Boba 3G or Manduca?

The cast of characters: the Manduca (Blackline in Radical Red, the fabric on the panel and the leg arches is custom); and the Boba 3G in Glacier.

The cast of characters: the Manduca (Blackline in Radical Red, the fabric on the panel and the leg arches is custom); and the Boba 3G in Glacier.

I recently read a question in our local babywearing Facebook Group (check out our blog!) asking about the difference between the Manduca and Boba 3G. Since I own both (everything comes in pairs when you have twins and a spirited preschooler), I decided to write a full review.

The Boba 3G was the first soft structured carrier (SSC) I purchased when I looked into replacing my well-loved Ergo. I was using a framed backpack for my 3 year-old but her weight (she was 35 lbs at the time) really challenged the basic MEC backpack we had purchased with our first child (16 years ago, yes).

I was very impressed with the Boba 3G and purchased 2. Soon after, I tried the Manduca and liked some of its features, like the waist belt and the knee pads. I traded one of my Boba 3G for a Manduca on the Babywearing Swap on Facebook. We are a babywearing family and having different carriers with different fit and finish means that each babywearer finds its match. No excuse!

This is the padding that supports the baby's legs under the knees. A great feature of the Manduca.

This is the padding that supports the baby’s legs under the knees. A great feature of the Manduca.

Compared to the un-padded Boba 3G

Compared to the un-padded Boba 3G

  The specs I use in this post were taken from this useful blog post (in French). I know, I know, they are in centimetres and you are not used to this. But what you want to know is how both carriers compare. For that purpose, metric measurements work just like imperial ones: 4 is bigger than 2; 20 is twice as much as 10, and so forth. 100 centimetres (cm) is 1 metre (m). I received a question on this blog asking how many centimetres long was a 5.2 metre wrap. Metric measurements work in factors of 10. Add a zero: 520. Got it?

Fabric:

The Boba 3G is 100% cotton. My Blackline Manduca is 100% cotton as well but newer models are made of hemp/cotton. The body of the Manduca is definitely thicker than the Boba 3G.  The Manduca weights-in slightly lighter than the Boba at 698 g (1.8 lbs). The Boba is 737 g (1.10 lbs). A negligible difference in practice, especially when carrying a heavier child.

For both carriers, the straps are made of nylon webbing. I found the Manduca webbing difficult to break-in and it made the Manduca stiff and difficult to use at first.

Body:

The body of the carrier is one of the most relevant factors in choosing a baby carrier. For carrying older children, a few centimetres difference in the height and width of a carrier can make a big difference in how well supported the child is. For instance, the Ergo original is 39 cm high and the Boba 3G is 41 cm high. 2 cm is about as big as your thumb from the knuckle to the top and yet, the Ergo rode so low on my preschooler’s back – barely above her butt crack – she could swing herself backwards in the carrier. Hours of pleasure… for the child! Not so fun for the adult.  The Boba 3G on the other end, goes to her mid-back.

Both carriers have a system to shorten the body. The Boba folds unto itself and clips with snaps, the Manduca has a middle panel that zips-up (to shorten) or unzips a little like an accordion. The snaps on the Boba 3G can dig into a chubby baby’s thighs. Shortening the Boba 3G also involves removing the buckles to flip them around and threading them back on.

The Maduca zip-up panel is, on the other hand, very user friendly. If you are using it for an older infant and want to lengthen the body when the child falls asleep, you can easily unzip the panel without disturbing the child.

Manduca with the panel unzipped.

Manduca with the panel unzipped.

The Manduca with the panel zipped is 36 cm wide and 33 cm high. With the panel unzipped, it measures 36 cm wide and 41 cm high. The Boba 3G is 44 cm wide and 41 cm high. With the newborn setting, it measures 44 cm wide by 28 cm high. The Boba is much wider, meaning that it offers appropriate support for an older child for much longer than the Manduca.

The carriers, one on top of the other. You can see that the Boba 3G is wider than the Manduca in the upper part.

The carriers, one on top of the other. You can see that the Boba 3G is wider than the Manduca in the upper part.

