Child Carrier Odyssey

One thing leads to another.

I’ve known that we are planning to go on a three mile hike with my son Nick to for a Webelos Cub Scout activity this weekend.

I’ve also known that the entire family will be participating…and I’ve known that Katie isn’t big enough to hoof it for the entire three miles….and we got rid of our last child carrier because she outgrew it….so…

Friday, the last possible opportunity to get a child carrier replacement, I started checking around for another child carrier….thinking this can’t be that tough. These are the type of things you can find at Target, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Costco, etc.

I quickly learned that a child four years old is unique in the child carrier world. There are a kazillion baby carriers that you can almost buy at any drive up retail location…and maybe coffee shacks in the Northwest…but a child that weight close to 40lbs is too big for those.

Well, apparently most parents that need a baby carrier to do daily chores don’t generally participate in three mile hikes with their pre-schoolers. As a result “child carriers” (not the same a baby carriers) are a specialty item.

OK, well, Cabella, the “World’s Foremost Outfitter” is just down the road in Lacey. So, I might need to go a bit further than, say Target in West Olympia on the way home but that’s OK. After perusing the Cabella website I concluded that “World’s Foremost Outfitter” is for outfitting for hunting, fishing, boating and other generally characteristic “manly-man” sorta stuff, but not hikers and maybe mountain climbers, bikers, skiers, or other less “manly-man” sorta outdoor stuff.

OK, well we do live in the Great Northwest, so this still shouldn’t be too tough…REI is headquartered in Seattle and has a store in Tacoma. So, maybe I will need to make our Friday evening out a trip to REI in Tacoma. I check the REI website and quickly discovered that there is apparently only one child carrier made in the world that will fit the unique, four year old member of a hiking family and a little bit of gear like cameras and the scouting “ten essentials”.

A few others are close. The Kelty FC 3.0, the Deuter Kid Comfort II, the Deuter Kid Comfort III and the Sherpani Rumba Superlight, but they have a total weight limit of 50lbs. By the time you put the 38lb four year old and the hiking essentials into the carrier, you’re pretty much at the weight limit…no room for growth. The four year old will put on some weight during the winter and any of these child carriers would essentially be a single use purchase because they would be too small by the next spring.

That leaves the Sherpani Rumba (the bigger sibling to the Sherpani Rumba Superlight). It has a child weight limit of 50lbs and a total weight limit of 70lbs. This thing should do the trick. The 70lb weight limit is approaching the general hiking guidelines of a hiker carrying 60% their own body weight. With the 70lbs of gear (including child) and the weight of the carrier, we’re approaching that limit.

The four year old isn’t likely to grow 12lbs during the winter so that makes this thing useful for the following summer. By then the four year old is five and a bit stronger. Maybe she won’t be able to make the three mile hikes but she should be able to hold her own on shorter hikes.

So, we’ve found our product, which we need by Sunday, at an astounding $199.00…and REI carries it. I call REI in Tacoma. That’s when I discovered this weekend of all weekends of the year is their big sale weekend. Great, maybe I can get this one of a kind carrier for a reasonable price. The clerk says they have one of the Sherpani Rumba’s in stock but can’t guarantee it will be in stock and can only hold it for us for two hours…on account of the big sale. We’ll take our chances. After all, Tacoma isn’t really that far. Our evening activity is now the trip to REI in Tacoma to get a Sherpani Rumba Child Carrier.

When we arrive we discover there are no Sherpani Rumbas on the floor. After consulting with the clerk on the floor…not the same clerk we talked to on the phone…we learn that a stock balance of one could be a “ghost” amount since their inventory isn’t maintained in real-time…or even near real time and that balance could be a leftover balance from yesterday. A quick search of the stock room confirms the balance to have been a “ghost” balance and there is no Shirpani Rumba. He did note that they have eight in stock in the Seattle REA. We’re not really willing to make our way to Seattle, so the clerk suggests we visit Sportco just a couple miles up the road in Fife. He bought his own Sherpani Rumba there last year and they probably have one.

Not wanting to drive even further north…even though it’s not that far from the Tacoma REI to the Sportco in Fife…I call Sportco. The clerk gladly looks on the floor and confirms that they have the Shirpani Rumba. Since it’s only a couple of mile down the road and the clerk did confirm they have one, it’s off to Sportco. Our Dodge Caravan needs to get down the road a bit briskly because the Sportco in Fife closes at 7:00 and the hour is quickly drawing near.

We arrived at Sportco with 15 minutes to spare. We made our way to the camping gear and find the backpacks. We didn’t find a Sherpani Rumba. We found a Deuter Kid Comfort II and a Sherpani Kangaroo. When we find a clerk…the same one we talked to on the phone…he shows us to the Sherpani Kangaroo. Ta Da! Not, Ta Da..a Sherpani Kangaroo is a baby carrier not the one-of-a-kind-for-a-four-year-old-hiking-companion-Shirpani-Rumba. He apparently thought a Shirpani is a Shirpani is a Shirpani.

Family huddle….we’re about half-way to Seattle, the Seattle REI has eight in stock….they all couldn’t be ghosts and we’ve already blown the evening….and besides I’ve heard its a gigantic store…a destination location in and of itself. It’s off to the Seattle REI. Good thing they don’t close until 9:00pm.

An hour later (8:15) we arrive at the Seattle REI. It truly is a gigantic store. Since we made the trip all the way to Seattle we took some time to look around to make it worth while. If Cabela is the foremost outfitters for the “manly-man” sort of outdoor stuff…REI is the foremost outfitter for every other outdoor stuff…skiing, snowboarding, biking, hiking, mountain climbing and probably a bunch of stuff we didn’t see.

Eventually we found the backpacks. The have backpacks for EVERYTHING..including the one-of-a-kind-for-a-four-year-old-hiking-companion-Shirpani-Rumba…hanging on a hook right there in front of us. We spent about thirty minutes packing the four-year-old-hiking-companion, Katie, into the thing, adjusting a variety of fitting straps and both Jeanette and I trying it on and carrying her around a bit. It was just what we needed.

We had found it on a hook right next to the other Shirpani Child Carriers. Curiously, it didn’t have a price listed by the hook. The clerk explained that if there are more carriers than will fit on one line of hooks they use the adjacent hooks without the price. It’s the same price as the other. What didn’t make sense is that the other Shirpani’s were priced for the Shirpani Rumba Superlight…not the right product. We did verify that the thing we had tested out was, in fact, the one-of-a-kind-for-a-four-year-old-hiking-companion-Shirpani-Rumba…but it didn’t have a price. The clerk took it over to one of those price scanner things. It showed a cost of $72.00…not the retail $199.00. he scanned it a couple of times to make sure it wasn’t a mistake. It really was $72.00. Apparently, there aren’t that many four year old hiking companions in the world and REI had marked it down a couple of times…including once for the big sale.

Feeling pretty smug about our great find, Jeanette set off to find yet another mythical item…a good looking women’t rain jacket. She found exactly what she was looking for. It too was a benefactor of the big sale…marked down from $119.00 to $54.00.

We arrived home at 11:00pm but are now the proud owners of a one-of-a-kind-for-a-four-year-old-hiking-companion-Shirpani-Rumba and an REI Elements Lightweight Women’s Rain Jacket…and REI membership. We have all the great gear we will need for the hike tomorrow that I should be preparing for instead of writing this blog.