Thule Sapling Backpack Carrier review

from Thule
RRP  £379.99
Our mum tester and brand image with the Thule Backpack Carrier

by Samantha Ball |
Updated on

If you're looking for a baby carrier for a baby over the age of six months old, that has a little more wiggle room and allows them to see better, then backpack carrier is a practical choice, which is where the Thule Sapling Backpack Carrier might be an option for you.

Aiming to keep your little one comfortable and cool, with plenty of under leg support and back ventilation, the Thule Sapling Backpack Carrier is ideal for any family adventure.

Our mum tester, Kate, put the Thule Sapling Backpack Carrier to the test, and here's what she thought.

Thule Sapling Child CarrierThule / Mamas & Papas

Pros

  • Is a lightweight design
  • Plenty of space for storage too
  • Can easily stand on the floor

Cons

  • The fitting instructions are not quite clear on how it should sit on you
  • Comfort:
    5.0
  • Ease of use:
    5.0
  • Ease of cleaning:
    5.0
  • Design:
    5.0
  • Durability:
    5.0
Suitable for ages:6 months+
Dimensions:35 x 31 x 73cm
Weight:2.3kg
Capacity:22L
  • Removable elements for machine washing
  • 22 litre gear compartment
  • Ventilated back panel
  • UPF 50 sunshade
  • Hydration compatible design

Testing the Thule Sapling Backpack Carrier

My husband and I are keen walkers who have fallen by the wayside in recent years. Our very first date was a day-long hike up and down the biggest mountain in the Black Forest - but since having our son (now five years old) we barely manage an hour in the Chilterns. We now have a second son, seven months. With him, I vow, we are going to break new ground and get our hobby back!

Build

The Thule Sapling Backpack Carrier is a serious piece of kit (with a serious price tag to match). What strikes me first is how extremely well-made the backpack carrier is. It's rugged without being harsh; light yet sturdy. A lightweight metal frame provides the structure, and this is covered in an array of different materials to perform different functions: padded, unpadded, reinforced, net, breathable, resistant, wipe-clean; all with exquisite transitions. It's clearly been designed and tested to the nth degree.

Unlike most other backpacks on the market, there are no foot stirrups for the occupant and the harness is only four-point: this is due to the seat's innovative design. The base and the leg holes cup the child's bottom and thighs in a way reminiscent of baby slings. The padding is soft and some net lends breathability.

According to Thule, the backpack can be used from six months or when the baby can sit up unaided - which in my experience is more like seven or eight months. James (7.5 months) seems ultra comfortable and very safe and supported, though I wouldn't take him out for longer than an hour at his age.

The whole seat, including straps, can easily be removed and washed on a cool, gentle cycle. There is even a separate drool pad which can also be removed and washed.

Kate wearing the Thule Sapling Backpack Carrier with her child in
©Our mum tester Kate

Usability

Below the seat is a roomy 22 litre storage compartment; easily big enough for nappies, changes of clothes, and snacks. There is even a little hole so you can feed a water bottle tube through. The target market for the Sapling is, I realise, extremely serious walkers! The compartment can be accessed by zips on three sides, and there are further pouches on the hip straps. A sunshade comes as standard and you can purchase an extra clip-on storage space separately.

One thing that is missing though, I quickly realise, are decent fitting instructions. There is a booklet with some diagrams and arrows, plus a video without captions or commentary. I'd really like to see someone go through where it should sit on you and how it should feel.

You can adjust the height of the backpack on your back using a hefty sliding bit of Velcro, and there are some generously proportioned hip pads that can also be slid along a track and Velcroed into place. Further straps let you adjust the length of the shoulder straps, the angle of the carrier over your shoulders, and the chest strap height and tension. Theoretically this thing should fit anyone.

After several practice walks of 20 mins each, plus a fitting session with my precise and perfectionist husband, I get a comfortable fit - and it is suddenly really comfortable, and feels very light, despite my 10 kg occupant.

The Thule Sapling BackPack Carrier on the ground
©Mum tester, Kate

Performance

When on the ground, the backpack rests on a bar which folds outwards. This gives an extremely solid base and I am satisfied that it won't tip over with James in it. I can slip him in from above, or unclip one of the side panels - this might be the better option for older, wrigglier toddlers. You hoist the backpack up to your shoulder using a padded horizontal grip, then slip your arms through. You then fold the base bar back in, and off you go!

The maximum weight is 18 kg, which should take us up to age three or four: some other manufacturers offer backpacks with a limit of 22 kg, but perhaps the Sapling's innovative, snug seat would be less comfortable for an older child.

The straps on the side panels don't lengthen, and I do wonder if an older child wearing a padded jacket might not feel squashed.  This product is for ultra-keen walkers: you have three years to get as many hikes as possible under your belt to justify the price tag! However, I imagine it lasts multiple toddlers and has a good resale value, given its ruggedness and ease of cleaning.

Final verdict

In the past two weeks I've taken James out about ten times - mainly just jaunts in and around the village, but it is so nice to be able to walk along unpaved footpaths again and brave a couple of stiles! Unlike with a baby sling, it's easy to put him down to readjust and stretch. At the weekend we managed a longer walk, tempting our five year old with the promise of lemonade in the pub. I feel so free, and am delighted at the prospect of wandering the hills again - with my little buddy! My only reservation is cost: this kind of quality is expensive, but ultra-keen walkers should not miss the chance to try this piece of kit out.

Samantha Ball is a Senior Writer for Mother&Baby, having written for the brand since 2018. She's a mum of two and loves browsing for the best and current trending products for little ones and for cute seasonal outfits.

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