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Monthly Archive:: May 2013

Safety 1st BoostApak Review: Have Your Seat and Wear It, Too

Safety 1st BoostApakUntil now, there have been a lot of things your child shouldn’t sit on in the car: phone books, pillows, table saws, backpacks. The first three still aren’t a good idea, but the fourth one is ok, as long as it’s the Trunki BoostApak by Safety 1st.

Years ago, Trunki introduced the…well…Trunki, a combination suitcase and wheelie-toy that makes it easy for parents to pull their children through an airport. It was only a matter of time before this led to another bag you can sit on, this time in a car.

Although it sounds unorthodox, the BoostApak is a federally approved child restraint, and a version is already available in Europe.

BoostAPak - stock imageBoostApak Specs:

  • 40-80 lbs, and 43-52 inches.
  • At least 4 years old

Measurements:

  • External base width: 14″
  • External base depth: 15″
  • Widest point (armrests): 14.5″
  • Height to top of armrests: 8.75″
  • Internal seating width: 10-12″
  • Internal seating depth: approximately 11″ before the seat slopes down
  • Belt guide max height: 22″
  • Weight: About 3.5 lbs

Features:

The BoostApak features adjustable padded shoulder straps for carrying, reflective “ears,” and an incorporated ID tag.

The BoostApak is probably best suited for travel, carpools, and other occasional trips rather than as an everyday seat. The advantage of the BoostApak is that you can put stuff inside of it, so your kid doesn’t have to worry about toting the booster separately.

We’ll get to the backpack aspect shortly, but since this is CarseatBlog, let’s start with the booster features.

Converting the BoostApak from a backpack to a booster is pretty simple, and any kid mature enough to ride in it can probably do most of the set-up him/herself. Here’s a demonstration:

 

 

As you can see, there are a few aspects that are different from what you normally encounter:

1) The BoostApak’s belt-positioning clip is required (usually it’s optional on other boosters). Kids will likely need help with this.

2) The belt positioner goes on the side closer to the buckle. On other boosters, the clip goes in the center or on the side where the shoulder belt comes out.

3) The bottom edge of belt positioning clip needs to be level with the shoulder closer to the buckle, then runs diagonally across the child’s back and clips onto the shoulder belt. This results in the belt positioner sitting below the child’s shoulder.

        

4) The lap portion of the seatbelt goes under both armrests, but the shoulder belt stays outside the armrest. Although this isn’t the only booster that requires the shoulder belt to stay outside, typically the shoulder belt goes under, too.

I suspect those are all things that could easily be overlooked if people don’t read the manual, and we know people often don’t read the manual. The back of the booster does have cute little illustrations, but people tend not to look at those, either (especially for something as straightforward as a booster), so I could easily see misuse occurring, just because it doesn’t follow the typical expectations.

Some of the standard rules do apply: The BoostApak can be used only with a lap AND shoulder belt, it’s not approved for airline use, and head support is required up to the middle of the child’s head.

The BoostApak provided a good fit on my 8-year-old. He thought the seat was a bit hard, but didn’t complain much. It offered more leg support than I would have imagined.

   

As a backpack, the BoostApak won’t hold everything you need for a vacation, or even a day at school, but its capacity is fine for incidentals. The cavity measures approximately 4.5″ x 10.5″ x 13″. I was able to comfortably fit two workbooks, an iPad, a bottle of water, and a small doll. The manual contains warnings not to overstuff it.

     

 

So, how do I feel about the BoostApak overall?

BoostAPak - stock image kid wearingPros:

  • Very portable!
  • Serves a dual purpse
  • Provides good leg support
  • Fairly easy to set up

Cons:

  • Belt-positioner required at all times
  • Unusual rules about belt-positioner and seatbelt routing
  • Not well padded
  • Low standing height limit. Hopefully they’ll reconsider the 52″ height limit in the future, as my tall 8-year-old has technically outgrown it by height, even though he has plenty of room left before he maxes out the belt clip.

 

Conclusion:

If you’re looking for a part-time seat your child can easily carry with her, the BoostApak could be an excellent option. The belt guide probably requires an adult’s help to set up, but other than that, the booster is simple to convert and easy to use. This seat is very different from anything else currently available on the US market, but that’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s fun to think outside the backpack!

The BoostApak retails for $69.99 but can usually be found on Amazon for considerable less.

Thanks to Safety 1st for providing a BoostApak to sample!

