This is a small update to my review of the original SafeGuard Go Anywhere Portable Child Restraint, now called the Safety 1st Hybrid Booster (the Safety 1st version has a few minor changes from the version in this review).  Since that review, IMMI/SafeGuard has made some improvements.  These include expanded weight ranges, improvements to the headrest pillow and a modified buckle system.  There is also some additional guidance on installing the Go in a captain’s chair or other vehicle seat with a recline feature.

Review Introduction

The SafeGuard Go Hybrid Booster is a portable child restraint system.  It combines the advantages of a 5-point harness with the portability of a booster. In some sense, it really is more similar to a travel harness system that converts into a backless booster. Using the harness front-facing, it is for children over 1 year, weight from 22 to 60 pounds and 31 to 52 inches tall. As a booster, it is rated for children over 3 years old, 40 to 100 pounds and 43 to 57 inches tall. To make it portable and light, the “Go” has no hard seatback shell. For that reason, the vehicle seat back or headrests must provide adequate head restraint for the child.  More information can be found at the SafeGuard website.

Features and Advantages

5-point Harness to 60 pounds- Among the best features of the “Go” is the 5-point harness that is rated to 60 pounds. Some combination models have a 40 pound limit on their harness system.  While most kids above 40 pounds can use a booster, some may not be mature enough to remain seated properly in a lap and shoulder belt. In other cases, parents may prefer to keep their child in a 5-point harness beyond 40 pounds because it may offer somewhat more protection in side impacts and rollovers than a 3-point lap and shoulder belt. After 60 pounds, the harness and backing are removed and the Go can be used as a belt positioning booster.

Adjustable Harness Height- There is no rethreading harness straps through slots on the “Go”. Simple adjusters are included on each shoulder strap. Before seating the child, you squeeze the adjuster and move it all the way up. Once the child is in, you lower it to a level right at their shoulders with a very easy adjustment. The top shoulder slot height is listed by Safeguard as 17″, similar to many other combination models. In practice, this can vary a little, depending on the vehicle and installation. That is because there is no rigid shell holding the shoulder straps fixed relative to the seat base. Using a tight LATCH installation, it is about 18″ in many vehicles.  With a seatbelt installation in a vehicle with a low seat back, the shoulder guides may become a comfort issue closer to 17″ of seated shoulder height. A child will outgrow the harness by height if their shoulders are above the level of the top setting. This model should accommodate all but the tallest kids well beyond 40 pounds, though some will certainly be too tall before they are 60 pounds. The side head wings are also height adjustable. Though modest in size, they might offer some additional side impact protection.

Front Harness Adjusters- The Go has simple push-button adjustments at the hip on each side of the harness. They are similar to the type found on many carseat tether and lower anchor adjustments and are very easy to use. They work very smoothly and easily.

LATCH- The Go includes a flexible strap on each side of the base to attach to the lower anchors found in newer vehicles. An adjuster is included on each side to cinch the strap tightly. The “mini connector” attachments are among the nicer ones on the market, and much easier to attach and remove than some other basic types. Convenient slots on the underside of the front part of the seat are provided to store the LATCH attachments when not in use. The LATCH system is preferred instead of the seatbelt for installation when the harness is used. Though a seatbelt can be used instead of the lower anchors for installation, the top tether MUST be used at all times in harness mode. Unlike most other boosters and combination seats, the lower anchors can also be used in booster mode. This can help keep the booster in place while loading, unloading, during turns or when the booster is not occupied. Safeguard also allows the lower LATCH attachments to be used in center seating positions as long as they are designated to be a LATCH approved position by the vehicle manufacturer and the spacing between the lower anchors is 11-20 inches apart. SafeGuard does not issue a weight limit in the manual specific to the LATCH system on the Go. They approve the use of LATCH up to the maximum limits for the Go, due to its lightweight design and energy management features. They also advise that the vehicle manual should be consulted, and in the case of a discrepancy, the vehicle mfg’s instructions should be followed.

Lap Belt Installation- The Go can be installed in harness mode with a lap belt, provided the vehicle has a top tether anchor. Such anchors are standard on all vehicles since 2003 and most vehicles since 1989 can have a top tether anchor installed in one or more rear seating positions. With its 60 pound harness limit, this is a good option for many kids above 40 pounds who need to be seated in a position that only has a lap belt. Keep in mind that some types of lap belt systems will not work with the Go.  Also, like any booster, the Go must have both a lap and shoulder belt when used in booster mode.

