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LittleLife Cross Country S4 review: the comfortable and affordable child backpack carrier

Looking to take your baby or toddler on the trails? The LittleLife Cross Country S4 is a comfortable and sturdy baby carrier backpack suited to both hiking and day-to-day adventuring with your child in tow. But how does it compare to other backpack carriers and is it a worthy buy? Parent and MNHQ editor, Laura, reveals her verdict.

By Laura Westerman | Last updated Aug 30, 2023

Man carrying toddler in Littlelife Cross Country S4 carrier

Overall star rating: 4.5/5

Price: £159.99 (was £199.99) | Buy now from LittleLife

Our verdict on the LittleLife Cross Country S4

Released in 2021, the LittleLife Cross Country S4 is one of six LittleLife baby carrier backpacks. It’s one of the brand’s more premium offerings, suited to longer walks than cheaper LittleLife carriers, like LittleLife Ranger S2, but with slightly less favourable specs than the pricier Freedom S4 and Voyager S5

Ergonomically well-designed and with a price tag that won’t make your eyes water, the LittleLife Cross Country S4 is a good budget-friendly option for parents who like outdoor adventures, need a reliable and comfortable baby carrier backpack for everyday use or are looking for an affordable alternative to a lightweight stroller

While not as luxurious or as long-lasting as higher performing backpack carriers like the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro or the Osprey Poco Plus (both of which last up to age four), the Littlelife Cross Country S4 is quite a bit lighter at just 2.5kg with a generous amount of storage space for ferrying your baby or toddler around. 

What we like

  • Lightweight

  • Easy to get child in and out

  • Good amount of storage

  • Comfortable during longer walks

  • Suitable for short and tall parents

What we don’t like

  • Doesn’t fold down for transportation

  • Can start to become uncomfortable after a couple of hours’ wear

  • Not as robust as more premium backpack carriers

  • Rain cover not included

Key specs

Age: 6 months to 3 years | Weight: 2.5kg | Maximum load: 20kg | Storage capacity: 20L | Sunshade: Yes | Adult fit: 1.57 to 1.93m | Dimensions: 26 x 31 x 70cm

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Man walking in country park wearing Littlelife Cross Country S4 carrier with toddler inside

Husband carrying our 16-month-old in the LittleLife Cross Country S4 on a nature walk

How we tested the LittleLife Cross Country S4

  • Two months of testing the LittleLife Cross Country S4

  • Used on country walks

  • Tested with a 16-month-old toddler

To thoroughly put the LittleLife Cross Country S4 through its paces, I tested this backpack carrier out with my 16-month-old daughter. It was tested mostly on country walks for up to three hours per use, and my husband also gave it a go to see how it fared for different wearers.

We were able to try this carrier out with both the LittleLife sunshade and rain cover, and transported it in the car boot of our small Ford Fiesta for days out.

Read next: Best toddler car seats

LittleLife Cross Country S4: what’s in the box?

  • LittleLife Cross Country S4 child carrier

  • Sunshade

  • Foot stirrups

  • Rear view mirror

LittleLife Cross Country S4: how does it look?

The LittleLife Cross Country S4 boasts a more playful aesthetic than many other backpack carriers, particularly when it comes to its bright orange accents and washable drool pad that features different animals for your small passenger to look at. 

While it unfortunately doesn’t come with a rain cover as standard, which you’ll definitely need in the event of a downpour, the Cross Country S4 has a generous 20 litres of storage, with an easily accessible zipped front pocket at the base of the carrier for housing your sun shade, rain cover and baby essentials (including nappies, wipes, baby toys, sun cream and snacks), a zipped pocket half way up the carrier on the left-hand side, two small zipped pockets in the hip belt for keeping your valuables close to hand (although the pockets are too small to fit a phone) and two stretchy mesh side pockets for storing reusable water bottles

It also has lots of handy features such as a padded back panel, straps and child seat, with mesh fabrics in all of these areas for optimal airflow, and two foot stirrups to support your child’s legs while on the move. 

