In-depth baby product reviews led by a Pediatrician

Thule Sapling Backpack Review

A costly backpack to consider for warmer climates, but it doesn't tick all the boxes
thule sapling backpack baby backpack review
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Price:   $430 List | $342.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Mesh ventilation, washable child seat and drool pad
Cons:  Expensive, no water bottle storage, not the most plush
Manufacturer:   Thule
By Molly Bradac & BabyGearLab Review Team  ⋅  Sep 29, 2022
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56
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 11
  • Parent Comfort - 30% 6.0
  • Storage - 20% 5.0
  • Child Comfort - 25% 5.0
  • Ease of Use - 25% 6.0

The Skinny

The Thule Sapling appears sleek and modern at first blush, but it doesn't compare to the top-of-the-line baby backpacks in the competition. The Sapling accommodates children weighing 16-40 lbs and has a maximum load (the combination of child and gear weight) of 48.5 lbs. Some of the most attractive selling points are its removable and washable ErgoRide seat and drool pad and the mesh child cockpit offering increased ventilation, which may appeal to families who travel to or live in warmer climates. If the standout features of this pack are what you seek and they override the pack's cost, the Sapling may meet your needs for getting around with your little passenger. Otherwise, there are higher-performing options for less money in the lineup.

Editor's Note: We updated this gear review on September 7th, 2022, to include information and details about the product's performance in the competition.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Best Value Award Top Pick Award Best Value Award 
Price $430 List
$342.95 at Amazon
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$285 List
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Mesh ventilation, washable child seat and drool padComfy to wear and ride in, lots of storage, canopy and hydration pocketEasy on the wallet, fit for narrower builds, comfy for passengers and parentsLightweight, folds fairly small for travel, less expensive, easy to useBudget-friendly, good storage
Cons Expensive, no water bottle storage, not the most plushHigher price, hard to adjust seat, may be too long for shorter torsosVery limited storage, canopy costs extra, no dedicated spot for a hydration bladderHard to reach shoulder straps, torso length seems shortLower quality, not very comfortable for parent or child
Bottom Line A costly backpack to consider for warmer climates, but it doesn't tick all the boxesComfortable pack with lots of storage, a canopy, and easy to use featuresThis high-quality, less expensive pack is comfortable for babies and parents with narrower builds but the storage is limitedA generally average pack with a better price than much of the competitionInexpensive option with good storage, but it isn't that comfortable to wear or ride in
Rating Categories Thule Sapling Backpack Kelty Journey Perfe... Deuter Kid Comfort... Osprey Poco LT LuvdBaby Premium
Parent Comfort (30%)
6.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
Storage (20%)
5.0
10.0
6.0
7.0
7.0
Child Comfort (25%)
5.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
5.0
Ease of Use (25%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Specs Thule Sapling Backpack Kelty Journey Perfe... Deuter Kid Comfort... Osprey Poco LT LuvdBaby Premium
Usage Ranges //Min/Max:// 16 lbs - 40 lbs Min-Max: 16 lbs - 40 lbs Min-Max: When child can sit upright independently - 48 lbs Min-Max: 16 lbs - 40 lbs Min-Max: 16 lbs - 40 lbs
Max Pack Load 48.5 lbs 48.5 lbs 48 lbs 48.5 lbs N/A
Weight 7.1 lbs 7.4 lbs 6 lbs 5.3 lbs 6.4 lbs
BGL Folded/Flat Dimensions 15" W x 14" H x 30" L 16" W x 10" H x 31" L 16.5" W x 10" H x 31" L 13.5" W x 7" H x 30" L 14.7" W x 9.5" H x 28.5" L
Frame Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Stainless steel Aluminum
Fabric PFC free fabrics and recycled polyester

70D Nylon (all materials PFC and PVC free)
Body: Poly 420D Small Back Stafford
Interior: 75D Poly x 140D Nylon Blend
210 denier polyamide fabric. Tear and abrasion resistant, watertight to 1500 mm 210D Nylon Waterproof 600D & 300D Ripstop Polyester
Stirrups No Yes, adjustable Yes No Yes
Canopy Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Hydration Bladder Compatible Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Included Accessories Journey Sunshade Sunshade Changing Pad, Rain Cover
Care Instructions The child seat and drool pad is removable and machine washable before allowing it to line dry (do not machine dry). All other components can be hand washed with a mild detergent in cold water then hung to dry. Spot Clean Hand Wash Hand Wash and Hang Dry Spot Clean

Our Analysis and Test Results

Thule, a Swedish company, was created in 1942 by a group of people passionate about living an active life to the fullest. Whether you're in the city or the great outdoors, Thule designs and makes functional, safe, and stylish gear for transporting everything you need. The company is well-known for its bike racks, cargo carriers and baskets, strollers, baby backpacks for carrying children, luggage, and more.

Performance Comparison



thule sapling backpack baby backpack review - the thule sapling is a nice looking baby backpack, but it doesn't...
The Thule Sapling is a nice looking baby backpack, but it doesn't deliver everything for its expensive price tag.
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff

Parent Comfort


Compared to the lineup of baby backpacks, Thule Sapling's score in parent comfort isn't outstanding, but it's above average.


