Clek Liing car seat with baby

Clek continues to innovate and combine style with safety, usability, and functionality, and all of those features are seen meshing beautifully in the Clek Liing.

Liing is a rear-facing only (RFO) seat and rounds out Clek’s lineup of seats that now cover all ages and stages. It comes in a few different fashions and fabrics, and is available wherever Clek seats are sold. Liing retails for $479-$579 depending on fabric.

If you are unsure of what type of seat you might want to start with for your newborn, have a read of this article first. It will help to break down the pros and cons of a rear-facing only seat like the Liing, or going straight to convertible such as Clek’s Foonf or Fllo with Infant Thingy and more..

NEW! Coming soon is the Clek Liingo, a carrier-only version of the Clek Liing that has UAS on the carrier…and no base! This is a super option for those of you without cars, or who rarely use a car, but want the flexibility of a quick and easy installation in taxis, while traveling, or using car shares. Read more about Liingo specifically here. Please note though that the Liingo isn’t out yet, and this review addressed the Liing (with base). We’ll update when we know more!

Clek Liing Highlights:

  • Brilliant mechanism for recline adjustment after the base is installed
  • Beautiful fabric and finishing
  • Highly functional newborn support system to ensure comfortable, easy-to-use fit on even the smallest babies
  • Easy to install and highly compatible in a wide range of vehicles

Game-Changer Alert!

Liing is smooth, and easy to use with slick design and style, but the biggest highlight of this seat is an industry-first feature that solves one of the biggest challenges parents have when they install their seat – which simultaneously makes baby safer and parents happier! What is this mysterious innovation? The ability to adjust the recline after the base is installed instead of setting it as you install, which can sometimes be trial and error or difficult to achieve. This is a game-changer, and we can not emphasize enough how great this feature is. We have a video so you can see it in action, read on! If you can’t wait, you can watch it here.

*Animated GIF to show how recline adjusts after installation; used with permission, from Clek’s product page at www.clekinc.ca*

Liing is made to fit children:

Seat specs:

  • Lowest harness height (with newborn support system padding in place): 4.5”
  • Highest harness height (without infant support system): 9.75”
  • Maximum seated height (bum to top of head): 17”-18″ depending on if load leg is stored or in use, see here for more info –> but children will settle into a seat differently, so this is an approximate measurement that might not be terribly useful between children or between seats.
  • Width at widest point: 13.2” (base) and 16.9” (with carrier on base)
  • Size of base/footprint on vehicle seat: 22.6” x 13.2”
  • Crotch buckle positions: 1, but position relative to child is managed with a newborn support system, so measurements aren’t informative regarding fit
  • See some great overall seat measurements here (scroll down for a diagram)
  • Fabric options include jersey knit, premium C-Zero plus, and merino wool. The seat shown in this review is shown in ‘Mammoth’ merino wool, and it is divine.
  • Substantial canopy that pivots smoothly has good coverage, complete with a zippered expansion panel and a sleek, magnetic rear-view window.
  • Load leg required (read more about this later on) after the child weighs 22 lbs (10 kg) but is highly recommended at all times.

Gallery & Features

 

Clek Liing body padding
Infant support system shown here and includes that squarish under-bum pad. The fabric (Mammoth) is a darker grey than shown here, the lighting makes it look lighter than it is.

 

Clek Liing recline bubble
Easy-read weight-based recline indicator – adjust AFTER installation, woot!

 

Base with rigid UAS and load leg.

 

Clek Liing canopy
Substantial canopy with zippered expansion shown in the open position for maximum coverage.

 

Accessible rear view window in the canopy.

 

Carrier release handle is on the base.

 

 

Will Liing fit in your car?

Almost certainly yes. It’s narrow, it’s compact front to back, and it’s easily installed with either rigid UAS or seat belt (not both at the same time).

Those of you with under-floor storage – such as the Stow & Go seats – will need to read your manual carefully to see if you may use a load leg in those seating positions. Mostly the answer will be no, which is a shame, because it will limit the use of Liing to a max weight of 22 lbs (10 kg), at which point the load leg is required.

Liing is so easy to install, and works so nicely with either the UAS or seat belt installation — or even baseless! — that it’s not necessary to provide a huge range of fit photos. For one of my photo sessions I needed to quickly change vehicles to better accommodate the light at the time, and baby’s rapidly deteriorating mood, and uninstalled and reinstalled in less than a minute. Clek anticipated many installation challenges and overcame them with design features. It couldn’t be simpler.

Clek Liing in Honda Civic
Clek Liing installed with a seat belt in the middle of a 2012 Honda Civic, leaving ample room for a tall driver.

 

 

Installation Gallery and Features

Clek Liing installs easily and quickly in one of three ways. Note that we have shown the load leg in use in all photos but it is possible to install the base without it, but limits the use of the seat to a child weight of 22 lbs (10 kg).

  1. With the base using rigid UAS;
  2. With the base using the seat belt;
  3. Baseless using the seat belt.

Base with rigid UAS plus load leg:

All of the photos here show the base in use with the load leg. If your vehicle permits it, use it. It’s an added safety feature that you should make every effort to take advantage of with this seat. Please note that this isn’t an installation guide; Clek has wonderful support resources on their site, including video manuals, FAQs, and ways of getting one-on-one product support if you have questions.

