After deciding to focus on selecting a non structured carrier to hike the GDT with Toothless, we did a bit more research, selected a carrier and have been testing it out.
We started off looking at the following three carriers. These were identified by looking for front baby carriers and selecting ones with thin enough shoulder straps and no waist belt in order to be compatible with our multi-day packs. Most were identified in Part 1 of this selection but the Naked Panda Designs carrier was found afterwards.
- Babybjorn – Baby Carrier Mini
- Naked Panda Designs – Splash Buckle Onbuhimo (or similar)
- HappyBaby – Happy Onbuhimo
Babybjorn – Baby Carrier Mini
I was excited by this one. I even found one locally to try on.
The fabric is a cool mesh and seemed suitable for all weather and quick to dry.
The shoulder straps are thin and wide and connect in an X in the back, which felt secure, comfortable and out of the way of my pack. This just felt very comfortable; I pressed down hard on the bottom of the carrier to imitate weight from a baby and the strap system distributed the load really well. I could barely feel the weight on my shoulders or back.
The adjustment mechanism seems easy to use and robust.
It seems very well made but the carrier uses a lot of proprietary connectors – many of which are plastic. Any failure on trail would cause it to be unsafe to use. Which would potentially leave us stranded.
The ability to have the baby forward facing is nice. I never considered whether or not a carrier can be used as a back carrier because we will be using it with out backpacks.
Some reviews online show that a larger baby might not be comfortable – potentially unsupported under their legs. I agree that the width of the carrier is narrow so this seems like a legitimate concern.
Ultimately we ranked this lowest on our list of the three options.
Naked Panda Designs – Splash Buckle Onbuhimo (or similar)
I was also optimistic about this. I liked the fabric options since a more technical and quick drying fabric would be appropriate for thru hiking.
There are a lot of carrying options and configurations.
It is also a very simple design, which is very robust to repair on trail.
The fabric patterns are very fun and quite appealing.
The Splash model is meant to be used in water, like in a pool or wading in a lake.
The splash doesn’t have a cover – which makes sense since you do not want your baby’s head covered in fabric while under water. But a cover is important to keep Toothless napping while we hike.
The Splash model had the thin shoulder straps.
The Duo is available also in the technical, quick drying fabric but it has thick shoulder straps more similar to our Ergo.
Ultimately, if we could get the Splash design with a cover we would have considered it more seriously but we did not to have to come up with a custom nap cover.
HappyBaby – Happy Onbuhimo
We chose this one in linen. It’s not a technical fabric but still relatively quick drying. We chose an umber /orange colour to make it easy to see.
It is 382g, and is a simple design. All buckles can be replaced with standard ones in a pinch or tied off with cable.
The shoulder straps are thin and wide, and still surprisingly comfortable. There is no hip strap. We both carried Toothless and our multi-day packs on hikes and everything fits comfortably. We will have less access to our hip pockets, especially when Toothless gets longer legs, but that can be solved.
It comes with a hood /cover that can be removed. The hood has straps that fold back on themselves and snap to themselves. This means you can loop the straps through anything (like your backpack shoulder straps) and snap them to themselves to keep the hood up. This is unlike other carriers that are designed for the hood to snap directly to the shoulder straps.
There is a section of soft padding around the edge of the panel where the baby’s legs stick out. This distributes the load off of the edge of the panel and seems to make it more comfortable for the baby.
We have taken Toothless on a number of walks with this carrier and he is incredibly comfortable and content in it. It’s comfortable for the person wearing it and fits both Natasha and I.
The person wearing the baby has so much more flexibility and agility in this. I can lift my knees up high and move around with the baby still secure. It’s just amazing how it doesn’t limit movement.
Also this style of carrier is much easier to put on alone than our Ergo – there are less straps to get right. You basically just hold the baby up to your chest and slip the shoulder straps on, snap the strap behind your shoulder blades and call it a day. It’s very easy to adjust.
Overall the goal with this carrier system is to allow both Natasha and I to each carry Toothless as we need or want. We can choose this based on routine, or change who is carrying him in a pinch if someone is tired or injured. We can also carry our normal packs and distribute weight between our packs depending on who is carrying Toothless at the time. It is a very flexible system.
We are quite happy with the HappyBaby carrier and how it works with our carrying system. We are likely to continue using it and will very likely use it on the GDT this year.