*REVISED!* Choosing a Kid Carrier (Deuter vs. Kelty)

**Please note: After posting this review, a representative from Kelty kindly stepped in and informed us of a feature of the pack that we had somehow missed….(amazing how that can happen!)  I have revised this post, but did not revise the video (because it is hard to get a house quiet enough to do that with two young kids!)  But, we now know that you can compress the Kelty more by releasing those yellow straps that lie against the back panel. This allows the area where the child sits to fold down. They MUST be tightened prior to use to make the design work, but if you needed it as “thin” as possible you would want to loosen those straps as well.**

We have gotten fairly swamped with people wanting a fair comparison between the Kelty Pathfinder 3.0 and the Deuter Kid Carrier III (both packs that we have reviewed previously – links lead to those reviews on this blog.)  I am honestly not too keen on comparing the packs because there is certainly a HUGE amount of personal preference, but I also believe in doing real, honest reviews here and so will happily give our opinion!  While I personally believe these are two of the very best on the market right now, Osprey’s Poco is starting to hit stores now, and who knows where that one will stand in the line-up!  It seems pretty great, but I haven’t tested it myself.  I will certainly update this when we do!

Comparing how far they open up.
Comparing widths when compact (this is a revised photo – see note at top of post)

Let me start with saying that both carriers are excellent.  In our family they have both served their purpose and we reach for them for different things and usually for different kids.  This is absolutely our personal preference and opinions and the best way for you to make a decision about a carrier is to go into a store and try one on.

If you prefer to watch the comparison (easier to see some of the features…though note that this video is nothing professional! ;))

What they both do well:
– Ample amount of storage space (1220 Cubic Inches in the Deuter; 1300 Cubic Inches in the Kelty)
– Same weight (7 lb. 10 oz.)
– Area for a hydration bladder
– Plenty of exterior pockets
– Both have sleeping “pillows” for the kids to rest on.
– They retail for a similar price point (Kelty $279; Deuter $299)
– Fold up compact (they are about the same width if you don’t take the removable daypack on the Kelty into consideration – see photo above)

Deuter Kid Carrier III Hydration
Kelty Pathfinder 3.0
Advantages of the Deuter Kid Comfort III (this is the pack J usually rides in):

– Higher back which provides more support and protection for the child.
– Side entry which makes loading easier for bigger kids
– Compresses thinner so despite the length, packs easier; opens up larger to allow for larger kids or more gear (or just easier adjustment.)  *The Kelty has a moveable daypack that keeps its width just a little wider*
– Sun shade is a part of the pack and stows away in its own pocket (the Kelty also has a sun shade, but it is much more complicated to set up.)
– Vari-Flex Hip Wings are AWESOME for carrying a heavier child especially.  They really do move with your movement and allow the rest of the pack to stay mostly still.
– Seems to accomodate a larger child (J at almost 3 fits in it with his snow gear on still).  However, on the other hand, it isn’t so great for small or very young children because they can’t see over it as well.
– We find this pack in general is more comfortable for us when carrying a heavy load (40+ pounds.)

Advantages of the Kelty Pathfinder 3.0 (this is the pack P usually rides in):
– Removable Daypack
– “Roll cage” to protect kids during a fall *This is our very favorite feature of this pack – I truly feel like the child is more protected. However, it also means that it has a limited amount of space to get a kid into because the width is fixed by the roll cage.*
– Excellent support in the shoulder straps (5-point harness).  When P was 4 months old (and had superb head control, he could easily sit in it.)  We couldn’t put P in the Deuter at all until at least 7 months (but he is a small kid.)
– Easier and quicker to adjust the torso length on the pack (it adjusts with a pin in the waist belt; the Deuter adjusts by moving the shoulder straps.)
– Self-retracting kickstand (or “base”) to help with adjustments (and yes, this base is very secure when loading a child.)
– The sternum strap is much easier to adjust (it is on a “track”)

The packs they usually ride in
They still fit in the “other pack” but not as well…

If we could choose just one…..
I know this is the question that everyone has, but it really isn’t easy at all to answer and is totally a matter of personal preference.  But, hopefully this will help…..

If you are doing activities where you are worried about falling and potentially crushing your child (like skiing)….choose the Kelty

If you want your child to be able to comfortably sit in the carrier at a young age……choose the Kelty.

If you foresee carrying your 3 year old (as long as they + gear are under 50 pounds) or have larger children in general…..choose the Deuter.

