‘Elite’ carries kids, preserves parents’ sanity | AspenTimes.com

‘Elite’ carries kids, preserves parents’ sanity

Bob Ward
Aspen Times Weekly

I don’t remember buying our Kelty Elite. I think it was a gift we requested before our first child was born in 1998. And it’s one of the few baby-oriented possessions that has stayed with us through all four of our kids.

The lightweight, aluminum-frame pack has toted babies ” sleeping, screaming, drooling and everything else a parent can imagine ” on hikes, through airports, at music festivals and around towns throughout the West. The pack has accompanied our family on trips in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, California, Arkansas, Michigan and even Mexico.

It’s perfect for a long ramble through the high country, of course, but in my opinion it also beats a stroller for navigating a crowded city sidewalk or a beer line at Telluride Bluegrass. It doesn’t pose a problem on stairs and it doesn’t bog down in mud or snow.

It can be a “wide load” in a crowd or a slot canyon; the towering, arch-like sunshade can force the wearer to duck under low-hanging branches. But these are small prices to pay for a carrier that has hauled our kids to places that, before we had kids, we thought would be off-limits.

It rides comfortably on a parent’s shoulders, with sturdy, well-designed adjustment straps and buckles. Most importantly, babies like it. Using the kickstand, you can set the Elite on the ground like a footstool with the baby still inside (see photo) and often they’ll just lounge there; last weekend on Midway Pass, our 16-month-old gobbled raisins by the handful while resting happily in the shade of the hood at 12,000 feet. On the way down, bouncing as though suspended in a climbing harness, he napped as peacefully as he would in his crib.

Each one of our kids has been different; they eat different foods, they like different clothes and different books, their personalities are utterly distinct. But all have enjoyed riding in the Elite, comfortably fixed in place by the adjustable straps (one around the waist, two over the shoulders). Each kid has lived there, traveled there, wept there, slept there.

By enabling me to get outdoors with my little kids, the Elite arguably has done more to maintain my sanity as a parent of four children than any other piece of gear. My one gripe is there’s no storage space for water, snacks or clothing, not to mention extra diapers. The 2008 version of this carrier, the FC 3.0, retails for $200 and has a pouch for such items.

Thanks, Kelty (and the friend or family member who bought the Elite). When our last little tyke graduates from the Elite to his feet, I’ll remember the pack as a shining beacon of quality in a world of low-grade plastic fodder churned out by the infant industry. We’ll hand it off reverently to some other parents who, if trapped indoors changing diapers and watching Baby Mozart, would also go insane.

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