This year’s ABC Kids Expo was smaller than in years past, so a two person CSFTL team hit Vegas running. We spent a long, productive day on the floor of the Vegas Convention Center visiting with old friends, seeing new products, and meeting up with some of our CPS contacts.
We started our long day with a quick breakfast at our hotel, then headed to the convention center. Our first stop was our friends from KidsEmbrace. We didn’t have a meeting scheduled, but they’re always happy to see us, plus we really wanted to see their 15 foot tall Batman car seat! Sitting in the Big Batman was a good way to get an impression of how kids feel when approaching a lot of the car seats on the market. The Big Batman doesn’t have a harness, and the relative size of human to car seat would be too small for a booster seat, but it still made for a fun photo op!
We made another unscheduled visit on the way to our first appointment, stopping at the Clek booth. Half of our intrepid media team had seen the Liing in person while the other half had not so it was great to see it in person. We paused to behold the lovely Euro routing on the basless install and admire the new Tokidoki prints across the product line.
Without a scheduled appointment we were able to grab a few minutes to discuss the Liing rear facing only car seat, which, among other things, has a model with a wool cover. There are a few car seats already on the market that have wool covers, Clek is not the first. But, if you have the chance to touch one of the very few that have it, definitely do it. You’ll notice. After a few moments oohing and aahing over the fact that we were touching something so very soft, we actually got down to business.
The Liing seems to have every feature people have asked for in a rear facing only seat. Rigid lower anchors, a load leg, a small front to back footprint. The recline adjustment is pretty unique. It’s on the top, so you adjust the recline angle after you install the base. This is a nice feature, since most parents tend to think of recline angles after they’ve already installed the base! The carrier portion of the Liing has a huge canopy that goes from the top of the seat nearly to the child’s toes.
Given that this was a completely impromptu stop, it was very nice how much time we were given to play with their Liing. Thank you, Clek. The ABC Show is done by appointments, so to stop by without an appointment, and be given a full walkthrough of a seat is really quite nice.
Next up was a stop at WayB to look at their Pico forward facing only travel car seat. The Pico is a very niche seat, designed to be an option for travel. It can certainly be used as a daily car seat, especially if you’re an urban dweller who doesn’t have their own car, but mostly it’s a travel seat. The Pico was part of a voluntary recall that’s now in the repair stage. The affected seats are currently being repaired and sent back to consumers. Learn more about this recall.
The Pico is very small and lightweight, with an aluminum frame and basically what amounts to a stiff hammock with support for the seat, back, and head support.
The Pico has a 50 pound weight limit and it seems quite comfortable despite this unique design. So far, we haven’t heard of any complaints from kiddos about the lack of a shell behind them on planes or in the car.
The belt path has a generous amount of space behind it so the larger buckle from the airplane seat belt shouldn’t interfere with the passenger’s comfort. WAYB has taken the time to listen to their consumers about the little things like comfort while designing such a unique seat.
We left WayB and made our way over to the Britax booth. Britax had several exciting new things to show us. First, we saw the new One4Life, their first multimode car seat (rear facing, forward facing, high back booster) with ClickTight installation. Imagine a Frontier and a Boulevard ClickTight having a baby and that’s a bit of what the One4Life is!
So many things seem easy on the One4Life. It’s easy to install (at least there at the expo, we’ll dive deeper in our upcoming review), it’s easy to use, has a very nice ClickTight panel that’s big and easy. The seat also has clear labels and easy to store lower anchors. We didn’t get to install the One4Life in a vehicle, but our review team found it to be fairly compact front to back when installed rear facing for older infants with good head control.
There are eight recline positions you may use at any time provided the easy to read indicator is appropriate for your child, and one position that’s just for booster mode. In addition, some versions of the One4Life will include an anti-rebound bar . The version with the anti-rebound bar will eventually be sold in Canada, — the bar will be an option here in the United States. When the One4Life is installed forward facing, the bar can be turned around and become a footrest for the child using the seat. It’s really a neat way to store the bar — keep it attached to the seat!
We are easily distracted when surrounded by car seats so our focus shifted to the Grow With You forward facing combination car seat line.
There are three versions of the Grow With You.
- Grow With You — this base version doesn’t include ClickTight
- Grow With You ClickTight has the ClickTight installation sysyem
- Grow With You Plus, which has the ClickTight installation system plus side impact cushions
These seats are similar to their discontinued counterparts, the Pioneer, Frontier, and Pinnacle, but the biggest changes are in their harness height and weight limits. All of the Grow With You models have a 65 pound weight limit and a 49 inch height limit.
Distracted once again, we checked out the Skyline and Highpoint booster seats. The Target exclusive Midpoint will be discontinued. The other two booster seats will remain, with a new and exciting change — they will convert to backless booster seats!
The Skyline and Highpoint will not be sold separately as backless booster seats. This running change means that families will soon see that their new boosters are a 2 Stage booster seat.
This change will roll out with certain covers, and by various retailers, so it’s not one single date for the change. The first 2 Stage booster seats are starting to ship now. This is very exciting news from a manufacturer who had moved away from the backless booster. Both members of the CSFTL ABC Kids team have older children who ride in backless booster seats since they don’t yet pass the Five Step Test, so we’ve got a bit of a vested interest in seeing more options on the market.
