Evenflo Sonus

Evenflo continues to bring new products to the market to meet the needs of parents, coming in at impressive price points and ease of use features that make it easier for parents to keep their kids safe in the car.

Read on to learn about the Evenflo Sonus to see if it’s a good option for your family!

 

Sonus Specs:

Rear facing: 5-40 lbs, 19-40″

Forward facing: 22-50 lbs, 28-50″, at least two years old

Lowest harness height: 5.5″ (this will fit a newborn)

Highest harness height: 18.25″ (this will fit most kids to booster readiness)

Crotch buckle positions: Two, at 4″ and 5.75″, with an option to shorten the crotch buckle with special routing instructions for use with newborns under 10 lbs (see page 40 of the manual)

Seat weight: 11lbs

Width at widest point: 18.75″ (at cup holders and at shoulders)

Width of base at back bottom edge: 9″

Harness positions: Six: four for rear facing and three for forward facing. Rear facing positions are at approximately 5.5″, 7.5″, 10″ and 12.75″. Forward facing positions are at approximately 12.75″, 15.5″, 18.25″.

Use UAS until a child weight of: 50lbs (the max weight limit of the seat)

Expiry: 6 years from date of manufacture

 

Highlights:

  • Lightweight
  • Excellent price point at $119.99 (available at Babies R Us) in Lava Red and Boomerang Green
  • Low profile sides
  • Lots of leg room
  • Buckle storage pockets for easier loading of kids (no digging around underneath your child to find the buckles)
  • Harness is not twisty
  • Chest clip does not slide easily along the harness — this is a highlight if you have a child that likes to slide it down.
  • Narrow shape at the back/bottom means it will tend to work well in narrow seating positions, and around plastic hinges in seats with fold-down benches
  • Harness pads will be available soon for purchase, directly from Evenflo
  • Realistic height and weight limits in both modes
  • DUAL CERTIFICATION! For these seats purchased in Canada they are also certified for use in the US. Cool eh? Does not apply to seats purchased in the US. This is an excellent choice for those who travel a lot, no need to worry at all about if a seat in a US rental car is strictly legal for use by visitors.
  • Side venting in the seat shell to improve air flow
  • Like all of Evenflo’s line-up of seats the Sonus is rollover tested

 

Lowlights:

  • Recline angle rear-facing is a fixed line, so no adjustability for a more upright installation for older kids
  • Chest clip does not slide easily along the harness — this is a lowlight if you struggle to adjust it
  • The harness is more narrowly set at the neck than some (harness covers will soon be available for purchase from Evenflo)
  • Tether hook adjuster is larger than average, and in vehicles where the anchor is set very close to the back of the seat, it could be difficult to remove enough slack for a proper installation (such as the parcel shelf of a sedan)

 

Fit to Vehicle

When we first received this seat and tested it quickly in a 2012 Honda Civic for a comparison shot side-by-side another Evenflo tried and true favourite, the SureRide, we were amazed and impressed at how nicely it fit in the vehicle. Here the passenger seat is only a click from all the way back.

Upon testing it in a wide variety of other vehicles we quickly discovered that the Sonus is something of an enigma when predicting whether it will be compact or not when installed rear facing. In some vehicles it surely was, such as in the Civic as shown, and in others it seemed overly large. Extra strange was that even between leather and cloth upholstery of the same make and model (for example the current generation of Honda Odyssey) the Sonus was more compact than the SureRide…or it was bigger. Weird eh? We are really perplexed by this phenomenon and overall have found it to be really excellent where it fits, and not at all a good choice where, by some magical twist of the universe, it just takes up far more room than expected.

Very important to know that there can not be ANY overhang with this seat when it is installed rear facing, so if you have a shallow back seat it may not fit properly.

Also make sure you are using the velcro strap on the flip foot when installing rear facing (see page 38 in your manual).

 

Current generation (in red) and previous (boxier style) Ford Escape – it fit nicely in both.

 

 

A 3-across possibility in some situations – and a great fit in a 2013 Mitsubishi RVR.

 

2017 Ford Explorer was a good fit as well, and if you happen to have inflatable seat belts in your Explorer then the Sonus (or SureRide) are both great options because you can use UAS for a long time.

 

Current generation Honda Odyssey with cloth seats allowed for a good fit on the captain’s seats, and even in the 3rd row middle there was ample space. If you have an Odyssey with the 2nd row middle “8th” seat then good news! Sonus has been approved for use both rear- and forward-facing in that spot where not everything fits due to the narrow size and plastic hinges, provided a tight and correct installation is achieved. Remember there can not be any overhang in rear-facing mode.

2015 Honda CR-V left a medium amount of leg room up front.

And who can resist magnificent colour coordination? One could park a yacht in a 2016 Ford Super Crew but would it be this fashionable?

 

When installing rear facing, the recline level line can be hard to see, and therefore, align correctly. Make sure it is parallel to the groundTech tip: put a sticky note along that edge while you’re installing so it’s easier to eyeball. You CAN use a rolled up towel under the front edge to maintain the needed recline, but you don’t have to if your vehicle seats are perfectly sloped, or you are able to wedge the seat into the vehicle enough to hold the angle needed.

Forward-facing installation is generally straightforward. The nice high belt path means those with long seat belt buckle stalks will be happy, and the seat meshed quite well in most places. In vehicles with the tether anchor on the parcel shelf (the back sill of a sedan) it can be tricky to tighten the tether properly after installing; try pre-tightening, without going overboard and causing the seat to lift up before installation.

Forward-facing in a 2012 Honda Odyssey. Nice low profile makes for easy loading.

The narrow base and high belt path makes it a tidy fit in a lot of places.

Sonus is approved forward facing on the Odyssey 8th seat as well.

This side angle in a 2015 Honda CR-V really illustrates how nice and low it is. Those low sides makes it really easy for kids to get in and out themselves.

Forward facing installations often result in a gap between the back of the car seat and the vehicle seat. This is normal, and per Evenflo’s FAQs, is fine provided you have followed the instructions and have achieved a tight installation.

Fit to Child

Newborns fit nicely in Sonus as both the harness AND crotch buckle can be shortened to provide a proper fit on small babies. Our stand-in for a 6-ish lb baby fits really well.

Sonus’s major claim to fame is tremendous leg room. So much leg room! This 3.75 year old at 35lbs and 39.5″ tall is almost at the rear-facing max height but isn’t squished in the slightest; 11mo, 18lb child’s feet aren’t even touching the vehicle seat yet. Babe at 4.5 months and 16lbs has ages to go before she’d need to cross her legs.

   

The sleepy kiddo in the glasses is old enough to request the head pad for his comfort, but it’s optional – if you find it’s pushing your child’s head forward then remove it, as may be the case with very young babies. With the head pad removed the seat itself is very flat, and so there is no head slump at all.

 

Make sure you check your manual when re-threading the harness straps. There are rules about which can be used rear-facing vs forward.

Sonus fits for a long time forward facing too. At almost 4, 40″ tall, and 33lbs the Sonus is an excellent choice for a child of this build. His parents can be sure that it will last him to booster readiness, which for most kids is 5.5-6 at the earliest. Kids who are heavier for their age would probably be better off in something with a higher weight limit.

Do your kids like to match? These sisters sure do! Tons of room for both the 7yo and her 4yo sister. Ample shoulder width, and good thigh support as kids get taller.

This big-for-her-age 6.5 year old is right at the height AND weight limit AND harness height limit for this seat – too close for comfort to actually drive this way. But, the fact that she just squeaks in is an excellent indication that the 50lb weight limit + 50″ height limit + 18.25″ top harness slot is going to get the vast majority of kids to booster readiness. A child’s ears also need to be contained within the seat of the shell and hers are. Sonus is well-designed and realistic with its limits.

Final Thoughts

We like Sonus a lot. It’s inexpensive, readily available, has oodles of leg room, and is lightweight. The rear-facing and forward-facing limits are very realistic and will fit a wide range of kids. The 50lb harness weight limit will get most kids to booster age, but for those who are heavier for their age it might be better to choose a seat with a 65lb weight limit just in case it is needed.

The low profile of the sides make for really easy loading and unloading. Older kids have commented that it feels more grown up and they like that. Younger kids can be hoisted more easily than in seats with higher sides because there is less of a lip to clear.

The heavier weight harness webbing is nice because it isn’t twisty, but it does make the chest clip harder to slide. This is good news for those of you with kids who mess with their chest clip or try to slide it down. It will be frustrating for those who find they need to adjust the chest clip frequently as it is stiff.

The fabric and finishing is really nice, the light weight makes it ideal for travel and frequent moving between vehicles, and kids have found it comfortable in both directions.

The most perplexing part about this seat is the unexplainable and unpredictable fit rear facing. In some vehicles it’s super compact, and in others it seems enormous. For that reason we strongly recommend trying before you buy.

Huge thanks to the fabulous CPSTs and parents who provided photos for this review, and to Evenflo for providing samples to test with.

Evenflo wants you to enjoy a Sonus as well! Enter for a chance to win one – start by commenting on the blog with an answer to this question: What’s the most interesting or appealing feature of the Sonus convertible seat?

Thanks to all who entered and congrats to the lucky winner!

 


 

Jen Shapka is a mom of two, avid runner, CPST instructor, and likes to get a puppy fix without having to actually own a pet.

 

 

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Travels With Older Kids

We’ve written before here and here about flying with harnessed seats, but what to do if your kids are in booster seats?

Jen recently flew with her 6.5yo and 9yo, the first time without any harnessed seats, and here are some words of wisdom from a seasoned traveler.

Decide if a booster seat is a good choice for your child(ren) at your destination. Some factors to consider:

  • Is your child a practiced booster rider? A vacation is probably not the best time to start teaching your mature (usually 5.5-6+) 40+lb child how to sit properly at all times. Not when your not-so-wee one is tired, perhaps in a different time zone, or excited about the trip and unable to sit still. If a booster is on your radar for future travels start teaching your child well in advance so you have plenty of time to assess.

 

  • Will your destination involve long drives? Is your child likely to fall asleep in the car? If so then a booster might not be a good choice, especially if your child is still new to boosters.

 

  • How confident and practiced are you at assessing seat belt fit, and/or installing car seats? Is your vehicle at your destination a known entity, or is it a rental car? How flexible will you (and any traveling companions) be if the first rental car you are offered isn’t a good fit with your seats, and you need to unload everyone and start over?

I flew in December and chose to take a harnessed seat on the plane for my 6yo, and a booster for my 9yo. Although the 6yo is in a booster most of the time at home I knew that we’d have some long days of driving at our destination, and combined with the lack of sleep that goes with holiday traveling, she would not do well in a booster. My prediction was proven correct after a wicked meltdown and then a car nap on the first day. Had she been in a booster seat we wouldn’t have been able to keep driving safely.

This trip didn’t involve nearly as much driving at our destination, and the flight was shorter and only through one time zone. I decided a high back booster would be suitable, and my partner is very used to me being rather picky with rental cars, so I knew my decision would be supported if I needed to switch to a different car at the airport.

For this trip I chose to bring a Harmony Youth Booster for the 9yo, and a Harmony Dreamtime Elite for the 6yo. These seats are both excellent choices for travel and everyday use because they provide consistently excellent seat belt fit, are lightweight, fit well in most cars, and are easy for my kids to use.

Unlike harnessed seats that can be installed on an aircraft seat (in theory – you want to do some research to ensure they’ll fit on the plane you’ll be on, and also what your airline’s policies are), booster seats aren’t used on the aircraft. So bringing them takes a bit of planning.

There are two stages to my planning here:

  1. How will I get the seats to my destination undamaged?
  2. How will I make sure that my seats will wind up at the same place I’m going to?

The back of the Dreamtime Elite detaches from the base and fits easily into a large suitcase. I packed my clothes under, around, and on top of it. I’ll spare you the sight of my knickers and delicates, but you get the idea. It adds very little weight to the suitcase, and I was confident that any damage at our destination would be visible. It is always possible that my suitcase could go missing though, which is why part 2 is important.

Booster seats can’t be used in flight, but that doesn’t mean they can’t come into the cabin with us. I popped the boosters into cloth bags with handles that my kids could carry themselves…or let’s be honest, that I could carry after they got tired.

Once through security and on board the aircraft they fit easily into the overhead bins. I didn’t put them in the sizer but they aren’t big. Here are two stacked together with room to spare. My kids are big enough to fit comfortably into the airplane seats, and the seat belt can be properly tightened on them, which is also a factor when deciding on harness vs booster.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t want my 6yo in a backless booster. Since it’s impractical to carry the booster back onto the airplane (if it would even be permitted, which I doubt), I was comfortable packing it well into my suitcase and hoping it showed up. I had the booster bottom with me, so if needed, could have used that until the suitcase showed up.

And that’s it! We had a successful trip, and hope your future travels are smooth…bon voyage!


Some folks like to buy seats that are well-suited for travel. If you are considering a travel-specific/back-up seat purchase there are a few great options in all categories. This is not an exhaustive list and chances are good that the seat you own will work with some planning. The ones here are listed because they are narrow, lightweight, and inexpensive.

Rear-facing only (infant) seats – most install fairly easily without the base, and fit well on many airplane seats. Check your manual for instructions about aircraft installation.

Convertible seats – go to options include the Evenflo Titan 65/SureRide (both rear facing and forward facing), and the Cosco Scenera NEXT rear facing. Both are lightweight, and compatible with the vast majority of vehicles.

Combination child/booster seats – Harmony Defender, Evenflo Maestro, and Graco Tranzitions are great options to start with.

Dedicated booster seats – remember that these can’t be used on the plane! But great options that are easy to swap between vehicles, and are lightweight and easy to transport include the Graco Turbobooster, Graco Affix, Harmony Dreamtime, Harmony Youth Booster, Evenflo Amp, and Diono backless boosters.


Jen is a mom of two, about to move across the country (again), and a Child Passenger Safety Technician – Instructor Trainer who recently attended a course in Charlotte, NC all about Safe Travel for All Children: Transporting Children with Special Healthcare Needs.

 

Safety 1st Incognito Booster

IMG_7315Is your child in that tricky in-between stage of still needing a booster seat, but finding their current one a bit of a squeeze? Or feeling uncool about riding in a booster when friends have been in an adult belt for ages? Safety 1st Incognito to the rescue!

The Incognito is a low profile dense foam booster seat that is meant to blend in to the vehicle seat to be…you guessed it…incognito and discreet! And it delivers on that promise. The Incognito absolutely fills a niche for kids in that transition period (or sooner), is easy to use, lightweight, and comfortable.

Incognito is for people who are:

  • 60-120lbs (27-54kg)
  • 47-60″ tall (119-152cm)
  • at least 6 years old

Incognito specs:

  • 18.5″ deep by 16.25″ wide at front edge, 13″ wide at back edge
  • 2.5″ high
  • Ten year expiry date
  • $44.97 at Walmart
  • weighs only about half a pound
  • read the manual here

What is needed to use the Incognito:

  • a lap/shoulder belt (check the Incognito manual and your vehicle manual for information about seat belt systems);
  • an appropriately sized and aged child who has the maturity and impulse control to sit properly at all times in a booster seat;
  • head support up to at least the child’s ears (either a tall seat back, or a vehicle head restraint adjusted as needed).
  • a vehicle seat deep enough to support the entire booster

When is the Incognito the solution to my problem?

  • if your child is getting too tall for available head support but doesn’t yet fit the adult seat belt –> Incognito sits quite low to eke out a few more inches of head support
  • if your child is sensitive about still using a booster seat and wants theirs to blend into the vehicle upholstery
  • if the adult seat belt doesn’t yet fit properly but other booster seats aren’t providing good belt fit either –> check for adult seat belt fit with a Five Step Test

Seat belt fit was consistently good with our testers. The sloped seat pan of the Incognito will help kids stay inIMG_6933 position and prevent slouching, and the depth of the seat pan means good leg support for bigger kids.

Consider this an ideal option for the 8-12 year old crowd, as it is a better fit for kids with longer legs, and for those who no longer need the side support of a high back booster. The minimum height of 47″ means most six year olds will be too short, and our usual 6yo 48″ tall kid wasn’t heavy enough to try.

To use the Incognito: sit on the seat, scoot the bum back, buckle the seat belt, and then hook the two plastic belt guides onto the lap belt only (never the shoulder belt). Pull the belt snug, and voila! That’s it, easy peasy. For kids who are used to a conventional booster seat with pronounced arm rests this method will take some getting used to, but most age and size appropriate kids will have the dexterity and ability to buckle and route the belt. Our testers ranged in age from 7 to 10, and about 62lbs through 80lbs.

IMG_6972 IMG_6761

IMG_7210 IMG_6468

As there is no shoulder belt guide with this seat it is critical that the belt touches the chest and sits in the middle of the collarbone on its own. If it slips off the shoulder or is too close to the neck (where it’s annoying and kids won’t leave it be) then choose a different seating position or a different booster seat.

The lap belt should be nice and low on the thighs and pelvis, and never on the belly.

IMG_6472 IMG_7213

That’s really all there is to it – deceptively simple!

Thank you to Safety 1st Canada for providing the seats shown in this review, and for offering up TWO for lucky readers to win! All opinions are our own.

Remember this is for big kids – and to be eligible to win you must comment on this blog post answering the question: What does your big kid think of using this seat (ask them!)? Post the answer, tell the Rafflecopter widget “I commented” and we’ll make your comment visible soon! Good luck!

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Goodbaby Abri 35 Car Seat & Evoq Stroller

Guest review from April Ische, a fellow CPST, and mom to four. Huge thanks to April for putting together such a comprehensive and useful review. We’re pleased to add the Goodbaby Abri 35 car seat to our favourites list based on her thumbs up.


Eilee Main

When I was contacted in early December and asked if I wanted to do a guest review of the Goodbaby Evoq Travel System I jumped at the chance! I had been eyeing up the system in the flyers and online and was actually planning on making the trip to my closest Babies R Us to check it out and satisfy my curiosity. I was intrigued to see what Goodbaby was about, and it has been a bit since a snazzy new travel system hit the Canadian market. The Evoq arrived at my door just a few days before Christmas and it quickly became my favourite new Christmas toy – Merry Christmas to me indeed! Let me tell you, this system does not disappoint!

The Evoq travel system retails for $599.99 exclusively at Babies R Us. The system includes a matching rear-facing only car seat, the gb Abri 35, and both are in a fashionable silver and black design called Sterling. The Abri 35 will be available as a standalone car seat in May 2017, and will retail for $249.99.

