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Baby on Board: A Climbing Couple’s Quest for the Perfect Baby Carrier

One thing was sure when Claire was born, Ernita and I would continue to visit crags. While we knew our approach to climbing would have to change, we also knew that not climbing wasn’t an option. With this in mind, a good Child Carrier with a must.

Claire was three months old when she took her first trip to the crag, the Black Corridor, at Red Rocks in Nevada. I carried lunch, a giant dog pillow for Claire to sleep on, and all the climbing gear. My wife carried Claire in our soft carrier.  This was a great carrier for her age and weight, but we also decided quickly to invest in a full-size carrier. (We’ve owned two now.) The first we sold to a climbing partner in Mallorca when we moved back to the U.S.A.

Buying your first baby carrier is exciting, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. Here are a few things we kept in mind when we purchased ours.

Size Matters

Yes, size does matter, but not just to the carrier. In the case of child, carriers need a cockpit that fits the child. The child-chest straps are especially important to us. Claire was fairly young and small when we transitioned her to an external frame child carrier. The chest strap needed to be adjustable in height so she could wear it as she grew taller. We also wanted a comfortable strap because, in the early stages, the strap would be what held her body steady. (We also kept terrain in mind.)

Besides a chest strap, we also wanted a comfortable seat. I wanted Claire to be fine seating for a couple hours if we decided to do a long hike. The seated needed a certain amount of padding and the ability to adjust to her as she grew bigger. (Baby carriers are long term investments, especially if you plan on having more than one child.)

Storage Capacity

In our case, we knew that the carrier would need to be useful as a stand-alone pack. Our goal was to have a child carrier that could carry Claire and all of her needs for the day. We also wanted the option of adding a couple snacks and water in case I decided to hike without Ernita.  When looking at a child carrier, think about what you’ll bring with you.


Bells and whistlers, decide which you feel are important to you. In some cases, these extras can be added or removed depending on the trip you’re about to do.

Shoulder and Waste Straps (Not optional in my opinion)

Adjustable to mom and dad’s sizes




Child  Seat

Adjustable Harness System

Position of child




Carrying Harness

Safety first. Consider the terrain you travel.


Easy on and off


Must have. Don’t buy a model without on.


Sunshade or rain hood

Window flaps

Insect screens

Hydration systems

Diaper changing pas


Like any backpack, test it before taking your trip. Walk around your yard, carry it when walking the dog around the neighborhood or use it in the grocery store. You might get some strange looks, but you’ll eliminate surprises on the trail later. Using it on short trips will also help your child adapt to the new environment.

Practice hoisting the pack on and off. Make sure you try it a partner and without. The process is simple but does take a couple dry practice runs to prevent the top-heavy pack from flipping and spilling your child on the floor. Ideally, you have your partner help, but you should also be able to handle this solo if needed.

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