this thing's incredible

I Finally Found a Hiking Baby Carrier That My Daughter and I Both Love

The author with daughter Scarlett in the baby carrier. Photo: Courtesy Steven John

I’ve used a lot of hiking packs in my day. I’ve also used a lot of baby carriers. It’s virtually impossible to find something that accomplishes what you want of both products. Hiking packs should allow you to carry everything you need for an outdoor trek while being stable (lest you lose your balance). A baby carrier should — above all — keep your baby safe and comfortable. Friends, the Kelty Journey PerfectFIT Elite really does both.

When I first put on the PerfectFit, I knew hiking with it would be a pleasure. The thick, padded, and highly adjustable straps were comfortable on my shoulders even after my wife and I strapped in our daughter Scarlett and loaded the compartments with snacks and supplies. Of course, none of this matters if the baby isn’t comfortable. For Scarlett, the backpack/carrier sports a five-point safety harness that keeps a little body securely in place. The sides of the carrier are made of mesh to keep her cool, and there’s even a retractable sunshade to protect her delicate baby skin. If she (or I) need a break on our trip, the little stand (that’s the metal bar you see protruding) lets me set her down without removing her from the carrier.

Most importantly, the part directly surrounding the baby is an aluminum roll cage, which keeps her safe from bonks by branches or worse. The carrier is very expensive (though there’s a $100-cheaper version that doesn’t come with the sunshade), but it’s worth the peace of mind to know that in the event of a slip, I’ll be in worse shape than she is. For the environmentally conscious (all of us), the PerfectFIT also has one zippered compartment that comes in especially handy for soiled diapers, wipes, and any other unpleasantness you wouldn’t want to leave in the wild.

From $80

When our baby was in that really newborn phase, like just a few weeks to a month old, she was too fragile for traditional baby carriers. That’s why the Moby Sling was such a good choice: It can be adjusted to create a soft pouch that’s the perfect size for the little body, enveloping the baby without conforming it to any shape. The sling keeps the child nestled to the torso, providing warmth and security, too.

When I’m not hiking outdoors, my go-to carrier is the Infantino. That’s because I can whip it on in about 5 seconds and have Scarlett tucked in and secured in about 15 seconds more, leaving my hands free to slice veggies or stir a pot at home, to grab groceries off the shelf at the store, or to toss a ball or use a toy with my older kid, Ben. I like that the Go Forward lets me wear a baby face-in or face-out on my chest, or even as a backpack.