Never fail, I come away from family hikes with bruised shoulders and a sore neck. After all, my baby is pushing 40lbs. But it’s not just the weight. It’s the way he can push up on the support bar, shift his weight from side to side, and lean his head on me when he’s tired (sweet but a pain in the neck). Most of all, it’s my cruddy old child-carrier.
So why do I keep planning hikes with 3 children ages 6, 4, and 2? Because I think it’s good for them and if I don’t think about my physical state, I tend to enjoy myself. After all, pain is a necessary evil of good parenting right?
LittleLife says NO! Thus was born “The Freedom” – an absolute shoulder-saving, joy renewing child-carrier that I got to test out. And boy am I glad. My map didn’t show the steep climb behind Monkey Face up to Misery Ridge (suitable name) on the 4 mile loop around Smith Rock State Park.
“This should only take about an hour,” I told my mom who decided to come trekking with me and my brood, “But let’s plan on 2 hours since we have the kids with us.”
Three hours later we emerged from the Crooked River canyon, covered in dust with rivers of sweat running down our cheeks and necks. The trail wasn’t overly strenuous, just overly interesting. We moved at a snail’s pace because there are so many “monkey’s” (my 2-year-old’s term for rock climbers) to gasp at,
and river otters to watch, and snakes to hunt for,
and rock caves and crannies to explore,
All of this was done with my mammoth toddler strapped to my back for 3 hours in sun-baked Smith Rock State Park. Exhausting but do-able with the LittleLife’s Freedom carrier. Impossible with my old child-carrier that I picked up at a garage sale 6 years ago.
The difference: padded waist strap.
My other carrier had a waist strap, but not a heavy duty one like this! Instead of just cutting into my gut, the LittleLife strap actually sits on the hips so the weight of my huge baby is off my shoulders without slicing into my gastrointestinal tract.
Other AWESOME features that I didn’t know I was missing out on but now can’t live without:
1. Adjustable seat and plush head rest – so any sized kiddo can sit low enough to rest their head on the pack instead of the parent’s neck, or sit high enough to get a good view.
2. Waist pocket – perfect size for my camera and sunglasses so I didn’t have to keep asking my hiking buddy to dig around in the backpack for my stuff.
3. Attached mirror – for spying on the kiddo or signalling a passing plane in case I find myself in an emergency survival situation!
4. Adjustable straps – for changing the distribution of carrier weight. This is a nice feature if you are on uneven terrain and need to have your weigh farther forward or back. The adjustable straps also make this pack comfortable for my 5’2″ mom or my 6’4″ husband while being light enough for my 6 year old.
5. NO SUPPORT BAR! – This pack sits flat and balanced without having a kick-stand bar that my son stands on and pushes out. Instead, there is a little cutout that you can stand on to anchor the pack and keep it stable. Great innovation.
I do have one complaint!
I’ve had this carrier for a while but haven’t been able to use it all summer. Why?
It’s HUGE! This thing does not collapse. If you don’t have space in your car, you’re out of luck. If I’m camping, the pack won’t fit in the trunk. If I’m bringing a double stroller, the pack stays at home. Even at home this beast of a carrier is a pain to store. If it could fold down, it would be perfect.
Carnage report – Nil! You know how your butt hurts after riding a bike if you haven’t been on the saddle in a while? The next day, if you just look at a bike seat you cringe with pain? That was the relationship between my shoulders and my old child-carrier. Not so with the LittleLife Freedom. I wore it the very next day for a morning two-miler with no soreness.
After reaching the parking lot and shoving the carrier into the hatchback it was time for some ice cream closure. So hopefully, even if my kids don’t end up liking hiking, they’ll develop a Pavlovian response to climb a hill whenever they encounter sweet, frozen, dairy foods. Now that’s good parenting!