Off-road buggies are all well and good but if like me you like to go for a ‘proper walk’ on challenging terrain wheels just won’t do. ‘Baby wearing’ as it has come to be known has exploded in popularity in recent years but for outdoor parents carrying your child has been the preferred option for much longer. With so many child carriers on the market, and with the key concerns of child and parent comfort thrown into the mix, choosing and using a carrier can be daunting, so with this in mind here are a few tips to point you in the right direction.
Outdoor Carriers vs Everyday Carriers
There is a distinct difference between these two groups of carrier. High street carriers tend to be of a softer fabric construction whereas their outdoor counterparts are more like a rucksack with an internal frame. High street carriers have their advantages as they tend to be less bulky and some are suitable for carrying newborns. Provided they are comfortable and supportive for parent and child they are perfectly adequate for shorter walks in fair weather.
The advantages of outdoor carriers really come to bear if you want to go on longer walks in a range of conditions with the two ‘big wins’ being weather protection and storage. All outdoor carriers either include sun and rain canopies or have them available as optional extras. The ability to quickly adjust weather protection for your child, without having to remove them to change clothing, can’t be understated. The latest canopies provide fast flexible protection from the wind and rain as well as from strong sunlight.
In addition outdoor carriers also have built in or removable storage compartments. These often provide as much storage as a standard daysack. Once you’ve factored in all the extra items you’ll need for your child this storage soon becomes vital for anything but the shortest of walks.
Another benefit worth mentioning is that outdoor carriers can be taken off without having to remove the child from the carrier. This is of particular benefit to the outdoors person as it makes adjusting clothing layers much more straight forward.
Second only to your child’s comfort is your own. To those unaccustomed to rucksack carrying a child carrier can feel a little alien so take time to find one that is comfortable for you. Visit your local store and try a couple of different models. Ask staff to adjust the carrier for both you and your child then wear it around the shop for 15-20 minutes to see if any comfort issues arise.
If walking as a couple the likelihood is that one partner will do the majority of the carrying so let them make the final decision on choice of model. Where the carrying is more evenly split it may be worth looking at models with an adjustable back system especially if there is a significant difference in height between partners.
Finally, there is the extra exertion of carrying a child to think about. Just consider that the average day bag weighs less than 5kg and the maximum child weight for a baby carrier can be over 20kg! That said as long as you start with shorter walks and build up you shouldn’t have any problems, it’s also a fantastic way to get fit. If you do find you are struggling with your balance or tired legs a pair of walking poles make a huge difference and are now available at very reasonable prices.
Child Comfort and Safety
The main concern of any parent is their child’s wellbeing so there are a few things you should be aware of when carrying a child;
- Adhere to manufacturer guidelines – Minimum/maximum child weights, child position adjustment, and duration of use are all often prescribed by the manufacturer. Be aware of this information and adhere to it.
- Upper body support – Your child’s torso should never be slumped forward. Correct carrier adjustment should prevent this. In addition, a sleeping child’s head should not be allowed to loll forward. In outdoor carriers the child’s head should either rest on the chin pad or be supported by a neck pillow.
- Leg support – You child’s legs should not be left dangling and unsupported. All outdoor carriers either come with stirrups or have them available as an optional extra. Stirrup length should be adjusted so the legs are bent with the knees elevated.
- Make regular checks – Always monitor your child to check for discomfort and poor positioning. With rear mounted carriers this is most easily done by a companion. If walking alone, outdoor style carriers can be removed without disturbing the child, alternately a small hand held mirror can be used (some carriers come with one included).
- Take regular breaks – Be sure to break up longer walks to give your child time out of the carrier.