And if you just can’t make a decision and it is making you crazy…..choose whichever one you can find on sale OR you can find locally! 🙂

Please feel free to leave comments of your own experiences and preferences – we truly want to hear them (and feel as though they are valuable to everyone else reading this post!)  


  • Amelia lives with her husband and five young children outside of Jackson, WY in Grand Teton National Park. As a mom, she quickly learned that the secret to sanity was to spend more time outside where tantrums don't see quite so bad. Amelia started TMM in 2012 to help encourage all families (including her own) to get outside, no matter the weather. Due to the necessity of having to keep so many kids warm and happy, she has become an expert in kids' gear and loves being able to share it with others.

74 thoughts on “*REVISED!* Choosing a Kid Carrier (Deuter vs. Kelty)”

  1. We love our Kelty but I think it won over the Deuter because we were able to get one gently used πŸ˜€ That and the on the fly adjustment – my husband can take our son for the first 10 km, then I can take him for the second.

  2. We also have both and I would have to choose the Kelty over Deuter because I am able to adjust it to fit my petite frame better. I agree that both are excellent, but Kelty has served us better. We purchased the Deuter pack for my older, special needs child specifically because it allowed more room for him, and overall the pack was more compact and that came in handy for our international travels. So in that regard, it has been great. I think your analysis is spot on!!

  3. Morgan from Kelty Pack here – just wanted to comment that you can compress the FC3 more by releasing those yellow straps that lie against the back panel. This allows the area where the child sits to fold down. They MUST be tightened prior to use to make the design work, but if you needed it as “thin” as possible you would want to loosen those straps as well. Thanks for testing!

    • Morgan! Thank you SOOO much for posting on here. I have NO idea how we missed that feature (except that we got the pack before it was released and so didn’t have a manual, lame as that sounds!) I revised the original post here and took a few more pictures to compare. Awesome! (and I am totally humbled…;))

  4. I’ve never tried the Deuter, but I have the older Kelty Backcountry And we love it, especially the rain / shield. Is that a new model Kelty? If so, it’s nice to see that they’ve brought back the removeable daypack. When I asked a year ago, they said they weren’t making them anymore.

  5. We have a Kelty Summit that we love. Took it to New York for some site seeing (where A was either happily viewing or comfortably sleeping) but have also used it while doing yard work chores or hiking. It’s very comfortable to wear and super easy to adjust. A always cried when it was time to get out. Recently purchased a gently used one for a family friend with a new baby.

  6. Thanks so much for the honest reviews! It’s so great to see the two side-by-side and see the actual differences between them. It’s easier to envision the situations we could use each. My husband and I are still debating between the two carriers, but are pretty confident that whichever we pick will be a great carrier. Thanks again for taking the time to compare the carriers!!! We really appreciate it! πŸ˜€

  7. We put off buying a carrier until our oldest was 1 1/2, so she just did all her hiking in our Ergo (including a trip through the Grand Canyon!). She was light and didn’t mind it, plus it was easier to swing her around to nurse. We could even walk at the same time. πŸ™‚ I suppose it’s important that we don’t do any snow sports, so we didn’t need a roll cage. Since she was heavier by the time we moved up, I balked at the weight of the carriers. We ended up getting a Sherpani Rumba (which we’ve loved) because it’s a few pounds lighter than the Kelty and Deuter, and we don’t need much storage space. We also found ours on sale so that helped. ;)I found this review to be helpful: http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/2007_sherpani_rumba_superlight_child_carrier_review.htmlWe'll have to start looking for a second for little sister, so maybe we’ll try one of these for comparison’s sake. Thanks for the helpful reviews! I appreciate hearing from someone who’s used them!

    • Hi Lauren. Thanks for the info about the Sherpani – I have heard similar things about them. Unfortunately, Sherpani is no longer making kid carriers! But, I know there are a lot of used ones out there!

  8. We just got a Sherpani Rumba and we absolutely love it. It is a great frame pack if you are looking for a less expensive option that does not compromise quality. The only problem I see is that it does not contain a hydration pack. We have just gone on day hikes so far. We will be really testing it out in the summer when we pack in for a couple days. Thank you for the comparison Mountain Mama. These packs are so important for our little ones. -Amanda

    • Thanks for the insight! πŸ™‚ I know Sherpani is going to no longer make kid carriers, so you are one of the lucky ones! πŸ™‚ I have heard they are great as long as you don’t need to carry any other gear!

