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The Noggle: Keeps Your Noggin Cool

NoggleWhen I first caught wind of the Noggle, the tech in me thought, “another product I’m going to have to tell parents to not buy because it isn’t safe.” We see a handful of “innovative” products hit the online market every year, each one trying to fill a niche from a frustrated parent who tinkered around until they jiggered something together to put to market. Most of the time we cringe and slap our hands over our eyes in an attempt to shield ourselves from the dangers these well-meaning folks present. Where does the Noggle fall on the scale of “would I use this for my kid?” products? Well, I don’t think I’ll let my kid use it because I’ll be keeping it for myself, lol!

What the Heck Is the Noggle?

It’s a tube that connects to your air vent to essentially elongate the vent and provide air to wherever you need it in your vehicle. It’s ideal for rear-facing children who don’t have access to air vents or 3rd rows where air vents are lacking. For instance, the 3rd row in my 2011 Acura MDX doesn’t have air vents, so when I have passengers back there, we have to crank up either the air or the heat, depending on the season, so they can be comfortable. With the Noggle, all I have to do is attach it to an air vent that a front passenger gives up and stretch the Noggle to the 3rd row. When the Noggle arrives at your doorstep, you get the Noggle itself (in either 6 or 8 foot lengths), a rectangular vent adapter, a circular vent adapter, 2 reusable zip ties, and instructions.

Noggle Includes  Noggle Length Inside  Noggle Attachment

Noggle Length

It’s ideal for people who travel with pets in crates in the cargo area, like we do. What we’ve done in the past for our pup is put our (now out of production) Cold Seat in the freezer before our trip for Bailey to lay on during the trip. Now with the Noggle, she can have her own air vent (I’ll willingly give up my front air vent since I’m always too chilly on trips).

Here’s a video of the Noggle in action:

 

 

Advantages

The biggest advantage is that you can place warm or cold air wherever you need it in your vehicle. As long as you have a working vent and a long enough zip tie, you can move the attachment piece to your heart’s desire. It’s easy to install and the amount of time required for installation is however long it takes you to thread the zip tie through your vent.

Another advantage is that you can leave the adapter installed on the vent, but remove the Noggle when you’re not using it. Today I had a full car of passengers, so I disconnected the Noggle so my son could sit in the passenger seat without 8 feet of Noggle in his lap.

 

Disadvantages

As with all items that aren’t screwed on or installed with a seat belt or LATCH, the Noggle does have the capability of coming free in a crash. I’d like to see less hard plastic at the end where it’s attached to the air vent. In a full-on frontal crash, theoretically, that plastic piece will be heading straight forward and not toward anyone, but in a side impact, it will pop off the holder on the vent and pop someone in the side of the head. Ouch! It’s something to consider as you’re staying nice and cool (or warm, depending on the season). Also, because the attachment piece isn’t fully sealed to the dash, there’s air escaping from the sides instead of going straight into the Noggle tube. A simple rubber gasket around the edge would probably fix that problem for future iterations of the Noggle.

Noggle Attached

Final Word

Overall the Noggle is a great comfort product and may aid in keeping kids rear-facing for longer during the hot summer months. Gone are the days of sweaty, grumpy rear-facing kids and the long hot summer vacation drives with choruses of, “Mommy! Daddy! I’m hot!” coming from the way back.  The Noggle comes in a variety of colors to either match your vehicle or delight your children and sells for around $29.99.

 

Thank you to the Noggle folks for providing us with our sample for review!

2013-2014 Mercedes Benz GL 450 Video Review: Kids, Carseats and Safety

Rather than bore you with a wall of text, this review of the 2013 Mercedes Benz GL450 4Matic will be primarily a video and photo review.  As usual, there will be an emphasis on seating kids, vehicle safety and carseat compatibility.  The GL-Class was updated for 2013, with the main improvement for families being slightly more interior space.  There were also updated powertrains, a revised dashboard and console design, exterior styling refinements and the addition of some advanced safety features.  Unfortunately, the Driver Assistance Package with DISTRONIC PLUS, Blind Spot and Lane Keep Assist adds almost $3,000 to the $64,000 base price.  My loaded 4Matic model with just about everything was an eye-popping $96,610 sticker price, but expect the street price of the more fuel-efficient GL350 BlueTEC to be well under $70,000, even with the Driver Assistance Package.

