Littlelife is best known for its range of rucksack-style child carriers, which, with metal frames and tough material, have developed a reputation for durability and therefore, value.
The Voyager S4 stands at the top end of their range and, with a £209.99 price tag, has to deliver big time to be worth the buy. After all, high-end buggies are interchangeable travel systems, while high-end backpacks still only do one thing. Can they justify such a price?
The Voyager’s not alone in the £200+ price bracket. Among more than a few others, for around the same amount, spec and weight, you could also get a Thule Sapling Elite (£259.99), Deuter Kid Comfort 3 (£230), which doesn’t have a detachable pack, or the Osprey Poco AG (£240).
Or there’s the significantly cheaper and, as always, cleverly designed Phil&Ted’s Escape (£179) which, on the face of it, does the same job.
Buyer’s guide to baby carriers
A child carrier is vital for us as a family that likes getting out into the wilds (of Sussex) and, with two boys (two-and-a-half years and six months) our buggy can’t always get where we want to go (up winding castle steps, through woods, over shingle beaches) and it can’t be carried on the back when not needed. So does the Voyager tick all the boxes?
Buy the Voyager S4 from Littlelife, Pramworld and Amazon.
First impressions of the Littlelife Voyager S4 carrier?
It looks more like a rucksack than most carriers, with no external bars and a cheerful bright red colour scheme. The Littlelife website says it shares design features with mountaineering equipment, which I’d say is pushing things a bit, but there are things which will help on longer treks, of which more later.
Unlike smaller front-loading baby carriers, backpack systems, including this one, are designed for only one seating position, that is with the child in the pack on your back facing forward.
Front or back carrier – which should I choose?
How easy is it to put on and take off?
It’s very simple to get your child in, you just pull the harness system over the back of the pack, drop your child in and then put the harness over their head and click the three clips in, one by their tummy and one each on either side of their waist.
Can you put it on and take it off by yourself?
Yes, although the base is not as stable as our Littlelife Adventurer, which has a nice wide kick-out leg at the back, so I needed to place it next to the car door and keep one leg free to steady it. Considering the size of this pack, I think they may as well had the same feature on this model to provide a good base when on the ground. It will stand up on its own if it’s flat, but I wouldn’t trust it.
It does have what Littlelife calls an Anchor Point – which is essentially a foothole in the base of the pack for steadying the carrier as it stands up.
How is the weight of the carrier – is it light/heavy?
It doesn’t feel heavy for what it is, and 3.2kg compared to a 10 or 20kg baby is really not much. I had our 9kg six-month-old Rowan on my back for two hours and wasn’t worried about getting him off by the end.
With a big kid, like our toddler Arthur, the extra kilo compared to our Littlelife Adventurer does make a difference, and after half an hour, I was relieved to let him off for a runaround.
But who’s going to carry an able-bodied two-and-a-half-year-old around all day anyway, and what two-and-a-half-year-old would stay still that long?
Does one size fit all?
Yes. And our two boys mark the min and the max weights stipulated by Littlelife, as it is suitable for 6 months-3 years, with a maximum load of 20kg. As is common with these carriers, the seat can be raised or lowered with a belt and that’s all that’s required. Little Rowan looked quite safe and snug in it and big Arthur was very happy with the seat lowered to the bottom position.
The pack can be used for adults from 5ft 2ins to 6ft 4ins.
Is it comfortable for your little one?
Both our kids were very happy in it. And that was before we discovered the stirrups! Rowan’s feet tend to fall out because he’s not wearing shoes yet, but Arthur loved reaching down and putting his feet in and banging them around! They do help take the weight off the underside of their thighs on long hikes so are useful and can be adjusted to fit.
What do you think of the face pad and neck support?
They work very well, especially when they start nodding off and need something to rest their lolling heads on. Both of them fell asleep at one point in their journeys, which proves they’re comfortable. With the sunshade up, they have an extra thing to lean their heads against.
Is it comfortable for you?
It’s a very comfortable fit. The straps feel like they’re moulded around your body, which feels nice, but more importantly means the weight is spread around your shoulders, back and chest. There’s a waist strap, which you should fit snuggly to rest more weight on your hips, and a chest strap with a partially magnetic clip to hold it in place on your shoulders.
Would you be able to use it comfortably for long hikes and active holidays?
I took my six-month-old on a whole day out without any trouble. As your child reaches one and then two, their weight is going to necessitate breaks, but that’s to be expected. The fit is good, which is as much as the manufacturer can do.
How does it compare to other carriers you have used?
As mentioned before, we also have a Littlelife Adventurer, and I have to say, it’s not that much better. You can fit a bit more in, it’s got more features, but I’m not sure it gives you £90 more. However, with two kids, you feel thankful for a thermal drink pocket (for pre-weaning babies), the extra storage, the sunscreen and the detachable bag which you can offload to your partner to reduce your weight (as long as they’re not carrying the other child).
What do you think of the design?
The only criticism I have with the design is the slightly wobbly bottom when putting your child in. Most other brands have a wider base. It’s not awful but I don’t see why they didn’t include it.
Is the base pocket big enough to carry all your essentials?
Plenty big enough. I tended to put the heavier things in the base pocket like a flask of tea and food, unless I was detaching the little backpack to give to my wife and then – time to decant the heavy stuff to her.
Is the detachable backpack a useful feature?
Very. In fact, a system this expensive without one would be a deal-breaker. With two kids, it’s vital because you can share the load. And if you leave your toddler’s bag at nursery, this makes a good size spare.
Would you recommend this carrier to someone with a child of a particular age?
This carrier is great if you have a six-month-old to two-year-old. After that it can be a bit heavy but is still sometimes useful.
Is it easy to clean?
It looks like classic backpack material and so is easy to clean a bit of baby sick off. The soft face pad is Velcro-ed on and can be handwashed.
Is it compact and easy to store?
It actually squashes down to a pretty small size so is easy to store.
How effective is the built in sun shade?
It’s really good. You unzip the carrier just behind your child’s head and pull out the shade, then feed it through a loop by your neck and Velcro it down.
There is no shade in front of the child’s face, which is nice to not have them completely hemmed in, but does mean that if you’re walking towards a low sun, they may well get it right in the face.
Is the mirror a useful feature?
For smaller children, the mirror, which is tied to the hip belt, is very useful, as you can barely see them otherwise. I found it a little annoying though, as the short length meant I could hold it up high enough to see my boy’s face, but no more than that. Design? Why not a bit of string 10cms longer?
This is a great carrier and bar being a bit wobbly when sat on the ground, can’t be faulted. £209 is a lot of money though, when their Adventurer costs £90 less and does almost as good a job.
Looking for more ways to carry your little one?
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