EVOQ & Abri Features:

  • Abri 35 rear-facing only (infant) seat for babies 4lbs-35lbs (1.8kg-16kg) and 17in.-32in. (43cm – 81.3cm)
  • Fit-Loc seat belt lock-off system
  • Evoq stroller to accommodate infants who can sit unassisted, up to 50lbs
  • Adjustable canopy with expandable air-flow option
  • Height adjustable handle for parent comfort
  • Reversible tilt stroller seat with full recline for older baby and toddler; option to face the parent, or face out, with either the stroller seat OR the car seat
  • Glide-on board for older children to stand and catch a ride, can be used with either stroller seat OR car seat in use
  • Stroller seat and car seat made from premium materials
  • Ability to fold the stroller base with the tilt seat still attached
  • Large cargo area for extras
  • Scroll on down for more specifics related to the car seat and the stroller separately

PartsI was impressed as soon as I opened the box. The system came in a large (34 x 20 x 22) box which was packed well! I was pleased (and relieved!) at how few separate parts there were. I am not handy at all and this didn’t look too daunting even for me!

Like most CPSTs I’m sure, I set the stroller aside and went right for the Abri 35 Infant Car Seat. This is a rear-facing only seat with a stay in car base and removable carrier. The car seat connects directly to the wheel frame of the Evoq stroller for a quick and easy way to transport baby.

Abri 35 First Impressions:

Firstly, this was a sleek seat. The materials used in the cover, canopy and infant inserts seemed well made and of high quality, and the seat seemed soft and comfortable. All of the infant inserts, manual, and the registration card in clear view and easily accessible. It was very well padded and the material seemed breathable – nice for those hot days! The harness adjustment was smooth.

ABRI 35
It is always recommended that you read and understand the manual for your car seat before using it. As a CPST it’s particularly important to carefully read manuals cover to cover, and not assume anything about a new product on the market.The manual for the Abri 35 is very impressive. It was thorough, well laid out and easy to read and understand. Especially impressive is the level of detail with the warnings, including general vehicle safety that new (and experienced!) parents may not have thought of in the haze of fatigue that comes with a new little person. The manual was also full of helpful tips and tricks which make using the car seat easier, and explains things well. I recommend settling in with a beverage of choice and reading it cover to cover. First step: register your seat with Goodbaby, online right here.

Abri Specs and Photo Gallery:

  • Width of carrier at widest point: 17.5in.
  • Width of base at widest point: 15″
  • Weight of carrier: 8.2lbs, but feels lighter than most, with other carriers weighing in at up to 2lbs heavier.
  • Weight of base: 5.4lbs
  • Length of carrier/base together: 29″
  • Length of base only: 23″
  • 4 sets of harness slots, 3 sets of waist slots, and 3 crotch buckle strap positions:
    • Crotch buckle slots: 3″, 4.5″, 6″
    • Crotch buckle length: Preemie = 2.5″ (only buckle, no strap length), or 4″
    • Width of seating areas at waist: 3″, 6″, 9″
    • Harness height: 4.5″, 7″, 9″, 11″

The Abri 35 is fairly unique in that it can be adjusted to fit such a range of kids. The manual provides preferred harness positions, but any position can be used as long as the fit is correct for the child: waist straps closest to (but not underneath child), crotch buckle strap position closest to (but not under child), and harness straps at or just below child’s shoulders.

The three sets of waist strap positions are something not seen on many seats and they may seem daunting at first, but are actually an amazing option for fitting various children! Adjustment is clearly laid out in the manual, although should be done with the manual in hand as doing so is not intuitive and should not be guessed at. Luckily the middle width setting will fit most infants at birth and through to the upper limits of the seat, so this adjustment won’t be needed except for very tiny newborns, or larger, older babies. Take care to route the harness properly, being careful not to damage the energy absorbing foam while doing so.

The seat shipped with the harness on the 3rd highest strap position, middle waist position, and largest crotch buckle position. This setup will be too large for a newborn, and so take care to adjust properly. I found it easy to mismatch the slots in the fabric cover with the slots in the shell, and it’s important that everything lines up.

  • Front adjust harness that was easy to both loosen and tighten.
  • Infant head and body support (optional for comfort and fit).
  • Harness strap covers (optional for comfort and fit). The straps covers, while being nice and soft, are quite large and bulky and had the potential to interfere with tightening the straps on the child’s shoulders. On the preemie doll, newborn doll and a 3 month old tester, there wasn’t enough room for the harness covers as the babies were just too small. On the older children the harness pads fit, , but they still made making sure the straps were placed properly on the child’s shoulders a bit tricky. Thankfully they are optional, and can be removed as desired.
  • Clearly labelled stickers and warnings.foam
  • Canopy that reaches to handle and allows comfortable carrying room. While the canopy extends right to the handle to provide great sun and wind coverage, moving it back and forth takes two hands, and must be carefully snapped into place to stay fully extended.
  • Energy absorbing foam that completely surrounds child’s head, neck and torso
  • Fit-Loc seat belt lock-off on the base. Achieving a secure installation with this technology was extremely easy and it is one of the best features of this seat! Simply lift the lock-off, choose your Lock Offmethod of installation (seat belt or UAS, not both), remove slack, then simply close the lock-off for a quick, easy and solid installation. Before releasing the lock-off unbuckle the seat belt or release the UAS, and then push firmly down on the lock-off and press back on the release tab. Be careful not to catch your fingernails on the lock-off as it releases as it pops up quickly once released!
  • Premium lower anchor connectors with release button for simple and straight forward connecting and releasing on the vehicle anchor bars
  • Recline adjustment foot with four recline positions. The Abri 35 has two weight-based
    recline requirements. One for 4-20lbs (blue) and one for 20-35lbs (green). This foot allows for a full range of reclines and it was not necessary to use a rolled towel under the base in any of the vehicles tested. With the great design of the recline foot both weight-based reclines were able to be easily achieved with either method of installation. Vehicles with very flat vehicle seats may not allow for installation at the more upright recline required for older, heavier babies.

recline indicator  recline foot

  • Colour coded recline indicator: while the indicator is simple, straightforward and clearly labelled, the blue and green on the indicator can be a bit difficult to tell apart in low light and shadows. The flashlight on your cell phone will come in handy in the dark
  • Expires six years from date of manufacture
  • Retails for $599.99 as a travel system, or coming spring 2017 will be a standalone seat for $249.99, exclusively at Babies R Us

Abri 35 Fit to Child:

A wide range of sized and shaped infants and even a few toddlers were tested in the Abri 35 for this review and with the exception of the child who was right at the standing height limit, all fit well and seemed happy and comfortable. Most kids will reach the standing height limit of 32″, or their heads will be to within 1″ of the top of the shell, well before they hit the weight limit. This is common across most seats.

Preemie Doll17″ long, preemie clothing size. Abri 35 fits incredibly small babies beautifully, with room to spare!

It is incredible how small this seat adjusts down to, while providing a snug and cozy fit with the optional infant insert.

Our preemie doll measured just 17″, the height minimum for the Abri 35, and fit amazingly well, a real strength for this seat! Straps were on the lowest setting, waist straps in the inner positions and the crotch buckle in the preemie setting. The straps were well below the doll’s shoulders. 

IMG_7158 IMG_7159 IMG_7160

IMG_7162When routing the crotch buckle strap on the preemie setting be aware of the seam on the harness, ensuring it is pulled back through to the inside of the plastic shell to remove slack that can be hidden on the outside of the shell. This can make taking the seat out of preemie setting a bit difficult as there is very little slack left in the strap to turn and push the retainer clip back through again. Parents will need to push the seam back through the shell slot in order to release the retainer clip from the preemie setting. This seat can absolutely be recommended for very small babies with confidence that they will fit appropriately.

 

 

Newborn Doll: 19.5″ long, newborn clothing size.

Representing an average-sized newborn, this doll also fit well in the seat and needed the harness height adjusted to the second-lowest setting, and the middle settings for crotch buckle and waist straps, a good bet for those expecting average-sized babies. The manual recommends the rear buckle position for a newborn, however with this position, the buckle was coming from underneath the doll, thus it was moved into the middle position. Cloth vs disposable diapers could very well affect this fit too, so read up on how to adjust and what to look for on your own little person.

Newborn Doll

Eilee: 3 months old, 10lbs, 4oz, 22″ long, 0-3m clothing size

At this size Eilee was still on the same setting as a newborn (middle buckle, middle waist and 2nd harness slot). Eilee was our main tester and used this seat for about a month in various vehicles. She always seemed comfortable and never fussed in the seat. She never became sweaty in the seat which is a testament to the breathability of the materials used. Both infant inserts were still used for Eilee and she fit well with them. The head support pad fit well, giving comfortable side support without pushing her head forward into a dangerous position.

The straps were fairly easy to adjust on a baby of this size with the exception of the chest clip being a bit tough to slide along the straps. We found the harness covers to be a bit bulky on her at her size, and removed them. We will likely put them back on once it is summertime and her neck is more exposed. We plan to use this seat until she outgrows it as we have found it very user friendly!

Eilee

Sophia: 5 months old, 16.5lbs, 27.5″ long, 12m clothing size

Sophia was just at the 3rd harness slot, middle buckle slot and middle waist straps. The fact that Sophia is much larger than Eilee, yet still on the middle waist and buckle straps, shows the range of kids the seat can fit properly without too many adjustments needed. This is good because, as mentioned earlier, the waist straps can be tricky to change so it is nice that parents shouldn’t have to do it often. Sophia still had room width wise in the seat and didn’t seem confined at all. We did, however, remove the infant insert cushions at this point as they made her a little squished. Her mom commented how she liked that the seat cradled Sophia better than some others they had used.

Sophia

Adelyn: 8 months old, 18lbs, 26″ long, 6-9m clothing size

Addy was at the 3rd harness slot, middle waist setting and front buckle setting. It is interesting to see how she and Sophia are very close in size but fit into the seat differently, and still the Abri 35 still fit both girls wonderfully. Thumbs up for versatility for fitting children of different shapes and proportions. Addy’s feet hung well over the foot end of the seat (which is not a safety or fit concern), but she still had lots of shell above her head and didn’t seem uncomfortable or squished at all. We also removed the infant inserts for her.

Adelyn

 

Alice: 20 months old, 19lbs, 29″ tall, 18-24m shirts, 12-18m pants

While Alice still has a ways to go until the weight limit of 35lbs on the Abri 35, she will likely reach the 1″ of head space fit rule fairly soon and didn’t have a lot of harness length left on the seat. Alice was on the 4th harness slot, middle waist setting, and front crotch buckle. The buckle was against her and appeared to almost be under her while she was wearing a cloth diaper. Limited use for a child of this size could be something to consider for parents who use cloth diapers. The manual states that the buckle slot cannot be under the child, and at 19lbs and in a cloth diaper, Alice is nearing several of the limits of this seat.

Alice

 

Colton: 2 years old, 25lbs, 32″ tall, 2T clothing

While most parents have moved onto a convertible style seat by this point — and if we were consulting with Colton’s parents we’d be encouraging them to shop for a new seat immediately — we decided to see if the Abri 35 would fit as long as stated. At the 32″ standing height limit Colton still had just an inch of shell above his head, which was pretty impressive, as it means the seat’s shell is decently long/deep for long term use. He was on the 4th harness slot, outer waist setting and front buckle. With a disposable diaper on, Colton still fit relative to the buckle slot. The issue here was that the Abri 35 ran out of harness length for a child of this size. We managed to secure him in the seat in just a thin shirt, but there was no room left at all. Even a fleece sweater would not have fit under the harness anymore. The seat was no longer user friendly at this point, nor comfortable for him. Like most seats, the 35lb weight limit is overstated, but the height limits (both standing height and fit requirement of 1″ of shell above the head) seem very reliable.

Colten

Fit to Vehicle

A few general comments about installing the Abri 35:

Overall the Abri 35 base and carrier install was simple and straightforward in most of the vehicles tested. It is always recommended to try a seat in your vehicle before purchasing if possible. The Abri 35 was put to the test in a variety of types and ages of vehicles. It was installed in the vehicles in as many different ways and positions as possible, and overall performed really well!

While already praised in this review, the Fit-Loc seat belt lock-off tightening system on the Abri 35 really does make getting a secure install with this seat very easy! Why would you install with the seat belt instead of UAS, you might ask Many parents prefer to install a seat in the middle of the vehicle, and in the vast majority of vehicles, you can not use UAS there. There was absolutely no issue getting the base to less than one inch of movement in any of the vehicles or positions tested and no issues at all with tilting. In some vehicles it took a bit of force to close the lock-off, but never beyond what would be considered reasonable. At times the convenience seam/fold found on some seat belts fells inside the Fit-Loc lock-off on the base, but did not prevent the lock-off from closing properly.

The range of the recline foot was invaluable and made it possible to easily achieve the proper recline in most of the test vehicles. The more upright recline required for 20-35lbs children could not be achieved in two vehicles with flat seats however, which is unfortunate as not much can be done to remedy this problem. Abri 35 is not alone with this issue, and vehicles with very flat seats tend to be difficult to work in as a general rule.

Baseless installation was straightforward in many vehicles, but was prone to tipping or other challenges on firm, non-compressible leather upholstery, as is common with many other car seats.

Front-to-back space allowed for a 5’6″ passenger to sit in front of the installed Abri 35 in all of the vehicles tested, but a very tall person sitting in the front seat may experience leg room issues.

The base did tend to overhang the vehicle seat in many vehicles, but by an allowable amount (up to 20% is permitted). Vehicles with very short back seat depth may prove incompatible.

Vehicle Test Gallery:

2016 Honda Civic, 4 Door, Cloth Interior

Abri 35 installed well in the middle and outboard. The centre hump in this car made a baseless install tricky there. UAS install and seat belt install at a variety of reclines was straightforward.

Civic Center

 

2005 Mazda 6 GT Fastback, 4 door, Leather Interior

Abri 35 installed well in all positions in this car. The slippery leather and firm upholstery made a baseless installation tricky. Front-to-back the seat fit nicely in this car.

Mazda 6 outboard Mazda 6 leg room

2009 Jeep Patriot, 4 Door, Leather Interior

The Jeep Patriot didn’t get along as well with the Abri 35 as the other vehicles, and illustrates vehicle features that are challenging for many car seat installations. While the more reclined 4-20lbs recline was achieved with both the seat belt install and UAS install, the more upright 20-35lbs range was not possible as the flat vehicle seat meant that the Abri 35 could not be made upright enough. The seats in this vehicle were fairly slippery leather and very firm and unforgiving so even using pressure upon tightening the belts to attempt the higher weight recline was unsuccessful.

Patriot outboad

 

2014 Dodge Durango, 4 door, Leather Interior

This was the main vehicle the Abri 35 was tested in and it installed well in all positions and install methods tried. The Durango was a really excellent test vehicle due to its variation in seat belt features seen in many vehicles. The Abri 35 installed perfectly at both weight reclines with seat belt installs, UAS installs, and baseless in outboard positions. Like many SUVs, it could not accommodate this seat in the 3rd row as there wasn’t enough front-to-back space.

The Abri 35 was installed in the centre beside a rear-facing Clek Foonf on the 60 portion of the second row in the Durango and still allowed for the 40 portion of the seat to tumble forward beside it for third row access WITH the carrier on the base. Abri 35 is the only rear-facing only carrier/base type seat that has allowed this (others tried include the original Britax B-Safe 22, Britax B-Safe 35, Chicco KeyFit 30, Graco Click Connect 35, and Peg Perego 4-35). All other seats have required the carrier portion to be removed before tumbling the outer portion of the seat. This is excellent news for parents with tight three-across needs, or those with 3-row SUVs requiring a seat to tumble to gain access to the 3rd row. Rejoice! 

Durango Outboard IMG_7177 IMG_7176

EVOQ Stroller

If you are considering the Abri 35 as part of a travel system it is the Evoq stroller that forms the other half, and here’s the lowdown on it! The Evoq stroller is a wheel frame that can accommodate either the Abri 35 car seat, or the reversible tilt stroller seat with a toddler up to 50lbs and 45in. The Evoq is a single stroller with the additional glide-on (standing) board for older kids.

The reversible tilt seat is meant for children who can sit unassisted, and is not meant for newborns or younger babies as the stroller’s harness system does not safely adjust to their smaller size.

Features:

  • Cup holder
  • Lightweight at 35lbsStroller cargo area 1
  • Cargo basket with 10lb weight capacity: the Evoq features a large cargo basket. As with many strollers, there is a frame bar through the basket which does limit fitting something like a large diaper bag in it, but it is more than sufficient for a smaller bag, toys, snacks, etc.
  • Adjustable handle for comfortable pushing. Both my 6’1″ husband and myself at 5’6″ could comfortably push the stroller as the handle adjusted to our different heights
  • Adjustable canopy which features an additional zip out to further extend
  • Reversible Tilt Toddler Seat. The seat on the Evoq is a sharp looking seat, made of premium materials. The seat features an adjustable foot rest and fully reclines for sleeping. As mentionedGlide on 1 earlier, but worth repeating, the stroller is only for children who are sitting unassisted, and not for newborns or younger, smaller babies. The harness system does not adjust small enough for newborns or small babies, or maintain a safe and comfortable position.
  • Foot brake that was easy to engage and disengage and held firm
  • Glide-on board for older kids. This is a great feature! Sabelle (size of an average 3 year old) was able to comfortably use the board and see over the seat of the stroller. The older kids tested loved the option and had fun getting to ride too. There was plenty of space and it was easy for them to hold onto the sides of the stroller frame. The stroller was still easily pushed with a child on the board. This is a wonderful feature for use in busy parking lots or crowded spaces because it kept my older kids in one place while still allowing me to easily push the stroller.

 

Best Uses:

Evoq is ideal for walking, travel, shopping, or city. At 35lbs this is a fairly light weight stroller, and while very well built, is not one that is meant for off-roading or rough terrain. The solid rubber tires did perform well on the hard packed snowy sidewalks, but wasn’t tested in deep snow. It was fantastic in stores, including those with tight aisles as the wheel base isn’t too wide. The Evoq turns on a dime and pushes easily with one hand, even with a child on the glide-on board. Once you have weight in the stroller (i.e. a 30lb two year old, vs a 10lb 3 month old), there is a noticeable difference, but it is still very doable. The stroller was easy to pop up onto sidewalks and over curbs if needed (Note: this is not safe with a child standing on the glide-on board).

