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Reviews > Packs > Infant and Child Carriers > Kelty FC 2.0 Child Carrier > Test Report by Ben Mansfield
Kelty Child Carrier FC 2.0
Kelty Child Carrier FC 2.0 in Green Apple
Over the past 15 years or so, I've tried to average at least one weekend trip per month year round, primarily in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia. During the last 8 years, I've tried to take a week long trip somewhere further, but still usually in the eastern US. I consider myself a mid-weight hiker, preferring some luxury to an ultralight load. I am also an avid fly fisherman, mountain & road biker, and snow skier, and enjoy sailing my homemade dinghy.
Kiddo's Backpacking Background
I'm only two years old, so I don't do much backpacking, but I do like to take walks, go swimming, and ride around in our bike trailer. I always hike with a partner, and we usually only go for a few hours, because if I miss my nap I get a little grouchy. I usually need to bring along a cup with some water or milk (or juice if I'm lucky), some snacks, and of course a spare diaper - just in case. I also like to bring a little toy or some books to "read".
22 June 2009
The Kelty Child Carrier FC 2.0
The Kelty Child Carrier FC 2.0 is one of Kelty's packs designed to carry the most precious cargo - children. It features a five-point harness for securing a forward-facing child, connected to a rigid backpack frame. For the adult, the pack includes a full suspension system similar to what is found on contemporary backpacks, including an adjustable waist-belt, adjustable shoulder straps, and a sliding sternum strap for stability. Additional adjustments include the customary load lifters and micro-adjustments on the waist belt to help secure the load (child) and distribute weight evenly.
The Pack's Backpanel, Annotated
As mentioned above, the child is securely held by a five-point harness consisting of an adjustable-height seat, some straps that go around the legs and height and length-adjustable shoulder straps. There is additional padding for the child on all of the contact points, as well as a removable pad which covers the area of the pack frame in front of the child's chest and/or head. There is also ample adjustment of the connection points, by pulling on the tag ends of the webbing on the shoulder harness as well as the leg harness.
The seat adjusts in height by clipping a pair of metal spring loaded snap hooks into one of three pairs of D-rings. The snap hooks are sewed into the base of the seat, and the D-rings are sewn into the back side of the backpanel (towards the child, not the adult). The adjustment is therefore made by simply disconnecting the snap hooks from the D-rings and moving the seat up or down, then reconnecting the snap hooks to the appropriate D-rings.
The child's shoulder harness adjusts for height as well. The top ends of the shoulder straps converge to a single piece of padding, which is backed with hook-and-loop material. This terminal end then slides up and down along a couple of pairs of webbing sewn vertically along the child's backpanel, and secure in place via the hook-and-loop fixture. The shoulder straps themselves can be disconnected, making it easy to put the child into the backpack from the top. This is done by disconnecting the side-release buckles which are partially covered by fabric. This fabric cover probably serves two purposes - it keeps me from pinching my little one's skin in the buckles when connecting, and it keeps her from being able to easily disconnect the shoulder straps.
The entire child harness assembly is secured to the back of the adult's backpanel with a total of five straps of webbing, two to each side which can be used to fine-tune the fit of the five-point harness and keep the child close to my back, and one red "safety" strap which comes from the bottom of the seat and helps to secure the seat to the backpanel. All of this might sound a little confusing - perhaps some pictures will help (see below). The snap hooks can be seen in the third picture, fastened to the bottom of the seat and just above the red safety strap. The D-rings are obscured in this photo because of the angle, but the first picture clearly shows these, so it's (hopefully) quite obvious how the whole system goes together. The various adjustments for the five point harness can be seen in the third picture as well.
Removable rear storage pocket
The rear pouch, zipped off
On the outside of the zippered pocket is a mesh stuff pocket that I will probably use for a small toy or other distraction. The entire back zippered pouch can actually zip off of the backpack; removing it reveals some shoulder straps such that this small pouch can actually be used as a little backpack - enabling me to leave the pack but take the necessities in case my daughter wants to get down and run around a bit.
Visible in the picture at left (at right, as well, but not as clearly) is the second auxiliary storage compartment in the pack. The zippered compartment at the bottom of the pack is of ample size to hold something a little larger. I can see myself using this to stash things like lunch, a picnic blanket, beach towels if we're headed swimming, extra toys, etc.
One final thing to mention about the backpack is the "kickstand," which serves to fully support the pack when it's on the ground. This makes loading the child into the pack much easier, since there's no need to hold up the pack while trying to put a squirming two year old into the harness securely. With the pack on, the tension in the shoulder straps pulls the kickstand in tight against the pack. Taking the pack off releases the tension on the kickstand, and a spring returns the kickstand to its deployed state. This makes for a simple mechanism that assures that the kickstand is where it needs to be when not wearing the pack, and that it's out of the way when the pack is being worn.
Kelty offers this backpack in several colors other than the "Green Apple" variant that I'm testing, including "Grape" - a purple color, and "Blueberry" - a blue color. They also make some accessories available - these include a removable hood for protection from the sun and/or rain, a "Child View Mirror", a bug net, stirrups for the child, and a matching diaper changing pad.
The instruction manual that was included with the FC 2.0 indicates that the maximum weight the pack should be used to support is 50 lbs (22.7 kg), with the child comprising no more than 40 lbs (18.1 kg) of that limit. Ample warnings are included in the instruction manual - this should be expected and is certainly appreciated due to the nature of the cargo involved with this backpack. Additionally included are instructions on properly sizing and adjusting both the adult harness and the child's seat and restraints, as well as some instructions for putting on and taking off the pack. The general idea is to use the two load lifting handles at the top of the pack to lift it up to rest on my knee/thigh area, then sliding one arm and then the other through the shoulder harness and of course fastening and tightening the rest of the suspension components. This ensures that the child stays head-side up and securely within the carrier. Taking the pack off is basically the same steps in reverse, and the automatically deploying kickstand ensures that when I put the pack down (with child still inside), there's less of a concern of the pack tipping over until I can get my daughter out.
Kelty also provides care and cleaning instructions within the user manual for the FC 2.0. The instructions are simple:
A self-photo with my daughter Ella in the FC 2.0
Getting the pack set up and adjusted was pretty simple. First I put the pack on without any weight, and adjusted the torso length using the mechanism I described above. Next I got the shoulder straps, waist belt, and sternum strap adjusted close, knowing that I'd need to tweak it once I had some weight in the pack. After that I took a guess on the height of the child seat and adjusted it, and also guessed on the height of the child's shoulder harness and set it in place. Then I put Ella in the seat, re-adjusted the shoulder harness, leg straps, and the rest of the suspension around her.
Once I was satisfied that we were safe and secure, I put the pack on, more or less following the instructions in the manual (and outlined above). With Ella in the pack and the pack on me, I pulled the waist belt, shoulder straps, sternum strap, and load lifters until everything felt about right. Next we ran around the house like a couple of maniacs and had a blast peeking into mirrors and bounding up and down the stairs. It's possible that I've exaggerated a little bit here - there was no running and hardly any bounding, but we had a blast nonetheless.
Describing the feel of the pack is somewhat difficult. The best analogy I can come up with is that it felt slightly more stable than hauling around the (often overloaded) old external frame pack I carried as a boy scout so many years ago, and slightly less secure than anything in my current stable of modern, internal frame and frameless backpacks. I should be absolutely confident and comfortable on the simple and pretty tame hiking trails that we'll likely use while testing this pack. I don't really intend to take Ella on any alpine mountaineering trips or on any serious off-trail scrambling, but I think it would reasonable to use the pack on moderate cross-country sections.
Comfort-wise, Ella appears to be just fine in there, at least during the few half-hour or so sessions where I've worn her around the house, just playing and getting her comfortable with the idea. For me, the load is supported relatively well, and there's no discomfort or major adjustments that I can foresee. Since the weight is further from my back than with a normal pack, however, it is slightly less stable and a somewhat different sensation from what I've grown accustomed to over the years.
I'm really looking forward to this test for a number of reasons. First, it will be a great excuse and opportunity for me to take Ella out onto some trails and into some places that we might not normally go if she was going to be expected to walk. Second, it's a great opportunity for me to continue to introduce her to the outdoors and the outdoor activities I love. And of course, it's a great way for a father and daughter (and probably Mommy, too) to spend time together. Check back in a couple of months, when I'll report on my experiences taking advantage of these things and the performance of the Kelty FC 2.0 Child Carrier.
10 September 2009
A couple of beach bums
Sometimes it's been a little buggy...
