Recreation Gear Review

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Just because we have kids doesn’t mean we want to sit at home reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear a hundred times until we have all the animals and their colors memorized. Sure we do that, but there has to be something else, too.

Thanks to all the fancy gear on the market today it is easy—if you can afford it—to get your child out into the woods or across borders into far-off countries. Well, at least you can walk to town with relative ease.

This spring my son, Anders, and I took a little trip to South America. Although we’d be spending a week of our three-week sojourn with my husband, all the traveling would be done with just the two of us. As I looked over our current holdings (heavy, bulky crib/playpen, external frame kid carrier) I wondered how I would carry all that, plus the kid, plus my stuff, on and off four airplanes each way, through customs, around airports and in and out of cars. Oh yeah, and I have to do all this while pregnant. Fortunately, there is an easier way. With the help of some great lightweight, compactable gear traveling has become a whole lot less difficult.

Organic Carrier—ERGObaby
On our trip to Argentina I knew I needed a device to carry my son around that would also stuff into a duffel bag. I also wanted something that wasn’t too bulky to wear when he got out of the carrier to do a little walking of his own.

The ERGObaby carrier fit the bill. It’s soft, flexible and scrunches into a pretty small wad when not in use. Plus, it is comfortable to wear for both carrier and child. I used it walking around town and hiking up trails. When Anders fell asleep I’d pull the stretchy hood over the back of his head, holding it close to my back. That kept his little noggin from bouncing around as I walked uneven trails and scrambled over rocks.

The ergonomic design supports a correct sitting position for my son’s hip, pelvis and spine growth. It disperses most of his weight between the hips and thighs, which helps eliminate compression of the spine when hanging by the crotch. The ERGO also balances the baby’s weight to parents’ hips and shoulders, and alleviates physical stress for the parent.

I’d still want a backpack with a frame if I was backpacking or hiking all day with my 25-pound guy, but for everything else, the ERGO was the perfect solution. And I felt good about putting the organic cotton in contact with my little one.

Figuring out where Anders would sleep as we traveled around Patagonia was a challenge. He needed a crib, but the portable one we have weighs more than 25 pounds. Then I found the Traveller. At under 10 pounds and 24.8 x 8.6 x8.6 inches when packed, this travel cot fit easily into my bag.

It took a little practice, but the Traveller set up and broke down pretty quickly and it was sturdy once assembled. My son couldn’t tip it over even when standing in it and rocking it back and forth. A UV cover zips off and tent stakes are included so it can double as an outdoor playpen or sleeping area and the self inflatable mattress (just like a Therm-a-Rest) is comfortable to sleep on. At least I assume it’s comfortable, Anders slept through the night almost every night we were away.

When we got back to Montana and started to make the transition from Austral summer into never ending winter, I began dreaming of getting outside with Anders. Since he has a new brother or sister on the way, it was also time to figure out how to get a little exercise—or even walk downtown—while carting two bambinos.

Speedster Deuce—Kelty
The Kelty Speedster Deuce is a double jogging stroller that is lightweight, easy to use and chockfull of safety features.

In 2005, the Kelty Speedster Deluxe (the one-kid version of the Deuce) won the JPMA Innovation Award and in 2007, it secured the number three spot overall in a Consumer Reports survey of jogging strollers. In the same study, the Speedster Deluxe was the only stroller tested to receive a grade of “Excellent” for safety; it also earned an “Excellent” for performance, and a “Very Good” for ease of use. In addition to all the safety features, I appreciate the pulley-assisted folding mechanism and quick release wheels, which make the stroller easy to fold up and put in the car or storage shed.

Another great feature is that the seats can recline individually and each side of the sun canopy maneuvers separately meeting the individual needs of each rider. The height-adjustable handle is a must if people of different heights are going to be using it. Even my 6’6’’ husband found the Speedster comfortable to use.

When summer finally does arrive, we’ll be ready for camping season.

Kids EcoPro 30 Reg Sleeping Bag—Marmot
At 2 pounds, 2 ounces, the Kids EcoPro is a sleeping bag kids can carry themselves. The all-purpose synthetic bag is designed for sustained cool, wet weather while backpacking, river rafting and car camping and stays toasty warm to 30∞ F. The EcoPro features 100% recycled fabrics and 80% recycled insulation, mostly from recycled soda bottles, so it can be a lesson in taking care of the earth as well as a comfy place to spend the night.

The face muff allows the hood to be cinched snug without chafing the child’s face, while the feely drawcords make it easy for kids to adjust the hood snugness from inside the bag. There is a two-way zipper so kids with hot feet can cool them down without getting cold up top.
There’s even a stash pocket for nighttime essentials like glasses or toys. The draft tube backing full-length, snag-free zipper prevents cold air from seeping through and the trapezoidal foot box leaves plenty of room for tootsies.

Montana Parent
June 02, 2008

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