The Evoq stroller seems to worked best for older babies, toddlers and young preschoolers which is exactly who it is geared towards.

Out of the box the stroller only took about five minutes to fully set up. It was so easy and the directions were straightforward and easy to follow. The stroller can be folded with the seat still attached, although it makes for a long fold with the seat on which didn’t allow for it to fit nicely in tight trunks/cargo areas. It isn’t hard or time consuming at all to simply take the seat off and fit it in differently though, so the large fold does not need to be a deterrent. The frame alone is very lightweight, easy to fold and unfold and fit well into the vehicle trunks/cargo areas we tested.

Fold with seat folded wheel frame

The stroller fit in the trunk of the 2016 Civic, the smallest vehicle tested with the seat attached. It was a bit tricky to get in and out and took up the entire trunk, but it was doable. Without the seat attached, the Evoq frame took up only half the trunk.

Civic Seat on frame fold Civic wheel base only
Another test was the 2014 Durango cargo area with the third row up. The Evoq did not fit with the seat attached to the folded frame, but it did fit easily with the seat taken off and placed beside the frame. The system is so easy to fold and remove the seat that this wasn’t an issue at all.

Durango Cargo Area

 

Kid Fit in EVOQ:

6 Month Doll: Our 6 month tester doll fit the Evoq well. She was on the lowest strap setting, but the straps tightened down to secure her no problem. Important to note again that smaller babies should not be buckled into the stroller seat because they can’t be properly positioned if they are too small to properly adjust the harness.

6 month doll

 

Sabelle: 2.5 years old, 38″ tall, 30lbs, size 2/3 clothing.

Sabelle still fits in the stroller comfortably and she was happy to ride along each time we used it. The stroller was usable for a child of this size in both the parent-facing and outward-facing orientations, although Sabelle greatly preferred the outward option. She was able to climb in and out on her own and the stroller was still easily pushed. Sabelle was also large enough to use the glide-on board and hold onto the sides of the stroller frame.

Sabelle outface Sabelle parent face

 

Harper: almost 6, 43″, 40″, size 4/5 clothing

We pushed the Evoq near its limits with Harper. He feels much too big for this stroller even though he is still 10lbs from the weight limit and 2in under the height limit. His head was above the back of the stroller seat and his legs were either very bent up on the foot rest or dangling uncomfortably. He said he wasn’t comfortable in it and the harness system was difficult to close around him. While most parents would not be using a stroller anymore for a 6 year old, Harper is about the size of an average 4 year old, an age in which many parents are still using a stroller periodically.

Harper

In Conclusion

The Evoq Travel System as a whole is a wonderful new addition to the Canadian market! The system is great quality and stylish while still hitting an affordable mid-range price.

The Abri 35 rear-facing only car seat in the system should accommodate most babies until parents are ready to switch to a convertible car seat for continued rear facing, with very realistic height and fit limits. It is lightweight, and features technology that is sure to aid parents when using it, most notably the recline foot and the amazing lock-off. Caution when choosing this car seat only if you have very flat or very shallow vehicle seats, otherwise consider it an excellent narrow, lightweight, and long-lasting option, and the newest addition to our favourite rear-facing only car seat list! We look forward to it being available as a standalone seat as well.

The Evoq stroller is easily transported, versatile and comfortable for older babies and toddlers to use for many years.

Overall, I would highly recommend this travel system to parents looking for something quick, light and easy to use within a city setting.

Thank you to all of the moms and babies who helped with this review! Beth and Sophia, Lindsay and Adelyn, Brandi and Alice, Carly and Colton and my own little kiddies Eilee, Sabelle and Harper. Also, thanks to my fellow CPSTs Brandi, Carly and Regan who helped test this system, and offered up some great viewpoints!

We would like to thank Goodbaby for supplying the travel system used and tested in this review, and also for the one they are providing to one lucky winner – see below to enter! All opinions are our own.


 

April-headshotApril Ische is the frazzled mother of four. She has been a CPSAC technician since spring 2015 and works part time at a local baby store (usually with kiddos in tow). With kids at every stage of car seats, there is plenty of opportunity to play! When not working or car seating, she can be found with her kids at the step dance studio or the hockey rink.

 

 

This contest is closed – thanks to everyone who entered and congrats to the winner!

To be eligible to win first post a comment on this blog that answers this question: What’s your favourite feature of the car seat, and your favourite feature of the stroller Then tell the Rafflecopter “I commented!” and trust us to add your comment as soon as we can.

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Mifold Grab-and-Go Booster

Unless you’ve been living under a rock it has been hard to avoid the hype and launch of the much-anticipated Mifold Grab-and-Go booster. Introduced in the US and Europe some time ago the Mifold is now here in Canada and we have the low-down for you!

Advertised as ten times smaller than a traditional booster seat, the Mifold is deemed the “most advanced, compact, and portable booster seat ever invented.” Check out a video of it in action here. Is it true? In a lot of ways it is those things, but it’s not as easy to use as we had hoped. It does, however, have a place in the booster seat world if parents, caregivers, and kids are prepared to learn to use it properly.

Mifold Specs and DetailsScreen Shot 2017-02-01 at 11.56.59 AM

For children who are:

  • 40-100lbs (18-45kg)
  • 40-57″ (102-145cm)
  • at least 4 years old**

**Most kids don’t have the impulse control or maturity to properly and safely use a booster seat until 5.5-6 years old. Some might be ready sooner, and others not until later. It’s important not to rush this step.

  • Weight: 1.5lbs
  • Dimensions in storage mode: 9.5″ long x 4.75″ wide x 1.75″ tall
  • Tallest torso size that should fit: ~19.5″ bum to shoulder
  • Dimensions of seating area: 8.25″ wide x 8.5″ deep
  • Internal hip width dimensions: (1) 9.75″, (2) 11.75″, (3) 13.5″
  • Available in six fun colours, although the colour isn’t visible when the seat is occupied
  • Expires seven years from date of manufacture
  • Requires replacement after a crash if seat was occupied, can be re-used if unoccupied and undamaged
  • Available at Canadian Tire, direct from mifold.ca, or boutique retailers for $79.99
  • Find model number, serial number, date of manufacture, and cleaning instructions on labels and adjuster guide. Mifold is small don’t forget!

IMG_7093 IMG_7090

Highlights:

The major appeal of the Mifold is the small size. It IS compact. It would fit easily in a glove box, carry on bag, or anywhere else you care to stash small things — it’s about the size of an evening clutch purse.

Lowlights:

It’s not nearly as easy to use as it’s made out to be, and fit-to-child is not predictable.

How does Mifold work?

Booster seats as we have come to know them literally boost a child up so that the adult seat belt fits their smaller bodies properly. Most kids will need a booster seat of some kind until age 11ish, as that’s when most will be tall enough to fill out a belt and a vehicle seat properly. Most provinces and territories don’t specifically require booster seats to be used for that long, but they DO require the seat belt to fit properly — and that’s just not going to happen until kids are closer in size to adults!

Although it is called a “grab-and-go booster” Mifold is not a booster in the traditional sense. Instead of raising the child up to meet the belt, Mifold pulls the belt down to meet the child. It’s really quite innovative and unique, and we commend the inventor for seeking solutions to the many barriers that prevent kids from being safely seated on every ride. For some very specific situations Mifold will in fact accomplish what it is designed to do – be compact, portable, and provide good belt fit. Now, we’ll try to clarify how to know if and when it’s a good choice for your family because it’s the ease of use and unpredictability that is its biggest challenge.

IMG_7096When we talk about “good belt fit” what we’re looking for is a nice low, flat lap belt that isn’t on the belly, and a shoulder belt that is centred on the collarbone and not irritating the neck (kids won’t tolerate that), or slipping off the shoulder (because then the belt can’t hold the child back in a crash).

To help us talk about belt fit we have the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing the losses — deaths, injuries and property damage — from crashes on the [US] nation’s roads. They’re the go-to folks for booster seat belt fit. The image with yellow shirt is borrowed from them and shows good lap belt fit (the dashed white line shows where a traditional booster seat arm rest would be). The remaining three are our test models, and the fit is quite comparable. The reason we so carefully considered the IIHS’s test protocol and results was that the fit of the Mifold is SO unlike what we’re used to, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just different, and we need to retrain our brains for what to look for. The images shown though are about as low on the legs as we’d like to see, and if the fit of the Mifold in your car with your child positions the belt overly low down the legs then that’s not a fit we’re comfortable with.

The figure in the yellow shirt above is a special crash test dummy that represents an average 6 year old, and the tests the IIHS does are only about belt fit – there is no actual crashing going on. It’s also important to note that the IIHS has not at this time published an assessment of the Mifold because it doesn’t meet their definition of a booster seat (see above re boosting a child up vs pulling the belt down). Perhaps one day, but not yet – and that’s why we did our own unofficial side by side photo comparison to see for ourselves how the Mifold fit on real kids.

Ease of Use

Mifold needs to be set up to fit the size of the child. This is done by adjusting both the lap belt guides on the seating area, and the shoulder belt guide on the strap of webbing that MUST be used at all times.

Adjust the lap belt guides to the width just larger than your child, but not touching their legs. Internally the three settings are 9.75″, 11.75″, and 13.5″. At the narrowest setting the external width is 11″, and may be useful in narrower seating positions. A little release tab must be pressed to move the lap belt guide both wider and narrower.

IMG_7082

The shoulder belt guide is adjustable with an easy to use red clip mechanism, and will accommodate torso heights up to about 19.5″. The red buckle on the guide should sit about 1″ above the shoulder, and although it can be used to affect the positioning of the shoulder belt on the child’s collarbone, it will be easier for everyone to use and more comfortable for the child if the seat belt naturally falls on the collarbone and the red clip is just along for the ride (but still MUST be used).

IMG_7104 IMG_7085

Position the seat of the Mifold against the vehicle seat back. For vehicles with a contoured shape at the place where the vehicle seat bottom meets the seat back position the Mifold so it’s on the contour and touching the vehicle seat back. Our testers found it easiest to do a “hover and drop” manoeuvre when placing their bums onto the seat pad, rather than the “scoot and slide” they’re used to with conventional boosters. Do what works for you!

IMG_6802 IMG_6455

Route the lap belt through both red lap belt guides, but do not ever put the shoulder belt through the lap guides. Clip the shoulder belt guide onto the belt at the shoulder, and snug everything up. Ensure that the Mifold itself is touching the vehicle seat back, and make sure the child’s bum is scooted all the way back and is making contact with the vehicle seat back – no slouching!

IMG_6929 IMG_6928 IMG_6924

1485900218030

And here is where the Mifold differs most from traditional boosters in terms of fit and comfort. In a traditional booster seat the seat pan is shorter, built for a child’s shorter leg length and allowing the knees to bend comfortably at the edge of the booster seat. With Mifold being flat to the vehicle seat, or nearly so at only 3/4″ thick, there’s no leg support or natural bend for the knees. In the image with the red and green lines: the green line represents a child or adult with long enough legs to bend naturally at the edge of the vehicle seat. The red line shows how this child’s legs are sitting when the Mifold is in use. This was not comfortable for her and she had difficulty maintaining this position without slouching. Slouching means she’ll slide her bum forward, and it will no longer be in contact with the vehicle seat back. This will in turn affect the seat belt fit, and result in misuse of the Mifold.

Differently sized children on smaller or larger vehicle seats will experience different results. Really big kids on a small vehicle seat will probably not slouch; small kids on big vehicle seats will be able to stick their legs straight out. Unless a child falls into one of those ends of the fit spectrum though, we worry greatly that the seating position won’t be able to be maintained for more than a few minutes. Our testers found it took a lot of effort to sit properly, and stay there.

IMG_6925 IMG_7079

Overall we found seat belt fit to be fair-to-good in a range of vehicles and test models from the low end straight through to the high end of the size range, although as previously mentioned, quite a lot lower on the thighs than we’re used to seeing. Aim for the top edge of the lap belt to be near the pelvis.

Our testers were not able to buckle themselves, or unbuckle themselves. Perhaps with practice this would be doable, but it’s not intuitive.

IMG_7078 IMG_7080

IMG_6801 IMG_6757

One CPST mom took the Mifold with her when she traveled overseas recently, and used it with her 6.5 year old 44lb 47″ tall daughter. She reported that she found it a little tricky to route the first time she used it in a taxi at 4am. She loved that it was so compact and easy to bring with her and allowed her daughter to ride safely even on vacation. She considers it ideal for use in situations that are short term and have practiced adult helpers around to help buckle and assess fit. Other ideal situations include those who don’t own cars, or for those who want to stash a compact emergency spare in the glove box of their car for unexpected carpoolers.

Our assessment is similar. The Mifold does have a place in the booster world, but it’s challenging to use correctly and we would highly recommend familiarizing yourself with its use, and what good belt fit looks like, before setting off on an adventure with it. Kid users also need to be mature enough to hold their seating position, which for some of our testers was quite difficult. If your child is fidgety, wiggly, or easily annoyed by being uncomfortable we strongly advise testing the Mifold in a controlled environment before sending it in a backpack for use without you. In most cases you or another practiced adult will need to help with buckling and unbuckling.

Thank you to Mifold for providing us with the seat shown in this review, and another one to one of you readers! All opinions, however, are our own.

Would you like to try Mifold? Enter here for a chance to win one in the colour of your choice! To be eligible to win you MUST comment here and answer this question: How will Mifold come in handy for you?

And then tell the Rafflecopter widget below “I commented!” even though your comment won’t appear immediately. Trust us to take care of the rest, and good luck!


IMG_6375

 

Jen Shapka is a runner, sewer, knitter, baker, recent convert to the Instant Pot craze, and on the hunt for her next piece of furniture to refinish and repurpose. Currently living in Barrie, ON, she’s due for a move this summer with her military family and is finding the limbo of waiting to find out where rather difficult.

 

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Evenflo Spectrum Booster: Stylish and Spacious

Evenflo is breaking the mould of what a booster seat should look like with the introduction of the brand new Spectrum. The styling is cool, the colours are amazing (we want them ALL!), and our kid testers have good things to say.

Looking a little like what has been described as “futuristic,” “like the captain’s chair from Star Trek,” and also “E.T.” it dazzles with fabulous eye-catching design and styling in a spectrum of colour gradients — a sample below. This review features “Foggy”, the black-to-grey fashion on the right.

Spectrum Bubbly Blue Spectrum Seascape Spectrum Foggy

 

Spectrum is appropriate for kids who are:

  • 40-110lbs (18-49.8kg)
  • 44-57″ (112-145cm)
  • At least four years old**

**It is worth noting that only the tallest of four year olds will meet the height minimum of 44″, as 50th percentile kids don’t reach that height until age 5.5 — an excellent age to start thinking about boostering. Most kids don’t have the impulse control or maturity to properly and safely use a booster seat until 5.5-6 years old. Some might be ready sooner, and others not until later. It’s important not to rush this step.

Spectrum Measurements & Details:IMG_6914

  • Tallest shoulder belt guide position: 22″
  • Lowest shoulder belt guide position: 14.5″
  • Widest point (at head wing area): 20″
  • Internal width at shoulders: 14″
  • Internal width at thigh: 13″
  • Expires six years from date of manufacture
  • Machine washable and dry-able seat pad (kids are messy)
  • Does not require a vehicle head restraint behind it – this means it CAN be used in places where you get a better fit without the vehicle head restraint (if the vehicle permits removal) or in seating positions without head restraints
  • Rollover tested, unique to Evenflo, and simulates roof to ground contact as one would find in a rollover. We’re a fan of any additional testing a manufacturer wants to do, although this type of testing is not a federal requirement and so should be considered a bonus
  • User manual available here
  • Available mid-February at Babies R Us for $99.99 (more retailers soon)

 

Highlights!IMG_6778

In a nutshell here’s what we like about Spectrum:

  • Sophisticated and eye-catching styling with modern colours and fabrics
  • Ergonomic arm rests
  • Sleek snack trays
  • Really thick and comfortable padding in the bum area
  • Smooth height adjust mechanism with nine positions for customizable fit
  • Open path for routing seat belt makes it really simple for kids to buckle
  • Innovative side impact protection technology called LYF+GUARD
  • Design of seat back to seat bottom is genius: it doesn’t flop apart when carrying it between vehicles, and when the back is removed for use as a backless booster there’s no gap or open bracket at the tail bone area to cause discomfort

 

Lowlights:

  • Belt retraction at the shoulder belt guide is a little hit or miss, and less predictable in vehicles than we’d like. Seat belts situated really far forward of the passenger, or really low relative to the shoulder belt guide, may be an issue and not retract easily. Wherever possible, try before you buy. This goes for ALL car seats and booster seats actually!

Photo Gallery and Feature Reel

As with all of our reviews we make every effort to test a product in a wide range of vehicles with a wide range of kids. Spectrum is best suited for the 5-10 year old crowd. The 57″ height maximum equates to 4’9″, which is one indicator that a child may be ready to move out of  booster seat and into an adult seat belt (regardless of age).

We tried this booster seat in a 2012 Honda Odyssey, 2012 Ford Focus sedan, 2008 Mazda 5, 2012 Honda Civic, and 2012 Ford F-150 with generally good results.

High Back Mode

We recommend kids stay in a high back booster as long as they fit. While it is true that booster use, whether it’s a high back or backless, is all about belt fit, we find that seat belt fit tends to be better in a high back. Regardless of the seat or style, aim for the lap belt to be low across the thighs and hips, and the shoulder belt to make contact with the chest and cross the collarbone.

High back boosters feel more like a car seat, and for beginners that’s a good thing. The side support will encourage them to stay in position, and the head wings provide a comfy resting spot for a tired head. The shoulder belt guide will also properly position the belt at the collarbone and reduce the chances of the child leaning side to side and out of the belt – potentially catastrophic if that’s the moment of a crash. Consider putting the back on for long drives even if your child is usually fine in a backless. The below testers (from youngest to oldest) are 6-8.5, between 45″ and 53″, and 44-60lbs. In the outboard (outside) seating positions in most vehicles there won’t be enough ceiling height near the window to fully extend the head rest. Still ample room to accommodate the height of the average 7+ year old though.

