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Nuna PIPA Infant Carseat Review – Exceptional

Nuna Pipa - night stockThe PIPA infant carseat from Nuna delivers everything you could ask for in a high-end carseat. Nuna produces a collection of modern and stylish baby gear inspired by Dutch designers who wanted to combine cutting edge safety technology with style and functionality. The idea is to keep things simple, practical and stylish while still being innovative. PIPA is Nuna’s first carseat and while they may be the new kid on the block – they did their homework and it shows. With rigid lower LATCH attachments, a load leg, lots of padding and a canopy bigger than Texas – this seat could set the bar for all future high-end infant carseats.

As Heather and Darren can attest, I usually have lots of “feedback” to offer carseat manufacturers when we talk to them in person at trade shows and conferences but when it comes to the Nuna PIPA – I’m uncharacteristically quiet. Of course, there is no such thing as one perfect carseat for all parents because we all have different tastes, opinions, preferences and budgets to work with. However, for me, PIPA comes very close to being that elusive “perfect” carseat. It’s almost enough to make me want another baby. Okay, so that’s a bunch of baloney but seriously – new moms today have all the good stuff and they should consider themselves very lucky to have so many excellent carseats to chose from in various price ranges.

The Pipa retails for $299.95 at various retailers like Kids N Cribs, Albee Baby, Wayfair, Right Start and Giggle.

Nuna PIPA Specs & Features:

  • Nuna Pipa Scarlet with load legRear-facing only: 4-32 lbs and 32″ or less (1″ rule also applies)
  • 3 harness height positions
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions (plus adjustable crotch strap length for smaller babies and preemies)
  • Adjustable base with “stability leg” (a.k.a load leg)
  • Base has rigid lower LATCH anchor connectors
  • Base has sturdy lock-off for installations using seatbelt
  • Can be installed without base using standard or Euro beltpath routing
  • Thick energy-absorbing EPS foam lines entire upper portion of shell
  • Canopy with unique “dream drape” feature
  • FAA approved for use in an airplane
  • 7 year lifespan before expiration

So why all the excitement for an infant seat?

Evenflo Platinum SecureKid DLX Review – Be Safe, Stay Cool

The Evenflo Platinum SecureKid DLX is an upgraded version of the Evenflo SecureKid that we reviewed thoroughly here. This SecureKid model has many innovative safety, comfort and convenience features which make this seat an excellent choice for families looking for a lightweight, comfortable, forward-facing only seat that will grow with their older child.

The SecureKid is a forward-facing “combination” seat (Evenflo refers to it as a “Harnessed Booster”) that can be used with the 5-point harness until the harness is outgrown by weight or height and then the seat can be used as a belt-positioning booster using the vehicle’s lap/shoulder seatbelt. I like to think of combination seats as “Stage 3″ seats that are most appropriate for preschool and school-age children.

 

Platinum SecureKid DLX Specs:

  • 5-point harness: Forward-facing only for kids 22-65 lbs, at least 1 year old, height 28- 50″ tall (shoulders must be at or below top harness slots).
  • Booster with vehicle lap/shoulder belt: 40-110 lbs, at least 4 years old, height 43 – 57″ (top of ears must be below the top of CR headrest).

 

Platinum SecureKid DLX Features:

  • 4 sets of harness slots
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions
  • SureLATCH self-ratcheting lower anchor connectors
  • Energy-absorbing “e3″ foam lines the back and sides of the headwings for enhanced protection in side-impact crashes
  • Height-adjustable head support
  • LATCH attachments can be used in booster mode
  • Buckle Pockets hold buckle tongues out of the way when loading child into seat
  • OUTLAST performance fabric
  • Dual integrated cup holders
  • FAA approved for use in aircraft (with 5-pt harness)
  • 6 year lifespan before expiration

OUTLAST® Performance Fabrics absorb hot and cold temperature, releasing as needed. Outlast® technology, originally developed for NASA, utilizes phase change materials (PCM) that absorb, store and release heat for optimal thermal comfort.

This technology has the ability to:

  • Actively absorb and store excess heat, helping to reduce overheating
  • Allow the child to stay at a balanced temperature and prevent chilling during the cooler months; if the child’s skin temperature drops, the stored heat is released
  • Reduce perspiration so the child stays drier and more comfortable

The thermal image below shows the difference in body temperature after 30 minutes of sitting in the same style carseat – one with OUTLAST®  fabric and one with regular fabric. If you live in a warm climate or just have a kid who is a sweatbox – this technology will help keep your kiddo feeling comfortable all year round.

