Joseph, the new addition to the Northern Walker posse, has had one or two outdoors-lite experiences since he joined us in March. And in keeping with what has gone before in this blog, I already have one or two observations on kit.
Incorporating a little human into our albeit gentle forays into the Peak District and beyond has not been without incident – normally associated with what’s appearing out of Joe’s rear end. But Joe’s mum, Sophie, and I are living and learning and every day’s a school day.
Early adventuring saw us hiking in the gentle hills and dales near home. Joe was carried in an inherited ErgoBaby 360 carrier mounted on the front. This has proven to be an excellent carrier and Joe loves it, more often than not sleeping for two hours or more while mum and dad wander and natter. The disadvantage of this well-made baby lugger is that it runs warm, particularly for me. It’s also a little on the small side for anyone over six foot. Weather protection necessitates the purchase of additional rain covers and other accessories… or the resourceful addition of muslin cloths and clothes pegs to fend off the sun’s rays.
While airing a rather sweaty Joe after a more challenging bimble around Hathersage, Sophie decided to look for a cooler alternative and we shelled out on a recommended Beco Gemini Cool. This seemingly well-designed carrier will appeal to the lightweight backpackers out there with its use of hi-tech and lightweight materials allied to a strong and secure harness that, on first inspection, transfers weight well to the hips.
However, in practice, we couldn’t get on with this carrier. Joe never felt that secure and the harness proved to be too much of a faff. I’m sure this model works well for some parents, just not us when dealing with the realities of a wriggling child. Fortunately, we bought it from a vendor that allowed a trial period, a recommended safeguard covering purchases for fickle babies and their parents.
The advantages of carrying baby upfront are numerous. You can interact with your precious cargo and baby feels secure and calm, cosseted with a kind of in-utero security. However, there are limitations if you want to tackle more technical ground as you can’t see where you’re putting your feet. While many of these carriers can either be worn front or back (some side-on even), I feel the suggested method of fitting the Ergobaby in reverse is cumbersome and not overly secure. Again, if your little one is docile then I’m sure this works well but Joe is far too active to complete this deft move safely.
Enter a dedicated, rucksack carrier, then. After much research, I opted for an Osprey Poco AG. Expensive, heavy, but very well engineered. Rucksack-type carriers are recommended for babies six months and older but Joe is ahead of the game in terms of his physical development. This may seem a blinkered, new parent boast, but at 18lb 8oz ‘Big Joe’ already has great head control and can sit up. I hope to take this carrier for a test drive this week and will report back… let’s hope he likes it (!)
Last month, I decided to take the new family away for a few days. While this fortuitously coincided with mum’s birthday, I felt we needed to celebrate making it this far as new parents (while only causing minor consternation for the health visitor).
My initial, perhaps optimistic, intention was to go camping. Everyone loves camping, don’t they? …and the boy would love it too! However, the new, somewhat risk-averse voice in my head that has started nagging since Joe arrived saw me find an easier alternative. I find this personal common sense revolution a little unnerving to be honest. I hope as I become more experienced with this baby lark, the slightly more adventurous self will return.
The safer alternative was to go glamping in a yurt in Yorkshire – Swaledale Yurts to be precise. I’d reconnoitered this destination before, both on bike and foot, and had been looking for an opportunity to visit. Suffice to say I can highly recommend it. The pleasant owners can cater for your every need if required while the remoteness of the location will allow you to disconnect for a while – always a good thing.
As for Joe, I think he found his temporary home perhaps a little overwhelming. Although we tried to maintain his normal routine, I think our trip coincided with a major developmental spurt. This has subsequently been confirmed as the last few weeks have been characterised by variable moods and (very) disturbed sleep.
We managed a few gentle hikes in Swaledale, and it was really gratifying to see Joe experience new sights, smells and sounds when not feeding or having a minor huff.
All in all, the trip was mostly successful and it gave us confidence. And given we are heading to Norway in August, it’s confidence we’ll need.