Thule Sapling Hiking Backpack Review: Machine-Washable

Written By: Megan Svetz
Reviewed By: Kate Madsen

As a mom who loves the great outdoors, I’m always on the lookout for baby products that make life easier and safer when exploring with my little ones. The Thule Sapling Child Carrier Backpack is designed for parents who want to hit the trails without compromising on comfort or safety. It’s a safe and comfortable option for parents who love to explore, plus, it’s one of the few hiking carriers that is machine washable.

happy baby in best baby carrier hiking backpack
Although still on the small side, Brooks absolutely loves hiking in the Thule Sapling!




  • Price: It’s on the pricier side, but comes with the Thule quality.
Purchase the Thule Sapling Child Carrier

Key Takeaways

  • The Thule Sapling Child Carrier Backpack is a versatile and comfortable carrier designed for outdoor adventures.
  • It features a machine-washable seat with a ventilated backpanel.
  • Easily adjusts on the hip belt and two places on the torso for optimal comfort.
  • This carrier has dual access storage compartments, a self-standing frame, and a UPF 50 sunshade.
  • It is designed to grow with your child, offering an adjustable, ergonomic seat with under-leg support.

Overall Rating: 9.2


9 out of ten rating

Ease of Use: 8/10

8 out of ten rating

Durability & Quality: 9/10

9 out of ten rating

Comfort: 9/10

9 out of ten rating
9 out of ten rating

Flexibility: 8/10

8 out of ten rating

Design: 9/10

9 out of ten rating

Price: 8/10

8 out of ten rating

P.S. We received a review unit of this product from its manufacturer. We are, however, not paid or compensated for our review. To remain impartial in our tests, we use objective ranking factors and put each product in the hands of real parents for a few months before we publish our review. Read how we test to learn more.

Everything that we review is independently selected by our team. We only recommend products that we use ourselves with our kids. To support our website, we may receive a small commission if you buy something through our links. These commissions come at no extra costs for you. Read our earnings disclaimer to learn more.

Hands-On Review

Thule Sapling metal kickstand with stoppers for stability
The rubber stoppers on the kickstand create a grip to prevent any movement.

Safety and Sturdiness (9/10)

Safety is paramount when carrying a child on your back, and the Thule Sapling excels here. The self-standing frame provides stability when loading and unloading your child with a metal kickstand that has rubber grips on the bottom, reducing the risk of slipping or tipping.

The adjustable child harness and seat ensure your child stays secure during hikes, with unique locking clips for additional safety. I felt confident that my little one was safe at all times.

Thule Sapling unique locking buckles
The buckles are unique and have a locking mechanism for safety.

Ease of Use (8/10)

The Thule Sapling Carrier collapses and folds up when not in use, and opens up with little set-up for quick use. The straps are easily adjustable, for a comfortable fit for both child and parent.

The dual access storage compartments on the bottom of the carrier are convenient, allowing you to reach your essentials without removing the carrier. The storage compartment also has an exit port for your drinking hose, making the carrier hydration-compatible. Plus, there are two fanny-pack type compartments on the hip belt where I love storing my keys and phone.

Fanny pack storage on Thule Sapling belt
Fanny pack-like storage on both sides of the belt.

The Thule Sapling Carrier is easily cleaned, since the child seat and drool pad are removable and machine washable. And I have found that the rest of the carrier wipes down quite nicely.

I absolutely love the UPF 50 sunshade, which can be attached, or removed and stored. When attached, it slides in and velcros to the carrier, and it provides excellent coverage while still allowing my little one to see all around. When stored, the Thule Sapling Carrier sunshade canopy can be twisted and folded with a snap button to hold it together (similar to a traditional car window sunshade).

Thule Sapling sunshade fold instructions
Instructions for folding the sunshade are sewn onto the sunshade for reference.

Durability and Quality (9/10)

Like all Thule products, the Thule Sapling Child Carrier Backpack is built to last. All the materials are high-quality, from the metal kickstand to the breathable mesh fabric and padding. Not to mention, the zippers and buckles are all very sturdy. I’ve taken it on several hikes, and it has shown no signs of wear and tear. The machine-washable seat is a lifesaver after messy adventures, and it holds up well in the wash.

Thule Sapling carrier child seat and harness close up
Close-up of the child seat and harness, with breathable fabric, padding, and mesh lining.

