Quantcast

Reviews Archive

Pet Harness Review: Do They Really Protect Our Pets?

sleepypodclickitLast September, the Center for Pet Safety released a summary of their study on harnesses for “pets,” though most of us use these harnesses for dogs only. When I originally saw this summary, I scanned through it as I am a pet parent; “dog owner” seems so cold when my dogs rule the house, truth be told. I already had a harness I bought at PetSmart that I liked for my dog. It wasn’t crash tested, but I didn’t have time to buy one that was. I used an IMMI crash tested harness for a car trip where I drove alone with her and it hurt her sensitive underarm area and she managed to twist around in it. Talk about me being a distracted driver! Then last December we adopted a new dog, Macy, and I had the need for another harness, so I looked at the summary again and decided to try out a few models to see which I liked best.

The Center (in their summary, they refer to themselves as “CPS” but for our purposes I’ll refer to them as the Center, since CPS generally means child passenger safety around here) teamed up with Subaru of America to conduct the tests. They did dynamic testing using FMVSS 213 guidelines, the safety standards child restraints must follow, to collect data on the harnesses. The Center chose harnesses for testing where the manufacturer made claims that the harness had been crash tested or provided crash protection.

Obviously pet harnesses aren’t child restraints and don’t fall under the protocols of FMVSS 213, but there are no federal guidelines, or any other guidelines for that matter, for crash testing of these harnesses. Like I do when I teach my technician classes, the manufacturers can throw the harnesses up against a wall and call it crash tested. This should sound familiar since we’re constantly educating parents on the potential risks of using non-regulated products with their carseats. In some cases, manufacturers of these pet harnesses have done tensile testing on the harness webbing and claimed crash testing. In addition, pet harness manufacturers may test a harness in one size, yet claim that all sizes they produce have been tested. That seems a bit dirty, doesn’t it?

On the Up and Up with the UPPAbaby MESA: Infant Carseat Review

mesaWhile UPPAbaby is a popular name in the stroller world, this is the first time they’ve ventured into the world of car seat safety with their UPPAbaby MESA infant carseat. I was a bit apprehensive at first, simply because the first shot at something tends to have a few kinks that can be worked out in subsequent models. However, my apprehension was dead wrong. They hit this one, and they hit it right out of the park. I’m thoroughly impressed, from the installation, to the use, to the aesthetics.

 

MESA Specifications and details:

  • For babies 4-35 lbs and 32 inches or less (1″ rule also applies)
  • No-rethread harness with 5-position front-adjustable headrest
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions
  • Lowest harness slot height is about 5.5″ and highest harness slots about 10″
  • Removable infant insert recommended for infants 4-8 lbs.
  • Robust head wings and shell lined with thick energy-absorbing EPS foam for enhanced side-impact protection
  • SMARTSecure™ system features auto-retracting lower anchor LATCH attachments
  • Built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations
  • Tension indicator on base – turns from red to green when base is installed tightly
  • Recline angle indicators on both sides of base
  • Allows European-style belt routing when installing baseless
  • Storage pockets in cover for keeping buckles out of the way when placing a child in the seat
  • Carrier weighs 11.1 lbs
  • 7 year lifespan before expiration

image  image

uppababy-mesa-baseMESA Base – the base is very low profile and clean looking. The entire base is rounded and smooth so it won’t leave a dent or scuff in your vehicle upholstery. The blue lockoff is located in the center of the beltpath. The LATCH connectors are stored in neat little compartments and you release them by pushing a button on top of the base. That’s a nice touch because then you don’t have LATCH straps flapping around interfering with your seatbelt installation or whacking you in the shin when carrying the base. There are recline angle indicators on both sides of the base and a button on top to adjust the recline on the base (there are 4 positions). A little window above the lockoff turns from red to green when the base is installed properly. I will discuss this more in the installation section.

Extra MESA bases can be purchased separately and retail for $119.99

Currently, MESA is available in 4 fashions. Drew (Tangerine), Sebby (Teal), Lindsey (Wheat), and Jake (Black) were all named after children of UPPAbaby employees (fun fact!).

