Outside magazine, August 1998
If you've waited to start a family, the decision has paid off in spades — at least in terms of the baby gear available. Thanks to continued improvements in kid-carrying equipment, you need not give up one ounce of freedom when hitting the trail. Indeed, the stuff is so well engineered that you can cart Junior along without missing a beat: Backpack carriers have padded hipbelts to properly support your load, bike trailers generally weigh less than a child, and jogging strollers sport large, easy-rolling wheels. Seven sure bets for getting outside en famille.
Tough Traveler's Filly ($150; 800-468-6844) is built for those who want comfort on long day hikes. Spare of design and weighing less than 5 pounds, it has just one underseat compartment, though you can attach a child-size daypack ($49)or a sun/rain canopy ($29). The wide, three-piece, contoured hipbelt allows you to manage up to 60 pounds — about as much weight as you'd care to carry. Back at the car, the pack folds flat for easy storage.
The Kelty Explorer ($225; 800-423-2320) shows off its backpacking pedigree with the same lockdown suspension found on Kelty's internal-frame packs, which allows you to reposition the entire shoulder yoke to fit torsos from 13 to 21 inches. In addition to a 45-pound child, the Explorer can carry 1,620 cubic inches of stuff in a diaper duffel and another 1,100 cubic inches in a detachable daypack — for those welcome stints when your squirming cargo wants to tote his own gear. The pack snugs up firmly to your back and comes with a sun/rain canopy, making the 7-pound, 8-ounce Explorer well-suited for multiday treks. Given its surfeit of padding, however, it's a little bulky for jaunts to the supermarket.
The Cycle Tote Family ($360; 800-747-2407) is built for speed: It features a ground-hugging center of gravity, mountain-bike-size wheels that are canted for carefree cornering, and a roll-bar cage of TIG-welded aluminum, just in case. Inside, the child harness can hold one or two little people, plus cargo — up to 200 pounds total. Optional drum brakes cost $250, but if you plan on tackling Teton Pass under full load, the stopping power will seem a worthy investment. Be advised that the Family is available only through mail order and requires a good hour of tricky Allen-wrench work to assemble — more if you get the brakes.
The Kool-Stride Junior ($249; 800-586-3332), with quick-release, 16-inch rear wheels and a 12-inch front wheel, is just right for a walk over less-than-perfect terrain or a ramble down Main. Several nice touches make it particularly comfortable for passenger and pusher alike: a zippered back allows the seat to recline (and thus can turn a wriggling monster into a sacked-out angel), an adjustable handlebar accommodates tall chaperones, and a sun canopy with a clear UV-protective top window lets you see exactly what the little guy is doing.
Photographs by Clay Ellis
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