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Reviews > Packs > Infant and Child Carriers > Full Sail International Piggyback Rider > Test Report by Derek Hansen

Full Sail Int'l, LLC - The Piggyback Rider

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Full Sail Int'l, LLC — The Piggyback Rider

Test Series by Derek Hansen


NameDerek Hansen
Height5' 10" (1.78 m)
Weight165 lb (75 kg)
Email Address City
City, State, CountryFlagstaff, Arizona, USA


I am a lightweight backpacker with a typical weekend pack weight of 15 lb (7 kg) and a multi-day weight of 20 lb (9 kg), which includes food and water. Because I pack less than 20 lb (9 kg), I prefer lightweight trail-running shoes. I prefer backpacking with a hammock as part of my sleep system.


Manufacturer Full Sail Int'l, LLC (Bethesda, MD, USA)
Year of Manufacture 2011, made in China
Manufacturer’s Website
MSRP US$79.99
Listed Features
  • Streamlined unisex design
  • One size, fully adjustable
  • Supports a child up to 60 lbs (27 kg), 2.5 years+
  • Integrated comfort and safety features
  • Four secure hand holds
  • Safety harness tethered to carrier
  • Padded shoulder straps with sternum strap
Manufacturer Recommendations
  • For hiking, shopping, walking, touring, watching, exploring, wandering, bonding
  • Read and follow all instructions before use
  • Children should wear shoes while riding
Specifications What They Say What I Say
Weight "Less than three pounds" ( Pack and carry bag: 2 lbs (1 kg)
Pack alone: 25 oz (709 g)
Colors Available in grey/orange with a choice of a black or pink bar.
Sizes One size
Warranty A Piggyback Rider is covered under warranty, to the original owner, for the lifetime of the product, against defects in materials or workmanship.


18 Jul 2011


Piggyback Rider

The Piggyback Rider, or just pack or “rider” for short, is a child carrier, essentially a pair of backpack shoulder straps attached to a metal bar that allows a child to “hitch a ride”. The child is supported by means of the child safety harness that clips onto the shoulder straps.

Metal Foot Bar

The metal foot bar has a strip of gripping material on one side where a child’s feet are intended to be placed. The other side is clear metal. The foot bar is hollow and a nylon strap runs the length of the bar and clips to either side of the shoulder straps by means of plastic hardware and buckles.

All the hardware, minus the foot bar, is made out of plastic, except the cages on the clips on the child safety harness.

The shoulder straps have an adjustable sternum strap with an integrated whistle buckle. The shoulder straps are adjustable by means of nylon straps, similar to a regular backpack. The metal foot bar is adjustable with one nylon strap.

Plastic Parts

The child safety harness has two adjustment points. One set adjusts the loops that go around the child’s shoulders; the other set adjusts the length from the harness to the shoulder straps, similar to shoulder “load lifters” on a regular backpack.

Strap Detail

The pack also comes with a nylon carrying bag. This bag performs extra duties as it can be attached as a “mud flap” to protect the wearer from muddy shoes; it can also be folded up and attached as a small pouch (there is a pocket with a hook-and-loop closure sewn into the carrying bag).


On each shoulder strap are two hand holds where a child can grasp securely to the pack. Near the hand holds is the safety harness attachment ring where the child safety harness is clipped.


The Piggyback Rider’s website has links to videos that show how to properly wear, adjust, and load the pack, and also information on how to manipulate the carrying bag and its extra features.


I was originally very excited about this product because my kids are always asking for “piggyback” rides with me. The Piggyback Rider promises that the pack is easy to use, “natural and instinctive”, and that it “allows the weight of your child to be distributed along your hips instead of on your shoulders.”

My initial worries about the pack, after first inspecting it, were about the durability and safety of the pack. All of the buckles and hardware are plastic and I wondered why, especially while carrying a child that will move (especially my kids). I will watch for durability issues during my testing. The foot bar is made of a strong metal and I have no worries that this will withstand the rigors of riding, however, the straps running through the metal are nylon and there is a lot of contact between the fabric and the metal when I adjust the straps. The metal has been tooled and routed to smooth the corners.


