Summer is here. For many in the Pacific Northwest this means it's time to get ready to head outdoors. It also means finding new gear to make the trek easier. This includes finding the best carrier to keep you and your baby comfortable and happy on the trail. Lately, our Volunteer Babywearing Educators have been getting more and more questions about backpack style or hard frame carriers. They are a great option for carrying baby while hiking but, there is not a lot of information on them in the babywearing community. Hard frame carriers are quite different than soft structured carriers, such as buckle carriers, and wraps.
This can be confusing and overwhelming to both those new to wearing and those who are experienced wearers. Just like other types of baby carriers, hard frame carriers vary between brand and model making it hard to recommend the "perfect" or "best" carrier outright. Your best bet is to try on several and see which one fits you and your child best. However, there are some key features and guidelines that you should keep in mind when shopping for a hard frame carrier that might make finding the best fit for you easier.
Here are some basic recommendations for hard frame carrier safety and fit. Keep in mind these fit and feel differently than soft structured baby carriers. This is okay!
General Safety Tips:
In general, if you are used to soft structured baby carriers, hard frame carriers might take some adjusting to get used to. Keep in mind they are designed by companies that specialize in hiking and camping equipment, not baby carriers. They are perfectly safe and compliant with the Juvenile Product Manufacturers Associate regulations.
If you are serious about taking your baby out into nature (and I hope you are!), hard frame carriers are a great option. Please take your time, try on as many as you can before you buy. Don't just settle for an "okay" fit- find one that is truly comfortable. Your hips and shoulders will thank you! Also, keep in mind that they may not be the best option for you. But don't let that discourage you from babywearing while hiking. Soft structured carriers that can mold and adjust to your body hike just as well. Just find the carrier that fits you best and get out on the trails!
Samantha Reddy, ABE