How long it took me to install the base and adjust the recline, without trying very hard. And it’s not just because I’m good at this! It truly is that straightforward.

 

Rigid UAS extended, installed, and showing green (for good to go!)

 

Load leg storage position neatly and easily keeps the load leg ready to use.

 

Load leg extended, and showing green (for good to go!) Apologies for the state of my floor.

 

Base with recline sled at most upright position (for older babies).

 

Base with recline sled at most reclined position (for younger babies).

 

Base with seat belt plus load leg:

We show the base installed here with a lap/shoulder seat belt. It is also possible to install it with a lap-only belt but as that type of belt is increasingly rare we have not photographed it for this review.

Seat belt routed as directed.

 

Push down to close the belt tensioner over the seat belt.

 

Indicator in the belt tensioner is green (for good to go!)

 

Buckled belt, with a closed and locked belt tensioner.

 

Baseless with seat belt:

Liing is easy to install without the base for times when you are traveling, hopping in a friend’s car, or need maximum portability with your car seat. Note that the style of installation shown here is known as “Euro routing” where the shoulder portion of the seat belt wraps around the rear edge of the car seat. The carrier is clearly labeled with blue routing tabs on the sides and at the rear of the seat.

Buckle-side view of a baseless installation.

 

Baby-side view of a baseless installation.

 

Rear view of a baseless installation.

 

Side view of a baseless installation.

 

See Liing in action here in a video tour that shows various methods and features:

 

Will Liing fit your baby?

The design of Liing is ideal for the smallest babies, and together with the broad range and easy adjustability of the recline, chances are excellent you and your baby will be happy with the fit right from the start — even with a preemie. Thank you to the baby models, and the parents who shared their lovely children and their comments for this review.

Like most seats in the RFO category, the 35 lbs (15.9 kg) weight maximum is an overestimate for most kids, but the height limit (32” / 81.3 cm) and shell depth is right on par with other RFOs we know and love. The seated height limit — corresponding to the shell depth — together with the shape of your baby will influence how long the seat will last for, but many kids will get more than a year out of it. Big babies will get less, and small ones will fit for longer, but that is true of all car seats at all stages! Once your baby outgrows Liing you will have a good idea of your child’s build and growth pattern and can keep that in mind going forward. You can check out size-for-age growth charts here if you are interested.

Clek Liing newborn
Our test doll is approximately the size and shape of a 6 lb baby. Liing tightens and adjusts very well for a model this size.

 

Clek Liing newborn baby
This 7 lbs, 9 day old newborn fit very well in Liing. This wee one’s parents liked the adjustability and how the padding felt very well-positioned and comfortable.

 

Clek Liing 4 month old baby
At 4 months, 13 lbs, and 25″, this baby is not using the newborn support system (it comes out at 11 lbs), but fits well with the head support cushion in place and lots of room to grow.

 

Clek Liing 6 month old
At 6.5 months and 16 lbs, Liing is an excellent fit for this baby. At his size there is plenty of room for the head pad to remain in for extra head protection.

 

Clek Liing 9 month old
At 9 months, 20 lbs, and 29″, this baby still has room to grow. He was happier without the head padding, and we love his toque!

 

Clek Liing 11 months
At 11 months, 22 lbs, and 31″, this was the biggest baby we tested and he is nearly at the height limit of 32″. He is VERY tall for his age though, and most babies will last longer than a year.

What do CPSTs think of Liing?

I have been working with seats — writing about them, testing them, teaching parents about them — for almost ten years now. My own children are now well out of harnessed seats, which makes it harder to field test seats for babies and young children. I’ve been fortunate to have a helpful and giving community and means I get to meet new babies when I need models!

In all my years of doing this I have seen manufacturers come out with a lot of great things, and I know a parent-friendly feature when I see one! This CPST loves so much about the Liing. It has everything I’ve come to expect from Clek.

I love it when manufacturers design in a solution to a problem that parents don’t know they have. In this case, that is the post-install recline adjustment. It is BRILLIANT. I can’t emphasize that enough. One of the top reasons caregivers reach out for help with their baby’s seat is they are struggling to understand or to solve the recline issue, and a properly reclined infant is so very important to protect the airway. Recline adjustment after installation takes the guesswork out of it.

I am also a fan of the load leg, which joins a small but growing collection of rear-facing only seats on the Canadian market to include this feature frequently seen in Europe. See the load leg in action here: https://youtu.be/TlReOm8gsYI

It is really important to note that a seat without a load leg in use is absolutely still safe when used correctly. So is the Liing and you’ll see the two installations side by side in that video (two Liings: one with the load leg, and one without). It is always preferable for the car seat to do the work of absorbing the energy of a crash, and that is something the load leg does. It is worth mentioning again that some vehicles forbid the use of a load leg, and that is because the floor design isn’t intended to handle the force of the leg pushing down on it in a crash. If you have under-floor storage or a hollow space where the load leg will rest it’s extra important to consult your vehicle manual for any prohibitions. If you are able to use it though – make every effort to do so.

What do caregivers think of Liing?

