Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How to select a baby carrier for your hike

If your child is an infant or toddler, you’ll have to carry him. Until infants can hold their heads up, which usually doesn’t happen until about four to six months of age, a front pack (like a Snugli or Baby Bjorn) is best. It keeps the infant close for warmth and balances out your backpack. At same time, though, you must watch for baby overheating in a front pack, so you’ll need to remove the infant from your body at rest stops.

When purchasing a front pack, you’ll want one with padded straps if walking for any long distance, or they’ll start digging into your shoulders. Make sure the front pack provides good neck and head support for baby. Also, look for one that isn’t too difficult to put on. Some have a number of straps on them that you’ll constantly have to adjust as baby grows.

Once children reach about 20 pounds, they typically can hold their heads up and sit on their own. At that point, you’ll want a baby carrier (sometimes called a child carrier or baby backpack), which can transfer the infant’s weight to your hips when you walk. You’ll not only be comfortable, but you’re child will love it, too.

Look for a baby carrier that is sturdy yet lightweight. Your child is going to get heavier as time passes, so about the only way you can counteract this is to reduce the weight of the items you use to carry things. The carrier also should have adjustment points, as you don’t want your child to outgrow the carrier too soon. A padded waist belt and padded shoulder straps are necessary for your comfort. The carrier should provide some kind of head and neck support if you’re hauling an infant. It also should offer back support for children of all ages, and leg holes should be wide enough so there’s no chafing. You also want to be able to load your infant without help. It also should be stable enough to stand so when you take it off the child can sit in it for a moment while you get turned around. You don’t want a carrier that you must swing around your back to put on. Instead, you should be able to sit down, pull the carrier onto your back as you adjust the straps, and then stand.

Stay away from baby carriers with only shoulder straps as you need the waist belt to help shift the child’s weight to your hips for more comfortable walking. Older “Gerry” baby carriers from yard sales also are a no-no. They were recalled because when small infants shifted to one side they could slip through the leg openings to the ground.

Related articles:
g Carry handy carbiners on next day hike with kids
g Do I need to carry rope on a day hike?
g Carry a flashlight on day hike into wilderness areas

Read more about day hiking with children in my guidebook Hikes with Tykes.