I own a previous version of the Deuter Kid Comfort III (2009 model), and with the arrival of another baby girl we decided it was time to buy a second pack, so we researched the options.
I LOVE the 2009 KCIII - the manner in which the child sits leaves our daughter comfortable for hours. We took a few smaller hikes to dial ourselves in, and had a remarkable experience each time. The KCIII could be adjusted easily to fit both my wife (5'1", 110 lbs) and myself (5'11", 210 lbs) - I'm a big fan of the Vari-quick harness. The cockpit seemed to drown our child when she was ~6 months, but she has since grown into it - it took us a while to realize that the child's chest-strap could be adjusted to sit higher on the shoulder-straps: once we discovered this secret, our child fit much better. The yellow buckles make it easy to figure out where to make adjustments, and the waistbelt shifts most of the weight to your hips (I have heard others complain that the backpack is top-heavy when occupied - I haven't found this to be the case).
I love the hydration bladder option, and use a 2L Camelbak rather than Deuter's bladder - it works great, but there isn't a loop to hook onto inside of the h2o compartment (something I've come to expect in Camelbaks, but really isn't necessary).
Our daughter loves being able to see what's going on - after our initial short hikes, we put this pack through its paces over a solid week of hiking at Arches, Canyonlands, and Mesa Verde National Parks. Our daughter didn't complain once, sleeping peacefully and cooing/laughing excitedly as we hiked in the back-country for hours at a time (our longest uninterrupted hike went for 8 miles over primitive trails). We would get her out to stretch/change her diaper occasionally, but she was always happy to get back in.
The kickstand takes a little flexibility to pull in yourself, but can be managed - I prefer it to the automatically retracted sort, since you are able to fully control whether or not it is extended.
Carrying capacity is great - we were able to pack emergency items, diapers, extra water, food, and had plenty of room to spare.
Most importantly to me, my back felt amazing after hours and days and a full week on the trail - with other carriers, my neck and shoulders bore the brunt of my efforts. After using the KCIII, my feet were the only thing to feel the pain, which testifies to the pack's ability to shift weight to your hips/legs (I would recommend trekking poles or a staff to share the weight if your feet aren't used to carrying your child for protracted periods). The pack was very breathable on my back. Our daughter would sleep for hours in the pack - she would get a little bit of skin irritation from contact with the canvas material in the cockpit, but it wasn't a major concern.
We originally opted for the KCIII over the KCII for the sun/rain cover. The KCIII has a built-in rain cover, which adds length to the pack: this was annoying at first, but the more we thought about it the safer it seemed. If mom or dad take a spill while hiking, I feel much better knowing that my child has a built-in roll bar (the KCI and KCII don't offer this protection). This means that I wouldn't be as likely to travel with the KCIII, but I still prefer the additional protection - it's a no-brainer (and a brain-saver).
SO - we loved the 2009 KCIII, and ended up buying the 2011 model after comparing similar products. Deuter won again, and we now own both the 2009 and the 2011 model. In fact, Deuter has improved the KCIII for 2011, with the following differences:
2) texture of chin-pad is soft (like fleece rather than canvas texture in 2009 model)
3) Kick-stand locks in place, and requires a push-button to collapse
4) stitching is different - square patterns rather than round, and different designs. Same basic parts, just slightly different stitching and branding locations.
5) The waist-belt seems to pivot more allowing for freer range-of-motion - I was a huge fan of the 2009 model, and this looks to be even better.
6) Chin-pad improved - now fleece material, very soft (should cut down the skin irritation)
7) Zipper is easier to use (2009 model is very stiff due to a flap covering it - this probably means that the 2011 model is less rain-proof, but access is easier)
1) velcro loop for hydration on chest straps has been replaced with a sewn loop - I prefer the velcro
2) The push button makes it more difficult to pull in the kickstand (but I still like the additional security)
3) The waistband seems slightly less-padded, but that could just be the stitching
4) some of the straps are thinner than the previous model - they are just adjustment straps, and admittedly the previous straps were probably an over-build, but I still like the look of the thicker straps.
I love the new 2011 KCIII, and think it's the best child carrier pack out there - we compared to all of the major brands, but for safety comfort adjustability and built-in protection, Deuter KCIII wins hands-down. I am very impressed with the high-quality of their product, and with a twenty percent off coupon, the price isn't half bad. :)
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