Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The PiggyBack Rider saves the day

The PiggyBack Rider won't give you the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound but if you've ever tried hiking with a toddler or preschooler, the freedom this simple child carrier provides might make you feel like you can hike faster than a speeding bullet.  It will certainly make your child feel like Superman or Superwoman as they ride high up in the air racing along a trail they were moments earlier dragging their feet on. 

The PiggyBack Rider in use

 What is the PiggyBack Rider?  It's a lightweight child carrier designed specifically for toddlers and preschoolers two and a half years of age and up.  It can carry kids weighing up to 60 lbs (27kgs).  It's a God-send for us because our son at three years already weighs 40lbs and has outgrown his Baby Backpack Carrier that we've been using the last couple of years.  We've dialed back our adventures significantly but still, we occasionally want to hike something that is longer than 3km and our son tires out on steep hills.  Thanks to the PiggyBack Rider we are able to go out on any hike of reasonable length, knowing we have a backup plan.  Our goal is always that our son will walk but in the event he starts to get miserable, whiny and grumpy - up he goes on Daddy's back and we continue along the trail until he's had a bit of a rest and can hike some more.

Not your average flat walk along a creek

The PiggyBack Rider features a shoulder-strap mounted bar with a safety tether for ensuring Junior doesn't fall off your back.  The child stands on the bar rather than sitting on your shoulders or in a backpack.  Kids love the height advantage and bonding time with Mom or Dad.  My son wraps his arms around Dad and the two of them hike along the trail with those chubby little arms encircling Daddy in a nice cozy hug.  While the pack is very simple and you won't be carrying anything else in it other than your child, this also means it's light - a plus when your child weighs more than 40lbs.  The Rider also comes with its own little carrying bag so when it's not in use you can either stow it in a second backpack that a second parent or older sibling is carrying, or you can just carry it across your body with the straps designed for that.  You won't even know you're carrying it.  On many of our hikes, my husband carries it the whole time slung across his shoulders and we feel secure in knowing it's along - just in case.

You can barely even tell that my husband is carrying the PiggyBack Rider right now in this urban hiking photo

Think of the PiggyBack rider as part of your emergency kit.  Granted, the most expensive part of your emergency kit at roughly $100, but still - fairly important in salvaging a walk, hike, or journey around town.  I'd say that 99% of the time, we pack our emergency kit on trips and never use it.  I'm still glad we  bring it because you just never know.  Our emergency kit could save somebody's life.  The PiggyBack Rider though it likely won't actually save a life, is an integral part of our kit.  We bring it along and 60% of the time (perhaps more) it doesn't get used.  This makes me happy though.  I mean, do you really want an excuse to use your first-aid kit?  I'd rather bring it home unopened.  It's the same with the Rider.  We hope that our son will be walking most or all of the time.  However, kids are unpredictable and there is no book out there than can teach you how to know when your child will have a good hiking day Vs. a bad hiking day.  If there is, somebody please send it my way!!

A good hiking day thanks to the PiggyBack Rider

 We've used our PiggyBack Rider around town and out in the mountains on short easy flat little walks.  It worked well but I wanted to really test it before I could honestly recommend it to you.  Last weekend we finally had the opportunity.  We were in Jasper and wanted to hike up to the Old Fort Point.  If you know the viewpoint, you are aware of how steep the trail is.  Most adults are winded while making their way up (I know I am).  It's a beautiful, short little hike though so we wanted to do it.  My husband put our son in the PiggyBack Rider and off they climbed.  Up, up, and then more up as we reached a small cliff band at the top.  I think it's possible to go around but honestly, where's the fun in that?  Never did my son come close to falling off the bar, never was there a moment of danger, and both Dad and Son felt secure the whole time.  I thought maybe the Rider would be best used while walking around Disney Land or the Zoo but it is perfectly suited for short rugged hikes too - something very important to us.

