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!

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 Tips: Creating your backpacking kitchen

Because everyone deserves a hot meal at the end of the day (Part 3)

“A woman’s place is in the kitchen. A man’s place is in the kitchen. Everyone’s place is in the kitchen – kitchen has food.”

Everyone sets up their kitchen differently, depending on heating method (or lack thereof), fuel needs, cookware, and accessories. Here’s a look into my backpacking kitchen. Continue reading “Trail Tips: Creating your backpacking kitchen”

Gear Review: Snow Peak Titanium Cookset and Spork

Because everyone deserves a hot meal at the end of the day (Part 2)

I have some friends that go stoveless while backpacking. It saves weight, money, and is sometimes required on certain sections of trail out West where the fire hazard is too high to allow backpacking stoves. While I could go stoveless, I never want to. Sometimes the only thing that gets you up the last mountain or across that last stretch is the thought of a hot meal that evening. I reviewed the MSR Pocket Rocket earlier, and now I’m going to talk about the second part of the hot meal camp kitchen: your cooking pot.

Me and my Snow Peak cookset on a cliff overlooking Hampton, TN, after a long day on the AT

Whether you are cooking food in the pot (hello, Ramen Bomb) or just boiling water to pour into an expensive Mountain House meal bag, a great cook pot is a must. Enter the SnowPeak titanium pot and lid. Continue reading “Gear Review: Snow Peak Titanium Cookset and Spork”

Gear Review: MSR Pocket Rocket

Because everyone deserves a hot meal at the end of the day (Part 1)

My name may be Firestarter, but I hate starting fires. I’m far too lazy to enjoy the effort that goes into finding an existing fire ring (or place that will be minimally affected), gathering downed wood, finding kindling, starting the fire, perilously boiling water or cooking food in/on/near the fire, maintaining the fire, staying up until the fire is out, and dispersing all the coals in the morning. Why do that when you can have a camp stove up and going in under a minute?

There are several types of backpacking stoves out there – Jetboils, alcohol, wood, liquid fuel/white gas – but I love the simplicity and light-weight (only 3 oz.) design of the MSR Pocket RocketContinue reading “Gear Review: MSR Pocket Rocket”