A button on top of the handle allows you to release the MESA from the VISTA or CRUZ stroller with one hand. The handle has 3 positions, all of which can be used in the car. The release mechanism to detach the carrier from the base is located on the back of the seat above the blue panel that serves as the shoulder belt guide for European-style beltpath installation when the seat is installed without the base.

The seat itself is fairly long front to back and should accommodate tall babies well. It measures about 28″ front to back when attached to the base and almost 26″ when installed baseless. It’s not particularly narrow and measures about 17″ wide. The base itself is a tad over 14″ wide and should puzzle well next to other seats due to its low profile. Internal seated height measures about 17.5″ tall to the top of the adjustable head rest.

photo (74)

Installation and Fit to Vehicle:

UPPAbaby claims that the LATCH installation on this seat only takes about 10 seconds and I will say that is accurate. As you can see in the video above, there’s not much to it and it’s as easy as they claim.

2013 and 2014 Ford C-Max Video Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

2013 & 2014 Ford C-Max Hybrid Video Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

2013-14FordCmax

Looking for a smart, economical vehicle that doesn’t say “Prius” on it?  Something that has a reasonably well-designed back seat for kids and carseats?  If so, the Ford C-Max should definitely be on your short list!  For 2014, you can expect slightly better fuel economy, thanks to improvements in the powertrain and aerodynamics.  Even so, because of some issues with the EPA ratings, the new labels will indicate a decrease to 45 mpg city, 40 mpg highway and 43 mpg overall.  For those familiar with driving a Prius or other hybrid, this drop may not be a disappointment in real world driving.  For example, I achieved just over the EPA ratings of 47 mpg around town for a 2013 model with some basic hybrid driving techniques; slightly better than the Prius V I tested in similar conditions.

 

 

The 2nd row of the C-Max is one of the better setups I’ve seen in a compact vehicle.  The lower LATCH anchors are easy to find.  The seatbelts and LATCH anchors don’t overlap.  The buckles are not too short, such that they are difficult for kids in boosters to buckle themselves like in a Prius.  All head restraints can be removed if necessary to fit a taller carseat.  The middle seat, while narrow, can still manage a 3-across with careful selection.  Overall, it’s slightly wider and much nicer than the standard Prius in terms of fitting kids and carseats.

Perhaps the only major downside is that there is not a lot of legroom back there, like any compact car.  It’s about the same as the standard Prius, but the seat cushions seem lower to the floor.  So, adults may find it a bit cramped in back.  If that’s an issue, the roomier Toyota Prius V does offer adjustable 2nd row seats that are more comfortable for older passengers in terms of legroom and also space for a rear-facing carseat.

 

 

The C-Max comes only in a 5-door hatchback, which is great if you want to fit a stroller and some groceries.  The only oddity is that the top tether anchors are fabric loops on the back of the seat, NOT to be confused with the sturdy-looking metal cargo hooks on the floor!  Fabric loops are perfectly fine, just something to note when you are looking for metal anchors.  As for the hatch, the optional power assist feature is great.  My son liked being able to open the lift gate. :-)

 

Carseats:

As mentioned, the 2nd row setup of seatbelts and LATCH is very intuitive.  Ford is also to be commended for allowing the top tether system to be used up to the maximum limit indicated by the child safety seat manufacturer.

Below, left, I tested a Britax Advocate convertible carseat.  Installed rear-facing, it left adequate legroom for a 5’10″ driver in front.  With a Recaro ProSport combination seat on the other side, a small adult or narrow booster would still have room in the center seat.  The same applies to the Cosco Scenera and Graco Nautilus I tested, below, right.  Finally, at the bottom, you can see the locations for attaching a front-facing (left) and rear-facing (right) tether system.

Buckled Up, But Still in Danger!

So you’ve done the safest thing for your baby and bought one of CarseatBlog’s Recommended Carseats.  You’ve installed it correctly and buckled-up your child properly at the pickup line from daycare.  What’s next for your most precious cargo?  Take a few swigs from the container of vodka in the glove compartment to relax your nerves before the drive home?  Roll up the windows and smoke a celebratory cigarette in one hand as you drive away with your baby and pre-schooler in back?  Hand the crying infant a rattle comprised of a bottle of pills from mom’s purse?  Let your bored 4-year old play with the clever tools in a 24-function utility knife from dad’s pocket?  Sound silly?  Then why do so many people get their kids buckled-up, then proceed to pick up their cellphone and start dialing a call?  Even as they drive through the pick-up line with dozens of other kids running around!

It seems insane sometimes.  Watching erratic driving at schools, pediatrician’s office parking lots, near residential parks, you name it.  The reason is almost always the same.  The driver has a phone in one hand, held up to their ear, completely absorbed in conversation while they totally oblivious to others on the road. Maybe you’ve seen the unthinkable, too?  A teen driver with, like, both hands texting on the wheel.  Just sayin’! Or, the adult with a phone in one hand, and in the other hand is a cigarette, a sandwich or a hairbrush and barely the palm of one hand resting on top of the wheel.   OMG.  Some peeps are too important not to be multitasking.  Obviously.  I think to myself that they will have plenty of time for that other stuff in jail when the other unthinkable event happens.  For me, just the presence of my kids in back is enough to be considered distracted driving.  Apparently, it’s not enough for many people I see at school drop-offs and pick-ups.  KWIM?

In many states, there is now a deterrent.  New laws prevent the use of handheld phones entirely, just like many states that have enacted primary child passenger safety laws.  Buckle your 2-year old without a carseat or touch that phone while driving and you pay a fine if you are caught.   My state of Illinois enacted such a law this year.  It may seem harsh to some.  In some states where total cellphone bans apply only to young drivers, others may QQ that our teens are now being subject to nanny state restrictions.  Whatever.  To many parents and safety advocates, the real question is, “What exactly is so important that they are putting at risk their own life, the life of their children, their passengers, pedestrians and those in other vehicles?”  Srsly.  They can’t possibly wait 5 or 10 minutes to chat so they can safely drive home from their child’s school or other errand?  Really? What is preventing them from pulling over to the side of the road or into a parking space to send that text message?  Hashtag: Insanity.  Distracted Driving kills.  Ya Know?

We may never know the answer to why that call can’t wait.  Some people will continue to make very bad choices in all sorts of things.  And even if you avoid this risky behavior yourself, keep in mind that you’ve armed your teenager with a cellphone and the ability to drive a car, a weapon combination as lethal as any other!  IKR?  Those who have never raised a teen will lament that parents should just enforce adequate rules and discipline, but it doesn’t always work that easily in reality.  Perhaps they were perfect kids and have never experienced a typical teenager.  For those whose phone calls are too important to delay, or teens who will find a way make that call to their BFF regardless, there is a better way.  Hands-Free.  Many new cars have hands-free bluetooth interfaces, though these are often in pricey options packages.   While some studies have shown that simply talking on a call is dangerous, newer studies are showing that hands-free calling is at least a somewhat safer alternative, especially when you consider having to pickup the phone and dial a number.

Recommended Child Restraints for CPS Programs

All across the country, CPS programs are trying to get the most bang for their limited bucks. And while cost is an important factor to consider when trying to serve as many families in the community as possible – it shouldn’t be the only consideration. Injury prevention programs need to consider if the child restraints they are purchasing are user-friendly, compatible with most vehicles and work in a variety of scenarios. We’ve complied a list of budget-friendly CRs that we feel comfortable recommending for this purpose.

The specific child restraints on this list were chosen based on multiple factors which include value, versatility, weight/height range, ease of use, ease of installation and in the case of boosters – proper belt fit. 

 

