Well, we've gone and done it again, we're the first stockists of the Manduca baby carrier in North America, though sadly for our American cousins, the carrier is only available for sale within Canada. If you've never heard of the Manduca carrier, I'll start by telling you it's German, and that means it's brilliant. As my mother (German) is quick to point out, Germans do everything better, so it should be no surprise that the folks at Manduca have been able to design a soft structured carrier that will truly last from baby to toddler. Anyone who knows me knows I love the Ergo brand, we've been a faithful retailer for over five years, but the Manduca boasts a few features that makes it a swell ride.
Alrightey, let's start this product comparison by defining a soft structured carrier (SSC): an SSC is comprised of a rectangular body, two shoulder straps, and a waistbelt. Both Ergo and the Manduca are buckle SSCs, no tying is involved because the shoulder straps and waistbelts are fastened with buckles.
The term SSC used to be synonymous with the Ergo brand, however, as more and more SSC-type carriers have entered the market, the SSC has broken out as a category all its own. People like SSCs because they are easy to use, and they distribute the baby's weight better than a one-shouldered carrier, so they are great for people with back or neck problems, and they are great for longterm babywearing (if you come into our store, you'll often notice our staff members wearing their babies, since we're at the store for four hours at a time, and many of us wear our babies for the duration of their naps, you'll notice a lot of us sporting our own SSCs).
The Manduca carrier features an internal seat that accommodates infants from birth until they can sit in the carrier with their legs out. This infant seat features a narrower crotch so that baby is seated with his legs out, but baby's legs still remain within the body of the carrier (not dangling out). The infant seat suspends the baby in the body of the carrier so that his weight does not rest on his legs within the carrier.
Once baby is old enough to sit in a SSC with his legs out of the carrier (around 3-4 months), both the wide body of the Ergo and the Manduca carriers keep baby in a seated position, which is ergonomically better than a carrier that features a narrow crotch. A carrier with a narrow crotch places the baby's weight on the base of their spine; a SSC distributes the baby's weight better.
Both the Ergo and the Manduca carrier enable front and back carries -- they can do hip carries, but neither carrier is ideal for that position (could be done in a pinch, but I wouldn't recommend either carrier for this purpose, Scootababy is the SSC for that job!). Neither carrier accommodates a forward-facing carry, but that's OK, we always point out to parents that when baby is facing you, he can look sideways and still see lots of the world, but he can also look up at mom or dad for reassurance, and he can turn away from stimulation. When a baby is forward-facing, you can't see his face to read his expression (ie, if Junior is getting upset), and baby cannot turn away from stimulation (not to mention well-meaning strangers who have boundary issues!). Front-facing carriers also force the baby's spine into an unnatural position, whereas the Ergo and Manduca both follow the natural curve of baby's spine.
The body of the Ergo measures 35 cm, the body of the Manduca measures 33 cm, however, the Manduca carrier features a nift zipper that lengthens the body of the carrier to a whopping 41 cm, which makes it ideal for taller babies and toddlers.
All Manduca carriers are made from an organic cotton/hemp blend, Ergo makes a regular line of carriers (cotton, low-impact dye) , and an organic cotton line. The body of the Manduca is significantly lighter than the body of the Ergo, which is more padded.
The Ergo features some bells and whistles that the Manduca carrier doesn't have, namely the pocket on the body of the carrier, however, you can purchase a pouch to afix to the Manduca for storage, and the Manduca carrier comes with a free storage tote. The Manduca has padding behind all of the buckles so that they never touch the user or the baby, though I've never had an issue with buckles or webbing irritating me or the baby when I've worn the Ergo. I will say that the padding on the Manduca is just an example of the thoughtfulness with which this carrier was crafted, if not a nod to the whole German-attention-to-detail-thing that my mother is so proud to point out whenever possible. There are some other features that point to this, such as the loops that allow you to tuck excess webbing away, and the additional buckles at the top of the carrier that allow you to snug baby *that* much closer.
One last difference between the two carriers is the fact that the Manduca allows the user to cross the shoulder straps when wearing baby on the front, allowing for a better distribution of weight across the back and shoulders.
So there you have it, my great big Manduca lovefest (what can I say, new carriers are always fun!). Yes, I still love my Ergo, but Manduca has managed to tweak the SSC to make it that much better for both babies and baby wearers alike. Pricewise, the Ergo retails for $120-$140, dependent on the model, and the Manduca retails for $160-$180 (for limited editions).
If you are local to Ottawa or Waterloo, come on in and try them both on for size, it's always nice to compare for yourself! Both carriers are also available for sale on our website.