Opening the big box containing Thule’s Sapling Elite Child Carrier, I was impressed by the size and sturdiness of the carrier. It is huge and amazingly still lightweight. I could tell that it was designed for serious hikers and backpackers. It allows nature lovers to continue adventuring with small children. Thule’s Sapling Elite Child Carrier is built for long hikes!
Getting started with the Sapling Elite carrier is easy because it comes fully assembled and works intuitively. You need to adjust the torso length, hipbelt, child’s height, child’s shoulder harness and leg loops. Those are really simple, and the illustrated instruction manual helps as needed. I loved how each section ends with a “Proper Fit” description, so I could make sure the carrier was adjusted properly.
It’s awesome how the fit can be customized for each parent; this really impacts our comfort and stamina while carrying our son! The back panel has four positions, and the hipbelt has three lengths. The feature card is also helpful because it illustrates all the neat features; my husband found this the most helpful because he’s not much of an instruction-reading guy, ha!
Our first test run was at our farmers market, one of the Midwest’s largest. Attendance averages about 14,000 people—so, it can be frustrating to push a stroller. It’s a great time, but walking through the vendors can be very challenging. We were eager to take our new carrier downtown and carry our son instead of navigating our stroller through all the congestion.The carrier worked really well! My husband strapped our son into the carrier and toted him around while we shopped and visited with friends. Our 2-year-old son enjoyed being up higher than a stroller, and it allowed him to experience all the sights and sounds. As we were walking, a friend stopped me to say hello. She laughed and explained how she was admiring our carrier, and then recognized us among the crowd. Her family was pushing a stroller and envious of our maneuverability.
When we stopped to visit the firemen and their firetruck, my husband easily opened the stand, set the carrier on the ground, and took my son out of the carrier. They both enjoyed walking around and getting inside the truck. He easily set our son back in the carrier and put it on his back, and in moments we were on our way through the crowds again.
Since that first outing, we’ve used our Sapling Elite Child Carrier for hiking our favorite trails and even in boutique shops. We really appreciate the carrier on long hikes because it carries so well and has excellent weight distribution. Compared to our previous carrier, it’s far superior and helps our endurance. (It feels comfortable!)
On hot summer days, it doesn’t get too hot because the backpanel is designed to be “breathable.” I was surprised how helpful the carrier has been beyond hiking. When getting our stroller out for some downtown shopping, I was thankful to see the carrier and I decided to give it a try. The Sapling Elite Child Carrier was very helpful because small shops rarely have aisles big enough for strollers; it also helped keep our son from reaching for items at his level. I like how he sees things from a “high perspective” and how we can converse while he’s in the carrier.
Storage is abundant and convenient. There are zippered pockets on the hip belt—these are great for our wallet, phone and keys. Thule has even thought ahead and provided a mirror in one of the hip belt pockets. (What a great idea to help parents check on their son/daughter in the pack!) When hiking alone, this will prove very handy.
There is a really big zippered compartment that’s large enough for jackets or our picnic lunch. A good sized removable backpack is also included. This is great because you can pack essentials for easy access, portability, and even remove the backpack for short hikes. There’s a hydration sleeve that will store a 3 liter reservoir. We haven’t used that feature yet because our son weighs about 30 pounds and I don’t want to add more weight. Our advice is to start using the carrier as soon as your child is old enough so you can get stronger while your child grows; then you’ll be ready to carry all that water, too.
It is full of even more features—foot holsters. At first, my husband thought holsters were unnecessary and he didn’t use them. I put them on for our second outing, and he commented on how they really helped prevent our son from kicking. We’ll definitely keep the holsters on our carrier. A sunshade is also included and is effective for covering our son’s head and keeping the sun out of his eyes. The instructions are helpful for installing and storing the sunshade, but the process take a little practice.
As your child grows, you’ll appreciate the dual-access loading feature. It’s easy to set our friend’s 8-month-old daughter straight down into the seat, but it doesn’t work the same way for our toddler. Opening the side access straps allows us to slide our 2-year-old son into the seat easily.
There is a large kickstand that works with a stomp pad to keep the carrier steady on the ground. It takes a good deal of force to open our kickstand, so don’t be afraid to pull hard. My husband found that the kickstand made it easy to take the Sapling on and off. He extended the kickstand, held the carrier handle like a backpack and set it on the ground. I found the weight and large size awkward to handle by myself; a helping hand to hold the carrier was needed. Also, it’s really important to close the kickstand when using the carrier. It extends quite far and can bump people in crowded areas.
Children must be able to sit upright without assistance and weigh at least 16 pounds to use the Sapling Elite Child Carrier. The maximum load is 48 pounds, and this weight limit includes the child’s weight and gear. The carrier and removable drool pad are hand washable. It comes in two colors: cobalt and dark shadow (gray). We reviewed the cobalt color, and it is a nice shade of blue with gray accents.
There is a hefty price tag, but serious hikers will find it worthwhile. An optional rain cover is also available for $34; this would fit in place of the sunshade and protect your child’s head from rain.
To buy: thule.com