult backpack because kids have smaller physical proportions. They also grow very quickly so you want to make sure that you purchase a backpack that can be adjusted over time. In addition to bringing them close to nature, the accomplishment they feel at being able to carry everything they need on their backs over miles of backcountry terrain is a great confidence builder. However, a well-chosen, properly-packed backpack is probably the single biggest difference between misery and enjoyment on the trail.

Here are the top 10 backpacks I regularly recommend for kids.

Make / ModelKids SpecificAdj TorsoPrice
REI Tarn 40YesYes$100
Osprey Ace 38YesYes$140
Gregory Wander 50YesYes$180
REI Tarn 65YesYes$165
Osprey Ace 50YesYes$160
Osprey Talon 44NoYes$185
Teton Sports Scout 3400NoYes$80
Deuter Fox 40YesYes$130
Kelty Redcloud 65YesYes$180
Amazon Basics 55NoYes$70

1. REI Tarn 40 Pack – Kid’s

REI Tarn 40 Kid's Backpack
The REI Tarn 40 is an adjustable frame backpack that you can resize as your child grows taller. It has a removable spring steel frame that provides lightweight support and side daisy chains if you want to attach additional gear to the backpack. The top lid is removable if you want to save weight and the pack is easy to adjust for a good fit. With a torso range of 12-16″, this is a good backpack pack for younger children that has plenty of pockets and is durably built.

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2. Osprey Ace 38

Osprey Ace 38
The Osprey Ace 38 is a lightweight backpack sized for smaller children with a torso length of 11-15″. It has an adjustable length torso in addition to an adjustable length hip belt so your child can get a near-custom fit that can be modified as they grow. The Ace 38 has a front stash pocket, sleeping pad straps, and daisy chains, in addition to a top lid and hip belt pockets in a good slim package that transfers weight very well to the hips.

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REI | Osprey

3. Gregory Wander 50 Youth Backpack

Gregory Wander 50 Youth Backpack
The Gregory Wander 50 is a kid’s backpack designed for overnight and multi-day backpacking trips. It has an adjustable torso and an adjustable hip belt so you can adjust the pack sizing as your child grows. The Wander 50 provides top lid access to the backpack contents as well as panel-style access through a U-shaped zipper surrounding a front stretch pocket. Overall, the Wander 50 has great padding, is durable, easy to load and unpack, and has a form-fitting design that keeps loads balanced nicely.

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REI | Backcountry | Amazon

4. REI Tarn 65 Pack – Kids

REI Tarn 65
The REI Tarn 65 is a good pack for tweens and teens because it has an adjustable length frame so that the torso length can be resized as they grow. The pack has a sleeping bag hatch and a large stretch front storage pocket providing easy to access extra storage. Large water bottle pockets make it easy for kids to get a drink when they want without relying on an adult, while the hip belt is heavily padded and has a wide adjustment capacity to fit growing backpackers for years.

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5. Osprey Ace 50

Osprey Ace 50
The Osprey Ace 50 is another lightweight backpack for kids with torso lengths from 13-18″. Like the Ace 38, it also has an adjustable torso length and adjustable hip belt that can be resized as your child grows. This feature-rich pack has a floating top lid, a sleeping bag hatch, side water bottle pockets, a front stretch pocket, and hip belt pockets.  A rain cover is also included.

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REI | Osprey

6. Osprey Talon 44

Osprey Talon 44 Backpack
The Osprey Talon 44 is an adult backpack that’s available in a short torso length, suitable for kids and teens with a longer torso. It’s a fully-featured and reasonably affordable lightweight backpack with a floating top lid, a front mesh stretch pockets. side water bottle pockets and hip belt pockets.  It also has an external hydration pocket, which is much easier to refill on the go because it doesn’t require unpacking your pack to pull out a reservoir.

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REI | Osprey  

7. Teton Sports Scout 3400

Teton Sports Scout 3400

The Teton Sports Scout 3400 is a 55L internal frame backpack with an adjustable length torso and hip belt designed for kids, teens, and adults with a torso range between 15″ – 19.5″. It’s loaded with external gear pockets to keep you organized, it has a sleeping bag compartment, side water bottle pockets, external sleeping pad straps, and includes a rain cover. It’s also very similar to Amazon Basics 55 backpack we also list below, but slightly better quality.

