In-depth reviews guided by a Pediatrician

Thule Sapling Elite Review

Comfortable fitting pack with cozy seat and useful features
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:   $350 List | $350 at Amazon
Pros:  Useful storage features, comfortable fit and seat, removable day pack
Cons:  Stiffer shoulder straps
Manufacturer:   Thule
By Wendy Schmitz, and BabyGearLab Review Team  ⋅  Sep 16, 2020
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88
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 9
  • Parent Comfort - 30% 10
  • Storage - 20% 9
  • Child Comfort - 25% 9
  • Ease of Use - 25% 7

The Skinny

The Thule Sapling Elite is a high-end baby backpack carrier for little ones from 16-48 lbs. It features a cool mirror for spying on your passenger and lots of pockets for organization of all your supplies. This backpack includes a sturdy wasitbelt and shoulder straps that offer enough adjustment for a good fit for most users. The design helps take the weight off any pressure points and helps the wearer to keep going for longer periods. The cockpit is also adjustable and fits most children with ease and comfort. The ELite is somewhat expensive, with a price higher than most competitors. However, the features and quality seem to justify this price when compared to the packs. We love what the Elite has to offer and think most families will too.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Thule, a Swedish company, started in 1942 by those with a passion for life. They work to design and create gear that is easy to use, safe, and stylish for transporting everything you need for fun for an active lifestyle. The company makes bike trailers, cargo carriers, strollers, and backpacks for carrying kids.

Performance Comparison



The Elite is one of the most comfortable backpack carrier in the group.
The Elite is one of the most comfortable backpack carrier in the group.

Parent Comfort


The Elite is very comfortable for the wearer with multiple adjustment points and unique features for an ergonomic fit for most wearers. These features include adjustments you can make while wearing the pack with your baby in place.


The Elite includes comfort-related adjustments that you won't find on the competition. These features give you a custom fit that can improve the wearers comfort as the day progresses.

The Elite includes features for increased airflow along the back to make it more comfortable for the wearer in hot weather or longer trips.
The Elite includes features for increased airflow along the back to make it more comfortable for the wearer in hot weather or longer trips.

This backpack has a breathable back with a padding design that provides support but allows airflow for breathability.

The torso adjustment on the Elite is super easy and has 4 adjustment points.
The torso adjustment on the Elite is super easy and has 4 adjustment points.

The Sapling Elite has a torso adjustment strap that is easy to move and stays in place without shifting. This feature helps the pack fit parents of different sizes better than competitors without torso adjustment options. There are 4-adjustment options over 6 inches.

The waistband on the Elite is comfy and the strap pulls forward which is very user-friendly.
The waistband on the Elite is comfy and the strap pulls forward which is very user-friendly.

The Elite has a structured waistband for additional support and it adjusts with pulls inward which is natural for the wearer. The belt fits just over the hips for most wearers in our tests and it helps distribute the weight of the passenger well increasing the comfort for the wearer.

The Elite shoulder straps are stiffer than the previous Sapling  but still comfortable and supportive.
The Elite shoulder straps are stiffer than the previous Sapling, but still comfortable and supportive.

The Thule shoulder straps can be adjusted on the fly and are padded and stiff for added support. The chest clip pulls the straps together providing more adjustability and support. It helps improve weight distribution depending on the size of the child and wearer.

The cockpit on the Elite is cozy and well-structured for little ones to feel secure when riding.
The cockpit on the Elite is cozy and well-structured for little ones to feel secure when riding.

Child Comfort


The Sapling Elite offers a lot by way of features for passenger comfort.


The Elite has a stable cockpit for passengers and testers were even able to jog with the pack on without too much disturbance for the passenger.

The child seat and harness adjustments on the Elite are largely under the drool pad.
The child seat and harness adjustments on the Elite are largely under the drool pad.

The supportive side straps on the Elite can be tightened with a child in the seat. This feature makes it easier to secure passengers and prevents excessive flopping around inside the cockpit. Overall, the feature makes it easier to carry little ones and gives them a feeling of enclosed comfort.

The Elite cockpit sides and be tightened for smaller passengers to prevent excessive flopping in the seat.
The Elite cockpit sides and be tightened for smaller passengers to prevent excessive flopping in the seat.