Finding a comfortable fit wasn't immediate — while testing, it took us some time and multiple adjustments. But, once we dialed in the fit, the pack felt comfortable, even when carrying a heavier (31-pound) child. The Sapling lacks lumbar padding and ventilation. After experiencing such deluxe support and ventilation on other contenders, like the Osprey Poco, we couldn't help but wish this pack offered the same.

This backpack accommodates various torso lengths (x-small to large). The structured padding on the waist strap is adjustable through Velcro, and the load lifters connect to each shoulder, bringing the backpack's weight closer to the wearer.

The sternum strap can slide up or down, depending on your needs and preference, and you can further customize the pack's fit thanks to the hip belt's padding that's adjustable via Velcro.

thule sapling backpack baby backpack review - the child cockpit on the thule sapling has some attractive features...
The child cockpit on the Thule Sapling has some attractive features, but we wish it had more padding behind the child's head.
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff

Child Comfort


The Thule Sapling offers a few features that heighten comfort for a child, but, at large, this pack doesn't impress like some top-notch contender.


The majority of the child cockpit is mesh, providing increased airflow and ventilation for the child, which comes in handy, especially on hot days. We think the cockpit could use more padding in certain areas, though, particularly the hard plastic frame behind the child's head, which didn't leave us feeling great.

The straps on the harness aren't exceptionally plush but cozy enough for most needs. We appreciate the cockpit's dual-access entry and how effortlessly the cockpit opens, providing access and visibility to the child's harness when loading and unloading your little passenger. The ErgoRide seat has larger leg holes, and you don't have to remove your child's shoes to get their legs through, which is a small perk.

thule sapling backpack baby backpack review - the thule sapling doesn't have stirrups to rest feet, but the...
The Thule Sapling doesn't have stirrups to rest feet, but the ErgoRide seat is comfortable.
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff


The Thule Sapling doesn't come with stirrups. Our heavier and taller tester appeared comfortable while riding in the carrier. Still, we think foot stirrups help with circulation and provide a place to rest legs and feet, especially on longer hikes or while the child is napping.

thule sapling backpack baby backpack review - the quality of the thule sapling is noticeable.
The quality of the Thule Sapling is noticeable.
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff


Ease of Use


Regardless of where and how you roam with your baby, we believe a top-notch product should be functional and easy to use, and a baby-carrying pack is no exception. Although no contender ranks high in this test metric, the Thule Sapling is better than most, but a handful of products surpass it by a hair.


The quality of Thule Sapling is noticeable, and it will likely offer potential years of use. The Thule Sapling we purchased and tested is black and teal color. Logistically speaking, the light color may show dirt and grime (think muddy shoes or blowouts) over time, but the ErgoRide seat and drool pad are removable and machine washable. Since kids can be messy, this may be an attractive perk.

The torso adjustment is a Velcro panel that you remove and place where needed. It takes a bit of effort to remove and adjust the Velcro panel, a task that requires two hands and is noisy (increasing the chances of waking a sleeping child). But, it's a straightforward system, and we could easily see the torso size labels, which we appreciated.

Reaching the kickstand posed no problem; however, it does not provide an audible "click" sound when opening or closing the kickstand. We prefer packs that make a loud sound as it offers reassurance before removing the carrier. Also, the backpack is steady when standing on the ground.

thule sapling backpack baby backpack review - loading and unloading a child into thule sapling is super easy, and...
Loading and unloading a child into Thule Sapling is super easy, and the cockpit closes and buckles without struggle.
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff

Storage


The Thule Sapling offers a spacious 22L gear compartment under the child's seat; it is a stretch to reach this area while wearing the pack. The hip belt has two pockets (one on each side) with a zipper closure which adds peace of mind that essential items, like keys or a phone, are secure. Besides that, there are no other storage options — not even an open mesh pocket to quickly stash items. Therefore, the lack of storage keeps the Thule Sapling from contending with top-notch backpacks.


The Thule Sapling has a removable UPF 50+ canopy that offers overhead and side sun protection, and you can fold and store it when not in use. The canopy includes illustrated directions on how to fold the sunshade, and it took us a few times to master it. To install the sunshade, slide the two posts into slots on the backside of the child cockpit and attach the Velcro for added security.

The Thule Sapling has no water bottle storage, but it does have a hydration-compatible design (reservoir sold separately) with a drink tube exit port in the gear compartment.

thule sapling backpack baby backpack review - we appreciate the zippered storage pockets on the hip belt for...
We appreciate the zippered storage pockets on the hip belt for smaller, essential items that need to be within reach.
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff

Should You Buy the Thule Sapling?


The Thule Sapling is certainly a cool-looking baby backpack with some standout features, such as a mesh child cockpit for increased ventilation to keep your child cool on warmer days. But, it's expensive, and for its cost, we would expect the Mercedes of baby backpacks, providing all the desirable features and then some. However, it doesn't deliver everything, or even what some less expensive award-winners offer. Therefore, we think this pack is worth passing on unless you're set on having those standout features.

What Other Baby Backpacks Should You Consider?


The Kelty Journey PerfectFIT Elite is a higher-ranking option with a more well-rounded performance. It's more comfortable for the parent and child, and its excellent storage makes it versatile for any adventure or activity.

Manufacturer Video



Molly Bradac & BabyGearLab Review Team
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