More info on the BoostAPak can be found on the Dorel website here:  http://safety1st.djgusa.com/en/djgusa/safety1st/booster-car-seats/boostapak-bc062

Britax Frontier 90 Review: Photos, Videos, Features and ClickTight Installation

It’s finally here! Not only the highly anticipated Britax Frontier 90, but also our review of the all-new and improved Harness-2-Booster combination child safety seat. Please stay tuned for our full review that will include the very similar Britax Pinnacle 90 (with Side Impact Cushion Technology), coming soon! What’s the big deal? The frustrations of having to use a seatbelt to install a carseat are now a thing of the past, as you will see in our video demonstrations. Without further ado, here is a recap of the features:

Britax Frontier 90 Overview

  • ClickTight installation system for easy and secure installations using the seatbelt
  • EZ buckle system holds belly pad out of the way when loading and unloading child
  • Standing height 30″ – 58″ tall in harness mode, 45″ – 62″ tall in booster mode
  • 25-90 lbs. (and over 2 years of age) with harness
  • Belt-positioning booster from 40 to 120 lbs.
  • BritaxFrontier90FusionIndustry-leading 20.5″ top harness height (photo, right)
  • SafeCell technology in base
  • Integrated steel bars reinforce the shell
  • Quick adjust no-rethread harness
  • Front adjust recline feature
  • Easy remove cover
  • 9-year lifespan
  • MSRP $329.99, currently around $280 at Amazon.com.
  • Fashions include ZebraOnyxCactus FlowerCongo (Red) & Desert Palm

Of all these features, the one that really sets the Frontier 90 apart from its competition is the new ClickTight seatbelt installation system.  It’s basically an automatic seatbelt tensioning system that does the work of tightening the seatbelt for you.

Britax Frontier 90 LATCH StorageYou simply lift up the cover to open up the ClickTight panel (photo, left), route the seatbelt through the appropriate green routing path, buckle it, then close the ClickTight cover and presto!  In most vehicles, the installation should be secure in just a few minutes and the only other task is to attach the top tether strap to the tether anchor for that seating position.  No worries about locking a retractor, using a locking clip, complex vehicle seat belt routing paths or LATCH anchor weight limits.  All those things that most parents never even realized might be a potential problem!  With a few exceptions, it really should be that easy to install in most vehicles.

You can order at Amazon.com and other stores that now have them in stock.  The Britax Frontier 90 MSRP is $329.99.  Other retailers should have them very soon and Canada is reportedly to follow with the Frontier CT in a month or so.

Main Features and Advantages:

5-point Harness to 90 pounds and 20.5″ tall: A great improvement is the slight increase in both seated shoulder height and weight limit, extending what is already the industry-leading top harness height setting to a whopping 20.5″!  Many combination seats are outgrown by height well before weight because their top harness height limit is only 18″ to 19″ tall.  So, the Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 will outlast the competition in harness mode, even though kids in the tallest percentiles will outgrow it before they reach 90 lbs.  It’s also easy to use, so older kids can do it themselves, with adult supervision, of course!

 

ClickTight Seatbelt Installation System: With LATCH becoming nearly useless for extended-weight seats beyond 40 pounds, many 5-point harness models will be using seatbelts again for installation.  Fortunately, the era of locking clips and putting your entire body in the carseat to tighten it are over.  The ClickTight system is as simple as it sounds, as you will see in the video:

 

Multiple Harness Height Settings with Front Adjust: The other great improvement is

Britax Frontier 90 Unboxing and Giveaway: Review Coming Soon!

Stay tuned for our comprehensive review of the Britax Frontier 90, hopefully within a few days!  Our Pinnacle 90 is due to arrive soon as well, so we will have a followup review shortly thereafter.  (Update: Our photo/video review is now published.)  Here’s a sneak peek of the all-new FR90:

 

 

You’ve probably seen some videos of the ClickTight system, our own Heather and Kecia showed how easy it is at a recent conference demonstration. But what if you’re not a certified child passenger safety technician-instuctor? How easy is it for the typical parent? Here’s a true test on our very first take:

 

 

 

The giveaway is now CLOSED. Thank you for participating!

For the giveaway, we’ve partnered with our generous sponsor, Britax USA, to offer one fabulous Frontier 90 Combination Harness-2-Booster seat to a single winner!  This forward-facing only seat is for kids over age 2 who weigh at least 25 lbs. With the 5-point harness, it’s rated from 25 – 90 lbs and has very tall top harness slots.  In booster mode, it’s rated from 40-120 lbs. We have a review of the Frontier 85 HERE and it’s on our list of Recommended Seats.  We suspect the Frontier 90 will be as well!  Winner will have their choice of available Frontier 90 fashions (subject to availability at contest end)!

There are two (2) ways to enter to win this popular combination seat!  You may enter at Facebook for a second chance to win once you have left a comment here to enter!

  • You MUST reply to this blog and leave a comment below (only 1 entry per household).
  • For a second chance to win, please LIKE the CarseatBlog Facebook Page (if you haven’t already).  You may also leave a comment if you wish at our Frontier 90 giveaway post there (only 1 entry per household).

Shipping to USA only, including Alaska and Hawaii.