 

 

The second row is wider than any midsize SUV I’ve tested, and most of the smaller full-size SUVs as well. The middle seat is wide enough for narrower carseats and there is no funky crossover of seatbelts and LATCH anchors! It’s not adjustable for legroom, but does provide a good amount of space as it is.  There are also plenty of cupholders and spaces for storage.

 

 

It doesn’t stop there.

True Fit I-Alert C685 Convertible Review Part 1

True Fit I-AlertA couple of years ago, I reviewed The First Years True Fit Premier C670. Their latest iteration, The First Years True Fit I-Alert C685 (MSRP $349.99) is similar to the Premier model and has many of the same features. I was excited to get this I-Alert version of the True Fit to see what changes have been made. I pulled it from the box and immediately liked the colors; OK, now you know my true personality. Yes, ma’am, I do like gray and black. The next thing I thought was, holy cow, look at the padding. I might have laid my head in the plush seat, but that also might have been because I had all the life sucked out of me at my monthly installation marathon session earlier in the afternoon (aka work) and it was 106*. Needless to say, I’m jealous of any child who gets to sit in this seat and I wonder why auto manufacturers can’t make our seats like this. Oh, yeah! We’d all instantly be asleep!

But really, what was the third thing I did to the seat? You bet I ripped that cover right off to check out the I-Alert Integrated Car Seat Monitor system built in to the shell. Before I get to the technology, let’s talk basics.

The I-Alert C685 version of the True Fit is actually more like the True Fit SI C680 in terms of features than it is the True Fit Premier C670. Both the I-Alert C685 and the SI C680 models have the deeper, contoured headrest and include the anti-rebound bar that The First Years calls a “Rebound Energy Management System.”

 

Weight and Height Limits

Rear-facing: 5-22 lbs., head 1” below top of seat (without removable headrest)

Rear-facing: 5-35 lbs., head 1″ below top of installed removable headrest

Forward-facing: 23-65 lbs., height is 50” or less

 

True Fit I-Alert Overview

  • the-first-years-ialert-true-fit-C685-stockI-Alert technology communicates with your smartphone when you download the free IAlert App
  • I-Alert integrated carseat monitor senses when your child is in the carseat, buckled, or left behind
  • I-Alert technology works with your smartphone to assist in achieving the correct rear-facing recline angle
  • I-Alert technology constantly monitors the ambient temperature inside the vehicle
  • Rebound Energy Management™ system: an anti-rebound bar designed to limit rebound in the aftermath of a crash
  • Built-in lockoffs for both rear- and forward-facing
  • Color-coded belt paths: black for rear-facing, red for forward-facing
  • 2 recline positions for rear-facing and an easy-to-read angle indicator on center of seat
  • Thick, no re-thread harness
  • Removable headrest for tight back seat situations when baby is less than 22 lbs. and needs a deep recline
  • Deep side wings for side impact protection
  • Comes with infant insert, head insert, harness pads, a buckle pad, and a cup holder
  • No need to guess on child’s height for rear-facing or deal with the long legs vs. long torso debate: it’s head one inch from top of seat for the height limit
  • Easy to remove cover

 

True Fit I-Alert Measurements

  • Harness slots without padding: 9 ½”, 12”, 14 3/8”, 17 3/8”
  • Harness slots with padding: 8”, 9 ¾”, 12 ½”, 15 ½”
  • 19” at its widest point at shoulders, 18 ½” at knees
  • Shell height without removable headrest: 19 ½”
  • Shell height with removable headrest: 26 ¾”
  • Shoulder width: 13”
  • Crotch strap depth: 5”, 6 ¼”
  • Seat depth: 13”
  • Seat weight: 20.7 lbs. without infant inserts

 

I-Alert

Let’s jump right to the heart of the review. This is really why you’re here, right? How does the I-Alert system really work?

