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 the organization of all your supplies. This backpack includes a sturdy waistbelt 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.Editor's Note: The Sapling Elite is no longer available. We now link to the Thule Sapling (non-Elite) in this review. This update occurred on April 29, 2022. You can read more about the Spaling in the tip tag below.
Thule Sapling Elite Review
Pros: Useful storage features, comfortable fit and seat, removable day pack
Cons: Stiffer shoulder straps
Compare to Similar Products
Thule Sapling Elite
$274.95 at Amazon
$254.96 at Amazon
$339.99 at Amazon
$210.00 at Amazon
$179.90 at Amazon
|Pros||Useful storage features, comfortable fit and seat, removable day pack||Comfy to wear and ride in, lots of storage, canopy and hydration pocket||Best child comfort, custom fit possibilities, loads of storage||Easy on the wallet, fit for narrower builds, comfy for passengers and parents||Budget-friendly, good storage|
|Cons||Stiffer shoulder straps||Higher price, hard to adjust seat, may be too long for shorter torsos||Doesn't fit all users||Very limited storage, canopy costs extra, no dedicated spot for a hydration bladder||Lower quality, not very comfortable for parent or child|
|Bottom Line||Comfortable fitting pack with cozy seat and useful features||Comfortable pack with lots of storage, a canopy, and easy to use features||Super comfortable carrier for parents and children with lots of useful storage||This high-quality, less expensive pack is comfortable for babies and parents with narrower builds but the storage is limited||Inexpensive option with good storage, but it isn't that comfortable to wear or ride in|
|Rating Categories||Thule Sapling Elite||Kelty Journey Perfe...||Osprey Poco Plus||Deuter Kid Comfort...||LuvdBaby Premium|
|Parent Comfort (30%)|
|Child Comfort (25%)|
|Ease of Use (25%)|
|Specs||Thule Sapling Elite||Kelty Journey Perfe...||Osprey Poco Plus||Deuter Kid Comfort...||LuvdBaby Premium|
|Usage Ranges||Min-Max: 16 lbs - 48 lbs||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|
|Max Pack Load||48 lbs||48.5 lbs||48.5 lbs||48 lbs||lbs|
|Weight||8.25 lbs||7.4 lbs||7.9 lbs||6 lbs||6.4 lbs|
|BGL Folded/Flat Dimensions||14" W x 14" H x 31" L||16" W x 10" H x 31" L||15" W x 11" H x 30" L||16.5W" x 10"H x 31"L||14.7" W x 9.5" H x 28.5" L|
|Fabric||210D Cordura nylon, 420D nylon||Body: Poly 420D Small Back Stafford
Interior: 75D Poly x 140D Nylon Blend
|Main: 210D Nylon Shadow Box
Accent: 400HD Nylon Packcloth
Bottom: 400HD Nylon Packcloth
|210 denier polyamide fabric. Tear and abrasion resistant, watertight to 1500 mm||Waterproof 600D & 300D Ripstop Polyester|
|Stirrups||Yes, adjustable||Yes, adjustable||Yes, adjustable||Yes||Yes|
|Hydration Bladder Compatible||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Included Accessories||Mirror, removable day pack||Journey Sunshade||Mirror||Changing Pad, Rain Cover|
|Care Instructions||Hand Wash||Spot Clean||Hand Wash||Hand Wash||Spot Clean|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Sapling Elite is no longer available, and we now link to the regular Sapling (non-Elite). These packs are similar in size and structure but vary in their features for storage and convenience. One of the main differences is the non-Elite Sapling does not have the detachable daypack. It also has a U-shaped kickstand and a larger bottom storage compartment. See the comparison photos below Sapling Elite (below left) and the Sapling (below right).
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.
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.
This backpack has a breathable back with a padding design that provides support but allows airflow for breathability.
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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.
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.
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 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 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.
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 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.
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.
— Wendy Schmitz, and BabyGearLab Review Team
Honest, objective reviews. Led by a Pediatrician.
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.Learn More