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Hands-on Gear Review

Phil and Teds Escape Review

The Phil and Teds Escape offers a simple design that offers maximum comfort for parent and baby.
Editors' Choice Award
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
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   phil and teds

The Skinny

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!


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Backpacks for Carrying Babies and Kids


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Juliet Spurrier, MD
Mom-in-Chief
BabyGearLab

Last Updated:
Wednesday
December 10, 2014

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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!

Performance Comparison


All bundled up for a cold hike.
All bundled up for a cold hike.
The Escape, like so many of the company's products, has sleek style, great functionality, ample storage, and superb quality making it our Editors' Choice winner in the baby backpack category. With its included detachable backpack, space for a water reservoir, moldable headrest for baby, cozy fleece interior, and included accessories like a sunshade, rain-guard, change mat, mirror, and footrests, it hits all of our bullet points. Additionally, its attention to safety with multiple global certifications and waterproof fabrics make the escape a winner in our book!

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.

Parent Comfort


The Escape offers sufficient padding and breathable mesh fabric to keep the wearer cool and comfortable.
The Escape offers sufficient padding and breathable mesh fabric to keep the wearer cool and comfortable.
This pack, as with all baby backpacks, is meant for extended wear, making parent comfort a top priority for us. The Escape scored an 8 of 10 in Parent Comfort. With the ability to handle up to 39.7 pounds, it's essential that there not only be sufficient padding, but also even weight distribution throughout this pack. It's soft, padded shoulder straps and waist belt offered superior comfort and even weight distribution, even while hiking on uneven and steep terrain. The lumbar region offers air tech ventilating mesh to keep mom or dad as cool as possible while on the move.
The Escape offers easy torso adjustment using Velcro to secure once you have found the right adjustment for your height.
The Escape offers easy torso adjustment using Velcro to secure once you have found the right adjustment for your height.
The Escape's body-tech torso length adjustment offers an easy Velcro adjustment in order to accommodate parents of varying heights. This pack in particular had no problem appropriately fitting the torso of our reviewer who is 5'2", and her husband who is 5'10". Comfortable fitting of the waist and shoulder belts made this pack a favorite of both parents (who would have guessed?!). Our reviewer felt that this pack was very easily adjustable, translating into a good fit for each parent or adult who would be wearing it.

Storage


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.

The zip-off backpack can be carried by another hiker or older child to help lighten your load.
The zip-off backpack of the Phil and Teds Escape is easily carried by an older child.
 
One thing we absolutely loved about the Escape was the nifty, removable "backpack". When attached to the pack, it has an easy-access vertical zipper that makes getting extra items in and out a cinch. Once fully loaded, it can carry more than enough supplies (think: diapers, wipes, sippy cups, snacks, and extra clothes). What we like even more, however, is the zip-off feature which allows the backpack (and it's extra weight) to be handed off to a partner or older child that may be along for the hike as well. If there's no one else with you, not to worry, having the extra pack attached doesn't interfere with the additional storage.

The Escape offers space to store a large hydration reservoir  with a convenient hole to feed the straw through  as well as a clip on the shoulder strap to secure it.  The reservoir we used was not made by Phil and Teds  and fit just fine.
The Escape offers space to store a large hydration reservoir, with a convenient hole to feed the straw through, as well as a clip on the shoulder strap to secure it. The reservoir we used was not made by Phil and Teds, and fit just fine.
Next, there is a large space in between you and baby that allows for a water reservoir. Feed the tube up and through the hole, and you're set! The Escape does not come with it's own reservoir, nor does Phil and Teds offer one on their website, so check out our 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!