When I test-fit the children shown in this review into Liing I also asked the caregivers what they thought of the seat. Conveniently they were all using different brands of seats from each other, and so I collected a number of great comments from real parents. These included:

  • Liking the feel and shape of the handle and how the carrier fit against the body when carrying (taller parents noticed more comfort in particular)
  • All loved the fabric and finish. Unless you have a wool allergy I don’t think the merino cover could possibly disappoint.
  • The ease with which the handle pivots past the canopy was remarkable and everyone noticed this.
  • Some parents found it lighter than their current carrier, and others found it heavier. Without the infant support padding the Liing weighs in at 9 lbs. This is pretty average. Once you add a baby to that and start schlepping it all around you don’t really notice a small difference in carrier weight. Your arms will get pretty buff regardless.
  • Parents commented that their babies seemed comfortable and well-supported in the seat, and they liked the infant support system padding and adjustability.
  • Parents commented that they loved the canopy: how smoothly it moved, and how well it covered the seat and their child, that it expanded with a tidy zipper, and the rear viewing window was smooth and provided nice airflow and visibility.
  • The weight of the base was a bit of a surprise to most, but once installed — which again, is super easy to do — weight isn’t an issue.

Will Liing fit your stroller?

Probably yes, as Liing is compatible with Maxi-Cosi adapters. See Clek’s complete list of stroller compatibility here.

What do YOU think of Liing?

Do you like it or do you love it?

Truly though, it’s a thing of beauty. Are you excited? Tell us about it! And enter for a chance to win one of your own, with thanks from Clek. Clek also provided the seat used in this review, but opinions are our own.

For your entry to be valid you must:

  1. Click on the giveaway graphic below to enter your details on the giveaway widget tool that we are using to collect responses and randomly choose a winner.
  2. If you choose to post a comment (please do, we love hearing from you), it won’t appear immediately because we moderate them. Trust us that it will though, and carry on.

 


About the author of this review:

Jen Shapka is a CPST and Instructor-Trainer in Winnipeg, and misses working with parents, families, and technicians-in-training. She is hunkering down with her family and waiting for Covid Times to be over with already. It does not help that it’s practically still winter. These days, she can usually be found sewing surgical-style caps for healthcare workers, limiting how many sweet treats her kids want to bake in one day, and racking up the kilometres running around her neighbourhood. Jen can be reached at greybird.cpst@gmail.com.

Baby in Evenflo EveryStageThe Evenflo EveryStage is an all-in-one (rear-facing, forward-facing, booster) seat from Evenflo. Sometimes these seats are referred to as multi-mode seats, 3-in-1s, or all-in-ones. You will find the EveryStage in several trim levels: (1) LX, which is much like what is shown here but has premium push-on UAS connectors instead of the EasyClick ones on the (2) DLX  shown throughout this review. There is also a Gold level, which comes with additional features.

Measurements & Seat Specs

Rear-facing

  • 4 – 50 lbs (1.8 – 22.6 kg)
  • 17 – 48” (43 – 122 cm)
  • Top of child’s head is at least 1” below the bottom of the headrest adjustment lever

Forward-facing

  • 22 – 65 lbs (10 – 29.4 kg)
  • 28 – 49” (71 – 124 cm)
  • Top of child’s ears are at or below the top of the headrest
  • At least two years old

Booster

  • 40 – 120 lbs (18 – 54.4 kg)
  • 28 – 49” (71 – 124 cm)
  • Top of child’s ears are at or below the top of the headrest
  • At least four years old

 

Seat Measurements

  • Lowest harness height (with infant padding in place): 7.5”
  • Highest harness height (without padding): 17.75”
  • Highest shoulder belt guide position for booster use: 18.5”
  • Seated bum to top of head while rear-facing: 26”
  • Width at widest point (cup holders): 19.75”
  • Size of base/footprint on vehicle seat: 11.5” wide x 15.75” deep
  • Crotch buckle positions: 3.25” with infant padding, 4” without padding, and 5.5” without padding

 

The EveryStage Elevator Pitch:

  • Lots of premium features
  • Easy to use
  • Innovative interior design to protect young baby’s airway
  • Innovative, easy-to-use UAS installation
  • Broad recline range
  • Anti-rebound bar
  • Medium in size front-to-back when rear-facing – not a good choice for tiny cars with tall adults
  • Medium torso height for forward-facing harnessed use

The Evenflo EveryStage has a lot going for it, and fits nicely into the all-in-one category…possibly front of the line, depending on your needs, size of vehicle, and what features you consider important. It boasts a long list of premium features, is easy to use, and is a great addition to this category.

Like all multi-mode seats it tends to do some stages better than others, but it is a very functional seat in all modes. Is it the last seat your child will ever need? Not likely, but no seat can really claim this for sure. It’s impossible to know what your 6 month old child’s build will be like as a pre-teen (yes, most kids do still need a booster seat at age 11!).

But, chances are excellent the EveryStage will be usable by most kids from the newborn size through to booster age. The vast majority will require a backless booster to last until seat belt readiness. Also? It’s a rare 8-11 year old who would want to sit in something that is obviously a car seat. By that age, most are ready for a more discreet option. Thankfully Evenflo offers some choice in that department, as do other brands. And if you have younger children to pass this down to you will enjoy the usability and plush features, and with the ten year lifespan you will have ample opportunity to put it through its paces!

