The Tula baby carrier has got itself quite a following. Often when people ask for a recommendation for a baby carrier online the response is simply 'Tula' such is the brand awareness. It doesn't come cheap either and with the basic model starting at £99 it is an expensive business.
The Lillebaby Essentials is its big competition for 2016. Launched at the end of 2015 and now being released in a whole range of funky prints after a great reception. It is very well priced at £79.00 and given the already huge following since it launched, it is going to give Tula a run for their money, and maybe pull down their prices a bit to match their competition!
I was eager to get my sling loving paws on both of these carriers to try out and review. I have now owned them both for over 12 months so I think this is a very real comparison blog. They are well used, have both been washed a handful of times, and have become all squished up and soft. They have both been put through their paces with various sized children!
The Tula Baby Carrier is suitable from 3.5kg up to 20kg. It has 3 carrying positions: parent facing, infant and back. It requires an insert, which must be purchased separately to use it from newborn. It has a removable hood and a small Velcro closing pocket on the waistband.
The Lillebaby Essentials Carrier is suitable from 3.5kg to 20kg. It has 4 carrying positions: parent facing, infant, hip and back. It requires an insert which can be bought separately to use it from birth. It has a mesh hood and a large zipped pocket on the carrier of the panel.
So let's start with the waistband and work our way up with these two. Both the Tula and the Essentials have soft and well-padded waistbands. The padded waistband on the Tula is 12cm wide at the middle of the waist and 69cm long. The webbing on both sides gives an extra 75cm. The padded waistband on the Lillebaby Essentials is 11cm wide at the middle of the waist and 69cm long. The webbing on both sides give an extra 71cm. On the waistband of the Tula there is a pocket that closes with velcro, it measures 19cm x 10cm. Both have easy to open and easy to close buckles. The excess webbing, if there is any, can be rolled up and tied away with a simple elastic at the end of the webbing that is a small but really clever addition.
For the Lillebaby Essentials there is an optional lumbar support available to buy. The Lillebaby lumbar support has a bit of a cult following amongst some babywearers! It sits right into that gap that other baby carriers often seem to cause issue it, right in the middle of the base of your back. It makes even a jumbo baby feel weightless. There is no Tula equivalent (sadly!)
The panel on both the Tula and Lillebaby Essentials are made from a strong crisp cotton that softens up lovely with a few wears. The panel on the Tula is approx 40cm wide x 40cm high. The base of the Tula starts at 34cm and spreads out to 42cm at the top of the panel. On the Essentials it is approx 41cm wide x 40cm high. The base at the bottom of the Lillebaby Essentials is 35cm wide and it spreads out to 41cm at the top of the panel. The panel on the Lillebaby Essentials is home to the pocket that closes securely with a zip. It measures 17cm wide x 16cm high and there is also an open pocket on top that you can put the hood in when not in use or pop non valuables.
Legs out padding. Both carriers offer similar legs out padding that years ago was considered an optional extra on some soft structured baby carriers. Both legs out padding is approx 18cm long x 3cm wide. This is really a lovely extra on both of these carriers for your slingee as it sits right at the point where their squishy thighs are and really adds some luxury comfort.
The shoulder straps next! The padded & fabric straps on the Tula measure 7cm wide and are 59cm long. The webbing gives an extra 65cm of length. The Lillebaby Essentials has padded straps that are slightly tapered from 6cm to 7cm wide and are 59cm long. The webbing gives an extra 67cm in length. Both have perfect fit adjusters where the straps meet the panel & this offers great adjustability. They are a simple but genius addition! They allow you to shorten the non-padded strap section of the straps where it meets the panel at the shoulders and this little feature really helps you get a better customized fit. The perfect fit adjusters on the Lillebaby Essentials is 2.5cm longer than the Tula & the webbing is much longer. This means it will be easier to tighten compared to the Tula as there is more webbing strap to grasp.
Here is where the Lillebaby Essentials really excels. The straps on the Tula can be worn rucksack style only, the straps are sewn in to the main carrier panel. The straps on the Lillebaby Essentials can be worn rucksack style but can also be crossed at the back, as the straps are attached to the carrier with a buckle, and not sewn in. This is done by simply unclipping the buckle to remove the strap from the panel body midway up. One strap at a time is then passed over the shoulder to the opposite side creating an X on the centre of your back and providing really amazing comfort and support.
The next section is a Lillebaby Essentials exclusive as the Tula doesn't have this option (and it really should in my opinion!) Dual adjustable straps! How do people survive without these on soft structured carriers? (I'm joking, I know they survive just fine, but still!) They are so simple yet make adjusting the carrier so much easier. They are essential if you have any type of weakness in your hands or wrists as they allow you to set up the carrier so you have the option to adjust by pulling on either end of the strap. For me this means that I can adjust the straps and when I pull to tighten it I can pull it from either end of the strap, or just one. Not everyone can reach back easily. It makes adjusting a little bit easier regardless of whether you are front carrying or back carrying.
Onto the hoods. Well they both have them! The hood on the Tula is removable and is made from cotton material just like the main panel. It attaches to the main panel with 2 strong and easy to pop on/off snaps. It is a clever feature. The Lillebaby Essentials has a hood that is permanently connected to the carrier, at least it won't get lost! It is made of a soft strong mesh so it is very breathable over the baby's head and gives increased visibility for naps. When not in use it can be tucked into the open pocket on the front panel. Both hoods clip up with small plastic hooks and a little bit of elastic on the shoulder straps which is very handy. The excess webbing can be wrapped up again with simple elastics attached to the lower end and on the upper end the webbing sits neatly into a built in elastic on the webbing strap, so there is no bulk from webbing at your chest.
Washing! Both of these carriers were used in a busy sling library and for use within my family for the purposes of giving them a full test! They were both spot cleaned, washed numerous times and line dried or put in front of a radiator. All fabrics on both slings have withstood the washing with the usual amount of fading you would expect. The softer panel on the Lillebaby Essentials seemed a bit easier to spot clean than the Tula, but this is a minor detail. It is certainly very durable.
Pro's & Con's of the Tula: The Tula is a good carrier, no doubt about it. It is comfy, it comes in a huge range of prints and is widely available. Sadly a lot of these prints are then sold for above the retail value which can be hard to understand when you have set your sights on something! It is a lot more expensive than the Lillebaby Essentials, and it does a whole lot less in my opinion. The removable hood is a great feature. The pocket on the waistband I found rather useless, especially as often there was a toddler bum blocking the access. I was disappointed that I couldn't cross the straps and that it could only be worn rucksack style. The fabric is soft and easy to care for. Overall it is a great baby carrier though and does exactly what it claims to do!
Pros & Cons of the Lillebaby Essentials: The main disadvantage to the Lillebaby Essentials I think is its name! I immediately thought it would be a more basic carrier, compared to what - I don't know?! It is anything but. It is packed with clever features, it is very well thought out and is a really fabulous carrier. I had to keep checking I had got the price correct as it does so much for so little really. I loved the zip pocket, I don't carry a bag (one more thing to lose!) so I was able to pop phone, car keys, bank card and some coins in here. It is a very comfortable, soft and durable carrier. I love that it can be worn rucksack style and with the straps crossed, being able to add a lumbar support is also fab (especially for my partner's bad back!) This carrier really wins when compared to the Tula in my opinion.
They are both popular carriers, they both allow you to have wonderful hugs on the go with your little person. This review was written and based on the 2 carriers I have in front of me. All measurements are approximate. The devil is in the details as with all baby carriers and so I would suggest you take the time to look at all the features you want & need in a baby carrier before making a purchase. Better still pop along to your local Sling Library to try them both out!
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