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Baby, It’s Cold Outside! Winter Coat Suggestions for Kids in Carseats

snowconePumpkin Spice lattes, falling leaves, Christmas decorations going up the day after Halloween…it can only mean one thing: It’s getting colder, and your kids are going to need winter clothes.

Michelin-man-style snowsuits might be fine for sledding, but in the car they can be dangerous. Too much bulk means that the harness won’t tighten properly against the child. In a crash, that extra bulk can compress, leaving a too-loose harness, and leaving the child inadequately protected.

So what can you do?

One option is to have your child take her coat off before she gets in the car. Then after she’s buckled, she can slip her arms into the backwards coat.

But what if your kids don’t want to take off their jackets? No problem–just look for something car-seat-friendly.

What constitutes a good coat for the car seat? Anything that doesn’t add extra bulk to the child will do. That might be a sweater, thin fleece, or a squishy down jacket.

To see if your child’s outerwear is ok for the car, put it on your child, put him in his seat, and tighten the harness. Then, WITHOUT LOOSENING THE HARNESS, unbuckle your child and take him out. Take off the jacket, then put him back in the seat and re-buckle. If there’s no extra slack (or just a teeny bit), the jacket is good! If there’s a significant amount of slack, consider another option.

 

Winter Coat Infographic

 

Those two jackets look pretty similar, but you can see how different they really are. In the first photo, my daughter is wearing a Snozu jacket. Without the jacket, the harness had no slack. (In fact, before I took the picture my daughter had been in the seat with no jacket. I didn’t need to loosen the harness at all to buckle her with the jacket on.) The second coat is another story. It’s your typical winter coat, and honestly, it didn’t seem that bulky to me…until I took it off and re-buckled. Wow! There was a lot of slack in that harness!

Here are some good jackets to try:

Last year I got my daughter a Snozu jacket from Costco, pictured above. (There are also some available from Amazon.) They squish down into almost nothing, so they’re perfect for the car. This year’s version has a thin layer of fleece inside, but still works well in the car.

People at car-seat.org also love the Patagonia Puffball.

Many have also said good things about the North Face Moondoggy.

LL Bean and The Gap both have PrimaLoft jackets that look very squishable.

This coat from Lands’ End also looks like it might work.

Besides working well in car seats, these options will also pack well in a backpack or diaper bag when you don’t need them. Safe AND convenient!

What great car seat coats have you found?

CarseatBlog’s Recommended Carseats List – 2013 Update!

The-Best-Ribbon

It’s been 12 months since we last updated our list of recommended child restraints. Some models have been updated, some discontinued and many new products have been introduced. A few weeks ago we started the process of revising and updating the entire list and after much thought and discussion we arrived at a consensus. Behold our Updated 2013 List of Recommended Carseats!

We acknowledge that many certified child passenger safety technicians have had it ingrained upon them that they are supposed to act completely neutral toward child restraints. All current seats pass the same FMVSS 213 testing, they are all safe when used correctly, etc., etc. In the class to become certified, most techs were told never to tell a parent that one child seat or brand is better than any other. Instead, technicians are instructed to tell parents that the best seat is the one that fits their child, installs well in their vehicle and is easiest for them to use correctly. Nothing wrong with that.

However, the reality is that once you’ve installed even a dozen different seats, you quickly learn that there are real differences. Some child restraints do tend to install better in general, while some really are easier to use in general. Features like lock-offs for seatbelt installations and premium push-on lower LATCH connectors do make a difference in the vast majority of installations but that doesn’t necessarily mean that every seat that lacks those features is a bust or not worthy of your consideration.

Several years ago, the mighty NHTSA started recommending seats. They didn’t make these recommendations based upon crash testing. No, they were made upon a subjective determination of factors relating to ease-of-use. Ironically, these factors were no more likely to apply to someone’s child and vehicle than the recommendations of an experienced technician! Enter another respected institution, the IIHS. A few years back they began rating booster seats based on fit to a standardized 6 year old dummy. Again, no crash testing whatsoever. Again, no guarantees that the results would apply to your child in your vehicle.

