A few weeks ago someone posted a picture on Hike it Baby Portland of a second hand carrier they had gotten with a cracked frame and asked if we thought it was safe to carry their baby in. While I would want to actually see that crack in real life to fully determine, my gut reaction is there is no way I would carry Mason the distances we do and as often as we do it with old equipment. The hard thing with having a baby is that you are tapped out financially and so spending money becomes all about what you really need versus what will do.
But when it comes to your carrier think twice! This is an important piece of gear and if you buy it right, you will use it for a couple of years. And if you are really serious about getting out there you will probably want to consider both a soft and frame carrier.
It seems like almost everyone I know starts out with a used carrier of some sort that was handed down and this is definitely a great way to start. I had two given to me that seemed awesome pre-baby, but once Mason was born and I tried them each once and could see why they were just given away. They were uncomfortable and they were very old.
Here’s the thing about carriers – vintage is not cool when it comes to carrying babies. While it may seem painful to shell out a couple hundred bucks for a carrier, if you are serious about getting out there you will get your money’s worth. And a good carry can re-sell for a pretty hefty price. My neighbor just sold a 4 year old Deuter pack for $175, originally purchased for $275! Not bad considering she used it for close to 3 years.
So if you want to really think about carriers and getting out there, here are a few thoughts:
The technology has changed so much and the ergonomics and understanding of a babies body is very different then just ten years ago. If you are really going to seriously hike for a few hours you don’t want to have their legs dangling and their body wedged into a carrier that’s just plain uncomfortable. It will make your whole hike not so much fun. A soft carrier is good for a while, but at a certain point you will also want to consider a frame carrier. Some hikes are better with baby sitting up high behind you looking out, while others you will want him/her close to your body.
2. Walk it Out
Carriers are amazing and can free you, but remember you want your baby to be able to get in and out easily. Really try them in the store and see what’s right for your body and your baby. On trail as they get older and start walking it’s good to let them toddle every 45-60 minutes for at least a few minutes to get blood going again. The concern is always they won’t want to go back in the pack so then you just carry them for a a few minutes and then slide them in a bit after you walk down the trail. Make sure whatever carrier you chose it’s easy to get them on and off your back.
3. Have Space? Bring Bubbles
Yes, distractions are key. We recently attempted a hike with Mason where he threw a massive temper-tantrum and was not having it. At the time we didn’t have anything but a hot sun overhead and a few warm snacks to distract him, so we ended up skipping the hike for a few block toddler walk up a little canyon to some water. The funny thing is we had this big huge frame carrier and all of this space to carry things but we didn’t have much with us unfortunately. That day we just accepted it wasn’t going to happen. When I told a friend about it she said she always carries a small thing of bubbles and some fun shiny things. Something this small can distract a kid for long enough so you can slide him/her in the carrier and get moving. If you have a frame carrier you will have space for more, so think about the mood of your child and how much distraction he/she needs and that can help determine the kind of carrier you will want.
4. Alternate Carriers
On super long hikes we carry an Onya Baby soft carrier as well and might alternate between our Osprey Pocco Plus frame and soft carrier. The Onya Baby Outback can bear up to 75 pounds. I’ve tested it by carrying my 3.5 year old nephew and he’s huge. The cool thing is you can fold a soft carrier up super small and shove in a frame carrier bottom or one parent can wear. The Onya Baby is our carrier of choice for real hiking because it was built on backpack technology vs. baby technology, so it’s all about carrying a load. Join the Hike it Baby 30 to get a discount on them!
5. Stretch it Out
All carriers stretch out with age, no matter how high of quality they are. If you use it a lot or plan on spending some serious time babywearing, your number one investment should be a good carrier or two or three! Take a look at the carriers you have or if you are buying a used one, really assess how old it is and how hard it has been used. If it has been used a lot you might want to consider if for a starter carrier when your baby is young, but after about 3-4 months it’s a good idea to get a really solid carrier that will allow your baby to grow and gain weight and fill that carrier. If you are planning on having another kiddo or two, then investing now in a good carrier right from the start is a good idea. An expensive carrier doesn’t necessarily mean a good carrier. Be careful of going for fashion over function if you plan is to really get out there on trails for extended periods of time.