Intro: To Review or Not to Review?
Let's get this out of the way; we love the Deuter Kid Comfort II; It is well designed in function, fit and aesthetics. Not only do we love to put it on, but our 17-month-old daughter loves to be put in it. She will ask to "ride" when she sees it and be "put back" when she is taken out. There are many reasons we're happy with our purchase, but this is among the biggest. There it is, right out of the gate. We're huge fans!
I initially sat down to write a review of the KC II, but there are reviews for this top-rated kid carrier all over the internet. Check out a few at My Life Outdoors, Backpack Gear Test, and Simple Mom Reviews. It's really hard to find anything negative written about the KC II and when you do (e.g., zipper quality in an older model), you also find updated information stating that those issues have been resolved (e.g., improved zipper quality).
So, what the world doesn't need is for us to comb through all the specs and discuss all the great features like many others have already done so well. We thought it would be best to spend this time and cyberspace on sharing some information we found necessary. Nea and I had some major questions we needed to answer before we committed to a purchase, and some major points of clarification we needed after the purchase.
This post will focus on our decision making process of buying a kid carrier, and the next post will focus on technical aspects of actually using the Deuter Kid Comfort II and III. Feel free to skip around to the sections that matter most to you. First, a little history...
A little History
We were generously gifted with a hand-me-down carrier made by another brand. When we started using the carrier it was an out dated five-years-old, and it was a serious pain. I mean that literally; it really hurt to wear. This wasn't the case at first and for a while we thought we could make due without issue. For the most part that was true. Then, our daughter hit a growth spurt. At one visit to the doctor's office she was in the 35th percentile for weight and a few weeks later she was in the 65th percentile. We could definitely feel the weight difference on the trails during and after that time.
There were no real means of adjusting the weight distribution on it, which only exacerbated the problem. The one thing we had was the hip belt, but even that was hard to get fitted correctly. Whenever we were able to manage a correct fit, the belt just didn't move with us very well. Our daughter was fine in it for about a few miles, but much more than that and she would begin to get really annoyed, especially as she packed on the extra pounds and ounces. There wasn't a place to comfortably rest her head, and there was no way to adjust the amount of space she had to sit in. It was truly an old school, bare bones carrier.
I will say that it was very well constructed, but we needed well constructed and adjustable/comfortable. We accomplished some moderate 5-mile hikes with the old one, but anything more than that was going to be impossible for the little one and us adults. As the painful hikes piled up we made researching and purchasing a new one a top priority. What was the straw that broke the camel's back, so to say? It was when our little Houdini learned how to get out of the straps of our old carrier and stand up in the middle of a rocky ascent. Nea and I said, "we need a new one", at the same time. Fortunately, we had already started our search.
Cost: Uhm...We're Really Going To Spend That Much?
We made a decision early in the process that we would save money and gift cards in order to buy the carrier of our choice, whatever that choice would eventually be. There were several brand and model options, which we knew ranged in price from a little over $100 all the way up to around $300. We bought our KC in August of 2011 with the help of the gift cards, birthday money, and it was also our wedding anniversary gift to each other. The retail cost at this time was $229. The KC III, which we were also heavily considering retailed at $289. This is a lot of money for us, but we hike a considerable amount. The investment wasn't in the monetary value of the carrier, rather the increased comfort and enjoyment we knew we would have in exchange. The adults would be more comfortable, our little one would be more comfortable, and we would be able to hike for much longer than with the previous carrier.
Brand: Who Do You Want To Make Your Kid's Carrier?
We considered three brands. We looked at Sherpani , Kelty , and Deuter (pronounced doy-ter). We could not find a great amount of user-generated information on Sherpani carriers, however, what we did find was very positive. Even though they look like perfectly good carriers, we eliminated the Sharpanis from consideration. Considering the potential costs we ultimately decided the best course of action would be to choose a product we could find more user-generated information on. That left us with Kelty and Deuter.
We found good reviews of the numerous Kelty models (we narrowed it to FC 2.0 and FC 3.0), and nothing but good reviews for all three Deuter KC models (more on that, next). To decide which brand to focus on we looked at other products by each company. As a result, we found better user-generated reviews for Deuter products than Kelty products almost across the board. It should be noted that just about every Kelty product we looked at had favorable user-generated reviews.