    • I have a video post brewing comparing the Deuter, Kelty, Osprey and another Deuter….watch the blog for it! But, also remember I recommend trying them on yourself for the BEST idea of how they will fit you!

    • I am looking forward to it. We were trying to buy as a fathers day gift, any sneak preview to how the Osprey compares? I’m 5’10 and mu hubby 6’2 and comfort is paramount to us.

  9. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS!!!! My husband and I are looking for a carrier for our almost 2yo son. He is 34″ and 27lbs we were leaning towards the deuter. As we had been in a store and they had the Deuter and Osprey. Wish they had the Kelty to try too. My Son loved the deuter and so did my husband, but we still wanted to research more and check on the Kelty! Tomorrow we will be the proud owners of a Deuter!

  10. Your post was SO helpful! Thank you! We were just trying to figure out what to get and have now gotten a gently used deuter from craigslist. I did have a question though, how big of a hydration bladder have you been able to fit in yours?

    • Hi Emily – so glad I could help! Just used my Deuter today and fit in my Geigerrig 500 bladder (will have to see how big it is….) There is honestly not a TON of room, but ample enough to carry enough water for a full day of adventuring. Does that help???

  11. That is great! Judging from the Geigerrig and REI website, it looks like that is about 2 liters of water. Mostly I was trying to figure out if we should go with a 2 or 3 liter one. So thanks again! Also all that info about the deuter fitting bigger kids better was SO great, our 18 month old is huge, like over 30lbs and just as tall, so I am relieved to find something that will fit!

  12. Hello…Thank you for the great review…We have been trying to decide between the two and your review really helped. Ultimately we went the Kelty due to a couple factors. One, thre retractable stand is a great feature. Second, it seems to have a better overall enclosure for our child and seems to pack less in height which is better for our car. She is five months old and the kelty just fits better. The only thing that I am leery about is the horizontal bladder mount. Have you had any issues with this type of bladder mount? They don’t say anywhere how many liters that the base can hold. We took a guess on two liters and hoped the tube was long engough and that it would fit.

    Both Packs are great products it was really tough to decide between the two.


    • Hi Chris,

      Yes, we found our kids fit best in the Kelty at a really young age (our youngest was in it at about 5 months too.) We do like the retractable stand….and the horizontal bladder is really my least favorite feature. The bladders we have have worked fine, but it was sometimes a little tight on the tube. I think you should be ok, though! πŸ™‚


  13. Thank you for your awesome review. We went with Kelty after watching your video. I had a question regarding the sleeping pillow though. You said that the Kelty should come with a sleeping pillow, but the one we purchased did not have anything in the front for them to rest their head on. I had to put a towel while coming down so that she can sleep better. When we went and asked the store that maybe the pillow was missing from the bag, they said Kelty does not come with a pillow. Is that true? Thanks again for your wonderful reviews.

    • Hi! So glad it helped and you got a carrier! I guess it depends on what model you got. The Pathfinder 3.0 has a small pillow that is removable for cleaning (it velcros on…) There should be at least some type of padding, but it doesn’t compare at all to the padding of the pillow on the Deuter III. Is there a velcro tab there that looks like something should attach??

  14. Thank you!!! I borrowed a Kelty from a friend and couldn’t figure out how to collapse it down! Very happy to find your page! Thanks again for your help!

    • Hi Frank – ok I will try to explain with words first, but if it still doesn’t make sense, let me know and I can do a little video πŸ™‚

      You will see some yellow straps on the interior part of the carrier. If you loosen them, it allows the pack to expand more and then the “roll cage” bar to slide up so it is horizontal with the pack (mostly anyway). To put back in position, just pull out the bar again and then tighten the straps.

      Does that help?

      As far as bladder – um great question. We always used our Geigerrig and it worked ok…but the tubes were a little short. I am honestly not sure, but am happy to ask all our readers on our Facebook page if you would like me to for another opinion? Just let me know!

      Thanks for reading!

  15. Hello! New mother here (of a 6 month old) excited to get back on the hills for hikes but trying to figure out how to include our new addition. Never tried a child carrier so I decided to google info. This is a wonderful place to start as I now have an idea of what to expect if I ever decide to purchase one. I got the idea when we were on a trip at the airport lugging our tall, heavy baby (28 1/4″, 20lbs 6oz) with our luggage thru the airport. I saw a man breeze right past me with nothing in his hands and a baby on his back! I had to ask what that thing was. It was a Kelty.

  16. Hi I was wondering if I could get some information on the Deuter Kid Comfort III Child Carrier. I bought I used one and it totally smells of smoke and maybe other smells. lol I was wondering how should I go about cleaning it.. I took the pack all the way off the frame but wasn’t sure if I can just throw it in the washer with some like Oxiclean or something and line dry. Any advise would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    • Hi Shawn,

      Oh good question! I don’t really know the answer, but don’t see why you couldn’t! Line drying in the sun would probably work wonders too πŸ™‚


  17. Does anyone have any feedback or advice for traveling with either one of these? Not sure how traveling through the airport will work, but am traveling in May and looking to see which will be easiest for me to travel with.


    • I haven’t traveled with ours via airplane yet, but am going to post this question for our readers on our Facebook page! Watch for that for answers (and let me know if you need the link for it!)

  18. Hello
    We are from Israel.
    We have long been looking for a back carrier for our son.
    We are looking for a back carrier that will fit a child with special needs, have full support for the head and a good grip of the chest belt.
    Do you know of a Carrier that can accommodate us?

    Thank you very much for the help

    • Hi Gabriela,

      Hmmm…good question. How old is your son and how much does he weigh? It’s hard to find the good head support in a carrier…. Let me know and I’ll do my best to steer you in the right direction!

      =) Amelia

  19. Hey Amelia

    We currently have a Happytrails carrier and it has been really useful for us. Although as our son is getting older and heavier, 1 years old and 23lbs, the Happytrails isn’t that comfortable anymore.

    Now that we know that our son loves being in a backpack carrier and old enough to go on some longer hikes, we are ready to upgrade. We were sold on the Osprey Poco Premium after reading and watching all your reviews on carriers.

    Then we saw the new 2014 model Deuter Kid Comfort III. It now has the foot stirrups and looks to be shorter in the back.

    Just wondering what you think of the new updated Deuter compared to the Osprey.


    • Hi Terry,

      I haven’t actually had a chance to USE one of the new Deuters, but have seen them and they look great. I would probably steer you towards one of those now. The foot stirrups make a big difference for bigger kids. In general, I love Deuter and how they fit. The only thing is if you are using it in the winter, the shoulder straps for the kid are much easier to adjust on the Osprey.
      Please let me know what you decide, if you have any more questions and do share photos!

      =) Amelia

      • Hey Amelia,

        After a few weeks of use we extremely happy with our new Deuter. It is a major upgrade from our last carrier. Unfortunately I can’t compare it too any of the other big name carriers, but can’t see how the others could be better. Although I would have to agree with you about the child harness being a slight nuisance to connect in front of the child.

  20. Hi! I’m planning to get a used Deuter Kid Comfort III from the US. (Sadly, there’s not a lot of those backpack carriers in the Philippines.) I wonder how they would look when packed/stowed away. My concern is mostly on stowing them into a luggage compartment on an airplane – I don’t want to have to pay for extra to check it in.

    Thanks a lot for this review.

    • Hi Pam – the Deuter III packs up very thin, but it still remains tall, of course. It would be too tall for a carry-on so would have to be checked, as far as I can tell. Hope you are able to use it!

  21. Good morning! Thank you for the helpful competition :-). I found a Deuter Kid Comfort I (1) locally used incl. the sun/ rain cover. How does that one compare? We are not extreme hikers but would like something sturdy. Would that work for us or should we hold out for a Deuter III (3)? Thank you in advance :-).

  22. Thanks for the great info! I got a kelty backcountry from a friend (free!) but no sun shade. Any idea which of the current ones being sold may work? Frame vs TC vs Transit? Thanks in advance πŸ™‚

  23. Hello, and thank you so much for the reviews, love your blog!! Spent quite a bit of time reading over them bc there is nowhere near where I live to try any on, so they were extremely helpful! Recently got a Deuter III, and love it except for a few things. Since I am very petite, the variquick straps on the lowest setting sit about 2″ above my shoulders. The hydration pocket seems to be absent… May be worth mentioning that the 5 point harness was way too big on my 7 month old daughter (15lbs), as the padding in the straps didn’t allow for smaller sizing. I’m considering either a Kelty or Osprey premium. Wondering if you have an opinion as to which one seems to be more comfy for the baby? Also, she likes to see everything, although both sunshades seem to provide lower visibility than the Deuter. Any input greatly appreciated!

    • Hi Teea – I think the Kelty does a better job for smaller babies (I had ours in there at 4 months for a bit and they are tiny kids). But, really both are very similar for the child.
      I am surprised the Deuter III was too big for your daughter….mine is only 16 pounds (even at 15 months) and is able to fit in it. It’s totally do able to add in some receiving blankets to fill that space a bit for the child if needed until she fills it out a bit!

  24. Hi
    I’m almost tempted by the Kelty but I just have 1 question that I can’t seem to find an answer to anywhere online and there is no email address for Kelty customer service….. is the sun cover also waterproof, and if not, is there a rain cover that would work with it? I would have thought it would be a complete pain not to have this feature and very unusual given how great the pack seems, but it doesn’t actually say anywhere (by Kelty) that it is waterproof. Other online retailers have called it a sun/rain hood, but Kelty don’t actually say this anywhere. So has anyone had it out in the rain, and is it any good? Thanks!

    • Yes, it will keep rain out to an extent anyway! Sideways rain it won’t, of course…but will keep your kids dry in a drizzle or rain without wind πŸ™‚

  25. Hi Amelia,
    I came to your site looking for some idea to kids carriers and this is what I exactly looking for.
    I wrote a post about kids carrier, but here in Brazil, we don’t have a lot of options and hiking and trekking is not too
    usual to us (unfortunately).
    A question in my post bring me to here and I just LOVED!!!!
    Thank you for sharing knowledge and information.

  26. I haven’t read the other comments, so forgive me if this is repetitive. I’m a smaller framed woman with a short torso. I currently have the Deuter II and am switching to the Kelly bc of the torso height adjustment. The frame on the Deuter sits up higher when it is adjusted to a smaller size, however, the Kelly is exactly opposit. When the frame sits high, it makes it very hard to look up, especially when hiking uphill. Today I almost took my baby’s head of w a large branch that I didnt notice. It’s a bummer that the Deuter doesn’t work for me, but my husband still loves it! Besides the looking up issue, I think it’s a great pack. I’m hoping the Kelly is even better!

  27. I purchased a Kelty backpack touring 1.0 for my husband for father’s day. We were staying in Stowe, Vermont and had it shipped to one of the outdoor sports stores. We were told it was a good product. After spending almost $350 USD – we rec’d the backpack and used it with our 4 month-old little girl. I’m sorry that we ever purchased this item. It is entirely non-symmetrical. Initially, we thought that it may be the fact that our daughter leans right in the carrier but that is not the case. On closer examination, the entire backpack carrier has been sewn incorrectly and veers off to the right. you’ll notice that the little lad in the photo above veers off to the left. Coincidence? No amount of shifting buckles or moving straps rectifies her posture. My daughter is now 6 month old and we’ve had to stop using the pack. She is going to a chiropractor to help fix the damage and my husband and I are both experiencing right shoulder blade pain. Trying to get the carrier fixed or talk to someone at Kelty has proven very difficult and basically impossible. All three numbers including the one above do not work. The two numbers in the ‘Kelty Warranty section of their instructions (866-FIX-PACK or 866-349-7225) and (800) 535-3589 HQ were bogus numbers. The first asked us to fill to fill out a survey for a Caribbean cruise – the second didn’t exist to Canada (We’re from Toronto) and it stated in the instructions that it is an international number. So I give. How do we rectify the problem or how do we get int ouch with this company – who at the moment seem bogus at best.

  28. Hi! Thanks so much for the comparison. We are headed to Canada and don’t hike too much, except we’ve frequented Banff and have our special hikes there. We now have a 13 month old (who loves to be outside) and we have a 7 hr home we’d like to do. Is that a) crazy?? And b) if she’s taller But 50% for weight and our family is taller would you recommend the Deuter? I have the Kelty pathfinder I found at a garage sale but it didn’t seem very sleep friendly ( something I feel like is a must for a 7 hr hike).

    • I don’t think it is crazy…..and yes, the Deuter will work better than a Kelty for you.
      That said, be sure you get her in it often before you go on that 7 hour hike so you know what works for her/you. AND plan on it taking longer than 7 hours….
      Also be sure to let her down every couple of hours to stretch her legs, etc.


Leave a Comment