When out on the trail, you usually are carrying a lot more than just your kid. That’s where framed kid carriers come in. Not only do they provide more wiggle room (and comfort for longer periods of time for the child), but also the ability to carry all the extras (snacks, diapers, extra clothing, etc.)
All framed packs are appropriate from when Baby can sit on their own (usually around 6 months) up until about the age of 2.5 or three. Our kids tend to be on the smaller side, so we have easily carried them past 3. The Escape is rated to a max load of 39.7 pounds (child + gear).
The Phil and Teds Escape is a well-made pack with a huge amount of storage and some well thought-out “extras”. It comes with a removable day pack to allow another adult to share the load. The day pack is nothing special (I’d personally prefer to just use my own pack), but it does give some flexibility for ditching some weight last minute on the trail. It also comes standard with a removable sun shade, a diaper changing pad, removable foot stirrups and a rain visor.
We found that the Escape in particular is best used for kids aged 6 months – about 20 pounds. For longer hikes and more weight than that, the pack tends to pull away so you have a lot of weight on your shoulders. It’s nothing I noticed with L in there (~17? pounds), but definitely struggled with with P in it for a more rigorous hike (a squirmy 3.5 years and ~30 pounds).
What we love:
– Super easy in and out thanks to the ability to completely open up both sides of the carrier. Older kids can load on their own.
– Tons of pocket storage both internally and externally. The main compartment is huge (seemingly bigger than any other carriers we have seen). Other pockets are the removable day pack, a base pocket on the bottom, a small zippered pocket near the child’s feet and two side pouches for water bottles, etc.
– It’s very lightweight and compresses well for storage
– The soft “shoulder cradle” is great for sleeping babes, as long as they don’t hit the front of the pack (which isn’t padded particularly well)
– The shoulder straps are contoured and comfortable for the wearer
– The sun shade really protects them from the sun – maybe more than any other pack I have seen. It comes down on the sides
– Hydration compartment
– The included changing pad comes in a neat pouch (perfect for cloth diapers even) and keeps everything contained. We’ve had some doozies of diapers on the trail and were incredibly thankful for the little system.
– The sunshade is removable and does an excellent job of protecting the child from the sun (not all sunshades on carriers do that).
What we aren’t so crazy about:
– While the shoulder cradle is soft and supportive, it’s tough to get over a kids head comfortably. It can be adjusted fairly easily, but you do have to put your hand inside the pack to do so. We’ve found it’s easiest to loosen it, get the child it and then tighten it so they are supported. Not a huge deal – but takes a little finagling. I wish there was a way to adjust it right from the strap.
– I wish there were a bigger/softer pillow for the child to rest their head on the front of the carrier. The shoulder cradle mostly keeps them locked in, but that extra padding would be welcome
– The adjustments for the wearer is all velcro. Apparently I have a pretty short torso and so had it on it’s shortest setting. However, if you don’t get the strip of velcro attached enough, it can slip (it happened to me). Again, I never noticed it wearing a smaller baby, but definitely did with a larger child.
– When you have larger children in the pack, it seems to really pull back, which makes it less comfortable because the weight is pulled away from your body.
– The large compartment is great for carrying a ton of gear – however, I tend to regularly “lose” things in there. It’s hard to just peek in and see – you pretty much are feeling to find things.
The Bottom Line:
The Phil & Teds Escape is a great pack for holding lots of gear and smaller children. While we wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for larger kids (because of the fact that it tends to pull back more and put pressure on the shoulders), it’s perfect for what most families are looking for in reference to framed packs.
The pockets and extras are always welcome on the trail! While our kids tend to prefer not to use the stirrups, they were a nice option to have just in case.
Phil & Teds provided us an Escape for the purposes of this review. As always, what we say here is exactly what we would tell our family and friends.
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