Kelty Journey PerfectFIT Elite Review
Pros: Comfy to wear and ride in, lots of storage, canopy and hydration pocket
Cons: Higher price, hard to adjust seat, may be too long for shorter torsos
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Dick Kelty started making backpacks in his garage in 1952. He welded the frames himself and his wife sewed the packs to the frames. By 1963, the Kelty packs were on their way up the West Ridge on Mount Everest on the first American ascent. Kelty introduced Gore-Tex clothing and new models of daypacks in 1965, and they expanded to child carrier packs in 1992. In the late nineties, Kelty expanded their child carrier collection and started offering additional kids gear. Kelty continues to design products built to last, so you enjoy every moment, making each journey fun and carefree.
The Elite may not be as comfortable as the top-scoring pack, but it is more comfortable than most of the competition and one to consider if comfort is your main goal.
Though it has thick padding and a stiff waistband, it struggled to keep up with the overall comfort and adjustability of some of the competition.
The shoulder straps provide a stable feeling with ample padding and structure for weight distribution. The straps are easy to adjust for length and can be done on the go. This Kelty also sports the load lifters that make carrying more comfortable. The load lifters have a fixed attachment point while the shoulder strap height itself moves up and down which is not the best for proper function at either end of the torso range. This feature is one you may want to test before deciding to keep your purchase.
The chest clip helps bring the shoulder straps together for a better fit and draws the cockpit closer to the back of the wearer making it more comfortable for carrying. The clip is easy to operate one-handed and the strap moves smoothly.
The Elite's thick and stiff waistband contributes significantly to weight distribution and overall comfort. Smaller testers felt like the waistband was somewhat droopy in the back. The Elite has torso adjustment for a customizable fit for wearers of different heights. While this works well and has a good range, it may not be the best for more petite users or parents who are significantly shorter than average.
The back of the pack is contoured and padded in strategic places for overall comfort and airflow, with a design better suited for preventing a sweaty back than those without this type of structure.
The Elite is super comfy for passengers with one of the top scores for child comfort in the group.
This pack has enough features for child comfort that most passengers should be able to rest easy on adventures.
This pack has a removable face rest/drool pad (above left) that attaches with snaps (above right) and has a slight slant for better napping. It seems to be a good angle for napping.
The harness has padded straps that have a cover to avoid direct contact with the hard plastic connectors.
The seat pad on the Kelty is well padded with a soft cover and padding that extends down the leg portion for added support. The bottom stays flat and doesn't fold under baby's weight The seat is easy to raise but harder to lower with a baby in the seat.
This Kelty has adjustable stirrups that can increase comfort for older children so their legs don't have to dangle. While not all passengers will want to use them, we think it is nice to have them.
Ease of Use
The Elite is one of the easier packs to use with one of the highest scores in the group.
None of the competition is super easy to use, which is why the higher scores feel low.
This pack has a torso adjustment strap that is easy to use on the go for most testers. The waistband straps pull forward to tighten, which requires less force than those that pull back. The shoulder straps move smoothly when adjusted but some testers had difficulty finding an adjustment point that felt comfortable.
The baby's seat height is adjustable with a slide mechanism located on the back of the pack behind the cockpit back (above left). The seat can be adjusted with a baby in the cockpit, but lower it is more challenging than raising so you may want to do that with the backpack empty. The child harness is also easy to adjust with a single slider (above right) that operates both sides simultaneously.
The canopy for the Kelty pops out of the top canopy pocket and connects to the front of the pack with small clips. It is easy to open, close and use, though it could be taller for larger passengers.
The Kelty is relatively lightweight with dual handles on the front and back of the pack. An empty pack can be carried using either handle or both.
Many of the adjustments are easier to do while not wearing the pack and most of the storage compartments are unreachable; something true for most of the competition as well. Taking the pack off and using the sturdy kickstand can make the features and functions more accessible and less frustrating.
The Elite offers the most impressive storage in the review with some of the best pocket and organization features we've seen.
Storage size and availability can be the difference between a long adventure and a quick trip.
This Kelty has two main compartments. One pocket has internal pockets sewn into the back and includes a key clip, while the other is a single large pocket good for jackets, diapers, wipes and larger items.
There is a wet/dirt storage pocket on the bottom of the pack with a waterproof liner (above left). The liner can be pulled out of the pocket and wiped clean. This pocket is good for wet clothes, dirty diapers, or muddy shoes. It also has side water bottle storage pockets (above right) that while deep and useful, are not accessible by the wearer.
The waistband on the Elite has dual zippered pockets one on each side of the band. One pocket is are large enough for a few bars and keys, while the other will fit an average size smartphone (above left). The pocket on the right side of the belt has a zip open bottom with a stretchy mesh extension (above right) so you can carry a water bottle in this pocket. This is the only water bottle holder in the competition that can be accessed by the wearer of the pack.
This pack is hydration ready with a zippered pocket for a lumbar style bladder. There is no hook for the bladder but this is fairly standard for this style of hydration bag. It has a port towards the parent's right side and loops to secure the hose.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD and Wendy Schmitz