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8. Deuter Fox 40

Deuter Fox 40 Kids Backpack
The Deuter Fox 40 is a kid-sized backpack with an adjustable torso that includes load lifters for extra adjustability.  It has an excellent shoulder harness, a very conforming hip belt, and is solidly constructed. The Fox has a sleeping bag compartment providing front access in addition to a top lid with a drawstring closure. A zippered side pocket provides additional storage, the pack includes trekking pole holders and external daisy chains make it possible to lash additional gear to the pack’s exterior.

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Backcountry | Amazon

9. Kelty Junior’s Redcloud 65 Backpack

Kelty RTdcloud 65 backpack
The Kelty Junior Redcloud 65 has all the features of Kelty’s Adult Redcloud Backpack but is sized for kids with the extra padding and adjustability they need. It comes with a separate sleeping bag compartment and loads of external pockets to keep youngsters organized on the trail. Panel access lets you retrieve items buried deep in the back without unpacking, while the top lid is removable and can be used as a sling pack for side trips from camp.

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10. Amazon Basics 55

AmazonbasicsInternal Frame Backpack

In my experience, the best “budget” choice is the AmazonBasics 55L Backpack and it’s still a choice that represents a real compromise.  It’s a workmanlike pack for lighter loads that will handle abuse without breaking. It comes loaded with external pockets, has a sleeping bag compartment, side water bottle pockets, external sleeping pad straps, and includes a rain cover. The real problem with it is that the shoulder straps are prone to slippage with a heavier load.  If the straps slip, I usually tie a carabiner or s-biner onto the strap to keep it from slipping and that seems to work well. Read our review.

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How to Buy a Kid’s Backpack

Kid’s Backpack Volume

Avoid buying a backpack that has too much volume.  Overpacking is tempting; it’s a natural tendency to fill the pack all the way, resulting in a far heavier pack than necessary.  Almost as bad is an under-packed backpack, with its contents bouncing jauntily at every step and the top pocket flopping loosely even though its straps are fully tightened.  The 40 to 50 liter capacity range makes a great choice for the young backpacker, big enough to hold their personal gear and a share of group gear for a weekend trip.

Appropriate Gear Weight for Kids

Ensure that the load your child is carrying is appropriate for their size and stature.  A 20-pound pack is a much more difficult burden for a 60-pound child than a 100 pound one, no matter what physical condition the child is in.

Torso Length  Adjustability

Look for adjustability in the pack in a couple of key areas.  The torso length adjustment allows the pack to accommodate growth.  A nice feature on a pack is the ability to adjust the torso length while it’s being worn.  This lets you dial in the fit of the pack with much less trial and error.  Where the waist belt sits on the torso needs some experimentation to find the right spot, and that often necessitates ongoing torso length adjustments.

Hip Belt Padding

Young backpackers lack the amount of, shall we say, padding around the waist.  This gives a couple of important considerations.  Less prominence to the hips and waist means that a low-slung pack will not transfer weight to the lower body as well as on an adult.  As a result, most kids will need to wear the hip belt higher than an adult would.  There isn’t as much cushioning between skin and bone as with adults, so ample padding in the waistband prevents raw spots and bruising. The hip belt should be able to be worn comfortably but still be tightened further; if it is fully cinched down in the store, it will be too loose on the trail.

Complaints of Backpack Discomfort

Hit the trail with the expectation that the pack may need to be adjusted frequently, especially for a new backpacker.  Sometimes I swear my children have grown a couple of inches overnight!  A few minutes ensuring the proper fit can make for a far happier trip.  If your child is complaining about hurting, take the time to find out where they’re feeling pain or pressure, then take steps to alleviate the situation.  (Hint: I’ve solved a lot of complaints simply by grabbing the carry strap on the pack, raising it up, tightening the hip belt, and loosening the shoulder straps a touch.)

Ultralight Backpacks for Kids

While the temptation is there to purchase an ultralight pack and save weight on a child’s body, very few ultralight packs feature the adjustability needed for a kid’s pack to last longer than a year or so. I hope that will change when ultralight backpacking companies discover the youth market, but today’s ultralight backpacks aren’t built or priced for kids with rapid torso-length growth spurts.

Shoulder Straps

Pay attention to where the shoulder straps hit.  They will be too far apart on many adult packs, pulling the points of the shoulders backward.  The straps should ideally rest where the trapezius muscle meets the shoulder blade.  This keeps the strap on the meaty part of the shoulder rather than the bonier end of the shoulder blade.  The pack should be supported with the shoulder in a natural posture rather than having to pull forward or up, which causes muscular fatigue.

