Best Backpack Carrier: Kelty Transit 3.0 Review
Updated: July 6, 2016
Best Backpack Carrier: The Kelty Transit 3.0 is our favorite option for parents up for long hikes with baby. It’s a comfortable frame carrier for both parents and baby, is easy to use and reasonably priced. Of course, “reasonably priced” is relative when it comes to backpack carriers—many of these carriers top $200. So the Kelty for $183.96 is a decent deal.
If you are a first-time parent who’s never purchased a carrier before, or a veteran parent who needs a quick refresher on what to look for in a baby carrier, click here for our Carriers 101.
How we picked a winner
We evaluate baby carriers with hands-on inspections, reviews by our readers and online feedback. We do not accept free samples from manufacturers—if we purchase a baby carrier to review, we buy it from the same sources we recommend on this site (Amazon, stores, etc). We also meet manufacturers in person at trade events and evaluate product samples and prototypes. We have been researching and writing about baby carriers since 1994. In the 90’s, carriers styles were limited to Baby Bjorn-style front carriers and ring slings. Today the options are endless with Asian style mei tais, hip carriers, backpack carriers and wraps. In this category, we reviewed dozens of front carriers to find the best one.
Kelty: the brand
Kelty is best known as an outdoor lifestyle brand with tents, sleeping bags and backpacks making up their main business. They branched out into child carriers (they claim to be the first to introduce child frame carriers) with a line up of six different designs. Kelty borrowed many of the best features from their adult backpack line to make their carriers comfortable for parents including comfy, adjustable waist belts, padded shoulder straps, and sternum straps.
Why this model
Readers who are serious hikers give the Kelty Transit 3.0 frame carrier an enthusiastic thumbs up. The adjustable lumbar support wins kudos, parents find it easy to get on and off, and it is comfortable for long hikes. Kelty includes features for kids like a height adjustable padded seat, sun hood, five-point harness, foot stabilizers to help kids load up and even toy loops. Here’s a photo of the interior:
For parents, Kelty includes a changing pad, organizer pocket, storage pocket and hip belt bottle pocket. The waistbelt is padded and contured as are the shoulder straps. There is also a padded back panel for comfort and sternum strap. The best built in safety feature Kelty offers is a built-in roll cage—one dad, reviewing the Transit 3.0, noted that when he fell in a hike, his child was not injured thanks to the roll cage. Check out all the parent padding here:
The Transit 3.0 is a lightweight backpack at a mere 5.25 lbs. The weight limit is 40 lbs. for child plus gear plus pack, so keep in mind the more you bring with you, the lighter your child needs to be.
Flaws but not deal breakers
• Requires a lot of adjustment at first to get baby strapped in.
• Expensive at retail ($300 on REI.com)
• An older version (2012 and earlier) was recalled for safety issues with the height adjustment locking pin, which disconnected. If you buy a used carrier, be sure it isn’t affected by the recall (carriers made after 2012 are fine).
• Can carry slightly less weight than competitors.
Deuter Kid Comfort II$249.00* at Amazon
* Prices change daily. Shop carefully.
The Deuter Kid Comfort II is an excellent choice for parents that want to go hiking with baby. Key features include adjustability, storage and great safety features. The side entry option makes it easier for kids to get in the carrier.
If you’ve just inherited a bit of money from a long lost uncle, the Deuter Kid Comfort II ($250) would be an excellent choice here. It’s got everything you could ever need: adjustability, storage and great safety features. The side entry option makes it easier for kids to get in the carrier. The negatives? It runs about 25% more than Kelty and is slightly heavier (at 6lbs).
Frame carrier competition
You’ll find two different types of manufacturers making frame carriers today. The first are companies like Chicco and Infantino—large baby product manufacturers making a wide range of products besides carriers. And here’s the rub: they make great strollers and other gear, but don’t necessarily know how to make a great frame carrier. On the other hand, companies that specialize in backpacks and other outdoor gear have experience making technically advanced baby carriers. Tough Traveler and Osprey are two examples.
A word on safety
When considering a frame carrier, the child restraint system is the most important safety feature. A five-point harness is best, like those on good quality strollers. Be sure to use the restrain system. Children have suffered severe injuries from climbing and falling out of a frame carrier.
Look out for branches and other obstacles. Remember, toddlers may sit up higher than your head and be susceptible to bumping into door frames, tree branches, etc. Also remember heavy brush or trees can rub up against the sides of the carrier scratching exposed skin.
Don’t lean over with the carrier and child on your back. Here’s where all that advice about bending at the knees comes in. If you bend at the waist, you’ll be so top heavy you’ll topple over, potentially injuring you and your child.
Finally, don’t use the carrier to hike in areas with uneven or treacherous footing.
To sum it up
Kelty’s long time experience with both regular backpacks and child frame carriers shows in the Transit 3.0. Excellent safety features like the built in roll cage as well as comfortable design for parents (great lumbar support for long hikes) lead us to recommend the Transit 3.0 as our top frame carrier.
Kelty Transit 3.0
The Kelty Transit 3.0 is our favorite backpack carrier—it’s comfortable for parents and baby, easy to use and reasonably priced.$183.96* at Amazon
* Prices change daily. Shop carefully.