If travelling by buggy is the baby equivalent of being in their own little vehicle, then travelling by baby carrier must be like a motorbike ride for kids, with the wind in their hair and at one with the elements.
LittleLife has an excellent reputation earned over 25 years and the quality of the Cross Country S3 carrier was in keeping with this, featuring a slim design and touches like a large storage section.
The brand is well-known for its toddler and child backpacks, and also produces a range of child safety gear and travel accessories.
The Cross Country S3 back carrier is part of an 11-strong range of back carriers the company sells, which range in price from around £80 to £200.
At £169.99, the Cross Country S3 is comparable to the Phil & Ted’s Escape carrier (£179.99) and lower in price than the top-end Bush Baby Pinnacle (£240), although this does include a raincover.
Buy the LittleLife Cross Country S3 back carrier direct from LittleLife, or from Go Outdoors, or Amazon.
First impressions of the LittleLife Cross Country S3 carrier?
Ah, the freedom! The first few times we went out my son Ru treated our travels more like a game to giggle at than trudge to the shops, and his enjoyment was infectious. He’s two, and to be honest I was giddy with the excitement of being able to use both hands, having to neither push his pushchair up kerbs, or keep a vice-like grip on his little paw (before he gets tired and I have to carry him home). A welcome addition to our travel options, for sure!
How many seating options does the LittleLife Cross Country S3 carrier have?
One – it’s solely for use as an outdoors back carrier, but is fully adjustable to suit the person wearing it.
Front or back carrier – which should I choose?
How was setting up the carrier?
The carrier came intact, with no major set-up, and the sun shade was craftily hidden inside the front pocket.
There was a big label with key info on it attached. I did download instructions from LittleLife’s excellent website, although I found them more for fine tuning and safety reference than any complicated pre-use requirements. In fact, we were good to go from the off!
How easy is it to put on and take off?
I was very happy to discover that the carrier’s interior frame meant it sat squarely and steadily on the floor without tipping as I prepared to load my son into it.
One foot in the anchor point foot space and it’s steady – and ready to load.
Buyer’s guide to baby carriers
Can you put it on and take it off by yourself?
Not as easy as you may imagine, it does take practice. When on my own, I found it much easier to lift a toddler from chair height rather than ground level in one big swoop – at some point, you may have the full weight of a 20kg child plus 2.5kg backpack on one arm, and it is tricky!
I decided to steady it momentarily at a higher level (keeping a hand on at all times of course, as this has its own safety pitfalls), before the final heave upwards.
This reduces any swing when you lift (although the grasp handles do cope with this beautifully on this model).
It’s fair to say all carriers of this type are much, much easier to use if you have a helper, who can take stuff out of the pockets, fit the sun shade, wipe snotty noses and spot nefarious behavior, without you having to repeatedly remove the whole thing.
How is the weight of the carrier?
The carrier weighs 2.5kg and feels comfortable, but you do have to be careful if leaning down as your centre of gravity is different from usual.
Does one size fit all?
LittleLife recommends that the carrier can be used for adults 5ft 2ins to 6ft 4ins, and that breadth of fitting options is accommodated by easily adjusted strapping and tracking and while wearing on the back, much like a top of the range backpack. It’s all in the engineering!
Is it easy to clean?
The main carrier can be hand washed, and the face pad machine washed at 40C. LittleLife recommend to remove dirt, to lightly brush the carrier with a soft brush or use a damp cloth and mild liquid soap.
Is it comfortable for your little one?
Yes, I felt Ru, who’s two, was secure and comfy in his little seat, He was strapped in with a three-point harness, which clips in at the front and sides. He really enjoyed being king of the castle and seeing the world from a different viewpoint.
How was interacting with your little one?
I did find it frustrating not to be able to see what he was up to, and some models do come with a mirror. However my pocket also soon had a mirror, which did the same job.
By the way, since carrying extra bags is tricky, you’ll find big pockets or – whisper it – a bumbag of some description – could be useful here.
Is it comfortable for you?
To be honest, I found everything about how the carrier worked, with regard to my own comfort, absolutely brilliant, couldn’t fault it.
What do you think of the design?
At first glance, the carrier looks like one large pack, but it has two distinct parts inside. At the bottom there is a 20 litre daysack, where you can store nappies, toys and so on (nothing you need constant access to).
At the top is the actual child seat. The idea is to have your child’s chin level with the really rather lovely (and washable) woodland themed chinrest/face pad, so you adjust the very well-padded seat cradle up or down (there may be a biggish space in between) depending on how big the child is, and the seat is held in place with buckles and adjustors.
What do you think of the shoulder straps and hip belt?
As an adult, I found the fit and weight distribution, especially around the around the all-important semi-rigid pivoting hip belt, to be exceptional, and great for ongoing comfort on extended trips.
Would you recommend this carrier to someone with a child of a particular age?
The carrier is recommended for use from 6 months to 3 years (around 20kg) but be aware that carrying a weight on your back carries limitations.
How robust/durable does it seem?
Looking at the carrier as a whole, you can feel that inside the nylon and polyester cover there is a strong metal skeleton frame. The pack has a rigid footprint of approximately 14 x 12 inches, and LittleLife has worked hard to get the stability right for when your child is in the harness
Is it compact and easy to store?
It did look pretty bulky when unpacked but most of that bulk was in the (welcome) padded straps etc and actually, the profile of the carrier itself, when worn, is very neat, with nothing superfluous. Just be aware it’s quite large if you need to store it. The dimensions are 31 x 26 x 70cm.
How did you find travelling about with the carrier?
You probably won’t be able to sit down on short hops on public transport. At best you can perch on the edge of a seat, but you must be prepared to stand on the bus, and hold on tight around tight corners.
How effective is the sun shade?
The attachable sun shield is a great little device and since it’s got a metal support inside it, it’s pretty rigid. However, it only works when the sun is at your back or right above. It can also help against light rain. You can buy a rain cover, so your kid looks a little bit like a mini welder strapped to your back, but you’d need to be pretty hardcore to hike in heavy rain, and frankly I’d rather stay inside drinking hot chocolate.
Who is the LittleLife Cross Country S3 back carrier best for?
Anyone who’s out to nurture a child set on adventure…or toddlers who have outgrown their slings!
The LittleLife S3 Cross Country feels solid and steady, so you can confidently step out with growing babies and little kids. All in all, it’s a great bit of kit for hiking and highways.
Looking for more ways to carry your little one?
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