Overall our testers – some new to boosters, and others old hats – reported that the headwings were comfortable without being confining, they thought the seat looked cool, the fabric felt nice, and the padding was excellent. No one had any problem buckling, although the open belt path design did throw the experienced ones for a loop as they were momentarily stumped by the lack of arm rests to route under and around. The confusion was brief however (and also amusing as they all did it!) and they quickly picked it up. New booster riders with nothing to compare it to will not have any issue.

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Backless Mode

We really like this seat as a backless booster, wishing only that it had a higher standing height limit than the 57″ listed. Many kids will still need a booster seat for proper belt fit at that height — my tall nine year old sure does — and there aren’t many boosters that exceed 57″ unfortunately.

The seat pan is a great depth offering lots of thigh support, and there’s a nice slope to it to help kids maintain a safe posture for optimum belt fit. The ergonomic design of the arm rests mean they are well-situated and were comfortable arm supports for our testers, shown below ranging in age from 8-9, 49-56″ tall, and 55-75lbs. While this seat does come with a shoulder belt adjuster strap for use when backless, it is my habit to avoid using such a device on boosters, short of an emergency. They’re finicky, they’re not always easy to use, and typically if one is needed then it’s a good indication that a high back booster or a different booster seat would provide better belt fit.

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Features:

  • LYF+GUARD side impact protection. These mysterious protrusions on the outside of the headwings contain energy management crush zones that are designed to deform upon impact to help absorb crash force energy, taking the force off of your child’s head — similar in concept to how the hood of a car crumples in a frontal crash. This does add width to the head area of the seat though.

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  • Nifty cup/snack trays. A little stiff to slide in and out but we expect that will get easier with use. And while yes, we should pack away our projectiles and not store hard or heavy things in the open trays, we can assure you that a soft plastic bicycling water bottle fits, as does a juice box, and small stuffies.

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  • Excellent leg support yet not so deep it overhangs vehicle seats – as demonstrated in a 2012 F-150 extended cab with a shallow back seat.

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  • Easy belt routing – make sure to hook the lap belt under these little notches on both sides, and also the shoulder belt on the buckle side.

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  • Consistently great lap belt fit in both high back and backless modes – with all of the kids and in all of the vehicles we tried, the lap belt fit was super, nice and low across the thighs and hip bones.

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  • Attractive fabric – we know, it’s cool.

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  • Contoured shape – the slightly tapered shape of the base meant it was no trouble to buckle this recessed buckle stalk (2012 Ford Focus) that can be a challenge with other boosters.

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Final thoughts:

Spectrum looks cool, and doesn’t disappoint with its features. It’s comfortable, long lasting, well-priced, and easy to use. The open belt path design will reduce belt-routing errors because it’s easy for kids to buckle. It’s comfortable so there won’t be any squirming around, which can lead to poor belt fit. It’s wide internally but not wide externally. Not sure how Evenflo managed that (maybe magic lessons from Hermione?). The look is stylish and mature which should make it easier for big kids to stay in boosters longer. Shoulder belt retraction – how easily or smoothly the shoulder belt moves in and out of the belt guide – is a bit less reliable than we’d like, but overall we had good luck with the majority of seat belts we tried. See it on our favourites list here!

Enormous thanks to Evenflo for getting us this seat to test, and big thanks to them for giving one to you too! As always though, all opinions are our own.

To be eligible to enter post a blog post comment below answering this question: what feature of Spectrum caught your eye first? Post your comment (which won’t show up right away, be patient), and then use the Rafflecopter widget to tell it “I entered!” and unlock more chances to win.


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Jen Shapka is a mom of two, and always wears her safety equipment — even when tobogganing. Currently awaiting news of where her military family will be posted to next, she spends her spare time purging and cleaning her house getting ready to move.

 

 

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Baby Parka Review: Car Seat Cover & Toddler Coat

babyparkatoddler3In our never ending quest to give parents and caregivers options when it comes to keeping their children safe AND warm in the car (and beyond!) we are pleased to bring you some hands on experience and comments about two products from Baby Parka, a Canadian company with design and manufacturing in Canada.

Here we review two products: the rear-facing only (infant) car seat cover, and the toddler coat.

Infant Car Seat Cover

Sheila, a West Coast technician with a baby (always a handy feature when testing infant products!) had a go with the car seat cover intended for use with rear-facing only seats, also known as infant seats or bucket seats. Here is her take:

babyparkarfo3“I got to try out the Baby Parka this fall and winter, and I’d say it’s a winner. I used it for my niece, who I call my ‘plus one’ baby because she tags along with my crew a lot. It kept her cozy, and made quick outings much easier since I didn’t have to worry about what she was wearing. I tried it on both a Peg Perego 30/30 and the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35. It worked fine for both, but fit the Graco really nicely without slipping around.

I like that it opens right up, so when the car warms up you can unzip to keep them cool. I found it kept her well covered and out of the weather, while still letting me see her face. The reflective strip is a nice touch for our dark winter mornings and evenings. The only thing I might change would be to make it slightly adjustable for smaller or larger carseats.”

The cover did not interfere with a baseless installation of the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35, although a bit of fiddling was required to get everything properly adjusted. Whether it works with a baseless install for your particular seat or not without getting in the way is going to depend entirely on your seat and vehicle combination, and how the seat belt routes. With the more common use with stay-in-car base there is no interference at all.

babyparkarfo1The Infant Car Seat Cover comes with reflective stripes, and a “buckle me” tag. Important note though – any time a child is in a car seat they should be properly buckled. Sadly children have slipped out of position or been tangled in straps that were loosened to make them more comfortable while not in the car. If your child isn’t in the car the safest option is to remove them from the car seat straightaway as car seats aren’t intended as safe sleep places.

Our tester was really impressed with the quality of the fabric and how it held up after repeated washings. The Infant Car Seat Cover is available in black, red, blue, stone (tan), and light pink. It retails for $70 online here. Light pink was shown in this review.

Toddler Coat

Ontario Instructor Alainna tested the Toddler Coat with her two kids and here are her thoughts:babyparkatoddler7

When the Baby Parka toddler coat/poncho arrived I was quite pleased to note that the fabric felt very warm and luxurious, and the construction appeared to be very high quality. The stitching was straight and strong, the zippers were good quality and easy to zip, and it had a nice warm ‘heft’ to it. The reflective tape was a nice addition for added safety.

My kids are used to wearing packable down jackets in the car, and were both a bit reluctant to try something new, but both of them ended up liking the poncho after a day of use.

My oldest is 5 (about 56lbs and 46″, so the size of a 7 year old), and the poncho is just a little bit short on her wrists, although still wearable with longer mittens. My youngest is almost 3 (about 35lbs and 36″), and it fits him very well. I would guess that it would start fitting kids well around 18 months or so, when they can walk in it without tripping.

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In the car seat it covered both kids quite well, and kept them very cozy. In fact, both kids asked to take it off after the vehicle got warm on long drives, which was super easy to do (much easier than when they want their jacket or sweater off!). The poncho works in the car seat as a blanket with a head hole, enabling proper harness positioning and buckling against the child’s body.

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babyparkatoddler8I do wish that the hood was removable, as it was a bit bulky behind the head, especially if they were wearing a hoodie underneath, but for the most part they didn’t seem bothered by it. The zippers under the arms can be a little bit fussy to get done up, especially if the child won’t hold still. But they do close the poncho up nicely and keep the cold out. It isn’t really necessary to zip them up if you’re only walking to and from the vehicle, but it’s nice to have the option to keep them warm if you have a longer walk or are spending some time outside.

 

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Overall, a poncho is a bit more finicky than the jackets we’re used to using, but the extra warmth and the years of use make up for that!

As with the infant car seat cover we were impressed with the quality of the fabric and how it held up after washing. The Baby Parka Toddler coat is available in black (shown here), blue, red, or light pink, and retails for $110 online here.

Thank you to Baby Parka for the samples used in this review, but as usual, all opinions are our own. Thanks to Baby Parka for providing one product each (infant car seat cover and toddler coat) to win! Want to order your own? Use promo code VI Car Seat Tech 10 off for $10 off an order.

To enter use the Rafflecopter widget below, and to be eligible to win make sure to comment on our blog below answering the following questions: Which product would you get more use out of (infant or toddler), and what colour would you choose? Good luck everyone, and remember, comments are moderated which means yours won’t show up right away. Just tell the Rafflecopter widget “I commented” and trust us to get to it.

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alainna

Alainna Smith, reviewer of the toddler coat, is a permanently frazzled mother of 2 who likes to read and sew in her (nonexistent) spare time. She is a Technician – Instructor with CPSAC and runs Car Seat Coach in Guelph, Ontario.

 

 

 

sheila

Sheila Northcott, reviewer of the infant car seat cover, is a mum of 4 in Duncan BC, and when she’s not kid-wrangling she tries to squeeze in time as a CPST and doula. Find her on Facebook at Dishwashing Doula.

Hardworking Graco 4Ever All-In-One! Review and Giveaway

img_6072Through the years we have reviewed many seats. Some that have claimed to do it all — rear facing, forward facing and then become a booster — but most have fallen short in one mode or another. Does the Graco 4Ever do it all?  Rear facing (from 4 lbs!), forward facing, high back booster and then a backless booster.  Yes!  Well, mostly yes!

Seat Specs:

Rear Facing:
For children who are 4-40 lbs (1.8-18kg) AND 18-43”(46-110cm) tall AND with top of the head at least 1”(2.5cm) below the red headrest/harness adjustment handle

Forward Facing with a 5-Point Harness:
For children who are 22-65lbs (10-30kg) AND 27-49” (69-125cm) AND able to walk unassisted AND at least 1 year old (we recommend rear-facing to at least age 2 or the limits of the child restraint)

Highback Booster:
For children who are 40-100lbs (18-45kg) AND 40-57” (102-145cm) AND at least 4 years of age (although most children are not booster ready until at least 5-6 years of age)

Backless Booster:
For children who are 40-120lbs (18-54kg) AND 43-57” (110-145cm) AND at least 4 years of age (again we recommend children not be in a booster until age 5-6 to be mature enough).

Graco 4Ever Features (See video tour)

  • 10 position, easy to adjust, no-rethread harnessimg_6073
  • Install with UAS to a maximum child weight limit of 45lbs (unless your vehicle states a lower limit)
  • Harness pads for comfort
  • 6 easy-to-use recline positions (1-2-3 for rear facing mode, 4-5-6 for for forward facing mode, and 6 for high back booster mode)
  • Thick and comfortable infant padding and head padding (optional)
  • UAS can be used in high back booster mode to prevent the seat from becoming a projectile (optional in high back mode, not able to be used for backless booster mode)
  • Smooth harness adjuster
  • Storage for unused UAS adjusters in rear- or forward-facing mode (see video on re-routing the straps to the other belt path)
  • Storage for the straps and crotch buckle for booster mode (no lost parts when converting the seat to booster mode!)
  • Easy to read colour coded manual with corresponding stickers on the seat for each mode
  • Machine washable cover with easy to open and close snaps
  • Built in cupholders (come ready to install and marked with Left and Right ~ must be used on seat)
  • Expires 10 years from date of manufacture
  • Currently the Graco 4Ever is available at Babies R Us for $449.99 and available in Cameron (grey) and Studio (black and white stripes)

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Graco 4Ever Measurements

  • Two crotch buckle positions: 5” inner and 7” outer
  • Lowest harness slot (with body pillow in):  approximately 7”
  • Highest harness slot (without body pillow):  approximately 18”
  • Shoulder belt guide of highback booster: approximately 18.5”
  • Widest point of seat (at cupholders): 19”  
  • Widest point of base: 15.5”
  • Seat depth:  13”
  • Internal seat width:  13”
  • Seat Weight:  22.5 lbs

Fit To Child

Rear-Facing Mode:

The fit on the just under 8 lb newborn was lovely.  The harness tightened easily and still had room to tighten more.  We didn’t have access to a smaller baby but as the harness straps were below the baby’s shoulders and the harness could be still tightened, it did lend itself to fitting a tiny newborn.  The seat itself has lovely thick padding and the added infant insert is made up of two pieces; a body insert as well as a removable head support.  Many small infants would need the insert to bump their bodies up to ensure the straps were at or just below the child’s shoulders as required by the 4Ever.  As the child grows the head support can be removed.  The seats instructions let you use just the body support but you can not use just the head support without the use of the body support.  

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This six month old was very content in the seat at a full recline, and fit with and without the insert.  The fit was much nicer and seemingly more comfortable with just the body support.  The head support seemed to at this point just push the head forward. Whether to use both pieces, or just the body support alone, will depend on your child’s shape and comfort in the seat, and will change as they grow.  

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This three year old, at 30 lbs and 37”, was very comfortable in the seat and had lots of growing room.  Leg room was pretty fantastic.  When the seat was at its most upright position it did give a lot of forward head slump when she was sleeping but it didn’t seem to bother her and she just moved her head to make herself more comfortable.  She did love the cup holders but they would be hard to reach for a child who was younger and smaller.

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Forward Facing Mode:

My three year old (32lbs and 38″) rides rear facing in our vehicles but was very comfortable trying this out forward facing.  The 10 position harness adjuster made for a comfortable fit with the straps easily positioned just above her shoulders.   The seat was fairly upright in my 2014 Odyssey at recline 6, but the 4Ever does allow for recline 4, 5 or 6 to be used for forward facing.  That would alleviate head slump for younger forward facing children.  Be aware that the recline position must be chosen before you install.  No reclining once the child is in the seat.  

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At 6 years of age (42lbs and 46”), this child still had growing room in the seat.  She found it very comfortable and the leg support was phenomenal.  The seat pan slopes back and combined with the depth of the seat, it fit both our younger and older harnessed children nicely. The no-rethread harness makes it a snap to change it up between different kiddos.  

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Booster Mode (with and without back): Watch how to convert to a booster

Booster fit can vary between children and vehicles.  Our 6 year old tester had quite a good belt fit in the captain’s chair of the 2014 Odyssey (lap belt low on the hips and shoulder belt laying across the chest and mid shoulder).  She did find it a little more difficult to buckle as the seat sits very high and the buckle stalk was floppy.  However, she isn’t typically in a booster so buckling is newer to her and might become easier with practice.  When she reached over to buckle we did notice the shoulder belt kept popping out of the shoulder belt guide.  It was easy to fix but wondered if in real life use it would continue to do this.  

When tried again later with our 8 year old tester (50lbs, 51″) the shoulder belt stayed in the guide properly and it wasn’t an issue.  She was just under the shoulder guide though, and therefore has just about outgrown the seat in high back booster mode.  Note: the shoulder belt guide is only slightly higher than the  highest harness slot.  For those who max out the harness height, the high back booster will only fit for a short while longer.  Those parents will have to decide whether the child is ready for a backless booster, or choose a taller dedicated high back booster.  

 

6 year old ~ 42lbs, 46″

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8 year old ~ 50lbs, 51″ – about to outgrow the high back portion

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Backless fit on both the 9 (58 lbs, 54”) and almost 11 (68lbs, 59”) year old testers was variable.  In the captain’s chair of the 2014 Odyssey, the shoulder belt was wanting to almost slide off the child’s shoulder.  However in the third row outboard position the fit was exceptional.  The 8 year old model however had really nice backless fit everywhere we tried it.  Note: the 11 year old has outgrown the booster in the standing height but she does not 5 step in the vehicles in which she rides. She most definitely rides in a backless booster — just not this one. In this instance a booster with higher standing height limits is needed.  

As the 4Ever backless booster sits very high up off the vehicle seat, children who are tall or long in the torso may have poor fit at the upper height limits of the backless portion.  Parents might consider a lower-set backless booster for kids in this situation. It will be impossible to know in advance, however, if you will find yourself in this situation if you are purchasing this seat for an infant or toddler. Rest assured that backless boosters are inexpensive and is a bridge that can be crossed years from now. 

 

9 year old ~ 58lbs, 54″

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Almost 11 years of age ~ 68lbs, 59″

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For size comparison of the backless booster option here we have a tried and true favourite Graco Turbobooster vs. the backless Graco 4Ever (Turbo is green in these photos).

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Fit To Vehicle

The seat was tried rear facing in a 2014 Honda Odyssey, a 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe XL Limited and a 2006 Volkswagen Golf.  No major install issues were noted and the seat installed easily in all of them.  The bottom of the 4Ever is smooth and has no rough edges.  It is wide, however, and I don’t expect it to fit into narrow centre positions of many vehicles or in very many three across scenarios.

The 4Ever has 6 recline positions. Positions 1- 2-3 are for rear facing, 4-5-6 are for forward facing, and 6 is for booster mode.  This variability made for easy fit to vehicle.  I don’t expect that you would need to use a pool noodle or rolled towel to adjust the angle but both are allowed, if needed, in rear facing mode only.  

An infant rear facing will need the seat to be fully reclined with the bubble indicator still within the blue allowable area while the vehicle is on level ground.  It is important to note that the 4Ever manual does not address the needed recline for newborns specifically, but it is absolutely critical that the seat be as reclined as much as possible to protect a newborn’s airway. Chin-to-chest position is dangerous and parents should take care to recline the seat as needed. Once a baby has more head control the seat can be reinstalled more upright. But forward head slump is possible with the seat installed more upright.

The seat can be used more upright and in recline position 2 or 3 for older rear-facing babies and children, as long as the bubble on the indicator is still in the blue area.  In the Odyssey, the fully reclined 4Ever still gave the driver loads of legroom and would allow a newborn to be seated there no problem. When the 4Ever was installed behind the passenger seat in the Golf at its full allowable recline, I could not safely sit in front of the seat at 5’8” tall.  When installed more upright I gained several inches of legroom and could easily sit comfortably and safely in front.  

Full recline 2006 VW Golf ~ My knees were touching!

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    Seat upright as allowable in a 2006 VW Golf ~ Lots of legroom!

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If you are wanting to use the seat from birth in a compact car we would recommend trying the seat first to ensure it fits.  For older rear facing children it was amazingly compact and the head rest design of the seat seemed to mesh well with the vehicle headrest in front.  

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Forward facing the seat was a breeze to install with both UAS or seat belt (one or the other, not both at the same time).  You can use recline 4, 5 or 6 for harnessed use forward facing.  For vehicles with shallow back seats and limited front-to-back space — such as extended cab trucks or a Jeep Wrangler — you may need to install the 4Ever in its most upright position to allow the car seat to sit on the vehicle seat properly or to give the child a safe amount of space to sit properly in that vehicle position.  

