Can You Hike In It? Soul Tai

I am a huge fan of wrap conversion mei teis. I really don’t know why I don’t use them more or talk about them more. Seat is already made and you get to do a lot of the fun wrap finishes. Easy to adapt from newborn to preschool as well. And they come is all the fun patterns that wraps do. What’s not to love? I was so excited to have the opportunity to Soul Sling’s linen Soul Tai. I have only touched a few Soul wraps but heard great things about them.

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Manufacturer: Soul Slings

Colorway: Cerulean on Black Chambray 
Color(s): Greyish black, dark blue 
Pattern: Solid color panel with different colored solid straps 
Size: Standard 
Materials: 100% linen chambray 
Weave: Plain 
Strap Style: Hybrid padded IMG_5409The day it arrived, I was babysitting a friend’s child so of course I had to try a tandem. I put my son on the back and my friend’s son on the front. I was worried that my back was going to kill me because I had to put the waistband higher than normal to go over my bump. But it was surprisingly very comfortable! Toddlers didn’t want to be both up for very long, but I had no issues for the 5 minutes they did. Jack felt weightless on my back.

IMG_5455A few days later I took it to the BWI of Portland monthly meeting—and I am so glad I did. Jack started his meltdown before the meeting even started. By the end of meeting Jack reached full meltdown status. And he refused to go on my back, so on the front he went. He was out within minutes. I spread the straps out over his bum for more support. I ran around teaching most of the meeting so the other VBEs let me sit down and rest while we cleaned up. I was very comfortable even sitting down. This was the moment I decided this carrier was amazing.

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The next weekend we took a one-night camping trip to my favorite State Park in Oregon, Fort Stevens. It is a form military fort used from the Civil War to World War II. It’s an amazing piece of American military history that many have no idea even exists. The park has everything you need to make a great vacation. It’s located on the beach (which has shipwreck on it too), a lake, hiking trails, bike trails, the former fort, and a cool little museum. I took my boys right to my favorite part of the park for a hike, Battery Russell.

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Location: Fort Stevens State Park, Battery Russell Trail to Ranger Station
Distance:  1.53
Trail Type:  Concrete at the Battery, sand to the Fire Control Hill, forest trail to campground, and paved to Ranger Station
Weather: Sunny and warm with a bit of a breeze
Trail Conditions: Some overgrowth at spots, a few muddy spots, and very few other hikers. 

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I want to stress that is is a former military base. It was not designed to be kid friendly. And it has been out of of commission for about 70 years. There are some pitfalls, jagged edges, and other hazards. The Park Service has done their best to close up any truly dangerous areas, but please keep a very close eye on your children. This place is amazing to explore as a family, but please keep your littles safe. Keep small babies and new walkers in a carrier. And hold hands with walking toddlers and preschoolers at all times.

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Jack had no interest in going up when we got to the battery. He was eagerly trying to break free from my hand to go explore. He kept asking what everything was and I happily told him everything I could remember. The canons, how they got the shells up from storage, the powder room…and yes the little grates on the floor for toilets (how do kids notice things like that). I loved this spot as a kid and I had to fight back tears of happiness that I got to share it with my son. Did you know this was the only place on the continental United States to be hit by enemy fire? During World War II, a Japanese sub actually shelled Battery Russell! Learn about it here.

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Then we headed up to favorite part of the Battery Russel area, Fire Control Hill.  The trail was pretty much all sand, which fascinated Jack. Took us 15 minutes to walk 500 yards, and of course he still refused an uppy.

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After we let him explore for a bit, I decided it was uppy time.

IMG_5559I did a back carry with the straps spread over his bum for support with a Knotless Sternum Strap Finish.

Check out my Tutorial video! Please turn on closed Captioning for detailed instructions.

IMG_5612Then we headed off down the trail for some adult-paced hiking. It was a lovely walk through a coastal forest…with a toddler trying to eat my hair and steal my sunglasses.

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However, the carrier was beyond comfortable. No pressure points and Jack felt weightless, even with him wiggling and kicking.

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Then I decided to try something I saw on the Soul Sling love group, Soul Family, a waistless finish. I would like to preface this was this is an advanced carry. As a babywearing educator, I really cannot recommend normally undoing any waistband while baby is the carrier. You run the risk of baby falling straight out the bottom. However, if you are an experienced wearer and know how to keep baby secure for sure, it’s a choice you can make. I decided to a Double Sternum Strap. It was sooooo comfortable on my bump. I liked the straps not spread over my breasts because they are already sore. This made the carry so cool, Jack and I hardly got sweaty even with some decent hills on the trail. Once we got to the paved path to the park, Jack wanted down. We were meeting my parents at the Ranger Station shortly and he was too excited to see them. I was sad to take him down, this carrier is so awesome.

IMG_5656The next day Michael gave the carrier a try at batteries at the Historical Area (the main part of the old fort). The batteries are spread out over a larger area and have more stairs and pitfalls, so Jack was worn most of the time.

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Michael really liked how light and airy the it was. No complaints it was hurting his back or digging into. He is a man few words, but if he doesn’t like a carrier he will tug and fussy with it. Once I tied it on him, he didn’t mess with it once. I’ll take that as an approval.

