About 7 years ago I spent a good hour+ in REI getting fitted for a pair of hiking boots. I was preparing to start some prep hikes leading up to hiking Mt Whitney in a day (which I managed to do despite rain, snow, and altitude sickness). I tried on numerous pairs, scaled their little mini faux rock trail and paid extra for the footbeds and the perfect blend of polyester, cotton, etc socks.
4 years later I found myself again in REI spending over an hour, but this time with snacks, a bottle, and lots of baby toys in tow. This is because we spent that hour placing my daughter into, strapping up, and trekking around the store in numerous packs. Now if you are just going to go for a stroll in the park with your child on your back, then fine...perhaps pick up something off Craigslist, eBay, or the neighbor down the street whose child has outgrown their's. But if you have intentions of putting on those hiking boots and perfect blend socks, then by all means treat this purchase like you would a pair of hiking boots. We were looking for comfort/support, durability, bells and whistles, and usability by me ALONE (no assist from the husband).
We have two packs in our household. We'll just say they serve both ends of the spectrum of hiking. Long hikes where I would actually put on those boots and perfect blend socks we have the Kelty Backcountry. And for a hike say through an airport we have a Deuter Kangakid.
Kelty doesn't make the Backcountry per say anymore...the closest version is now the FC3.0
But it is not the pack I want you to be interested in, but the process by which we chose it and things we considered in making our choice:
- Comfort/Support: Adjustable to both my husband or myself. Good padding in shoulders straps, waste straps, and back panel. Adjustable for my child as they grow keeping them comfortable as well as protected from elements (i.e. sun/rain hood). My three and a half year old daughter who is super tall rode recently during a snow-shoe'ing trip in Tahoe. 5 point harness for child.
- Durability: Good sturdy frame, but lightweight (I am a member of the 10lb'er club...my son was 10.6 at birth and has kept on growing...I don't need a heavy frame plus his weight). Fabric that can stand up to the elements...rain, snow, wind, sun, being tossed in our Yakima truck topper.
- Bells and Whistles: Storage for diapers, wipes, etc.. Parts that are removable & washable. Handles to carry easily without a child on board. Reflective tape.
- Usability by ME: This means I can load and unload my son or daughter and get it on ad off my back by myself. No assist from the husband. So this would mean lift straps and automatic kickstand are a necessity.
- Completely Soft
- Can carry a fairly large child comfortably & safely
- Can carry a laptop and all the munchkin goods, diapers, etc..
Just one thing to note...don't forget they are back there and can reach out and grab things, especially in one of those "you break it you buy it" stores.