Climbing up to the Old Fort Point Lookout in Jasper

The view we got in Jasper last weekend thanks to the PiggyBack Rider

Now, I should mention that you don't have to be mountain folk to get a PiggyBack Rider.  It would work super well if you were touring a city on vacation, exploring your local zoo or theme park, or taking a walk around the pathways in your town.  Anytime your child needs a five minute break you can pull out the Rider and continue right on going.  We use our Chariot a lot and I was honestly uncertain how much we'd use the PiggyBack Rider in the city because we've always loved our Chariot so much.  I'm learning though that most toddlers and preschoolers either don't want to ride in a stroller anymore or else if you bring it, they won't get out and walk!  We've stopped bringing our stroller when we go out because it's just an invitation to be lazy and sit down the whole time.  If my son knows he can just ride in his comfy stroller, there's no way he's walking.  Meanwhile, I have friends who can't bring a stroller because their 3 or 4 year old would think they were a baby.  Either way, the PiggyBack Rider is a good alternative.

Out for a walk around our neighborhood shortly after receiving the PiggyBack Rider

If you are thinking of getting a PiggyBack Rider there a few things you will want to consider:
  • You will need a second parent, friend, or older sibling along to help carry things on your outing.  The PiggyBack Rider doesn't have room for carrying water, snacks, or other gear.  You could put a few things in the bag that's used to hold the Rider, but not much more than a few granola bars or a light jacket.  For us, this isn't a problem because we are always together as a family.  My husband carries the boy and I carry the rest of the gear for our outing.
  • You'll also want a second person along to help get your child onto the bar and strapped in.  After using the Rider for a while I'm sure you'd get familiar with  the product enough to do it all by yourself but we find it's easier with two.  My husband also likes having me right behind him on the trail in case my son's feet slip off the bar and I can make quick adjustments.
  • The PiggyBack Rider doesn't have the waist support that a normal backpack has.  You will feel the weight of your child on your shoulders if you go out for a long hike.  It's best used for ten-fifteen minute periods while your child rests or else for short hikes.  That being said, it's not meant to be a full child carrier.  You wouldn't put a three or four year old in it for a two hour hike and expect them to ride the whole time.
  • If your child wants up and down every two minutes, it would honestly just be simpler to put them on your shoulders and give them an original piggyback ride rather than strapping them onto the PiggyBack Rider.  Otherwise, if your child is content to ride for at least ten-fifteen minutes at a time, the Rider works well.  Some kids will need time to adjust to the PiggyBack Rider as well.  Our son had to use it a good five times before he figured out that it was pretty cool and he wanted to be using it rather than having Daddy just carry him in his arms.  Therefore, I recommend starting on short walks around your neighborhood first rather than taking it on a vacation right off the bat where you'll need your child to be comfortable with it.
Our son is very comfortable with the PiggyBack Rider now and asks to use it with excitement.

For more information about the PiggyBack Rider, visit the official website.  
If you live in Canada and would like to order one, please visit the Adventure Gear Canada Website.

We were given a PiggyBack Rider to use and review but all comments, opinions and suggestions in this story are my own along with those of my husband who has been the true user of the Rider along with my son.

If you are a member of my Outdoor Adventures Playgroup and would like to try out our PiggyBack Rider, let me know and I will bring it for you to demo on a Friday morning.

Freedom on the trails


  1. This looks like a super product! We could definitely still get some use out of this handy tool!

    1. Thanks Sami Joe. We are certainly enjoying it.

  2. At some time I'd be interested in trying it. I don't think I'm coming this friday (zoo day with a friend) but I'll let you know when I'm coming to see about trying it. Question is, do you really feel it's worth the $100?

    1. I think it's worth the money if you do a lot of hiking and walking as a family. Many people think the PiggyBack Rider is just something for urban walks and trips to the zoo but honestly, I'd just take my wagon or chariot for something like that. It's in the mountains that we use it or on natural hikes in the city. The reality for us right now is that Noah can't walk more than 4km at the most and there is no way of knowing if he is going to have a good hiking day where he will walk that far, or if he's going to be tired after 1km and whine the whole time to be carried. Many times we pack the carrier along and never use it. The peace of mind for us would be worth the money though. As I said, it's a part of our first aid or emergency kit.

  3. Phantastic pictures. We need to visit the Northern Rockies.

    1. Thanks a lot. And yes, you need to visit. :)

  4. I would love to try this out to increase our time at the dog park. My bro bought one based on this article! Great review!

    1. Thanks Leslie. Glad your brother got one. Maybe you can borrow it sometime from your brother and try it out. Otherwise, if you come to a Friday playgroup, I always have mine in the car.