I became a dad just over 5 years ago. I was extremely excited when I learned I was going to be a dad. I was all in and wanted to be the best dad I could be. Despite my dedication, I had no idea what to expect or how to be a dad. The one thing I did know was I want my son to know that he is 100% loved. I am happy to say my wife and I have done a good job giving him love because our son is confident, happy, and secure in himself. That being said, one way we have been successful is by making the most of the time we have together. Being able to take our son out and just have fun has been an amazing bonding experience for our family and a challenge during the pandemic. One favorite way for us to bond is by putting our son in a child carrier backpack, throwing him on my back, and just going for a walk.
A Child Carrier Backpack Review
First off let me start by saying; having your child close to your body is a natural bonding phenomenon. One of the first things doctors and nurses tell new parents to do after giving birth is to put the child on the mothers bare chest. The same is true for fathers, this is referred to as skin to skin and creates a bond for the child. I could go into greater detail but will spare you for the moment.
The continuation of the bond for me was to have my son first in a baby carrier wrap, because he did not like a regular baby carrier (like Baby Bjorn), and then graduate him to a child carrier backpack. The backpack I chose was the Thule Sapling Elite. This is essentially a large hiking backpack, but rather than carrying a tent and camp stove you carry your kid. It sounds silly but it is the greatest thing I have every purchased, and my son loves it.
The pack sits on the wearers hips where the bulk of the weight should be supported. The secondary support is the shoulder straps, and a chest clip for additional comfort and safety. The support system will keep the wearer comfortable and the child secured to the wearer. On either side of the hips is two large zipper pockets (Elite model only, smaller pockets on the standard model) that can store a wallet, mobile phone, keys, cash, or anything that you would normally carry in your pockets. The right side pocket contains a small mirror (Elite model only) that can be used to check on the little one behind you.
The child compartment consists of a forward facing seat, that is adjustable to your childs’ height, and a shoulder harness that secures your child to the pack. The child can enter the pack from above by being lifted and placed in, or from the right side (older kids can enter without the help of a parent). The pack has adjustments all around the child so that they feel secure, and will not fall out. There are additional adjustments that will accommodate for the wearers’ height and body dimensions.
The backpack has padding and venting throughout keeping the wearer and rider (child) comfortable. Behind the head of the child is a padded area to comfort the head, behind that lies the adjustment to the shoulder straps for the child, and a stored foldable sunshade that when opened fits over the head of the little rider. There is a double kickstand that will allow the pack to stand securely on its own when loading or unloading a child. The legs fold into the pack when not in use and fold out when needed. The construction is solid.
Where Can I Use It
Initially I was overwhelmed with the size of the pack when it arrived and asked myself, “Where can I use it?”, and wondered if my purchase was a mistake. The answer to that question is a resounding “NO”. My purchase was not a mistake! This pack has been great, used countless times, and in so many places. Some of the places we have used it includes: Apple orchard while picking apples, pumpkin picking, multiple zoos, several beaches, many walks around the neighborhood (my neighbors thought I was nuts), many walks to the coffee shop, airport, amusement parks, and finally the shopping mall. Each time my son had a blast.
My son enjoyed it so much that he started asking for it before he could speak. For me, the Thule Sapling child carrier backpack was expensive, but it has been the best money I have spent as a dad thus far. The bonding and fun we have had using the pack has been priceless. My son is now 5 years old and he still asks to ride in the backpack.
The benefits of this pack are many, but the greatest benefit to me is the quality bonding time that I have had with my boy. Many parents have had the experience of putting their child in the car and driving around praying they will fall asleep. This method has worked for us, but one day I discovered that putting my son in the backpack and walking around worked even better.
Our son has fallen asleep many times in the carrier and I have learned to keep him in it rather than risk him waking up when trying to take him out. He is not a napper but riding in the pack put him at ease often resulting in an hour long nap for him and I. In addition to the bonding and nap time, I get a great workout every time we take a walk.
The weight of the Thule Sapling is about 8 lbs. and it can carry a maximum load of 48 lbs. The load includes the weight of the child as well as anything stowed in the various compartments. Keep the pack light, especially as the child grows.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is a child carrier backpack is an amazing addition to the Baby+ (meaning baby and beyond) paraphernalia used to raise a child. It is not a stroller replacement, but can replace the need for a stroller on day or short trips. It can be heavy for some to manage (my wife can’t carry it) but if capable is a great way to be close with your child.
My experience is with the Thule Sapling Child Carrier Backpack, but there are other companies that also make similar carriers, such as Kelty or Osprey. After researching I chose the Thule Sapling Elite. I found it to have a well thought out design and sturdy construction. Outside of an integrated Bluetooth speaker system and maybe a heating and cooling unit (kidding of course) this pack is perfect. In all honesty, this pack has brought my family a lot of joy.
Although I know it is coming, I am not looking forward to the day when my son is too big to ride on my back.
Until then we will hike on.
Thanks for reading.