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Hands-on Gear Review

Kelty Pathfinder 3.0 Review

Editors' Choice Award
Price:   $300.00 List | $419.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Impressive storage, great fit, comfortable cockpit
Cons:  Price, no stirrups, disappointing manual
Bottom line:  Great fitting pack with a cozy cockpit and lots of storage
Editors' Rating:   
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Usage Ranges:  Age: Not Specified, Weight: 16 lbs - 40 lbs, Height: Not Specified
Max Pack Load:  50 lbs
Weight:  6.8 lbs
Manufacturer:   Kelty

The Skinny

The Kelty Pathfinder 3.0 is the most expensive backpack carrier Kelty offers. This pack has an adjustable torso and straps that help create a custom and comfortable fit that distributes the weight of passengers well for long distance adventures. The cockpit has a closure that connects the seat pad to the back of the pack, and the seat has wings that wrap around for a secure feeling. We like the excessive storage on the Pathfinder and feel it will no doubt translate to extended adventures with more supplies on board. While the Kelty is one of the more expensive options in the review, we feel the ample storage, and cozy cockpit justifies the higher price if your budget allows. If you plan to use the carrier frequently, it is hard to find a better choice than the Pathfinder.


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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz

Last Updated:
Monday
November 20, 2017

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The Kelty Pathfinder 3.0 is a high quality comfortable pack with versatile storage options.
The Kelty Pathfinder 3.0 is a high quality comfortable pack with versatile storage options.

Dick Kelty started making backpacks in his garage in 1952. He welded the frames himself and his wife sewed the packs to the frames. By 1963, the Kelty packs were on their way up the West Ridge on Mount Everest on the first American ascent. Kelty introduced Gore-Tex clothing and new models of daypacks in 1965, and they expanded to child carrier packs in 1992. In the late nineties, Kelty expanded their child carrier collection and started offering additional kids gear. Kelty continues to design products built to last, so you enjoy every moment making each journey fun and carefree.

Performance Comparison


This comparison chart shows the overall score for the Pathfinder (blue) compared to the rest of the competition we tested in this review. The Pathfinder earned an impressive second place score.


The details below include information on how the Pathfinder performed in each key metric. Individual metric scores were used to calculate the overall scores above.

The Pathfinder canopy provides some protection from the side but most of the protection is from the top and sides.
The Pathfinder canopy provides some protection from the side but most of the protection is from the top and sides.

Parent Comfort


The Pathfinder earned a 9 of 10 for parent comfort.


This pack earned the second highest score for comfort, but depending on which tester you talk to they would rank it higher than the Osprey Poco AG Plus.

The Pathfinder has a molded back pad and padded shoulder straps for optimum comfort.
The Pathfinder has a molded back pad and padded shoulder straps for optimum comfort.

The shoulder straps provide a nice stable feeling with adequate padding and structure for weight distribution. The straps are easy to adjust for length and can be done on the go.

The chest clip on the Pathfinder is easy to use on the go and helps draw the straps closer together for comfort and pulls the cockpit closer to the wearer.
The chest clip on the Pathfinder is easy to use on the go and helps draw the straps closer together for comfort and pulls the cockpit closer to the wearer.

The chest clip helps bring the shoulder straps together for a better fit and draws the cockpit closer to the back of the wearer making it more comfortable for carrying. The clip is easy to operate one-handed and the strap moves smoothly.

No matter what the terrain a baby backpack  like the Pathfinder  can help get you and your baby out and about on grand adventures closer to nature.
No matter what the terrain a baby backpack, like the Pathfinder, can help get you and your baby out and about on grand adventures closer to nature.

We feel the Pathfinder is one of the more comfortable packs to wear and even on uneven ground or off the beaten path we had no difficulty bearing the burden of the baby's weight for long distance. The back of the pack is contoured and padded in strategic places for overall comfort.

The Pathfinder has a cozy face rest that is removable for easy drool clean up.
The Pathfinder has a cozy face rest that is removable for easy drool clean up.

Child Comfort


The Pathfinder earned an 8 of 10 for child comfort.


While it earned a third-place score in this metric, it has unique features for child comfort that we didn't see in most of the competition including the wings on the seat and the angled face rest.

The face rest on the Pathfinder is soft  firm and angled for comfortable napping.
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The face pad on the Pathfinder is removable and attaches with Velcro. The Velcro can pull loose if you pick up the pack using the front handle.
 

This pack has a removable face rest/drool pad (above left) that attaches with Velcro (above right) and has a slant for better napping. The pad somewhat pulls off if you pick up the pack by the handle.

The Pathfinder has shoulder strap adjustments that help transfer some of the baby's weight to your waistbelt giving our shoulders a break.
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The cockpit on the Pathfinder has an adjustable strap to help create a snug ride for passengers and close weight distribution for wearers.
 

The harness (above left) is a comfortable frame that is lightly padded and covered in soft fabric. It fits around the baby nicely and attaches to the headrest that has slightly more padding around the frame. The Pathfinder has a side entry point with a connection (above right) that both snugs baby into the cockpit for a secure fit and allows little ones to enter from the side. The buckle connects the front of the seat to the pack.

Sleeping little ones found the face rest on the Pathfinder to be very comfortable while napping thanks to the soft cover and angled design.
Sleeping little ones found the face rest on the Pathfinder to be very comfortable while napping thanks to the soft cover and angled design.

The seat pad on the Kelty is well padded with a soft cover and larger than the others. It has flexible wings that come up along baby's hips to give the child a snug fit and the bottom stays flat and doesn't fold under baby's weight.