We didn't discount the fact that Kelty produces a considerable amount more than Deuter overall, but what Deuter does produce seems to always be received very well. This is not necessarily the case for Kelty, but again, they have a vast set of product lines so there is a greater chance there will be negatives to find (especially on-line). In the end the choice for us was clearly Deuter, which specializes primarily in backpacks and carriers, but which model?
Model: You Finally Choose Only To Have To Do It Again!
We should mention that besides the three KC models, Deuter also makes the Kangakid. We discounted this one for similar reasons to discounting the KC I. The KC I would be ideal for families that do not hike long distances or who spend most of their baby carrying time in urban settings. It is smaller and lighter than the KC II and III, but doesn't include some of the comfort and functional features necessary for long excursions. The hard decision for us was picking the KC II or KC III. Here is a quick comparison of their primary specs and features. We included the KC I in the comparison as well.
We both thought the KC III was awesome, and we still very much do. However, when we started to look at the differences a little closer we found that the KC II better fit our needs. These were some of the most important comparison points for us:
Safety: This is from a video (which I could not link to or embed): "One other thing that Deuter has been very instrumental in has been the safety testing of child carriers. Since the mid-90’s, we’ve worked with a safety institute in Germany called TUV to institute safety testing for child carriers. We produced the first safety tested child carrier. The safety standards that we go through not only will test the fit of the harness to the child, but also the harness to the adult. All the materials—we make sure there’s no harmful materials in there plus the durability of the pack. We make sure that there’s no excess wear or anything after the cycle tests. With that we have to go through those same testings every two years."
KC Weight - The KC II weighs 18 oz less than the KC III. Since we plan to trade kid carrying duties from time to time on long hikes keeping our pack weight down is pretty important, especially as our little one gains weight.
Maximum Carry Weight - All KC models have a max carry weight of 48.5 lbs, which is comprised of Carrier + Child + Gear weight.
Volume - The KC III has 2 L more storage space than the KC II. While 2 L can be a lot of space, especially for longer hikes, the difference for us was manageable.
Length - The KC II is almost a foot shorter than the KC III. We do not have an abundance of extra vehicle space, so finding the room for an almost three foot long carrier is not as easy as finding room for a carrier that's a touch over two feet in length. If we had more space this would not have been as heavily considered, especially since we think our daughter would have appreciated that extra support to rest the back of her head on.
Material - The KC III materials overall are a little lighter, and possibly a bit more durable. However, the KC II materials are durable. For us, this didn't make a big difference.
Sun Roof and Rain Cover - The KC III comes with an integrated Sun Roof and Rain Cover, which I personally love for the convenience of having it all attached. However, the optional Sun Roof and Rain Cover retails at $34. There is also the Deuter KC Rain Cover that covers the full length of the carrier (as opposed to the just the top section) for another $29. Those two additions to a KC II would bring the total cost to $292, which is about the same cost as the KC III minus the deluxe Rain Cover. We highly recommend the Sun Roof and Rain Cover; sun protection is a vital! We have not purchased the deluxe Rain Cover, but that's not to say we won't.
After looking at all of this information we came to two conclusions. First, the KC III is a great carrier. Second, the KC II best fit our needs and capabilities.
Let's Trek Through All Of This Again...Only Faster!
In the beginning the decision making process was daunting. However, once we were able to objectively look at all the information in accessible components the decision was actually an easy one for us. Here's a fast forwarded version of how we got there:
2. We knew it would be pricey, so we saved money and gift cards.
3. A rudimentary brand analysis made us most (and very) comfortable with Deuter.
4. The KC II and KC III are the best options for long distance hikes.
5. Of the two, the KC II best fit our family needs and capabilities.
6. We excitedly bought it.
7. The adults and the toddler love it...but,
How the hell do you use it? In our next post we will take a closer look at the actual carrier, and all those straps and buckles. Remember when I said our last carrier didn't have any means of adjustment? The KC II ad III are the polar opposite. There are numerous adjustment points, each of which require careful attention and practice if you're unaccustomed to fitting a pack and/or adjusting weight while moving. Don't feel too overwhelmed, though! We'll provide a primer on adjustment of the KC II and III, as well as some tips for getting used to wearing and working your new carrier.
Disclosure: At the time of writing and publishing this post, we were not affiliated with Deuter, nor did they provided any reimbursement or sponsorship of this post or blog. The KC II was purchased out of our own pocket. We have since become Family Ambassadors for Deuter, for which we received Deuter gear to put through the paces. Links to retailers are affiliate links, meaning we receive commission for purchased products that are linked.