Child Comfort


Baby waking up after a nap in this comfy pack.
Baby waking up after a nap in this comfy pack.
Now that we've touched on how important it is for mom and dad to be comfortable, and how vital it is to be able to carry all necessary supplies, let's talk about keeping the most precious cargo of all comfortable: baby! The Phil and Teds website claims that the Escape offers baby a "deluxe child cockpit", and our reviewer agreed, giving this backpack a rating of 8 of 10. The soft, fleece lining of the unique shoulder harness offers baby nothing less than a luxurious ride.
A close-up of the soft fleece shoulder straps.  They offered just enough padding to keep baby comfortable and cozy.  What we liked most about this design is that there were no buckles around baby's face or neck area.
A close-up of the soft fleece shoulder straps. They offered just enough padding to keep baby comfortable and cozy. What we liked most about this design is that there were no buckles around baby's face or neck area.
The sides of the cockpit come up high enough for the child to rest their head on, but not so high that their view of the world is blocked. Baby's seat was also adjustable via a push and pull strap with a simple side-squeeze buckle, and offered a nice, wide base to sit on. Additionally, if they choose to put their head back to relax, they'll be greeted by a moldable (and of course, fleece covered) headrest. If only we could all ride in such luxury!

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


Baby inside  with side completely unbuckled for easy unloading.
Baby inside, with side completely unbuckled for easy unloading.
Phil and Teds products all look quite sleek and stylish, perhaps suggesting a lavish, convoluted design. In reality, we found it to be quite the opposite, and one look at the website tells you this company is anything but complicated. Even the owners manual, which they've dubbed a "survival guide" is straightforward and even witty (noting that a baby is not included with the purchase of an Escape). The simplicity of the company translates well to their backpack, earning them a top spot.

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.
What is a redirected strap?  On the left  you'll notice the Escape waist belt straps are fed away from the buckle.  On the right  the Kelty Journey 2.0 has 'redirected' straps  so they are fed through again  and pull towards the buckle  allowing for an easier adjustment.
What is a redirected strap? On the left, you'll notice the Escape waist belt straps are fed away from the buckle. On the right, the Kelty Journey 2.0 has 'redirected' straps, so they are fed through again, and pull towards the buckle, allowing for an easier adjustment.
All in all, we think the Escape will surely appeal to people who appreciate simplicity and ease-of-use.

Safety


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.

The Phil and Teds Escape offered the simplest restraint system for baby.  The buckle was nice and big  and covered by soft fleece to avoid getting pinched.
The Phil and Teds Escape offered the simplest restraint system for baby. The buckle was nice and big, and covered by soft fleece to avoid getting pinched.
The safety harness was not only easy to buckle, but in a feature unique to this backpack, offered the secureness of a 5-point restraint without the hassle of buckling all five points. Its over-the-head harness eliminates the need to buckle two shoulder straps, and it has an easy, wide buckle that secures it in place. However, the shoulder straps take some time to adjust for the first fitting, as the adjustment straps are inside the storage compartment and must be done by feel. Not being able to see the adjustments make it harder than the others, but once they are in the correct setting, the job is done and there is no need to re-adjust to remove baby. Additionally, having the straps in the storage space eliminates dangling straps that could potentially get caught up while hiking. As such, it seems worth the extra effort to reach inside the pack to get the proper adjustment.

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!

A wider seat offers a more comfortable ride for baby  as well as better hip ergonomics.  Left is the wide seat of the Phil and Teds Escape  right is the narrow seat of the Osprey Poco Plus.
A wider seat offers a more comfortable ride for baby, as well as better hip ergonomics. Left is the wide seat of the Phil and Teds Escape, right is the narrow seat of the Osprey Poco Plus.
Our final safety criteria focused on hip dysplasia ergonomics. Most hip developmental issues occur in the first four months of a baby's life, which is not when you would be using a backpack. However, chronic poor positioning in the first 4-6 months of life can be a leading contributor to hip dysplasia, so be sure to check out our article, 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.

Best Applications


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.
The sleek design of the Escape made it easy to squeeze through narrow spaces.
The sleek design of the Escape made it easy to squeeze through narrow spaces.
Consider the Escape if you are dying to get outdoors, but don't want to move at the rate of someone who has a 14" inseam and wants to stop to pick up every single rock along the way.

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.

Value


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.

