Monday, September 20, 2010

Umbrella Strollers: A Thorough Review

Posted by Ask Chavi at 4:41 PM
I am sure many of you have read my thread about how I decided on the Bumbleride Indie, but today I wanted to write about an entirely different class of stroller.  My Indie is great.  I keep it in my house (in my dining room during the week) and use it for taking walks (I walk about an hour each week day).  It works great for walking and handling bumpy sidewalks, grass, gravel etc.  However, it is rather bulky and inconvenient for the car.  When folded, it takes up much of the trunk space in my Pontiac Vibe, and it is heavy and awkward to lift in and out.  Additionally, it takes a little too long to fold and open when trying to get errands done and requires two hands to fold.

As I started to plan my Sukkot vacation, I realized that I would be flying with baby, and therefore wanted a more convenient stroller for travel.  I read a number of air travel horror stories about expensive strollers breaking from gate checking and how the airlines will not replace your broken stroller.  Therefore, I wanted to find a stroller for under $100, that had some basic features, was light enough to travel with and that I wouldn't be devastated about if it happened to get damaged during travel. Additionally, I happen to have a really tall baby who grew out of her Graco Snugride car seat before she was even 5 months old, hence I was not able to use my snap and go anymore.

$60 and Under:
The problem with the strollers under $60 is that they do not recline, they do not have canopies that remotely shade ones child and the handles are much too short to be comfortable for tall parents.  If you just need a cheap stroller to get through an airport and are not planning on using it outside at all, then I suppose this could be sufficient.  Since it does not recline, do not plan on depending on it as a place where your child could fall asleep.  The First Years Strollers below do recline, but they lack some other essential features.  You can also find a cheap no whistles umbrella stroller for under $30 much like the Cosco Umbrella stroller.

 












Over $150: The Luxury Umbrella
In this class of umbrella, the strollers really shouldn't be called umbrellas except that they have the easy compact fold and lightweight design.  Maclaren is known for their easy hands free fold, good maneuverability and sleek design.  The Maclaren strollers have a much better canopy than the bargain umbrellas, but the strollers weigh more.  The Maclaren Triumph comes in at a pricey $170, where as their Techno XT comes in over $300.  (To be fair the Techno XT functions as a complete travel system with car seat adapter, reclining seat, larger basket, larger canopy, better quality wheels etc.)  Many people swear by their Maclarens and say they are well worth the money.  The Triumph handles were taller than most, but still a little too short than I would prefer in order to be comfortable for me at 5'8''.  I was hesitant to spend over $150 on a second stroller (third if you count my snap and go) considering I paid over $450 for my Bumbleride. 

Another stroller I tried in this price range was the UppaBaby G-Luxe.  Its most striking features were its extremely low weight at 11 pounds, carry strap, reclining seat back and extremely large canopy.  When I tried it out in stores, I was disappointed that the stroller quality seemed cheap and it did not look very durable.  The colors are very vibrant and attractive, but it wasn't enough to justify me paying $160 for an umbrella.  Additionally, the strap that controlled the recline was poorly made and did not even function properly on the sales floor.

The Peg Perego Aria (not an umbrella style, but lightweight) took me by surprise when I saw how compactly it folded with one hand.  It is the only stroller I'm reviewing in this section that has a snack tray which is a must for some moms.  It was extremely light and easy to fold, but I did not like the plasticy appearance of the stroller.  If its appearance does not bother you, and you want to have a snack tray, then it could be a great stroller for you.














Around $100: The Sweet Spot

The Chicco Liteway was recommended to me by a friend.  It has an amazing recline feature that can be done with one hand (instead of a strap method).  It folds quickly and compactly.  It weighs a little more than other umbrella strollers, coming in at a whopping 17 pounds but handles extremely well.  It has a carry handle, but no carry strap, adjustable leg rest.  I tried it in the store and liked it, but really wanted something lighter and something that had a carry strap.

The UppaBaby G-Lite looks extremely similar to the G-Luxe except it is lighter at only 9 pounds, has a tiny canopy comparable to the size of the under $60 category strollers and does not recline.  It did not fulfill any of my desired criteria except for being extremely light weight. 

The Maclaren Volo is extremely popular and weighs 9 pounds.  However it does not recline, hence not suitable for children under 6 months old, the seat back is thin mesh and does not provide great back support, so if your child likes to sit forward in the stroller this is not the umbrella for you.  It apparently holds up very well, but does not have many features except that its canopy is larger than other strollers in its weight class.

 











 
Britax Blink Lightweight Stroller, CowmooflageI ended up purchasing the Britax Blink which was only $99 on Amazon and included the travel bag (a $20 value).  The Britax Blink has all the bells and whistles that the Maclaren Triump has, but is at least $70 cheaper and included the bag!  It has a strap recline, that reclines near flat (about 30 degrees) which my baby can comfortably fall asleep in.  It has a basket that is easily accessible when the seat is up, or can be accessed from the side if the seat is reclined.  It has a one touch break that breaks both back wheels, and the front swivel wheels can be locked into place with ones foot.  The canopy is much larger than many of the other umbrellas and even has a little extra lip for sun protection and also has a peek-a-boo window.  It has a 5-point harness which I imagine will be extremely difficult for an older toddler to open.  It has a 55 pound passenger weight limit which is excellent.  The seat back is very tall and will accommodate a tall child.  The handles were also tall and are very comfortable for me to push.  Its folding system is almost identical to Maclaren (pull up on carry strap, step on side latch and stroller collapses).  To open you just release side lock and press down on a lever with your foot (Hands free!).  It takes up much less space in my car than my Snugrider Snap and Go and even though it is 16 pounds I can easily lift it in and out of my car with one hand holding on to the carry strap which will also allow me to carry it through the airport on my shoulder if need be.


The stroller originally retailed for $149 and I think the reason it was reduced in price was to make way for the Britax B-Nimble which looks even better than the Blink.  It will be only 14 pounds and will actually have a car seat adapter to make it compatible as a complete travel system from birth to early childhood!  It isn't coming out until the end of October 2010 and it is retailing at $200 (Take THAT Maclaren XT!!!).  I am excited for Britax's further entry into the stroller market, and I hope they bring the same value, quality and safety to their future strollers that their car seats are known for!

Please leave comments or email me if you have any questions,
Chavi

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