Comfort (9/10)

The Thule Sapling Child Carrier Backpack has a ventilated backpanel, which keeps you cool during long hikes. The child area is lined with mesh fabric for increased breathability for your little one too. The adjustable torso and hip belt allow me and my husband to find the perfect fit, reducing strain on my back and shoulders.

The ergonomic child seat with under-leg support and the child harness with soft shoulder pads ensure comfort, even on extended hikes. My little one often falls asleep in the carrier, which speaks volumes about its comfort.

Weight and Bulkiness (9/10)

The Thule Sapling is bulkier than your standard baby carrier, but for a hiking carrier it is actually lighter weight than its competitors, coming in at 7 pounds (compared to competitor’s 8 pounds). It folds up nicely for storage, but also has the ability to support extra weight, due to the robust design and ample storage space. Additional storage can be added to the carrier by clipping on a Thule Sapling Sling Pack.

Area on the carrier where the additional pack can be attached
The Thule Sapling Sling Pack can be purchased separately, and clips onto the back of the carrier.

Flexibility (8/10)

This carrier is designed to grow with your child, and supports children from 16 to 48.5 pounds thanks to the adjustable seat and harness. You can easily adjust the torso in two different places, the chest clip, and the hip belt to accommodate different body types, making it suitable for both moms and dads. The UPF 50 sunshade is removable, allowing you to customize the carrier for different weather conditions.

Design (9/10)

The Thule Sapling Carrier has a sleek design, and is my favorite hiking carrier! I love the overall look! It is modern and functional, with plenty of storage, and has additional useful features like a stretchy band on the right, hooks to clip things onto, breathable fabric, and more. The self-standing frame is a thoughtful addition, and using the top of the carrier as a handle makes it easy to put on or take off the carrier.

Stretchy band for the water hose on the right strap
The water hose can be threaded through the stretchy band on the adult strap.

Price (8/10)

The Thule Sapling is priced higher than smaller child carriers and some of the hiking carrier competitors, which might be a concern for budget-conscious parents. However, the comfort, safety, and durability make it a worthwhile investment if you’re a regular hiker. If you plan to use it often, the price becomes more justifiable.

Purchase the Thule Sapling Child Carrier

Thule Sapling Child Carrier Product Info


The Thule Sapling Hiking Carrier measures 13 x 12 x 28 inches and has a maximum weight capacity of 48.5 pounds. It’s designed to fit children from 16 to 48.5 pounds, making it suitable for a wide range of ages.

Assembly and Configurations

Assembly is straightforward, with clear instructions provided. The adjustable torso and hip belt allow you to find the perfect fit for the parent, and the ergonomic child seat and harness are adjustable, providing a perfect fit for your child. Plus, the UPF 50 sunshade can easily be removed and stored.

Warranty Information

Thule offers a limited lifetime warranty on the Thule Sapling Hiking Carrier Backpack. This warranty covers defects in materials or workmanship, providing peace of mind for your purchase.

Thule Sapling canopy sunshade folded and snapped for easy storage
The sunshade can be folded and snapped for easy storage.

Final Thoughts

The Thule Sapling Child Carrier Backpack is a fantastic option for parents who love the outdoors. I absolutely love the design and enjoy using it when I go hiking in places where a stroller isn’t an option. Its safety features, adjustable design, and comfort make it a top choice for hiking with your child. While it’s pricier and bulkier than other baby carriers, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

Purchase the Thule Sapling Child Carrier


If you’re looking for alternatives to the Thule Sapling Child Carrier Backpack, here are a few of our other favorites to consider:

Thule Sapling best baby carrier for hiking

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I use the Thule Sapling for long hikes?

    Yes, the Thule Sapling Carrier is designed for long hikes, with a ventilated backpanel, exit port and guide loops for a water drinking hose, and ample storage for essentials.

  • Is the Thule Sapling suitable for both moms and dads?

    Yes, the Thule Sapling Carrier includes an adjustable hip belt (both sides), 2-part adjustable torso straps, and adjustable chest clip. It truly allows you to customize the fit, making it suitable for parents of all shapes and sizes.

  • How do I clean the Thule Sapling Child Carrier Backpack?

    The Thule Sapling Child Carrier Backpack is one of the few hiking carriers where the seat is machine washable! The rest of the carrier can be wiped down with a damp cloth.

  • Can I use the Thule Sapling for infants?

    No, the Thule Sapling Carrier is not designed for newborns or small infants but is built for children 16 to 48.5 pounds, so it’s best suited for toddlers and older infants.


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