Kelty Journey PerfectFIT Elite hands-on
“The hipbelt pockets are large enough to fit most modern XL or Plus smartphones, which will inevitably be in and out often as you snap pics of your baby’s first time in the backcountry.”
- High-end build quality and materials
- Nicely padded in all the right places
- Great for longer day hikes
- Excessive for day-to-day use
After your child is born, resuming an active, outdoor lifestyle is no small feat. Either you’re leaving your significant other and child at home, finding a sitter, or looking for a way to carry your kiddo. The first two are up to you, but if you opt for the latter, there are a multitude of front and back carriers options on the market. For a serious hiker, a backpack model is the only way to go and for a full-day hike, there are few options better than Kelty’s Journey PerfectFIT Elite.
The pack is light when it’s not fully loaded
Out of the box, the base weight of the pack is surprisingly light, tipping the scale at just 7 pounds, 4 ounces. Though it seemed like this would translate to feeling light on our shoulders, when amassing a collection of lunch food, snacks, spare clothes, diapers and water (there is a hydration system pocket that fits a 60-ounce bladder), the weight adds up quickly. This is before you even strap in your 20-pound kid.
The typical rule of thumb is that a loaded daypack should weigh no more than 10 percent of your body weight while a backpacking pack shouldn’t exceed 20 percent. If kid-plus-pack equals 27 pounds, you’d need to weigh two-hundred and seventy pounds to obey the daypack rule and in that case, you’re probably not an avid hiker to begin with. So, you need to mentally prepare yourself to be carrying around 35 to 40 pounds with this pack.
You need to mentally prepare yourself to be carrying around 35 to 40 pounds with this pack.
Once you clear this initial weight hurdle, there are plenty of creature comforts to get excited about. Thankfully, the shoulder and waist padding aid in distributing the pack’s weight comfortably and we didn’t notice any hot spots during our test hikes. The PerfectFit suspension system can easily and quickly be adjusted to the wearer for smaller and larger torso sizes.
The Elite model has a dry pouch for keeping soiled items separate from the rest of your gear and its hipbelt pockets are large enough to fit most modern XL or Plus smartphones — which will inevitably be in and out of the pocket often as you snap pics of your baby’s first time in the backcountry.
Keeping your kid safe and comfortable is the new No. 1
From a safety standpoint, the Journey PerfectFIT Elite offers a 5-point strap system and roll cage that helps keep your child secure, especially if you’re scrambling over rugged terrain. The only downside to having so many straps is that it does take a few minutes to initially adjust to your kid’s size, and the makes getting into the pack a bit cumbersome. Kelty does offer a few useful video tutorials online that we made use of immediately after unboxing the pack.
While we advocate for using sunscreen anytime you venture outside (especially during spring and summer), Kelty does include an integrated domed sunshade that can be buckled into place to provide shade for your child or tucked out of the way into a zip pocket. This offers respite from the sun and could be a quick, temporary cover if it starts to rain.
The open and close mechanism is simple but still requires another set of adult hands to fully set up — you can also set the pack down to do this, as well. There are plenty of handle straps that make taking the pack on and off easy enough by yourself and the stand can be extended with one arm and collapsed again for added trail mobility.
Despite the price tag, the peace of mind is worth it
Over a multi-hour trek, kids can get bored and uncomfortable quickly. Dealing with a struggling, upset child when you’re still miles from the trailhead can be a moral dealbreaker. The padding in the child carrier was more than sufficient to keep a 16-month old comfortable despite being fully strapped in, which was a big win, in our mind. This allowed her to continuously enjoy the surroundings while still being able to talk to her dad, rather than complaining and asking to get out of the carrier.
Most backpack child carriers that get into the long day-hike category range between $200 and $350, and while the Journey PerfectFIT Elite is priced somewhat highly at $300, it has many of the features you’d expect from a first-class backpacking pack, let alone a daypack. Kelty and other brands offer similar models with fewer features for less, but you’re ultimately investing in your own happiness on the trail and that is worth every penny.
If you’re not an avid hiker and just looking for a baby backpack, there are cheaper options that may serve you better but the PerfectFIT Elite is Kelty at the top of its game.
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