We live in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York and knew we wanted a comfortable backpack carrier to take our child on hikes, big and small. When we pulled the Deuter Kid Comfort III out of the box, we were impressed by how light weight the carrier was (7 lbs 10 oz), given its size (35” H x 15” W x 13” D).
We immediately started playing with the many straps and buckles (which are bright yellow and easy to find), and found that they are mostly intuitive and easy to use. With so many adjustments available, the carrier can be used to comfortably carry a child as soon as it can sit up on its own up until it weighs 40 pounds, plus up to 8.5 pounds of gear in the pack. The seat bottom and the straps that go over the child’s shoulders can each be raised and lowered, and the 5-point safety harness can be adjusted from all directions. It took us some practice to get good at finding and securing all buckles on the 5-point harness system, as they are hard to reach once the child is seated and leaning on them.
The best feature of this carrier is the ample padding found everywhere it makes sense. For the child: behind the back, in front of the chin (making a great pillow for naps), between the child and the buckles on the 5-point harness (so they don’t rub), and on the shoulder straps. For the adult: behind the back (with smart contours), on the shoulder straps, and on the hip belt. The height of the child’s backrest sets this carrier apart from others, too, giving the child more head support than a lower-backed carrier.
The carrier is also fully adjustable and comfortable for the adult doing the carrying. It adjusts in all the same ways a backpacking backpack (for overnight camping) adjusts: shoulder strap position (to fit various torso lengths), shoulder strap length, hip belt length, sternum strap length, and stabilizer straps (to pull the weight closer to your back). Adjusting the shoulder strap position (what Deuter calls the Vari-Quick carrying system) is simple to do, so it’s easy to switch from a tall person to a shorter person, and vice versa, on a long hike. We did notice, though, that the sternum strap quickly maxes out when worn by a broad-shouldered adult. The carrier stands up on its own when the “kick-stand” bar is pulled out in back, making it possible for one adult to secure a child and pick up the pack on his/her own.
What about storage for gear? Deuter thought of that, too. There is a large zippered pocket beneath where the child sits—big enough for lunch, extra layers, and diapers—and two smaller pockets above that (one with a hook for keys, big enough for a first aid kit or rain coat). There are two mesh pockets on either side of the carrier, one of which arrives holding a cute teddy bear! A pocket on the right side of the hip belt is large enough for a compact camera or a trail snack. A pocket on the left side of the hip belt comes with a hand mirror (not glass) so you can see how your passenger is doing. And there’s even a pocket for your hydration system (or to stow the rain cover, sold separately) between the backpack’s frame and where the child sits. We were a little disappointed that none of the pockets within reach of the adult fit a water bottle. But water bottles would definitely fit in the larger rear pocket or (as we ended up doing) the adult not carrying the child can carry water in a separate backpack – which is a fairer distribution of weight, anyway. Oh, and there’s a handy fold-away sun cover (think: roof) tucked away behind a zipper at the top of the pack.
The manual has four pages of clearly written instructions in each of eight languages: German, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Slovanian, and Japanese. Instructions are clear to follow and cover all the basic “how to” information, plus two helpful illustrations at the front of the manual identify all the places adjustments can be made. The child’s chin pad is removable and hand-washable. The rest of the carrier material can be hand-washed with luke-warm water and a neutral soap.
While we expect the carrier will remain comfortable for a long day hike, it is also easy enough to use around town and for walking from the car to a picnic site.
To buy: deuter.com