The Pathfinder earned a second place score for ease of use.
The Pathfinder earned a second place score for ease of use.

Ease of Use


The Pathfinder earned a 6 of 10 for ease of use.


This score is the second highest in the metric, so despite it feeling like a lower score, in comparison, it is easier to use.

The torso adjustment pin for the Pathfinder is located behind a padded flap in the lumbar region on the back pad.
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The torso adjustment on a Pathfinder starts by pulling the metal pin loose to move the strap.
 

This pack has a torso adjustment hidden under a padded fabric flap (above left) that uses a metal pin and strap to make smooth adjustments. The pin (above right) is easier to use than some of the more convoluted competition and the straps move smoothly.

The seat pad height adjustment clips on the Pathfinder are carabiner style clips you can move up or down.
The seat pad height adjustment clips on the Pathfinder are carabiner style clips you can move up or down.

The baby's seat height is easy to adjust with two small carabiner style hooks that attach to loops on the front of the cockpit and predetermined height levels. The shoulder straps have buckles above the padding that tilt and slide up or down for height. Both adjustments can be done with baby in the seat, but disconnecting and reconnecting the carabiners is more difficult than simple sliding buckles would have been.

The front of the Pathfinder canopy slides into designated slots on the front of the pack.
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The Pathfinder canopy fits in a designated pocket on the top of the pack. It fits easily inside without any difficulty.
 

The canopy for the Kelty has an attachment that incorporates sliding the legs (above left) into designated holes. The canopy stores in a top pocket where it fits well (above right).

The Pathfinder has dual handles on the front and back of the pack that makes it easy to lift.
The Pathfinder has dual handles on the front and back of the pack that makes it easy to lift.

The Kelty has dual handles on the front and back and while you can carry it by either the front handle can pull the Velcro loose on the drool pad if you use it.

Making adjustments and reaching pockets on the Pathfinder is often easier with the pack off.
Making adjustments and reaching pockets on the Pathfinder is often easier with the pack off.

Many of the adjustments are easier to do while not wearing the pack and most of the storage compartments are unreachable. Taking the pack off and setting on the ground using the kickstand makes it easier to access your supplies and to make certain adjustments.

The Pathfinder has ample storage and more storage features than the competition.
The Pathfinder has ample storage and more storage features than the competition.

Storage


The Pathfinder earned a 10 of 10 for storage.


Storage size and availability can be the difference between a long adventure and a quick trip.

The Pathfinder has a removable small backpack that little ones can carry.
The Pathfinder has a removable small backpack that little ones can carry.

The Kelty has a removable kid pack with a good sized opening and padded straps for comfort.

The Pathfinder has more top storage compartments than any other backpack in this review.
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The Pathfinder earned a perfect score for storage in part thanks to the internal organization it features that we didn't see on the competition.
 

This pack has one flat compartment that holds the sunshade but can also hold flat items, like diapers or maps. The second area has two mesh water bottle holders, a key clip, diaper changing pad with an attached mesh bag for wipes and 2-3 diapers, snacks, and small toys. The last compartment is deep and narrow with a zipper that travels straight across. It can hold maps or snacks. The mesh cup holders on the backpack are not accessible by the parent or child when the pack is attached to the carrier.

The bottom pocket on the Pathfinder has a wide opening for easy access but closing the kickstand will squish the pocket and limit what you can fit inside.
The bottom pocket on the Pathfinder has a wide opening for easy access but closing the kickstand will squish the pocket and limit what you can fit inside.

The lower storage compartment is easy to access with a zipper that runs along three sides creating a wide opening so you can see what is inside. The frame is accessible from inside the pocket behind a zipper. If you need more storage space you could use this space.

The Pathfinder has two side mesh cup holders that neither the passenger nor the wearer can reach.
The Pathfinder has two side mesh cup holders that neither the passenger nor the wearer can reach.

The cup holder on the Pathfinder is located on the waistbelt and is the only one in the review you can access while you are wearing the pack. The pocket has a slightly forward slant that makes it easier to get bottles in and out.

The Pathfinder waist pocket is the only one in this review with a Velcro flap closure and it is too small to fit an average sized smartphone.
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The Pathfinder mesh cup holder is the only holder in the review that can be accessed while wearing the pack.
 

The waistband on the Pathfinder has multiple pockets. There is one flat pocket with a Velcro closure (above left) that is barely big enough for two granola bars. It has a key clip inside and can fit a small smartphone in it. The mesh pocket (above right) can fit smaller items inside but should not be used for valuables as they could fall out.

This pack is hydration ready with a zippered pocket between the child and parent. It has a port towards the parent's right side and loops to secure the hose. It looks liek a lumbar bladder will fit better than a traditional style option.

Manufacturer Video




Other Versions

  • Kelty Tour 1.0 — The Tour is a minimalistic backpack with less structure and storage than the Pathfinder but for a much lower price. This pack proved to be comfortable for passengers and parents which helped it earn the Best Value award in this review. If the Pathfinder is out of your price range, we suggest taking a closer look at the Tour.
  • The Kelty Journey 2.0
    Kelty Journey 2.0 — The Kelty Journey 2.0 is a backpack carrier that is hydration ready and has quick suspension adjustment. The pack comes with a 5-point harness, a removable sunshade, padded shoulder straps, toy loops, water bottle holders and more.
  • The Kelty Transit 3.0
    Kelty Transit 3.0 — The Transit is a nice travel pack that is lightweight and compact for easy transport. This carrier fits in most overhead compartments on a plane or tucked in your luggage. Despite its smaller size, it remains functional with adequate storage and features for comfort.
Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz