A quality kid carrying backpack is essential for infant and toddler parents who like to hike and backpack. They’re more stable, safer, more comfortable, and less sweaty than any front carrier, and if built on a good suspension open up the option of load hauling for multiday endeavors. About a year ago we bought an Osprey Poco AG, and after six months of near constant use were pretty happy with it, with a few significant caveats. Now after a further six months I’m prepared to offer my final word.
In summary, while I wish the wearer suspension were better, and the cargo capacity much greater, it’s been the most essential piece of equipment over the past year. Lacking anything close to a better option, I’d buy it again without hesitation.
It’s worth mentioning, again, just what a good job Osprey did providing for the comfort and security of the child. We were fortunate last winter that Little Bear got strong enough to ride in the pack right when winter decided to leave Montana early. He thus built a strong association between the backpack and outdoor scenic fun. To this day he rarely protests getting in the pack, so long as we give him a decent number of breaks, and often requests getting back in. He rides at just the right height to see over our shoulders, and knows by experience that when in the pack he almost always gets to go somewhere fun. Advice we’d humbly pass on to prospective hiking parents.
The kid harness of the Poco, along with the side protection provided by the rigid bars, allows me to be confident scrambling and downclimbing with LB in the pack. The front buckling kid harness is a bit tougher to use than the previous, top buckling harness, especially when the kid gets bigger, but I find it much more secure. Osprey continues to get top marks in this area.
My main quarrel with the Poco AG has continued to be the suspension for the wearer, which has resulted in the inevitable modifications. I cut off the load lifters and added ones whose placement can be adjusted further forward on the shoulder straps, and more significantly cut out the stock hipbelt wings and attached a prototype Seek Outside belt with 1″ webbing straps threaded (with force and pair of pliers) though the little gaps in the fabric frame encasement. These webbing bits are wear points and will need to be replaced, but these mods finally allow me to use the very rigid Poco frame to the limits of it’s capabilities, which are considerable.
As LB has gotten heavier using the Poco to sandwich a thin load with the Seek Outside Revo frame became too much. The leverage/weight distribution was crushing, literally, and on this trip back in August I really suffered. My hope for the rest of 2017 is that the mods will make dayhiking more comfortable, both for myself and especially M (who couldn’t use the stock belt at all), and to allow gear to be strapped to the Poco once things warm up and backpacking gets fully underway. For that I anticipate the frame height of the Poco being a little small for my ideal use, but I still think the rig will work well enough.
In conclusion, I’d renew my call for Osprey, or someone, to make a backpackable kid carrier that hauls gear well. The economics don’t make sense, but it would be awesome. My advice to prospective parents, before and beyond acclimating your kid to hiking as early as possible, is to have both parents get used to big packs well before the due date. Hiking with the kid is fantastic, but only if the parents can carry the load without being smashed.