Padding and Comfort- The Go is fairly well padded on the base, with about three-quarters of an inch of foam padding under the cover. It seems very comfortable and my daughter has had no complaints.  The new Go Hybrid Booster now incorporates the head pillow.  The color on mine is Graphite Black. The material is reasonably soft on the edges, more durable in the middle. Harness strap comfort pads are not included, but the crotch strap has a nice, integrated belly pad.  The improved buckle system is a major change.  The buckle now has 2 additional positions and allows adjustment of the crotch strap length.  The first position is roughly 2 inches less deep than the original version, while the 3rd position is about an inch farther.

Backless Booster Use- While many newer backless boosters omit this handy feature, the Go includes a shoulder belt adjustment strap.  This guide strap loops through a slot in the base. When used, the free end of the strap is adjusted to pull the shoulder belt off the neck and on the center of the shoulder and chest. Some taller kids may not need it, depending on the vehicle.  Otherwise, the Go converts to a very typical backless booster, but unlike many other models, you can use the lower LATCH attachments to keep it in place for loading, unloading and when it’s unoccupied.  For what it’s worth, the IIHS rated it a best bet in their evaluation of fit.  Kecia blogged on the IIHS testing a while back, and so did I.

Size, weight and Portability- The Go weighs little more than an ordinary backless booster. It also folds nearly as compact and fits into an included travel bag. It weighs close to 9 pounds with an extra pound or so for the bag. That makes it nice for travel and even for storing in a vehicle until it is needed. For tight spaces, the maximum width is almost 17” at the arms, a little narrower at the base. That is pretty typical for a booster but not ideal for a 3-across carseat setup in a narrow back seat. The width inside the arms is about 14”, tapering an inch or so at the back. The total depth is almost 17 inches, but the seating depth for the child varies from over 16” as a booster (or when installed with LATCH in harness mode) to under 14” if installed with the seatbelt in harness mode.

Side Airbag Placement- Many child restraint manufacturers still prohibit the use of some or all of their models next to any type of active airbag. This may be a problem in many newer vehicles with side airbags in the rear seat. Since side curtain airbags have proven to be very effective at reducing injuries, it is nice that SafeGuard permits it to be used in vehicles with side air bags. Parents must still check the vehicle owner’s manual to make sure that it doesn’t state otherwise. The Go is not to be used in the front seat when an active passenger frontal airbag is present. Kids 13 and under should always be in the back seat.

Misc- The Go has a very nice owner’s manual with clear line diagrams and explanations. In addition, an instructional mini-DVD is also included.  Construction is solid.  It’s made in the USA, too!  A boost for the North American economy and no worries about toxic chemicals, quality or other potential issues with the ever increasing number of carseats made in the far east.

Installation

The Go is a reasonable option for older kids and a very good choice for travel and for bigger kids in vehicles with lap-only belts.  It can be installed with LATCH, a lap belt or a lap/shoulder belt.  Keep in mind that some seatbelt systems may be incompatible with the Go, and these are discussed in the manual.  LATCH installation in our 2006 Odyssey was very easy.  I had it installed correctly in just a couple of minutes.  It installed well with the seatbelts in both our Odyssey and a 2000 Subaru Outback wagon, but it was definitely more difficult than using LATCH.

My son is almost 3.5 years old, weighs 37 pounds and is about 41″ tall.  He fits well in the Go harness system.  In my original review, my daughter was not yet six years old, under 43 pounds and almost 44” tall. She had an inch or so of room to go in the harness for shoulder height in our vehicle using seatbelts for installation.  I estimated that 6-7 years and around 50 pounds may be the limit for many kids in the harness mode, but said that could vary a lot with the child, vehicle and installation.  Indeed, my daughter is now over 8 years old, about 57 pounds and almost 51″ tall.  As you can see, she’s close to the harness limit but does still fit in the harness (with a LATCH installation).

The official recommendation is that children should be in a booster until they are 8 years old, unless they are already 4′ 9″ tall.  This is only a rough guideline and some state laws may have even stricter requirements.  Because both kids and vehicles differ, the best way to know if your child is ready to move out of a booster is by fit. Children are not ready to move from a booster to a regular lap/shoulder seatbelt until:
1) They are tall enough so that their legs bend at the knees at the edge of the seat; and
2) They are mature enough to remain seated with their backs flat against the back of the seat and not slouch; and
3) The lap belt sits high on the thighs or low on the hips (NOT on their tummy!); and
4) The shoulder belt crosses the shoulder and chest (NOT on their arms or neck!); and
Each passenger must have their own lap AND shoulder belt and remain seated properly for the entire trip! Never allow children to share a seatbelt!

As this model does not have a shell, there is no recline adjustment.  The vehicle seat back itself provides any recline for the child.  A more upright seat is usually recommended for safety, and the vehicle seat back must lock into a position from upright to 30 degrees of recline from vertical.  The manual clearly illustrates the limit for vehicle seat back recline.  The top tether may need to be re-adjusted if the vehicle seat back is reclined or brought more upright.

Disadvantages

No Head Restraint- Perhaps the most important issue, this model lacks any type of head restraint. The manual is very clear about this. So, your vehicle MUST provide adequate protection. That means that the top of the vehicle seat must be at least as tall as the top of the child’s ears. If the vehicle seat has headrests, they must adjust high enough such that the top of the headrest is at least as tall as the top of the child’s ears. This really is more of a warning than a disadvantage, because that is how SafeGuard managed to make this seat so light and portable. Still, parents should understand that it is not like a typical child restraint with a hard plastic shell in back and so it may not be suitable for some vehicles.

Airplane Certification- Due to its unique portability, the harness system in the Go requires a top tether for use. That means it cannot be used on an airplane, since aircraft do not have these anchors.  Like any other backless booster, it cannot be used on aircraft in this booster mode, either.  On the other hand, it is a great travel choice and is small and light enough to be a carry-on in an overhead bin for use in a vehicle on your trip.

Seatbelt Installation Difficulty in Harness Mode- Installation is great with LATCH and should be relatively quick and easy in many newer vehicles.  Using seatbelts for harness mode installation, you must route the belt through fabric loops that extend from the back of the base.  This isn’t difficult, but it can be a challenge to install it tightly, especially to meet the requirement that the child restraint does not move more than one inch from side-to-side.  This will vary greatly depending on the vehicle seat and seatbelts, of course.  If you intend to use this model primarily in harness mode with seatbelt installation, you may wish to try it before buying it.  At the very least, make sure you understand the retailer’s return policy in case there is an incompatibility issue.

Please note that in some vehicles, seatbelt installation has a tendency to pull the bottom of the backing forward and the top of the harness system downward if you follow the instruction steps in the manual (especially if you overtighten it).  That means the seating depth and maximum shoulder height can be reduced a little compared to a LATCH installation, depending on your car.  To get a tight seatbelt installation and still maintain the full harness shoulder height, I attached and tightened the top tether strap first, rather than last.  This made it a little more difficult to install, but it worked better in our vehicles.  Finally, the seatbelt routing must go in front of the armrests on the base.  This can cause the seatbelt to push the backing around the child’s bottom forward in some vehicles.  That effectively reduces the seat depth for the child at least a couple inches.  Attaching and tightening the top tether before securing the seatbelt may help a little for this issue, also.

Fabric Care- The cover on the base, harness and headrest can be removed with average difficulty.  It is machine washed in a cold, delicate cycle.  It must be line dried.  This is not uncommon among child restraints, but definitely not easy care.

Price- The
SafeGuard Go sells for around its $199
suggested retail price.  It is comparable in price to various conventional child restraints that have harnesses with extended weight limits above 40 pounds.

Conclusion

The SafeGuard Go Hybrid Booster is a great choice for parents who want to keep their kids in a 5-point harness beyond 40 pounds.  It is a good choice for many vehicles and seating positions that only have a lap belt (and top tether anchor), since boosters are not safe unless they have both lap AND shoulder belt.  The Go is also a handy, light weight option for travel, for granparents, for carpools or for caregivers.  Since it lacks a true shell, it’s not going to meet some people’s needs. It does fill a niche that might help many parents looking for an alternative to more conventional child restraint models or flimsy travel harness systems.  As a bonus, once your child has outgrown the harness, you can still use it as a backless booster up to 100 pounds.  Overall, highly recommended as a portable child restraint option and for an everyday child restraint system when used with the LATCH system, provided it fits your vehicle and you have adequate head restraint.

SafeGuard’s parent company, IMMI, has been a major manufacturer of child restraint components like harnesses, buckles and LATCH system attachments for decades.  They are a supplier to many of the largest child restraint manufacturers in the world and also have manufactured specialty bus restraints and other transportation safety products for many years.  SafeGuard also operates their own advanced crash testing facility.  SafeGuard’s official webpage for the Go can be found at http://www.safeguardgo.com .