When getting ready to hike with small children, the first thing you’ll need to look for is a child carrier, and loving the outdoors as I do, this was actually the first baby related item I bought prior to the arrival of our first child (something my wife always likes to remind me of!). On the advice of a good friend I bought the Osprey Poco AG premium, which I’ve had now for nearly 3 years, so time for a review.
One of the first noticeable things about the Osprey Poco AG premium when compared to many other child carriers is it’s size, this is a larger carrier than most others and so worth bearing in mind if storage space is an issue. Fortunately the Poco does collapse to make storage easier, however it is still larger than most others when collapsed. However, the plus side to it’s size is that there’s plenty of storage, it’s comfortable (for both child and wearer) and there’s some breathing room between wearer and child. Many other systems have the child right up against your back, which for me was an issue as I get hot easily. The ventilation on the Poco is good on both the back and straps, allowing a reasonable amount of airflow which helps keep things comfortable, and the back section is easily adjustable to get a comfy fit (Something that becomes increasingly important with an increasingly heavy child!). Additionally the back section also houses space for a water bladder, leaving valuable storage space for other essentials.
Something I have found with backpacks in general, is they can feel good for the first year or so, then as things stretch and padding gets flattened you tend to find points of contact can rub. This is not a problem I’ve had with the Poco, and it’s still as comfy as when I first got it. The shoulder straps are wide enough and well padded, and the waist belt is very big and comfy housing 2 decent sized pockets (one containing a mirror so you can see what they’re up to back there). One downside to the large waist belt is when putting the carrier on, you need to part them and slot yourself in, which when loaded is a bit fiddly, but the advantages in comfort well outweigh this minor thing. The child compartment has a nice retaining system that has adjusted well as my daughter has grown, now, at about 1m tall she just fits on the largest setting and has used this from about 8 months old (sitting confidently). The chest buckle is easy to use, and because the harness system is stiffer than just straps alone it stays in place nicely. Additionally the foot stirrups (not present on some carriers) mean that over longer trips it’s not uncomfortable with suspended legs. Overall the comfort of this carrier for both myself and my daughter has meant we’ve done walks as long as 8 hours while hiking in the Polish mountains.
When it comes to storage, this is where this carrier differentiates well from others, there is a large storage compartment underneath, mesh pockets on the sides, two pockets on the waist belt, a small pocket for sunglasses or similar on the shoulder straps and then the removable backpack on the back. With all this, our longer hikes are well equipped with all the usual small child stuff plus waterproofs, food and spare clothes. Plus I’ve almost always got my camera in an insert underneath. The bit that make this the ‘AG premium’ is the removable backpack, something which I find very useful. Typically this is packed with all the child items like spare clothes/nappies etc, so when out an about on holiday it means when we’re not using the carrier we can just remove this and take it with us, without having a separate change bag etc. Not only is that then quicker than moving things between bags, but there’s also less chance of something being left behind.
One feature of the Poco (and this is common across all the Poco range, not just the premium) which really makes a difference is the integrated sun shade. This slides into a zipped compartment, so hides away and cannot be lost, but is very easy to deploy and provides great cover from the sun, but also helps shelter from wind. For larger children as well they can lean their head against it if asleep, meaning a much more comfortable position. It does make the carrier very high, so you need to be careful with trees/doors etc, but then you’re more careful anyway wearing one of these. Should the weather be bad, the raincover goes over the top of the sunshade making a nice dry and spacious place… I wouldn’t mind travelling the mountains like that! The window panels are bigand the rain cover pretty large, so there’s room to move around (nothing wiggles quite like a trapped toddler!). Fortunately we haven’t had to use the cover too much, but when we have it’s worked well.
Lastly, there is also a travel bag for the Poco carriers (sold separately), which is quite useful, especially if checking the carrier in on airlines. It just helps prevent the risk of straps etc getting caught. It’s not cheap for what it is, and I’m sure there are many other bags that can house a Poco, but it does fold into itself for storage, so again, when using this while travelling it is pretty handy.
Overall, the Osprey Poco AG Premium has been a brilliant bit of kit, and I too will be recommending it when I’m asked (we recently bought a second one for child #2). Given it’s feature set, quality and comfort, it justifies the larger size and higher price point, and I’ve yet to see another carrier that beats this one.