I can't believe it's only one month until we head out on our first camping trip of the season! It will be nice to be able to write about actual "camping adventures" again. Until that time though, we've been taking advantage of the weather warming up and have started to spend more time outdoors hiking around the area. And as we all know, with little ones in tow, a baby carrier is absolutely necessary if you want to go off the paved road. So, in the spirit of upcoming spring and summer hikes, I thought it might be time to talk a bit about baby carriers. This is a topic that's near and dear to my heart because I actually started up and ran my own baby carrier business with a friend for a short time, so I feel like I probably have more knowledge than the average Joe (or Josephine as the case may be.)
The day of the Baby Bjorn being your only choice for a baby carrier are gone. Today there are hundreds of different types and styles to choose from. Here are a couple of things to think about when choosing a baby carrier:
1. Will you use it solely for hiking or will you use it for other activities as well?
2. Where do you feel most comfortable having the weight distibuted. Do you prefer having it hit your shoulders, or would it work better if you had the weight on your hips?
3. How old is your baby? Is he/she holding their head up yet? Sitting up on their own? Or are you perhaps looking for more the toddler age?
4. Do you want the ability to have him/her on your front and back or are you ok with just having him/her on your back?
5. Are you looking for a carrier that can be operated easily by one person, or one that may require a second set of hands?
6. How much are you looking to spend?
One of the more popular carriers for hiking is Kelty. We have a Kelty carrier that we use solely for hiking while camping. What I love about this carrier is that it can hold up to 50 pounds so we could easily use it up until our middle child, Alex was 3.5 years old. It puts the weight on your hips which makes for a much more comfortable hike with the older heavier child. The main downsides to these carriers, is that they are pretty bulky for every day use. They also, in my opinion, require two sets of hands to get the child in proper and up on your back. They are a bit pricey as well, unless you can pick one up second hand. That, being said, for the older toddler, this carrier has been a necessity and a lifesaver for us.
A couple other choices that you may or may not have heard of, but that can be great for hiking and everyday use are the Ergo and Beco. I have tried both of these carriers and like them both. Similar to the Kelty, they place the weight of the child at your hips and not your shoulders. The main difference you'll find with these two carriers is that there is no metal support like there is in the Kelty. These carriers have been designed with everyday use in mind. I prefer these carriers for the 2 year and under crowd because they can be worn on either the front or back and they are much easier for a single person to maneuver. They are also a bit more affordable. However, the downside to these carriers is that they don't have as much storage for diapers, drinks, snacks etc. as the Kelty has and I do think that for longer hikes and heavier children, the Kelty will support better over the long term. Seeing as we have three children, and needed to carry two until just this year, having one of these carriers in addition to the Kelty was perfect for us. I use this carrier other places besides hiking as well; at museums, zoos, the grocery store; you name it. It's a wonderful way to carry a little one around when you're lacking that second set of hands and/or a smooth ride for the stroller.
This is only the tip of the iceberg with regards to carriers. There are many other types; mei tais, buckle tais, ring slings, etc. Some of these are ok for hiking and others are better for day to day use. If you are interested in learning more about the different types of baby carriers available, I recommend you visit The Babywearer website.
Alex in one of my carriers; the Hapai Baby