While I would have liked to see this carrier available in the blue colourway seen on other LittleLife carriers to give buyers more than one colour option, the overall design is in a neutral grey that will appeal to most families.

What’s the difference between the LittleLife Cross Country S3 and S4?

The LittleLife Cross Country S4 is lighter in weight and features more comfortable fabrics than its predecessor, with a mesh material on the back panel and straps for optimal airflow and comfort while on walks. The foot stirrups are also a new addition for the S4.

How does it compare to other LittleLife baby backpack carriers?

The LittleLife Cross Country S4 boasts more features than all the other Littlelife backpack carriers, with the exception of the Freedom S4. 

It sits midway in terms of weight, so isn’t the lightest option in the LittleLife catalogue, but alongside the Freedom S4 and Voyager S5, it allows for a greater adult fit (from 5’2” to 6’4”) and comes with more accessories, including the stirrups, sun shade and rear view mirror. 

It offers slightly less storage than the Freedom S4 and Voyager S5, but retails at £40 to £80 cheaper. All LittleLife carrier backpacks can be used from six months all the way to three years. 

Read next: The best baby carriers: soft-structured carriers, wraps and slings

How easy is the LittleLife Cross Country S4 to assemble?

Extremely easy as there’s actually no assembly required. All you need to do before using the Cross Country S4 for the first time is to adjust the cockpit to make sure the seat is at the correct height for your child, which is simple to do. Your child’s chin should be in line with the top of the face pad. 

Harness strap on Littlelife Cross Country S4 backpack carrier

One of three harness buckles on the LittleLife Cross Country S4

Is the LittleLife Cross Country S4 safe and sturdy?

Yes! The LittleLife Cross Country S4 features an x-buckle harness, which goes over your child’s head before being secured using three buckles (one in the middle and two either side near their hips). Buckling my daughter in was easy and she felt safe in the seat at all times during our walks, which was very reassuring. There are also side wing straps, which can be tightened and loosened to the desired length for additional safety.

For parents, the fully adjustable padded back panel with two stabiliser straps ensures a safe and comfortable carrying experience, and it can be adjusted by detaching the hip belt, which is Velcroed on, and tightening the panel strap. You then reattach the hip belt before placing your child in the seat. 

There’s a printed size guide on the back of the carrier, which will help you work out the correct back panel height for you, as well as a buckled chest strap to provide extra support alongside the padded and pivoting hip belt. As my husband and I are different heights (myself being 5’6” and him a tall 6’4”), we needed to adjust the back panel regularly depending on who was carrying to backpack carrier that day. 

Read next: The best pushchairs, as tested by parents

How easy is it to get a child in and out? 

You unfortunately won’t find a kickstand to stabilise the carrier - something you’ll generally see on a lot of other backpack carriers. Instead, the LittleLife Cross Country S4 features an anchor point at the base which you can place your foot into to make sure it stays firmly on the ground so that you have two hands free for safely and easily placing your baby or toddler in the seat. The wide base also makes the Cross Country freestanding when on the ground. 

You’ll find two sturdy grab handles at the top of the carrier, which are invaluable for helping you pull the carrier onto your shoulders once your baby or toddler is securely positioned in the seat. 

My daughter initially didn’t like being hoisted onto mine or my husband’s back when in the seat as she felt unstable, particularly while we were just getting to grips with the carrier (a kickstand would have made it feel more stable), but she soon got used to this after a couple of outings and generally enjoyed her time spent in it.

Read next: The best 360 spin car seats

Toddler's foot in stirrup of Littlelife Cross Country S4 carrier

Integrated foot stirrups for added support

How comfortable is the LittleLife Cross Country S4? 

The LittleLife Cross Country S4 has been designed for use over a longer duration than other LittleLife carriers like the Ranger S2, so I found it comfortable to use on long outings.

I used it on country walks around a local nature reserve and country park, both of which had trails with uneven and rough terrain. The carrier generally felt stable on my back, although it did start to become slightly uncomfortable after around two hours of use. My husband also used the carrier for extended periods of time and experienced the same thing. 