REAR-FACING ONLY SEATS

USA flag - tinySafety 1st Comfy Carry Elite & Safety 1st Comfy Carry Elite Plus (front-adjust models)
Available through Mercury Distributing, Amazon, Walmart.com, Kmart.com, Baby Depot
  • Specs & Features: 4-22 lbs.; up to 29″ tall; front harness adjuster; 4 sets of harness slots; 3 buckle positions; Elite Plus model has 2-position adjustable base; Made in USA
  • Pros: Front harness adjuster (“Elite” & “Elite Plus” models only); rated from 4 lbs. and fits preemies very well; narrow carrier and base; can be installed baseless; lightweight
  • Cons: Only rated to 22 lbs.; plastic compound buckle (aka “puzzle buckle”) is difficult to buckle and unbuckle. Compound buckle not practical for some grandparents or for parents/caregivers who struggle with hand strength issues. “Elite” model lacks recline adjustment feature on the base which may necessitate the use of pool noodle(s) for some installations.
USA flag - tinySafety 1st onBoard 35
Available through Mercury Distributing*, Amazon, Walmart.com, Target.com, Kmart.com, Baby Depot
*Mercury offers onBoard 35 models with adjustable base or with non-adjustable base (you can purchase a stripped-down version that is missing the recline block on the base)
  • Specs & Features: 4-35 lbs.; up to 32″ tall; front harness adjuster; 4 sets of harness slots; 3 buckle positions; dual recline angle indicator; 2-position adjustable base; Made in USA
  • Pros: Front harness adjuster; rated from 4 lbs. and fits preemies very well; generous height and weight limits for extended usage (very important for parents who don’t own a vehicle and rely on public transportation/taxis/friends & relatives to get around); can be installed baseless
  • Cons: Tall seat so it takes up a considerable amount of room, especially when installed at the recommended recline for a newborn
Evenflo Embrace 35
Available through Evenflo Institutional Sales, Amazon, Walmart.com
  • Specs & Features: 4-35 lbs.; up to 30″ tall; front harness adjuster; 3 sets of harness slots; 3 buckle positions, 3-position adjustable base; Made in China
  • Pros: Front harness adjuster; rated from 4 lbs. and fits preemies very well; can be installed baseless
  • Cons: Handle not allowed to be up in the vehicle but carrier has forward handle position that can be used if space is an issue with putting handle down; requires 1.5″ of clearance with front seat if installed outboard
USA flag - tinyEvenflo Serenade 
Available through Evenflo Institutional Sales
  • Evenflo Serenade-ParsonsSpecs & Features: 4-35 lbs.; up to 32″ tall; front harness adjuster; infinite slide harness system; SureLATCH lower anchor connectors; 3-position adjustable base; Made in USA
  • Pros: Front harness adjuster; rated from 4 lbs.; SureLATCH connectors make LATCH installation very simple; Infinite Slide Harness System makes height adjustments quick and easy; can be installed baseless
  • Cons: Handle can’t be up in the vehicle but carrier has forward handle position that can be used if space is an issue with putting handle down; requires 1.5″ of clearance if installed outboard

 

CONVERTIBLE SEATS

USA flag - tinyCosco Scenera 
Available through Mercury Distributing and Walmart
  • Specs & Features: Rear-facing 5-35 lbs., 19-36″; Forward-facing 22-40 lbs., 34-43″; 4 sets of harness slots; 2 buckle positions; Made in USA
  • Pros: Fits average-sized newborns well; sufficient rear-facing height and weight limits to get toddlers to at least 24 months RF; doesn’t take up a lot of room when installed rear-facing; easy to use and generally easy to install; lightweight; relatively narrow
  • Cons: Requires pool noodle(s) to achieve acceptable rear-facing recline angle; single-line rear-facing recline angle indicator

USA flag - tinyEvenflo Tribute 

Available through Evenflo Institutional Sales, Amazon, Walmart.com, Target.comKmart.comBaby Depot
  • Evenflo TributeSpecs & Features: Rear-facing 5-40 lbs., 19-37″; Forward-facing 22-40 lbs., 28-40″; 4 sets of harness slots; 2 buckle positions; Made in USA
  • Pros: Sufficient rear-facing height and weight limits to get toddlers to at least 24 months RF; doesn’t take up a lot of room when installed rear-facing; easy to use and generally easy to install; lightweight; narrow
  • Cons: Typically requires pool noodle(s) to achieve acceptable rear-facing recline angle; single-line rear-facing recline angle indicator; not an ideal fit for newborns – bottom harness slots 8″; crotch strap is long
USA flag - tinyEvenflo Titan 65 (aka SureRide)
Available through Evenflo Institutional Sales, AmazonWalmart.comTarget.comBaby Depot
  • Specs & Features: Rear-facing 5-40 lbs., 19-40″; Forward-facing 22-65 lbs., 28-54″; 6 sets of harness slots; 2 buckle positions; Made in USA
  • Pros: Fits newborns (even small newborns) very well; optional shortened crotch strap position for babies under 10 lbs.; generous rear-facing height and weight limits for extended rear-facing; generous forward-facing height and weight limits for extended usage; easy to use and generally easy to install; lightweight; narrow
  • Cons: Rear-facing recline leg isn’t compatible with pool noodles – if angle is too upright for a young baby a rolled up towel/baby blanket will be necessary to place under the recline leg; single-line rear-facing recline angle indicator; this is a tall seat so it may take up more room when installed rear-facing; large gap between harness slots 3 and 4