The 4Ever allows no more than 20% of the base to overhang the vehicle seat.  The seat’s headrest seems to jive excellently with those pesky non-removable forward headrests.  Graco allows the seat to be reclined (recline 5 or 6) and that may cause there to be a gap between the car seat and the vehicle seat around the lower back area.  As long as the install is tight at the belt path (with either the UAS or seatbelt) 1″ or less, and the base of the seat is flat on the vehicle seat, then it is acceptable.  I found that the 4Ever didn’t work well with the headrest up in the higher slots with vehicle head restraints that jut forward and are not removable.    

Forward facing 2014 Odyssey(recline 6 ~ fully upright)

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Recline 4 ~ 2014 Honda Odyssey

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2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

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In high back booster mode you can use the UAS and top tether to secure the seat. If you don’t have lower anchors in that position, then you will need to teach the child to buckle up the seat when not in use to keep it from being a projectile in the event of a crash.  The UAS connectors are removed with the back when converting to backless booster mode, so in backless mode the child must re-buckle the seat as it cannot be latched in.  You must only use the seat in position 6 in booster mode, and no overhang off the vehicle seat is allowed.  

 

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Overall Impressions:

The Graco 4Ever is an impressive seat!  It truly has 4 usable modes and a 10 year expiry will allow for many years of use.  It is fairly easy to move from rear facing to forward facing and then to a booster (whether it is backless or with a back).  The stowage of the straps and crotch buckle for booster mode is ingenious.  No lost parts!  The 4Ever would be an ideal seat to be shared between multiple children of variable ages and weights.  The harness height adjuster is smooth and simple.  The higher weight and height limits for rear facing will allow most children to rear face to 4 years of age and the high harness height will get all but the tallest of children to a reliable booster age.  It may however not get all children to an age where they can 5 step (as was the case of the 11 year old above) before it expires or they outgrow the standing height limit. It’s quite remarkable though that one seat can truly fit well from birth through age 10+ — it is still a lot of seat and I think the Graco 4Ever truly can be called an All-In-One seat!  Which is why the 4Ever has earned a spot on our list of favourite convertible seats (even though it’s more than just a convertible).

Thank you Graco Baby Canada for providing the seat for us to review; all opinions given are our own!

One lucky reader can experience the 4Ever for themselves – Graco Baby Canada is giving one away! To enter please use the Rafflecopter widget below. Also post a blog post comment here and share something you learned from watching one of the videos we linked to above. Tell the Rafflecopter widget “I entered” and we’ll manually approve comments as we’re able. Good luck!


 

img_3479Laura Hagen is a mother to three young girls and is one of the founding members of Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs.  She is a Technician-Instructor with CPSAC and can often be found cheering on her children from the side of the swimming pool.  If she isn’t answering emails promptly it is because she is prepping for a birthday party with 12 pre-teen girls.

 

 

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Cardiff Booster Seat Headrest: Review and Giveaway

_mg_2094-copyI have never been able to stay upright while sleeping well even as an adult, so I was very excited to receive a Cardiff headrest to try out and we put it to good use on some road trips this summer. The Cardiff headrest is meant to be used for older children in a backless booster seat or for five-stepping passengers with the seat belt only. It does not change the fit of the seat belt. It is available for $75 on Amazon as well as at Canada’s Baby Store.

The purpose of the Cardiff is to provide side head support to children and adults who have outgrown a high-back booster but still tip out of the belt while sleeping. It helps passengers stay upright, which in turn keeps the shoulder belt properly positioned over their collar bone.

Transport Canada requires that all booster seats in Canada be tested on a test bench that simulates the average frontal crash. Several sized dummies are buckled into the booster seat and the test apparatus is “crashed,” (propelled above 48 km/h and 24.5G) and instrumentation on the dummy records how the dummy moved and what forces were applied to the head and chest. The Cardiff Headrest was added to this set-up and all readings were below the requirements. In-vehicle testing was also performed under more extreme conditions and still all readings from the dummies were below the Transport Canada requirements.

Here’s the take-home message: In these testing scenarios the Cardiff wasn’t presenting an added risk. Of course, real kids in real cars and real crashes won’t perform exactly the same way. However, if the difference is being slumped over because of no head support (where a high back booster isn’t available or possible) and definitely out of position at the time of a crash, or the chance that the addition of a Cardiff might cause an injury, as a parent I’d go with the option most likely to keep my child in proper seat belt position. It is an after-market product and it is up to parental discretion whether you are comfortable with its use for your own child. Although this product was tested to see if it changed how a dummy fared in a booster seat, it is unregulated and not subject to any testing to be sold.

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The Cardiff comes in a package with all the necessary hardware to install it. It was simple to install, but requires an adjustable headrest with posts. It should install well in most vehicles with the right type of headrest. Installation only took a few minutes and it was easy to switch it to different vehicle seats as needed. The wings can be adjusted up or down depending on whether it’s in use and the height of the passenger using it.

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The children we tried it with all like the Cardiff and appreciate the extra support they get from it. A few found they preferred it slightly off-centre as they tended to lean their head to one side more than the other and they liked that side of the headrest to be closer. Luckily this is easily done. In my vehicle, my own child who I used this with usually sits in the outboard passenger side, and I did find there was a slight decrease in my field of view. In my van it was not anything that I felt impeded my ability to drive but in a smaller vehicle it may be necessary to experiment with other seating positions. It fits a wide range of children in a variety of vehicles, but as usual if possible always try before you buy to make sure it works in your situation.

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As I said earlier, I have always had trouble staying upright while sleeping myself, so I decided to give it a try on a longer drive. The wings are slightly flexible and have a bit of give when leaning on them, which took a bit of getting used to but was nice when going over bumps as it flexed with my head. Overall it felt solid and well made. There is padding added for comfort. I was able to sleep and liked that I could easily tuck the wings up when I didn’t need it anymore.

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Overall I was very happy with the Cardiff headrest. It was easy to install in the vehicles we tried it in, allowed the passenger using it to sleep easily and comfortably, and kept them upright so that the seat belt was safely positioned. If you or your child are too big for a high-back booster but still fall asleep and have issues with slouching sideways when sleeping, it is definitely an option worth considering.

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Want to check it out for yourself?  Buy one from Amazon.ca or Canada’s Baby Store. Thanks to EI Brands one lucky reader will win a Cardiff Booster Seat Headrest for themselves! To enter use the Rafflecopter widget below, and make sure to leave a blog post comment here answering this question: What use do you have for a Cardiff? Do you have a big trip coming up? Or maybe you often drive home late at night? Tell us about it! Comments don’t show up until we approve them but that’s okay – tell the widget “I commented” and let us take care of the rest!

Thanks to EI Brands for providing the Cardiff used in this review but as usual, all opinions are our own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


13700107_10154188907626351_5275425233955228001_nLindsay Wilson is a homeschooling mom of three and a co-founder of Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs living on the island. She has been a Child Passenger Safety Technician for almost six years now. If you need her, she is currently filling up her bathtub in preparation for a coming storm.

Evenflo Titan 65 / SureRide: Two Names, One Great Seat!

img_5897For this review we tried something new…we asked the large and ever-growing Canadian CPST community to collaboratively create this review. We polled them, and our role here is merely amassing the comments and feedback into a readable format. Huge thanks to everyone who contributed their thoughts and photos!

It was an experiment…and we are thrilled to say it works! This review is a compilation of the perspective of more than 35 seasoned technicians and instructors scattered across Canada, who among them own close to 50 of these seats and have installed hundreds combined. Of those polled it was a pretty even split between rear facing and forward facing use, with a high percentage switching back and forth as needed for different kids. We are confident that you’re getting an exceptional cross section of reality here!

The Evenflo SureRide, aka Titan 65 when found at Walmart, appeared on the market about two years ago and has fast become a go-to seat for reasons you shall see. Is it perfect for everyone? Of course not, no seat is! But it’s got some phenomenal things going for it.

Specs:

Name: Titan 65 (Walmart exclusive, not to be confused with the discontinued Titan Sport), and everywhere else SureRide…AmazonBRU, Sears, BestBuy, Canadian Tire.

Price: $150 at Walmart, about $150-180 everywhere else, often on sale somewhere for $120ish

Rear facing: 5-40lbs AND 19-40″ AND top of head at least 1″ below top of car seat back

Forward facing: 22-65lbs AND 28-54″ AND shoulders below the highest harness position AND at least one year old BUT it’s the recommendation of child passenger safety advocates (and Evenflo) to rear face as long as possible. Here’s why.

Seat weight: 11lbs

Width at widest point: 18″ at the front corners, 18.25″ at mid-shoulder height

Width of base at back bottom edge: A mere 10″

Crotch buckle positions: Two, without insert, 5.5″ and 7.5″

Harness positions: Six, three for rear facing and three for forward facing. Rear facing positions are at approximately 5.5″,  7.75″, 10″. Forward facing positions are at approximately 14.5″, 17″, 19″.

Use UAS until a child weight of: 55lbs, after which you must install with the seat belt (unless your vehicle states a lower limit)

Expiry: 6 years from date of manufacture (fun fact: Evenflo accounts for leap years when calculating the expiry date, handily printed right on the sticker with the date of manufacture and model name)


First the great stuff – a well rounded list of “pros.”img_5893

  • Fits almost anywhere (rear-facing in tiny cars or extended cab trucks…maybe not…but maybe in the middle, or it has a mysterious chameleon-like ability to fit in places you wouldn’t expect it to. We can’t explain it.)
  • Narrow base means it can work around icky vehicle features like big plastic hinges that tend to get in the way of other seats
  • Lightweight, so easy to manoeuvre
  • Lightweight, and allows use of UAS (also known as LATCH) up to a child weight of 55lbs
  • Excellent for traveling – installs well on airplanes
  • Readily available at most stores that sell car seats
  • Cover is easily removable and washable, with a variety of colour options
  • Removable body pad for extra cushioning img_5894
  • Harness is replaceable
  • Harness pads are available directly from Evenflo if needed
  • Realistic weight and height limits in both modes
  • Excellent price point for longevity
  • All parts are present and remain on the seat, so there’s nothing to lose
  • Fits a wide range of children: from birth to age 6-8 (depending on the size of the child of course)
  • Exceptionally long lasting forward-facing: ideal for long torsoed kids or vehicles with a low roof that don’t have room for a head rest to extend
  • Lots of leg room rear facing
  • Newer seats have buckle storage pockets to keep the harness out of the way when loading a child into it
  • Some older versions of the Walmart Titan 65 had premium push on UAS connectors but that option is no longer available
  • DUAL CERTIFICATION! For these seats purchased in Canada they are also certified for use in the US. Cool eh? Does not apply to seats purchased in the US. This is an excellent choice for those who travel a lot, no need to worry at all about if a seat in a US rental car is strictly legal for use by visitors.

Next the complaints – a realistic list of “cons.”

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A small child on the lowest forward facing setting seems *really* small…thankfully they ought to still fit rear facing, but not always an option for everyone.

  • Straps are twisty
  • Basic hook-style UAS connectors
  • Larger, taller kids may run out of harness length at the top end of the fit
  • Three bottom slots for rear facing, three top slots for forward facing, with a large gap between the sets. This can make for some finicky or uncomfortable fit on kids at the top end of the rear-facing fit, or bottom end of the forward-facing fit (see small forward-facer photo). This means that for the medium-to-large rear-facers the harness will be quite a bit lower than shoulder level, and also that small-to-medium forward-facers will have the harness coming from pretty far up above their shoulders.
  • Harness slots are set close together, bugging some kids at the neck (note: harness pads are available for purchase directly from Evenflo)
  • Single recline level line for rear facing means the seat takes up how much room it takes up
  • Single recline level line for rear facing is hard to see (photo below)
  • No overhang allowed (off the vehicle seat) when used rear facing
  • Velcro strap needed for rear facing use is often missed by parents
  • Cup holder can only be used forward facing
  • Cup holder may not attach securely or easily (style has changed over time, may not apply to you)
  • Some covers seem to snag on jewelry and velcro (like on toddler shoes!)
  • Underside has sharp edges and is not friendly to leather vehicle seats

The recline level line can be hard to see, and therefore, align correctly. Make sure it is parallel to the ground. Tech tip: put a sticky note along that edge while you’re installing so it’s easier to eyeball.img_5890


From the mouths…er, typing fingers…of techs:

Great seat for those who care to do it right. Maybe not the best option for people who need an absolutely foolproof seat.”

“The SureRide is a great seat for daily use, and is comfortable enough that my own daughter can sleep heavily in it. I own more expensive seats, yet this one still gets a lot of mileage.”

“Best bang for your buck on the market.”

“It’s a great price and great long lasting seat that fits my kids very well. 2 year old rear facing 32″ 32 lbs, almost 4 year old and just turned forward facing 37″ 32 lbs, almost 6 year old forward facing 42″46 lbs with tons of growing room. Three across in my truck! Did I mention the price?”

“Overall a great budget seat. I buy it for all my young foster children so I know they have a safe long lasting seat to take home with them.”


And now a wide range of photos to give you an idea of how it fits in vehicles, how it fits children, and what it’s like to travel with!

 

Rear Facing: A good fit from birth until 3-4

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Forward Facing: Ideal for average-sized 3-7 year olds

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Traveling: Excellent forward facing, probably a squeeze rear facing on most planes

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In Vehicles:

Light enough to make use of the lower anchors in the 3rd row centre of Dodge Grand Caravans (and Chrysler Town & Country and VW Routan) to a child weight of 55lbs to make use of the single tether anchor back there, while leaving enough room for a boostered child on the passenger side. Also a great bet for these vehicles with the 2nd row bench on the “passenger” side to allow long term use of lower anchors and not block access to the 3rd row with the seat belt.

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Like it was custom made for the “8th” seat in current generation Honda Odysseys, with no overhang anywhere in forward facing mode. Note: some seats allow some overhang off the edge of a vehicle seat…some allow it forward but not rear, or vice versa. Some don’t allow any ever. Make sure to check the rules for your seat carefully, and if you aren’t sure, contact the manufacturer of your seat!

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Blue Cosco Scenera NEXT (read all about it here) in the foreground, with a Titan 65 in the background for comparison, both rear facing, good to go in a 2015 Chrysler 200.

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Although it’s not the narrowest seat out there, the shape of it tends to get along quite nicely in a variety of three-across scenarios. Here is a forward facing Titan 65 flanked by rear-facers in a 2011 Elantra Touring.

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Would you like to win one? Well good, because we’re giving one away. As always our opinions are our own, except in this case where they also represent a cool cross section of techs who are well-positioned to speak to the pros and cons of this seat! No products were provided to us for this review. Enter using the Rafflecopter below, and to qualify make sure you ALSO post a blog comment answering this question: what should I make for dinner tonight? Comments don’t appear until we manually approve them, so just tell the Rafflecopter widget “I commented!” and trust that we’ll get to it soon. Good luck, and thanks for reading! a Rafflecopter giveaway


img_5785 Jen Shapka is a mom of two, teacher-by-training, Child Passenger Safety Technician-Instructor Trainer, military spouse, and small business owner. A co-founder of Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs, she now resides in Ontario, and recently got to hang out with this adorable fella. 

Graco Tranzitions - Presto Change-o! Review and Giveaway

imageGraco is on a roll with the introduction of the Tranzitions to their impressive and growing lineup of seats across all stages. See a video tour here.

The Tranzitions, currently a Babies R Us exclusive for $239.99 in an eye-catching green and black fashion called Spring, is a forward-facing only harnessed seat that converts to a high back booster and then a backless booster. True to its name it transitions — ahem, tranZitions – through these stages with ease. This seat is appropriate for kids who are ready to forward-face (best practice, and our opinion, means at least two years old, ideally older).

Forward facing in harness mode:
For children who are 22-65lbs (10-30kg) AND 27-49″ (69-125cm) tall AND able to sit upright unassisted AND are at least one year old AND have the harness coming from at or just above the shoulders.

High back or backless booster mode (with lap/shoulder belt of course):
For children who are 40-100lbs (18-45kg) AND 43-57″ (110-145cm) tall AND at least four years old (best practice, and in our opinion, means more like 5 or 6 because maturity matters).

Tranzitions specs:

  • Lowest harness height with body pillow: 11″
  • Highest harness height without body pillow: 18″
  • Two crotch buckle positions: 5.5″ with body pillow, 7.5″ without body pillow
  • Width at widest point: 19″ with cup holders / 17.5″ without cup holders / 18″ at arm rests
  • Width at back bottom edge: 14.5″
  • Seat weight: 12.5 lbs
  • Expires 7 years from date of manufacture

 

Notable features:

  • No-rethread harness (adjust harness height without undoing the harness or uninstalling the seat through eight head rest positions)
  • Install with UAS to a child weight of 45lbs
  • May use UAS in booster mode to secure seat
  • Smooth harness adjuster
  • Harness pads for comfort at neck
  • Machine washable cover
  • Fast and easy conversion from harness mode to booster mode
  • Two cup holders – but use is optional, so shave 1.5″ off the width by not using them
  • Easy access storage for unused UAS connectors
  • Ships semi-assembled but sets up easily in seconds

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image image

 

Fit to Vehicle:image

The Tranzitions is slim, lightweight, easy to move around, and installed well in most places we tested it. Installation with UAS was quick and easy, and although the UAS connectors are the basic hook-style ones, the UAS adjuster is super smooth and tightening and loosening is a breeze.

Tip: pull up the interior fabric panel to expose the belt path so you can get more leverage and a better angle when tightening. Works for UAS or seat belt!

There will naturally be a bit of a gap behind the lower back area of the Tranzitions – minimize it as much as possible, and in harness mode ensure there is 20% or less of overhang off the front edge of the vehicle seat (no overhang in booster mode). If in doubt contact Graco for feedback.

Also make sure that any forward-leaning vehicle head restraints are not forcing the Tranzitions head rest forward. If it’s possible to remove the vehicle head rest (check your vehicle manual to see if it’s required to stay put for use with car seats) then as with many car seats, the fit will be better. Make sure to always use the tether strap and hook, no exceptions.

A sampling of the vehicles we tested:

2012 Honda Odyssey captain’s seat, Tranzitions head rest all the way up. Forward-leaning Odyssey head rest may be an issue at mid-height but fits like a glove at full Tranzitions height, and also at lower head rest positions. Difficulty level: with UAS = easy, with seat belt = medium.