Conclusion


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:

Parade
Metro
 
  • Phil and Teds Parade (upper left): $140. At $110 less than the Escape, the Parade is a scaled down version of their premium backpack. With an aluminum frame and stand, fold-flat ability that meets airline requirements, waterproof fabric, and max load of 39.7 pounds (the same as the Escape), it is a great alternative to a stroller for active families who live in the city or travel a lot.
  • Phil and Teds Metro (upper right): $190. Phil and Ted's middle of the road backpack carrier, the Metro costs $50 less than the Escape that we reviewed. The Metro also offers the same waterproof fabric, aluminum frame, and max load capacity as it's siblings. It is a step down from the Escape in terms of features, but more compact for those who would use it in a more urban environment.

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Juliet Spurrier, MD & BabyGearLab Team

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BabyGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: November 23, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

BabyGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (3.0)

50% of 2 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
3 Total Ratings
5 star: 67%  (2)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 33%  (1)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Nov 23, 2015 - 06:57pm
T · San Francisco
This pack was amazing for us and I was shocked to see the one review here was more about a return policy that someone didn't adhere to than the product.

I ended up wearing this pack for the most part of 6 hours. I carried my 23lb son and all the items to support him along with the water bladder for drinking. I found the foot stirrups worked best through the top looped handle. My sons feet were supported and perfect for blood circulation supporting the 60% reason we got this carrier. I'm on the taller side and found no issues for comfort and fit.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Aug 25, 2015 - 05:03pm
DrXtina · Chicago, IL
I was in search of the perfect baby backpack carrier for my upcoming trip to Colorado, but also wanted something versatile I could use here in Chicago where I live, since they do cost over $200. I initially purchased the Osprey Poco Premium, being the best of the best, but it was honestly too big for me to ever use in the city. I went to the trusted Baby Gear Lab for recommendations, and of course, based on their comprehensive review, bought the Phil &Ted's Escape without hesitation. Since they don't sell this in retail stores such as REI, I had no way of trying this on before buying. I went online directly to Phil & Teds and ordered the backpack.

I was disappointed when I received the backpack. Unfortunately, despite all appropriate adjustments, the shoulder straps were not small/short enough for me (5'5") and the waist strap was also not tight enough (Im pretty average, 125lbs). My daughter, an 18-lb one year old, also was not very secure in the child component, and managed to wiggle out of the loose shoulder harness. I only wore this down the street and back, to test it out, maybe 1/2 mile, and was left with horrible back pain for 2 days (Im very athletic, of note).

When I contacted Phil & Teds to return the product, the return process was not easy. There is no phone number or direct return option. You have to submit a web order ticket first, with a quoted response rate of 2-3 days to receive return information/approval, and a TWO WEEK RETURN policy from the time your receive the item until it reaches their warehouse, otherwise the return is not accepted. That is absurd, especially considering they don't provide a return label. The initial shipping costs are not refunded, nor the cost to ship back the item (which you have to bring to FedEx or UPS yourself). I am now out $33 in shipping costs.

Here is the response I received for the return request (and I did request shipping to be refunded, which is pretty standard for most companies these days):

" Hi Christina,

Thanks for contacting our returns department! You can return your order for a refund of the cost of the product, provided it is returned in sale-able condition (at the discretion of our warehouse team) in its original packaging, and is received by our warehouse within 2 weeks from when the package was received. Items returned showing use or not in original packaging will be destroyed and credit can not be processed.Returns will be refunded in the original method of payment. For all returns for credit, please note, any associated freight costs will not be refunded. It is best to send your item(s) back with Federal Express or UPS ground services. These services provide tracking information for your shipment until it arrives at our warehouse, but you can certainly use any carrier you'd like. Phil&Teds is not responsible any lost or damaged items. "


Really. If you decide the backpack "shows use", you'll DESTROY it and not provide credit? That seems extreme. I asked to speak to a customer service agent, but shocker, that is not an option.

Well, it's on it's way back via FedEx. I had to pay one day shipping, considering Im a working mom living in downtown Chicago, so getting to FedEx with a baby isn't exactly convenient.

I ended up going to REI yesterday and purchased the Deuter Comfort Kid Air. It's not perfect either, given that Im not very tall so my head/neck touches the back of the pack, but it at least fits my shoulders/waist/hips, is comfortable, lightweight, and more secure for my kid. Im bummed it doesn't have a rain cover, but honestly, if it's raining, I probably won't be out hiking with a baby!

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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