Moving on! The EveryStage has a long list of premium features, some of which are shown here in photos for your viewing pleasure:

  • The amazing, aptly named EasyClick UAS adjuster system. It’s a beautiful thing, and available on DLX and GOLD models; on the LX model you will find a premium push-on Quick-Connector. Use this method of installation to a child weight of 40 lbs; after that, install with the seat belt.

Evenflo EveryStage EasyClick UAS

  • Cushy fabrics with optional padding. We like optional, because kids come in different shapes and sizes.

newborn doll in Evenflo EveryStage

  • Anti-rebound bar for use when rear-facing (mandatory – easy to add and remove when needed)

Evenflo EveryStage anti-rebound bar

  • Removable cup holder liners (2) for dishwasher-safe cleaning

Evenflo EveryStage removable cupholders

  • Cleverly designed and easily used UAS storage for when the UAS is not in use.

Evenflo EveryStage UAS storage

  • Tether anchor is red for added visibility and as a reminder to use it forward-facing (always!). We’d like to see this trend across all car seat brands.

Evenflo red tether

  • The manual is clear, the labels are clear, the recline indicator is clear, and Evenflo’s customer service is standing by to answer any questions you might still have. 

Evenflo EveryStage label Evenflo EveryStage recline indicator

Rear-Facing Installation and Fit to Child

This is a substantial seat and is cushy and comfortable as reported by our parent and kid testers (thank you baby and toddler models!). The optional body pad and head pad can be used, or removed, as needed, but are for rear-facing use only. 

Baby in Evenflo EveryStage
16 lbs and 26″
Baby in Evenflo EveryStage
21.5 lbs and 28″
Toddler in Evenflo EveryStage
22 lbs at 19 months – tons of leg room.
Toddler in Evenflo EveryStage
Almost 4 and 33lbs, still tons of room to grow.

One tester immediately noticed she could reach her cup holders, and excitedly told me the treasures she was going to put there.

Evenflo EveryStage
27 lbs and 35″ with lots of room left (and very happy about that cupholder).

The harness covers are also optional and can be used in any direction of installation.

The fabric is machine washable and dryable. This is important if you have places to be, but the cover just came out of the wash. Check the manual for full cleaning instructions. A word of warning though – the harness is not replaceable on this model, so be sure to wipe up any spills as soon as they happen.

When installing the seat rear-facing we found the combination of clear, easy to read rolling ball level and the mechanical recline system easy to work with and manoeuvre. Note: if needed, it is allowable to use a small rolled towel to increase the recline even further. This is likely only in vehicles with very deeply sloped seats combined with young babies who need to be in the max recline position to avoid the dangerous chin-to-chest position.

Evenflo EveryStage recline indicator Evenflo EveryStage recline handle

On that note, the EveryStage is designed with a very ingenious mechanism that positions the baby at a more reclined angle when they are smaller, tilting the seat back to keep that airway open. See that feature in action here!

A common worry we hear from parents is that their infant’s head is tilting forward. The chin-to-chest position is very dangerous for newborns, and potentially uncomfortable for older babies. Often the problem can be fixed by ensuring the car seat is as reclined as allowed, but in some seats the dreaded head slump can’t be avoided even when fussing with positioning options such as adding or removing body padding. Parents of small babies will appreciate this internal recline feature. 

 

With an ability to hold a child up to 48” or 50 lbs, and plenty of leg room to go with it, the EveryStage should easily fit kids up to at least age 4 in the rear-facing position. 

 

Rated from 4 lbs and 17” it’s possible this seat will fit even very small babies from birth. Certainly it fit my small tester doll well, and my best guess on her is as an average 6 lb baby. If you’re intending to skip the rear-facing only infant-style seat and go straight to a larger convertible or all-in-one, the EveryStage should be in contention. Double check that you have adequate space to fully recline the seat in your vehicle. I could put it nicely behind the passenger of my 2012 Civic with room to sit in front (at 5’8) but it would be a tight squeeze in smaller cars with taller people.

newborn doll in EveryStage

 

It installed easily and quickly in a variety of vehicles, using the magnificent EasyClick or the seat belt. If I had access to lower anchors I would choose that with this seat every time. If you didn’t watch the video above, watch it now to appreciate the genius of EasyClick. 

Evenflo EveryStage rear facing
2012 Honda Civic
Evenflo EveryStage rear facing
2012 Honda Odyssey

Forward-Facing Installation and Fit to Child

Installation forward-facing is easy peasy. Remove the ARB if it’s there (simple to do). Recline the whole seat into position #4 or #5 (more upright), and confirm that the recline indicator (also used forward-facing for this seat) is in the correct zone and that the seat bottom is flat on the vehicle seat. The EveryStage headrest slides up and down, so ensure the vehicle head restraint doesn’t interfere or force it forward. 

Evenflo EveryStage ARB Evenflo EveryStage forward facing recline

Evenflo EveryStage label

If the vehicle head restraint interferes, you have a few options: check your vehicle manual to see if you are permitted to remove the head restraint (store it somewhere safe). If it must remain on, see if you are allowed to recline the vehicle seat a wee bit to account for this. Alternately, try making the EveryStage more upright (try recline position #5 if you’d been using #4), or, try a different seating position. Sometimes the geometry of the middle seat is different from the outer seats.