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Can you hike in a linen Soul Sling Soul Tai? Oh, yes! I really can’t recommend this carrier enough. Easy to use and does a variety of finishes to suit your needs. Lightweight but just enough shoulder padding to keep the pressure off your upper back. This is wonderful for warmer weather, but light enough to easily go over layers in the winter. The simple patterns available are very stylish and dad-friendly too.

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This carrier is so fabulous for hiking, I am giving it my second ever Favorite Hiking Carrier Badge. Great job Soul Slings!

 

 

Can You Hike In It: Oscha Kasumi Orabel

I was very excited to test out this Oscha prototype. It seemed like a great hiking carrier due to the wool/linen blend. I dreamt it would be soft, cushy but very supportive. I also have a love for Japanese culture, especially the art. This wrapped seemed right up my alley.

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Before I delve into the wrap or hike, I would like to address the issue of cultural appropriation. Oscha has been accused of cultural appropriation a few times, this pattern is one of them. The design is based on traditional Japanese woodblock carvings. There are several other wraps with the Kasumi pattern in other colors as well.  Some in the babywearing community felt Oscha, a Scottish-based company, had no grounds to use this pattern.

Although I have a deep love Japanese art, I am not Japanese or expert on Japanese culture. I am not going to pretend I really know much about preserving Japanese traditions. I do know that respect very important to the Japanese people, so I wanted to address this issues in my review. So I reached out to a fellow babywearer Maria Frank. She is of Japanese descent and happily embraces her heritage. I asked her how she felt about it personally. She did not feel this specific case was appropriation, and wondered if the people who were upset over this wrap were Japanese. In general, she said most Japanese feel flattered when they see Japanese influence in Western cultures.

“Traditional Japanese Art is dying. Especially wood block prints. There are not too many artists who really understand it. I honestly think that using Japanese influenced designs in good cause such as babywearing is super respectful!” -Maria

I understand that Maria does not speak for all Japanese, but I thought this was a very interesting perspective. It brings up the issues of when do we cross the line between appreciation and appropriation. In fact, this issue was a huge unit in my Media Ethics class in Journalism School. The general consensus is it usually alright take inspiration from other cultures—as long as you give credit where credit is due, consider the media you are using, and think about everyone you could offend (keeping in mind that there are some people you can never please). If you can’t do all these things, then maybe it’s best to not do it. For example, doing a secret photo essay of hidden tribe that believes cameras steal your soul and never give that tribe a dime is SO not okay. Oscha should have at least consulted a Japanese artist to design it (I have not heard this was the case) and some contribution back to Japanese Arts would have been the best course of action. Any time you borrow from another culture, you need to tread carefully. It’s wonderful to share ideas and create new customs, but it’s a whole other thing is steal something and claim it as your own. There have been far worse examples of cultural appropriation in babywearing recently though. As babywearing becomes more mainstream in North America, issues like this will continue to come up. I just hope in the future manufacturers will stay on the cultural appreciation side.

As for the actual wrap…..

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Manufacturer: Oscha Slings
Colorway: Kasumi Orabel
Color: Teal and cyan
Pattern: Waves
Size: Size 6
Materials: 45% extrafine wool,  20% organic linen, 35% organic cotton
Weave: Jacquard
Release date: N/A prototype

The colors are stunning in person. It was just as soft and buttery as I hoped when I pulled it out of the box. The day it arrived we had to pick-up my aunt from the airport, which can be overwhelming for a toddler. So, up Jack went into a Ruck. It made a nice deep seat, even with a bouncing toddler yelling “Auntie!” in my ear.

I had planned on taking the wrap for a walk through the Portland Japanese Garden (and possibly ask someone else for their opinion on the appropriation issue), but Oregon spring weather failed me. It wasn’t just a typical dreary day—it was POURING rain and only 38 degrees at 10 AM. Instead, it went on a trek to a park.

Location: 53rd Ave Community Park
Distance:  2.75 miles
Trail Type:  Paved concrete
Weather: Overcast and cold
Trail Conditions: Clear paths, busy park with lots of kids running around.

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We started out from the house in a Robin’s Hip Carry with a Ring Finish, one of my favorite carries. I really wanted to see how it wrap would thread and stay in a ring. A few other wool blends I tried took some work to a ring into place. But not this wrap, slid straight down like a dream.

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It stayed in place while I tightened the carry. It spread like butter across my shoulder and stayed comfy for a 25 minute walk around the park. Jack didn’t want to get down, even when he saw this favorite rocking pile (this kid loves to climb rocks).

IMG_2526On the way home, I did a Double Hammock with Freshwater Finish. The tails pulled through the torso pass easily and gripped nicely to keep the carry tight. Sadly no sleepy dust on the walk home, but I was so comfortable that I didn’t mind.

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Can you hike in a Oscha Kasumi Orabel? Yes, an enthusiastic yes! I was sad I needed to send this one on it’s way, I have no doubt it would be excellent on a big, long hike. The key feature this wrap is thread blend. The extrafine wool makes it supple, perfect for shoulder comfort without being itchy or thick. The linen keeps the wrap on the lighter/cooler side, perfect for a wide variety of conditions. The cotton give it the structure and support to last on long hikes. Oscha really picked the perfect blend ratio for a versatile hiking wrap for the Pacific Northwest. In fact, I am going to give this my first ever Favorite Hiking Carrier badge!

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