Take-home message: Both carriers are adequate to carry baby from 6lbs to 35 lbs. However, neither body does everything well for the duration. The Manduca’s body is better suited for newborn to early toddlerhood but the Boba 3G’s body is better suited for toddler to preschooler.

Seat:

The width of the seat is studied separately from the body because both carriers have seat features that set it apart from the other. While proper hip development is an important concern when baby is growing, having proper knee to knee support is still a significant comfort feature for the older child. Older children are not carried for nearly as long or nearly as often as younger babies (thank goodness, ouch!) but comfort still matters.

The Boba 3G and the Manduca are within ½ a cm from each other in terms of seat. At 31.5 cm, the Boba 3G is slightly narrower than the Manduca’s 32 cm. As you may notice, the Boba is a wider carrier than the Manduca but with a narrower seat. That’s because the Boba’s body is noticeably V-shaped. At 32 cm seat versus 36 cm wide, the Manduca looks more square.

Both seats are shaped, meaning that they espouse the curves of a baby’s bottom. The Manduca has one seat dart in the middle of the carrier with structured leg arches that give it a rounded shape. The Boba 3g is much “flatter” but with two seat darts on each side of the middle. Honestly, while different, both carriers have excellent shaped seats. The Manduca has padded knee rest which gives it a significant comfort advantage. I also find that the structure of the Manduca makes it much easier to achieve the physiological M-position but both carriers are ergonomic, no problem there. You can read more about the M-position (with pictures showing the M achieved by making sure that the baby’s knees are higher than his bum) by following this link.  The structure of the Manduca makes it a thicker and stiffer carrier compared to the more flexible Boba 3G. The Boba 3G is consequently more breathable during the summer months.

Seat darts on the Boba 3G

Seat darts on the Boba 3G

Nice little bum lower than the knees in the Manduca.

Nice little bum lower than the knees in the Manduca.

Take-home message: Both carriers are ergonomic and achieve the physiological M-position with a shaped seat. However, the Manduca is more structured than the Boba 3G. The padded seat give an undeniable comfort advantage to the Manduca but the thinner Boba is more flexible and breathable.

Straps:

The straps are a significant comfort consideration for the wearer, especially for babywearers who are not average-sized. My experience letting people try my carriers before buying is that either carrier is consistently preferred by people of a certain built. Let’s get into it.

The factors that matter the most in terms of straps are (1) the length of the straps; (2) the width of the straps; (3) the thickness of the straps and (4) the range of adjustability. I separate the length from the range of adjustability because it’s not enough for tall people to have a long range of adjustability; they also need a long padded strap to sit comfortably over their shoulders and to be able to take advantage of the sternum clip.

The Boba 3G shoulder strap and sternum clip (on a rail. Good!)

The Boba 3G shoulder strap and sternum clip (on a rail. Good!)

The Manduca strap. More square and thicker but narrower.

The Manduca strap. More square and thicker but narrower.

The Manduca has long padded straps that are narrow but thick. The straps adjust from a minimum of 50 cm to a maximum of 128 cm. The straps are 6 cm wide. The Manduca’s straps can be detached and crossed in the back. Many babywearers see this as an advantage as it allows to better spread the weight of the baby across the back. A notable disadvantage of the Manduca is that the shoulder straps adjust by pulling upward instead of downward. The upward pulling motion makes the carrier difficult to adjust, especially at first when the straps are still stiff.

Adjust pulling backward. Yes, I really make this face.

Adjust pulling backward. Yes, I really make this face.

The Boba 3G’s padded straps are as long as the Manduca (50cm) but has a smaller range of adjustability, lengthening to a maximum of 105 cm. The Boba 3G’s straps are wider (8.5 cm) but a lot thinner than the Manduca. The Boba 3G padded straps are also crescent-shaped and I find that it espouses the body better than the Manduca straps. On the other hand, the narrower strap at the end of the crescent means that the buckle and the nylon webbing can “dig in the arm pit.” I do find this to be true myself.

The Boba 3G tend to dig under the armpits.

The Boba 3G tend to dig under the armpits.

The location of the strap (higher on  the carrier than the Manduca) can make it uncomfortable for some body types.