Load Lifters

Many kid’s backpacks come without load lifters.  While I likely wouldn’t consider a non-ultralight adult backpack without load lifters, it’s not a requirement in a kid pack because torso length adjustment serves the purpose.  A good test to make sure shoulder straps without load lifters are set properly is to have the wearer shrug their shoulders.  If the shrug has more than minimal resistance from the weight of the pack, the straps are likely too low.

Inexpensive Backpacks

While it’s tempting to buy an inexpensive pack, beware of poor quality discount packs.  Look for reinforced stitching at weight-bearing points, especially where the shoulder straps and hip belt meet the bottom of the pack.  The buckles, especially the hip belt buckles, should feel beefy and substantial without any flex—if you don’t feel like you can tighten the buckle vigorously, it likely will not hold up to the stress of backpacking.

Packing Technique

With younger backpackers, it’s also important to pay attention to proper packing techniques.  There’s a temptation to hang a tent and/or sleeping bag from the straps or tie points toward the bottom of the pack.  This throws the balance off by pulling the wearer backward from the shoulders.  Relocating the hanging item between the pack body and top pocket transfers the weight to the hips and legs instead.

Resale Value

While investing in a good-quality backpack with the full knowledge that your child will likely grow out of it in a few years may feel daunting, most will have good resale value to offset some of the cost when they move to larger packs and adventures.  The investment in a proper fitting pack now will contribute to happier miles, for both of you.

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About the author

Carl Nelson developed his interest in the outdoors on childhood family road trips that included many National Parks. He was introduced to backpacking through Boy Scouts in the 1980s. He refined his interest and skills in college as a trip leader for the Vanderbilt University Outdoor Recreation program, culminating in leading a week-long backpack in the Grand Canyon three times. He is an Eagle Scout and Assistant Scoutmaster, frequently serving as the adult advisor for his troop’s outdoor activities. His backpacking experience ranges from his home state of Tennessee to the Appalachians, the Rockies, the Cascades, Philmont Scout Ranch, and China. Carl is an avid photographer and reader, a self-proclaimed gear nerd, and an unabashed lover of maps.


  1. I can recommend the Deuter Climber. I bought it for my son at age 7 and he is still using it this year at age 9. It has 22L capacity and weighs just a bit over 1.5 lbs. I think this size and weight helps with making sure kids don’t overload their packs with too much weight. On our trip this past weekend to Mt. Rogers, VA, the pack held his insulated sleeping pad, 30 degree bag, pillow, clothing, snacks, water, and a few other items. I expect he’ll continue to use it for backpacking for another year or two, at which point it will become a good daypack.

  2. My youngest daughter bought a TARN backpack for her youngest son ho was then 10. Now at 12 he still fits it well after a harness adjustment.

  3. I’m surprised that the ULA Spark did not make this list – at only 37ozs it’s pretty light ; fully adjustable frame/body and has replaceable hipbelts option as you child grows. Plus it can be customized both in color and X-Pac.

    • Here’s a link to that pack for parents who might be interested.

      This list was compiled with parents’ needs in mind, as well as their kids. Most of them don’t have much experience buying backpacks and will favor name brands with good return policies, warranties, and customer support, including in-store fittings. While some parents will go on trips with their kids, most will go on organized trips (scouts or camp) where the leaders have no experience with cottage brand packs and their peculiarities from a fitting or packing perspective. That can really compromise a child’s experience if they rely on those adults for help. Then there’s also the fact that the Spark only has two customer reviews after being on the market for several years. That’s not a great endorsement. Cost is also a consideration since the Spark is more expensive than every backpack in this list and is never discounted.

  4. If you’re getting your kid a backpack for Scouts or camp, they will probably need one with more volume than you think. Kid’s sleeping bags take up a lot of space, without loading down the overall weight of the pack. I wouldn’t go less than 50L.

    My son has a Deuter Fox 40. It has been great for going out with me, where I carry all of the cooking gear, food and tent. He just has to carry his sleeping bag, pad, some personal gear and water. It’s full without being close to the maximum weight he can carry.

    Now that he’s moved from Cub Scouts to BSA Scouts, he’s expected to carry his own stuff, even if I go. His bag is 3/4 full from just the sleeping bag, and he doesn’t have room left over to carry his half of a tent and some group cooking gear.

  5. I have a lot of experience with the REI Tarn 40, and unfortunately wouldn’t recommend it. The straps are its fatal flaw. I recommended that pack to a group of boys I was leading on backpacking excursions and within about 3 years several straps for the compressions on the sides or the hip belts just disintegrated and ripped. I have 20 year old packs that haven’t done that :(

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