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Kelty FC 3.0: Backpacking the McDreamy way

04/01/2008 at 07:00 AM ET

Fc30 In my next life, I want to come back as a baby being lugged around in a Kelty FC 3.0 backpack carrier. I think our 16-month-old Sammy could spend days on end in his new FC 3.0, happily, if only we tossed some food at him occasionally. And — while it can’t change a diaper for you — the FC 3.0 comes complete with zip-off diaper bag and a diaper change pad, making even that process easier. All bases are covered. It really is that good.

If you’re an active family gearing up for some serious hiking this spring or if you’re just looking to traverse the great urban outdoors, the FC 3.0 is for you — And, apparently McDreamy himself, Patrick Dempsey. Already a Kelty devotee — having been spotted out and about in December wearing an older model — Patrick was recently gifted with two brand new FC 3.0′s for twins Darby and Sullivan, 14-months. Lucky babies, sure … but lucky daddy, too. Because carrying your child in an FC 3.0 is an absolute breeze. 

Click ‘continue reading’ for the entire Kelty FC 3.0 backpack carrier review.

We tested the FC 3.0 over several weeks in a variety of conditions and were thrilled with the results. I think what caught us most off-guard was the ease of use with the FC 3.0. We were a bit overwhelmed at first, because there are so many features we thought it would take forever to learn them all, but the nice thing we discovered is how intuitive Kelty was in its design of the FC 3.0. Each step of the way — from the moment you hoist baby up until the moment you set baby back down — Kelty has already thought of what’s coming next. They’ve also worked to mitigate potential problem spots common to most backpack carriers. 

Take, for example, the auto-deploy kickstand. With our old carrier, loading and unloading the baby was always an exercise in futility (and arm flailing). With the FC 3.0, you simply loosen the shoulder strap to release the kickstand and tighten it to reel it back in. Just like that, you’re ready to go. But here’s where the intuitiveness comes into play — because you’re somewhat limited in your ability to play defense while you have a baby or toddler strapped to your back, your biggest concern is baby’s hands getting caught up in the auto-deployed kickstand. Never fear! The FC 3.0 employs a patented no-pinch hinge technology. Thoughtful little details like that are abundant with this carrier, which also comes with toy loops, 3M reflective tape, a removable, washable cockpit pad and a child-view mirror. As for more practical concerns, the FC 3.0 can easily fit supplies for a full day of hiking with storage space available under-seat, in the waistbelt and in the zip-off diaper bag. If the weather unexpectedly turns or the sun is unduly harsh, you can still offer baby protection underneath the FC 3.0′s sun/rain hood, which comes standard with the model.

Sammy weighs 27-pounds, which is well within the FC 3.0′s 40-pound child weight limit; The carrier has a total load limit of 50-pounds, however, so even with a child of maximum size you can still carry 10 pounds of cargo. When you’re talking about (potentially) lugging around 50-pounds, fit becomes crucial. The last thing you need a mile into a hike is to feel that nagging twinge between your shoulder blades, or in your neck, and know that the discomfort is only going to worsen until you can finally shed the baby on your back. 

With the FC 3.0, you need not worry. Thanks to a sliding back panel torso-length adjustment feature you’re ensured of a proper fit, no matter what your size. If you’re going to be sharing backpacking duties with your spouse or a friend, just use a sharpie to mark your preferred positioning level, so that its easy to find when/if you switch-off. You’ll definitely want to take the time to determine the best fit for you, because the sliding back panel torso-length adjustment (in our opinion) is the biggest and best feature of the FC 3.0 — it’s a back-saver. The ventilated back panel has great airflow, keeping a decent portion of the pack completely off your back, and that definitely cuts down on the sweat factor. The padding on the shoulder straps, sternum straps, back panel and waist belt is substantial. But the FC 3.0 doesn’t just adapt to different sizes of moms and dads, or cater to our own need for comfort; It also is easily tweaked to accommodate your growing child with an adjustable-height seat and custom-fit leg straps. And, of course, Sammy was held in the carrier safely and securely courtesy of a five-point, adjustable harness.

Backpack carriers aren’t for every parent, or every baby, in every situation — it’s true. By virtue of their design they are big and somewhat unwieldy, and the FC 3.0 is no exception. But if your family is even remotely outdoorsy, or you just can’t convince your husband to sport a mei tai for a leisurely walk to the local coffee shop, a backpack carrier is a great resource to have on hand. We hike, and always have — It’s an important time for us as a family to be free of the distractions presented by the computer, the television, the toys, etc, etc. But you don’t have to be a hiker to enjoy the benefits of a backpack carrier.  If you simply find yourself yearning for wide open spaces this spring, and think baby could benefit from a little fresh air, try the FC 3.0

For a list of retailers who sell the FC 3.0, visit Kelty’s website.

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Sarah on

I do child carrier fitting every day for a living, and I’ve got to say, from my experience, the Keltys are not very popular. You didn’t mention anything in this review about where the child’s weight is carried or how tall the adult is, two key disadvantages of Keltys. The child is in a bucket seat, high up and far back. If the adult is under 6 foot, most of the time, this is very uncomfortable, being so far away from the center of balance. I often see parents overcompensating by leaning forward, since the pack pulls you back.

Another poor feature is the design for the child. The child seat is actually a sling, where the child’s weight is on the crotch, rather than the bottom. There are also only two buckles, rather than a more traditional five-point harness, to hold the child in. I’ve never seen or heard of a child escaping, but they never look really secure. This is possibly due to the bucket seat design, which gives the child more room to move about, but which also means for the wearer a more unstable load.

Keltys do have the best torso adjustment system, I will give it that. But the spring in the design has been known to wear out before the pack. Velcro systems tend to hold out longer.

Sarah on

I do child carrier fitting every day for a living, and I’ve got to say, from my experience, the Keltys are not very popular. You didn’t mention anything in this review about where the child’s weight is carried or how tall the adult is, two key disadvantages of Keltys. The child is in a bucket seat, high up and far back. If the adult is under 6 foot, most of the time, this is very uncomfortable, being so far away from the center of balance. I often see parents overcompensating by leaning forward, since the pack pulls you back.

Another poor feature is the design for the child. The child seat is actually a sling, where the child’s weight is on the crotch, rather than the bottom. There are also only two buckles, rather than a more traditional five-point harness, to hold the child in. I’ve never seen or heard of a child escaping, but they never look really secure. This is possibly due to the bucket seat design, which gives the child more room to move about, but which also means for the wearer a more unstable load.

Keltys do have the best torso adjustment system, I will give it that. But the spring in the design has been known to wear out before the pack. Velcro systems tend to hold out longer.

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