Pros: Light. Durable. Very comfortable.
Cons: None, unless the $100 price is a con, but I don't think it is.
My wife and I are people who definitely enjoy a good hike. To our dismay, we were raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Phoenix is a place where they have a thing known as ?hiking?, and it is very popular. The problem is that ?hiking? in Phoenix means trudging up large piles of dirt in temperatures that are generally over 100 degrees. There isn?t anything to look at when you?re ?hiking?, apart for the odd cactus and the fallen victims of ?hiking?, and generally it just isn?t a lot of fun. The fact is that what is meant by ?hiking? in Phoenix is rather close to what is meant by ?working on a chain-gang? in other parts of the country.
So when we moved to Virginia we began to take advantage of living in a place where the general idea of ?hiking? was much closer to own. Now that we are spending the summer in Maine, we are in hog heaven.
Once we knew that we were actually going to be able to hike, we started looking around for a backpack-style carrier for our son. The Kelty line of child carriers was what we found, and the ?Meadow? model looked to be the best one for our needs. We have already put this carrier to good use, and we love it.
Kelty has been around for something like 50 years, and they have always been a name associated with quality. Originally specializing in backpacks, they now also make sleeping bags, jogging strollers, and even packs so that your dog can share the burden with you.
There are several models of their child carrier, the differences mainly being in the comfort level of the person doing the carrying. This model is marketed as being for city or path use, basically, not the model you probably want if you are really going deep into the woods. We have taken this one on hikes of varying lengths, and I would say that if you are going to frequently use it to cover distances exceeding five miles it would be well worth it to step up one or two models.
The carrier is solidly constructed and I have no doubts that it will hold up for a very long time. It is composed of a very strong aluminum framework and 450 Polyester Ripstop (this must mean something to someone as the lady selling it to me mentioned it with an expression of satisfaction. To me it just means very strong backpacky material). The carrier itself weighs only 4lb 14oz, and when I first saw it I was amazed. It looks like it must weigh quite a bit more. The maximum child weight is 45 pounds, which gives you a good bit of time for use.
The carrier has what Kelty refers to as an ?auto-deploy kickstand?. I guess that?s as good a name as any. What this means is that the frame has its own stand, making it wonderfully easy to load up your child. Of course, its not anything like stable enough to leave your child in there (as again, the lady selling this to me was quick to point out), but it serves its purpose well. Once you have the carrier on, tightening up the shoulders straps pulls the kickstand in.
The carrier also has a five-point harness with padded shoulder straps so that your little one is quite secure inside. The harness is also adjustable with velcro at the back and three rings at the front, so that you have a wide range of height possibilities, thus preventing your child from protruding half out the top, or being hidden down inside. We have already played around with the possibilities a great deal before finding the perfect settings, and it is very easy to do. Strapping in is also very easy using snap together fasteners similar to a child carseat.
Once you have your child firmly in place, the carrier is easily lifted (by your helper) by two handles made of a thick, climbing rope. The carrier is well-balanced, making this all the easier. It has padded, very comfortable shoulder straps, and a curved, padded, adjustable waistbelt. When shoulder straps and waistbelt are adjusted properly and tightened, it?s a very snug fit that doesn?t move around on you when hiking, thus avoiding a lot of the discomfort associated with carrying a pack.
As an added safety feature, the carrier is built with 3M reflective tape all around.
There are also two small loops of the same climbing rope used for the handles, one on either side of the top of the carrier, just in front of your child. Kelty calls these ?Toy loops?, the theory being that you can attach some ?distractors?. We haven?t taken advantage of this yet, but it?s a nice idea, and I?m sure we will at some point. For now, our son is plenty entertained just to ride around in the thing.
Finally, there is a small, removable pack, that Kelty refers to as a ?kid pouch?. It is basically a very small backpack along the lines of the size your child could wear if he were walking part of the trip. Whatever that aspect of the thing may be worth, it is handy to have some storage space, and you can easily fit a bottle of bug repellant, some sun screen, and a few snacks in here.
As I say, we have used this on many excursions already, and everyone has been pleased with it. Our son is (apparently... I mean who knows really?) very comfortable in it, and enjoys riding in it. It is surprisingly comfortable to wear. Even on trips of more than five miles and/or when I?ve had the carrier on well over an hour, the worst I could say is that you begin to notice it more. Adjusting the straps so that my wife can wear it has proved to be very simple, and she has no complaints either.
It is an all-around wonderful carrier. It is simple, rugged, and it is readily apparent that safety, comfort, and ease of use were in mind when it was designed. It also ?sits? well, and when it is on, it does not disturb your center of gravity, so that even climbing uphill or downhill, you don?t feel as though the thing is dragging you off balance.
Kelty also offers a variety of companion pieces to their line of carriers, such as a sun/rain hood (which comes with some models), a complete enclosure bug net, a diaper duffle, and stirrups.
If you are looking for a backpack-style carrier this is definitely the one I would recommend, or at least this is the line I would recommend. We have used this on several path hikes, forest trails, and just walking around town, and we have been nothing but happy with it. If you are looking for something to use to go backpacking, or for otherwise more serious distances, I would recommend one of the other models, but if it sounds like your needs are similar to mine, this one is all that is necessary.