Osprey’s line of Poco child carrier backpacks has been a family favorite for years. I reviewed the latest edition, a lightweight child carrier, called the Osprey Poco LT.
There are a ton of child carriers on the market, and Osprey’s Poco line is designed for outdoor adventures. So, I wanted to put it to the test. Osprey used its expertise in backpacks to create a child carrier that can carry a load comfortably for long hikes and backpacking trips.
The Poco LT is slimmer and lighter than most other kid carriers. It cuts down on weight and allows you to transport it more easily. It has a UPF 50 sunshade to protect your kiddo and two spacious storage compartments for essentials.
Plus, it adjusts to fit your kid as they grow, and the back panel adjusts on the fly to fit either parent. It’s quickly become a bestseller.
In short: I’ve been testing this child carrier for over a year, and it’s a worthy pack. I’ve hiked 150+ miles with my daughter in it and it is more comfortable, easier to put on, and more portable than the other child carriers I’ve used. For $285, it’s been worth every penny as it allows us to go on longer and wilder adventures.
Osprey Poco LT Child Carrier Test and Review
To start, I enlisted three additional testers for a side-by-side test of the Poco LT and Osprey’s Poco Plus (another GearJunkie favorite). We tested the two packs with two kids: an 11-month-old weighing 17 pounds and a 17-month-old weighing 25 pounds. The moms were 5’2” and 5’8” while the dads were 5’4” and 5’8”. We used the packs on local hikes around Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Each tester said they preferred the comfort and fit of the Poco LT. Both dads said the Poco Plus was still a viable option, but given the choice, they’d choose the LT.
The moms said they’d exclusively carry the LT, as it was comfier, smaller, and easier to put on while the child is in it. Additionally, it’s lighter in weight at 5.1 pounds compared to 7.9 pounds.
Moreover, the overall height is shorter (24 inches), which allows for unrestricted head movement for the wearer. With taller child carriers, you can’t put your head back to look up a steep trail and I find it uncomfortable.
The kids didn’t seem to prefer one over the other, and both loved the view from being up higher until they eventually dozed off. The smaller pack is also better on narrow or crowded trails. It has a lower profile, which makes it easier to maneuver and not hit other things (or people) while you’re twisting and turning on the trail.
Since those initial tests, my daughter Finola has grown to love the carrier (and just grown in general). When she sees it, she knows we’re going on an adventure. She’s getting bigger and heavier (25 pounds). And our hikes are often farther, as she is used to it and has a longer attention span.
Our longest hike to date was a 9-mile trek with 2,200 feet of gain to an alpine lake in the Canadian Rockies. From a comfort standpoint, it’s comparable to carrying a 30-pound load in a normal backpack. Some hip and shoulder discomfort, but that’s part of a longer hike. We were all very tired at the end.
Osprey Poco LT Features & Specs
Easy to Use and Durable
The Osprey Poco LT is a simpler pack than some other child carriers, which I appreciate. I don’t want a bunch of bells and whistles (read: extra weight). The lightweight stainless steel frame, hip belt, and sternum strap do a good job of keeping weight on my hips.
It’s easy to load your child into the backpack, and the buckles in the cockpit system keep them safe and in place. The cockpit/seat is attached with Velcro, and it slides up and down to fit your kid as they grow (or will fit another kid later in life).
The leg holes aren’t that big, so depending on their footwear, it might be easier to put on their shoes or boots after they are strapped in. Finola tends to kick her shoes off, so we just stash them in the compartment until she’s ready to get out and run around.
There are two large grab handles on the top to help get your kid up and onto your back. When my wife and I are together, she grabs one and I hold the other as we hoist Finola up to make the process easier.
Wisely, Osprey put a more durable fabric on the bottom of the pack. Through a year of use, we haven’t had any issues with durability and expect this pack to last for many years.
Unique Frame Design and Travel
When in use, the frame folds out to provide a fairly stable platform for the backpack (and your kid) to sit on. In my tests, I’ve tried to set the pack down on flat surfaces — and I don’t leave Finola in there unattended.