As for the child seat, my daughter was comfortable and relaxed in the carrier the entire ride but found it more comfortable to hold onto the shoulder stabiliser straps than to leave her arms dangling. She rested her head against the drool pad on a number of occasions, but didn’t actually fall asleep in the carrier (although given time, I think she would have). The foot stirrups offered some support, although her feet did slip out a couple of times. 

What's the LittleLife Cross Country S4 like to use day-to-day?

One thing I like about the LittleLife Cross Country S4 is that it works just as well as a day-to-day carrier as it does a hiking one. It’s bulkier than a soft-structured baby carrier or other LittleLife carrier backpacks like the Ranger S2 and the Traveller S4, but is very useful for active days out with a baby or toddler.

Storage is a real highlight of this carrier and I found there to be more than enough room for essentials when out and about with my daughter. That said, I found the large back pocket tricky to reach when I had the carrier on my back, so I needed my husband’s help here. It’s also one large storage area so you need to fish around to find what you’re looking for, which is why I found the side pocket much better for quick access to my phone whenever I needed directions or wanted to snap a quick photo. Handily, the left hip belt includes a rear view mirror so that you can keep an eye on your tot while on the move. You’ll also find toy loops on both side wings to attach a couple of pram toys should you wish to. 

I was given both a rain cover and sunshade to test alongside the carrier. Both attach to the carrier frame using tent-like poles and provide adequate coverage no matter the weather. The sunshade didn’t quite tension out evenly when attached to the frame due to the angle of the poles. While it didn’t affect UV protection, I would have preferred an integrated sunshade to make life easier.

While the rain cover comes with a handy storage bag to keep it neatly folded away, the sun shade doesn’t, so it’s bulkier to store in the base pocket of the carrier when out and about. 

Read next: The best car sunshades for babies

Littlelife Cross Country S4 carrier with sunshade and rain cover attached

LittleLife Cross Country S4 with sunshade and rain cover attached

Does the LittleLife Cross Country S4 fold down for storage or travel?

No. The LittleLife Cross Country S4 can’t be folded down, but it can be flattened slightly for storage or transporting in your car boot. 

A backpack carrier can be a very useful travel accessory for family holidays abroad, but you’ll need to take the Cross Country S4 through the airport and leave it at the plane door if you want to take it with you on your travels as it’s too large for an overhead locker. You can also buy the LittleLife Child Carrier Transporter Bag separately if you want to store the carrier and straps neatly away. 

Read next: The best umbrella strollers for easy travel and storage

Is the LittleLife Cross Country S4 easy to clean?

While stains are fairly inconspicuous thanks to the grey fabric colour, you can easily spot clean the Cross Country S4. Handily, the face pad - which is Velcroed to the carrier and the part you'll most likely want to clean regularly - can be removed for machine washing.

Is the LittleLife Cross Country S4 good value for money? 

As baby carrier backpacks go, the LittleLife Cross Country S4 is one of the more affordable options on the market, particularly for what it offers. Performing well during testing with good longevity and an excellent amount of storage, it makes travelling with a baby or toddler super convenient, especially during those times when a buggy would be more of a hindrance than a help.

While it lacks some of the handy features seen on more premium backpack carriers, such as a kickstand and integrated sunshade, the Cross Country S4 is both comfortable and secure for longer walks, and the ideal carrier for adventures with your little one. 

About the author

Laura Westerman is an editor, writer and Deputy Head of Editorial Content at Mumsnet, and mum to a one-year-old.

With over seven years' experience as a full-time editor, five of which have been spent writing, commissioning and editing product reviews and round-ups, Laura has a keen eye for what parents love and likes nothing more than putting together honest reviews to make parents' lives that little bit easier. 

In addition to her work as a writer and editor, she has also appeared in a number of baby product review videos for Mumsnet's YouTube channel.

About Mumsnet Reviews

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