So, who is CarseatBlog to go recommending specific child seats? Well, Heather and Kecia are very experienced Child Passenger Safety Technician-Instructors. Darren has been a certified technician for over a dozen years and has like a zillion websites on the topic. Our newest blog writers, Jennie (an experienced CPS Technician) and Alicia (nurse and former tech), are moms with younger kids who can actually use the infant seats and convertible seats that our own kids have long outgrown. We also like to think that we’ve earned a respectable reputation in the child passenger safety community of manufacturers, agencies and advocates. Most importantly, though, we’re just parents who have used a lot of different car seats. Collectively, we have 12 kids ranging in age from newborn to 16. We’ve been through every stage, survived every transition, and personally used an astonishing number of different carseats and boosters. Like many other products we use daily, we know which ones we tend to like in general, which ones we’d use without reservation for our own kids and which ones we are comfortable recommending to CarseatBlog readers and visitors.

With all that said, please take our recommendations with a grain of salt. They are merely opinions, after all. And while we did thoughtfully consider the pros and cons of each seat and combine that with our personal experiences with the product – there’s no crash testing involved. Some seats were omitted because we opted to include a similar model from the same manufacturer. For others, we simply didn’t have enough experience with the product yet to form an opinion. There are a number of products that we don’t mention, if only because a list of every seat we like would be too inclusive, so products that we don’t include may still be worth your consideration! Conversely, some seats we do list may just not work well for you, your child or your vehicle. We’re not saying these are the best or safest choices in child car seats, we’re just saying they’re models we think you should consider. If nothing else, it’s a good place to start when you are carseat or booster shopping!

Please feel free to leave a comment if you think one of our recommendations is rubbish or if you know of a product that you feel deserves a mention! Unlike some other organizations that think their word is the final one, we know our readers have experiences and opinions just as valid as our own!

Special Promotion for Amazon Mom Members – Extra 20% Off Select Carseats & More!

Britax Frontier 90 - ZebraHappy Labor Day! It’s officially September and that means sales and special promotions of Baby Gear! We love a good deal on a great product just as much as you do so we wanted to make sure everyone knew about the Amazon Moms Customer Appreciation Event!

Amazon Mom Members with Prime can use the promotional code BABY0913 to save 20% on hundreds of eligible baby products in select colors and styles, for up to $100 in total savings from August 28, 2013 through September 14, 2013 11:59 p.m. (Pacific time) and while supplies last. Enter the code once and all subsequent purchases will automatically apply the code to the qualifying items, for up to $100 in total savings. See full details. Discount does not apply to products sold by third-party merchants and other sellers through the Amazon.com site. Not an Amazon Mom Member? Join Amazon Mom now.

The 20% off discount applies to select offerings from Britax, Diono, Graco, Clek, Chicco, Recaro, Orbit Baby, The First Years, ERGObaby and more. It includes many popular seats like the Britax Boulevard 70-G3, Frontier 90, Pinnacle 90, Diono Radian RXT & Clek Foonf. There are also plenty of cool strollers and baby carriers eligible for the discount too. Just remember that you’re limited to a total savings of $100.

Diono Radian RXT - cobalt  Britax Blvd 70 G3 - Onyx  Graco Nautilus EliteGraco MyRide 65

As usual, the big bonus of ordering directly from Amazon is free shipping and free returns in case your purchase doesn’t work out for whatever reason. That’s important because the best advice is always to “try before you buy” but we understand that sometimes that just isn’t an option.

Click here to see the complete listing of all carseats eligible for this promotion.

Click here to see the complete listing of all strollers eligible for this promotion.

 

 

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.

www.CarseatBlog.com

©2013 All Rights Reserved

 

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-mattersIs 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 by giving parents some useful info on which  rear-facing convertibles take up the least amount of room.

I must stress that every vehicle is different and our measurements may not translate exactly to your vehicle. For example, if you are installing in a center seating position or have a larger vehicle, you may have plenty of room – even for the space hogs. 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 that are either on our list of Recommended Seats or just popular higher-weight convertibles. I did not include small convertible seats like the Combi Coccoro, because I know that most of our readers are looking for convertibles that can last for several years and can be used for extended rear-facing. 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 hardly bigger than some of the infant seats currently on the market so it’s quickly outgrown by height and weight in the RF position. Average size models, like the Britax G4 convertibles and Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible, have modest rear-facing height limits but can still accommodate many kids rear-facing past 24 months old AND fit easily in your small car!

rfprius

Britax Advocate in Toyota Prius

While this list does include 18 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.  More models may be added in the future.

grade-b-plusSeats have been given letter grades for simplicity. This “Space 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 won’t fit well rear-facing in a smaller vehicle. There are just so many variables in each specific situation that 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. In most cases I didn’t need to any pool noodles to increase the recline angle because it wasn’t necessary – but there were a few exceptions. 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 passenger 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.  In other words… 

Your mileage may vary!