We had time for a quick, underwhelming lunch at the convention center, and then we meandered over to Diono. We hadn’t been able to set up a meeting, but we were hoping to talk to them and see their new products. Our old favorite booster seat, the Monterey, and now the Monterey XT have been loved by kids since they were released. Their cousin, the Cambria 2, is a solid, less featured option while the backless version of the Cambria 2, the Solana 2, is a backless booster that we recommend quite often because it has high height and weight limits and fits larger children well. With all that in mind, we were eager to see the Monterey 4DXT next to the Monterey XT.
We were able to spend a few minutes in the booth and see the deeper side wings and the differently shaped headrest of the new Monterey 4DXT. It’s wider and deeper, and looks promising for bigger kids who still want added support of a high back booster seat.
After that, our next meeting (which was actually scheduled!) was UPPABaby. The Mesa rear facing only car seat hasn’t changed much, but we did get to see some of their upcoming products, the Knox and the Alta. The Alta is their belt positioning booster and the KNOX is their convertible car seat.
As announced last year, the Knox’s starting weight will be 14 pounds. That’s a bit higher than most convertible car seats on the market. The manufacturer focused on this higher starting weight to help with positioning and fit within the seat better. Years and years ago, I attended a continuing education unit class where I heard this statistic: an amazingly low number of caregivers start with a convertible car seat from birth, something along the lines of under 5%. So for most families, that five pound minimum weight isn’t necessary.
The KNOX will include an insert to help with fit, but unfortunately, we were not able to see that on this visit. I’m sure that will be available for us to see in the future. However, not having it meant we were actually able to easily see some of the neat features that were under it (because car seat geeks like to get seats naked). If you look underneath, you can unzip the cushion at the bottom of the seat. This allows for very easy exposure of the belt path. Any time you can see the belt path, you can make your install easier. For more day to day use, since non car seat geeks don’t install seats every day, this also makes for easy cleaning.
Installing the Knox seems fairly easy rear facing. Slide the lap belt portion of the vehicle seat belt under the blue labeled panel. The belt path is wide and easy to access, and the crotch strap does NOT slide down into it. Oh, it’s the little things that make life wonderful. As you pull the seat belt tight, pull the shoulder belt through the tensioning clips. You can secure the one on the shoulder belt side only, rather than both, but securing makes the installation a bit easier.
When we first saw the Knox at ABC Kids 2018, these were called lockoffs, and they looked different, so clearly changes have been made. UPPABaby was clear to note these are NOT lockoffs, but are tensioning clips that require the vehicle seat belt to be locked.
The bright yellow tether on the Knox is very hard to miss. It can be used rear facing, and is encouraged. It threads around one side of the seat — ideally in the direction that will be easiest for you to load your child into and out of the car every day. It routes around the back of the seat, and then along the side, to the vehicle’s backseat, and connects to the forward facing tether anchor. Unless the tether webbing does not physically reach the anchor, UPPABaby encourages the use of the tether. This rear facing tether will be new to a lot of people, and that’s ok. It’s also bright yellow. That’s also ok.
The Alta’s deeply recessed shoulder belt guides easy-off seat pan cover were pretty exciting. These may sound like small things but they should make for a booster seat that’s fairly easy to use correctly. The belt guides means that the vast majority of belts will hopefully never fall out. They will hopefully not twist a whole lot. They will hopefully just stay where they are. No more, “Mom/Dad, my seat belt fell out!” and having to pull over to fix it. Again. For the fourth time this week. Some of us know this frustration all too well. There’s a notch in the belt guide to make sure this also doesn’t happen. As for the cover, we went from, “Hey, what’s the zipper?” to having the seat pan cover off and back on in about five minutes.
The other cool things that geeks will appreciate are the lap belt positioning clip to keep the lap belt nice and low, and prevent submarining, the rigid lower anchors, the side impact pod that helps disperse any crash forces right around the child and out the other side, and the side impact EPP foam that moves up and down with the child as they grow.
Both the Knox and Alta are hopeful for the spring or summer 2020.
Our next stop was Baby Jogger, where we saw their City Go 2, which adds the RapidLock installation system to their City Go rear facing only car seat. This update adds an easier installation system plus an anti-rebound bar to the seat, which is an awesome combination of features (even if our only picture of this seat is horrendously lame). It’s so hard to install the seat improperly after those changes to the base. Very cool! And while CSFTL has reviewed the City View already, we hadn’t seen it in person much yet, and Baby Jogger was very nice to bring it out straight from a box and let us gush over it in person.
After that, we were able to have another impromptu not-meeting at Maxi Cosi’s booth where we were able to touch their new Pria 3 in 1. It’s a new seat that may be a bit familiar underneath, so we look forward to being able to review it in the future. Unike the current Prias, which have a 70 or 85 pound weight limit, the forward facing weight limit of this seat will be 65 pounds.
Both of the versions of the seats we saw — the more basic and the Max version — had massive inserts to help even small newborns fit, which was amazing. The Pria Max includes the magnetic chest clip we know and love from the older version of the Pria Max.
The biggest thing we noticed was the lack of a molded recline line that has haunted the Pria for many years. The seat now comes in line with other Dorel seats with the wording of, “If your child can sit unassisted the seat can be more upright.” Well, then. That’s quite welcome to see!
No matter how large or small the show floor is, visiting a show like ABC Kids is always a thrill. Hearing about these new car seats and seeing them in person are two totally different things. We look forward to seeing these new seats arrive on our reviewers’ doorsteps in the new future, and in turn, sharing their experiences with you!