During my testing, I will be accompanied by my three oldest sons. For reference, here are their ages and weights:

8 yrs - 50 lbs (23 kg)
5 yrs - 42 lbs (19 kg)
3 yrs - 41 lbs (18.6 kg)

I was surprised to find that my 3-year-old weighs about as much as my 5-year-old, but all of them fit the recommended weight limit—no more than 60 lbs (27 kg).

My biggest let-down so far in my initial tests (short walks around the yard, 30-minute walks in the neighborhood) is that this pack gets uncomfortable quickly! All of the weight is on my shoulders; the pack has no direct hip connection. My kids are all within the recommended limit; however, even 30 lbs (14 kg) worn directly on the shoulders can get tiring after a while. I’m already wishing for hip straps for short hikes.

Both my five and three-year-old are about the same height and when they are in the rider, they raise about a foot higher than my head. My five-year-old instinctively held onto the hand holds on the shoulder straps when I lifted off and we were good-to-go. My three-year-old, on the other hand, continues to require some training to grasp the hand holds instead of leaning over and grabbing my neck or arms for support.


For my eight-year-old, I had to adjust the straps on the safety harness and the foot bar to accommodate for his height. With the foot bar much lower, it really banged into my upper thigh and was uncomfortable. The weight was balanced okay, but the ride wasn’t the most pleasant. To add to this, this child weighs 50 lbs (23 kg), and all the weight was on my shoulders. The manufacturer recommends that the child doesn't move much, but I know this will be a mild issue as my kids move. A dynamic, 50 lbs (23 kg) pack, is not very cozy. I think along with a maximum weight recommendation, this pack should have a maximum height recommendation.

Regular Piggyback

One thing I like about the rider is that my hands are free. With regular piggyback rides, I use my arms to help hold my child in place. This has the added benefit of taking some of the load off my back and shoulders, but it is tiring for my arms.


Although The Piggyback Rider website claims that the pack distributes the weight between hips and should, I'm not sure where this comes from because I can’t feel any of the weight directly on my hips — everything feels like it is pulling on my shoulders. There is no direct connection from the pack to my hips: no hip belt!

I’ll be honest that I’m not looking forward to many long hikes with this pack with my kids based on my initial walkabouts.

One other positive, however, is that the pack does balance my child and keep my posture up and provides them with a fun ride that they seem to enjoy.


PRO—Pretty easy to adjust and load a child; integrated whistle in sternum strap; hands free; better posture than "regular" piggyback rides

CON—All weight on my shoulders; uncomfortable with heavy load over time.


4 Oct 2011


I've used the Piggyback Rider four (4) times since I last reported in July although I've taken it with me on about six (6) different family hikes. Some of the trips were family walks around the neighborhood.

Aug 13-16: Wasatch Mountains near Heber, Utah. I participated with my family in a multi-day family reunion in the mountains. We base camped and I went on hikes or spent time in my hammock. I used the Rider on a few short hikes with my 3-year-old.

Aug 15: Bridalveil Falls, Provo, Utah. We took the family on a short half-mile (.8 km) hike to and from the falls. I used the Rider with my 3-year-old going up and coming back from the falls.

Sep 5: Fat Man's Loop, Flagstaff, Arizona. This was a two-mile hike around the foothills in Flagstaff. Only used the Rider for short durations along the trail.


I continue to have mixed feelings about the Rider. On the neighborhood walks, three of my kids clamor to take turns on the Rider, so I know they enjoy it, but I struggle to enjoy it as it is not the most comfortable for my back. I think a lot of this has to do with the weight of the occupant, distance traveled, and if the child moves a lot on my back.