Rear-Facing Convertible Seats: Measurements, Height Limits & Weight Limits

Convertible MeasrementRecently, we published our Rear-facing Convertible Space Comparison blog, but it wasn’t an all-inclusive list and the primary focus was on how much room different convertible seats take up when installed in the rear-facing position. As part of that review, we listed the rear-facing seated height measurements and stated height limits of various convertibles. In the breakdown section for each seat, we included additional information such as RF weight limits and FF height & weight limits.

Now, we’re expanding that database and making an all-inclusive list, specifically of rear-facing convertible measurements, height and weight limits. We have data on almost every convertible seat currently in production. I have measured each seat personally because measuring is a bit subjective but I have done my best to be consistent in the way I measure each seat. Even then, measuring isn’t an exact science since the contours of these seats aren’t in a straight line. But again, I have done my best to be consistent in my measuring techniques.

Here are the results:

 

Convertible

RF Shell Height Measurement

RF Child Height Limit

RF Weight Range

Britax “Classic”  Marathon 65

25.5” tall

1” rule from top of shell

5-35 lbs.

Britax “Classic” Roundabout 50

25.5” tall

1” rule from top of shell

5-35 lbs.

Britax Roundabout

24” tall

1” rule from top of shell

5-40 lbs.

Britax Marathon, Boulevard, Pavilion & Advocate

24” tall

1”rule from top of main shell, not from top of HR

5-40 lbs.

Chicco NextFit

26” with HR fully extended

1” rule with HR fully extended

5-40 lbs.

Clek Foonf

26.5″ tall with HR fully extended

Child height 43” max and 1” rule from top of HR when fully extended

14-50 lbs.

Combi Coccoro

21.5″

Child height 36” max

3-33 lbs.

Cosco Apt 40RF

23” tall

Child height 40” max

5-40 lbs.

Cosco Scenera

23” tall

Child height 36” max

5-35 lbs.

Diono Radian R100

25” tall

Child height 44” max and 1.5” from top shell

5-40 lbs.

Diono Radian R120 & RXT

25” tall

Child height 44” max and 1.5” from top shell

5-45 lbs.

Eddie Bauer Deluxe 3-in-1 /Comfort 65

26” with HR fully extended

Child height 40” max and top of head below top of HR

5-40 lbs.

Eddie Bauer Sport

23” tall

Child height 40” max

5-40 lbs.

Eddie Bauer XRS 65

24.5” with HR fully extended

Child height 40” max

5-40 lbs.

Evenflo SureRide

25” tall

Child height 40” and 1”rule from top of shell

5-40 lbs.

Evenflo Symphony/ Snugli All-In-One

23” tall

Child height 37″ and 1” rule with HR in 2nd lowest height setting

5-40 lbs.

Evenflo Tribute

22” tall

Child height 37” and 1” rule from top of shell

5-40 lbs.

Evenflo Triumph 65

23” tall

Child height 37″ and 1” from top of shell

5-40 lbs.

Graco ClassicRide

23” tall

1” rule from top of shell

4-40 lbs.

Graco ComfortSport

23” tall

1” rule from top of shell

5-30 lbs.

Graco Head Wise

27.5” tall

1” rule from red plastic actuator when HR fully extended

4-40 lbs.

Graco My Ride

24” tall

1” rule from top of shell

5-40 lbs.

Graco My Size

27.5” tall

1” rule from red plastic actuator when HR fully extended

4-40 lbs.

Graco Size4Me

27.5” tall

1” rule from red plastic actuator when HR fully extended

4-40 lbs.

Graco Smart Seat

24.5″ tall

1” rule with HR in third lowest height setting

5-40 lbs.

Maxi-Cosi Pria  (with TinyFit)

25” with HR fully extended

Child height 40” or less and head below top of HR

4-40 lbs.

Maxi-Cosi Pria (without TinyFit)

25” with HR fully extended

Child height 40” or less and head below top of HR

9-40 lbs.

Orbit Baby Toddler G2

25” tall

None stated

15-35 lbs.

Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP

24” tall

1” rule with HR in max RF height position (7th notch)

5-45 lbs.

Recaro Performance Ride

23.5″ tall

Child seated height max 22.5”

5-40 lbs.

