Posted Under: Reviews
What surprised me most about the Orbit Toddler Converible Car Seat G2 is how cool the spinning feature is. Well, duh, you’re thinking.
But really. See, I’ve installed Orbit infant seats before, and I’ve always been impressed by their quality and ease of use. I just never really understood the appeal of the rotating feature, at least for people with 4-door cars and no physical limitations. Maybe I had gotten too used to side-loading kids for 7+ years, but I didn’t see how loading a kid facing me would really be that much easier.
Then I got a chance to use an Orbit Toddler for a while, and now I’m totally hooked…
First, the stats.
Weight range: 15-35 lbs rear-facing, 25-65 lbs forward-facing
Shell height: 25 inches
Four harness positions: Bottom three can be use rear-facing, top three forward-facing
Bottom slot: 10″
Top slot: 18.25″
Three crotch strap positions: 4″, 6″, 7″
Internal seat depth: 11.25″
Internal seat width (bum): 11″
Interval seat width (head): 6.5-8.5″
External seat width at widest (bum): 19″
LATCH limit: 40 lbs
Heather reviewed the first-generation Toddler seat a couple years ago, and it is one of our recommended convertible car seats. Although many aspects remain the same, quite a bit has changed, some for better, some for worse.
This seat arrived at my doorstep the day before my six-month-old son had a little diaper incident in his Coccoro. He just met Orbit’s 15-lb minimum, so I decided he could take it for a spin, so to speak.
While he did fit (barely–the bottom slots were right at his shoulders), the seat installed so upright I decided it might not be the best choice for him right now. He still sleeps in the car on almost every trip, plus I had another kid who would be a much better candidate.
My daughter Anna was just about to turn 3. She is 37”, 30 pounds, and wears a 4T shirt. She typically uses a MyRide (which I always install as upright as possible, but which always settles back into the maximum allowed recline no matter what I do). In the MyRide, she has about two inches of shell left over her head, meaning one inch until it’s outgrown.
On first glance, the Orbit appeared to be about the same size as the MyRide. I put the harness in the third-from-the bottom slots, but after Anna climbed in (a bit of a feat considering that the Orbit does sit up very high on the base), I realized that l actually needed to move the straps down a set. That’s when it became apparent that the Orbit Toddler is more comparable to the Radian than the MyRide.
I had Anna fold her legs so I could spin her around. I thought for sure the seat would interfere with the back-of-the-seat protector we have to ward off footprints, but it was just fine, plus Anna found the spinning lots of fun.
As fun as it was, I still wasn’t convinced of the appeal of the rotation. I discovered its usefulness on our first trip out. When we arrived, I put the baby in a sling on my front, then went to get Anna. I rotated her to face me, and I effortlessly lifted her out. Until I had that for comparison, I hadn’t realized what I had been missing out on all these years. It sort of is a pain it is to try to lift a 3-year-old out of a seat sideways, especially while another kid is strapped to my front.
The other thing I loved was how upright it sits. The MyRide always wound up millimeters from the bar on the back of my Odyssey’s passenger seat. The Orbit allowed a couple inches. In this first photo you can see the Orbit in the foreground; MyRide in the background. (Excuse the mess in my car. We were in the process of moving.) You can also see the comparison of size in the second photo.
Because it’s tall and upright, I thought it might interfere with my view, but I had no problems. Other people in other vehicles might, though. I can’t say for sure.
I also assumed we’d have some head-slump due to how upright it is. We didn’t experience any, though. Here’s a picture of Anna tuckered out after her birthday celebration.
There are three ways to install the seat: rear-facing with the base, rear-facing without the base, or forward-facing without the base. You can use LATCH or the seatbelt with any method. When the base isn’t used, you must use the included Side Impact Braces that clip onto the seat.
I installed the seat every possible way in my 2010 Honda Odyssey:
Rear-facing with the base
I won’t go into a lot of detail about the Orbit Baby Car Seat G2 Base here, mostly because people interested in the Orbit Toddler seat probably already have the base from the infant seat. If not, you must buy the base separately, because it’s not included with the Toddler G2. If you need more information on installing the base, you can find it here.
One thing to note is that in order to use the Orbit Toddler G2 seat with the base, the base MUST have a green sticker on it. Newer ones will come with it. If you have an older one, you can contact Orbit for the necessary replacement parts.
