Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Gear Review: Baby Bjorn One Outdoors Baby Carrier

Hiking with Baby Bjorn One Outdoors Carrier
Photo by Leanne De Craene.
My new leap into motherhood has brought a whole new level of hiking-gear obsession.  As most middle-class mothers have done, prior to the birth of my son, I agonized over which type of baby carrier to invest in.  For those of you who don't know - these things aren't cheap - the average (quality) soft carrier ranges from $50-$300 and each one comes with advantages and limitations.  In the end, thanks to generous friends I ended up with three top-notch carriers.  Unfortunately, it turned out that while they all were great at something...none were great for what I needed...hiking

Other carriers didn't cut it for summer hiking.
From left:No hip support, too stretchy/not enough support,
 too hot/can't wear a pack.
I originally tried a popular soft carrier that my baby's legs could dangle down in. I loved it's simplicity and baby Lucien loved how comfortable it was.  Unfortunately, about the time when he was able to face outward in it, it became uncomfortable carrying him.  With no hip belt and little shoulder padding, it was too painful for a multi-hour hike.

Next I tried a wrap system.  Although this is my favorite for around the house, it didn't work for hiking either.  The stretchable jersey sagged after long walks.  Not to mention - with baby pressed up against me, we both turned into sweat machines in minutes after increased exercise.

Finally I though I had it made when I got a drop-in carrier with a massive hip belt.  Sure, my shoulders didn't hurt anymore, but the giant shoulder pads made it so I couldn't carry Lucien AND a backpack.  Where would I store water, diapers, and snacks? This carrier also placed baby against me directly which made us hot on summer hiking days.

I felt like I was in some momma-hiking version of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears"....I needed to find a carrier that was "just right".  Right when I was about to give up on treks with my boy, I found out that Baby Bjorn was coming out with a new carrier - a hiking specific soft carrier!  They agreed to let me gear test it.  Here is what I found...

Item:  Baby Carrier One Outdoors by Baby Bjorn (in turquoise)
Hiking in Acadia with One Outdoors.
Photo by Leanne De Craene.

The Basics: According to Baby Bjorn's website, this carrier is specifically designed as the "perfect hiking baby carrier".  It works for age newborn to 3 years, is considered a 'hip-healthy' carrier for baby, and has options for 4-way front and back carrying.  The material is a mesh-hybrid which is designed to let air flow (preventing the sweaty problems), and comes with a travel bag and hip belt pouch - perfect for a smart phone.  Color choices are turquoise and black.

Test Adventures:

My initial test of the Baby Carrier One Outdoors was a 4 day trip to Acadia National Park with my girlfriends. I averaged 5-10 miles of hiking a day plus in-town travel.  Lucien probably spent a total of 30+ hours in this pack over the course of the trip.  I took him on easy to challenging trails (See post about trip HERE).

Lucien was 2.5 months at the time of the initial gear test, but he was really long for his age - over 25 inches.  The pack had two options for where he sat in the carrier and he was just too tall for the infant position.  I was easily able to zip him into the larger 'pocket'.  I tested it as a front carrier in both the inward and outward facing options.  **Note - the manufacture recommends you don't try outward facing until 5 months but Lucien was fine holding his neck for short periods of time in it.  At this time, my baby is too small for back carrying so I haven't been able to test that (yet).

Acadia with Baby Bjorn One Outdoors.
Photo by Leanne De Craene
My priorities going into the test was to look for a few things that I wasn't getting in my other carriers.  Here were my questions:

- Carrier Comfort - Can I wear it for 4-6 hours without pain?  Does it distribute weight onto hips and shoulders?  Does it adjust to different body types?

- Baby Comfort - Does my baby sit well in it?  Is it comfortable for him?

- Breathability - Are my baby and I going to be instantly covered in my sweat when I start climbing a mountain?

- Difficulty Using - Can I get it on and baby in by myself?  Can I quickly take it on and off when I need to diaper change, nurse, get in-and-out of the car?

- Storage/Pack - Can I wear a backpack AND the carrier?  Does it provide storage for items for a short walk?

After 4 days and 30+ hours of hiking I found my answers...

Trying the face out option.

Carrier Comfort - I had HIGH expectations for this carrier that claims to be "the perfect hiking baby carrier" and after my initial test, I agree that it is the best soft carrier on the market for hiking.  The weight of my baby was distributed between my hips and shoulders.  I was incredibly comfortable hiking multiple hikes a day for many days with this pack.  I'm 6'1" so I was nervous about it being long enough for me, but I didn't have any issues.  I wore the "hip" belt more like a waist belt so I'm sure on a shorter torsoed mommy it would sit more on the hips, but it could obviously work for 6 ft dads too.  I also love that the hip and waist belt are not too thick so I didn't get sweaty AND the shoulder straps (although padded) were thin enough that I could wear a backpack and the carrier at the same time.

Baby Comfort - I was able to adjust the pack to Lucien's length so he fit well.  I liked these options and can see that I'd get my moneys worth from this pack since he will grow into it and the pack will be adjustable.  He slept in the carrier through pretty much every hike.
Breathable barrier between mom and baby.
I am wearing a backpack over the carrier straps.
Breathability - This is the real genius of this pack.  There is a mesh barrier between you and your baby.  As I climbed up mountains and was dripping sweat in 90 degree humid weather, my baby stayed dry!  It prevented us both turning into sweat machines.  The mesh also helped prevent excessive sweat along the strap lines.  I LOVE this part of the pack.  If you are going summer hiking, the other options are just too hot for you and baby.

Difficulty - While this pack is not as easy to use as the Bjorn Original, it's still pretty simple - especially considering that it works for newborn to 3 years.  It took less than a minute to get Lucien in and out.

Storage - The only storage available on the pack is the cell-phone sized pocket on the waist band.  Honestly, I didn't use this at all.  I keep my phone in my pocket and carried a backpack with me that sat comfortably over the shoulder straps of the baby carrier.


As far as a soft hiking carrier goes, this is (in my opinion) the best choice out there.  It was
Hiking in New Hampshire with One Outdoors.
Photo by Leanne De Craene.
comfortable for me and my baby, we didn't get sweaty, it was easy to use, and I was able to wear a backpack with it.  Still, there are some limitations to this pack since it is built as a hiking specific carrier.

Mentioned earlier, this pack is a little more complicated than the original.  As a result, it takes some user knowledge and fiddling with straps.  It's not as easy to get baby in and out of.   Although this could easily be an everyday carrier, I prefer it strictly for hiking since I have the wrap for in-home use which is a little softer and great for cooler weather.

Some mothers might find it frustrating that they cannot breastfeed while wearing the carrier.  When I needed to breastfeed, I needed to remove baby and the carrier.  This was slightly cumbersome but not a deal-breaker.

It's last limitation is storage - I didn't find the cell phone pocket on the hip band particularly helpful.  I would have preferred a larger pouch in the front or larger hip belt pouch.  This turned out to not be a problem on large hikes, however, since I was able to carry a backpack.


Climbing challenging trails with One Outdoors.
Photo by Leanne De Craene.
The Baby Bjorn One Outdoors Carrier turned out to be everything it promised.  It is the perfect option for parents looking to hike with their child.  With a steep price tag (retailing around $250), it's an investment.  However, for me, it is totally worth it if you are planning regular hiking with your baby.  What's more, because of its versatility, the user can use this carrier for up to 3 years of the child's life - a promise not offered by other packs.  I look forward to using my Baby Bjorn One Outdoors Baby Carrier on all my adventures this summer as well as years to come!  Keep up with my adventures with baby Lucien here at FreelanceAdventurer.com and on Facebook at @TheFreelanceAdventurer and Instagram @FreelanceAdventurer.

Happy Baby after a day of hiking!
Photo by Leanne De Craene.

You might enjoy the following posts about hiking with a baby...

- 3 Family Friendly Nights in Acadia National Park

- White Ledge Trail - Solitude and Views Near North Conway

- Mt. Kearsarge North - 360 Views in the Heart of North Conway