Hauling both child and gear into the woods poses challenges outside of physically, emotionally, and mentally wrangling your little partner. Either the load rests entirely on your back, or you boondoggle a front side carrier while wearing a backpack.
The CoPilot (MSRP $189)melds an ASTM/CPSIA certified front side carrier and a backpack into a single unit, leveraging the counterbalancing produced by this combination to improve comfort and stability.
Since my daughter is well beyond the age for a front carrier, I recruited a climbing acquaintance and her 22-pound daughter for this First Look.
What Is It?
The CoPilot is a 40-liter day pack and front side padded baby carrier married into a single unit via buckles and straps, with the shoulder yoke and harness handling the load of both.
The front side carrier allows the baby to face outwards or inwards and is visibly smaller than other carriers.
The backpack looks fairly standard visually; breathable mesh shoulder straps and back panels, familiar 420d ripstop nylon, and water-resistant coating. The “hip belt” that attaches to the carrier, however, is small compared to standard hip belts.
The backpack houses the included diaper bag, changing station, cooler, and two clothing and food bags. All items are removable. The pack also has a padded and fleece-lined laptop sleeve for 15-inch machines.
Out of The Box Impressions
The CoPilot immediately felt substantial; the claimed weight of four pounds and the high-quality feel of the ripstop nylon and consistent stitching gave confidence in the 8-30 pound weight rating of the carrier.
The CoPilot felt comfortable right away, but the array of buckles used to attach the carrier to the pack seemed overwhelming initially. Color coding the fasteners would be a drastic improvement to eliminate confusion. But after a few uses, buckling the carrier to the pack became more intuitive.
The CoPilot in The Field
The baby easily buckled in and out of the carrier and carried comfortably for both mother and child, with the child facing backward. The baby and mother were also comfortable in the forward-facing configuration, but the top flap was too tall, obstructing the baby’s face, and there were no provisions to buckle or tie it down. Other carriers have built-in methods for securing the top flap or allowing the arms to ride over the flaps. Neither of these is an option for the CoPilot.
All the weight rode on the shoulders as the “hip belt” was too small to transfer weight effectively. And unlike wrap style carriers, the “backpack” style of carrying didn’t deliver the satisfying large contact area. Still, the CoPilot did comfortably support both baby and backpack stably and securely.
The backpack kept all essentials organized and clean. The cooler acceptably kept drinks cold, and there was ample space for other items that might be necessary for a day’s adventure.
The JP Outdoor Co. CoPilot presents a different way to carry both baby and gear in a single, easy to use, product. It proved comfortable, stable, and effective for both mother and child when the baby faced backward. The feel is different than other carriers, with the load concentrated on the shoulders, but effective and comfortable nonetheless.
The backpack is well organized and appropriate for necessities for both baby and parents for a day outside with it’s included diaper, food, and clothing-related solutions.
But the lack of weight transfer to the hips relegated the CoPilot to short hikes only; there are better options for truly getting into the backcountry with a baby on board.
And perhaps most importantly, the baby reported the CoPilot as being fun.