Orbit follows its unique infant seat with a toddler carseat built to equally impressive standards.  The Orbit Toddler Car Seat is a convertible (rear-facing and forward-facing) child restraint for kids 15-50 lbs. who are less than 49” tall.  Rear-facing the seat is rated from 15-35 lbs.  Forward-facing, it can be used for children over 1 year old who weigh between 20-50 lbs.

The Orbit Toddler Car Seat comes with a headrest, harness strap covers, braces for installation without the base, and a canopy.  It can be used with the Orbit stroller frame up to the 40 lbs. weight limit of the stroller.  For a review of the stroller, please see the Orbit Baby Infant Seat review.


Features and Advantages

Side Impact Protection: The Orbit Toddler has deep side wings lined with EPP foam.

5-point Harness to 50 pounds: The harness is good quality and is nontwisting.  The buckle tongues fit the width of the harness with room to spare and allow the harness to slide freely through them.  It has Velcro dots on the straps with corresponding dots on the cover to hold the harness out of the way when placing a child in the seat.

High Rear-Facing Weight and Height Limits:  Rear-facing is the safest way for kids to travel; for many years, experts have recommended rear-facing for as long as possible and one study has shown that it’s five times safer for children under age 2 to ride that way.   Even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends rear-facing for children for as long as the convertible seat allows.  Because the Orbit Toddler has a tall shell and high rear-facing weight limit, it will allow the average child to rear-face for 2-3 years or more.

Here are some pics of a little guy who’s about 15 months and 23 lbs.


4 Harness Slots: There are four harness slot heights on the Orbit Toddler.  For rear-facing, the bottom 2 slots may be used and the straps should be in the nearest slot at or below the level of the child’s shoulders.  The top 3 slots can be used for a forward-facing child and the straps should be in the nearest slot at or above shoulder level.   The lowest harness slot height is approximately 11 ¾ ” and the top slot is about 18 ¼ ” when measured with the cover on.  A child will outgrow this seat by height when he exceeds the 49” height limit OR when the top of his ears are above the back of the restraint OR when the shoulders are above the top slots.  It’s possible for a 50 lbs. child to fit in this carseat.  The child pictured below is 49 lbs. and 50″ tall, but still has room to grow to the top harness slots.


Adjusting the harness height is accomplished by removing the shoulder straps from the splitter plate in the back of the restraint and re-threading them through the desired slots.  If the seat is installed rear-facing it is possible to re-thread the harness without uninstalling.  However, if the seat if forward-facing you will have to uninstall it to move the harness straps to a different height.  Because the seat is rated for such a wide range of weights, Orbit has 2 harness strap lengths from which to choose; the shorter length loops are for smaller toddlers.

Recline Adjustments: Because the Orbit Toddler is not meant to be used for newborns and small infants, it has a more upright recline to it.  It still has a range of acceptable recline and a recline indicator on the side for help when using the braces (remember that the base has the angle indicator built in).  A tightly rolled towel is suggested if needed to help get the restraint into the acceptable recline range.

Harness Adjuster and Use: To tighten the harness, pull on the harness adjuster strap on the front of the restraint. It is similar to the type found on many car seats and is easy to adjust.  A nice feature is the label on the end of the adjuster strap that reminds parents to snugly tighten the harness.  The buckle clicks audibly when each buckle tongue is inserted. The large chest clip has printing on it that says, “ARMPIT LEVEL.”  The chest clip is pretty stiff to unclip.

LATCH: The Orbit Toddler has flexible straps to attach to the lower anchors found in most vehicles newer than 2002.  There is an adjuster on each side of the strap which makes for easy tightening and loosening of the LATCH strap.  The LATCH connectors are the push-on style connectors.  A neatly compartmentalized area for storing the LATCH connectors and tether is hidden away on the back of the seat by a cover.  There are separate pouches for each LATCH connector and the excess strap webbing and tether strap in the designated storage area for when they’re not in use.  These pouches keep the extra straps from interfering with the harness and harness splitter plate on the back of the seat.

The tether strap is to be used forward-facing only.  While tethering a forward-facing child restraint with a harness is always recommended, a top tether is not required for this seat.

Note: Orbit prohibits using the LATCH system for a child weighing over 40 lbs. unless your vehicle has lower LATCH anchors rated for a higher weight limit.  This is an issue with almost all child restraints that have a harness rated above 40 lbs. At some point, it will be necessary to use the seatbelt for installation. Seatbelt installations are just as safe as LATCH, providing that you can get a good, tight installation.  Consult your vehicle owner’s manual for more specific information.  Orbit does allow the use of LATCH in the center seating position of the back seat if the lower anchors are spaced between 11″ and 20″ apart, there are no air bags, the base (if used) can be level, and the vehicle manufacturer must allow it.

Installation: The Orbit Toddler Car Seat is a convertible seat that can be installed rear- or forward-facing.  When installed rear-facing, there are two methods for installation: using either the infant base* or using the detachable braces, which are like stabilizing feet.  The advantage to using the base is that the seat can be rotated to allow for easy in/out access of the child.  It’s also easier to remove the carseat out of the vehicle and onto the stroller if the base is used.  The Orbit Toddler Car Seat can only use a base with a green circular seal on the face (see picture).  For more information on installation of the base, see the Infant Seat review.  Using the braces means that the seat is permanently affixed facing the rear of the vehicle until you install it forward-facing, so there’s no chance of accidentally forgetting to rotate the child into the proper rear-facing position.  The braces are designed to be removed to change direction based on the installation direction of the carseat and are clearly labeled with “Front of Vehicle” so they can be attached to the restraint correctly.  The carseat looks funny if the braces are installed facing the wrong direction: I installed the seat rear-facing with the braces in the forward-facing position and it was very much too upright.

