Stand by for more product reviews this week–and not all kid stuff!
A major problem to be solved by carless urban parents is: How do we get the carseat and the kid to the car? We use CityCarShare and ZipCar–public transportation just doesn’t always cut it–and for the first year, it was a cinch: plenty of strollers are made to accommodate an infant carseat. Strap into the carseat, lock into the stroller, and then just unlock and install into the car.
Once they’re past infant size, though, the carseats get gargantuan, and stay that way until they move into booster seats at 60 pounds. Based on its “foldable” feature, we ponied up $230 and bought the Sunshine Kids Radian 65. The Sunshine Kids website features a woman with this carseat cheerfully slung over her back, and this woman apparently is a vampire slayer, because that is the only explanation for smiling while carrying the Radian 65. When it folds, it’s only slightly smaller than it is open, and its steel frame tips it in at 23 pounds. In this case, at least, foldable does not equal portable. Throw in there that it’s a monster to install and we hate the evil thing.
The main issue with installing it is the top tether, which is required for stability. You can shorten and lengthen the length of the tether, but the buckle at the Y of the tether is not adjustable. Because we install it every time we go anywhere, and often install it in different cars, this creates a problem that can only be solved by sounding like Chef Ramsay on a bad night. If the headrest doesn’t extend more than a half inch from the seat–and many don’t–it’s virtually impossible to pull the tether tight enough, because the Y-buckle won’t pull all the way under the headrest. Because the placement of the Y is locked, we can’t tighten it closer to the carseat, or loosen it so it goes around the entire headrest. Because of the tether issue, the LATCH system is no easier or faster than just using the plain ol’ seatbelt. We timed it, several times.
Caveat to that rant: in some cars, like the Honda Fit, we can install this in less than four minutes. The headrest goes up high enough for the buckle to slip under. But in the low-headrest cars, no dice.
Got all that? No? Then just trust me: installing this beast every time you go somewhere could make you want to kill someone. We’ve started gauging our outing success on the number of swear words we say pre-departure.
On the upside, it’s narrower than most carseats, so it does store better than the really big ones would. And it’s undeniably safe–the steel frame makes it feel like an astronaut could break atmo and never flinch.
If you’re installing this once and leaving it in the car until the kid outgrows it, this would be a fine carseat, although the foldable feature would be pretty much useless at that point. But if you have to uninstall and install a carseat every time you get in the car, this may not be the best choice for you.
GoGo Babyz Kiz Travelmate
The one thing that’s made the Sunshine Kids seat tolerable is the GoGoBabyz Kidz Travelmate. (Worst name ever, by the by–always makes me think of smoothie names at Jamba Juice.) The idea’s pretty simple: make your carseat into a stroller. According to the reviews, most folks use the Travelmate for airports, and have complaints about it not fitting through security, and that it’s difficult to latch and unlatch in a hurry. We just use it to get the carseat to the garage, so we haven’t dealt with the airport situation.
Note: do not attempt to fasten this without thoroughly reading the directions. We did this and ended up having to cut off a long strip of the strap because the buckle was poorly marked; their “quick release” is not always so quick. But our screwup didn’t make it unusable, and David has since become expert at sliding it through the seat belt hole in the carseat, slipping it through the buckle, and tightening it into place. He’s even managed it with Eliza asleep in the seat. It collapses fairly flat and small, so it doesn’t take up much space. My only complaint, other than the poor markings on the buckle, is that it costs $80. It’s essentially a rejiggered plastic hand truck.
We’re likely going to be buying a new carseat to replace the Radian, but when we do, we’ll continue using the Travelmate to get the stroller to the garage.