The Elite includes a removable face rest or drool pad. This pad is comfortable with adequate padding but is no longer designed at an angle, so it is potentially less comfortable for napping than the old Sapling. It hides all the straps for seat adjustment underneath and there are more Velcro straps in the way than the older version.

The passenger shoulder straps are soft and adjust between the frame and the headrest. The seat bottom is firm but padded well for passenger comfort. You can adjust both the seat and harness with your child in the pack, which is convenient and useful in most circumstances.

The headrest on the Elite isn't as contoured as the old Sapling  but still supportive and comfortable. It also has a bottle or treasure pocket within reach of the passenger which is very useful.
The headrest on the Elite isn't as contoured as the old Sapling, but still supportive and comfortable. It also has a bottle or treasure pocket within reach of the passenger which is very useful.

The headrest isn't contoured, or as well-padded as the previous Sapling but it offers adequate support nonetheless. In our experience, children use the back head rest less frequently than they do the front drool pad/face rest.

The Elite stirrups are height adjustable for a custom fit for comfort or leg length.
The Elite stirrups are height adjustable for a custom fit for comfort or leg length.

The Elite has similar stirrups to the previous non-Elite backpack; feet fit inside easily and they can be adjusted for height or passenger comfort. This pack is one of the few options we've seen that comes with a canopy.

The canopy for the Elite has its own storage pocket.
The canopy for the Elite has its own storage pocket.

It has its own storage pocket and is easy to attach to the pack when you need it. We love a good canopy for protection from the sun and rain. This canopy has an open side and mesh above them to help decrease the sun and wind exposure near the eye-line of most passengers.

Being able to remove the day pack on the Elite makes this packs's storage more user-friendly.
Being able to remove the day pack on the Elite makes this packs's storage more user-friendly.

Ease of Use


The Elite has a variety of features and functionalities you'll need a guide to decipher, but once you sort it out, you'll be glad you have them.


The wearer waistband has a forward pull adjustment that works well and can be changed while walking for minor comfort adjustments. The belt is cushioned and comfortable with two parts that provide a more customized fit.

The new seat height is only adjusted from the front but is easily done with a child in the seat. The adjustments are easy to identify, are under the drool pad and move without any trouble.

The Elite has two handles for holding  positioning  or storing the pack.
The Elite has two handles for holding, positioning, or storing the pack.

The Sapling Elite has two carry handles at the top that can be used to carry an empty pack to hang it for storing. There is a place to put your foot for added resistance to make it easier to do adjustments to the buckles and straps.

The canopy connects with a process of legs and toggles  it isn't difficult  but it does seem convoluted.
The canopy connection on the Elite is a convoluted process with more steps than feel necessary.

The canopy folds down easily and stows behind the baby in its own pocket. It has loops on the front, and Velcro that attaches to the back. The ends fit snugly in the front slots provided. WHile attachment is difficult, it is more convoluted with a higher number of steps than the competition.

The included mirror accessory is great for checking on a sleeping passenger without taking your pack off or requesting help.
The included mirror accessory is great for checking on a sleeping passenger without taking your pack off or requesting help.

This model also includes a hand held mirror that lets you check on your passenger without taking the pack off. It is a small but ingenious idea and we wonder why we never thought of it.

The Sapling Elite has a lot of storage options and we fit loads of supplies inside.
The Sapling Elite has a lot of storage options and we fit loads of supplies inside.

Storage


The Elite has more storage than most of the competitors.


Better storage in your back pack means you can bring more supplies and keep them better organized for quick retrieval when you need them. This translates to easier and longer adventures with your little ones.

The waist pockets on the Elite are so large you can fit all your quick access items inside.
The waist pockets on the Elite are so large you can fit all your quick access items inside.

This pack includes storage in two ways, a large compartment and a mesh pocket on the pack itself, plus there is a removable day pack that includes a large zippered compartment, a small zippered pocket, and a medium-sized mesh pocket. The pack also includes very roomy waistband pockets that you can use for snacks, phone, keys, wallet, or other quick-access items. While the main pack doesn't have any kind of internal organization pockets, during testing we fit a jacket, snacks 2 water bottles, diapers, wipes ad sunscreen in the main compartment. The removable day pack will fit all that and more.

Manufacturer Video



Wendy Schmitz, and BabyGearLab Review Team