The location of the strap (higher on the carrier than the Manduca) can make it uncomfortable for some body types, especially those with fluffy arms.

In our family, we have one medium size babywearer (me), one male babywearer (my husband) and one petite babywearer (my 13 year-old daughter). The Boba 3G adjusts perfectly to my 85 lbs daughter whereas the Manduca, even at its smallest setting, is still too big. My husband (5’10”) prefers the Boba 3G. As for me, I like both.  I find that the Manduca doesn’t dig as much into my arm pits but the Boba 3G is easier to adjust (probably because my medium build means that I don’t have to adjust the crap out of my carriers). I recently helped a family choose between the Manduca and the Boba 3G for a 6’5” tall dad. The Manduca was a significantly better fit because of the longer straps. I also helped a few plus-sized mamas choose between the Boba and the Manduca and they universally prefer the Boba 3G.

My then-10-year-old wearing her 10 month-old sister in the Boba 3G. Fits perfectly.

My then-10-year-old wearing her 10 month-old sister in the Boba 3G. Fits perfectly.

My petite teenager (88 lbs at 13 years) cannot wear the Manduca but can adjust the Boba 3G to her tiny frame.

My petite teenager (80 lbs at 13 years) cannot wear the Manduca but can adjust the Boba 3G to her tiny frame.

One last note about shoulder straps is a mention of the sternum clip. Boba’s sternum clip slides on a rail and is very easy to adjust. Manduca’s sternum clip is a major pain to adjust and requires two hands and a bit of arm grease, two things that are not always available on the fly when you are switching a child from back to front in a mall or outside. I suspect that it gets better as the straps break-in but I have been using my Manduca for 10 months and the sternum clip is still a major nuisance.

A close-up of the incredibly annoying sternum clip on the Manduca. To make a sliding clip that annoying, you have to do it on purpose.

A close-up of the incredibly annoying sternum clip on the Manduca. To make a sliding clip that annoying, you have to do it on purpose. It’s supposed to slide up and down but it doesn’t.

Take-home message: The longer, thicker straps of the Manduca make it a better-suited carrier for tall people but the Boba has a better range of adjustments, making it the preferred carrier for petite and plus-sized babywearers alike. The straps of the Manduca adjust by pulling upward, an unnatural pulling position, especially in the smaller range. The Boba 3G has less adjustment options than the Manduca but is much easier to adjust.

Waist belt:

The waist belt is a significant feature for most babywearers. It can make you love or hate a carrier. The range of adjustment of the waist belt will also determine whether a petite or plus-sized babywearer can even use any given carrier. The rigidity, shape and thickness of the waist belt can also offer a comfort advantage to some babywearer. Since spines and hips are a very personal thing, it is highly recommended to try a carrier in-store before buying it. I have read before that the Manduca was the preferred choice of people with lower back issues. The Manduca’s waist belt is rigid and shaped to espouse the curves of the lower back in a back carry. The Boba’s waist belt is suppler. I do not have any back problem and both carriers’ waist belt are very comfortable to me.

The waist belt of the Boba 3G narrows to a tiny 65cm, which is a whole 15 cm smaller than the Manduca. My 80 lbs 13 year-old daughter can wear the Boba 3G comfortably but cannot adjust the Manduca small enough. Petite mamas from our local babywearing group have had a similar experience. The Manduca however, has 9 cm on the Boba in the upper range (149 cm versus 140 cm). Still, larger mamas seem to prefer the Boba 3G. I supposed that this may be due to the suppler waist belt. In the upper range of adjustment, the nylon webbing may dig and there is something to be said for more flexibility in the structured part of the waist belt. The Boba’s waist belt is also 2 cm narrower.

The Manduca has a buckle safety mechanism that requires two hands to undo. Anything that requires two hands is problematic. Case in point.

The Manduca has a buckle safety mechanism that requires two hands to undo. Anything that requires two hands is problematic. Case in point.

Take-home message: The Boba’s waist belt is less rigid and less shaped than the Manduca. The Boba has the smallest waist belt by 15 cm but the Manduca is 9 cm longer. The wider and more structured waist belt of the Manduca may offer better support to people with back issues but the Boba may be more comfortable for plus-sized babywearers.

Newborn system:

Both carriers are advertised as newborn-to-toddler carriers. The Boba 3G shortens by folding the carrier unto itself and closing it with snaps. The Manduca has a newborn harness that allows the baby to sit inside the carrier in an ergonomic position without having to straddle the width of the carrier. I tried both carriers with my newborn niece. To be fair to both carriers, I was only visiting my niece for an afternoon and I never used either carrier with an infant before. My struggles may be nothing more than inexperience but I did struggle! She was 6 weeks and about 10 lbs with long legs. Both carriers were very difficult to use comfortably. She was already a little big for the infant harness in the Manduca and her long legs didn’t have enough room to be properly placed in a froggy position. The Boba 3G was a complete bust: It was so short on her boy that I could not even safely place the carrier just for a picture.

With my niece in the Manduca. Disclaimer: the zip-up panel is supposed to be unzipped when the newborn insert is in use.

With my niece in the Manduca. Disclaimer: the zip-up panel is supposed to be unzipped when the newborn insert is in use.

I have also used the Manduca infant insert to carry my friend’s special twins. They arrived to their forever family severely affected by rickets and malnutrition and were only 10 lbs at 18 months with brittle bones. Their legs could no longer be froggied at 18 months and were longer than a healthy 10 lbs newborn’s legs and the Manduca infant insert was perfect for them.

My friend and her tiny 18 month-old using the Manduca's infant insert.

My friend and her tiny 18 month-old using the Manduca’s infant insert.

The Manduca’s infant insert is easy to use – although you must be able to sit down or use a flat surface to adjust it, see it here on You Tube  – and more adequate for a newborn. But not nearly as comfortable as a woven wrap, a stretchy wrap or a wrap conversion ring sling. This video shows a babywearing instructor use the Manduca with a newborn without the infant insert.

Take-Home Message: Boba’s newborn system is nothing more than window dressing. It was completely useless with our long 10 lbs baby. In the instruction manual, it looks more straightforward (check it out here: http://www.bobafamily.com/support/boba-instructions/baby-carrier/newborn-hold-instructions/ ) And I will accept that maybe it was just my inexperience and that maybe trying it over several times would have done the trick. But honestly, a good wrap conversion ring sling or a Boba wrap is the way to go with a newborn.

Really, this is how I prefer to carry my newborns.

Really, this is how I prefer to carry my newborns.

The foot straps:

Boba has a foot strap system that looks very convenient on film. My toddler loved standing on the foot straps and unsnapped them. That was the best game ever. So off came the foot straps. As a result, I can’t give a review of the foot straps other than to say that they were useless for us but seemed like a good idea.

The end:

I hope that this thorough comparison of the carriers will help you in your purchasing decision. It is also important to know that Manduca carriers retain more or their purchase price on the resale market and are easier to resell than the Boba 3G. On the other hand, they are more expensive to purchase. Overall, the Manduca is a better all-around carrier. That said, this is only my opinion and I strongly recommend trying the carriers before buying. Borrow one from a friend or from a sling library. Or better yet, visit a reputable brick-and-mortar babywearing store and have the staff help you adjust the carriers. Resist the appeal of showrooming and buy where you can touch, especially if you received expert advice at the store.

Have fun and remember that there is a carrier for you and your baby. Keep trying until you find the sweet spot!

 

20 thoughts on “Boba 3G or Manduca?

  1. Wow, this is a thorough comparison of the two carriers! I have a Manduca and love it, I am quite tall and have a skinny 2 year old and it is the only carrier I have that is comfy for back carries.
    Love the way you keep reminding people how important it is to try the carriers for themselves, it is great to read others opinions but very hard to choose a carrier without actually trying one. I love sling libraries!
    Did you make the pretty bits on the Manduca’s yourself? I have been thinking of making something that you can zip into the panel when it is unzipped if you get what I mean.

    • It’s so important to try carriers! Every time someone asks me recommendations I always have to answer “It depends”!

      I didn’t add the fabric to my Manduca, a talented friend did. It’s all hand-stitched and she also made custom suck pads. But basically, it’s quilting cotton from Etsy, sewn over the carrier. The carrier was not affected in any way and is not structurally compromised.

      Thanks for the visit!

  2. Hello Veronique,

    Lovely review. I enjoyed reading it very much. In your opinion, how does the Tula compare to these two carriers?

    Claudia

    • Hi Claudia!

      I only tried the Tula standard once. I have a Tula toddler on the way. When my Tula toddler arrives, I will post a review. I found that the craftsmanship on the Tula was impressive. Very well-made carriers, and lovely too (let’s be honest here, the Manduca are not the prettiest!). That said, I didn’t find the Tula standard more comfortable than the Manduca. The waist belt on the Tula is thicker and it felt like a “tube” to me. Personally, I would keep my Manduca over a Tula standard. But, once again, trying is key. I ordered a Tula toddler because it has a much wider seat (I think it’s 12cm wider than the Manduca!)

      The problem with the Tula is that it is hard to try them before buying unless you know someone who has one already. They tend to have a good resale value although they seem to go in and out of fashion. Right now in our babywearing group, they are all the rage. But last winter, one of our members had a hard time selling her Tula standard.
      I hope this helps

      • I am looking forward to hearing what you think of the toddler Tula. I was thinking of getting one for baby L in the future but she is such a petite child, who knows how long it will be before she actually fits in it.

        I would love to try yours out sometime.

        I am surprised to hear that one of the members had a hard time unloading her Tula. I feel when something is exceptionally made and does its job properly, it should never go out of style! (Can you tell I am not a churner!? Hehe)

      • The toddler Tula is huge. I’ll be happy to let you try mine but my 20 month-old/25lbs toddler was still floating in it!

  3. Thank you very much for such a detailed comparison. Nevertheless, there are some details that I’d like to explain.

    The Manduca has two models, the basic one, which is hemp/cotton on the outer layer, and organic cotton in the inner layer; and the limited edition and Black Line, which is totally organic cotton.
    The buckles in the Boba 3G are really simple, in Manduca they are of a higher quality. The bucklet on the waist belt has three buttons instead of the usual two in order to increase safety. The buckles on the sides can be opened in order to cross the shoulders, which is really helpful when using it for a long time or with larger people.

    With the Manduca zip-up panel you can open it up when the baby is asleep and tighten the shoulder strap. When the baby awakes, you can close it and loosen the shoulder straps. Many people do it several times a day!!

    When carrying a newborn or small baby, having a panel too wide means that it is more difficult to adjust it because the baby can get lost inside. With the Manduca, and with the infant insert, it does not happen, especially with the rounded shape you already mentioned.

    About breathability, it seems you compare the organic cotton version of the Manduca with the normal Boba 3G. The hemp/cotton version is much breathable. In fact, you can see through the opened panel. This is really important in hot Spain, where I am writting from.

    I am astonished with your picture adjusting the carrier. This is exactly what happens with the Boba 3G!! With the Manduca this is so much easier!!! The buckle must go over the padded end. If you see in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLqUPiXKaY0 at minute 1:24, the straps are pulled forward, even with a brand new Manduca. This makes adjustment really easy. When the baby is carried on the back, then you can pull from the other side, so you always pull forward.

    As you show in the picture of the side of the Boba 3G, the buckle is pressing against your breast. The Manduca has a special pad to avoid any problems like this, which may cause real troubles if you are breastfeeding.
    The Manduca has been designed in Germany, where people are usually big, so well, I guess it is a matter of whether you like one or another, although if your waist size is bigger than 140cm you only have Manduca as an option. About the petite size, there were some changes a couple of years ago where the waist size was ajusted to cope with smaller and larger people. In order to get a smaller size, you can put one end of the waist belt even into the elastic safety loop, then it measures 72cm.

    In regards to newborns, I do suggest watching the video. The panel must be opened in newborns to hold their head properly. The straps should be shortened, so the head is touching the padded area. They are lengthened again when the baby gets older and wants to suck them, so then you cover them to avoid messy fabric. Again, in the picture, the lateral buckles should be on top of the padded ends. When you have the panel properly set, a special embracement place is created that holds the babys head really well, so both feel really safe.

