Deuter Fox 40
$109, 40L/2,440 c.i., 3 lbs.
One size, adjustable to fit torsos 11 to 18 inches
Osprey Jib 35
$129, 35L/2,136 c.i., 3 lbs. 3 oz.
One size, adjustable to fit torsos 13 to 19 inches
There were two things I made sure of before letting my son carry a backpack instead of a daypack on our family backpacking trips: that he was ready and eager to do it, and that the pack I gave him fit him. The first question I let him answer: I waited until he asked to carry a backpack. (He was nine-and-a-half the first time. Now 11, he has carried a backpack on several trips. My daughter is nine and yet to carry more than a daypack, though I think she’s close to making the decision on her own.) The second question I answered by measuring his torso properly and trying packs on him. Many kids are not big enough to fit in a
children’s backpack until age nine or 10—and carrying a poorly fitting pack might be the best way to turn a kid off to backpacking. My son has used and likes both the Fox 40 (skiing to a backcountry yurt in Idaho’s Boise Mountains) and the Jib 35 (backpacking in Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park), carrying 18 pounds in each pack. The 11-year-old daughter of friends also carried the Jib on our yurt trip. I think both are excellent kid backpacks, though they have different strengths.
The Fox 40 fits the smallest kids best, and has a little more padding in its hipbelt, shoulder straps, and back than the Jib 35, as well as having a nice vertical channel through the back padding for air circulation on hot days. I think it’s made to handle at least 20 pounds. But the Jib delivers a bit more support and rigidity, with its frame of aluminum rods and flexible tensioners in the hipbelt, giving it a slight advantage when your kid starts carrying upwards of 25 pounds. The Jib’s hipbelt is also adjustable for a wider range of waist and hip sizes—it can grow with your child. As for organization and features: Both are top-loaders with roomy lid pockets, deep, stretchy side pockets, and a safety whistle on the sternum strap; but the similarities end there. The Fox 40’s large, zippered, bellows side pockets (above the stretch pockets) have a functionality edge over the Jib’s front stuff-it pocket. But the Jib’s two zippered hipbelt pockets—big enough for a few snack bars each—are more useful for backpacking than the Fox’s hipbelt gear loops. Lastly, both are well-constructed packs built to last, with high-quality stitching and tough, 420-denier nylon, though the Jib’s mesh side and front pockets are more susceptible to tearing than any fabric on the Fox’s exterior.
Your first priority in choosing a pack has to be which one fits your kid best. If both fit, your decision comes down to price or which one your son or daughter prefers. Either would probably last a kid until he or she is ready for an adult-size pack. If you need a pack for a young teenager who’s capable of carrying more than either of these models will hold, check out Osprey’s larger version of the Jib, the Ace 48.