Austin dads develop lightweight, backpack-like child carrier
Mar 03, 2013 (Austin American-Statesman - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Wherever Erick Jansen and Nathan Jones go, people stop and stare.
And they're OK with that.
The two Austin dads have spent months testing out the Freeloader, a new, backpack-like child carrier they developed, hitting South Congress Avenue, shops and restaurants in Fredericksburg and tons of other Central Texas spots popular with tourists and locals alike.
They've "bribed" friends and family members to take the Freeloader for a spin, as well.
"It's essentially someone walking around with a chair on their back," Jones said. "You can't go more than five feet without someone asking where you got it."
The Freeloader, its creators say, combines characteristics of both lightweight child carriers intended for short-term usage and sturdier models designed for hiking and other rugged activities. It can hold children 80 pounds and under.
"We wanted to make something different, that wasn't on the market," Jansen said. "We're pretty passionate about it."
Jansen says he realized there was a need for a product like the Freeloader while on a family vacation in Paris with his daughter, who was 4 years old at the time. As they explored the city, she quickly grew tired of walking on her own.
"Our Paris nights were limited to Paris days," he said. "I was stupid and stubborn and carried her around, but was getting fatigued. I really needed something that would extend our outings."
"Kids are like hybrid vehicles," Jones said. "They can only go so far before running out of juice."
Soon after, Jansen and Jones started work on a series of prototypes, studying a variety of child carriers. They experimented with multiple hinges, seat styles and a number of other options.
"I must have killed one or two sewing machines while working on this thing," Jansen said. "We've spent the past six months refining it -- and we're almost 100 percent there."
The finished product has a padded back panel, shoulder and waist straps, and folds up to save space. It weighs just under 7 pounds.
With testing now complete, Jansen and Jones are offering their creation on indiegogo.com at a discounted price of $159 through Thursday. Orders will ship this fall.
The Freeloader will once again be available online -- and most likely in stores, as well -- later this year, priced at $249, according to Jansen, making it "incredibly competitive" with other child carriers.
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