Deuter Kid Comfort Active: Forget the pockets and get light and fast.
My research into baby carriers for hiking was extensive. Yet what led me to purchase the Deuter Kid Comfort Active lacked any scientific basis. Instead I used deductive reasoning and personal bias. Deuter is a German brand and the Germans have been climbing mountains for a long time. Osprey is an American brand founded in one of our climbing and backcountry areas – Colorado. Considering my daughter is half German and I may be living there at some point, I decided to purchase my first Deuter pack.
It wasn't that simple. I did do some research. And the research suggested that the Osprey Poco line and Deuter Kid Comfort line are the top two available despite the availability of other models from brands like Kelty and Vaude. Both companies have been making them for several years. Both designs are similar. Out of those two brands you have a couple of options. In our case, we currently live in Georgia so any training or weekend hiking we do is going to be in, at times, extreme heat and humidity. So less is more for us. Meaning we needed a pack with maximum ventilation.
Of the five models currently offered between the two brands, the Deuter Kid Comfort Active is a lighter weight carrier with mesh in several areas where solid materials won't allow air to flow. We need air flow. It's hot AF in Georgia. When I looked at the other models, they were much heavier (after carrying this around for more than a year, I recently picked up an Osprey at an REI and it felt twice as heavy. the weight is so noticeable). However, that weight comes with some luxuries the Kid Comfort Active lacks.
You'll notice right away the Kid Comfort Active doesn't have any outside pockets save for a small one on the hip belt you can store some keys and sunscreen in. The other two Deuter models have three outside pockets which allow the user to stuff a water bottle and some clothes. Not the Active. For me, this is fine. I'm a minimalist and don't really do outside pockets on my packs. I don't like the bulk and weight they add. So the subtraction of pockets suits our family well. The Kid Comfort Active has a large pocket underneath the seat and the total capacity is 12 liters. Storage volume increases to 14 liters on the Kid Comfort and with the addition of the included removable mini pack, the Comfort Pro offers 12+10 liters. Storage capacity aside The cabin of the packs is universal across the three which is important. I wanted a good system for our baby and both Osprey and Deuter deliver a cockpit that is adjustable, secure and easy to use. And all five models have stirrups (which Lilly doesn't use) and a collapsible base that flips out so you can set down the carrier.
Once your little one is strapped in and ready to go, the Kid Comfort Active is fully adjustable so both parents can carry it. Like many couples, the weight and size disparity between my wife and I is somewhere around 30 percent. Nothing she wears fits me. This includes a properly fit rucksack. Fortunately the Deuter's Vari Quick adjustment system allows us to quickly adjust the torso height of the pack to fit either of us. Once we figured out our settings, we can quickly go back and forth with carrying her on longer hikes. The other two Deuter models have a different suspension system which as also adjustable. We actually liked the Vari Glide system better initially but that was in the store. Once we got the pack home and started using it, we quickly realized how easy this pack is to adjust. In addition to the adjustable torso system, Deuter installed two points of attachment for the shoulder straps. While changing these means switching the straps from one set of buckles to the other, it is an additional adjustment that will allow you to fine tune your fit. When you are covering miles, fit has to be as close to perfect as you can get.
Deuter says not to use the pack until your baby can sit up on its own and weighs at least 12 pounds (this could be wrong. I can't find the literature on the lightest recommended weight. As I proved, it's more about weather your child can hold itself up.).
Like Osprey, Deuter packs are top of the line. The thing I like about both manufactures is, packs are what they specialize in. Companies like Patagonia, North Face, Mountain Hardware, Black Diamond, Mountain Equipment and Arc'teryx to name a handful also make packs and many of them are well-made with purpose. But those manufactures usually specialize in other areas of outdoor gear. When I select my gear, I tend to look at what manufactures specialize in. When I think Arc-teryx I think premium jackets and clothes for climbing and mountaineering. So when I think of packs, I think Osprey and Deuter and sometimes Gregory.
This being my first Deuter pack, I can't compare it to others from the brand. I can only say how it does on its own (which should be the way we look at everything). It carries my 22-lb baby well. Since she tends to fall asleep on long hikes, the pack weighs more on one side of my body most of the time. This becomes an issue over longer distances. But the suspension system allows me to compensate a bit by adjusting the shoulders and waist until I even out the load. For me it doesn't bother me much as the inconsistent load forces me to use my core even more which helps with me mountain training. I have noticed though, the heavier she gets, the more it affects me. No pack will carry comfortably with an uneven load though. Eventually you'll feel the ache somewhere.
The seating compartment is large enough for your child to grow. It has a four-point harness with adjustability and stirrups for the feet. My daughter doesn't like the stirrups but they are there if you need them. I would recommend buying the larger chin pad for the carrier for an additional $20.
When it's time to put the pack down, the flip-out stand does what it's supposed to. It's robust and the pack feels solid when sitting on the ground. It's a bit difficult to reach to fold in when the pack is on your back but you figure it out quickly.
This model carrier does not come with a sunshade. You will need to buy that separately (it retails for $30). You need a sunshade. If you don't buy it when you pick up your carrier, you will buy it soon after. Go ahead and buy it at the same time and save yourself the hassle\trip to REI. When the shade isn't in use, it fits nicely on the thin pocket behind the back of the seat. We also purchased the rain cover. This turned out to come in very useful in Rocky Mountain National Park on Long's Peak when the winds really picked up near Chasm Lake. We threw on the rain cover and it sealed out all the wind and Lilly was warm. We've also used it a handful of times for rain.
If you've read about my philosophy when it comes to selecting gear, you know purpose is everything for me. I will pay the premium prices for gear that meets or hopefully exceeds my purpose. In selecting a baby carrier pack, I wanted something comfortable that does it's job. Comfort to me means lightweight. It always will when it comes to climbing and hiking. And because we live in such a hot environment, breathability or limited heat retention was vital. For this reason alone, the Kid Comfort Active is the best choice. If the pack doesn't perform though, lightweight and breathability mean nothing. Fortunately Deuter has the experience to design a pack that meets these criteria. I believe Osprey could execute the same objective if that's what it wanted to do, and they really should. After carrying around the Kid Comfort Active for as much as I have now, I picked up an Osprey Poco AG at an REI just to look closer at it. I couldn't believe how heavy it was. I'm used to picking up the Deuter and slinging it around all over. I've taken it as a carry on and stored it in the overhead bins with no problems. I've packed it inside two different sized duffle bags for checked luggage. I'm not sure the Osprey baby carriers are as svelte (although there is a travel bag available to store Poco packs. Yay. More weight). They certainly aren't as light. For me, being an alpinist as with all our traveling, weight matters a lot. What I didn't expect was how easy it is to pack and store. This carrier stays in the car at all times and we use it several times a week. I've even used it to walk around Breckenridge through all the shops.
I am a believer in you stick with your bread and butter. For me as an American, Osprey packs come to mind because that's our best brand for packs. After being exposed to the European market recently, Deuter packs are now another option for me and I'm glad I went with the Kid Comfort Active. It's performing well and we should be able to use it for a second baby or sell it on the second-hand market for a good return. I don't think you can go wrong with any baby carrier from Osprey or Deuter. But if weight and heat are factors in your decision, the Kid Comfort Active is the clear best option.
All the accessories will add an additional $75 and this will be a $300 investment. It's worth it though. It's never bad to spend money on high-quality products you will use frequently. For us it's been to Germany, Canada, France, Yosemite and Colorado. So far it's held up great. We plan on getting a solid five years out of it. When you look at it that way, $300 is more than worth it.