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Selecting the Right Child Carrier
Read Reviews on Child Carriers
Selecting the Right Child Carrier

Child in a baby backpack, France


Photo by Alfredo De Simone

Child carriers - baby backpacks - are an essential piece of gear for families looking to hit the trail with infants and tots. And they aren't just for backcountry hikers and rugged outdoor types. Kid carriers are ideal for families on the move be it a trip to a European capital or an adventure en plein air. But no two child carriers are the same. Not only do they come in a variety of shapes, colors and styles, each model has its own unique features. The following tips will help you select the right child carrier backpack for your travel needs.

Before shopping for a kid carrier evaluate your needs as well as your level of activity. Consider the age of your child as well as the number of years you plan to carry the kids. In general, baby backpacks are appropriate for children between the age of 6 months and 5 years or up to 45 pounds (20 kilos) - babies unable to hold their head upright should be carried in an infant carrier or front pack. But not all child carriers span the entire range. Determine the number of hours you are likely to wear the pack on any given day as well as your usage - walks around the block, light travel, heavy duty hiking or round the world trips. Decide whether one or both parents will take on kid carrying duties.

Review the pack's carrying capacity (volume and weight) first. Be sure it meets your current needs and allows you to maximize the number of years of usage. Families intent on using a child carrier for hours at a time will want padded shoulder and waist straps as well as a good suspension system. Fully adjustable straps are important if both parents will be wearing the pack. Most baby backpacks are equipped with a foldout kickstand and child harness system helpful for getting the pack on and fundamental for keeping the kids in.

While the deluxe model is likely to prove over the top for quick trips to the market, a removable rain and sun hood is essential for families planning to spend any amount of time outdoors. Extra storage capacity isn't just for the hiking crowd. Parents that pack everything but the kitchen sink on a trip 'round town will need extra space. Consider your needs carefully, the number of pockets will influence the price. A small mirror is a useful accessory for parents planning to spend a significant amount of one-on-one time with their kids as it allows you to make eye contact with your child as you walk. Collapsible models, often referred to as convertible day backs, are ideal for families intent on using the child carrier for light travel and short walks.

Comfort and Fit
Before purchasing a child carrier be sure it fits you and your child. Check the size, weight and safety requirements first. Once you have determined that the carrier is appropriate for your child, try it on for size. Adjust the straps for a proper fit and walk around the store. Once you have ascertained that it fits all the adults that will be carrying the pack make sure it fits your child. Carriers that allow you to adjust your child's position - height of the seat, position of the shoulder harness and tightness of the waist belt - will help smooth their ride. And while it is important that adjustments be easy to make they shouldn't be too simple. Toddlers have a knack for getting out! Don't forget to look in the mirror with the child carrier on. It should fit your body as well as your parenting style.

One last tip. Before departing on a family trip wear the pack around town for the weekend. Not only will this give you a chance to make any necessary adjustments, it provides both you and your child with an opportunity to get accustomed to a new mode of travel!

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