My nephew was sitting in there in some grass and wiggled enough to tip over. We should have been watching him closely and he was fine. But, I was happy to learn that lesson in a safe spot and not on a rocky trail.
The shorter, slimmer, and pared-down profile of the Poco LT makes this kid carrier easier to travel with. It collapses and buckles shut to reduce the volume by roughly 60%, so it doesn’t take up as much room in the car or when it’s not in use.
We’re traveling the country in a van right now, and that extra space is huge for us. There is a zippered flap that conceals the backpack straps to help with travel and storage.
Zippered Storage Compartments and Sunshade
Like most child carriers, the Poco LT backpack has a sunshade that’s easy to deploy and offers good coverage for kiddos. We also tested the rain cover (sold separately), which is fairly easy to install and works as expected.
A lower zippered storage compartment holds plenty for a day hike. I fit a layer for me and my daughter, a Nalgene, a bottle, a diaper, wipes, a blanket, and snacks with ease. There’s additional storage on the back of the backpack, plus, mesh hip belt pockets keep small items within reach on the trail.
The back panel adjusts easily with Velcro to fit adults of many sizes. This is helpful, as parents may want to share the load. It takes about 30 seconds to adjust and is easy to do on the trail. Plus, it’s mesh so your back doesn’t end up getting soaked in sweat.
- Weight: 5.1 lbs.
- Dimensions: 24″ high x 13″ wide x 15.4″ deep
- Collapsed dimensions: 30″ high x 13″ wide x 4.5″ deep
- Volume: 21 L
- Minimum child weight limit: 16 lbs.
- Maximum child weight limit: 40 lbs.
- Minimum child age for use: 6 months (child must also weigh 16 lbs. and be able to sit up with head upright)
- Fabric: 210D Bluesign-approved Mini Hex Nylon, PFC-free DWR
- Bottom fabric: Fabric: 420D Bluesign-approved Mini Hex Nylon, PFC-free DWR
- Size: O/S
- Price: $285
Tips for Hiking With Kids
Both my wife and I have been hiking with our daughter Finola since birth. She’s 2 years old now and loves hiking with us. That said, if we’re 6 miles into a hike, she’s as tired as we are, so we’ve learned a few things to keep her happy on the trail.
- Start small! Do some short, local hikes in good weather and work up to longer hikes as your kid gets accustomed to it.
- Bring a ton of snacks for both you and your kid.
- Expect to take more breaks and go at a slower pace.
- Consider letting them walk at the beginning of the hike to get some wiggles out. Our child loves this, but I hate it since I want to “hit the trail.” However, she’s almost always happier on the hike if we let her roam for a while before we start.
- Keep kids interested in the hike by pointing out things on the trail. I point out animals, bugs, puppies, water, or really anything.
- Consider giving them a small stick to play with as you hike. We do this with our daughter and it keeps her occupied for a while. Yes, she sometimes whacks my head with it.
- Try jogging or bouncing a bit as you walk. When our daughter gets tired of riding, I start to bounce and she laughs every single time.
- Singing songs and making up stories has also worked well for us.
- Be happy and enthusiastic. Kids can read off your energy, so try to stay chipper even when you’re tired.
- Take advantage of kids napping in the carrier. Ours always naps on hikes longer than 3 miles and often we try to time the hike so she gets a nap at the same time.
- Kids (much like dogs) are a conversation starter for people, so be prepared to chat with more folks than normal.
- If you’re carrying your kid up a mountain, other hikers praise you as a hero. We get a ton of comments from others about how great of a workout we’re getting and that we’re rockstar parents for getting her outside. Embrace those compliments — you’ve earned them!
Your life changes when you have a kid, but you don’t have to stop hiking. The Poco LT is built to carry kids for longer distances while keeping you comfortable. Both my wife and I are big fans of the Osprey Poco LT child carrier, and it’s the top carrier we recommend to our parent friends who are looking for a comfy and lightweight carrier.