Here's one of those projects that seems like a good idea before you start it, and then the more you get into it, the more you regret your decision.
With that preface... Let me backtrack a little bit. Last year, when we traveled to France and Italy, we were lucky to borrow our friend Chelle's carseat backpack. That thing is one of the smartest products out there for parents of young children: it allows you to carry your kid's carseat on your back. Sounds heavy and cumbersome, but if you've ever had to lug a carseat around, you know what I'm talking about. When you have to lug that carseat around on planes and trains in between cars AND you have other bags and suitcases with which to wrestle, you can imagine it comes in quite handy!
Since that fabulous trip last year, we have moved to Washington. And so, when it was time to travel to California with our carseat a couple of weeks ago, I wondered what to do. Should we just make do and carry the carseat by hand on bus, train and plane? Should I shell out $40 to purchase that awesome Cheeky Monkey Pac Back? Or should I try to make a knockoff myself?
By that point, I would have had to pay for super fast shipping on top of the purchase, so I decided to use what I had on hand to make a homemade ghetto version of the carseat backpack. Yeah. Like I said, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
I had some upholstery weight fabric, some heavy duty interfacing and some batting on hand. To complete my supplies, I purchased about 10 yards of synthetic webbing, 3 parachute buckles, and 1 set of strap extenders. Including the cost of the fabric and notions I already had, I'm pretty sure the total came close to $30-35. Reminder: the price of the actual product is $40. Again, not the best, most cost-efficient idea, but I was on a roll by that point.
I had recently made the Toddler Backpack from Made by Rae, so I used some of what I learned from her pattern to make the straps and the basic backpack body, and I winged it for the rest, using an actual backpack for size and construction references. It took me the length of about 2 afternoon naps to get it made, start to finish, so not too much of an investment. I tried to stitch half-a-dozen times over every seam that would carry weight. Overall, I aimed for solidity over perfection. It was definitely not my most polished project.
The result was decent. It allowed my husband to carry the carseat on his back from Washington to California and back, through a couple of layovers as well as public transportation (before we got our rental car, and after we returned it). He complained quite a bit about the awful quality of the buckles and strap extenders. We ended up tying knots in all the webbing to prevent slippage. And I think the carrier was far less comfortable than the actual one we had borrowed the previous summer.
Toward the end of our return, he said he heard a crack in the fabric. I have yet to examine the carrier closely, but I'm thinking we may not get another use out of it, unless I strengthen all those seams once again. We did however get quite a few compliments and questions from other parents while going through the airports, so I don't feel TOO incompetent -- but I did point them all in the direction of the actual industrially made product.
In conclusion: if you're going to be traveling with a carseat in tow, that Cheeky Monkey carrier sure is a good buy. And no, this is not a paid endorsement.
Jenny how frustrating that all that time and effort did not pay off! Do you think using different materials would have helped? The construction looks good, in terms of your plans. We've used that same car seat backpack, also borrowed from Chelle, and it was a real lifesaver. I am so inspired that you tried making one on your own, you really go for it and I love it! Not being afraid to fail is huge, and shouldn't be underestimated as a learning tool. I hope you can repair it and keep using it!