While on our hike up to Bridalveil Falls, my 3-year-old was assigned to the Rider, in part for tethering the child, but also to make up some time on the trail. This child has been on the Rider a few times, but he has been the most "wiggly" of my kids on my shoulders. A few times he moved one of his feet out off the bar. Since I can easily reach back, I can help him back onto the bar. Also on this hike, I attached the bag onto the bar as a "mud flap" although it wasn't needed to protect my back on this trail. I can see how this can work to protect my clothing from my kids' muddy or wet shoes.

Going up Bridalveil Falls

Unpacking and getting my kids into the Rider is a snap. I have yet to really tangle the straps and we've sped up the process by keeping the harness clipped to the shoulder straps. I just have my kids reach up and put their arms into the straps as I lower the harness over their head. It works pretty easily. This doesn't work every time, so un-clipping the harness works too.

I really like how the entire package wraps up and packs so easily. It is a great complete system that stores well. So far, I haven't had any issues with the hardware or straps and everything seems to be in good working order.


While I find the Rider a bit uncomfortable on my shoulders after a period of time, it is a good alternative to giving a "regular" piggyback ride. With a regular piggyback ride, it is easier for me to move about and keep my child's weight close to my back, but my arms soon tire. The Piggyback Rider removes the weight off my arms so I can hold my child longer.

I still wish the Rider had a hip belt of some kind. This gear is best used for short durations, in my experience so far.


6 Dec 2011


I've been able to take the Rider on two more family hikes, one of which was on a Sunday afternoon in early October. The temperature was in the 50s°F (10°C). Both hikes were short, less than a mile both ways.


My kids continue to LOVE the Piggyback Rider child carrier. I feel like I'm up and down off my knees more than a Sunday prayer service as I switch between carrying my 3- and 6-year-old sons. Since they are about the same height, I don't adjust the straps, even though my older son rides a little higher than is recommended. My kids argue about who gets on the carrier first and after that, it's a constant, "when is it my turn" while we hike.


As for me, I'm mixed about this carrier. It's certainly easy to bring along on trips. It's light and packs down better than other child carriers I've owned. I like the mud flap and stuff sack very much. It's also nice that my sons can climb aboard and strap themselves in without my having to take the pack off (we usually leave the kid's harness attached and my sons just slip their arms in as the climb on). I've only tangled the pack once when trying to get it out of the stuff sack, and it took only moments to untwist everything and get it ready for child bearing.

What I'm not a fan of is how the pack carries a load. Kids are dynamic. Kids move a lot. Mine feel like I'm carrying a hip-hop dancer on my shoulder. With this minimalist carrier, it offers a lot of leeway for my kids to move around and I think that adds to the shoulder strain I feel after a long hike. When my kids hold still on my back, the ride is better, but I still feel it in my shoulders. I think if the carrier had a hip belt that shifted some of the weight to my hips, I would feel better about toting my kids.

When the bar is at or below my buttocks, it is uncomfortable to carry and puts pressure on my derrière.

I often wondered if the metal bar was part of the issue. As my kids moved around, every-once-in-a-while a foot would slip off the bar. I could easily help them reposition, but they continued to slide their feet around. I thought that if the bar was eliminated and foot stirrups were used instead (connected directly to a hip belt) it would not only aid in keeping my kids from moving around so much, but also displace the weight.


I think this carrier is great for short-duration pick-me-ups. It comes in handy when my kids are tired and/or I need/want to make up some time or miles down the trail. It can be a little uncomfortable on my shoulders over long distances.

PRO—Packs down small; easy to bring on trips. Kids love it.

CON—Uncomfortable on my shoulders when carrying kids a long distance.

I would like to thank Full Sail International, LLC and for providing me with the opportunity to test this product.

Read more reviews of Full Sail International gear
Read more gear reviews by Derek Hansen

Reviews > Packs > Infant and Child Carriers > Full Sail International Piggyback Rider > Test Report by Derek Hansen

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