Now for the fine print:

You are not eligible if you have previously won a carseat or any sponsored giveaway at CarseatBlog.com during 2011 or 2012 (our own giveaways of goodie bags and such don’t count if no sponsor was mentioned). Blog writers and editors are also not eligible. Only one entry per household/family, please. If you leave more than one comment, only the first one will count.

We reserve the right to deem any entry as ineligible for any reason, though this would normally only be done in the case of a violation of the spirit of the rules above. We also reserve the right to edit/update the rules for any reason.

The contest will close on or around May 31st, 2013, and a random winner will be chosen on June 1st or shortly thereafter. If a winner is deemed ineligible based on shipping restrictions or other issues or does not respond to accept the prize within 30 days, a new winner will be selected.

Good luck!

Please note: If this is your first comment at CarseatBlog, or if you are using a different computer/device or a new email address, your comment may not appear immediately. It will not be lost; it may just take a few hours for it to be approved.  You may also leave a comment via Facebook Connect if you are logged into Facebook.  Thank you for your understanding and patience as this is the only way we have to reduce comment spam.

Vehicle Seat Protectors Update: What You Need to Know

Several years ago, I did the original vehicle seat protector article exploring whether there were safe vehicle seat protector mats to use under carseats. I concluded that some are definitely better than others; probably the same thing can be said for just about every other product on the market. This time, I used some of the same mats because they haven’t changed and some new mats that have arrived on the market. I bought the seat protectors at Target and Babies R Us; my Wal-Mart didn’t have any space on the shelves for seat protectors.

The carseat I used is a Cosco Scenera, a carseat known for its sharp edges along the bottom. I started this whole process by first installing my Scenera rear-facing using a lap/shoulder belt and locking clip. I installed the seat “rock the car” tight. Carseats are crash tested with 1” of movement so I certainly didn’t need to have it that tight, but I wanted to make sure that as I installed the Scenera on top of the mats, I had a solid installation.

 

 

Carry On!

I didn’t intend for this to be a mostly video blog, but when I tested the very first mat, I decided pretty quickly it needed to be recorded. One made the carseat slip very easily and another actually made the carseat so hard to install that I nearly damaged the mat (and myself!) while trying to maintain that initial tightness of the seatbelt. I must apologize in advance for the shakiness of the videos. Evidently my stabilization wasn’t turned on. OK, not really. It was me trying to hold my iPhone steady and not doing a good job of it ;). You should see our home movies–we have to take Dramamine before watching those!

 

Babies R Us 2-in-1 Car Seat Protector

 

Brica Car Seat Protector with Toy Organizer

 

Brica Seat Guardian Plus

 

Britax Vehicle Seat Protector

 

Eddie Bauer High Back Seat Protector

 

Eddie Bauer Padded Seat Protector

 

Prince Lionheart 2 Stage Seatsaver

 

Summer DuoMat

 

Shelf Liner

 

Towel

 

Conclusion

Vehicle Seat Protectors

 

I still find myself on the side of argument that thinks vehicle seat protector mats aren’t the evil death traps that some folks make them out to be. Certainly there are some that have a better design than others (like the Britax Vehicle Seat Protector) and some that should be avoided at all costs (like the Brica Seat Guardian Plus). If your child throws up a lot, you’ll do what you can to prevent that noxious stuff from getting down into your vehicle seat and I don’t blame you! While I practice a rule of non-greasy, easy cleanup foods and water-only drinks in my car with my own kids, I know many parents don’t have that luxury when they’re going from one activity to another and the only time to slam back a meal is in the car. Seat protectors can help keep those fries from grinding into the seat cushions and ruining the upholstery and they can form a barrier between a sharp-edged carseat and your vehicle’s upholstery. However, a correct installation will still yield dents in your vehicle seat. It’s part of the territory of having kids. Let me say that again in a different way: kids ruin your stuff and it starts when they’re infants. If you are in the position to be able to choose from a variety of carseats, look for one that has a smooth base. The indentations on your vehicle seat will be less severe. Fortunately, manufacturers are starting to listen and the bottoms of carseats are getting smoother, but there are still old designs out there that are still bought so they are still being made.

If you decide to use a vehicle seat protector mat, use one that’s flexible and that allows you to get a tight installation of your carseat. Verify that you can install your carseat with less than 1” of movement before using the mat because as is seen in the videos, with the vast majority of mats, the installation will only degrade. Your carseat manufacturer may not allow the use of a mat either. Also, make sure your child’s harness is secure so that you can’t pinch any harness above the chest clip and the chest clip is at armpit level. Most parents don’t have only one error when using their carseats; it’s a multitude of seemingly small errors stacking one upon the other that can cause major problems for your child in a crash. As always, a visit to your local certified Child Passenger Safety Technician can help you learn to install and use your carseat correctly every ride.