In the kids carrier biz since 1992, Kelty pumped up the volume in this growing market this year with the introduction of the redesigned FC 3.0 Kids Frame Carrier. The company’s top-of-the-line child carrier, the FC 3.0, boasts a fully padded, adjustable cockpit, a sun/rain hood, diaper changing pad, and a five-point harness system (securing up to 50 pounds) for the kiddos. For the child-toting adult, this carrier has a suspension system that keeps the child’s weight centralized, a pre-curved, padded hip belt that moves on a track to fit a variety of torso sizes, and scores of pockets that add up to 1,150 cubic inches of storage space.
Carrying a 20-pound, 10-month-old babe, we tested this pack on a wide variety of hikes in the Durango, Colo., area, including a day hike in the Weminuche Wilderness, a leisurely stroll in Horse Gulch, and a steep and rocky in-town hike on Animas City Mountain.
The verdict? Both male and female testers raved about the comfort factor, even after four hours hiking on undulating terrain in Colorado’s largest wilderness area carrying more than 30 pounds (including a 20-pound child, 7-pound, 6-ounce pack, and miscellaneous items like baby food, diapers, teething toys, and water). Our testers really like the adjustable suspension system, padded hip belt and shoulder straps, which delivered the kind of carrying comfort we’d expect from a company that’s been in the pack design business since 1952.
Not a single cry nor complaint was heard from the plush, padded cockpit (which retains its shape due to a padded, aluminum V-bar), leading our testers to believe that baby gave the FC 3.0 a big thumbs up on comfort. The removable sun/rain hood protected our little one from the rays while providing open mesh panels for unobstructed viewing of the scenery rolling by. As we were getting the baby out of the pack, we did find it a bit difficult to move the hood and keep it out of the way (without fully removing it), but a little creative wrangling did the job.
The icing on the comfort cake with this pack is the wealth of pockets, including two conveniently located on the hip belts for essentials like cell phones, keys, and pacifiers. We even carried a small compact mirror in the zippered pocket so we could occasionally check on the baby on board. We also appreciated that the pack included a changing pad (a critical feature), as well as a port for a hydration bladder.
Getting the fully loaded pack on and off safely was initially a concerning endeavor, but Kelty outfitted the FC 3.0 with two lifting straps and a no-pinch kickstand that deploys automatically as soon as the pack is taken off.
We also liked that this pack (unlike many others on the market) meets and exceeds all safety standards, which are, surprisingly, voluntary in this market. It is rated to carry up to 50 pounds safely, meaning that the FC 3.0 (which also has three seat height adjustments) has a relatively long life for a fast-growing child.
The only downside we found was that the pack is not well equipped for naps, which are a key element of a baby’s day (and a parent’s mental health). When our little one was lulled to sleep during a mellow trek in Horse Gulch, her head flopped all the way to the side and bobbed up and down as we walked. Any lengthy day hike would require an after-market baby neck pillow, and which Kelty said it did once sell a pillow for napping purposes, but discontinued it due to a lack of consumer interest.
Though the pack lacks a pillow, and we had to fuss a bit with the hood, this proved to be well-designed carrier that not only gives a child a comfortable ride, but also gives parents reasons to smile.
Suggested Retail: $249.95
SNEWS Rating: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)