 

COMBINATION SEATS

USA flag - tinyEvenflo Maestro
Available through Evenflo Institutional Sales, AmazonWalmart.comTarget.comBaby Depot
  • Specs & Features: Forward-facing with harness 22-50 lbs., 28-50″; Booster 40-110 lbs., 43-57″; 4 sets of harness slots; 2 buckle positions; Made in USA
  • Pros: Generous height and weight limits for harness; most average-sized kids will fit in harness until age 5-6; good belt fit in booster mode; easy to use and generally easy to install; lightweight; institutional model from Evenflo lacks cup holders which helps when you need to fit this seat next to another CR or in a 3-across situation
  • Cons: Outgrown quickly in booster mode; headrest is not height adjustable
USA flag - tinyEvenflo SecureKid
Available through Evenflo Institutional Sales
  • Specs & Features: Forward-facing with harness 22-65 lbs., 28-50″; Booster 40-110 lbs., 43-57″; 4 sets of harness slots; 2 buckle positions; Made in USA
  • Pros: Extra-generous 65 lbs. weight limit for harness; tall top harness slots; good belt fit in booster mode; height-adjustable headrest provides more growing room in booster mode; easy to use and generally easy to install; lightweight; institutional model from Evenflo lacks cup holders which helps when you need to fit this seat next to another CR or in a 3-across situation
  • Cons: Institutional models sold directly from Evenflo have basic hook-style LATCH connectors; retail models of the SecureKid are considerably more expensive and may not be the best choice for programs with limited funding

 

HIGHBACK BOOSTER SEATS

USA flag - tinyEvenflo Amp
Available through Evenflo Institutional Sales, Amazon, Walmart, TargetBaby Depot
  • Specs & Features: With back 30 -110 lbs., 40-57″; Without back 40-110 lbs., 40-57″; 6 height positions; minimum age 4; Made in USA
  • Pros: Dual mode; provides good belt fit on the vast majority of children; easy to assemble; does not require head support from the vehicle
  • Cons: Shallow head wings don’t provide good sleep support; base is wide and boxy
Graco TurboBooster
Available through LBI Distributors, Amazon, Walmart, Target, Baby Depot
  • Specs & Features: With back 30 -100 lbs., 38-57″; Without back 40-100 lbs., 40-57″; 6 height positions; minimum age 3; Made in China
  • Pros: Dual mode; provides good belt fit on the vast majority of children; does not require head support from the vehicle
  • Cons: Complicated assembly required (including a screwdriver); base is wide and boxy

 

BACKLESS BOOSTER SEATS

USA flag - tinyCosco HighRise/Ambassador
Available through Mercury Distributing, AmazonWalmart
  •  Specs & Features:  40-100 lbs., 43-57″; Made in USA

 

USA flag - tinyEvenflo Amp
Available through Evenflo Institutional Sales, Amazon, Target, Walmart, Baby Depot
  •  Specs & Features:  40-110 lbs., 40-57″; minimum age 4; Made in USA

 

Graco Connext with LATCH
Available at Walmart
  •  Specs & Features:  40-100 lbs., 40-57″; lower LATCH anchor attachments; minimum age 4; Made in China

 

LBB - BlackHarmony Youth
Available at Walmart
  •  Specs & Features:  30-100 lbs., 34-57″; Made in China

 

 

 

Contact information for Mercury, LBI & Evenflo to set up accounts & request freight shipping quotes. Minimum order requirements vary.

 

Mercury Distributing/Child Source

www.mercurydistributing.com

Phone: (800) 815-6330 / Fax: 800 815-6324

 

LBI Distributors (exclusive distributor for Graco products)

www.lbidistributors.com

Phone: (732) 565-9456  /  Fax: 732-565-9452

 

Evenflo Institutional Sales

Patsy Pilcher: Email: ppilcher@bellsouth.net