Evenflo OUTLAST thermal-image

KidsEmbrace Carseat Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Combination Booster

Turtle stockWhile most other car seat companies are producing fashions that appeal to parents, KidsEmbrace has been cornering the market on styles that appeal to kids, which is probably a smart move. Batman might not be your thing, but if he gets a kid excited about a car seat, how can that be bad? (Unless the Batman car seat is scaring people in parking lots, but that’s a different matter.)

Last fall, people went crazy over the prospect of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle seat. My own daughter barely even knows what a Ninja Turtle is, yet she couldn’t wait to sit in this seat. It was too cold to play with when we first got it, but she actually gave it a hug every day when she passed by it in the garage. That’s love.

So, what’s the low-down on the KidsEmbrace seat? Is it totally tubular or just a pretty face? Let’s find out.

Specifications/Features

  • Forward-facing only combination seat
  • With harness: 22-65 lbs, 29-52 inches, at least 1 year old
  • Belt-positioning booster: 30-100 lbs, 38-57 inches (and tops of ears below top of headrest), at least 3 years old
  • Harness slot heights: 13″, 16″, and 17″ ***
  • Highest shoulder belt guide (booster): 20″
  • Crotch buckle positions: 5.5″, 7″
  • Seat depth (interior): 12″
  • Internal seat width: 10″ at bum, 11.5″ at shoulders, 9″ at headwings
  • Widest exterior measurement: 19″ (at cupholders)
  • Widest exterior point at shoulders: 18″
  • Width at back of base: 14″, enlarging out to 15″
  • Two recline positions

Naked turtle front Naked turtle back Turtle bottom

 

***Note: we had some confusion regarding the harness slots on this seat.

Merritt Chest Clip Guard & Buckle Guard Review- the end of the line for the carseat escape artist!

I just have to preface this review by saying how thrilled I am that these two products are now available and that they’re made by a trusted and reputable manufacturer of special needs carseats and related products. Merritt Manufacturing produces many of the most widely used carseats for children with special healthcare needs including the Hope Car Bed, The Churchill Booster and the Roosevelt 5-point harness seat. The innovative Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard were originally designed as “escapism prevention” accessories for the Roosevelt. Recently Merritt made them available for purchase separately and for use with conventional carseats. For families with children who continuously escape from their 5-point harness, this is VERY good news.

  

The “Carseat Houdini” presents a huge challenge to safety-minded parents and also to the CPS Techs trying to help these families. I’ve seen parents do some pretty crazy (and creative!) things to try to keep their kid in his or her carseat over the years. I’ve also seen a lot of questionable aftermarket products that target desperate parents who are willing to buy anything when discipline and the usual parenting strategies don’t stop the behavior.

This review covers both of the accessories available from Merritt.

For younger kids who don’t have the thumb strength to actually unbuckle the buckle but rather escape from their seat by pushing the chest clip down and wiggling their arms and shoulders free – the Chest Clip Guard is probably all that is needed. You can use this product if you have a carseat that allows you to detach the harness from the splitter plate. If you just need the Chest Clip Guard – it should work with most current seats including the Diono Radian models, Evenflo Mastro, Evenflo Secure Kid, Graco Nautilus, etc. It won’t work with seats like the Evenflo Symphony, Evenflo Triumph or Chicco NextFit because those carseats either don’t have a splitter plate or it’s inaccessible.

Merritt Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard  Merritt Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard

For Britax seats with rubber HUGS pads – the HUGS will have to be removed. I know that’s a conflict with the instruction manual but in these cases the parent has to decide if the benefits of using the Chest Clip Guard outweigh any potential risks of using the seat without the HUGS pads. I think it’s important to point out that most kids riding in a Britax convertible with HUGS are not anywhere near the maximum weight limit of 65-70 lbs. and that the Roundabout 55 (rated to 55 lbs.) does not have HUGS. Along the same lines, the Britax Pioneer 70 harness-2-booster combination seat is rated to 70 lbs. and doesn’t have HUGS pads either.

The Chest Clip Guard $49.95

Merritt Chest Clip Guard  Merritt Chest Clip Guard

The Chest Clip Guard is truly a brilliant concept. The idea is so simple and yet so effective. I’m just mad that I didn’t think of it first. It’s an attachment to the harness with height-adjustable harness pads that hold a lockable chest clip in a fixed position. The harness pads are attached to each other via a piece of webbing that goes behind the child’s neck. The chest clip can also be locked by using the “key” tool that comes with product. If you lose the key, it’s not a big deal because it’s not really a key and you can insert a variety of different things (including a regular house key or car key) to operate the locking mechanism inside the chest clip. A buckle tongue from the buckle on the carseat harness will do the trick too.

