Kelty has always been about building great gear that lasts. The inspiration behind the three PerfectFit carriers is to allow parents to continue to get out and to introduce their kids to the outdoors at a young age, because the sooner we can introduce kids to the outdoors, the better for all of us.
We sat down with Jen Karbs, pictured left, senior product manager, Child Carriers, Sleeping Bags and Camp Essentials, at Kelty this week. Jen and her talented co-workers have been working on the R&D of the three PerfectFIT carriers in the collection for several years to bring the carriers to market.
There are three carriers in the PerfectFIT collection. What are the main differences between them? The Journey PerfectFIT model is really about creating an accessible price point for parents. Kelty understands that some parents are not interested in hiking with their children or getting outside as often as others. We wanted to make sure we have an accessible price point for those parents. The carrier is about just the necessities and being light-weight, but it has all of the safety, comfort and adjustable features that all of the models have.
The Journey PerfectFIT Signature offers an integrated sunshade that comes out of the back pocket. We’ve added multiple grab handles, and that is based on research we did with a large group of parents over a long period of time to find out from them, first hand, what is comfortable for different parents to put the child carrier on and take it off. We also added a zippered hip belt pocket which actually unzips on the bottom and holds a full-size water bottle. We have large zippered storage compartments and a drool pad that’s also removable.
Journey PerfectFIT Elite includes all of the Signature features, plus there is a sleeve for a reservoir so you can share water between the parent and the child. And we’ve added a zippered “dirty” compartment at the bottom for those inevitable messes that might happen when you are out on the trail.
Were the carries designed with the different parent-hikers in mind or to offer three price options? It’s more price point, because frame child carriers are pretty expensive for the everyday parent. Kelty did not skimp on the important things— safety, comfort, adjustability — it’s more about what parents are looking for.
A more experienced hiker might be looking for all of the bells and whistles, but some of the same people pack light and they don’t need a lot of extra storage. It’s also a comfort level for the parent. What do they feel they need to take out on the trail? Do they hike light, or do they need all the comforts of home?
During Kelty’s product research process, did the parents also provide feedback on prototypes before production? We did extensive research, including parent interviews to identify parents who have used child carriers before, what the pain points were, what the needs were, any kind of common threads. And then we performed a lot of hikes with parents both with our child carriers and other child carriers on the market. We continued to send prototypes out to parents as we fine-tuned and tweaked the features to make sure the carriers were comfortable for the parent. If the child is not comfortable, no one is going to be happy out on the trail.
How long did the development process take before Kelty was able to take the carriers into production? The research took about four months before we started designing the product, and we continued to do research and get feedback all the way through to production.
There are a lot of child carriers on the market. Why is the collection the best-in-class? Everyone makes great child carriers, but Kelty has long been in the frame child carrier category. For us, safety has always been important, and building great gear that lasts. For the brand, we also wanted to evolve the aesthetic of the child carriers and make them more modern and sleek while keeping all of the safety, comfort and adjustability features in mind.
We have an extra bar on our child carriers so parents are getting 360 degrees of protection for their child when they are in the carrier. We have a five-point child harness—something that we have always had—to keep the child in the seat. And the big thing for Kelty is the wider seat base, for a broader range of children, to ensure proper positioning of the child when they are in the carrier, especially when they are younger. Proper positioning is important for a child’s hip development. And also having the adjustable foot stirrups helps for the proper positioning, too.
How do you accommodate the parent that has a long torso? We have included the PerfectFIT suspension in all of our new child carrier models, and that allows you to adjust the torso length from 15.5 inches to 21 inches—which is the industry standard for torso length.
And safety features? All of our carriers go through rigorous testing before they are produced and distributed to market. We follow all the child carrier standards and make sure that all of our carriers pass those. As far as the child cockpit, we have a framed child carrier; we have an extra crossbar that serves to hold open the child cockpit so if the carrier were to tip over, it will not compress on itself.
If your child falls asleep and slumped in the seat, will the padding balance this child? Yes, we have a drool pad along the front, and that provides extra comfort, and the sides of the child carrier are also padded. We recommend that just as adults need to take a break when they are outside, that you do that with your child as well.
Does the frame automatically deploy? The frame has to be manually deployed when you set the carrier down and when you pick the child carrier up. When it’s on your back, you can bring the frame back in towards your body. It is a manual operation and that follows the requirements set forth by the governing body for testing.
For a parent shopping for a carrier, what are the features that would draw them to purchase a Kelty PerfectFIT pack? A parent will most probably do their research before they go to the store to try a carrier because comfort and safety is so important for parents, especially new parents.
Parents will shop with their eyes first. Do they like the way it looks? We chose sophisticated colors that are gender-neutral that are going to appeal to the parent. We wanted to do lighter colors because that is going to appeal to parents more if you are going to be out in the sun. And then I would recommend that parents try the carriers on. Comfort is key for the parent as much as the child, which is why we did the PerfectFIT, because it’s going to fit both the parents and the child.
Can you purchase components to add to the PerfectFIT carrier to bring it up to the level of the PerfectFIT Elite? The only added accessory is the sun shade.
We believe the PerfectFIT carriers answer all the needs of a parent and child to enjoy the outdoors together … perfectly.
Photos courtesy Kelty