The LittleLife Ultralight S3 Child Carrier has to be one of the pieces of kit I’m most excited to share with you on Baby Routes. We’ve used LittleLife products in the Baby Routes household for several years now and been impressed. Their kit has always seemed great quality and their brand mission to enable parents to get kids out exploring with them and to pass on a passion for the outdoors is a close match to our own. I was therefore more than happy to review a piece of their kit of my choice last autumn.
At that time we were shortly due off for a month in the USA. I would be tackling the 11 hour flight with the girls solo as well as all of our hikes and explorations during the working week whilst away whilst Hubby cracked on with his day job from the dizzy heights of his Downtown LA office. As the trip approached, I was beginning to feel a bit apprehensive about the logistics of getting about with a 1 and 4 year old plus all our day-kit in the hot Californian weather. I didn’t want to take our massive child carrier rucksack on the plane and use up precious luggage allowance and a pushchair would not give me the freedom to quickly jump on and off transport, hold Roo’s hand easily on busy roads or hit any hiking trail. Carrying Beth in our usual simple sling though plus all our water, sun-cream and other supplies in an additional bag was promising to be hot, heavy, sweaty work.
The LittleLife Ultralight S3 Child Carrier presented itself as a possible solution. Coming from LittleLife’s extensive range of child carriers covering what seems like every possible scenario, It has been designed with my scenario almost exactly in mind. It offers an airline hand-luggage friendly sized rucksack that unzips to reveal a fully padded child carrier that can accommodate tots from sitting age up to 15kg. The straps are padded and there is a hip belt as you’d expect from a good baby carrying rucksack but the whole piece of kit is super light-weight for a rucksack carrier, can be stowed away easily and even has storage space for your bits and bobs. The icing on the cake was that it is fully compatible with LittleLife’s rain and shade covers – the latter of which we would undoubtedly be needing out under Souther California’s blazing sun.
The LittleLife Ultralight S3 child carrier arrived promptly and looked just as good in real life as online. As with our previous LittleLife products the fastenings and straps all seemed good quality, its blue and grey colour scheme a good unisex and grub-proof choice and the whole product designed to make life as easy as possible for its parent users. Whilst measuring close to the hand-luggage dimension limits, the carrier was streamline and all the straps tucked away neatly for travel. My only concerns were if the internal storage space would prove sufficient for all our day kit and whether my husband would be able to use the bag or not – at 6’1 he is over the recommended maximum usage height of 5’11. ]
The LittleLife Ultralight S3 child carrier as carry-on plane luggage
Test one was the 11 hour flight from London Heathrow to LAX. Between the LittleLife Ultralight S3 child carrier, a Trunki and a large shoulder stuff-bag I managed to get all the kit, clothes and entertainment I’d need for me and the girls on our overnight flight. What’s more, having a rucksack on my back made managing the other two bags and children much easier. It meant I had hands free to hold hands with Roo, get out documentation and carry other bags.
Whilst we let Beth run around as much as possible in the terminal and make use of the fantastic play lounge in Terminal 3 as soon as our flight was called she was strapped securely into the rucksack. Having Beth tucked neatly out of the way on my back made tackling the narrow aeroplane aisles with Roo and my bags a lot easier. Given that she’s still too young to follow instructions reliably, I’m really not sure how we’d have managed if she’d been let loose! The bag stowed away easily into the overhead locker.
Exiting the plane after a surprisingly calm 11 hours was equally easy. Three members of the cabin crew independently commented on the rucksack and what a great bit of kit it seemed during our journey. Given how many pushchairs, bags, slings and other kiddy kit they must see, the LittleLife Ultralight S3 child carrier must have really made an impression. I was grateful for the option to tuck Beth away whilst we tackled baggage reclaim, the lengthy wait for immigration and the multi-stage trip across LAX airport to get to the car rental office whilst feeling decidedly bleary eyed.
The LittleLife Ultralight S3 child carrier for sightseeing and hiking
After a brief weekend trying to fight jet-lag, taking in the local area and exploring Malibu as a family of four it was time for hubby to go to work. Ahead lay five days of exploring with the girls and our LittleLife Ultralight S3 child carrier came with us on every one of them. Everyday I stuffed the back pocket of the LittleLife Ultralight S3 child carrier with water, snacks, wallet, sun-cream and more then off we would set to the beach, to the centre of Santa Monica, to all manner of other nearby locations by bus, across LA and up into the Santa Monica Mountains. Its small size made hopping on and off public transport a doddle as well as being compact enough to use round some of LA’s most popular museums without having to check it in.
