Thats an interesting question: Do you carry the child and as much gear as possible, or does your wife carry the little boopster while you lug all the gear? Hmmm
Sherpani Rumba Baby Carrier
Rumba Baby Carrier
You really can go either way. The Sherpani Rumba Baby Carrier ($210; www.sherpani.us), for instance, has a comfortable, sheltered seat for a child, plus 2,800 cubic inches of room for other stuff. The total capacity in pounds is 70, with 50 allotted for the child and his/her traps. So that means you have a fair amount of capacity for camping stuff. Maybe not bulky tents and bags, but certainly cooking gear, food, clothing, etc. Keltys Adventure Child Carrier ($240; www.kelty.com) is a well-designed carrier with a kickstand" so you can set the pack down in a stable fashion, and kid-friendly features such as a padded, reclining cockpit. But even though it has several gear pockets, its limited to about 1,500 cubic inches. So its maybe not quite as ideal for the kid-and-gear scenario.
If you opt for your wife to handle the child-hauling tasks while you haul the gear, then Deuters Kid Comfort II ($179; www.deuter.com) is an excellent choice. It has a comfortable seat for the child, pockets for toys and diaper supplies, and a hydration pocket to keep mom from getting thirsty. Plus, the suspension system lends itself to long use. Kelty, which tends to be the market leader in this category, makes a carrier called the Pathfinder ($190). It basically holds a child and a few child supplies, and it has a slightly smaller frame thats perhaps better for your petite wife.
Of course, always take care to ensure the childs health and safety is paramount. Dehydration can be an issue, as can insects and sun. Dont make the youngsters first memories be of a hot, buggy hike! Save that for later, when as a teenager they can carry YOUR gear.
Check out this years more than 400 must-have gear items, including a comprehensive backpacks section, in the 2006 Buyers Guide.