After installing the base, I had to fiddle for a minute to get the seat into it. If it’s something you do a lot, you’ll probably get good at it. I don’t have an Orbit stroller, so once I had the seat in, I had no reason to take it out.
As I mentioned before, even with the base, the seat sits very upright, which is great for older kids. It also sits very high, but acrobatic kids probably won’t have too much trouble getting in or out. Mine didn’t.
Rear-facing without the base
When not using the base, you need to use the included Side Impact Braces. The same set of braces is used for rear-facing and forward-facing, but they go on different sides of the seat depending on orientation.
It sounded confusing to me until I actually tried to use them, and then it was extremely easy. The hardest part was getting the braces separated from each other (they come stuck together, and the manual recommends storing them that way, probably to avoid losing one).
The braces have color-coded spots that correspond to the desired installation direction: blue for rear-facing, red for forward-facing. (Those colors are used throughout the manual and on other parts of the seat as well.)
To make sure you’re putting the braces on correctly, you line up the appropriate tab with the colored line on the seat. (There is also an arrow that points toward the front of the car regardless of whether the seat is forward- or rear-facing.)
Once you have the braces on, you set the seat in the car and pull back the seatpad marked with a blue dot. That reveals the rear-facing lockoffs.
Whether using seatbelt or LATCH, you only use one lockoff. If you’re installing in an outboard seating position, you use the lockoff closer to the center of the car. If you’re installing in the center of the car, you can use either one.
For a LATCH install, you open the appropriate lockoff, then retrieve the LATCH strap from the compartment in the back of the seat and route it through the rear-facing belt path. You line up the center of the LATCH strap (marked with a yellow line) with the center of the belt path, then close the lockoff. Then you attach the connectors to your LATCH anchors and tighten each side of the LATCH strap while putting pressure on the seat. Check the angle, check for movement, and you’re done!
Installing with a seatbelt is the same, but different. You open the same lockoff as you would for LATCH, but don’t close it until you have routed the seatbelt, buckled it, and tightened.
The lockoffs are recessed into the seat, so if you get the belt too tight, you won’t be able to close it. The idea is that the lockoff will take out the last little bit of slack. I wanted to test that out, so I tightened the belt as much as I normally would. Sure enough, there was no way the lockoff would close. So I loosened the belt just a bit. Still a no-go. I did a little more. At that point, the lockoff clicked but was only partially closed. I had to loosen it a bit more still before it would close completely. Once it did, though, the seat was TIGHT.
I mentioned checking the angle, which is very easy to do thanks to the ball-indicator on the braces.
You can see that the ball is just about in the center of the acceptable zone–and you can see how upright the seat is. My level app measured it at 28.2 degrees!
To install forward-facing, you need to put the braces on in the forward-facing position. If you already have them on for rear-facing, you’d switch them to the other side.
Pull back the part of the seat cover that has the red dot to reveal the forward-facing belt path and lockoffs. These are just a bit more difficult to access because the harness is right there, but it’s pretty simple to shove it out of the way.
For forward-facing with LATCH you use the lockoff closer to the center of the car or, if installing in the center, either one.
Again, you route the strap through, line up the center, close the lockoff, and tighten.
The seatbelt install is a bit more involved, but not much. When using a lap-shoulder belt, you open both lockoffs. You route the lap portion ONLY through the first lockoff, and both the lap and shoulder portions through the second lockoff (the one nearer the buckle). It sounds confusing but makes more sense when you actually do it, although I would be concerned about people accidentally routing it wrong.
You buckle the belt and tighten as usual, then close the lockoff closer to the buckle first, then the other one. These lockoffs are not recessed, so no need to guess about tightness.
HARNESS USE & ADJUSTMENT
The Orbit G2 has a nifty little compartment in the back that holds the LATCH strap and tether, and conceals the harness. This type of compartmentalization probably appeals to people like my husband who coil up, zip-tie, and label all the cords coming out of our computer. It does keep things neat, but because the compartment doesn’t come completely off, you have to reach in a little to get the harness onto and off of the splitter plate. Other than that, though, the harness height adjustment is handled the same as it is on most other seats: Take the ends off the splitter plate, re-route through the appropriate slots, and loop back onto the splitter plate.
From Heather’s review of the previous generation, it sounds like Orbit used to have two loops at the end of the harness, but that’s no longer the case—there’s just one now.
Another difference in the seat is the quality of the harness. Heather mentioned that her harness was nice and thick, non-twisty, and fit through the buckle tongues with room to spare. Unfortunately, the new version can’t boast that. Orbit says they have made the harness thicker, but I found that it folds over in the tongues, and I had to be very diligent to unfold the straps on almost every use, lest the harness start twisting. I talked to Orbit about it, and they said that they were getting fewer reports of twisting with this new harness, so your results may vary.
The seat does have little magnets embedded under the cover to hold the crotch buckle and harness out of the way so you don’t need to dig around under your kid. To be honest, I didn’t use the feature much because I kept forgetting it was there–another example of how I’ve been conditioned by most other seats to just deal with their little hassles. The magnets are actually a fabulous idea, though, and I wish I had remembered to use them more.
The harness tightens with the typical adjuster strap. I did have a hard time tightening it sufficiently when the seat was rear-facing. On most rear-facing seats, you can pull the straps tight behind the seat before you adjust, but the Orbit’s compartment cover means you can’t do that with this one. The harness would get ALMOST tight enough, but I was still able to pinch some slack. I had no trouble when the seat was rotated toward me—just when it was rear-facing. Obviously this continued to be a problem when I had the seat rear-facing without the base, meaning I couldn’t rotate it anymore. Just before I uninstalled the Orbit for good (without the base), I tightened Anna as much as I could rear-facing, then unlatched the seat, turned it toward me, and sure enough, I was able to tighten it the last little bit. It seems that you need to be able to pull the adjuster straight out or down, which is hard to do when you have a seatback in the way. This was enough of a problem that I wouldn’t use the seat without the base if I were the type of person who loosens and tightens on each trip (and I am).
They bolstered the bolster in the G2–er, they made the head support larger for maximum protection…and comfort. It is required at all times, but the interior is very flat so it doesn’t shove heads forward like some others do. The slots in the head support need to line up with the harness slot the child is using. The support attaches to the seat with two sets of Velcro tabs along each side. These were a little awkward to change, though easy enough. (On the top slots, only one set of Velcro tabs are used.)
The cover is very plush and cushy. I don’t have a first-generation seat to compare it to, but Orbit says they updated the padding in the G2. It definitely feels like an easy chair. Even better, Orbit uses fabrics that meet flammability standards without the use of the brominated fire retardants typically used in car seats. Orbit fabrics meet Oeko-Tex 100 standards.
The cover removes for cleaning without needing to take out the harness, which is always nice. As Heather previously noted, there’s lots of Velcro, so line things up, and watch for snags on your clothing while removing/re-covering.
How long will the Orbit toddler seat last? A long time.
As I mentioned, the seat is comparable in height to a Radian. Anna had about 4.5 inches left above her head in the Radian, and about 4.25 in the Orbit Toddler.
Since it only rear-faces to 35 pounds vs. the 40 or 45 of the Radian, it’s hard to say whether kids will get full use out of the shell height. Taller, skinnier kids will get more benefit from the shell height than heavier, shorter ones.
Forward-facing, you can see that the top harness height is at her ears. She’s got years of room left. (Please note that the headrest is required at all times. I just took it out so you could see the slots easily.)
My husband freaked out a little bit about the lack of rear-facing legroom, especially without the base. I didn’t notice a difference in legroom with the base vs. without, and Anna certainly didn’t complain either way. There’s not a ton of room, which isn’t unusual with such an upright seat, but I didn’t find it to be a problem, either. Here she is without the base (not strapped in–we weren’t in motion yet).
Use with infants
Since the Orbit Toddler Seat sits very upright, you want to make sure your child has good head control. Orbit has a 15-lb minimum on the seat, but children may very well reach that weight before they’re ready to sit that upright on a regular basis.
In case you’re wondering, though, here’s how my 6-month-old fit in the seat. Oliver weighs 15 pounds and wears a size 12 months in shirts/onesies, so he’s long and lean.
I don’t have an Orbit stroller, so I couldn’t test it out with that. The seat is pretty heavy, and I can’t even imagine lifting it out of the base with my 30-pound daughter in it. As a side-note, the seat can be used in the stroller with the braces attached, but it can’t rotate in the stroller that way.