Safety 1st Advance 70 Air + (Plus)

29” tall

Child height 40” max and top of head below top of restraint HR

5-40 lbs.

Safety 1st All-In-One Sport

25” tall

Child height 36” max

5-35 lbs.

Safety 1st Alpha Elite 65

26” with HR fully extended

Child height 40” max and top of head below top of HR

5-40 lbs.

Safety 1st Chart Air

24.5” tall

Child height 40” max

5-40 lbs.

Safety 1st Complete Air

27.5” tall

Child height 40” max

5-40 lbs.

Safety 1st Elite Air 80

29” tall

Child height 43” max and top of head below top of restraint HR

5-40 lbs.

Safety 1st Guide 65

24.5” with HR fully extended

Child height 40” max

5-40 lbs.

Safety 1st onSide Air

23” tall

Child height 40” max

5-40 lbs.

The First Years True Fit Premier C670

27” tall

1” rule from top shell with upper headrest portion attached

5-35 lbs.

The First Years True Fit SI C680/I-Alert C685

27” tall

1” rule from top shell with upper headrest portion attached

5-35 lbs.

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For more detailed information please see our list of Carseat Reviews and our list of Recommended Carseats.  There is also a similar database of Carseat Measurements database at our Car-Seat.Org forum.  Unlike this chart above, the database measurements are mainly contributed by members, so some of the numbers may vary slightly from those I’ve measured.  The database is also easily viewed on the Car-Seat.org app for Apple and Android, on the iTunes and Google Play stores!

 

The Ultimate Rear-Facing Convertible Carseat Space Comparison – Size Matters!

size-mattersOh, the pun possibilities running through my mind right now are almost endless but I’m not going to go there, I promise! This will be a good, clean, safe-for-work, safe-for-kids-over-your-shoulder, comparative review by the time Darren and Heather have finished their editing and it’s finally published! 

With that out of the way let’s get down to the business of your back seat. Specifically, your vehicle’s back seat. Is your vehicle’s front-to-back space limited? Are you and/or your partner tall or just leggy? Or maybe you just want the ability to stretch out a little bit more on a long ride. Regardless of why you need more leg room up front, the reality is that you’re not alone. The rear-facing carseat/space issue comes up over and over again here at CarseatBlog, on our blog’s Facebook page and on the Car-Seat.org forums. Everyone, it seems, is looking for a good quality, higher-weight-harness convertible that will keep their child happy and comfortably seated in the rear-facing position while still allowing the front seat driver and/or passenger to be safe and comfortable too. Because let’s face it, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your comfort or safety just to accommodate junior who is optimally seated rear-facing in a convertible behind you!

Additionally, as a mom and a Child Passenger Safety Technician-Instructor, I know that space factors play an important role for many parents in their decision on when to make that “demotion” in safety from rear-facing to forward-facing.  Ideally that switch from RF to FF shouldn’t occur until the child has maxed out their convertible seat by either height or weight, but that’s rarely the reality. The reality is that the vast majority of parents in this country are still turning their toddlers forward-facing before the recommended minimum age of 2 and, in most cases, way before the RF weight or height limits of their convertible seat are actually reached. I know space issues play a role in many of those decisions. Hopefully this blog can help reduce some of those occurrences by giving parents some useful info on which popular convertible models take up the least amount of room when installed in the RF position.

Since there are too many variables from vehicle to vehicle and even from one seating position to the next (within the same vehicle), I can’t and won’t tell you that seat X or seat Y is going to be the best choice for your child in your vehicle. But I can tell you that seat X takes up 3″ less room when rear-facing than seat Y when installed properly and in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions in the same seating position. The rest of the factors (specs, features, price, etc.) are going to be up to you to take into account. Because even though size matters, it’s not the only thing that matters! 

