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Update: It’s been over 7 years since we first tested the Piggyback rider. Since then we’ve tested dozens of child carriers on our travels all over the world. If you want to just skip the the chase and know how we feel now, our all time favorite carrier for kids ages 1-4 is this soft sided carrier and our favorite structured carrier (framed hiking backpack style carrier) is this one.
Although we love hiking as a family, hiking is hard for little 2-year-old legs. The thing is, she’s really getting too big for our backpack carrier, and with another one on the way, we had no plans of always having two kids that we would have to carry – she was going to have to get tough and walk more…then we learned about the Piggyback rider…a different kind of child carrier.
The Piggyback Rider is quickly making its way into the parenting world. It’s commonly refered to as the next step after your child outgrows a traditional child carrier backpack. We were thrilled to learn that it’s designed for kids ages 2 1/2 to 7 (or 60 pounds), so should work perfectly with Chloe (2 1/2 and 30 pounds) and Mason (5 and 43 pounds). We first saw it at the Outdoor Retail Show in January. It’s basically made up of shoulder straps with a bar hanging down below it for the child to ride on. For safety, the child wears a harness that clips onto the pack and also holds onto handles on the adults pack. We were mesmerized by the idea of a standing child carrier!
For us, we were thinking that this would serve the primary purpose of giving our kids a little break when out on longer hikes. We figure that they should be able to go for a good amount of time on their own (Chloe…) so we were not looking for a permanent ride (since that just makes things harder on US).
First of all, our kids are crazy about it. Every time they see that we have it with us, both of them are
fighting begging to go for a ride on this standing child carrier. Actually, I am too, because let’s face it – who wants to walk when you can get carried! They also love to be so tall and be able to have a fantastic view of everything. Also, it does all fit nicely into the storage bag that comes with it which makes it easy to contain and can quickly be thrown into an extra pack. Learning to get the child strapped onto it takes a little bit of practice, but now, Mason can usually do it by himself. It’s also a piece of gear that’s sure to draw attention to you, as nearly everyone we see comments on how cool it is.
However, as we started using our Piggyback Rider, we noticed that not everything was as great as we had imagined it would be. For starters, it’s hard to carry it for a long time. The straps are not padded very well and all of the child’s weight rests on your shoulders (as opposed to a regular child carrier that distributes the weight more evenly because of a hip strap). Imagine essentially having your child stand on your shoulders for hours, because that’s what it feels like. Because of this, the straps can get uncomfortable and shoulders/back often get sore after wearing it. Although both of our kids are well under the age and weight limits, we noticed that it was much more difficult to wear when Mason was riding on it. Even though he doesn’t weigh too much more than Chloe, that extra weight and his height always made it more difficult to balance.
Another drawback of it is that there isn’t a way to really carry other things while wearing this. Pretty much whenever we go anywhere, we take at a minimum snacks and water. Although the storage case folds up to be carried on the bar, the size and structure of it make it pretty awkward with things inside of it. However, this is no longer a problem if there is someone else with you to carry those “extra” things (this can also be remedied by purchasing this accessory). It can also be difficult because although the child isn’t walking their legs don’t get a major rest since they have to stand the whole time on the bar. This mostly comes into play on longer hikes when Chloe is so tired that she really needs to rest and it requires her to stand. However, on shorter distances, the need to stand is quickly forgotten by the excitement that they get a ‘free ride’.
We really think you should keep your eyes out for the Piggyback Rider in the next couple of years because we think they will be making some great improvements. (Watch for their newest pack coming out this year that features an integrated backpack making it much more hiker friendly.)
Overall, we think that the Piggyback Rider is an awesome idea, however it really needs some of its kinks worked out before we would strongly recommend it.
Piggyback Rider did provide us with a free carrier to review, and the opinions we shared are based on our own experiences and have not been influenced by any compensation.
This post was originally published in May 2012, but has been updated for content and accuracy.