Gear review: Killer backpack for kids
July 9, 2010
Buying outdoor gear for my kids is always a risky proposition; either they outgrow the stuff in one season, or it isn’t sufficiently well-designed to justify the price tag.
But when preparing for my 9-year-old daughter’s recent backpacking trip to Canyonlands National Park, I stumbled onto a surprisingly smart kid-specific pack made by Osprey. The Jib 35 is designed for children between 10 and 14, and Annabelle was just large enough to wear it if we cinched it down to the smallest torso adjustment. This, of course, meant that the pack should last her for a few years; it also provides me one more reason to take her into the backcountry, and I’m always looking for those kinds of excuses.
The torso adjustment is just the first of many things to like about this useful, kid-friendly backpack. There are cool little pockets on the hipbelt for snacks, cameras, lip balm and other goodies. There’s a raincover hidden in a zipper pocket and straps on the back for sleeping pads, sleeping bags or other large items. A handy and flexible mesh pocket on the back can handle any random stuff – a wet bandana, a stuffed animal, or the prettiest-I’ve-ever-seen 5-pound rock that the kid simply must take home.
The Jib 35 isn’t large. I wished at the start that Annabelle could have carried more, but realistically there’s only so much pack that a small person can shoulder. A parent must accept that kids, until they’re bigger and stronger, won’t haul all of their gear and food into the backcountry. This pack comfortably handled clothes, sleeping gear, toiletries, water bottles, kitchen utensils, flip-flops and everything necessary for a three-day desert backpacking trip. We filled most of the pack’s interior, and probably could have hung a few more objects on the outside, if necessary. I carried the food, the tent, the medical kit, all the bulky stuff.
Annabelle never complained once about the weight, the straps, the hip belt or anything else – which tells me that Osprey’s padded belts and straps and highly touted suspension system actually work. In fact, things went so well in the otherwordly spires and slots of Canyonlands that I’ll likely get her out in the mountain wilderness this summer – with a minimum of harassment and cajoling.
She even liked Osprey’s petroglyph graphics, which of course may be the key factor in getting a 9-year-old to actually hoist a pack and hike.