Installation of the carseat with the braces is like any other convertible carseat: use the rear-facing belt path for rear-facing and the forward-facing belt path for forward-facing.  Most notably there are built-in lockoffs which do an excellent job of holding the seat belt tight.  The LATCH belt must also be threaded through one of the lockoffs.

*The Toddler Car Seat cannot touch the back of the seat in front of it once it’s been installed using the Orbit base.

Crotch Strap Adjustment: There are three crotch strap slots located approximately 3 ¼ “, 5 ¼ “, and 6 ½ ” from the back of the seat.  There’s an access panel under the front of the Toddler Car Seat from where the crotch strap anchor is moved.  The crotch strap can be repositioned when the restraint is installed forward-facing since the access panel is within reach, but not when the restraint is installed rear-facing.

Padding, Comfort and Appearance: The Orbit Toddler cover is nicely padded.  The cover on the restraint I tested is called mocha/khaki.  The lighter colored fabric is a microfiber and the darker brown colored fabric on the sides of the restraint is a mesh.  It’s machine washable on the gentle cycle.  The cover is completely removable without having to unthread the harness, just like the infant seat; however, it’s not nearly as easy to take off.  First, there’s a lot of Velcro.  Whenever you have a cover that removes without having to remove the harness first, it has to open around the harness; to accomplish that, you use either Velcro or snaps.  The Velcro also serves to provide easy access to the lockoffs for installation.

The harness straps and chest clip are black.  The strap covers and headrest are the light colored microfiber and are optional and may be removed at any time.


It’s Green: It’s metaphorically green, just like the Orbit Baby Infant Seat.  Orbit is headquartered in northern California—land of the naturally crunchy people outside of Portland ;).  So, the fabric on all things Orbit is certified by the International Oeko-Tex® Association to have fewer chemicals and irritants in it.  In late 2009, Orbit released a line of organic cotton/wool fabric for their footmuffs and carseats.  Orbit also meets flame retardancy requirements without using harmful chemicals.

6 Year Expiration: The Orbit Toddler has a 6 year expiration and the year of expiration is written on the label that contains the date of manufacture and model number inside the back panel.  Orbit specifies in the manual not to use the seat if it is in a crash.

Airplane Certification: The Orbit Toddler is FAA-approved for use in aircraft and only when installed with the braces.  It also is a fairly heavy restraint weighing in at around 23 lbs., so if you do travel with it, you’ll want to use the stroller with it to avoid having to carry it.  It does install on the stroller with the braces, so traveling with the braces won’t be an issue (the braces also have a nice carry bag).


Value: With high weight limits and top harness slots, safety features, and green features that other convertible seats don’t have, the Orbit Toddler Car Seat is a convertible worth considering, especially if you have a child sensitive to chemicals.

Construction: The Orbit Toddler is solid, just like the Orbit Infant.  Even though they are locked onto the restraint, I wish the braces could be fixed onto the seat so they don’t wiggle at all, though.

Instruction Manuals and Labels: These are some of the clearest in the business.  The manuals and labels are color-coded: blue for rear-facing, red for forward-facing, green for harness use, with crisp, clear pictures throughout.  Every carseat manufacturer should read these manuals to see how they’re done and every parent should get the chance to read one as well.  Kudos!


Disadvantages

Weight and Width: The Orbit Toddler Car Seat is a big seat that sits high on a base necessary for its docking system.  But there are seats on the market that can handle bigger kids while cutting back on size.

Installation Issues: I had trouble installing it in my ’05 Sienna with the seat belt, but that’s not an unusual problem for me.  The buckles are forward of the bight (vehicle seat crack) and create problems with some carseats and this is one.  Because of where the buckle is placed, the seat belt is placed very low in the belt path on the base and on the carseat, which means it enters the built-in lockoff very low.  I focused on the base installation with the infant seat, so I went with the braces-on installation mostly here.  Since I hate to struggle when installing a carseat (pure laziness on my part or a desire to show mastery over the carseat?), I resorted to the age-old trick of reclining my van’s seatback, pulling the seat belt snug and locking the lockoff on it, then putting the seatback upright for a rock-the-van tight fit.

Harness Slot Change: To change the harness slot height while the headrest was in place, I had to remove the cover from the top of the seat to access the Velcro tabs holding the headrest in place.  If I didn’t have to undo the Velcro for the headrest, it would have been a simple matter to change the harness height.

Cover: The Velcro—it ate everything in its path!  The problem with all that Velcro is that while one side of the Velcro is soft, the other side has those prickly loops that catch and scratch everything.  The polar fleece jacket I was wearing left quite a bit of fuzz on the Velcro and the prickly loops also caught on the mesh sides, leaving a fuzzy appearance in spots.  I also had some minor scratches on my hands where the Velcro caught me as I was trying to fasten the cover back down.

Conclusion

It’s important to note that the OOOOOOOOOOOOoooooOrbit Toddler Car Seat isn’t designed to be a convertible restraint used from birth or even from 2 months of age.  It’s designed to be used as a successor to the Orbit Baby Infant Seat or to another infant seat that’s been outgrown, since the minimum weight limit is 15 lbs. rear-facing and the angle of recline is quite upright, perfect for a toddler.  The restraint has nice, tall harness slots, soft padding, an easy-to-use harness, and ease-of-use installation features that set Orbit aside as a company.  The Toddler Car Seat is an interesting concept with lots of safety features in a nice package.

The webpage for the Orbit Toddler http://www.orbitbaby.com/products/tcs.html

You can check out our sponsor’s page on all things Orbit, including the new G2 system due out later this month: http://www.kids-n-cribs.com/orbit-baby .

For more information on child passenger safety, please visit:

www.CarSeatSite.com

www.car-seat.org

This carseat was provided to CarseatBlog.com by Orbit Baby.