Keeping with the company name, the Kelty Journey 2.0 is a reliable, comfortable baby backpack. Designed specifically for longer outings, this pack has a plethora of storage space and very comfortable padding. Although on the heavy side, we found it's weight actually helped increase stability and safety, offering a sturdy pack for both baby and parent. Additionally, baby always sat nice and low, closer to parent's center of gravity, for a snug, pleasant carry. Coming in second overall out of the six packs we tested, only outscored by the Phil and Teds Escape, we believe the Journey 2.0 is a backpack that will not disappoint.
Update — October 2018
The Kelty Journey 2.0 has been discontinued.
Our Analysis and Test Results
Kelty, an outdoor product company founded in 1952 and based out of Boulder, Colorado, touts itself as being the first company to introduce backpack-style child carriers to the outdoor world. They have come a long way in terms of safety and style since the original KIDS carriers hit the market in 1992, and today they are one of the most recognized names in baby backpacks. Additionally, Kelty is a socially responsible company, which we thought was pretty cool. This means they make it a priority to improve working conditions and safeguard human rights in the factories around the world where their products are manufactured.
With a brand name like Kelty, our reviewers expected this pack to be reliable and well made, and we were not disappointed. It is a very nice heavy-duty backpack, with almost all the bells and whistles. Boasting a sturdy aluminum frame and two storage compartments, it is a comfortable, fully functioning backpack that can handle even the most strenuous hiking adventures. It's patented auto-deploy kickstand makes loading and unloading a breeze, and the bright yellow adjustment straps help you to be sure that baby is safe and secure. Amazon reviewers had nothing but great things to say, and stated they used it on babies from nine through 22 months old.
Overall, the Journey scored an 8 of 10 in parent comfort, a metric that was very important to our reviewers. There was enough padding throughout the back, shoulders, and waist, to make carrying comfortable, while also offering breathable mesh fabric to keep you cool.
The torso adjustment was a little bulky, was still easy to manipulate and was able to accommodate both the tallest and shortest parents. Additionally, having the waistband adjust up-and-down rather than the shoulder straps, like the Deuter (pictured below), allowed baby to sit lower for a more stable feel for mom or dad.
The pre-curved waist belt also did a good job of centralizing the child's weight for maximum comfort, and the redirected strap made it easy to adjust on-the-fly. This type of strap was one that the Phil and Teds Escape lacked, and it just means that after the strap is fed through the buckle, it loops and feeds through again, making for a smooth, easy adjustment when you pull on it. For additional comfort, the Journey 2.0 offers a patented Scherer Cinch on each side of the waist belt, allowing customizable contouring. This feature was unique to the Kelty packs, and lets you pull down the curve on the waist belt if you feel that it's not a snug-enough fit.
With plenty of backpack storage behind baby, space for a 50oz water reservoir, zipped pocket for cell phone or keys, and a unique mesh water bottle pouch on the waistband, the Kelty Journey was not lacking in storage, earning itself an 8 of 10. However, we were discouraged to learn that the Journey had absolutely nowhere to store the sunshade that Kelty includes with the purchase of the backpack, as our Editors' Choice award winner, the Phil and Teds Escape did. Our section on Safety explains more about the Kelty sunshade.
Taking into account features such as support, padding, and footrests for baby, the Journey 2.0 earned a 7 of 10 in child comfort metric. Although the cockpit's padding was sufficient, the Journey offered no footrests for baby. The aluminum v-bar that Kelty includes for safety (quite literally, a v-shaped bar on each side of the cockpit to prevent it from collapsing) was a nice touch, but offered minimal side-support for baby's head, which we found to be an issue in the Kelty Junction 2.0 as well, especially once baby fell asleep.
Ease of Use
Weighing in at 7lbs 2oz, this backpack was the heaviest of all its competitors. However, we feel that although heavy, Kelty has done a nice job of adding in features like lift handles and the auto-deploy kickstand to make the weight of the pack more manageable. Our reviewers had no issues getting the pack on or taking it off, even when fully loaded with baby and cargo.
The kickstand also made for easy loading and unloading of baby, and the yellow leg strap adjustments were a nice feature that Kelty included in both the backpacks we tested.
The 5-point harness is easy to adjust, has nice padding, and is pretty easy to buckle and unbuckle. What our reviewer liked most about baby's shoulder harness is that the buckle closest to the child's face is completely covered by soft fleece fabric, making it impossible for baby to be pinched by the buckle when it is being secured. It would also prevent hair from becoming tangled in the buckle, if that was an issue.
All Kelty made baby packs are JPMA Certified as well as approved by CPSP. In our comparisons, the Journey scored an 8 of 10 for Safety, specifically losing points for it's sunshade. During testing, the shade was quite difficult to deal with, and there was no place to store it when not in use. Additionally, when in use, the shade blocks much of baby's view, which may frustrate some babies!
We were impressed with the five-point harness and felt it did a good job of keeping baby safe and secure while hiking. In addition, the cockpit was equipped with an ergonomic seat that kept baby comfortable.
With it's large profile and wide base, this backpack is meant for the great outdoors, where there's lots of space. It's a quality backpack that can take a lot of wear and tear (and can be cleaned accordingly), and should serve you well through the toddler years.
At $260, this pack has one of the higher price tags on our list. However, it did offer mostly all of the bells and whistles that you would need in a quality backpack, which makes it a good buy in our opinion. The inclusion of a lifetime warranty and the promise that they will repair any worn or damaged parts on-site at their Boulder, Colorado location makes the deal a little sweeter.
The Journey 2.0 is a quality pack that will keep both you and baby comfortable on long hikes. With it's sufficient storage, hydration pouch, and unique water bottle holder, you will surely have enough room to pack for an entire day's outing. It came in second overall in our comparative review of six baby backpacks, so it certainly is a top contender. Don't forget to take a good look at our Editors' Choice Award-winner, the Phil and Teds Escape, before making a purchasing decision.
BabyGearLab was founded by a Pediatrician Mom with a mission to provide a reliable, independent, source of information to new parents. Our experts have tested thousands of baby and kids products to share key performance, health, and safety findings. We spend tens of thousands of dollars crash testing car seats to inform our ratings. And, we combine our review work with gobs of expert parenting advice. To assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing by people who care.