The Cross Country S4 is a good child carrier option for those not looking to spend too much, though it does fall short compared to more premium models. It doesn’t feel as robust and isn’t as comfortable, while some of its components and materials feel a little cheap. Having said all that, it’s got great storage capacity, is very portable and is still a safe and effective way to sherpa your little one around.
Great storage options and capacity
More portable than most
Less robust than some
Materials feel cheap
Not as comfortable as premium options
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Little Life make a range of child carriers that tend to be cheaper than the offerings from the likes of Osprey, Thule, Kelty and Deuter. The Cross Country S4 is one of their pricier offerings, though their Freedom S4 and the premium Voyager S5 carriers will set you back more.
With its bright drool pad featuring a dozen colorful animals, the Cross Country has a more playful aesthetic than most. Aside from a raincover, it seems to have everything you’d need for taking the little one out and about, boasting 20 liters of storage in its spacious main compartment, front zippered pocket, its two side pockets and its hipbelt pockets. It also weights only 2.5kg, making it much lighter than a lot of the competition.
RRP: £200 (UK)
Weight: 2.5kg / 5.5lb
Age range: 6 months to 3 years
Weight limit: 20kg / 44lb (child and storage items’ weight)
Materials: Not listed
Accessories included: Sunshade, viewing mirror
Colors: Modern grey
However, a lightweight child carrier doesn’t necessarily equal more comfort. A sturdier, heavier frame can offer more structure and support for both child and parent and this seems to be the case here. My initial impression of the Cross Country was that it’s not as comfortable as some of the heavier options out there.
The model I tested came without a raincover, though Little Life are currently bundling one in as a ‘free gift’ on their website.
The child’s seat is padded, though it lacks the ventilation seen on other carriers. An x-buckle harness keeps your precious cargo secure, while foot stirrups distribute their weight. As usual, there are a couple of grab handles on the front and back of the seat. These allow you to carefully lift the fully loaded backpack onto your shoulders.
There’s no kickstand to stabilize the unit while loading and unloading here, which is something of a mainstay on other carriers. Instead, the main frame has a relatively wide base, making this a freestanding carrier, while stability is achieved by the adult putting the weight of their foot onto an anchor point at the base of the unit.
The Cross Country features a nicely padded back system that’s easily adjustable. This is ideal when you’re passing the carrier from parent to parent. As usual, the drool pad is removable. In this case, it’s fastened on by Velcro, while the foam inner can be removed before laundering.
As well as the main storage compartment at the bottom of the carrier, there are two little hipbelt pockets, useful for stashing small items, like a hat or headlamp, and having them accessible on the go. There’s also two stretchy mesh pockets on either side and another zippered pocket halfway up the carrier on the left side.
One of the hipbelt pockets features a little rear-view mirror for keeping an eye on your previous cargo, though I found that more often than not I’d just use my phone’s camera.
Also included is a sunshade that lives somewhat untidily in the main storage compartment. Comprised of tent-like poles and a fabric hood, it definitely feels less premium than the clever, integrated sunshades on other carriers. It’s almost as if it was a bit of an afterthought once the design of the main unit had been finished. However, it does the job, with the poles slotting in either side of the child’s seat and Velcro attachments to tension it out. It doesn’t give quite as much cover as some integrated shades but its still a handy addition.
On the trails
The Cross Country is relatively comfortable to carry, though it feels less solid than other carriers I’ve tested. The frame hinges between the backsystem and the child’s seat, which is great when I want to fold it down and pop it in the car but it also makes it feel flimsier when out and about. I could certainly feel every movement my child made and this gave less of a sense of balance and stability than with most.
I found the lack of a kickstand meant that it wasn’t quite as stable as I’d like when loading and unloading my daughter. Even with my foot firmly placed on the anchor point, it still felt a little precarious.
Storage is a real strength, though there’s only one large compartment, so I’d often have to fish around a little for what I needed. This is also where the sunshade is kept and, as the shade doesn’t stow away particularly neatly, it would often get in the way of other items. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of capacity and other storage options in the two open side pockets, zippered front pocket and the zippered hipbelt pockets. There was room for everything I needed for days out with baby, as well as space for my down jacket and water bottle too.
Deploying the sunshade is quick and easy, though stashing it away when the main compartment is already full of nappies, food and toys is a bit of a grind.
Alex is a freelance adventure writer and mountain leader with an insatiable passion for the mountains. A Cumbrian born and bred, his native English Lake District has a special place in his heart, though he is at least equally happy in North Wales, the Scottish Highlands or the European Alps. Through his hiking, mountaineering, climbing and trail running adventures, Alex aims to inspire others to get outdoors. He is currently President of the London Mountaineering Club, training to become a winter mountain leader, looking to finally finish bagging all the Wainwright fells of the Lake District and hoping to scale more Alpine 4000ers when circumstances allow. Find out more at www.alexfoxfield.com