Almost got it right
I have mixed feelings about this pack. When my kid grew out of a Squirt there were few options--the Fox 30 is about it for small backpackers who need a serious pack.
On the plus side, it has plenty of adjustability, a good suspension, and appears to be well-made. It carries well, at least on a 55 lb girl who is one notch up from the minimum torso size. There are easy means to strap on things that won't fit inside, like a Thermaleak pad. Kids are always changing jackets so having the daisy chain loops to add a shock cord web is nice, but the pack should have come with one.
On the negative side, it has too many features, and ends up weighing more than it needs to. For example, the side vertical zip pockets are covered by the compression straps-weird, and not useful. A front organizer pocket like the Squirt only bigger would be better. The bottom zip isn't actually a compartment, it's just an opening into the main compartment; it barely admits a small down bag, which would need a stuff sack. Better would have been internal compression straps and no opening. The water bladder compartment hangs way too low, so you can't load water (the heaviest item) just above hip level, which is where you want it and where Deuter recommends; it does hold a 2 L bladder, though. Finally, the pack has a backpacker profile (pear-shaped); I'd prefer a mountaineering profile, like the Osprey Jib 35 (but it won't fit my daughter and it's heavier).
So if you face a size limit, the Fox 30 is your best choice for a serious pack, and it's not a terrible choice. It has much better features than the REI Comet, and it's lighter. Now if it just came in fuchsia...
Totally pleased with this pack!
Just got back from taking my son on his first overnight backpacking trip using this pack for him. I'm completely pleased with it. It's basically a full-fledged internal frame pack with all the features of an adult pack in a kid-sized package. Suspension was excellent and my son didn't complain once about the pack, even though there was a fair amount of weight in it for his size.
We hiked a very rocky, fairly technical section of the AT in Pennsylvania, and the pack moved with him as it should, but also was completely stable. He loved having his own pack that looked just like dad's.
It's a 30 liter pack, which I think is about right for the age it's targeted for (~6-10 or so). You shouldn't be loading kids down too much anyway! Here's what we fit in it: North Face "Tigger" sleeping bag (also great), REI full-size compact pad, raincoat, small pillow, two 1 liter Nalgene bottles on the side, one small stuffed animal, headlamp, and a few other small things.
Note that we have the previous version of this pack, but from I've seen it's nearly identical.
I don't think you can go wrong buying this pack.
Top-notch pack for kids/young teens
Let's correct unfair misimpressions caused by a few comments above. This pack is VERY suitable for day hikes to 3-5 day camping/hiking trips and is sized for younger kids/smaller frame kids/early teens - how much weight/gear do you expect these kids to pack, anyway!?
Fully adjustable, good seam stitching, snag-proof material, and well-thought-out design. Perfectly suited for use with a Platypus 2-liter hydration system available in sporting goods stores. Spray the pack well with a tent waterproofing product for wet weather treks.
Purchased for my young Boy Scout, it should serve him well into his early/mid-teens when he moves to a larger pack. The pack WILL contain a child's compressed sleeping bag, but would be consumed by an adult's compressed sleeping bag, which your child doesn't need anyway. Use the outside compression cords/lashes to secure a Thermarest pad on back.
I researched thoroughly - you won't find a better pack anywhere for it's targeted users! Great pack for getting kids/teens serious about developing their outdoor skills.
FYI on previous comment
O.K., I don't have this pack yet, but I think I will buy it for my son. The previous reviewer complained about compression straps on the vertical zippered pockets. They are there for several reasons. They help to stabilize that area...particularly in technical issues like rock. They also keep a zipper from blowing apart if much pressure is against it. As an example, my camera backpack has the same method. I'd hate to blow a zipper and dump my DSLR and lenses on the trail. My own Kelty backpack has tons of straps and daisy chains. My opinion is that rarely can you have too many daisy chains and straps. This pack looks like an awesome buy for the money.
Got this pack for my 7 year old to take his first backpacking adventure. 4 days and three nights he started off at approximately 20 lbs and he loved it. Would highly recommend to friends and family. The only thing I did not like about the pack was the pocket for the water bladder. It made it a pain to pull the bladder in and out and had to unpack part of the pack to get the bladder back in. Other than that though it was perfect for him. We did a lot of off the trail climbing in some pretty steep terrain and climbing over fallen trees and he was well balanced with the pack.
All the features, 1/3 the size!
Purchased this pack for my 7 year old to join me on our first extended hike together. Based on other reviews I purchased the Deuter 30 over REI's equivalent. Have been impressed at how well it adjusted and the fact that fully loaded there were no issues with the fit. My daughter can carry her sleeping bag, mat, rain gear and change of clothes. Seem to be a few 'bits and pieces' on the pack that really don't offer any added utility for a child - other than mirroring features fron an adult pack. Certainly looks the part on the trail, all in all a great first up pack.
great kids pack.
I bought two of these for my kids for Christmas (ages 6 & 8). They love them. The integrated whistle in the sternum strap is very cool. It has lots of storage pockets for their treasures and should allow them to carry their own clothes & a sleeping bag this summer when we go backpacking. We've gone on a couple winter hikes with them, where they just brought snacks and the packs have proven to be very comfortable. They adjust easily and it fits my small skinny 6yo well on the smallest setting. Now to find some lightweight, warm kids sleeping bags that don't break the bank.
great pack for our 8-10 year old
It's hard to get this pack off our 10 year old (got it when he was 8, I think), even on dayhikes where it's overkill.
Everything seems well thought out. It carries well and closes down tight. Suspension is highly adjustable and seems pretty bombproof.
If anything, it's overbuilt - the empty weight of this pack seems a bit high given that some adult ultralight packs with much larger volume approach the same weight.
Volume seems more than adequate - if anything, it would be easy to overload a smaller child.
Serious Pack for Small Kids
This is a great pack for kids. It is one of the few serious packs for small children (my son is 6). It is heavier than it needs to be, but appears to be very durable and adjustable for years of use. We took it on a one night 10 mile backpacking trip. Loaded with 6-7 lb of gear, it made for a 9-10 lb pack, which was just right for my son. We will be purchasing another one when my daughter turns 6.
This is by far the best pack for a kid. My little one is around 7 and it's almost perfect on him at the smallest adjustments. He has about another year to grow into it but it should last him for a long time with the adjustments. This backpack is a great inverstment and I personally think it is the best kids pack on the market.