Make sure to use the tether strap always! It’s nicely visible in a red housing, and we commend Evenflo for making this easy change to encourage tether use. It’s a very important step! Check your vehicle manual for designated tether anchor positions.

Kid testers found it comfortable. Shown here are older kids who no longer fit rear-facing. This seat will accommodate average torso heights for most kids through age six. If your child is really tall or really long torsoed, a different seat may be a better option. Remember that a seat can be outgrown by torso height, as well as by standing height, or weight.

Evenflo EveryStage forward facing Evenflo EveryStage forward facing

 

Booster Mode & Fit to Child

Our booster riders reported that the seat was comfortable, and despite it sitting up higher than a standalone booster seat, it wasn’t too high to prevent the child from buckling themselves. The thighs had good support, the padding was comfy, and the seat belt retracted well through the shoulder belt guide (shown below) in the vehicles that were used. The testers did  not notice the feel of the harness stored behind them (more on that shortly), and attention to padding placement makes us believe they won’t notice long term.

Evenflo EveryStage belt guide Evenflo EveryStage label

 

Parents reported that the seat was easy to convert between harness and booster mode, which is definitely appealing to those who purchase this seat intending to use it for a range of kids (daycare, grandparents, etc). We like it when, after converting between modes, there isn’t a huge pile of parts to keep track of.

Evenflo EveryStage harness storage

At age eight and on the taller side, this tester has nearly outgrown the seat; however, he found it comfy and easy to buckle and did not protest helping out with this review!

 

Final Thoughts

We like this seat a lot. It is well-priced, comes with a long list of premium features, and fit well in a range of test vehicles. Thumbs up on this one!

Thanks to everyone who entered this giveaway is now closed.

 

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Updated Oct 2019.

Britax Skyline and Britax Highpoint are the current highback boosters from Britax. They both bring the usual plush fabric, attractive styling, premium features, and ease of use we have come to expect from Britax, and are both seats we would recommend to those for whom a seat belt-positioning booster is the right choice. For many kids, booster readiness happens around age 6.

The Skyline is the main product featured in this review. Where applicable we will outline differences found on the Highpoint, which has a few more features and is at a higher price point…oh. See how that works?

Seat Specs

  • For children who are 40-120 lbs, and 38″ – 63″ tall, and we recommend at least five years old but this is not a requirement of Britax’s
  • 10 position adjustable headrest
  • 2 dishwasher-safe removable and optional cup holders
  • Premium UAS connectors on flexible webbing
  • 10 year expiration
  • $149.99 Skyline and $199.99 Highpoint
  • UPDATE: Original version was a high back booster only – does not convert to a backless booster. Britax has updated the seats though and Skyline and Highpoint may be used in high back or backless modes. Check product details carefully before purchasing.

Dimensions (measurements approximate)

  • belt guide at lowest setting: 15″
  • belt guide at highest setting: 22.5″
  • between head wings: 10.5″
  • between shoulder/side wings: 16″
  • between arm rests at tailbone area: 11.5″
  • between arm rests at front edge of arm rests: 13″
  • depth of seat pan: 13.5″
  • external dimensions: 19.75″ at widest point (cup holders – optional), 19.5″ at widest flare of side wings, 35″ tall fully extended, 15″ wide at back/bottom of base, 17″ at widest point of the base. Highpoint slightly wider externally at headwings due to side impact energy-absorbing cushions.
Britax Skyline booster seat pan
Britax Skyline seat pan
Britax Skyline UAS adjuster and cupholder
Britax Skyline UAS adjuster and cupholder
Britax Skyline UAS storage and smooth base
Tidy UAS storage compartments (see it peeking out?) and a nice smooth base.

Child Fit:

As with all booster seats it is so very important to assess seat belt fit in any booster seat a child rides in. We found the belt fit in the Skyline to be quite reliable on the kids who tested it for us. They ranged in age from 5.5 and at the very minimum for weight, all the way up to 11 and close to the top end of the height limit.

Britax Skyline booster seat Britax Skyline booster seatBritax Skyline booster seat Britax Skyline booster seat

Lap belt fit was consistently excellent – great news!

Britax Skyline booster seat lap belt fit

Our kid testers reported the Skyline to be comfortable, with a nicely-padded cover that seems to stay in place well and doesn’t shift around as they move. It is on the narrow side at the hip width measurement, and some kids found it narrower through the shoulders than other booster they were familiar with. The head support was well-liked.

Britax Skyline booster seat

Some found the seat pan to be a little shallower than they’d prefer, but providing something lightweight to rest their feet on tends to resolve this complaint for any boostered or forward-facing child.

Overall it is a comfortable seat with excellent belt fit, and will last the majority of children through to “5-Stepping” with the adult seat belt, or certainly until they have the maturity and size to confidently use a backless booster seat. (Reminder that this seat does not convert to a backless booster – see note below).

It is very tall in the torso, enabling the shoulder belt to be well-positioned at or above the shoulder and crossing the collarbone on even very tall children.