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 space grade, the amount of space gained in relation to the most space-consuming convertibles tested and the seat’s RF weight and seated height limits. *Hint: if you’re viewing this on your phone – turn it sideways to see all 4 columns.

Convertible Carseat Name (Details) Space Grade Space Gained RF Weight Max RF Height Limits & CR Interior Ht Measurement
Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 (Very upright angle; HR fully extended) A+ +7.5” 40 lbs. Child height 40” max; 25” tall with HR extended
Britax Pavilion* A +5″ 40 lbs. 1” rule from top shell; 24” tall
Britax Roundabout 55 A +5″ 40 lbs. 1”rule from top shell; 24” tall
Chicco NextFit (More upright angle; HR fully extended) A +5″ 40 lbs. 1” rule with HR fully extended; 26” tall
Diono Radian with optional Angle Adjuster accessory A +5″  40 or 45 lbs. Child height 44″ or less and 1.5″ rule from top of shell; 25″ tall
Diono Rainier** with optional Angle Adjuster accessory A +5″  50 lbs. Child height 44″ or less and 1.5″ rule from top of shell; 25″ tall
Graco Size4Me*** (HR flush with shell) A +5″ 40 lbs. 1” rule from red plastic actuator when HR fully extended; 27.5” tall
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP (HR flush with shell) A +5″  45 lbs. 1” rule with HR in max RF ht position (7th notch); 24” tall
Britax “Classic” Marathon or Classic Roundabout 50 A- +4.5″  35 lbs. 1” rule from top of shell; 25.5” tall
Evenflo Triumph A- +4.5″  40 lbs. Child height 37″ max; 1” from top of shell; 23” tall
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP (HR extended to max RF height position) A- +4.5″  45 lbs. 1” rule with HR in max RF ht position (7th notch); 24” tall
Safety 1st Guide 65 (Most upright recline angle, HR fully extended) A- +4.5″  40 lbs. Child height 40” max; 24.5” with HR fully extended
Evenflo Symphony (HR extended to max RF height position) B+ +4″  40 lbs. Child height 37″ max; 1” rule with HR in 2nd height setting; 23” tall
Graco 4Ever All-in-One (HR Flush with shell) and (HR fully extended) B+ +4″  40 lbs. 1” rule from red plastic actuator when HR fully extended; 27.5” tall
Chicco NextFit (Max recline angle; HR flush with shell) B +3.5  40 lbs. 1” rule with HR fully extended; 26” tall
Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 (Max recline angle; HR flush with shell) B +3.5″  40 lbs. Child height 40” max; 25” with HR fully extended
Safety 1st Guide 65 (Max recline angle, HR flush with shell) B +3.5″  40 lbs. Child height 40” max; 24.5” with HR fully extended
Graco My Ride 65 B- +3″  40 lbs. 1” rule from top shell; 24” tall
Clek Foonf (HR Flush with shell) and (HR fully extended) C+ +2.5″  45 or 50 lbs. Child ht 43” max and 1” rule from top of HR when fully extended; 26.5” tall
Evenflo SureRide C+ +2.5″  40 lbs. Child height 40” max and 1” rule; 25” tall
Safety 1st Advance SE 65 Air + (Most upright position for over 22 lbs.; HR fully extended) C +2″  40 lbs. Child height 40″ max; 28″ tall with HR fully extended
Graco Size4Me*** (HR fully extended) C- +1.5″  40 lbs. 1” rule from red plastic actuator when HR fully extended; 27.5” tall
Safety 1st Advance SE 65 Air + (Max recline position for under 22 lbs.; HR flush with shell) D +.5″  40 lbs. Child height 40″ max; 28″ tall with HR fully extended
Safety 1st Complete Air 65  (Max upright position) D +.5″  40 lbs. Child height 40” max; 27.5” tall
Diono Radian  D +0″  40 or 45 lbs. Child height 44” or less and 1.5” rule from top shell; 25”
Diono Rainier** D +0”  50 lbs. Child height 44” or less and 1.5” rule from top shell; 25”
www.CarseatBlog.com ©2014 All Rights Reserved

Space Grade” is not our rating of the carseat overall. It is an indicator of how much extra space it offered the front seat passenger in our test vehicle.
Britax Pavilion is equivalent in size to Britax MarathonBoulevard and Advocate

** Diono Rainier is equivalent in size to Diono Pacifica and Diono Olympia

*** Graco Size4Me is equivalent in size to the Graco HeadWise, Graco MySize and Graco Fit4Me

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 28″.  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: