Vehicle seat belts are designed to fit an average 160 lbs. man, not your average 4-10 year old child. That’s why we have booster seats. A booster seat raises the child up so that the lap portion of the lap/shoulder belt falls across the bony hips, not the soft, easily injured abdomen. High back boosters, like the Combi Kobuk, have headrests with shoulder belt guides to keep the shoulder belt off the child’s neck. Booster seats should always be used with a lap/shoulder seat belt.
Who should use this seat?
Combi recommends this seat for children who are about 3-10 years old, weigh 33-120 lbs., and are between 33″ and 57″ tall. The back can be removed and used for children who fit the same size specifications. Some booster seats require a 40 lbs. minimum when switching to backless, but not the Kobuk. As a technician, I would never recommend a child under age 4 and 40 lbs. use a backless booster.
This seat has nice safety and comfort features and is designed to grow with a child.
Choosing which seat to use should be based on many factors, including the way the seat fits in your vehicle, how the child fits in the seat, and, in the case of a booster, the maturity of the child. Because boosters allow more freedom of movement, the child must have the maturity to sit correctly in the seat without wiggling out of the seat belt or slouching over. Only you can determine if your child is mature enough, but we generally see this maturity around age 4. Also, a child under 40 lbs. is best protected by a seat with a 5-point harness.
The Kobuk requires minor assembly and comes in 2 pieces: backrest and base. Most boosters that come with removable backs require that the backs be attached, so I was prepared for that. The backrest has a typical highback booster assembly where you lay the whole seat flat on the ground, place the tabs of the back into the slots on the base, and rotate the back up into position.
*deep EPS foam in the headrest (EPS foam is the stuff bicycle helmets are made of), in the torso wings, in the arm rests for side impact protection
*egg shock foam (for those familiar with old style Combi Connection infant seats, it’s memory foam that sits behind the head)
*adjustable shoulder belt guides
*one deep cup holder that can be placed on either side of the seat
*deep seat for long-legged children
*permanently attached shoulder belt positioner for use when booster is used without the backrest
The instruction manual is pretty good. There are easy to understand illustrations and it’s ordered pretty logically except that the seat back assembly is one of the last sections of the manual. I would expect assembly to be up front, right after the parts labeling diagrams.
Cover and padding
There is one cover available for the Kobuk: black opal. They should have a new mesh cover for 2010 that is also black, but that will allow you to see through the seat. It’s excellent for breathability! The current cover for the headrest and side trims is mesh inside. Finding the egg shock foam in the headrest cover was quite the surprise! It wasn’t mentioned in the manual until the fabric care section (and I usually don’t read that section until I need it), so when I took off the cover and saw it, I was pleased to see it. The cover is attached with snaps and plastic fasteners. It can be hand washed and line dried when necessary.
Installation and use
Boosters are very easy to use: just plop them on the seat and buckle the child into the vehicle belt. When buckling a child into the Kobuk, the shoulder belt must be routed through the red open-loop design shoulder belt guide. This is easily done just by sliding the belt into the guide. The open-loop design means that the shoulder belt won’t get caught on it if the child leans forward; in the Kobuk, the shoulder belt will remain snug on the child. The lap belt should fit under the arm rests, snugly over the child’s thighs and hips; again the belt path is marked in red.
The back of the Kobuk should be adjusted so that the shoulder belt guides are slightly above the child’s shoulders. To adjust the height of the back, simply squeeze the black handle on the back of the headrest and lift up. There are 7 height adjustments from which to choose. At the highest setting, the shoulder belt guide is 20″.
Adjust the shoulder belt guide width by pulling the black knob behind the headrest and adjusting the red guide in or out so that the shoulder belt guide is in the middle of the shoulder or slightly toward the neck. In a crash, a child’s shoulder can easily roll out from under a shoulder belt if it’s placed too close to the edge of her shoulder. Even though we have side curtain air bags, I do prefer my daughter to have the safety of a highback booster with EPS foam in the headrest. A major study showed that highback boosters are beneficial in side impacts over backless boosters: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2005-09/chop-htb090905.php .
Airplane use and expiration
The Kobuk is not FAA-approved and cannot be used on an airplane because it doesn’t have an internal harness. The back can be removed and packed into a large suitcase while the base can be carried by the child as a carryon, or the base can be used as a backless booster on a trip. The Kobuk expires after 7 years from when it was manufactured.
The seat belt guides on the base are difficult to thread a seat belt through. They are narrow and curved, so a child has to slide the seat belt under and up toward themselves to get buckled. That can be a tough job.
The final word
My daughter liked the Kobuk, but it isn’t her favorite booster because of the buckling difficulty. She feels comfy in it and I like the adjustability and versatility. I’m impressed with the little details, such as the egg shock foam and all the air vents placed around the booster for ventilation. Don’t forget that booster use is very important until a child fits in the vehicle belt. Here’s Kecia’s wonderful article on how to do the 5-Step Test, a test to see how your child fits in the vehicle belt.
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