The Piggyback Rider
by Chad R. Mitchell
One of the more challenging parts of traveling with a toddler is the ability to control their movements. They are constantly in motion, and usually looking to move in a direction that is opposite to that of their parents. I cannot count the number of times I have gripped Z’s hand in a struggle to either pull her along, slow her down, or yank her out of danger’s way. I love that she is motivated, and independent enough to want to explore on her own, but I also don’t want her slipping down the side of a cliff, or dashing headfirst into oncoming traffic.
If she doesn’t ride in our
beat to crap well-worn stroller, then she wants to walk, or to be held… and frankly she is getting far too big to be carried for extended periods of time. I may think I have the endurance of an ox, but in truth my arms feel like they are screaming after lugging her along over the battered streets and many stairs of SE Asia and beyond. Frankly, I miss the days when she fit in a backpack, contained and content, a shared experience we both loved since she could barely hold her head up by herself. Unfortunately most backpacks are simply too bulky of an item to add to our baggage count, and we were also worried that they would make us and Z too hot in the higher temperatures of the places we travel.
So, it was a great surprise to hear of a novel new product that would allow us to keep her on our backs, but would also allow her to be an active participant in the journey. It also claimed to be extremely light weight (under 3 pounds!) and small enough to fit in our carry on baggage. I found the product online via their website, and contacted them to see if they would ship one to Thailand. Fortunately they did, and we have been using it for the last 9 months.
The Piggyback Rider is a backpack, but not like one that I have seen before. The significant difference is that the child is standing while riding, and hangs on to a set of rungs to keep themselves tight. It is intended to simulate a normal piggyback ride, but with added assistance and security. The toddler is securely clipped in via a lightweight backpack that they wear themselves and the bar that they stand on is a metal bar that rides right above the lower back of the parent. It is a very unique system, and for the most part it has been amazing.
Over the last few months we have been using it in night markets, crowded cities, and treks around semi-flooded islands. It is very portable and is easily slipped inside our small baggage. The Piggyback Rider has performed as expected, and it is amazing the amounts of heads that turn when we go by with Z on our back. People with toddlers chat excitedly and I am always glad to tell them what it is and where to find it. It comes in a variety of models, and the one we have has a water bladder that our daughter loves to drink from. It is made of high quality material, and is easily washed and stored in-between uses. Finally, it is mostly comfortable to use for extended periods of time, and I really was surprised at how easy it is have her get in and off when needed. A simple step down on my part, she clips in, stands on the bar, and off we go. If the bar is off kilter I can easily adjust it with one hand via the adjustment strap.
When we first got it, Z was not even three years old. They recommended age is from 2 1/2 years, and I personally think it might be better at 3. It requires a bit of dexterity on the child’s part to stand on the bar and our daughter was a little frightened at first that she would fall off. Of course, after a while she was comfortable and would start to lessen her
death grip loving embrace on my neck, rather than the handles that are on the straps. Also, the toddler portion of the backpack doesn’t latch, which means that there is a slight possibility they could slide out of their own backpack, though it would be very difficult to do so.
Secondly the bar itself can ride awkwardly on the back of the parent. I found that if the bar rode too high, or too low, it would chafe and be uncomfortable for long periods of time. This was solved by adjusting the height, but it can be tedious at times. By the time I usually find a spot where both Z and I are comfortable she is done riding, and her legs are tired of standing and occasionally slipping on the bar.
I really wanted to love The Piggyback Rider, I really did. I was so excited to try it and to use it every chance I got, and unfortunately we haven’t used it as much as I had hoped. For the most part it is a great design, and as Z gets older I hope to use it more. At the moment she gets tired of riding it quickly, and then it becomes one more thing (though it is light!) for us to carry. I think that if there was a way for toddlers to sit when they needed, and if the harness system was a bit more secure, I would think it might be close to a perfect alternative to the more traditional backpack. As it stands I am glad to have it, but look forward to how it might be improved in the future.
Disclaimer: We did receive a discount on this product to review it, but we searched for it and found it on our own. All the opinions are our own. For more information about our legal stuff check out our Disclosure page.