Hiking With Baby: Osprey's Poco AG Premium
This post is in collaboration with Osprey, who kindly gifted us the Poco AG Premium.
A few months ago, my husband and I started planning a holiday to explore Europe’s Alps. At that stage, we had a one-year-old daughter who was walking - albeit wobbly - and we weren’t too sure how we were going to get around with her. She’d be too heavy for our trusty Ergobaby sling; she was already starting to weigh down after an hour of fast walking around London with the sling, so we had to consider alternate options. We spoke with our friends and they jokingly sent a cheesy photo of a sterotypical ‘hiking dad’ in the mountains. The photo was a picture of a beautiful family, perfect hair, perfect smile, neat clothing, all with shorts and socks pulled high, and one of them was carrying their child on their back on a large contraption. We chuckled and thought “no, that’s not us…” but the more we thought about it, we realised a hiking baby carrier was actually a really good idea! We looked into it a bit further and found some great options and, with the help of the Osprey Europe team, we settled on the Poco AG Premium. Next we got our teeth whitened, polished our hiking boots, and ironed our socks…
When the unisex carrier arrived, we took way too long to take it for a proper practice run! We eventually got off our butts and wore Zara to the local park in the carrier and, while there were many contraptions and toggles, buckles and zips on the Poco, it was all quite intuitive.
I wanted to put my thoughts in a blog post, because a few months ago, we had no idea about baby carriers or our needs for a trip in the Alps in the summer. Having done the trip, I now have a better understanding of what might be useful for people that are currently in a similar position to which we were - not too confident on what you’re getting into, and asking yourself if it’s worth the effort.
To give a bit of additional context, we were flying from London to Milan, hiring a car, driving west into France (Chamonix), staying there for a few days hiking, and then driving to the east of Italy (near Austria) to South Tyrol (to visit the Dolomites where, again, we’d go hiking). We didn’t have much boot/trunk space, so it was important for us to find a carrier that didn’t take up too much space. Our daughter doesn’t particularly like being strapped down (car seats are the worst), and so we were worried about how she’d be with any type of carrier. My husband and I are in our late 20s (on average) and are both fairly active'; we’re able to hike a couple of hours without a break with a 12 kg baby on our backs plus a 4kg carrier. I’m mentioning all this because whether the Poco is right for your family will depend on a range of things, like your own personal needs, and your baby’s too.
As I mentioned before, the Poco AG Premium can look quite daunting at first - it did for us! But a few minutes in a quiet space trying to figure everything out will put that right. The Poco AG Premium has multiple (but relevant) buckles. Some allow you extra structure and some lock in the carrier’s position on your body, so it’s important to get to grips with what each one does - but this really only takes a couple of minutes.
Weighing just under 4kg, the Poco AG Premium comes with a range a features: an 11L removable daypack, a packable and durable sunshade, a rain cover, foot stirrups for your little one, many secret zipped compartments (including a mirror in one, which funnily enough I’ve only just discovered having returned from the Alps!), and a very handy fold-out stand. I can say that we genuinely used each of these features throughout our trip - except for the mirror, because I clearly didn’t spend enough time playing around with the carrier before heading off on our adventure!
I went on Osprey Europe’s website to see how they have marketed this baby carrier, and wanted to comment on a few segments of paragraph that nicely sums up our experience of the carrier.
Designed with three people in mind, mum, dad and child, the back system and child saddle are adjustable to suit both parents and child.
…this is evident from the outset. Although I struggled to figure out how to make the carrier suit my frame after my husband wore it (he’s 6”0 and I am 5”3), it’s clear that the designers have thought about how they can work with the wearer and the children in tow. The space under the ‘chair' frame and in the multiple pockets is a real plus, meaning that baby doesn’t have to go without necessities, and nor does the wearer. Plenty of space for all!
The backsystem features a Fit-on-the-Fly™ adjustable hipbelt and adjustable torso length for when switching the child carrier backpack from mum to dad. The child safety harness, seat and foot stirrups are also adjustable to fit a wide range of child sizes, shapes and weights.
Like I said, I struggled to figure out how to change the framing, but eventually managed to get the hang of it, and it was quite simple all along. The foot stirrups are so helpful - something I never thought would be useful. When hiking for even just 10 minutes at a steady pace, a sleeping baby’s feet can start to kick around with the movement - stirrups neatly make this a non-problem.