Given its size, the carrier performed really well. Putting Beth in solo was relatively easy with a built in foot-hold to help support the bag making it steadier. The baby is obviously much lower to the ground when being popped in the LittleLife UItralight S3 child carrier than in a traditional full-size baby back-carrier, so you do need to take a bit of care to make sure legs and feet are comfy on the floor. This is particularly important to remember when taking the bag and putting it down!
The child harness in the carrier is one of the bag’s great features. It is an over-head version, securing first in the centre and then at both sides which means you can clip in a child quickly and easily even on one of their reluctant or wriggly days. The harness is quick to adjust and from our experience, completely wriggle-proof. This is coming from the 1 year old who has on occasion been known to wriggle arms free of her supposedly Houdini-proof car-seat…
Beth was about 20 months old at time of travel and a decent weight but I didn’t find any problems with getting her onto my back in the carrier alone. This was made easier by the grab straps on the top of the bag. Given its smaller stature and the fact that I often stuffed the back-pocket storage compartment to point of bursting, the balance of the Ultralight S3 carrier does take a little bit of getting used to and any sudden movements by your mini-rider have more of an impact on your centre of gravity than with bigger backpacks. There is simply not the length for all the extra stabilisation features that give you extra support in larger models. I quickly adapted though.
The storage in the bag is a bit restricted but still impressive given the Ultralight S3 carrier’s dimensions. There is one large full size pocket and one further small pocket. The latter is perfect for quick access items. There is also a toy loop for on-the-go entertainment. With careful packing we got in enough water, hats and supplies for three of us for half a day at the beach or around town or a few hours on a hot, dusty hiking trail. The compact fold-away sunshade stowed away easily when we didn’t need it.
The padded straps and back made the carrier fairly comfy to wear, particularly in hot weather when carrier comfort is vital. I’d have loved the hip strap to be just a little wider and to have included a small pocket for change/card but that’s a minor quibble. Of course, out on the hiking trail and after several hours of use I definitely felt the carrier more than I would our usual full sized one back home but not the point of being really uncomfortable. The ability to tweak the shoulder tension and chest strap heigh helped make it a good fit – it’s definitely worth playing around with the strap settings. Even my husband used the LittleLife Ultralight S3 child carrier extensively for hiking successfully despite being officially a bit too tall for it.
As for Beth? Well she seemed to enjoy riding up high in the LittleLife Ultralight S3 child carrier! The inside child seat is padded and comes with an adjustable pillow at the front of the case and Beth nodded off whilst in the carrier most days. Her head did loll a bit at times but we almost always used the LittleLife sunshade in conjunction with the carrier which gave her something extra to lean up against when sleeping.There is an adjuster strap to alter the seat height for baby.
Overall, I was really impressed with the LittleLife Ultralite S3 Child Carrier. This carrier fills a much needed niche in the carrier market – a rucksack that will carry both child and some kit that is portable and light enough to take on adventures abroad as well as closer to home without compromising too much on comfort. Without it I would have found it significantly more challenging to get out on as many adventures solo as I did in California. What’s more, my husband is raving about how brilliant it is too, despite being officially too tall for it! My only wishes? That they made one for marginally taller people and that the hip belt were a little wider and had a small inbuilt pocket.
Yes – a full size child carrier would be more comfortable for extended hiking ans would have more room for kit but you can’t take a full sized bag sightseeing round town too, it would mean more weight and you’d need to check it in on the airline using up vital baggage allowance. The LittleLife Ultralight S3 child carrier is light-weight, portable and versatile enough to allow you to avoid these issues and has just enough space for carefully selected kit.
We got two plane journeys and a month’s continuous use out of the Ultralight S3 in California without any real signs of wear-&-tear. Back home we took the rucksack to Norfolk with us for more walking and sightseeing in wild, wintery weather. I will also use it when travelling solo on public transport around London with the kids – from previous experience I imagine the LittleLife Ultralight S3 will be a perfect solution to the usual issues of pushchairs on the underground! I’ve actually packed away my larger rucksack for everyday use – the Ultralight is just so much more portable for small adventures.
At £99.99 the LittleLife Ultralight S3 Child Carrier is not a cheap bit of kit but then neither is it as pricey as some models out there. It is a robust, quality piece of well-designed equipment that should last well through use with multiple children.
As far as travel kit for parents and kids goes,the LittleLife Ultralight S3 Child Carrier is is a seriously smart piece of luggage designed with the parent and child’s needs firmly in mind. If you travel regularly with very young children and like exploring either on the hiking trail or simply sight-seeing, it’s definitely worth taking a closer look.
I personally selected the LittleLife Ultralight S3 Child Carrier from the LittleLife product range and received a complimentary model for the purpose of this review. All writing, photographs, opinions and excitement remain as ever entirely my own. If you’d like more details and full product specification for the LittleLife Ultralight S3 Child Carrier, please visit the LittleLife website.