2012 Honda Odyssey captain's seat with seat belt installation, Tranzitions head rest all the way up.  img_5412

 

2012 Ford F-150 Super Cab (extended cab with half doors). NO overhang – woot! – and narrow enough to install beautifully on the ’40’ side and still leave room for the ’60’ side to fold. Tranzitions is a very good option for extended cab trucks, or vehicles with shallow back seats, particularly if the vehicle head rest is permitted to be removed. The slim tether adjuster mechanism fed through the tether routing loop no problem (for those unfamiliar with truck tethering…just smile and nod). Difficulty level: with UAS = easy, with seat belt = easy.

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2012 Ford Focus hatchback titanium trim level with leather. This Focus permits the removal of the vehicle head restraint when installing a car seat and this results in a much better fit to vehicle. This fit tip is true for most forward facing seats – check your vehicle manual to see if this is an option if you are having trouble. Difficulty level: with UAS = easy,  with seat belt = medium (due to the fixed and forward-leaning buckle stalks).

image image

 

2011 Dodge Grand Caravan in the 3rd row centre and also a 2nd row captain’s seat (those are the locations with a tether anchors and so the only places this seat can be used when in harness mode). Similar belt scrunching happening as with the Focus above, but doable. Difficulty level: UAS = easy, seat belt = hard.

image image

 

Fit to Child

We are so thrilled to report that the Tranzitions fits reliably and comfortably in all modes. Although the minimum use for harness mode is 22lbs, 27″, sitting upright, and one year old, we don’t encourage use of it with children that small. Keep them rear facing as long as possible in one of many seats that can do it with ease. For those who are 2+ however, the ease of use features of the Tranzitions — harness pads, two crotch buckle positions, optional body pillow — will make for a happy ride. Our kid testers found it comfortable, including during a 2 hour drive, despite minimal padding in the bum area. There are no restrictions for weight, harness position, or crotch buckle position, so the removable machine washable body pillow is much appreciated.

We really liked the fit on our smallest tester all the way up to our biggest — and so did they.

Age 2.5, 32lbs, 35.5″ tall

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Age 4.75, 53lbs, 44″ tall, 2nd from the top harness height

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Age 6, 52lbs, 48″ tall, using the top harness position with about 1″ of torso height still to grow.

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Booster mode — both high back and backless — had similarly excellent fit. Our experienced booster riders also reported that the Tranzitions was easy to buckle as well, an important part of proper and consistent booster use. Belt fit was reliable, and in the vehicles we tested the shoulder belt retracted smoothly when our testers leaned forward and then leaned back. Remember boostered kids have freedom of movement in their seat belt, just like we do, and if they readjust their position it’s really important that the shoulder belt stays snug as they do it. No overhang of the vehicle seat is permitted in booster mode.

These 6-8.5 year old (50-65lbs, 48″-56″ tall) testers are showing off the excellent belt fit at the shoulder and lap.

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And our older, bigger testers model the backless booster:

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Important to note: with the back on the Tranzitions the child sits further forward in the seat, ideal for smaller kids or those with shorter legs. With the back off and using as a backless booster kids should scoot their bums back…meaning the seat pan is now longer. If the child’s legs are too short to bend naturally at the edge of the Tranzitions we recommend putting the back on so they can sit comfortably, and avoid slouching. We all know what happens when we sit on a couch that’s really deep…we slouch and slide around to get comfortable, which is not okay when in a booster seat because it usually means the belt fit is no longer ideal.

Below is the same child in highback booster mode and backless booster mode. Her legs aren’t long enough to use the backless mode comfortably, but at six years old and as a beginner booster rider we’d recommend she ride in highback mode for a good while yet anyway.

This change in fit really emphasizes how well this seat grows with your child!

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Conversion to booster mode, and back again, was so slick. Graco has designed some clever features into this process, such as the ease with which the crotch buckle can be removed (no broken nails or cursing!), and the nifty storage location for the splitter plate (the bit that the harness attaches to at the back). One booster tester found she could feel the splitter plate under her bum while in backless mode, but couldn’t in high back mode; the other two testers didn’t notice it at all. Make sure to store all of the bits needed for harness mode in a safe place.

image image

UAS can be used when in high back booster mode, a nice convenience feature, but if you do not have lower anchors in the spot you’re using the seat, or if you’re using it in backless mode, then teach your child to buckle it when empty so it doesn’t become a projectile for you.

 

Final Thoughts:

Graco’s Tranzitions is great value for the price, and is slim, lightweight, and actually works well in all three modes! Often seats that boast multiple modes tend to excel at one but are a bit lacklustre in others, but not this seat! It’s certainly easiest to install with lower anchors (UAS), and they can be used to a child weight of 45lbs. We recommend test-fitting with a seat belt installation as well, because not all kids are booster ready right at that weight. We’re pleased to add the Tranzitions to our list of favourite seats, and are excited to see what Graco has next in store for us!

Want to check it out for yourself? Thanks to Graco Baby Canada one lucky reader will win a Tranzitions! To enter use the Rafflecopter widget below, and make sure to leave a blog post comment here answering this question: What feature of the seat most appeals to you – what catches your attention, or what will be most useful for your child and your car? Comments don’t show up until we approve them but that’s okay – tell the widget “I commented” and let us take care of the rest!

Thanks to Graco Baby Canada for providing the seat used in this review but as usual, all opinions are our own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


imageJen Shapka is a mom of two, teacher-by-training, Child Passenger Safety Technician-Instructor Trainer, military spouse, and small business owner. A co-founder of Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs, she now resides in Ontario.

Cozywoggle Giveaway for CPS Week!

cozywoggle05In celebration of Child Passenger Safety Week the lovely folks at Cozywoggle are giving away one of their fabulous winter car-seat-safe coats to one lucky reader!

The winner will have the choice of navy, purple, or red in sizes 4/5/6, or pink in sizes 2/3/4/5/6.

What’s a car-seat-safe coat you ask? We reviewed it thoroughly here. For other car-seat-safe winter ideas check this out.

Learn about Cozywoggle here or see a video about the concept here. We very much appreciate the thoughtful and quality design that went into this product — and the designer and inventor Cherlyn Jenkins soon after became a CPST herself!

This give-away is open through midnight PST on Saturday night, September 24th. Winner will be notified by email. To enter you MUST use the Rafflecopter widget below – good luck!

Note: comments are moderated and will not show up right away. That’s okay – tell the Rafflecopter widget that “I entered!” on the blog comment part, and we’ll take care of the rest…

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

What's Up Wednesday, Volume 1

Similar to “ripped from the headlines” but in a nicer, gentler, more supportive and informative style of “gently plucked from our questions” we bring you the first instalment of What’s Up Wednesday!

This series will take some of our more common scenarios and give some background and ideas. It may also help readers to know what we consider when we give advice.


My child is tall, and I don’t think his seat fits him anymore. The straps are on the highest setting but they are coming from below his shoulders and I don’t think that’s right. He is 3.5, and he weighs about 37lbs. What do I do? Can I put him in a booster seat?

You are correct – when forward-facing the harness needs to come from at or above the child’s shoulders. In addition to standing height or weight, harness/torso height is another way that a forward-facing seat can be outgrown. Harness height varies quite a lot from seat to seat, but is a feature hardly ever discussed on car seat boxes or advertising.

At 37lbs your child isn’t heavy enough for a booster — it’s illegal. Kids must be consistently over 40lbs to use a booster. At 3.5 he’s also much too young for a booster seat. Some seats have an age minimum on them, but more importantly, he doesn’t have the maturity or the impulse control to sit properly at all times. A booster seat positions the adult seat belt onto the strongest parts of a child’s body, but does not keep him still. A boostered child needs to be able to stay in position and understand and remember not to lean over, to mess with the seat belt, or to unbuckle while the car is moving. For most kids this doesn’t happen until at least age 5-6. The seat belt can not do its job to keep a passenger safe if it isn’t on the right parts of the body, with all slack removed, at the time of a crash. 

There are many options out there for harnessed seats that will keep him safe until age 5-6, at which point you can think about if he is booster ready.

If you would like some help with specific seat suggestions we can do that on our Facebook page, or connect you with a CPST near you!


 

Do you have an idea for the next instalment of What’s Up Wednesday? Do you have a problem you need help solving? Send us your ideas at info@vicarseattechs.com.

Flash Frontier Contest!

51vjLh3oJHLAmazon.ca is having a super deal on certain seats for Prime members! We want to take advantage of this
with a quick flash contest as a thank you to everyone using our links for their shopping. We will be using random.org instead of Rafflecopter for this one.

Just fill out the below linked form and we will draw at 7pm pst on Monday, July 11, 2016. You can choose between any of the sale Frontier CTs assuming they are under $300 and qualify for free shipping at the time of contest close. If the Frontiers are out of stock or the sale is over, or your child is years away from forward facing, you can use $300 towards a seat on Amazon that is in stock, qualifies for free shipping, and is on our favourites list.

We will contact the winner shortly after 7pm Pacific…and plan to order immediately to take advantage of sales. If you do not respond to our call or email within ten minutes we’ll move on to the next person. The entry form gives you the option for email and phone…we suggest you do both!

One entry per person please! Multiple entries will be disqualified. Open to residents of Canada who are the age of majority in their province who have not won one of our contests in the last year, excluding the admins of VI Car Seat Techs and their immediate families. Void where prohibited by law. We love comments but you must click the below “enter here” button to qualify.

Choices available for this contest as of contest opening are Frontier ClickTight in Vibe, Kaleidoscope, Congo, or Cowmooflage.

Contest is now closed! Thank you for your entries! Stay tuned for the winner shortly.

Want to take advantage yourself? Here’s how!

There are other deals available, but you must sign up for Amazon Prime to take advantage. You can cancel the subscription before 30 days. Buying through our links helps us buy seats for donation and run future contests, so thank you!

A New Spin on Safety: The Evenflo Platinum SafeMax All-In-One Car Seat

IMG_9163Evenflo has been a leader in child passenger safety for decades, creating products that continue to move the industry forward. They have raised the bar yet again with their latest all-in-one car seat, the Platinum SafeMax. This seat is an industry first – it has been rollover tested! We are very excited to check out this new product and look forward to seeing the many improvements Evenflo has included in this latest addition to their impressive car seat line up.

 

The Platinum SafeMax may look familiar to some, owing much of its structure and design to the existing Evenflo Symphony. This much-loved predecessor has won over many in the car seat world with its ability to provide a good fit-to-child in all three modes.

 

Quick Specs: 

  • Highest harness position: 17 in
  • Lowest harness position: 6 in
  • Seat weight: 20.2 lbs
  • Width of seat at widest point: 21.1 in
  • Crotch buckle position (only one): 7 in
  • Depth of seat pan: 14 in

Rear-facing:

  •  5-40 lbs (2.3-18 kg)
  • 19-40 in (48 – 102 cm) and child’s head is at least one inch below top of child restraint headrest in either of its two lowest positions

Forward-facing (harness mode): 

  • 22-65 lbs (10-29.4 kg)
  • 28-50 in (71-127 cm) and tops of child’s ears are below top of child restraint headrest
  • Child must be at least one year old (though they should not ride forward-facing until a minimum of two years old, read why rear facing is best and how to make it work here)

Booster mode:

  • 40-120 lbs (18-54.4 kg)
  • 44-57 in (112-145 cm) and tops of child’s ears are below top of child restraint headrest
  • Child must be at least four years old (read more about when to move your child to a booster seat here)

Features:

  • All-in-One (Rear-Facing/Forward-Facing/Booster)image
  • Three recline positions (position 1 – rear facing only, positions 2 & 3 – forward facing only)
  • Infinite Slide harness system easily adjusts to perfectly fit your growing child
  • 5-position adjustable headrest (bottom 2 positions only for rear facing)
  • SureSafe™ Installation – Quick Connector™ UAS and guides increase instance of proper installation
  • UAS attachments can be used in booster mode
  • “e3” Side-Impact Protection – thick, energy-absorbing EPS foam lines the deep head wings
  • Buckle Pockets to hold the buckle tongues to the side for easy loading
  • Seat padding withOutlast® temperature-regulating fabric, which keeps your child comfortable in hot or cold weather
  • Dual integrated cup holders that are removable and dishwasher safe
  • FAA approved for use in aircraft, in harness mode (as are all seats in Canada)
  • Upfront harness adjust and recline
  • Lower anchor weight limit: 45 lbs
  • Ten year lifespan
  • Available in four fashions: red, blue, purple, and grey
  • Available at Babies ”R” Us (MSRP $399.99)

 


 

Initial thoughts: 

The Platinum SafeMax is a large seat, but its size allows it to incorporate some pretty neat features! As mentioned earlier, the Platinum SafeMax is a first of its kind, having undergone dynamic rollover testing. This testing is unique to Evenflo, and is beyond that required by national standards. You can see features that are specifically designed to manage and dissipate the forces associated with that type of collision. Though this seat is quite wide and would not be a wise choice if you intend to have 3-across in your back seat, it is one to consider for all of the safety and ease-of-use features it includes if you have ample space in your vehicle!


 

Overview of features: 

The Platinum SafeMax features handy buckle tongue holders, which make loading and unloading much easier.

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The seat features Outlast® temperature-regulating fabric, which is also designed to be simple to remove. The fabric is machine washable, separately in cold water, delicate cycle. Tumble dry 10 to 15 minutes on low heat.

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The seat pad also includes a magnetized fabric panel that covers the harness adjuster, keeping it hidden from curious little hands.

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Belt guides and recline positions are colour-coded and correspond to rear facing (light green), forward facing (aqua) and belt-positioning booster mode (purple).

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SureSafe™ Installation – Quick Connector™ UAS and guides make installation with a child under 45 lbs a breeze. The guides effectively create a “channel” to the lower anchor bar in your vehicle seat. These guides are especially helpful if you have buried lower anchor bars like I do! To release the lower anchor connector (Quick Connector™), simply pull the red loop.

IMG_9312              IMG_9313

Harness pads at the hips and shoulders ensure a comfortable and snug fit on your child. Both pads are fixed to the seat and cannot be removed, and the pads at the shoulders feature a rubber backing that enhances the performance of the seat in a collision.

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The Platinum SafeMax features Evenflo’s “e3” side impact protection system surrounds your child in layers of thick, energy-absorbing foam.

IMG_9314    IMG_8541  IMG_8544


 

Setting it up: 

The seat comes out of the box with the lower anchors threaded for forward facing, but switching them is quite simple. Just flip to page 23 and 35 of your handy dandy manual and you’ll see these images, showing how to properly route the lower anchor strap for rear facing, or back to forward facing:

safemax moving UAS strapsafemax moving uas forward facing

 

Take note – as it mentions in the above manual excerpts, you will have to swivel the white plastic strap that attaches the lower anchor strap to the seat in order to have the lower anchor strap sit flat on the seat, so ensure that step is complete as well!


 

Installation and Use – Rear-facing:

The Platinum SafeMax can be used rear facing from 5-40 lbs and 19-40 inches and while the child’s head is at least one inch below top of child restraint headrest in either of its two lowest positions.

The seat is quite simple to install rear facing for a variety of children. The seat must be in recline position 1 (most reclined position) when used rear facing, but this does not mean that the seat takes up a whole heap of space! The seat is actually more compact than you’d think – it only takes up a very reasonable 31.5 in of space front-to-back, by my measurements. The Platinum SafeMax has a single recline line which must be level to ground (I have placed a piece of green painters tape on the line in the photo below so that it is more visible), but even with this requirement, the seat still allowed for ample space for the front seat passenger, which is certainly a plus in our books!

The following photos show the Platinum SafeMax installed in a 2009 Honda Accord:

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The passenger seat is in a position that is more than comfortable for myself (at a hair over 5 ft 9 in tall), and leaves me ample space between my torso and the airbag, which is important for my own safety.

In order to make installation as sweat-free as possible, Evenflo recommends that you unzip the cover at the cup holders and pull back the padding to expose the rear facing belt path, as shown below. This will allow you to get better leverage when pulling the tail of the lower anchor strap or vehicle belt, whichever you choose for installation. Once you’ve finished tightening, step to the side of the restraint and, using the force of a firm handshake with your non-dominant hand, attempt to move the seat back-and-fourth and side-to-side at the place where the belt passes through the shell of the seat. If there is less than 1 inch of movement in any direction, and the recline line discussed above is level to ground, you’re good to go!

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As you can see below, our petite doll Sara, who measures very similarly to a newborn infant, fits very well in the seat. The infant padding is optional, meaning you can judge whether or not your child needs it (click here to see how to get a snug fit on your rear facing child). Take note, however, that the padding cannot be used at all when the seat is in forward facing mode. The portion of the insert behind her head seemed to force her head forward just slightly, so had this been a real infant she likely would have fit a little better without the head insert. It is separate from the bottom portion of the padding, which would still be used for a proper fit. The fit on a real baby may vary, and ensuring their airway is unobstructed (i.e they are not chin-to-chest) is very important. You may find the head pad (optional) improves fit, or not, depending on your baby’s shape and size.

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Here is Presley, who turned 6 months old just a few days ago. She fit very nicely in the seat at 17 lbs and 26 in. She had no complaints! The harness adjusted snugly around her body and the bottom portion of the insert provided ample support for her. She did not need the head portion of the insert. The adjustable head restraint was in its lowest position.

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Here is Luke, who just celebrated his second birthday! He claimed the seat was very “squishy” and quite enjoyed being our little model. He even requested the seat be brought into the living room so that he could watch cartoons while using the seat as his recliner! Note: car seats are for cars and kids should always be buckled properly when in their seat.

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The harness fit wonderfully on Luke. It was smooth and easy to tighten using the centrally-located adjuster strap. He seemed to really like the soft, smooth material, and he didn’t seem to notice the rubberized backing on the shoulder pads at all, which was one of my concerns for him. He is using the second-from-bottom headrest position, which is also the highest one permitted for rear facing. At this point, he would likely have another 6-8 months of growth left before he would hit the rear facing limits listed at the beginning of the review. Rear facing use of this seat is limited in comparison to others, but it does the job well for the time it lasts and will allow most children to reach age 2 before being outgrown rear facing.

As you can see, the seat provides an extreme amount of side impact protection to the child.

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(Yes, Luke is still in the seat in this photo!).

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Installation and Use – Forward facing:

The Platinum SafeMax can be used forward facing from 22-65 lbs and 28-50 inches and while the tops of child’s ears are below top of child restraint headrest. The child must be at least one year of age to use the seat forward facing.

Installation was a piece of cake forward facing. The seat padding has a convenient velcro-open space where the child’s lower back would rest that allows complete access to the forward facing belt path with ease. After opening up the velcro space, you will see the space in which the lower anchor strap or vehicle belt will pass through. This makes tightening the strap/belt much easier. After you’ve finished tightening, simply close the velcro space and step to the side of the child restraint, once again grasping it at the belt path in use and checking for movement (same as rear facing, using the force of a firm handshake with your non-dominant hand at the place where the belt passes through the shell of the seat).

The seat can be in recline position 2 with a forward facing child weighing between 22 and 40 lbs, and in recline position 3 with a child weighing between 22 and 65 lbs (i.e a child weighing over 40 lbs must use recline position 3).

 

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Here is the seat installed forward facing with the vehicle belt in the 2009 Honda Accord:

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Here is Jemma. She is 4 years old, weighs 32 lbs and wears a size 4 top. She really enjoyed the cupholders (they were lots of fun to take out and put back in, and also provided her a place to store her many hair clips and Barbie shoes!)

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Here is Daniel, he is 2 weeks away from turning 7, wears a size 6-7 top and weighs 62 lbs. He quite liked the cup holders and was a huge fan of the soft seat material!

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And here is the seat installed with the vehicle belt in a 2016 Chevy Equinox:

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Remember that for ALL forward facing harnessed car seats in Canada, the top tether anchor must always be connected and properly used!

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Installation and Use – Belt-positioning Booster Mode:

The Platinum SafeMax can be used in booster mode with a child 4 years and older from 40-120 lbs and 44-57 inches. It can also be anchored to the vehicle using the lower anchors to prevent the seat from becoming a projectile in a collision when unoccupied, which also eliminates the need to re-buckle the vehicle seat belt over the child seat when the child gets out. One less thing to remember is always a plus!

The Platinum SafeMax must be in recline number 3 (most upright position) when used in booster mode.

The harness on the Platinum SafeMax is not removable, so in order to switch the seat to belt-positioning booster mode, you need to store the harness. To do so, loosen the harness all the way and thread the harness through the forward facing belt path, and buckle the chest clip behind the seat. Then, looking at the seat from the front, you slip the shoulder pads into the harness adjustment slot, as shown, ensuring they are flat.

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The crotch buckle also must be flipped upside down for booster mode. To do this, unzip the cover at the cup holders, pull back to cover and put the car seat in recline number 1 (most reclined position). Slide the black metal retaining plate out of its holder. After the buckle has been removed, pass the black metal retaining plate back up through the shell of the seat so that it lays flat in the seat pan, as so. The crotch buckle will now be hanging upside down under the seat. You can put the seat back into recline number 3 (only one permissible for booster mode, as previously mentioned) and put the cover back into place.

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Here is Daniel again! He found the seat to be very comfortable in booster mode and requested that this seat be his everyday ride! Another feature he talked about after riding in the seat a few times was that his legs felt much more comfortable because of how “long” the seat was (he was referring to the deep, supportive seat pan). Keeping those legs supported certainly makes for a more comfortable ride!

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The vehicle belt was able to retract through the belt guide freely in my Honda Accord, which is very important. Children who are mature enough to ride in a booster should stay in position the entire ride, without leaning to pick things up or interact with their siblings, but if they do happen to move about in the seat, the vehicle belt must be able to retract in the belt guide without getting caught up and remaining slack.

Something to note: The Platinum SafeMax requires the level line to be level to ground in booster mode. As such, Evenflo permits a tightly rolled towel or small blanket to be used to achieve this, as shown below.

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The top booster belt guide comes in at 19 inches, which means that it will serve the function of a high back booster for an adequate period of time for most children, after which they will need a backless booster seat until they pass the 5-step test.


 

Overall thoughts: 

The Platinum SafeMax is a large seat, but its size does not stop it from being a versatile, comfortable and functional car seat. It takes you from infant all the way to school-aged child. The seat is outgrown rear facing more quickly than other convertibles on the market, but it will get most children to at least age 2 rear facing, which is wonderful. Overall, this seat is a great choice, provided you have the space to accommodate it!

 

Thank you to Evenflo for providing the seat used in this review! As usual, all opinions are our own. Thank you again to Evenflo for giving one lucky (Canadian) reader a SafeMax of their own in Shiloh fashion! To be eligible to win please post your response to this question as a comment on this post: what is the age and size of the child this seat would be for (if you won), and what mode would it be used in? Use the Rafflecopter widget below to confirm your entry, and good luck! Your comment won’t show up right away (we manually approve them) but use the widget anyway, it will soon enough!

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Big Value: Harmony Wows Again with the Big Boost Deluxe

imageWell this is eye-catching eh? Harmony set out to redesign the concept of a booster seat, and visually speaking they sure nailed it.

Known for providing champagne features on a soda water budget Harmony Juvenile has delivered again with the brand new Big Boost Deluxe, a backless (…or dare we say, low back?) belt positioning booster that has ample padding, a detachable cupholder, and…wait for it…LOWER ANCHORS. All for the amazing price of $29. The seat is starting to appear in select Walmart stores, and should show up online soon. It is available now by contacting Harmony directly.

The Big Boost Deluxe is for children who are between 40-110lbs, 40-57″ tall, and who have the developmental maturity to sit properly in a booster seat at all times. For most kids that’s at least age 6. We prefer not to see kids start off their booster experience in a backless booster, but for those who have outgrown a high back or otherwise have excellent belt fit in a backless, this is an outstanding option to take them through to adult seat belt readiness around age 11ish.

It’s roomy internally without being wide externally, it’s cushy, it’s easy to buckle, works really well with buckles that are recessed and low, and did you catch that it’s latchable?

The seat belt fit of the Big Boost Deluxe will vary from child to child, and from vehicle to vehicle, as is the case with all booster seats. In general we found the lap belt fit to be good on most kids, tending toward low. If you have a vehicle where the seat belt geometry tends to position the lap belt overly high on the belly (not good) then this is a good go-to seat to try out. Below is a selection of kids who are 7-10 years old, and of varying builds.

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The Big Boost Deluxe is easy to buckle, even with short or recessed seat belt buckles, because of the way the booster swoops away from the arm rest.

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Seat pan depth was reported comfortable even by the older, taller testers, and most kids liked the back rest, offering slight lumbar support. It will absolutely feel different for kids used to sitting in conventional boosters so may take some getting used to.

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Premium features include:

  • A well padded seat cushion (removable and machine washable)

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  • Cup holder, that when not in use, stores cleverly on the underside of the booster seat so it doesn’t get lost.

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  • Lower anchors to prevent the seat from becoming a projectile when unoccupied. If you do not have lower anchors in the seating position you are using simply stow the hooks, and remember to have your child re-buckle the empty seat when they exit the vehicle.

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The Big Boost Deluxe is medium width, fitting easily on the “40” side of a 60/40 split in two test vehicles (2012 Ford F-150, and 3rd row outboard Honda Odyssey). For size reference here it’s shown beside a pink Harmony Youth Booster, a tried and true favourite.

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Boosters are deceptively simple, but do important work by properly positioning the seat belt on the strong bones of a child who is both 40+lbs, and ready to sit properly at all times. Harmony has crammed an impressive number of features into one tidy package, with an even more impressive price tag.

The seats shown in this review were provided to us for the purpose of review, but all opinions are our own. To celebrate this innovative new booster seat design at a spectacular price, Harmony is giving away one Big Boost Deluxe to one of you! To enter use the Rafflecopter widget below, and good luck! Contest is open until 11:59pm Pacific time on Wednesday, May 11th.

Please make sure to comment on the blog answering the question: Pick one word to sum up the Big Boost Deluxe – what comes to mind for you? Blog comments are moderated and will not appear immediately, so don’t fret if your comment doesn’t show right away, it will as soon as one of us pops in to approve them.

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Logo Design Contest

VICST has been around for 4.5 years now…and we’ve never really gotten around to branding ourselves. We think it’s high time!

Sadly, we lack both imagination and creative design skills. That’s where you come in. A logo contest! Or a trade, or barter, if you’d prefer. 

To the winner: your choice of a Graco Dimensions, Evenflo SureRide, Graco MyRide, or possibly something else that you need. If you win we’ll chat.

The rules:

You design and create an original logo or set of logos for our use. If you are the winner you agree to give us complete ownership of the images so we can use them as we see fit. If you submit a design it must be your original design.

The logo must be proportioned to fit in standard Facebook or Twitter profile pictures (square), and ideally would also be able to be used in header format. Perhaps there are some basic design elements that can be creatively combined in different ways! We don’t know…you see why we haven’t done this before?

One day maybe we’ll print it on a banner so a high res file would be good. Ideally it would also print well in black and white for those times when we photocopy stuff. We would prefer if it could be produced as a vector file but don’t require it.

We are under no obligation to choose any winner. We may extend the deadline if we haven’t received sufficient entries. Open to Canadian residents of any age, void where prohibited.

Please submit to info@vicarseattechs.com by 11:59pm Pacific time on Sunday May 15th. We look forward to seeing what you come up with!

A Peek at the Nuna Pipa: review and giveaway!

imageNuna what Say it with us, it’s fun! Nuna Pipa (NEW-nuh PIP-uh). See You’re smiling, aren’t you!

Nuna is a Dutch company making their debut in the Canadian car seat market but are already well established with other sleek and attractive Euro-styled baby items, so the name may be familiar.

The Pipa advertises a five-second installation and in many vehicles that is in fact true. “Yeah right,”you say! Watch here for a video tour and see it in action.

Seat Specs:

  • Rear-facing only seat to accommodate children 4-35lbs and up to 32″ tall and whose head is at least 1″ below the top of the carrier
  • Three harness positions:
    • Lowest harness position with low birth weight insert: ~5.5″
    • Highest harness position with all inserts removed: ~8.5″
  • Two crotch buckle slots with multiple positioning options. Note: measurement indicates approximate depth to crotch buckle location: ~3″ (with ability to shorten for small babies and both inserts in place) / 4.5″ with single insert in place / 6.5″ / 7.5″
  • Flexible seat padding options:
    • low birth weight under-bum pillow that tucks tidily away; reduces space between baby’s crotch and crotch buckle for an excellent newborn/preemie fit
    • full-body insert in plush fabric; machine washable
    • optional harness pads
    • optional crotch buckle pad

Seat Features:

The Pipa features a long list of premium ease of use features that are sure to delight the most imagediscerning parent. Look for photos below this list of highlights.

  • True Lock installation with rigid UAS makes for a quick and easy installation with lower anchors (note – vehicle must have lower anchors in the seating position of choice)
  • Included funnel guides for UAS installation (photo below)
  • Dream Drape for privacy and protection from the elements (and touchy feely strangers)
  • Well-placed mesh ventilation and peep holes to keep an eye on babe from any direction
  • Elegant fabrics in sophisticated colours and textures that are well-fitted, snugly sewn, and machine washable. Currently available in two fashions: Graphite (shown here) and Night (black).
  • Allows a European belt routing when installed baseless (more on that later in the “fit to vehicle” section)
  • Lightweight carrier with comfortable handle
  • Compatible with many strollers with either Nuna or Maxi Cosi adapters
  • Seven year useful life period from date of manufacture, or date of purchase with original receipt
  • Available online and in store at boutiques across Canada for $399.99; extra bases also available

True Lock installation with rigid UAS is truly lightning fast in many vehicles. A red/green indicator button makes it clear whether the installation is complete. The included optional funnel guides (black plastic casing on split image) make a UAS installation easier for vehicles with buried lower anchors by exposing them. They work particularly well on flatter vehicle seats.

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The Dream Drape tucks away ingeniously into the seat’s canopy and when zipped up looks tidy and neat. Best used for the smaller occupants who don’t have the ability or awareness to kick it out of place, or for an older child who is sleeping. It might also be handy to keep curious older siblings out of baby’s space when seated next to each other in the car. The lower tabs are magnetic and attach easily and snugly to the outer edge of the carrier with no velcro or buckles to fuss with.

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Well-placed mesh ventilation in the canopy and Dream Drape allows one to keep an eye on sleeping babe from all angles.

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Elegant fabric in attractive colours and textures make for a stylish ride. Featured throughout this review is Graphite (grey), also available in Night (black).

image Pipa-Night

 

Ergonomic handle makes for an easier time carrying baby. There is sufficient clearance between the raised canopy and the handle to easily fit a hand. If you prefer to carry in the crook of your elbow lowering the canopy is likely necessary.

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Easy carrier release located on the base (not the carrier like many other seats). Not a pro or a con per se, just different.

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Fit to Child:

The Pipa fits a broad range of children, providing a customizable fit with flexibility in crotch buckle positioning, included inserts, harness pads, and crotch buckle pad. As always consult the manual to know when and how to adjust these features. The Pipa fit my newborn/preemie doll (approximately a 5-6lb, 18″ baby) beautifully. At the other end of the fit spectrum a 24lb 11 month old was nearing both the standing height and clearance above his head. Like most seats the Pipa will be outgrown first by height, but with the 32″ limit and tall shell it’s a market leader for longevity.

The largest child I tested at 24lbs and 31″ tall, this 11 month old had ample harness length left (sometimes a concern at the top end of a seat), and no issues at all with crotch buckle length or ease of buckling. If this was his seat I’d be advising his parents to get shopping for the next seat to continue to rear face him in. Shorter-torsoed kids will last to the full standing height but it’s important not to exceed any stated limit for a car seat.

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At 3 months and 14lbs, 5 months and 18lbs, and 9 months and 20lbs these cuties demonstrate nicely just how great the fit is in the Pipa for differently shaped babies. The parent testers liked the feel and fit, and huge thanks to them and their offspring for giving the Pipa a go. Use of cloth or disposable diapers will affect whether any inserts are needed at smaller sizes but you can see with the youngest baby that she already fits without it. That bodes extremely well for the teeny tinies who sometimes don’t fit well in seats.

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Fit to Vehicle:

Fit to vehicle varied widely. I loved the Pipa very much in vehicles with lower anchors (anything 2003 or newer), and with vehicle seats that are not extremely sloped. In most of the test vehicles I tried it installed really well, sometimes in as little as seconds. In others I needed to adjust the recline angle but was still relatively simple. If you are considering the Pipa it should be for its strength for use with rigid UAS. It is light weight (9.4lbs fully decked out with canopy and all infant padding), and really compact front-to-back.

If you do not have lower anchors in the seating position where you want to use it, if your vehicle seat is extremely sloped, or if you have a tight three-across seating situation I would strongly urge you to try this seat before you purchase it. Take the time to visit a boutique store and install it. The seat belt installation is challenging, and can not be used at all with seat belts “forward of the bight,” meaning seat belts that anchor forward of the natural crease between seat back and seat bottom.

Despite the seat belt challenges, the successes were many. In all vehicles the front seat was either all the way back, or sufficiently back that my 5’8″ self could very comfortably sit in the passenger seat. If you are significantly taller or like to lean your seat way back (not safe for you – don’t do that!) you might not find it quite as roomy as I did.

Huge thanks to Acura of Barrie, Barrie Mitsubishi, Moffatt’s Mazda, and Georgian BMW for allowing me to test fit in your showrooms on a cold and blizzardy day!

2012 Honda Civic

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2016 Mazda 3 sedan (red) and Mazda CX-5 (black)

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2016 Acura MDX behind the passenger and centre (this vehicle has centre UAS).

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2016 Mitsubishi Lancer

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2016 Mitsubishi RVR (white) and Outlander (black)

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2016 BMW X5 was ultimately successful but required some effort and technique to achieve the correct recline (yellow noodle is there for that purpose). Initially the base ‘hovered’ as shown in the first picture. Don’t despair – it weights down once the carrier (and baby) are in place, and is simply an artifact of the rigid UAS.

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A similar “hover” was experienced in a 2012 Ford F-150 extended cab but again, with the weight of the carrier in place it settled down and was an excellent fit, leaving lots of room in the passenger seat AND being narrow enough to tumble the 60 side of the 40/60 split. The amount of overhang shown here is permitted, just. Be wary if you have very shallow back seats.

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Fit in a 2012 Odyssey was terrific, both in the 2nd row captain’s seats and the 3rd row outboard seats. The UAS installation is demonstrated in the video tour here. Pictured below is a baseless installation with Euro routing. This routes the shoulder belt around the back of the carrier, tucking into the bracket made just for this purpose, and enables a snug installation even baseless. While extra bases can be purchased, a baseless installation is a handy skill to learn.

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If you have a lap belt only, or your lap/shoulder belt isn’t long enough to route as shown don’t fret – traditional routing is also approved. Already a compact seat, a baseless installation means the Pipa will fit in even the smallest of spaces, and makes this 2012 Civic look enormous!

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Should you find yourself wanting to do a seat belt installation there is a large, easy to open and close lock-off for this purpose. It clamps the belt and holds it tightly. I had difficulty achieving a tight installation at the appropriate recline, while keeping the seat belt flat in the lock-off in the vehicles I tested. While doable, it’s not easy to accomplish, and is not where the Pipa shines. If you must use a seat belt in your vehicle it would be worthwhile to consider other options unless you can try in advance and know the Pipa will work for you.

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Final thoughts:

We first laid eyes on the Pipa at a trade show last year…and we’re so glad to see it finally here! It’s aimage
very good option in many vehicles and features some lovely finishing touches that we like a lot.

Pros:

  • lickety split UAS installation that truly couldn’t be easier — provided the seating location has lower anchors and the vehicle seat isn’t crazily sloped
  • beautiful finishing details on fabric and inserts
  • long lasting for height and weight
  • fabulous fit to child

Cons:

  • challenging seat belt installation may result in it being incompatible in seating positions without UAS

If I knew for certain that this seat worked where I wanted it to in my vehicle (and a baby was in my future…alas, I am done!) this seat would absolutely top my list. It’s lovely in many circumstances but where it isn’t…it really isn’t. Consider it for your family if you can be sure ahead of time that it works in your vehicle, or better yet, try it for yourself. It will be well worth the time and effort to do so because if it is an option for you…it’s dreamy.

Big thanks to Nuna Canada (here on Facebook) for providing the seat used in this review, but as always, all opinions are our own.

HUGE thanks to Nuna Canada for offering up another one for YOU! Enter to win a Nuna Pipa in Night (black) by using the Rafflecopter widget below. Please note that comments are moderated, meaning yours won’t show up immediately.

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Collision Dynamics: what happens when a moving car is rear-ended?

Physics2Collision Dynamics: Dissecting Impact, by Angela Stacey

(Physics disclaimer: Assuming ideal conditions, friction out of scope, assuming no loses to H/L/S, decel/accel out of scope).

 

It’s the moment we CPST’s fear most. Impact from a vehicular collision. And rightfully so! A lot goes on in the milliseconds leading up to, during and after an impact. But by growing our understanding of how these timeframes play out, we can help to better protect the occupants of our vehicles and those of the families we help. And hey, physics is fun! (Don’t believe me? You’ll see).

First, let’s start with some basic physics: Newton’s Laws of Motion. Not a math lover? Never been one for complex equations? Well, you’re in luck, Newton’s Laws are simple to interpret and apply to everyday situations. These three laws govern the motion of anything and everything, including your vehicle. These laws will be the main tool in our impact dissection kit, so let’s take a look at them.

Laws of PhysicsFirst law: Every object in a state of uniform motion or at rest will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force.

Second law: The relationship between an object’s mass m, its acceleration a, and the applied force F is F = ma. Acceleration and force are vectors (meaning they have both a magnitude and a direction).

Third law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That is, when one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.

Not so bad, right?

Let’s put ourselves at the scene of a rear-end collision. For simplicity, we’ll say that they are both the same model of vehicle, with the same mass*. We have been told that the vehicle traveling behind (a silver vehicle) has impacted the vehicle in front (a blue vehicle) as the pair were coming to a stop at a red light. No one is badly injured, but both drivers seek to better understand why their necks hurt.

In order to better understand what happens in a collision at the moment of impact, we must first look at what happens before that moment. Our bodies, our children and our trunk full of groceries are all traveling at the same speed as the vehicle. Now would be an excellent time to read Newton’s First law of motion again. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

The objects in your vehicle are traveling in a state of (relatively) uniform motion in the moments before the impact. They will carry on that way until…something acts to stop them or change their course. The silver vehicle impacting the blue vehicle serves this function. As the vehicles impact one another, the contents of the vehicles impact the surfaces adjacent to them. The force with which objects contact one another is equal to the product of the mass of the object (in kilograms) and the acceleration of the object (in m/s2 ), which is Newton’s second law: F = ma. I will point out that units are very, very important!

So that bottle of windshield wash in the foot well of your vehicle? It’s time to put that in the trunk to make sure it doesn’t continue in uniform motion and impact someone in the event of a collision!

At the moment of impact, everything (and everyone) moves toward the point of impact. Give Newton’s third law another read. In a collision between two objects, both objects experience forces that are equal in magnitude but opposite in direction. The person in the silver vehicle will feel a force “coming back” to them that is equal to the force they hit the blue vehicle with, but again, in the opposite direction. This is why the person in the rear vehicle will move forward in their primary post-impact movement, and the person in the front vehicle will move backward, pressing into their seat. Occupants of both vehicles will move toward the point of impact because of the equal and opposite forces described by Newton’s third law. Take silver vehicle’s force to be directed –> this way, then the blue vehicle’s force would be equal and oppositely directed <– this way. Giving you: S–> <–B

Rear end collisions also involve the consideration that both vehicles are moving in the same direction, though one has unfortunately “caught up” with the other. This affects the outcome such that both vehicles will continue to move along that path until they come to a stop, their original direction of travel being the same means that their force vectors (think of these as arrows that represent the direction the vehicle is moving, with a length proportional to the mass multiplied by the acceleration of the vehicle) will add. Yet another reason why rear end collisions do not represent a large amount of overall collision injuries.

A video may help, see above: (silver vehicle = silver bottle, blue vehicle = blue bottle)

I hope that this short explanation has helped to increase your understanding of the basic physics of a collision, and will serve as a motivation to learn more about physics!

*Something to note: In accordance with Newton’s second law of motion, the acceleration of an object is dependent upon both force and mass. Thus, if the colliding objects have unequal mass, they will have unequal accelerations (or rather, decelerations) as a result of the contact force that results during the collision. This is why you will see a small car slide across the road when hit by a Hummer. Mass is (sometimes unfortunately) directly related to force.

 

Get to Know the Grow & Go! Review and Giveaway

Introducing the Grow & Go, Safety 1st’s new 3-in-1 fresh to the market. The Grow & Go can accommodate children rear-facing, forward-facing, and as a booster. We’ve tried it here in all modes and given it our usual thorough treatment!

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Safety 1st’s manual, and matching colour coded labeling on the seat, is an excellent first glimpse at what the seat can do. Very clear, very easy to follow along, and a super way to get an overview of the seat and understand how it might work for your family.

GnG chart

 


Seat Specs:

  • Rear facing: 5-40lbs AND between 19-40″ tall AND at least 1″ of head rest above the head
  • Forward facing: 22-65lbs AND between 29-49″ AND harness coming from at or above the shoulders AND at least two years old
  • Booster: 40-100lbs AND 43-52″ AND at least four years old
  • Lowest harness height on infant harness routing (with required body padding): approximately 5.25″
  • Lowest harness height on no-rethread harness routing (with optional body padding): approximately 9.5″
  • Highest harness height (without optional body padding): approximately 17″
  • Maximum seated height while rear-facing: approximately 26″ (chances are the 40″ standing height limit will be reached first however)
  • Three crotch buckle positions: approximately 4.75″, 6″, 7.25″
  • Highest booster belt guide position: approximately 18.5″
  • Ten year expiry period
  • Available at Babies R Us for $279.99

Seat features:

  • Premium push on UAS connectors
  • No-rethread “Quick-Fit” harness (except for when the infant routing is used – babies grow fast, don’t worry!)
  • Dual cup holders
  • Sleek styling with a grey herringbone fabric
  • Lots of leg room rear facing
  • Easy to convert between modes of use
  • More – see photos below!

Really handy harness holders so you don’t have to dig the buckles out from under your child. Two ways to use them: hook the harness over top (we found this easiest) or pop the buckle tongue into the slot made especially for it.

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Colour coded, easy to read labeling on the side of the seat. Blue for rear-facing, red for forward-facing and booster (there is some overlap in instructions with these two modes hence the doubling up of colour). One handed, super-smooth recline adjustment for rear- and forward-facing, and large visible indicator of position.

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Easily removable soft goods and seat cover (not an iPod plug-in as I thought when I first glanced at it). The fabric is nice and feels like it would not pill or snag. The padding provides ample body and head support. Most is optional so customize fit to your liking. Harness pads are a new design and are longer on the underside and shorter on the outside. They were easy to position, and removed quickly with velcro.

image GnG harness pad

 

Rear Facing:

imageGreat news – this seat will fit from birth, and quite easily. The harness tightens fully, the harness is slightly below the doll’s shoulders, and the fit is good. Setting the seat up for newborn use requires re-routing of the harness to both shorten and lower it. Safety 1st has found an ingenious way to make the seat actually fit a newborn through a school-age child. Pay careful attention to the steps in the manual to set the seat up for newborn use (and the reverse when ready to move to the no-rethread “Quick-Fit” harness system). It’s not difficult nor time consuming, but does require manual reading and following the steps as indicated.

Modeling the seat we have a newborn doll, a ten month old, a 25 month old, and just turned 3 year old (the 3 year old in the green sweater is 38″ tall for reference).

Kids liked the dual cup holders, ample leg room, and squishy padding. Parents liked the harness covers, attractive fabric, nicely positioned headwings that provide head support but don’t block the view, and low profile of the seat shell itself that enabled easier loading. One parent noticed that the harness release button is discreetly tucked away to make it just a little bit harder for those Houdini kids to wriggle out.

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Grow&Go RF laughing image

Forward Facing:

The features that appealed rear-facing also appeal forward! Dual cup holders, easy to adjust no-rethread harness, and squishy comfortable fabric. The crotch buckle pad is optional, as is the body padding and extra head pad. All are easily removable. This seat can not be used forward facing until age two, and should fit most kids in harness mode through at least age five. Shown here is aged 2.5-5, approximately 30lbs through 42lbs, all of whom declared it comfy. Of course all kids come in different sizes and proportions so shorter torsoed kids will fit in harness mode for longer (blond girl in summer attire has always been long in the torso for example).

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Booster Mode:image

The Grow & Go may be used as a booster once a child reaches the minimums for this mode but we’d recommend you keep kids harnessed as long as they fit, and then ensure they’re mature enough for a booster. If that describes your child, then carry on! Belt fit is quite good on the kids we tried it in but there isn’t much time for booster use (by torso height) beyond when it’s outgrown in harness mode.

At 5.5, 46lbs, and 45″ tall (pink sweater) and 7.75, 55lbs, and 50″ (blue tartan) these two both fit in booster mode. The older child is just squeaking in (her shoulder is grazing the head wing). Lap belt fit on both is excellent. Use of the upper shoulder belt guide is optional if needed to properly position the shoulder belt centered on the shoulder, and on the buckle side both lap and shoulder belt should tuck under the harness storage tab as shown above. The booster weight limit of 100lbs is hugely overstated in our opinion – as you can see height is much more of a limiting factor than weight.

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UAS and tether are not to be used while the seat is in booster mode – follow storage instructions, and teach your child to rebuckle the empty booster when it’s not occupied so it doesn’t become a projectile in a crash. It is a very simple process, however, to switch between harness and booster mode. No unthreading of the harness necessary – tuck it behind the red plate as shown in the photo. Then a quick removal of the crotch buckle, tuck the tail of the harness adjuster under the seat pad, and remove all padding and accessories. Our tip: stow it all together in a labeled Ziploc bag so you don’t forget what seat it belongs to.

GnG harness stowed GnG in booster mode

 

Fit to Vehicle:

The Grow & Go installed quite nicely in our test vehicles. Two important aspects to note for rear-facing however: the red bracket shown below, and the rear facing level line. Both of these elements are shown in the following installation pictures but they are important enough to highlight here so they aren’t missed later on.

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Our representative small sedan is a 2012 Honda Civic. A centre installation allows a decent amount of leg room up front – enough for an average driver – but those requiring the seat all the way back are going to want to use an outboard position (more on that shortly). Installing centre means a seat belt must be used (most vehicles do not allow the use of UAS in the centre, check your vehicle manual to know if yours does).

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The single recline line rear-facing means that this is how it will fit for the entire time spent rear facing. Make sure this setup suits your family; there will be ample room in medium-large vehicle interiors. If your vehicle seat is too sloped to achieve the needed recline a small tightly rolled towel or chunk of foam pool noodle cut to length can be placed at the seat bight to further recline the Grow & Go. The base of this seat is nice and slim, and at 9″ wide should fit easily between the plastic hinges present in many vehicle interiors.

Note the proper belt routing here relative to the red brackets. Slide only the lap portion through – it’s easily accessible and the webbing slides freely to tighten, but must be routed through the red guides for proper installation.

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For comparison here is an outboard installation with UAS. Driver’s seat is all the way back, with dazzling pink running tights showing off the resulting front passenger room for a leggy 5’8″ person when the seat is properly installed behind it. It is important to note that the UAS strap (when used) also routes through the red guides on both sides.

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Forward facing installation is very straightforward – quick and easy whether you are using UAS or seat belt. The adjustable head rest sits slightly forward of the seat shell and will limit interference with forward-leaning head restraints in vehicles. Always check your vehicle owner’s manual for proper tether routing (under, over, or around a vehicle head restraint). The belt path is high enough that installation should be simple in most vehicles.

Grow&Go FF Ody Grow&Go FF Ody side view

Overall Impressions:image

For families wanting to buy one seat for use from birth through to the high back booster stage this is a very attractive option. Those of you with medium-large vehicle interiors should have no trouble attaining the required recline rear-facing through that use of the seat. High five to Safety 1st for blazing the trail to require a minimum age of two to use the seat forward-facing. This seat should reasonably last for most kids through age 6 if not longer, depending on proportions. If you have one of those immensely long torsoed children — something you won’t obviously know if you are shopping while still pregnant! — you can always cross that bridge when you come to it. At a minimum you will need a backless booster to last your child through age 10-12 when their boostering days are over and they pass the Five Step Test for seat belt fit.

The finishing is nice, the features are easy to use and clearly labeled, and kids and parents alike find it comfortable and user-friendly. It has to be rather difficult to design a seat that truly will fit a newborn AND a 6 year old well – but Safety 1st has done it.

To celebrate this accomplishment our generous friends at Safety 1st are giving away one Grow & Go to you, lucky readers! To enter please use the Rafflecopter widget below. Thank you to Safety 1st for providing the seats used in this review, but all opinions are our own.

Contest now closed, congrats to the lucky winner!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Layers and Blankets and Toques - Oh My!

imageWinter is here…brrr! No matter what part of Canada you live in we want to help the whole family be safe and warm in the car. With a few tips, some explanation around why it matters, and no need for fancy or expensive gear, your whole family can be riding safely no matter what Mother Nature has in store.

Keep the harness (or seat belt) close to the body

By close we mean close…super close! When car seats are crash tested there are strict rules around exactly what the test dummies wear, and it’s not much. Remove bulky layers that interfere with the harness being close to the body. With bulky layers removed make sure the harness passes the pinch test, and for booster riders and adults ensure the lap belt is under any coat or sweater, and then snug up the shoulder belt and place it against the chest.

What defines “bulky?” That’s a bit tricky. Anything big, lumpy, thick, oversized…will it interfere with proper harness placement or positioning? That’s the ultimate question. At the end of the day it’s a judgment call and requires some common sense and critical thinking. It’s notoriously difficult to gauge simply from a photo whether something is “too bulky” or “poorly fitting.” It can help to buckle a child in regular clothing, undo the harness without loosening it, dress in whatever layer is in question, and attempt to rebuckle. If you can – carry on! If you have to loosen a hair – probably also carry on, because that layer doesn’t disappear like magic in a crash! If you have to loosen quite a bit then it’s not a good choice because the looser the harness, the further away it is from the body. Make sense?

How to keep the harness (or seat belt) close? Thin, insulating, well-fitting layers

We don’t want anyone half naked, or under-dressed, because that would be…well, cold. You can be smart with your layers and here’s how: choose items that retain heat, such as fleece, down, wool, and other performance synthetics. Cotton does not keep you warm if it gets damp (if you’re sweating for example) but wool and fleece will keep on doing their thing. They’re also quite dense so if they fit well and aren’t overly thick, they won’t get in the way of how the harness (or seat belt) sits against the body, and they won’t disappear or compress much in a crash.

Do you prefer the convenience of a full body suit?

  • Many brands now make thin, warm fleece suits (typically avoid the lined ones, and certainly avoid any with filling or padding).
  • Look for something that is trim in cut (avoid the wide boxy ones).
  • Don’t size up because you don’t want it to be lumpy and bumpy and get in the way of the harness.
  • Try your child in it to make sure you can still get an excellent harness fit! What works for one child in a particular seat may not work for another. Babies and kids come in different shapes and sizes.

Same goes for “car seat safe” coats. These are not parkas, rather they are paper-thin compressible down jackets or suits that are handy for in and out of the car while running errands but won’t likely cut it for serious winter play. More brands than ever are making it affordable to go this route – look for something labelled “packable.” If you shop at Costco (in August!) look for packable down coats  for around $35 (available is kids’ sizes 4 to adult XL). Other options include the Cozywoggle coat, or a car seat poncho that you can make yourself without any sewing skills.

After a child is buckled, put their coat on backward, or a blanket over top for added warmth.

A visual demo because we like pictures.

Thin, packable coat (in blue on the left) or a fleece jacket (in pink on the right), fleece pants, mitts and a toque – safe and warm. Layer up with a blanket or bring along the winter coat. Note: five year olds make awesome fashion choices.

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NOT okay. With a bulky parka and snow pants the harness can not be properly positioned or tightened. Furthermore this child would overheat very quickly and can’t remove layers as the car warms up. Note: grumpy face was not at our direction. She really did not like this one bit.

 

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How about boostered kids (or adults too)? Same principles apply. Always put the lap belt under any top layers. Dress in thin, well-fitting layers such as the blue packable jacket, open bulkier coats so the lap and shoulder belt can touch the body without interference, or remove bulky coats and cinch the belt tight over thin-to-medium weight snow pants.

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NOT okay – the belt is sitting much too far off the body. Note: self-inflicted grumpy face here too. “Mom, I’m squished, let me out!”

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Why does it matter? What’s the big deal?

Air is the enemy here! Avoid puffy, bulky items that are warm because they’re full of air. Great for the toboggan hill, not for the car or booster seat. You know those vacuum pack bags to store clothing or extra bedding — how you can make a previously gigantic piece of clothing quite tiny by sucking all the air out? That’s basically what is going on in a crash. Crash forces are extreme and compress the bulk and air so much so that suddenly your child’s harness is really loose, no matter how much you tighten the harness to begin with. Loose enough to cause injuries, or allow partial or complete ejection. Bad stuff you don’t want to experience.

Parents worry that if they are in a crash and their child is dressed only in a fleece they’ll die of hypothermia before help arrives. Remember that your child is not dressed only in a fleece, but rather thin, warm layers, and that the first goal is to survive the crash. Injury from ejection is immediate — hypothermia is not. Survive the crash, and then worry about the rest.

 

Keep Warm Stuff in the Car

Keep a fleece or wool blanket in the car, permanently. Thrift shops are great places for really warm stuff for cheap as chances are you’ll get snow, winter slush, and other assorted kid detritus on the blankets so they don’t need to be fancy — just warm. Kids will toss them off once they warm up.

If you are going somewhere to play outside bring the bulky layers with you! Is it a pain to try to dress a squirmy kid anxious to get sledding? Why yes, yes it is….such is life with a toddler (dang, someone should have told us that before we had kids!).

What if you break down and have to walk? Have an emergency kit that stays in your car, and  includes spare layers. While half of us are based on Vancouver Island, we have all lived, or live, in places where -40C° happens. We are not supermoms, just regular parents like you. We can do it,  and so can you.

A sample outfit for any age: tights or leggings, topped by fleece pants. Wool socks. Undershirt or tank top, long sleeve thermal shirt, thin fleece sweater, topped by a trim fleece jacket. Or a super thin down jacket (compresses to basically nothing, often called “packable”). Toque, mitts, and a blanket in the car? Presto chango, warm and comfy.

 

Help other parents! How do you keep your family warm and safe in the car? Any tips for success? Share them here! Please note that comments are moderated so yours might not appear right away. Thanks for reading!