Sunday, June 03, 2012

Review: Kelty FC 3.0

A baby is a lot like a camera: you might have only one body, but you'll end up with a bunch of different bags and packages to stuff that body into, each one for a slightly different purpose and for different conditions.

For instance, the Chariot Cougar is the all-weather, all person strolling/cycling device. It's waterproof, and will go anywhere. Unfortunately, it's giant ass and eats up all your trunk space if you insist on buying small cars like I do. The biggest problem is that if you're going to hike single-track trails, you'll need to use palanquin mode, which is awkward.

The Kelty Wallaby is great at home for doing a few chores while carrying the baby and it leaves you hands free, but any extended carrying will cause back pain.

As the only person in the immediate family likely to use any infant carrier, I've learned that I have extremely limited patience for complicated wrapping techniques or infant loading carriers. That eliminates the Moby Wrap, and when I tried the Ergo Baby, one look at the instructions and I concluded that I would need a PhD in baby carrying before I'd successfully get my son into it.

The Kelty FC 3.0 is a welcome change from all these complicated devices. It seems almost designed for a caveman, that's how simple it is. You load your child by putting the pack down on the ground with the auto-deploy kickstand, so you can adjust all the straps and put the sunshade on. Once done, you lift the pack using the carry handle, load one shoulder, and then the other, cinch down the hip belt, clip the sternum strap together, and you're ready to go. Like any true backpacking pack, all the weight is loaded onto your hip and not your shoulder, so you have no shoulder or back pain associated with it. The nice thing about baby carriers is that they're designed for women, which means that unlike men's backpacks, the hip belt can be tightened to the point where it doesn't slip on me, which is impressive because I have next to no hips.

Bowen loves this pack. It's high, so he can see past my shoulders. He can reach out and grab things (including mom). The "drool pad" is soft and he's slept on it. Grandpa appears to like the pack as well. Grandpa is 70 years old, which means that if he has no problem carrying the pack, those of you in your child-bearing years will have no problem.

The pack comes with a changing pad, plenty of space for diapers, milk bottles, cell phone pocket, key pocket, and maybe lunch for you. I suppose you could squeeze in a SLR as well, but it'd better be padded well.

There are a few cons with the pack. First, the sunshade is not waterproof. There's no real way to windproof/bugproof or waterproof the cockpit. So if it rains, I'd better have the waterproof stroller. Second, there's no water-bottle carrier built in. This is silly, but easily rectified with a $3.50 Water Bottle Holster from REI or your favorite online provider. Finally, unlike the ErgoBaby, it won't carry a 70 pound baby. Darn it, by the time he's 40 pounds (the weight limit of the FC 3.0), he'd better be doing the hiking himself.

All in all, this is my favorite of all the baby carriers, and the only carrier where I feel like I could push myself to the limit and not be limited by the pack's limitations. Well, ok, I guess my real limit is whether mom will let me push to those limits, but hey, one can dream.

Highly Recommended
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