It stands to reason that backpacks for smaller kids tend to be cheerful, but not perhaps all that technical. However, as they get older and start to become more capable on mountain terrain, you may want to consider a pack to match. You'd be looking for something with a bit more capacity for all the gear and extra layers, a close but unrestrictive fit for scrambling in comfort, and a few of the features you'd expect to find on an equivalent adult's model. A simplified and miniaturised version of the popular Guide pack, the Climber is the only kid's rucksack I can remember seeing that meets these criteria.
Aimed at children from six upwards (but probably at its best when they're getting on for twice that age), the Climber would be a great choice for family hillwalking or scrambling days, or via ferrata holidays. It's got enough capacity and support for overnight backpacking or hut tours too, assuming the grown-ups in the party carry most of the bulky stuff. It'd be at home up an Alp, but we've equally used ours for travel and school residential trips.
While no one wants to overspend on children's stuff, for a well-designed pack, and one that feels like it's made to last years, I think the £58 price tag represents really good value.
Our eldest daughter Daisy has a lifelong history with Deuter products, starting with being the crash test dummy in a baby carrier review back in 2011, a product she loved at least as much as her parents did. The brand has a really strong children's and family range, which is a nice point of difference from those that concentrate exclusively on adults.
Now she's getting more capable on the hills, Daisy seemed like the ideal candidate to try the new Climber.
- Price and build quality
- Comfortable and unrestrictive fit
- Mountain-relevant features in a kid's pack - a rarity
What's not so good:
- Almost nothing to criticise, makes a reviewer's life too easy
At 695g (Deuter say 680) the Climber might not be an ultralight, but it compares pretty well with general use adult day bags of similar capacity, and importantly doesn't seem too heavy for smaller kids. Just as importantly, though, it's well made:
Fabric and build quality
Kid's stuff doesn't tend to be treated gently, and I'd be willing to bet our girls' rucksacks receive about as much abuse as my climbing packs. In terms of the impact on both the planet and your pocket, investing in something that'll take a few knocks seems a better idea than regularly replacing knackered cheapo packs. In fact, durability is one of my key concerns when looking at any children's gear. Deuter are generally a reliable choice on this score. The Bailey junior test team reviewed their Gogo XS (since discontinued) in 2018, and after four years of pretty heavy use it's still going strong with only a few small scuffs and holes.
As the Climber feels similarly durable, we're confident it'll be around as long. and ought to still be in a decent state to hand down to Edith (9) in future, if her older sister will ever relinquish it.
Its 210 denier ripstop polyamide fabric really does feel tough, while the thicker base area, the bit that receives the most wear, is as burly as old boots. Despite her best efforts, Daisy has yet to put a mark on the Climber, which is saying something for a girl who can radically distress a brand new pair of shoes in minutes. Better yet, the fabric's weather-shedding DWR treatment is PFC-free, so it keeps out the showers (not prolonged rain) without me worrying that it's poisoning either the wearer or the environment.
Fully packed, the climber holds 22 litres. In adult terms this puts it in small-medium daypack territory, but I think that's plenty for slighter children to be carrying up hills. Since kid's clothing is proportionally smaller, you can actually fit quite a lot in the Climber, and it has enough room for bulky winter layers, plenty of food and drink, or even for overnight trips if Mum and Dad are carrying the tent and sleeping bags.
Fit and comfort
Nippers don't have much tolerance for discomfort (why should they? It was your idea to go for a walk), so a well-fitting and decently-padded rucksack is really a must. The Climber scores well on the comfort front.
A slightly stiffened foam backsheet protects the wearer from jabbing pack contents, and provides a modest bit of load carrying support - enough in this regard for the weight that's likely to be carried in a smaller pack, so there's no need for a more rigid wire frame. Cushioned pads behind the shoulder blades and in the lumbar area are mesh-covered for breathability, and help hold the body of the pack slightly away from the wearer's back to allow a bit of airflow. The padded shoulder straps and hip belt are similarly breathable, and nicely sculpted to give a close fit without restricting free movement.
As on an adult pack, you get load adjustment straps on the shoulders to help keep things close and well-balanced, and a height-adjustable chest clip, so while the whole back system can't be extended for fit there's a bit of play in the harness to accommodate kids of different sizes. The official back length range is 32-44cm. Deuter suggest the pack is aimed at ages six and upwards, which I'd say sounds ambitious; it has a good few years of growing room for Daisy, who is 11, though not big for her age. By the time they get to around the mid teens most children will probably be ready for a small adult's pack, but until then the Climber may be all the rucksack many need.
The twin side compression straps work well at reducing the load when the pack is only half full, which we've found useful when we're out for a short day and carrying a bit less. The straps also have clips for more conveniently attaching things to the sides. Sensibly made from the same thick fabric as the rest of the pack, rather than the potentially more delicate stretchy mesh you'll often find, the two elastic-bound side pockets are good and durable, and Daisy usually stashes a bottle here.
Two daisychains give you places to clip on extra items, and you also get loops for one of Deuter's stretchy helmet-holding thingies (personally I'd rather just strap the helmet straight onto the pack). Boosting the Climber's climber and winter credentials, there's a single, simple, axe attachment loop, with split webbing that means it can also be used to secure the tip of a trekking pole (point downwards - the only way a kid should carry one!). Gear loops on the hip belt are another nod to mountaineering.
A traditional top-loader with buckles, the Climber has a decent-sized zipped lid pocket which does for hat and gloves, and which has a key clip - a worthwhile addition for kids who are old enough to have their own door keys. Under the lid is a second zipped valuables pocket. Inside is a single big compartment, with an additional waterproof sleeve that's able to take a water bladder up to 2 litres in size.
All the features seem sensible and well-considered, and on a child-oriented mountain pack I can't think of anything I'd be desperate to add.
Deuter is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation, an independent verification initiative cooperating with companies and factories to improve labour conditions, especially in low-wage countries. For many years the company has also used a single factory in Vietnam for all its production - an unusual commitment in an industry that tends to make stuff all over the place, and a model that arguably makes it easier to ensure high production standards and levels of welfare.
If you're after a mountain-oriented pack in a child-friendly size then you are not going to be spoilt for choice. But even if there were many other options it'd be hard not to recommend the Climber. Comfortable, durable, and well designed, it's great value for money, and well worth the investment for families who need something a bit more capable than the standard kids' fare.