Plastic "key" to lock Chest Clip Guard

Plastic “key” to lock Chest Clip Guard

This video explains how the Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard function.

 

The Buckle Guard $29.95

    

IMMI buckleAs I explained in the video – the Buckle Guard can ONLY be used with the IMMI buckle (pictured right). FYI – the buckles used on the current Diono Radian models look similar to the IMMI buckle because it also has a square release button but upon close inspection you’ll see that it’s not the same buckle. This guard will NOT work with the current Diono buckle.

Once the Buckle Guard is attached, it cannot be removed without carefully prying it off with a flat head screwdriver. Once the Buckle Guard has been removed it must be discarded. Therefore this is a product that is intended to remain on the buckle until it is no longer needed.

If you need the Buckle Guard for a seat you already own or if you’re in the market for a new carseat that can accommodate the Buckle Guard – below is a list of higher-weight harness carseats that are currently sold with an IMMI buckle:

Manufacturer Models with IMMI buckle
Britax All convertible seats: Roundabout/Marathon/Boulevard/Pavilion/Advocate
Britax All Harness-2-Booster Combination Seats: Pioneer 70/Frontier 90/Pinnacle 90
Chicco NextFit convertible (NOT suitable for Chest Clip Guard)
Clek Foonf convertible
Evenflo Symphony convertible (NOT suitable for Chest Clip Guard)
Graco New MyRide and Size4Me/My Size/Head Wise convertibles
Graco New Nautilus and Argos combination seats
Maxi-Cosi Pria convertibles
Orbit Baby Toddler Seat convertible
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio convertible
Recaro ProRIDE and Performance Ride convertibles
Recaro Performance Sport combination
The First Years All True Fit convertible models

 

Chest Clip Guard & Buckle Guard Combo $79.90

If you need both the Chest Clip Guard and the Buckle Guard accessories for your talented escape artist, that will narrow down the choices since you need a carseat with an IMMI buckle that also gives you access to the splitter plate so you can remove the existing chest clip and attach the guard in its place. Again, I’m only going to list model with a higher-weight harness because Houdini kids benefit from staying in a 5-point harness beyond 40 lbs.

For children with special needs who will likely benefit from the Chest Clip Guard and the Buckle Guard for an extended period of time, the Britax Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 offer the highest weight and height limits of any conventional carseats currently on the market. However, both the Frontier and the Pinnacle come with HUGS pads on the harness and technically Britax requires their usage. Use of the chest clip guard necessitates the removal of the HUGS pads so that will have to be a “parental decision”. My personal feeling is that having an older child with special needs who continuously escapes from the carseat while the car is moving presents a much greater risk than the potential risk of using a Britax seat without the HUGS pads. However, as a CPS Technician I cannot recommend that a parent go against the carseat manufacturer’s instructions. The updated Britax Pioneer 70 (no HUGS pads; rated to 70 lbs. and now with 19.5″ top harness slots) would be a reasonable compromise if the child is slender and likely to outgrow the harness by height before hitting the 70 lbs. weight limit.

CRs that can accommodate both Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard 
Manufacturer Model
Britax All convertible seats: Roundabout/Marathon/Boulevard/Pavilion/Advocate
Britax All Harness-2-Booster Combination Seats: Pioneer 70/Frontier 90/Pinnacle 90
Clek Foonf convertible
Graco MyRide and Size4Me/MySize/Head Wise convertibles
Graco Nautilus and Argos combination seats
Maxi-Cosi Pria convertibles
Orbit Baby Toddler Seat convertible
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio convertible
Recaro ProRIDE and Performance Ride convertibles
Recaro Performance Sport combination
The First Years All True Fit convertible models

 

The Bottom Line

The Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard products can be a lifesaver (literally!) for parents with children who are persistent escape artists that do not respond to typical parenting tips and tricks. These accessory products are well-designed and come from a reputable carseat manufacturer that knows how to think outside of the box – safely. That doesn’t mean that the other CR manufacturers are going to give their blessing to using these accessories with their products – that’s probably asking too much. However, these niche products fill a serious hole in the market and the reasonable prices make them a realistic option for most families. I’m beyond thrilled that there are legitimate products on the market now that I can feel comfortable recommending for children with special needs and also occasionally for the very stubborn and determined 2 year old who just doesn’t respond to the usual suggestions that we tend to give parents in these situations.

For more information on the Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard see the manufacturer’s website:  http://www.escapeproof.net

 

Thank you Merritt Manufacturing for supplying the Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard samples for this review. No other compensation was received and the comments and opinions are entirely my own.

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?