Child safety is at the forefront of the design and this product has the TÜV GS safety certification to prove it. A trip with young children usually means carrying more gear and it's important to have essentials like biscuits & water bottles to hand. The Poco backpack solves this with easy-to-access on the go mesh side pockets and zipped hipbelt pockets. The main zipped compartment beneath the child seat stores your bulk supplies.
The side pockets were great - I do wish they were a tiny bit bigger (maybe one inch!) to allow for our giant modern phones to fit inside (iPhone X doesn’t quite fit), but still, the storage of the Poco AG Premium can’t be questioned; there’s lots of space for small things like a wallet, a card, cash, and lots of space for larger bulkier things - nappies, water bottles, lunch, and even clothing.
We all like the sun, but especially as parents need to be aware of sun protection. The rapid deploy Poco Sun-Shade, with an UPF 22 rating it protects your little cargo from harmful sun rays, making the perfect shaded spot for an afternoon nap.
The sun shield was ideal - it gave our daughter much-needed protection from the sun in high UV. As we all know, weather in the mountains can change at any moment, and the sun shade was easy to assemble and very easy to put back - it gets folded away into a zipped pocket at the back of the carrier. The sun shield is a must for a baby carrier; I wouldn’t consider one without.
When the weather takes a turn for the worse, deploy the integrated raincover
Where it was so warm where we were, and then suddenly rainy, the raincover material became a little too malleable - so it was a bit tricky to manage! Regardless, a raincover is a necessity for a carrier so, as finicky as it might have been, we wouldn’t want to travel with a carrier that didn’t have one.
Things We Loved About The Poco AG Premium
There are a lot of features we really loved. Peppe was very happy that he could easily change the frame of the carrier to suit his body shape - in the later stages of our trip this was a real perk; we switched in an out a lot (I didn’t want to get tan lines!). We also loved how many places there were to stash things. You could easily have a space for your belongings and a space for baby’s. You have a pocket on each hip, which is capable of storing snacks, and other small things like keys. In addition to this, the removable backpack was a very welcome addition to the carrier, meaning that we could decide whether to take more or less baggage with us. Overall, I was very impressed with how robust the carrier was. We threw it around quite a bit, and I don’t think there are any scratches on it. The stand is another fantastic inclusion, allowing us to mount baby and then lift the backpack onto our backs without needing another person’s help. It also allowed us to take the carrier off without it toppling over. We didn’t do any solo hiking, but this would be very important if we had. Breathability was very impressive; we didn’t get the impression that our daughter felt trapped or that it was stuffy where she was. There’s a lot of mesh-like material on the Poco AG Premium, and this all contributes to the airflow and the temperature of the seated mount. Osprey have done a good job making sure that it doesn’t get too stuffy in there.
Another thing we found very helpful were the stirrups - who knew how important they were! As mentioned above, it meant our daughter’s legs weren’t swinging everywhere with the momentum of movement from the carrier.
Things We Didn’t Love About The Poco AG Premium
While the number of pockets was fantastic, we would’ve loved the hip pockets to be slightly bigger - maybe one inch - to allow a modern mobile phone to fit. It’s not the end of the world, but this would’ve been a nice addition. We don’t have much other negative criticism of the carrier that’s related to the carrier itself, but one thing that was frustrating was to be charged to take the carrier on a plane. Most airlines allow baby’s luggage allowance to be 1 hand-carry, 1 checked-in luggage (if paid for), 1 baby car seat, and 1 packable buggy. We flew with Alitalia and called ahead of our flight; we were told there’d be no problem bringing the carrier. We were fine on the trip out but, on the way back from Milan, Alitalia wouldn’t allow us to take the carrier on in place of the packable buggy without extra charge. This was very frustrating and more a criticism of airlines - why punish families who are hoping to be more active rather than using a buggy? Hopefully this will change in the future!
If going on a single short trip - a one off - you might prefer to make do with a sling and split the baby-carrying between family and friends (if possible). But if you’re considering to go on long hikes, over steep terrain, and if you’re planning on going once every other year or more often, I think the Poco AG Premium is worth having. As stated at the beginning of this post, we were gifted ours by the Osprey Europe team but, had that not been the case, my husband and I would’ve sat down to discuss whether it’s a worthy investment. Before the trip - we might’ve concluded that it’s a lot of money and possibly opted not to buy one - but, having done the trip with the Poco AG Premium, I’d advise my past-self to suck it up and just go for it! It’s a really strong and robust product and should last for a number of years. Even if you go hiking once a year for the next few years, I’d still say it’s worth it. Overall, the Poco AG Premium allows parents and their children to experience hiking without many restraints (other than the weight of course!).