I’m going to put it out there that if you don’t own an Ergo carrier, someone you know does, that’s how popular they are. Ergonomic (hence the name!), easy to use, comfortable, dad-friendly – they’ve got a lot going for them. Ergobaby (the company) has done a marvellous marketing job and has significant market share.
An Ergo is a soft structured carrier (SSC). Ergos have been around for more than 10 years, so together with the Baby Bjorn, have long been the carrier of choice for parents.
Babywearing has come a long way in 10 years and with its popularity on the rise, there have been many new players join the market. One of the most popular newcomers in the SSC market is the Tula, which was been on the market for around four years.
I didn’t own an Ergo until my first-born was about 15 months old and I wanted to start wearing him on my back. It was a revelation! I loved it and used it all the time until I was pregnant with his sister and wasn’t comfortable to wear it anymore. When my daughter was born in 2013, I started to get more involved in the babywearing community online and the talk of the town was the Tula. I was intrigued – how was it different to my Ergo? Why would I buy one? They looked basically the same to me at the time. (I have since become a Tula convert, for transparency!)
And I’m certainly not alone in my musings – one of the questions I see repeatedly in babywearing circles is what is the difference between the Ergo and the Tula? Which one should I buy?
So without any more ado, Ergo* vs Tula: the great debate!
* Disclaimer: this post does not include any information on the new Ergo 360 baby carrier, as I have not tried it and it is quite a different fit to the other Ergo carriers being a four-position carrier, including the option to forward face, which is not something I particularly recommend.
The Ergo comes in a range of different models including Original, Performance and Sport as well as special edition fabrics and an organic edition. They range in recommended retail price from $169 to $269. They are, however, sold in many retail chains and are regularly on special so can be picked up for much less. They are also often sold second hand for reasonable prices, potentially even under $100 if you’re lucky.
The Tula comes in two sizes: standard and toddler. It also comes in two formats: canvas or wrap conversion (which means it is made wholly or partly from a woven wrap). A standard canvas is $179 and a toddler canvas is $189. Wrap conversions on the other hand, range from USD$199 for a semi to over USD$350 for a full, depending on the wrap used. Tulas are currently holding their value incredibly well, and are very rarely sold second hand for much less than the retail price. Wrap conversion Tulas are very limited and therefore often demand higher than retail price in the second hand market.
This is where the differences really come out to play. The Ergo is available in just about every baby store in Australia, as well as many online retailers. This is one of the reasons why they are so popular and widely used.
The Tula is not available in a bricks and mortar store in Australia, and has a handful of Australian online vendors. Limited numbers of canvas Tulas are generally always available, but can sell out for periods of time. They can also be purchased directly from Tula in the US or a few US online vendors. Wrap conversion Tulas are sold directly from the Tula website, with limited numbers released once a fortnight, and are sold out within minutes. There is a very active Facebook trading community for pre-owned Tulas, though, which is often the best place to get a wrap conversion Tula.
The ability to try an Ergo on in a bricks and mortar store is one of the reasons why many people choose the Ergo over the Tula. Some people like to see and feel before they purchase. Babywearing meets are often the best place to try a Tula, most groups have some members with Tulas that they’re happy to show interested people.
One of the main reasons Tulas have become very popular is that many babywearers feel they fit better than an Ergo. The main difference in the fit is the shoulder straps. Tulas have a narrower, curved strap with quite dense padding, compared with the Ergo’s wider, straight strap. The curved strap is often a better fit for smaller framed people, who may feel the Ergo straps are a bit too wide or bulky for their shoulders.
The Tula also has what are called Perfect Fit Adjusters where the shoulder strap meets the body panel. By tightening this adjuster it provides a snugger fit, particularly for smaller babies or back carrying, when you want baby’s weight as close to you as possible for balance.
Ergo comes in a number of models including an X-tra model, to fit larger and taller people. You can also purchase a waist extender that fits on the original Ergo. Men often find the fit of the Ergo suitable, as they are generally a lot wider through the shoulder so the strap width is a better fit.
The standard Tula has a slightly bigger panel size than the Ergo, by a couple of centimetres, and has deeper seat darts. The Tula also comes in a toddler size to fit children 18 months plus, when most children are starting to grow out of the standard Tula or Ergo.
Both the Ergo and the Tula require an infant insert to carry a newborn up to around four months old, which has to be purchased separately.
Extra bits and pieces
While there are a few print options available on Ergos, another one of the reasons for Tula’s popularity has been their array of cute, funky and classic designs on their canvas range. That you can get a soft structured carrier made from your favourite woven wrap is another big selling point, despite the higher price.
Most models of the Ergo include a zip up pocket on the body panel. It’s big enough for a purse and a nappy. To be honest, I never used it, but I know lots of people do, and are disappointed that the Tula does not have a large pocket. The Tula has a small pocket on the waistband, which will fit an iPhone, some cash/cards, or a small set of keys.
The hood of the Tula does not have any reach straps, which makes it basically impossible to reach when back carrying, so if you want to use the hood when bub is on your back (and you haven’t got your husband/friend/older child to help you) you would need to make or purchase reach straps.
Quite possibly the most important difference between the Ergo and the Tula that everyone needs to be aware of is that there are many counterfeit Ergos on the market. They are available from online eBay stores, or second hand from Gumtree or other trading sites, and are cheap. They seem too good to be true, and they are. Besides the fact that buying from a counterfeiter is unethical, there is no way to know whether fake Ergos have been safety tested or that the fabric has used child safe dyes for example. It is not worth the risk – the only way to know for sure that an Ergo is real is to purchase from an authorised vendor, or see proof of purchase if buying second hand. To date, there are no fake Tulas on the market.
Both the Ergo and Tula are great quality, comfortable baby carriers for women and men, and can be used from birth until toddlerhood. If all you had to carry your baby was one of these, you’d be doing great. Whatever you decide, these carriers will help you keep your baby close and content, and that’s the main thing!
PS: If you weren’t confused enough already, remember, Ergo and Tula are only two of a number of great soft structured carriers on the market. Got your eye on a soft structured carrier and interested to know how it compares? Drop me a line.