Sometimes a product makes you so happy, that you just want to share it with everyone else, regardless of whether the company asks you to or not. This is the case for us with the Onya Baby Outback carrier. We have two boys, currently four and eight years old, and we have gone through four different carriers/slings during the past eight (almost nine!) years, before finding one that we wish we would have discovered at the start.
Our backstory includes a rambunctious yet sensitive older son who completely benefited from being worn. And he was worn. All. The. Time. When he was very small, this was easily accomplished with a simple sling, then he graduated to another, cheaper carrier that was a hand-me-down from friends.
However, when dad and mom wanted to go for a serious hike, this little carrier was not enough. That required purchasing an aluminum frame pack, which was handy, yet not always ergonomically functional or comfortable for mom or son. Finally, he was old enough to “tough out” many of our longer hikes, and he no longer fit into a “reasonable” carrier (under $300).
When our second son was born, he inherited both the sling and the third-run flimsy carrier, and they worked for us at the time as we did not seem to have the time for exploring or hiking off-road. We would use the carriers in conjunction with a stroller for our road-based walking excursions when he was a baby. Then, our busy lives changed in a drastic way when he ended up in the hospital for a month, at six months of age, after being (allegedly) shaken by his care giver. It changed our world, our priorities, and our ability to get out and enjoy the outdoors, as his mobility and cognitive problem solving skills became significantly delayed. We became a special needs family.
Flash forward three years and fifty “hikes-cut-short” later, we stumbled upon Onya Baby carriers. I was looking for a soft carrier that could carry over forty pounds, as both our boys were tall and healthy for their ages. Our then-just-four year old was pushing 38 pounds, so most carriers were either too small, laden with heavy, solid, framework, or cost way too much for our meager budget. We were planning to start our “Yellowstone National Park in every season” tour, and needed to be able get out onto the trails! We ordered the Onya Baby Outback carrier and crossed our fingers…
Our first outing with the Outback carrier was a little shaky as expected, as our little guy had not been in this type of carrier before. We tried to get him on Dad’s back, but he would have nothing of it. Once saddled onto my back, which I found surprisingly comfortable and manageable, he settled in and we were off. That first hike was in the afternoon, so about a mile in, he nestled in to me and fell asleep! We were able to hike almost three miles that day, the first time in four years, and all of us were comfortable. And happy.
Since that day almost a year ago, our big “little” boy has gained a few pounds, but he still loves to be carried in the Onya Baby Outback when his legs give out or the terrain is too much for his legs, which are still in the process of catching up in strength and endurance. This winter we have pushed the Outback a little bit, and it still meets our hopes and expectations. First we tackled sub-zero temps on our last two trips to Yellowstone. So, bundled up in snow gear, we loosened the straps a little and threw him on my back, wh
ich meant we got to see a frozen waterfall, track wolves, and find the perfect sledding spot. Then in January, we decided to spend another sub-zero day hiking – but in a cave. We explored Wind Cave National Park below ground, the Natural Entrance Tour, which has over 300 steps. Our son would not be able to do 300 stairs without getting exhausted! Our guide cautioned me that they don’t usually allow packs on parents because of the persistent ducking that we would need to do during the tour. Thanks to the low profile of the Outback, my son’s head was at or below my own as long as I bent at the knees, which is the proper form anyhow.
To break down our experience, here’s how the Outback from Onya Baby looks to us:
Pros – lightweight and packable, ergonomic for both parent and child, holds children up to 45 lbs (some have reported up to 60 lbs, but I sure couldn’t carry that much weight!), “earthy” neutral colors, adjusts to fit parents small or large (Dad is 6’4”), four configurations possible, based on needs and age of child.
Cons – parent’s back/front can get sweaty from direct contact with child, getting child on back without help can be a struggle for larger or special needs child.
Overall, we are sold on Onya Baby carriers, and keep hoping our little guy will get strong enough for three-mile+ hikes before he outgrows his Outback! In the meantime, we’ll keep on hiking!