    I agree with you that a wrap or a sling is a better option for a newborn, but many fathers don’t like using a “simple piece of fabric”. Additionally, many times the wrap is not well tied or it becomes loose and the baby is not correctly held. With a Manduca this is pretty difficult. It is easier to use, especially for not very handy men ;)

    Merci beaucoup c’est a superb review :)

    • Thank you very much for your message, this is very appreciated. I will practice adjusting the Manduca according to your pointers and post and update.

      I don’t have a newborn myself so I was trying it briefly with my niece. I wholeheartedly admit my lack of practice and knowledge. :-)

  4. Thank you for the review! I have been researching before I decide to part with my money, and you have just helped me make up my mind. The manduca wins hands down!

    • Absolutely (in my opinion). Although it never hurts to try both, carriers can fit different body types very differently. But regardless of body type, the Manduca is better quality and retains most of its resale value. So if it doesn’t fit properly, you can resale it for most of what you paid for it (here in Canada, Manducas retail for $180 on average and a used Manduca without signs of wear, tear, or fading can resell for $150.

      Glad it helped!

  5. Hi there. I haven’t read the full review yet but wanted to make a couple of points. The BlackLine manduca are always 100% organic cotton. It’s the NewStyle manduca’s (black, chocolate, red, navy, olive, sand, ocean) that are 45% organic cotton/55% hemp on the outside with 100% organic cotton lining.

    And your face pic with your adjusting the shoulder straps – hehe. One of the things I LOVE about the manduca is the two way buckle which means you don’t actually have to wrench your arm backwards to adjust the shoulder straps. What you can do instead is adjust it from the other side of the buckle (take a look you’ll see that you can adjust from both sides of the buckles) and pull forward towards baby when using the manduca for a front carry. For back carries adjust from the other side of the buckle – the side that you’re using in the grimacing face pic ;) That’s the side you adjust from when you have a child in a back carry, which will mean you’ll be pulling forwards in an ergonomic fashion. Give it a try – you don’t need to wrench backwards :)

    • Hi! Thanks for your comment! I received at lot of advice following this post on the proper way to adjust the Manduca. I intend to post an update but it’s still in the works (my Manduca is currently on loan to my sister, ha! ha!)

      I totally agree with you: once you get the hang if the two buckles, they are easy to adjust and they make the Manduca the most adjustable carrier on the market. One of the points I was trying to make however is that the instruction manual provided with the carrier is severely lacking. Every week at our babywearing meet-ups we help a new Manduca owner on the verge of selling their carrier learn how to make the most of their buckles. Then they live their carrier! But that’s an unfortunate oversight from a company who values attention to detail and quality over everything else.

      That said, my personal opinion is that the Manduca is the best quality and most versatile carrier on the market. Worth every penny! I highly recommend it!

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  7. I have used the manduca for nine months now, and I have to say that during the summer months (here in Korea) it was awful. Really, really hot, sweaty, and did not breathe well. I also found it quite awkard to use when baby was inbetween stages.
    Getting too big for the newborn flap, but legs not long enough to hang out properly. I just need a magical carrier that will make my 11kg baby feel like 5kg ;)

  8. I love how you’ve customized your Manduca! Recently, I’ve bought one second-hand and it’s nice but looks so boring. So I want to pimp it, too. May I ask, how you added your fabric? Simply as an additional layer or did you unsew the Manduca and inserted your own fabric?
    Looking forward for your answer :-)

    • Hi! Thanks for your comment! I didn’t customize my Manduca myself, a talented friend did it for me. The fabric was hand-stitched over the regular carrier using quilting cotton. Some friends have used wrap scraps as well. We didn’t touch the structure if the carrier at all to avoid compromising safety. I know that my friend mentioned that she broke a lot of thread doing it: it seems like the Manduca “canvas” is very sturdy!

  9. Wow. . That’s a detailed comparison and loved it. Thanks a lot. I am new to baby wearing, however I am going for Manduca :-)

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