With that in mind, I chose convertibles from my collection of demo/training seats that are either on our list of Recommended Seats or just popular higher-weight-harness convertibles. I did not include very compact seats like the Combi Coccoro or Cosco Scenera, because I know that most of our readers are looking for convertibles that last longer and can be used for extended rear-facing. For example, the Coccoro is a great little seat that doesn’t take up much room when rear-facing and is fairly narrow, too. That’s a huge bonus in compact cars. The trade-off is that it’s more quickly outgrown by height and weight in the RF position. Average size models, like the Britax convertibles and Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP 5-70, have modest rear-facing height limits but can still accommodate many kids rear-facing past 2-years old AND fit easily in your small car!

rfprius

While this list does include 15 current convertible models, it is NOT an all-inclusive list and I was limited to what I had available or had access to during the project period.

grade-b-plusSeats have been given letter grades for simplicity. This grade relates only to the amount of room that the seat takes up when rear-facing as compared with the other seats on this list. Keep in mind that even seats with an “A” rating aren’t guaranteed to fit rear-facing or install properly in the back seat of your vehicle but they’re a good place to start if you’re on a quest to find a good rear-facing convertible that doesn’t take up a lot of room. By the same token, just because a seat has a “C” or “D” rating doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed not to fit well rear-facing in a smaller vehicle. There are just so many variables in each specific situation that it’s impossible to know for sure. You really never know for sure until you try it.   

For the record, my installation method for each seat was pretty basic. I didn’t use any tricks to try to get the seats more upright or anything like that. I also didn’t attach the rear-facing tether in cases where that was specifically an option (Britax, Diono). I used the lower LATCH anchors for each install just to be consistent, and because it was easier in most cases. Each seat was installed properly and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. I did not use any pool noodles to increase the recline angle because it wasn’t necessary. The only exception was the Safety 1st Complete Air, which needed noodles to achieve even the most upright RF recline angle. Since I was installing just for the sake of measuring, I took the lazy way out and just wedged the edge of the CR into the vehicle seat cushion and it stayed tight. Normally, I like to get behind the rear-facing convertible and use my hips or mid-section to compress the seat down and into the vehicle seat cushion, leaving both hands free to tighten the seatbelt or latch strap. However, I couldn’t do that with these installs because that would have required moving the front seat forward to get my body back there, and that wasn’t an option. The front passenger seat stayed in its precise position throughout the project period.

I set the front passenger’s seat in a specific fixed position with the seatback angle neither too reclined nor too upright for an adult to sit comfortably. Then, in each case I measured the distance between the convertible and the point on the back of the front seat or head restraint that was likely to make first contact. That “contact point” varied depending on the height and contour of the CR. So, this means that these measurements and grades could vary somewhat in a different vehicle that has a different contour of vehicle seats, different geometry of head restraints or is simply installed somewhat differently.  For example…

NOT

YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY! (Don’t try this at home)

 

In cases where the convertible had a height-adjustable headrest (HR), I took separate measurements with the HR flush with the shell and also with the HR extended to the max RF height limit. If the convertible allowed more than one recline position to be used for RF then I installed the seat using the different recline positions as long as it installed within the acceptable recline angle range. There was one exception I made and that was for the Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 installed in the semi-reclined position. I was just so blown away by the amount of room that I gained with that seat in the #2 recline position that I couldn’t throw it out just because the level line wasn’t level with the ground. More specific details on that installation and those results can be found in the Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 notes below.

 

 

Okay, enough rambling… this is what you’re here for! Below is a table comparing the various convertibles and listing their grade, the amount of space gained in relation to the most space-consuming convertibles tested and the seat’s RF seated height limits. 

 

 

Note: CR Interior Height Measurement refers to the measurement of the Child Restraint (CR) from the bottom of the seated area to the top of the restraint in its maximum rear-facing height position (picture below).  This measurement may range from 23″ to 27.5″.  The overall “Child Height”, or standing height limit is also stated for seats that list one in their owner’s manual. The “1 Inch Rule” states that the child has outgrown the CR by height if there is only 1″ of shell or headwing structure (this varies from seat to seat so check the notes in the chart above) left above the child’s head. In other words, you always want more than 1″ of shell or structure above your child’s head. Once they get to the point where there is only 1″ left above their head – the seat is outgrown in the rear-facing position.

Interior Height Measurement

 

Here is a breakdown of each convertible tested with a few additional details and pics of the installation: