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philandteds Alpha

Phil&teds Alpha Rear-Facing Only Infant Seat Review

Phil&teds, a fun company from New Zealand, enters the child restraint market with the Alpha rear-facing only infant seat as a complement to their stroller line. By bringing in the Alpha, they have a competitive rear-facing only carseat that has features parents want for ease-of-use and comfort for their child.

 

Weight and Height Limits:

  • Rear-facing 4-35 lbs. AND 32” AND child’s head is 1” below top of head rest

Alpha Overview:

  • Fantastically thick EPS foam lining the seat
  • Removable newborn liner with extra newborn supports
  • Preemie insert
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions (before 15 lbs./after 15 lbs.)
  • 2 recline angles on base: one for 4-20 lbs., one for 20-35 lbs.
  • Carrier can be installed Euro-style without base
  • Clip-on style lower LATCH connectors
  • Built-in lockoff
  • Currently available in only one fashion: black/charcoal with red newborn liner (its sister seat, the Mountain Buggy protect, is available in black/stone for another option)
  • FAA approved for use on aircraft
  • 6 yr lifespan before seat expires

Alpha without cover

Alpha Measurements

Harness slots: 6”, 7 ¾”, 9 ½”, 11 ¼”
External widest point: 16 ¾”
Width of base at belt path: 13 ½”
Width of base at widest point: 14 ¼”
Internal shell height: 20”
Crotch strap depth: 4”, 6”
Seat depth: 12”
Carrier weight: 8 lbs.

Installation

Installation Basics

  • If you need more recline than the extended foot on the base can give you, you can use pool noodles or a tightly rolled towel. The recline foot works by rotating the gray foot out, then pushing up to lock it into position. To put it away, pull down on the foot and rotate it back into a locked position under the base.
  • If installing without the base, a lap/shoulder belt is required in order to use the required Euro-style belt routing. If your lap/shoulder belt is too short to wrap behind the carrier, it is considered to be an incompatibility. The manual* says you may not use a lap-only belt when installing baseless.

*There is a discrepancy between the manual and an installation sticker on the carrier regarding installation using a lap/shoulder belt and a lap-only belt. The manual requires a lap/shoulder belt while the sticker shows a lap-only belt installation. After checking with our contacts, I was told that because the carseat must pass federal standards using a lap-only seat belt, it is acceptable to use one, but *highly* recommended to use a lap/shoulder belt. Online instruction manuals will be updated to show the change.

Alpha Euro install Alpha Euro install 2

  • The lockoff is in the middle of the belt path, which can cause problems with seat belts that have buttons or sewn on loops to keep the latchplate from falling down when used for adults or kids in booster seats. If your button ends up in the lockoff when you close it, try pulling the seat belt a bit tighter, or move the base to the left or right to position the button in a different spot.

Alpha base install Alpha lockoff on base

  • Handle is required to be in the UP position when in the vehicle so it can serve as an anti-rebound device.

 Alpha installation in MDX Alpha base recline angle indicator

Center LATCH installations with Non-Standard Spacing:

Phil & teds allows lower LATCH connector installation of the Alpha in the center seating position if the spacing is greater than 11” when the vehicle manufacturer specifically allows it.

Inflatable Seat Belts

Phil & teds has determined that the Alpha cannot be installed with inflatable seat belts found in some Ford, Lincoln, and Mercedes vehicles, and in some airplane seat belts.

Fit to Child

Preemie insert must be used with children under 6 lbs. The newborn liner must be used when the harness is positioned in either of the 2 bottom slot positions. With the preemie insert, fit to the 4 lbs. preemie doll is very good. Fit to our 16 lbs., 25″ model, Nora, was excellent as well.

Alpha preemie doll Alpha preemie doll side

AlphaNorainside AlphaNoraoutside

There are 2 harness hip routings (called “waist strap position” in the manual): one for infants under 12 pounds and one for infants over 12 pounds. The Alpha comes with the harness routed for children weighing over 12 lbs., so the harness must be removed and rethreaded before the first use. Phil & teds is looking into why the carseat is shipped this way.

Alpha outside waist strap position Alpha outside waist strap position from bottom Alpha inside waist strap position

The harness also has 2 loop lengths to accommodate children from 4 lbs. to 35 lbs. There is Velcro sewn onto the harness ends so that when using it on the newborn/shortest length, the extra length can be folded up and attached so that it’s not left dangling. While this is a nice feature for OCD parents like me, you have to be careful when tightening the harness on its longest length that the Velcro doesn’t get caught on the back of the seat, making you think that the harness is snug enough when it isn’t.

Alpha harness velcro

Cover/Maintenance/Ease of Use

Instructions for cleaning the cover are to hand wash with mild soap and water and to line dry. I suggest rolling it tightly in an absorbent towel to get the extra wet out before hanging to dry. Getting the cover off was easy as it comes off like a shower cap, though you do have to unhook the harness and buckle.

The harness is changed manually as your child grows—remember to keep it at or *below* the shoulders. This really isn’t a problem since even though babies grow fast, you aren’t adjusting the harness slots that frequently rear-facing.

The release handle for the carrier is located on the back of the base, which takes weight off the carrier. Another advantage to the location of this release handle is that the carseat can be placed close to a front seat and it’s still easy to slip your hand in to release the carrier from the base. With infant seats that have the release handle on the back of the carrier itself, you need room between the carrier and the vehicle seat to slip your hand behind to grab the handle.

FAA-Approval/Lifespan/Crash Guidelines

The Alpha is FAA-approved. Follow the lap-only belt instructions found on the sticker on the side of the carrier.

The Alpha has a lifespan of 6 years and phil & teds requires replacement after any crash.

The phil & teds Alpha fits on many of their and Mountain Buggy strollers, including the Classic and Navigator, though you’ll want to check for compatibility before purchasing one since it doesn’t fit on all.

Advantages

  • Super thick EPS foam lining the carrier
  • Preemie insert
  • Newborn liner with extra supports
  • 2 crotch strap positions—before 15 lbs. and after 15 lbs.
  • Deep seat pan
  • 2 recline angles on base: one for 4-20 lbs., one for 20-35 lbs.
  • Built-in lockoff
  • Carrier can be installed Euro-style without base
  • Narrow—good for tight back seats
  • Carrier release handle on base
  • Very light carrier—one of the lightest

Disadvantages

  • Currently available in only one fashion: black/charcoal with red newborn liner (though its sister seat, the Mountain Buggy protect, is available in black/stone for another option)
  • Harness “waist strap position” must be rethreaded before first use with a newborn under 12 lbs.
  • Velcro on harness can get caught on back of seat
  • Made in China

The phil & teds Alpha offers all the amenities you want in a rear-facing only infant seat that works with a variety of strollers to make a custom travel system. Initial setup for a custom fit will take some time, but as long as parents read the manual, are aware of the process, and take some time to set the seat up, it shouldn’t be a problem. Overall the Alpha is easy to install, both with the base and without, and the cover is soft and comfortable. The generously thick EPS foam lining the carrier, light weight for carrying, and built-in lockoff on the base are all very desirable features that make the Alpha worth considering.

 

Thank you to phil & teds for providing the Alpha used for this review. No other compensation was provided. All opinions expressed are those of CarseatBlog.