Review: Buying Right

Outside magazine, August 1998

Review: Buying Right

Babes in the Woods — and Bike Lanes, and ...
By Meg Lukens Noonan


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.

Gerry's new Trail Blazer ($100; 800-233-5921) offers value in a snappy-looking, well-padded carrier for kids up to 45 pounds. The frame can be adjusted to fit adults up to 6-foot-2. Sandwiches, juice boxes, and maps tuck into a detachable storage pack; an add-on sun/rain canopy costs $30 more

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 Burley Solo ($270; 800-311-5294), refreshingly light at 16 pounds, minimizes the encumbrance of taking a child along. It's narrow — 25 inches — so you can squeak through bike-path obstacles with little worry about spilling your valuable cargo. As its name suggests, the Solo accommodates one child (up to 60 pounds), though a tall one will feel cramped on long excursions. The Solo relies on a bolted aluminum frame and comes with five-spoked, 16-inch plastic wheels, which are slightly heavier than their alloy counterparts.

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 Baby Jogger II ($310; 800-241-1848) is the latest from the company that pioneered the "all-terrain stroller" in 1984. Refinements include comfortable padding and quick-release wheels in three sizes. With the large, 20-inch alloy wheels, this big rig rolls effortlessly on flats, requiring only the lightest touch to keep it trucking along. (A brake and a leash keep it from getting away.) Options such as a sun canopy and an under-carriage basket add $40 apiece to your tab. Still, the Baby Jogger II is the classic choice for the serious runner, loath to push any unnecessary weight.

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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