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Hands-on Gear Review
Phil and Teds Escape Review
Price: $250.00 List | $249.99 at Amazon
Pros: Well-padded shoulder straps, soft fleece interior for baby, ample storage, sunshade included
Cons: Waist belt is not a redirected strap, hidden shoulder straps for baby, no removable drool pad
Bottom line: This backpack is a fun, functional option made from quality materials that keeps both parent and baby comfortable while at the same time offering great storage options in an easy-to-use layout
The Phil and Teds Escape baby backpack is our Editors' Choice Award winner, receiving near-perfect ratings in storage, ease-of-use, and safety. It will grow with baby, beginning when they can sit up unassisted (and weigh at least 16 pounds) all the way up to 40 pounds that is if you're strong enough to carry them at that point! The Escape offers a smart, polished design that allows easy, intuitive adjustments that will leave you wondering why other backpacks seem so complicated. Additionally, with its ample storage space, this pack can accommodate enough gear to easily spend the entire day on the mountain. The backpack is made of materials that have not been treated with flame retardants, so you can be confident your baby will not be inhaling any dangerous chemicals while they enjoy the ride on your back. Phil and Teds really thought of everything with the Escape. If adventure is a big part of your life, and you crave simplicity, this is the pack for you!
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
For the last 18 years, New Zealand-based company Phil and Teds has been developing innovative products that help parents 'adapt and survive'. In addition to the Phil and Teds brand, they also own Mountain Buggy and Mokopuna, both New Zealand-based as well. They strive to invent products that are useful and pleasing to the eye, and they pride themselves on maintaining nothing but the highest safety standards. Since their brands are sold in over 50 countries all over the globe, they hold multiple global safety certifications and awards for their inventions.
In addition to all this great safety stuff, it turns out that overall, Phil and Teds is a pretty cool company in general. Their employees tout it as being a great place to work, and there are over 140 of them scattered all over the world. Additionally, Phil and Teds has a pretty genuine 'we-care' approach, as they support organizations like The Women's Refuge, Ronald McDonald House, Changing Lives in Thailand, and many more!
It's important to note that the Escape can only safely carry a baby starting at about 6 months old, or when the child can sit upright unassisted and weighs at least 16 pounds. Before that point, you'll want to use a Baby Carrier for the first few months of baby's life. For more background information on babywearing and different types of baby carriers, you can take a look at our Best Baby Carrier Review.
Diapers, and wipes, and snacks, oh my! If you thought hiking without kids required a lot of supplies, you're in for a shock when it comes down to how much stuff toddlers actually require (but I'm preaching to the choir, right?). In an effort to obtain the impossible, the Escape scored an impressive 9 of 10 in Storage. They really did think of almost everything here. There's even a neat little pocket on the waist belt that could be used to hold a credit card, keys, or cell phone.
Best Hydration Bladder Review on our sister site, OutdoorGearLab to help find the one that would be a good fit for you.
Last, the Escape comes with a sun hood, rain visor, footrests, mirror, and change mat- all of which can be stored inside the backpack, taking up very little space.
So, are you wondering yet why this pack didn't receive a perfect score for storage? Well, although the sun hood and rain guard can be stored no problem inside the backpack (in a nice little bag they include of course), the Osprey Poco Plus blew away the competition with it's one-of-a-kind storage solution for sunshades. On the Osprey pack, you simply unzip behind the cockpit, pull the sunshade up, and clip two buckles into place. To store it, simply reverse the process. It never has to detach from the backpack, and ensures a nice fit every time. If Phil and Teds could devise a way to make the sun hood storage and installation as simple as Osprey did, it would have certainly scored a perfect 10!
The included footrests offer stability to taller kids, and are easy to remove and store inside the backpack when not in use. I promise, you won't even know they're there if you stow them away! Our baby tester, at exactly 12 months old, was too little to reach the footrests, but at that age and size, they were not needed anyway.
Ease of Use
The Escape lead the competition with a 9 of 10 for Ease-of-Use, with it's closest competitor being the Kelty Journey 2.0 with an 8 of 10. The reason for this is that Phil and Teds included simple push-and-pull straps for all their adjustments, with size-squeeze buckles for closures, with one exception: the torso adjustment, which secures with Velcro. Yep, good ol' Velcro.
Additionally, they've used Baseloading technology, known as a "kickstand" to the layperson, literally giving the Escape a solid leg to stand on while loading baby in and out. While this feature is synonymous to nearly all the backpacks we tested, this kickstand in particular has a lower-profile than the others, making it less of a trip-hazard while on the ground, and more appealing to the eye.
Speaking of loading baby in and out, there is one final feature that we were pleased with in terms of Ease-of-Use. On both sides of the backpack there were side straps to pull the child closer toward the adult harness, keeping them snug to our back, but the best part about this was that you can completely unbuckle the straps when it comes time to unload the child. If baby is sleeping, and there's a chance of keeping her asleep while you unload her, this is the way to do it. The Deuter Kid Comfort Air also offered this option, but only on the left side of the backpack. With the Escape, it doesn't matter if you are right-handed or left-handed, you have an equal shot of smoothly transitioning baby out of the backpack.
That being said, we feel this backpack missed one major Ease-of-Use component that almost all it's competitors offered: a redirected waist strap.
Once the waist belt is buckled, it's necessary to tighten the adjustment in order to get proper weight distribution for comfort. Having a simple 'push-and-pull' strap on the waist band got the job done, but not as smoothly as the more efficient redirected strap.
When testing the safety of the six packs we reviewed, there were three major points we looked at: The effectiveness of the sunshade, the secureness of baby's harness, and hip dysplasia ergonomics. We felt that in comparison to other backpacks, the Escape was a stand-out, earning a 9 of 10, tying only with the Deuter Kid Comfort Air.
There was an included sunshade and rain cover stored in the zipped storage space, allowing not only easy stow-away capability, but also easy access. In our tests, the use of a sunshade (or sun hood) was extremely important. The ability to have the option to protect baby from harmful rays was a must for our reviewer, and there were times during each hike that the sunshade and rain cover were needed for one reason or another. Usually it was to block the sun, but it also came in handy more than once to block the wind from baby's face and block sticks or debris from scratching baby while hiking in wooded areas. Because of this, we think that an effective sunshade is an absolute must when it comes to available accessories!
Best Practice Tips for Baby Wearing for more information on how to avoid this. By 4-7 months of life, hip stability has increased greatly, but it is still something we feel is very important in a backpack, especially given the fact that they were made for extended wear. The Escape impressed us with it's wide, low-slung seat that allowed for maximum comfort and excellent hip ergonomics for baby.
This backpack is both very functional and comfortable. It is best suited for those families whose active lifestyles take them outdoors quite often, to places where using a stroller would be impractical or impossible.
Though the Escape is Phil and Teds highest-end model, meant "for serious adventure" as the company claims, it is still sleek enough to take out to the farmers market without knocking over baskets of apples as you meander through!
It will most certainly appeal to those parents who desire a backpack with both a polished design and superior functionality.
Overall, we feel that this backpack is definitely worth its cost as it pairs great features and functionality with great quality. The Deuter Kid Comfort Air, Osprey Poco Plus, and Kelty Journey 2.0 are all more expensive than the Escape, and scored lower overall on our testing. The Kelty Junction 2.0 and Chicco SmartSupport were significantly cheaper than the Escape, but when rating things like baby and parent comfort, we believe its best not to sacrifice. We couldn't be more pleased that the high scores of the Escape were not accompanied by the highest price tag of the backpacks we reviewed.
The Escape impressed us on all ratings metrics, quickly becoming the leader of the pack (no pun intended). It offered superior parent comfort with simple, intuitive adjustment features. The storage space was top notch, and it did not at all crowd out or impede baby's comfort level. Additionally, the cozy ride for baby earned it major brownie points. It has a unique design that sets it apart from the rest, yet manages to not sacrifice any tired-and-true features common to all baby backpacks. We feel it is very deserving of an Editors' Choice award. Take note, however, that although tiny infants may also love this snug backpack, it is not a Baby Carrier, and these packs are only built to accommodate babies who can sit upright unassisted and weigh at least 16 pounds. Always refer to your owner's manual.
Other Versions and Accessories
In keeping with the company's simplistic, hip vibe, there is not much more in terms of other versions or accessories. As previously mentioned, the accessories that are included with the purchase of your Escape are the footrests, sun hood, mirror, rain visor, and change mat. There's really not much else you would need, besides the baby!
Although the Escape is Phil and Ted's most complete (and pricey) model, offering the most accessories, they also manufacture 2 additional options:
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & BabyGearLab Team
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