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Reviews > Packs > Infant and Child Carriers > Kelty FC 2.0 Child Carrier > Test Report by Jennifer Pope
Initial Impressions & Product Description(back to top)
This is a large, hefty pack. And complex. I'm sure I'm going to miss a few features in this initial report.
The first thing that I noticed about this pack was how small it was folded down. I thought this was pretty ingenious especially considering how bulky child carriers can be. The child's back rest can be pushed up against the carrier's backrest and the hipbelt can be wrapped around the entire pack securing it tightly in a much smaller size. The second cool feature about the pack is the auto-deploying kick stand. I had read about this in the product features but I couldn't really figure out how this would happen and I wasn't expecting it to work very well. Kelty came up with a really cool concept for this. The webbing on the bottom of the shoulder straps is connected through a plastic 'D' ring to the kickstand. When the pack is on my back I tighten the shoulder straps so they fit snugly and the kickstand is pulled in. When I take the pack off, there is automatically slack in the webbing which, allows the kickstand to loosen and it automatically pops out. So cool! I know from experience with other child carriers that my husband and I have often forgotten to push out (or push in) the kickstand on other carriers while my daughter was still in the pack. Although the idea might still need a little bit of refining. The kickstand could still fold in more flat and there's a lot of extra webbing for the shoulder straps and no place to get it out of the way. The excess webbing for the shoulder straps hang down far below my waist.
There are a couple of storage areas on the pack. On the outside of the child's backrest there's a small zip-off backpack. This is clearly child-sized and made for the rider to wear, not the carrier. I think I'd look pretty silly wearing it anyway. It's cute and I know my daughter will enjoy wearing it. She's just now interested in "helping" out with things and carrying things on her own. Inside the mini backpack are a couple of pouches and a hook to hold keys. On the back of the mini-backpack is an open pouch about the size of a .5 L water bottle. It's definitely unreachable for me while I'm wearing the pack. This is the only open (non-zippered pouch on the pack).
Trying the mini zip off backpack on for size.
The bottom of the pack contains a large zippered area. This is where the bulk of the storage space is. It's sort of oddly shaped and kind of wraps around where the child's rear is positioned in the pack. In the back of the storage area is another zipper that opens the pouch to the internal framing of the pack. I'm not quite sure what the purpose for that is. There is some lost space back there so I'm not sure if it's intended to be opened or if I'm intended to store things back there and zip it up.
Why is there a zipper in the back of this storage compartment?
There is a small pocket on the right hipbelt about the size of a deck of cards. The fabric is slightly stretchy and it's big enough for lip balm and other small items but not large enough for a camera.
The first time I put my daughter in the backpack I didn't have the instructions on me. I had already completed the pre-use instructions to get the pack from flat to useable but I had to fit the kid compartment to my kid based on my own common sense and the pack's smart design. The seat can be placed in three positions by moving two large hook and eye fasteners (think giant bra strap closures) into one of three positions. Initially I missed these and my daughter was sitting quite high in the pack. Kelty doesn't give instruction about which location is best for what size kid, I imagine it depends on more than just overall height. My daughter has quite a long torso, so I might expect to lower the seat sooner than another child of similar overall height. For now, I've positioned the seat in the middle slot.
Once the seat is positioned the shoulder straps can be adjusted up or down to fit against my daughter. The straps are attached to a large hook and loop panel rather than fixed positions so the adjustments can be very precise.
The child's shoulder straps slide up and down on webbing and attach to a large hook and loop panel.
The shoulder straps are attached directly to the child's seat by webbing. There are two buckles which attach the webbing to the padded shoulder straps. I actually used this pack twice before I realized they were there. They were completely hidden under some stretchy fabric. I assume the fabric must be there to prevent a child from undoing the buckle while suspended on the carrier's back. The buckles are fairly east to open, so this may be a smart design. I know my toddler investigates everything.
The shoulder clip peaking out under fabric, and hidden in the background.
To get the child into the carrier, the buckles on the shoulder straps need to be undone (I had just been loosening them all the way, which wasn't very convenient. In addition to undoing the buckles, there are two straps on the sides of the child that need to be loosened all the way before the child can get in (I'm positive there aren't any buckles hiding here). These straps attach the back of the pack to padded arms of the child's seat that wrap from the child's stomach over the top of their legs keeping them secure. It is tricky getting my daughter's feet under these straps so she can sit in the pack appropriately. She isn't quite old enough to take all my directions yet so it requires a bit of maneuvering and sometimes some help from daddy to get her into the pack.
Looking down at the seat through the shoulder straps.
Thus far I've only put the pack on my back with my daughter in it with the help of my husband. We often help each other put our regular fully loaded packs on our backs to minimize that heavy lifting, so this isn't unusual for us. There are two handles on the pack to get the pack on safely. I grasp the handle above my shoulder straps and a shoulder strap and my husband held onto the handle above my daughter's shoulder straps near the mini backpack to lift the pack up. Immediately upon doing so the kick stand folds up and we're easily able to get the pack on.
I've found adjusting the pack to feel comfortable to be a little tricky. My daughter sits quite high up on my back. Her head is above mine, which I find somewhat problematic. In other carriers, her head has been lower than mine, so I know that if I don't get poked in the eye with a branch, she won't either. I have to be more careful with this pack since she sits so much higher. The bonus that comes with this is that she can see better out of the pack and I can also somewhat see her (only out of the corner of my eye if I turn my head all the way around though). When I put the pack on I immediately felt pressure and discomfort in my upper back. It took some adjusting of the load lifters on my shoulder straps and loosening of the shoulder straps to get the pack weight shifted more towards my hipbelt. The other disadvantage to my daughter sitting so high up in the pack is that she doesn't have a place to rest her head and take a nap while we're hiking together. This is a common occurrence for her since we're typically out hiking during one of her naptimes (since she still takes two 1-2 hour naps per day it's hard to miss them). I will report on whether she finds a way to comfortably nap in the pack or if she has to wait until we return to the car.
Sorta skimpy shoulder strap padding
My main use of this pack was over a long weekend in Big Bear Lake over the Fourth of July weekend. I used this pack on a ranger-led nature hike (which had a lot of stopping and standing to learn about trees), walking to and from the fireworks displays, and other fairly short jaunts. The weather during the day was warm, in the mid 80s F (30s C). My main weight in the pack was just my daughter and a few necessities (diapers, wipes, sippy cup, blanket, etc). My total weight was probably in the neighborhood of 35 lbs (15 kg) since my daughter on her own is around 26 lbs (16 kg).
I found the pack a little confusing to figure out at first. There's a strap that sits across my daughter's lap and connects to the pack again near her rear (see below). This strap loosens quite a bit but it doesn't come apart. So it's a little tricky to get legs through the appropriate holes without additional help. My daughter isn't really able to follow detailed instructions yet, so I just have to guide her in correctly, which can be challenging. It also means that every time I take my daughter in and out of the pack I have to loosen the straps all the way and then tighten them back down again. It would be a lot easier if at least one side had a buckle.
The strap referred to above is light gray and lays across my daughter's leg.
The second hardship I noticed right away is that my daughter sits quite high in the pack. Her head it actually pretty close to being in line with mine. This is good for her view but not so good for her face if there are low-hanging branches that we're hiking through. I would feel a little uneasy hiking on my own with her in this pack if I were hiking near branches. Currently, my husband keeps an eye out to make sure I'm not going to take her eye out. The second problem this creates is she can't fall asleep as easily in this pack as in others she's ridden in. Typically after about 20 minutes in a backpack she would be completely asleep. The rocking and swaying just puts her right to sleep. During one of her rides in the pack, she was actually asleep when we were ready to put her in the pack and she couldn't even fall back asleep because there wasn't a good place to rest her head. While she's young I consider this to be a major disadvantage because she still takes a long nap in the middle of the day and our hikes often overlap these nap times. With this pack I really can't count on her to be able to sleep comfortably in the pack. Of course, as she gets older, she'll be sleeping less so this will be less of an issue for us.
My daughter is pretty heavy for her age, mostly because she's tall. So this means that even when I'm not carrying anything else (just daughter & pack) I have a heavy load to start--heavier than I used to carry on weekend backpacking trips pre-baby. So getting the load to adjust correctly and comfortably is really important. It's also a little tricky to adjust a pack when there's a child in it because the weight is where it is and it can't really be moved all that much. The first time I wore the pack it took me a good 30 minutes or so as we were hiking to get the pack to fit comfortably. It should also be noted that I hadn't carried this kind of weight on my back for an extended period of time since backpacking before I was pregnant, so it had been close to two years. Even after a lot of adjustments I still feel like I'm trying to get just the right fit. I had difficulty getting the pack to shift the weight to my hips as well as I'd like. I can still feel pressure in my back and some on my shoulders. I feel like this is at least partially related to how high my daughter sits in the pack. There are three adjustment points where the seat can be lowered. I couldn't find any recommendations on what child-heights should be used for each level so I sort of guessed that my daughter might use the middle height since she's tall but the pack says it can hold children quite a bit larger than her. She fits in the pack fine with this placement, but I might try the lower setting to see if that helps shift her weight to my hips. I have carried her in a different brand pack similar to the Kelty with comfortable results so I'm sure it isn't just my overall whimpy-ness that's causing the problem (though I'm sure it contributes).
By far the best feature on this pack is the auto-deploy kickstand. It works pretty much exactly as advertised, when I take off the pack to set it down the kickstand comes out and I have very little worry that the pack will tip over. On other packs I was constantly forgetting to pull out the kickstand, and while the pack could still stand up on its own, it was much less stable. This is a very handy feature and it proves useful several times on every single hike.
Ready for the fireworks with pizza and American flags.
In the last portion of the test period this pack was used for a day hike in the Santa Monica Mountains in Southern California and a day hike in Sleeping Giant State Park in Connecticut. Both were short hikes of less than 5 miles (8 km) and over rocky terrain. The hike in Connecticut had patches of snow and ice in areas since it had snowed about a week prior. Over the Long Term test period I also found out I was pregnant with my second child.
So far I like this pack. It folds down flat and it's fairly intuitive to use, even with a myriad of features. The auto-deploy kickstand is a nifty feature and works even better than I expected. Although I find it difficult to get my daughter's weight to shift onto my hips as much as I'd like and I would prefer if she sat a little lower in the pack to more easily avoid low-hanging branches.
Thanks to Backpackgeartest.org and Kelty for allowing me to test this item.
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Reviews > Packs > Infant and Child Carriers > Kelty FC 2.0 Child Carrier > Test Report by Jennifer Pope
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