In re-entering the infant seat market, Britax has done a nice job with the Chaperone. My 7 month old has been using the Chaperone periodically for the past 6 weeks (don’t worry – he’s not unrestrained the rest of the time – just using his Chicco Key Fit 30) and overall, we both like the seat. Some initial impressions about the seat appeared in an earlier blog entry. Here’s my thoughts after using it with a “real, live baby.”
My infant was well beyond the height and weight range for the infant insert, so I did not have an opportunity to try it out. My only comment is that I wish Britax put its name on the foam or some other marking so that when it gets separated from the rest of the seat (or my kids find it and start using it as a football), I remember what it is for. It is a pretty ordinary-looking piece of foam.
On to my use of the seat:
Installation and the Base:
I installed the seat using LATCH on the captain’s chair in my minivan. The LATCH install is quick and easy. I also love that the “tail” from the LATCH strap can be snapped into the lockoff on the base. It is very convenient for keeping the strap out of the way.
It is relatively simple to adjust the recline on the base. Unfortunately, there is not a level indicator on the base itself, just on the carrier, so I got some extra experience installing the base as I reinstalled it multiple times to achieve the correct angle. A level indicator on the base would be a nice addition, especially for a seat in the Chaperone’s price range. The indicator on the carrier, however, is great and very easy to use. It also is helpful because by visually looking at the seat, it looks very upright even when it is perfectly angled.
My biggest complaint about the installation is that the seat/base take up a lot of space – presumably because of the anti-rebound bar. When installing the Chaperone where I otherwise have a Chicco Key Fit 30, I need to move my front seat forward in order for the Chaperone to fit. For normal driving, this is fine, but when I have a passenger in the front seat, it is not ideal.
Although it causes the base to take up more space, the anti-rebound bar definitely lends some stability to the base and helps prevent the seat from cocooning into the seatback. It’s hard to say whether or not that is a good thing as I have not seen data showing that rebound is a bad thing.
I also have had some difficulty removing the carrier from the base – most likely because I am vertically challenged! The carrier (when it contains my 18 pound son) seems to stick in the base. It also is very high because the base angles up, which is difficult for 5 foot me.
The carrier is well padded and appears to be comfortable for my infant. I agree with CPSDarren’s comment that the strap for the instruction manual is too short. I have not had any problems with harness straps twisting and they buckle and tighten very easily. I do find it hard to reach the lever to loosen the straps. The way the cover is designed, including the padding, somewhat buries the lever. I tend to loosen and tighten the straps with each use, so this is a little bit annoying.
The carrier is somewhat narrower than some of the other 30 pound seats on the market. As I mentioned, my son otherwise rides in a Key Fit 30 and that seat is wider. The Chaperone is not necessarily better for a 3 across, however, because while the carrier shell is narrower, the handle is wider so that at its widest, it is not significantly narrower than other seats (both the KF and the Chaperone work in a 3 across in DH’s car). The size/shape of the handle also makes the seat a little bit awkward to carry – DH, who does not pay much attention to seats other than to make sure that they are in his car when necessary, does not like to carry it.
The Chaperone also has additional side-impact protection (similar to the Britax Boulevard and other Britax convertible seats with “wings”). While there are no government standards for side-impact protection, given the dangerous nature of those impacts, in my mind, the more protection, the better.
The canopy on the carrier is great. It is significantly larger than most seats that I have tried. When it is being used, it stays up with no problem. It does not rest well behind the seat, however, so when it is not being used, it often gets in the way. I am constantly moving it from under the bottom of the seat so that I can snap the carrier into the base.
The cover is well padded and comfortable (I assume – DS seems happy in it). Because it is a little narrower and DS is a bigger infant at this point, he seems to be warmer when sitting in the Chaperone than in a larger/wider seat. The cover and padding are fairly easy to remove and reassemble when necessary and it washes well.
Overall, I think that the Chaperone is a solid choice for an infant seat. It should last most kids until they are at least 8 months old, although many kids will last much longer (even if they get too heavy for you to want to carry them around in the carrier). It also is a nice seat for an older infant because it does not have a significant recline. Because of the space it takes front to back, and the size of the handle, however, I would definitely “try before you buy” if trying to fit it into a smaller space.