We've headed out on a number of occasions; I think I lost count somewhere between 6 and 8. Typically we've hiked for an hour or two at a time given our combined average attention span. Since we have been able to pick and choose the days we go, we've almost always had great weather, with temperatures in the 65 - 80 F (18 - 27 C) range. We are of course concerned with UV exposure, and always make sure that we are well slathered in sunscreen and wearing our hats, as appropriate, since we've been out in sunny, mostly sunny, and kinda sunny days.
We also took the Kelty with us on vacation to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, and took advantage of a couple of less-than-ideal beach days to turn ourselves into beach bums. Weather here was on the warmer side of the range I mentioned above, with of course the requisite amount of humidity that those clouds in the picture bring.
We love our granola bars!
Like any external frame backpack, the load is a little "shifty." It's probably compounded by the fact that the load, in this case, is a two year old. Not a huge deal at all, but something to be aware of. The first few times I took the Kelty out, I dressed and acted like we were just going for a walk in the park - which we were - but in this case casual sandals and gym shorts were a poor choice. I still need the stability of my hiking boots if the terrain is going to vary at all (this means roots, rocks, etc... things found on trails), and trekking poles don't hurt either.
When hiking in warmer weather or during higher humidity days, the backpanel does get a little uncomfortable due to lack of ventilation (in other words, my back gets sweaty). I wouldn't want to move the kiddo any further from me, though, so I suppose solving that problem would take some creative engineering and possibly some space-age polymers. It's nothing that I can't live with, and we like to take frequent rests to get out and chase butterflies or look at frogs anyway, so I get a chance to air out.
My only other real nitpick with the Kelty is that it is sometimes difficult to get Ella into the harness. This is partially because of her, no doubt, but it also seems like it could be a little easier. The most prominent and specific problem is that it's hard to get her feet into the feet holes (under the grey leg padding), and once I get her down in there the shoulder harness often needs to be dug out. I'm getting a little better with practice, but it's still a challenge.
A nice addition to the FC 2.0 would be an additional mesh pocket on the left waist belt (there is a small one on the right side). This seems to be a pretty frequent addition to many packs these days, and it would be useful on the Kelty as well.
None of those minor issues, however, outweigh the fun we continue to have with the FC 2.0. Ella loves to go on hikes, look at trees, birdies, and everything else. It's been a great way for us to spend some daddy & daughter time, and watching her observe (and remember, and recount later to my wife and anyone else who will listen) the things we saw, smelled, touched, and heard is just awesome.
It's important to remember that there's a little person on my back, and I have to be especially aware going under or over things, or when bending branches out of the way and the like. Remember, indeed, or the result will be a part of the story that gets told, too.
Long Term Report
17 November 2009
Long Term Observations
Lots of flowers and creepy-crawly
I lost count of our outings after somewhere around a dozen different trips. These are generally short - an hour or two, and usually have included some non-hiking time to let Ella run around or have a snack. I haven't really changed my opinion of the FC 2.0 from my field report - although the lack of backpanel ventilation has become less of an issue as the temperature has cooled off. The weight distribution is still too far from my back, but again I think this is just a built-in challenge with anything designed to have enough room to carry a child... I don't know how it could be any different. Ella is getting a little better at helping me to get her feet into the harness, but it still takes some work to get everything where it needs to be.
I haven't really had to deal with cleaning or maintenance on the FC 2.0 - though there was one time when a half-eaten cereal bar got a little squished into the pack harness. In this instance, it was simple enough to clean by simply wiping it with a damp rag. I haven't noticed any issues from a durability standpoint either. In fact, the Kelty pretty much looks like it did the day it arrived, which is saying something for any piece of gear that is regularly exposed to children.
This pack has been a blast for Ella and me. We love to take (short for me, long for her) walks on the trails in our local parks, and even around the house. My few minor complaints are greatly outweighed by the fun we've had. I've also been approached by a number of other people wearing their children in some manner, and all of them have been impressed with the FC 2.0 in comparison to their solution. I believe I could have even sold one to a family I met in North Carolina. I'm looking forward to continuing to use the Kelty for not only a few more months but actually many years to come - we're expecting another future backpacker in February.
I would like to thank Kelty and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the FC 2.0 Child Carrier and continue to enjoy the outdoors with my family.
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