Gear Review: Osprey Poco Plus

Pricey but perfect for your cub

I’ve been counting down to this day. Babies aren’t supposed to sit in hiking child carriers until they are six months old and have good head and neck control, so Henry’s definitely been cramping my trail style. He’s a huge baby (90% for weight and height), so carrying him in a ring sling or ergobaby carrier on trail has been killer on my back. So for Christmas – now six months old – we were gifted a shiny new Osprey Poco Plus by my father. Let the games begin.

[Side note: Thrillbilly was accepted into the highly-competitive Physician Assistant program at UT Memphis, so we are moving! As we were selling our home, there were back-to-back showing that required me to head out with Henry and pup Moka in tow for a few hours. Even though it was quite chilly, it was a perfect time to take the Poco for a test drive.]

The carrier is easy to set up, in theory. I did a dry run at home, of course, which is how I discovered that the buckles for securing the side arms of the child cockpit are nearly impossible to buckle without throwing all of your strength into getting the damn things to connect. It makes me feel good that the connection is not weak and Henry would be stuck in the very comfy and padded cockpit, but I struggled to get them buckled during the dry run. Thrillbilly was able to do it faster, but it still took effort.

Having experimented with the Deuter Kid Comfort in the store during the decision-making, I can attest that it’s easier to load your kid into the Poco. Once you’ve got those impossible-to-connect arms connected, you just slide him in. We had already adjusted the seat height to fit, which is another nice feature since it can grow with him. Once he’s in, I wrestle him into the adjustable double halo harness. Those buckles are much easier to connect. I make sure his chunky little legs are sticking out of the leg holes, and then he’s set. There are also adjustable stirrups, but he is too short for those so we just removed them.

The carrier itself is the standard comfort of all the Osprey packs – a lightweight aluminum frame, airspeed back panel, adjustable torso (which is great for switching back and forth with Thrillbilly), padded fit-on-the-fly hipbelt with decently-sized pockets, and the other creature comforts that make me love all my Osprey packs. It comes kitted out with an upper mesh pocket, a zippered splash pocket, and an external hydration sleeve (a must-have for summer hikes because I am NOT contorting myself to reach a Nalgene with the incredible tiny hulk on my back).

The Poco also has a huge lower zippered compartment, which was a major consideration when selecting this pack over the Deuter. I want to take Henry backpacking for an overnight in the spring, so having the storage there is key. While other child carriers also come with kickstands, this is the easiest to pop up and truly makes a secure seat on the ground – no fears of this monster tipping over. The lift handle is also beefy, so I had no problem hoisting the carrier onto my back.

There are also some kiddo-focused features. There are cord loops to hang toys or pacifiers from, a super nifty built-in sunshade, and a washable drool pad, because babies are disgusting creatures who slobber over everything.

Things I will do differently on future hikes:

Make sure the trail is dry: The trail I chose was the Warner Woods Trail at Percy Warner Park. It rained few days before we hiked, and while large portions of the trail was dry, there were several long muddy spots. I slid around a bit, and with the carrier was thrown off-balance a few times. I never slipped or veered too far to the side, but I had nightmare visions of falling and Henry getting hurt.

Bring a friend: It dawned on me that if I did somehow get hurt, Henry would be stranded with me, helpless. Having a grown-up buddy that could help us is key. Also, whenever I wanted to check on him to see if he was OK, I’d have to really crane my neck around to even see his little hands; I couldn’t see his face at all. I started using the selfie mode on my phone to check that he was still smiling or – for most of the trail – napping.

I’m glad we decided on the Poco, and even though the price tag is a bit hefty – $330 – parenthood has taught me that comfort and convenience are almost always worth the money. Anything that can help us have happy trails is most welcome!

Camping in a slide-in camper

or, glamping is not real camping

To channel Sophia from The Golden Girls: “Picture it. Clingman’s Dome. 1985.”

It was mid-October; I was three weeks old. My mother, three weeks post-C-section, hiked to the top of Clingman’s Dome to get a picture with me on the tallest peak in Tennessee and the third-highest mountain east of the Mississippi, clocking in at 6,643 feet. Afterwards, she tent camped in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with my father’s family on their annual camping trip.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present Firestarter’s mom, the OG badass of my family:

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Clingman’s Dome, October 1985, baby Firestarter and mom

I now have a child of my own. I also had a C-section. I did not hike up the tallest peak in Tennessee and then tent camp in mid-October in the Smokies with a three-week-old. I apparently am not as tough as my mother, but I knew this already. 

Instead, last Saturday, Firestarter, ThrillBilly, and nine-week-old baby Henry (FireBilly? ThrillStarter?) camped in absolute comfort and ease at Chickasaw State Park

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ThrillBilly had shoulder surgery when Henry was three weeks old. Extreme way to get out of changing diapers, buddy.

We were fortunately gifted an older work truck. With the money we’ve been saving up, we purchased a used slide-in camper for it. We are planning a two+ week trip out West to introduce Henry to Bill’s family in Albuquerque, and to see friends and sites on a lazy path up to Oregon. 

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Traveling for an extended time with an infant – even in a fancy camper – brings its own challenges, so ThrillBilly and I decided to do a few trial runs. The first was a brief overnighter in a state park just outside of Jackson, Tennessee.

Lessons learned:

  • Bring cash smaller than a $20 to buy firewood within the park
  • Remember cooking add-ins like olive oil and spices
  • Make sure the fridge actually cools
  • Do not fry hamburgers in the skillet (because you forgot small bills for firewood and had no charcoal for the campsite grill) in such an enclosed space unless you want hot grease spattering over everything within a 3-ft radius
  • Bring charcoal

Small victories:

  • Rigging up a mobile using an Edelrid climbing sling 
  • Having an awesome dog who protects her brother from things that go bump in the night
  • No major meltdowns
  • Remembering the hammock
  • All electric and water worked without a hitch

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I know this is glamping, and I am craving a backpacking trip, but I also crave every moment I can get with my family. A family backpacking trip will happen when Henry is older. (When do babies take their first steps and have enough balance for a pack? Don’t worry, it would be 10 liters or less… )

Hike, hike, baby

Henry’s first hike

I’ve been on hiatus since September, but now I’m back – with a baby in tow!

Several people have told me something along the lines of, “Now that you have a baby, you won’t be able to do all your hobbies anymore. Say goodbye to [hiking, backpacking, climbing, etc.].” I smile and nod and completely ignore them. I can still do all the things I love – I just have to transform them to work for my new setup.

Continue reading “Hike, hike, baby”

Trail Review: Warner Woods Trail (#16)

Another Warner Parks gem!

Yes, it’s September. No, it’s not fall – yet. And in Tennessee, early September still means temperatures into the 90s some days. It can be hard to motivate yourself to hike when stepping outside for more than 30 seconds leaves you drenched in sweat. Fortunately for those of us in the Nashville area, we’ve got the Percy Warner Park trail system.

Continue reading “Trail Review: Warner Woods Trail (#16)”

Trail Review: Shelby Bottoms Nature Park: West Loop (#12)

Quick getaway in the heart of East Nashville

A few weeks ago, on one sweltering Saturday, Moka, Minnie, and I ventured into the morning heat to walk the west loop of the Shelby Bottoms Greenway trail. If the weather had been cooler, the pups and I would have gone the entire stretch of both loop trails and back again, but pavement is hot, paws are more sensitive than you think, and dogs can’t sweat as efficiently as humans. Luckily, they are short-haired, but I still had to put their health and safety first.

Continue reading “Trail Review: Shelby Bottoms Nature Park: West Loop (#12)”