The Orbit Toddler G2 is approved for airplane use with the braces (not the base).
Here are some other interesting factoids from the manual:
- Orbit allows non-standard spacing up to 20″ if vehicle allows it
- Specific prohibition against using LATCH and belt at same time
- Prohibits use with inflatable seatbelts
- Lists several ways to find CPSTs
- Recommends locking the seatbelt to prevent strangulation hazard
- Describes and illustrates pinch test for harness tightness
- Includes a limited 2-year warranty, which is twice as long as most seats
Extended rear-facing The Toddler G2 manual is REALLY heavy on pushing extended rear-facing, which is awesome! I started counting the references in the manual to keep children rear-facing as long as possible, but I gave up when I realized it’s on almost every page–and that’s not much of an exaggeration.
Photos in the manual Really, every manual should come with photos. The typical line drawings leave a lot to be desired. Orbit illustrates every step of everything with a photo, as it should be. The seat itself also has a QR code on the side you can scan to get directions if you need to. I suspect within a couple years most seats will have something similar, but Orbit is ahead of the curve on that one.
Longevity The height of a Radian, but a much more upright install, without tricks or foam wedges. Plus it turns! The tall harness height makes it a formidable forward-facing seat as well. It has among the tallest slots of any convertible on the market.
Rotation Is it an absolute must? Of course not, but it’s pretty darn cool.
Straps Thin, foldy, and potentially twisty. When I pay more than $150 for a seat, I expect non-twisty straps. Maybe Orbit will go back to the thicker, better-fitting ones Heather talked about.
Harness adjuster As I mentioned, it left a bit of slack when adjusted rear-facing
Age limit This is more of a principled negative than a practical one. Remember how I said that the manual stresses rear-facing as long as possible on, like, every page? Unfortunately, what it doesn’t have is a minimum age to forward-face. Really. The only requirement to forward-face is a weight of at least 25 lbs. You could legally put a 25-lb 6-month-old forward-facing in this.
I emailed Orbit’s CPST rep to ask about that. She said that the company didn’t put a minimum on there specifically because they WANT to encourage extended rear-facing, and the age minimums can confuse people. That, of course, assumes that parents will heed the recommendation. It could easily go the other way.
She did make a good point, though. The appeal of the Orbit seat is the ability to rotate it, which you can’t do once it’s installed forward-facing. That alone is probably incentive for parents to keep their kids rear-facing. At the same time, the “feet touching the seatback” myth–while unfounded–is quite prevalent. I could see parents worrying about the lack of legroom in such an upright seat, and turning their children too soon.
I would really like to see a minimum on the seat for forward-facing. If they want to keep kids rear-facing longer, make that minimum 2 years and keep stressing “as long as possible” in the manual. That would earn Orbit big brownie points from car seat nuts like us.
Extra parts I’m always a little wary about seats that have detachable-yet-sometimes-required parts, like Orbit’s side braces. There’s just too much chance they’ll get misplaced.
Cost There’s no sugar-coating it: This seat is expensive. It’s about $400 with free shipping and returns at Amazon.com, plus a base for about $200 if you don’t already have one. It’s definitely a unique, high-quality seat with great features, so I’m not saying it isn’t worth it, but it’s out of the budget range for many parents.
My conclusion is different depending on whether or not you already have the Orbit infant seat. If you do and are considering the Toddler Seat, I say go for it. The rotating aspect is really handy, the seat will last longer (by height) rear-facing than almost anything else on the market, and you probably already have the Orbit stroller.
What if you don’t start with an Orbit Infant seat? On its surface, the Toddler G2 alone might be worth it even without the base just because it’s so tall. However, given the problem I noted with tightening the harness, I’m not sure I would recommend rear-facing use without the base. (Although I’m willing to admit that might have been a problem with my particular seat, or maybe the contour of my car’s seatback. If you’re interested in a baseless Toddler seat, try it in your car to see if your results differ.)
Given that, is it worth it to spend $400 on a car seat (plus potentially another $200 on a base)? Well, some people are getting ready to spend $450 on a convertible from a different manufacturer, and that product doesn’t rotate. Bottom line – if it’s not out of your budget range and you want a really cool seat, this is a great option.
Thank you to Orbit for providing the seat and base for our review.