The 2020 RideSafer Travel Vest XL Delight! A Mini-Review of the new RSTV.
By Brigala and Erin Brill
Do you have a bigger kid for whom a booster isn’t a good option? Maybe your car doesn’t have enough space to buckle a booster. Maybe your child is still too young for a booster or has special needs. Maybe you are dealing with a seating position with only a lap belt. Whatever the reason, parents who find themselves with kids in the 80+ lb. range who are not finding a booster to be a viable option haven’t had many alternatives.
Safe Traffic System heard you! In 2019, they started shipping the RideSafer Travel Vest in a size XL!
Weight and Height Ranges
Small (3-6 years old): 30-60 lbs., 34-52″
Large (5-8 years old): 50-80 lbs., 45-57″
X-Large (8-10 years old): 80-110 lbs.
There’s also an “expansion panel” to improve fit options for all three sizes for heavier kids who may need more room in whatever size vest is appropriate for their height. Between the XL size and the expansion panels, the RideSafer Travel Vest may become a go-to option for a variety of kids for whom traditional car seats and boosters just aren’t working out.
This is the same basic vest as the one we reviewed in 2017, but for children whose height is between 48 and 60 inches tall, and whose weight is between 80 and 110 lbs.
My 8 year old human model is a little too light to get a great fit, as she only weighs 76 lbs. Height-wise, at 56” tall, it fits her well; but she needs to fill out a bit to get the vest snug. She has been riding in a Safety 1st Incognito since she got too tall to get a good fit in the size L RSTV and that works OK for around town.
At 8 years old, a backless booster is a safe and appropriate choice for most children her age; but for this child, some special developmental needs make sitting still in the car a challenge, especially for longer rides. We have found in the past that the vest does a better job than a booster keeping her in her seat. That’s what makes this new size option so exciting for us—driving on vacation is back on the table once she grows into the vest a bit.
This is definitely a “niche” kind of product; not all families will need it. Even for hardcore RSTV families, a lot of children will be fine in just a seat belt once the size L is outgrown. That said, there are a LOT of situations where this is going to come in really handy:
- Families with extra large preschoolers (in the 80+ lb range) who are just not old enough or mature enough for booster seats.
- Vehicles with lap-only belt positions who are trying to get a little more time for their kids to ride before they have to upgrade vehicles – if your car has or can be retrofitted with tether anchors (available upon request from Safe Traffic Systems), this vest can turn a lap belt into a safe restraint for your older child.
- Older or larger children with special needs who need extra seating support when they are too big for a regular car seat. This can be a great alternative to a $800+ car seat for some of these “in between” kids who don’t necessarily need all the features of a custom special transportation seat, but aren’t quite ready for the seat belt alone. In addition to cost, the portability of this vest is a huge advantage over most car seats for kids with special needs. No need to be tied down to only one vehicle if this will work for your unique child.
- Vehicles with crummy seat belt design for children. Some kids might pass the 5-step test in some cars and be too big for some boosters, but still not get a safe belt fit in certain cars or seating positions.
- Any time you have a “tight fit” situation where you can’t squeeze in a booster and your child isn’t quite big enough or mature enough to safely use the seat belt alone but has outgrown the size Large RSTV.
As with the other RideSafer Travel Vest Delight models, you can choose to purchase the vest alone or in a bundle that includes the tether strap. The tether that comes with the XL is a heavy duty dual tether. If you are using this vest with a lap-only belt, you will need to attach one end to the tether anchor that is behind the child, and the other end to the anchor for an adjacent seating position. The strap for the tether anchor is extra long to make sure there’s enough length for it to reach two separate anchors.
If you do not have another available anchor, contact Safe Traffic Systems for a kit to install in your car (or two kits, if you are using a lap belt and have no tether anchors at all). This will almost always involve some drilling so you may need to consult with a mechanic or a NMEDA-certified shop that is familiar with safety retrofits for vehicles.
If you buy the model without the tether and decide later that you need it, the dual tether can be purchased separately, just like it is today for kids weighing more than 60 lbs. using the size Large RSTV with a lap only belt.
If you are using the vest with a lap and shoulder belt, the tether is optional. It can be a convenient place to “hang” the vest when not in use, and it can help provide support for squirmy or tired children, but if a shoulder belt is in use it does not provide any additional crash protection.
Like all the other models of RSTV, the included crotch strap is optional. You may use it if it improves your child’s posture in the car or the fit, but if it isn’t helpful for your situation, don’t use it.
The retail price of the XL RSTV is $189 without the tether, or $229 with the tether. As of this writing, it is available through two distributors: Safe Ride 4 Kids or Innoride. It may be available through Amazon in the future.
Introducing the latest model…Gen 5.
Perhaps the most notable change on the latest model, Gen 5, is the buckle. The previous buckle was intended to be kid proof but it turned it out to be a bit more “adult proof” instead! You’ll notice the current version has a simple metal hook that loops through webbing on the opposite side of the vest. When the webbing is pulled snugly, the hook stays secure but it’s easily removed when slack is introduced.
The lap belt guides are shaped a bit differently and you’ll also find bright red embroidered arrows on the belt guides improving the overall instructional labeling on the vest.
The material has changed including a gorgeous blue color. They have introduced new energy absorbing material, including in the vertical straps adding padding to the inside of the vest. The tether attachment loops are now made of webbing and while we never heard complaints with the metal loops, this theoretically makes the vest more comfortable.
The Gen 5 ships with a tether, neck support, and crotch strap.
Customer service will replace lost parts such as crotch straps, belt guides, buckle parts, etc. And with online registration comes a limited lifetime warranty covering replacement of any parts damaged during normal use of the product.
Sizing has remained the same including the new XL option. Fit has remained the same from Gen 4 to Gen 5 as the shape of the vest and available adjustments remain unchanged.
Here you can see a 9 year old, 53″ and 54lbs wearing the large and a 5 year old, 46″ and 44lbs wearing the small.
Thank you to Safe Traffic Systems for providing a Gen 5 and XL RideSafer Travel Vest for this review.