The Highpoint booster (not pictured – see it on Britax’s site here) comes with a SecureGuard clip, formerly known as an SG clip on now-retired Britax products, and may provide improved lap belt fit or security on some children. It is not a crotch buckle, but rather it hooks over the lap belt and is meant to keep the lap belt well-positioned. Highpoint also has external side impact cushions that will increase the upper torso width measurement.

Fit to Vehicle Comments:

  • Position the back of the booster seat flush against the vehicle seat back when adjusted to a comfortably upright position; if your vehicle head restraint is creating a large gap behind the booster seat then the Skyline/Highpoint may not be a good fit for that seating position. Take a picture and contact Britax for advice.
  • The adjuster mechanism for tightening and loosening the lower anchors is located on the child’s left side. Plan ahead if the seating position you want to use means you have limited access to the adjuster.

Britax Skyline booster UAS adjuster strap

  • The booster seat itself adjusts to a very tall height, which is great, but in vehicles with a lower ceiling or very sloped ceiling, you may not be able to fully use that height. Not a bad problem to have though!
  • The bottom of the booster seat is smooth and flat and should cooperate nicely with leather upholstery

Overall Comments:

  • UAS is easy to use and adjusts smoothly. The connectors easily tuck away into the base and securely stay put during transfer between vehicles, or storage.
  • The cover is well-fitted and constructed and stays tightly in place, no shifting around.
  • Cupholders are easy to remove for dishwasher-safe cleaning
  • Head rest easily adjusts into one of ten positions
  • The fabric feels nice and of high quality

It doesn’t become a backless booster…so what?

Don’t let this put you off. Although we are accustomed to seats having more than one mode there’s no rule that says they have to. This is a sturdy (yet not overly heavy) booster seat that is attractive, comfortable, and long lasting. When and if your growing child needs a backless booster – for carpools, for a second vehicle, for travel – there are many on the market that are inexpensive and portable. One of our very favourites is under $20.

Perhaps you have a younger child to pass this one down to, or perhaps it stays in the vehicle you use for longer trips. Although my tall, just-turned 11 year old doesn’t need a booster seat at all in some vehicles (where she 5-Steps and safely fits the adult seat belt), she prefers a high back booster for the cross-country drives we tend to take in the summer. She finds it more comfortable with supportive side wings and a comfy place to rest her head. Thankfully I can fully extend the Skyline booster in the captain’s seats of my van, and provided she still fits in it come July, that’s what she’ll ride in for the trip!

Where to Buy

Find Britax Highpoint and Britax Skyline where Britax products are sold.

Would you like to win one? Enter here!

Britax Skyline

Note: comments are moderated – add your reply, and we’ll approve them periodically. Thank you for your patience!
Disclosure: Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs is not responsible for sponsors who do not fulfill their prize obligations. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and any other social media are not affiliated with this giveaway. Open to Canadian residents, 19 years of age and older. Confirmed winner(s) will be contacted via email and have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be drawn. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited by law. Prize fulfillment is the responsibility of the sponsor(s). For questions or to see your product featured on the Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs blog contact us at info@vicarseattechs.com. 

 

World travelers (and also travellers – my Canadian spell check likes two Ls!) – do you wonder about
using your Canadian seat in the US or Europe, and worry about the legality of your seat while in another country? Worry no more! Harmony Juvenile, makers of many other favourites such as the Defender and Youth Booster, brings us the first ever triple-certified booster seat that folds into a portable block for ease of transport and storage.

World Traveler Folding Booster Overview

  • Compliant to Canadian CMVSS, American FMVSS, and European ECE standards and labeled accordingly
  • Suitable for children who weigh between 40-110 lbs (18.1-50 kg) AND who are 34-57″ (86.4-144.8 cm) tall.
  • Suitable for children who are able to sit properly at all times so that the shoulder belt fits across the middle of the collarbone and chest, and lap belt fits low across the hips; we recommend children be at least five years old before using a booster seat.
  • High back booster only; does not convert to a backless booster.
  • Expires six years from date of manufacture.
  • Removable cupholder swivels, can be installed on either side.
  • Lowest shoulder belt guide (position 1): 15″
  • Tallest shoulder belt guide (position 7): 19.5″
  • Dimensions: 17.38″ wide x 20″ deep x 30.75″ tall
  • Folds to a block 17.7″ x 15.9″ x 10.9″
  • Seat weight: 8.5 lbs
  • Available in Silver Tech (black and grey; red fashion shown in some photos is no longer available)
  • Removable, washable fabric cover
  • $99.97 at Walmart – might be on store shelves now, coming soon in Silver Tech for online sales

Rebecka, CPST-I of Safe Travels recently tested the World Traveler Folding Booster out on a trip to the sunny south.

Travel-ability

The World Traveler folds easily (although it becomes easier with practice) into a self-contained block, with a strap for carrying. It’s not heavy, but it’s a bit bulky for kids to carry very easily or far on their own.

With a bit of planning though it’s quite portable: combine it with a rolling suitcase, or find a cloth bag with bigger handles to loop over your arm for when you become the pack horse carrying everything, as is inevitable with tired, cranky kids. Side note: that suitcase…!

Although the World Traveler is larger than the typical carry-on size, it does fit well in the overhead storage bin. It did not fit in the smaller centre aisle overhead bin that is present on some planes, nor did it fit under the seat in front. But, we are hopeful that the flight crew would allow it on board even though it can not be used on the plane (no boosters can because they require a lap shoulder belt, and of course aircraft seats have only lap belts). Why not check it as luggage you ask? Because you want to be absolutely certain that your child’s booster winds up in the same location as you do, and arrives undamaged. Having it in the cabin with you is really the only way to be sure of that.

The red suitcase is the absolute biggest that fits in the carry-on sizer. Still lots of space in the overhead bin though.

 

Too tall to fit under the seat, and too tall to fit in the carry-on sizer.

Assembly

Keep a copy of the manual on your phone for easy reference – download it from Harmony here (now take a moment and save the file, not just the link. Don’t be stuck without wifi and not have access to your manual!). Of course it comes with a paper manual too, but we like to travel lightly, and also we are known to lose things.

World Traveler begins as a block, held in place by a strap that doubles as a carry handle. Slip it off, and then unfold the hinged back piece, removing the head piece as you go. Use the back rest lever to lock the back into place.

 

Here you have a headless booster seat – you’re not finished! The World Traveler is NOT a backless booster. Lock the head wings into place, and then insert the head rest into the body. To disassemble do everything in reverse, with the exception of lifting the locking tab (shown below) to release the head rest.

 

c

Other Features

The design of the World Traveller is such that there’s a slight angle to the seat pan, with EPE energy absorbing foam, a removable, machine-washable fabric cover, and a cupholder that can be installed on either side, and that swivels for convenience. If you take it with you on your travels make sure to keep track of it during transport.

Belt Fit / Fit to Child

When shopping for a booster seat we say over and over again that it’s all about the belt fit. This is still true, even when travelling. However, we do recognize that travelling families don’t have the option of knowing ahead of time what they’ll be driving, or bringing multiple seats just in case. With this in mind, we found the belt fit on the World Traveller to be fairly reliable. Always use a lap/shoulder belt, and look for it to be centred across the collarbone, and low on the hips.

What was not reliable was how smoothly the shoulder belt retracted through the shoulder belt guide.
Be mindful of it retracting back and forth as your child fidgets or sneezes, and although we want kids to be able to remain properly seated at all times the reality is that we all shift in our seats. If the shoulder belt doesn’t move smoothly at the shoulder then slack will hang there, meaning a loose seat belt. Across a variety of vehicles we found shoulder belt retraction to be hit or miss; it may be improved at different heights for bigger or smaller children. If you encounter this while travelling: try a different seat in the car (if available), and be very mindful of correcting it manually if needed, possibly even teaching your child to do it. This is not a practical fix for daily use, but when you’re away your options may be limited.

The head wings provide a good amount of padding and a place to rest a sleepy head. The World Traveller is quite upright, and not adjustable for recline. It is narrow, so likely to fit in slim seating positions. Aim to minimize gaps behind it, and if a vehicle’s head restraint is getting in the way, check the vehicle manual to see if it’s allowed to be removed to achieve a more flush fit with the vehicle seat. If you are unsure if a gap is acceptable, reach out to Harmony Juvenile for guidance.

 

Overall Impressions

The World Traveller is well-priced at $99.97, and easy to use. It provides reliable seat belt fit on a child’s body, but may not allow the shoulder belt to retract freely, meaning you must check for this in any new vehicle you’re riding in. It’s on the narrow side, and our kid testers found it comfortable to ride in and easy to buckle themselves. The triple certification is handy for families who cross borders, eliminating the worry about if their own seat is legal to use on a trip. We recommend familiarizing yourself with this seat in advance of any trip, and if it’s in storage for a while, unpack it and make sure your child still fits before using it again. If you use it only for travel then keep the box it comes in – nice and compact and everything will stay in one place!

Would you like to win one? The fabulous folks at Harmony Juvenile will provide one World Traveler Folding Booster in Silver Tech to one lucky winner in Canada.

To be eligible to win:

  1. Comment below, answering this question: where do you want to travel with this booster seat, and why? Comments are moderated, so won’t show up right away. That’s okay – trust us to take care of it.
  2. Use the Rafflecopter widget to claim your entries.
  3. Cross your fingers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Rebecka Mayne is a CPST-Instructor and is the owner of Safe Travels Car Seat Services. Rebecka is passionate about child passenger safety and is active on Facebook, and in her community of New Tecumseth as well as other areas of Ontario including Perth County, York Region and Simcoe County. Rebecka has a background in the addictions and adult mental health field and specializes in empathy and a non judgemental approach. Rebecka just got a new washer and dryer so if you need her, she’s in her laundry room watching them do their thing. She reports that “they are magical.”

 

 

Do you have a dog? Do you take your dog with you in the car? This post is for you!

If you’ve ever met with a CPST for a car seat check you may remember being told to contain your loose objects because they can move in a crash and injure someone. You know…put the trailer hitch, bricks, and hammer in the trunk or storage compartment please. Really anything loose should be contained, even a phone or a water bottle, because things move so significantly in a crash.

But what about fur babies? Does your pup ride in the back seat in between the kids? How about standing up in the aisle in the van, poking a head through to the front seats? On a lap? Please no. In a crash or hard braking event that unrestrained pet becomes a massive and potentially deadly projectile for the humans in the car, and that’s true even of small dogs. They could also be badly injured even if you aren’t.

So what to do? There are a few options, depending on what you drive, but one easy-to-use device to consider is a pet harness. There are a lot on the market, but there are no federal standards to meet as there are with car seats. The Center for Pet Safety and Subaru tested a range of pet harnesses in 2013 and gave their approval to the SleepyPod Clickit Sport, and now the brand new, more rugged, Sleepypod Clickit Terrain, offering better test results than the Sport and compatible with more Sleepypod accessories! Watch their crash tests with specially built dog test dummies. YouTube is full of dog crash test videos if you want to subject yourself to that.

Thanks to our three testers (and their humans) for helping to review!  The Sleepypod Clickit Terrain will be available soon in Canada but we’re here to tell you all about it and give you a chance to win one for your furry friend’s (and your family’s) safety!

Meet our Testers

Gizmo is a 2.5 year old, 60ish-lbs hound mix who likes eating socks, sitting on people, and short walks around the block. One of his other favourite activities is riding in the car — preferably to the beach, Dairy Queen or the vet. He’s modelling his brand new Sleepypod Clickit Terrain in “Orange Dream” in size large.

 

Yoshi is a 5 year old, 30lb Labradoodle. He is a great running partner and is tennis ball obsessed. He can often be found lounging by the fireplace watching the rain fall. Here Yoshi is modelling a size small in “Robin Egg Blue.”

 

Sorcha is a 10.5 year old rescue from Arizona who loves hot, sunny weather and food. When she’s not trying to avoid the rain here on the West Coast, she can be found playing with the cats, sleeping on the softest surface she can find, or hiking on the local trails with her family. Sorcha is wearing a size medium in “Robin Egg Blue.”

 

Harness Details

The orange/turquoise part of the harness is a heavy duty nylon-ish material, and the inside is a black neoprene. This harness is sturdy, with strong stitching, quality materials, and metal hardware, and is padded for comfort. The harness is attractive and the colours are fabulous. Shown here are Orange Dream and Robin Egg Blue but the Terrain also comes in Jet Black and Strawberry Red.

 

We also love this part– reflectors! We’re often out in the evening, so this is great for extra safety! Patches on the shoulder can be swapped out for service patches for working dogs. The Terrain is also compatible with pannier-like accessory bags if you want your dog to carry gear.

Watching the instructional video for tips on how to adjust to the dog’s shape and size made fitting it straightforward.

Three flat fingers under the heavy duty metal buckle to gauge a snug but comfortable fit, and the top buckle has two heavy duty D-rings for clipping a leash to it.

One of our favourite things about it is the leash can stay on the rings while in the car, making for easy in and out. We will also be using it for regular walks as Gizmo has a thing against cows and has broken through more then one collar and a handful of harnesses….

 

It was a bit tough to get buckled up, but we think that’s a Gizmo thing– he’s trained to jump in and lie down– he will have to be trained to sit, buckle and then lie down. Sleepypod offers some tips for getting your pet used to their new harness. No big deal, and worth the time and effort knowing he’s safer in the vehicle and so are the human passengers traveling with him.

 

Yoshi got the hang of buckling quickly.

Gizmo and Yoshi both seemed perfectly comfortable during the ride. They were able to sit up and lie down although it may take them a bit to get used to the feel of it. A short walk before the car ride to get used to the harness – or even wearing it in the house for a while –  is recommended. So far no chaffing or hot spots after using it.

Despite his ‘poor me’ expression, we think it’s going to work great for us!

Sorcha agrees, although her sad face may tell you otherwise.

Sizing

The Sleepypod Clickit Terrain is intended for dogs weighing between 18-90 lb – humans with smaller pets might consider a secured carrier instead. Gizmo is sporting the large, because that’s what he sized to on the chart, but because of his body style (slim and trim), he may fit better in the medium. Slim and trim builds seem to fit better in the smaller size (if your dog measures on the edge of a size), whereas barrel-chested dogs may fare better in the larger of two sizes. Yoshi measured on the edge of the small/medium but the small was a much better fit for him. We recommend contacting Sleepypod and asking for sizing advice if your dog measures right in between two sizes.

 

Final Thoughts

 

We commend Sleepypod’s commitment to safety in the car — for our furry family members, as well as our children and ourselves. However you travel make sure everyone is properly buckled up. We are extremely impressed by the quality, durability, and comfort of this harness, and look forward to using it in our vehicles.

Enormous thanks to Sleepypod for providing review harnesses – and now a harness for one of you! Win a  Sleepypod Clickit Terrain in the colour and size of your choice (subject to stock availability at time of shipping).

UPDATE: this giveaway is now over, thanks to all who entered!

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.

 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Is 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 

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!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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 is also available as a standalone seat, retailing 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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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 nearly as easy to use as we had hoped (it can be quite difficult). 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. Update: families have reported that kids can not stay in position and tend to slide forward, making the belt fit poorly.

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.

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, unpredictable belt fit, and ability of kids to stay in position that are 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!

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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, and that’s the tough part to maintain!

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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.

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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.

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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!


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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 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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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.

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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_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.

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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.

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. 

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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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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).