CSFTL is happy to review our first palindromic booster seat! Written the same forward as it is backwards, Aidia has released a new booster to the US market, the Explorer. This high back to backless booster has a logo at the top that looks very nearly the same in your rear view mirror as it does looking directly at it. It also sports a removable cupholder, is quite narrow, easy to adjust, is lightweight, and is comfortable.
CSFTL Quick Stats:
- High back booster weight range: 30-110 pounds
- High back booster height range: 38-57 inches
- Backless booster weight range: 40-110 pounds
- Backless booster height range: 40-57 inches
- Highest shoulder belt guide position: 21 inches
- Expiration: Six years from date of manufacture *
- Width at widest point: 21″ with cup holder attached
- Width at base: 18″
- Width at shoulders (high back mode) 17″ at the shoulders
While this booster looks fairly nondescript at a glance, some of its best features are clear up close. It’s narrow, and it’s lightweight. Kids can carry this without any trouble. And at 18 inches wide at the widest, it’s a great contender for a three across situation. The headrest adjuster handle on the back does blend in, but it’s easy to grip and raise or lower the headrest. There’s a separate shoulder belt guide that can be used if the shoulder belt doesn’t sit at the middle of the collarbone. The belt guide is attached to the booster and easily stored on the underside with velcro, so there’s a lot less chance of losing the guide as the seat is moved around and used throughout the years.
Like most boosters that require assembly, put the Explorer together by hooking the high back portion onto the backless at a bit of an angle, then sitting it upright. The first time I did this I did need to push the booster harder than I would have thought to get it to click into position. After that, though, it was much easier. Removing the back for backless mode was just as easy. With only a little practice I could do this on the fly if necessary.
The cupholder comes separate in the box, but with a slot on either side, you can easily add it to the seat on the side that is easy and convenient for your child, or leave it off all together for a more narrow seat (the seat is 21″ wide if the cupholder is attached).
This seat does not have lower anchors, so when it’s not in use it should be buckled in for the protection of other passengers. The belt guide is easy to thread, and the lower belt path is easy for a child to thread the belt through as they’re buckling themselves in. My six year old model took exactly one time buckling herself in to figure out the best way to do it, and was able to buckle herself easily after that every time.
High Back Booster Installation
My car has head restraints that stick forward slightly, and there were no issues with compatibility with the booster in high back mode.
Backless Booster Installation
For backless mode, this was easy to simply put on the backseat and allow my daughter to buckle herself in. The belt fit on her was fantastic at the lap and the shoulder, so she did not use the attached shoulder belt guide. I tried out the guide to see if it was easy to use. It took a little time to adjust; not as easy as others, but also not difficult–I just had to pay attention to what I was doing. Since this is not normally adjusted every time a child gets in and out, it’s not a huge bother.
Fit to Child
High Back Mode
6 Years Old
In high back mode this seat provided a fantastic belt fit for both the lap and the shoulder. The seat belt moved easily through the guide and never had a problem with retracting.
6 Years Old
This 6 year old model weighs 70 pounds and is 48 inches tall. He finds that the Explorer feels a bit snug in high back due to the side wings around the middle but he rides without any complaints. He said it’s easy to buckle in both modes and likes that the cup holder can stay or go. Sometimes, the shoulder portion of the vehicle belt can slide out of the high back guide if he gets a bit squirrelly but we’re pleased to report that the seat belt retracts nicely in our vehicles.
For my six year old model the seat belt was a great fit without any need for the shoulder belt guide. The shoulder belt lay comfortably against her body. The only complaint she had when using the seat in backless booster mode was if she pushed her bum all the way back she was able to feel the open area where the high back portion connects to the backless. It didn’t bother her, but she could feel it and she said it felt weird.
Important Information: Where to Find
The expiration is on the same sticker as the manufacture date, on the bottom of the backless booster potion.*
The manual is stored inside the cover of the booster, on the high back portion, along the side. My booster had the manual already stored away when it came out of the box, so it took a little while to find it.
Like all boosters, this seat is not aircraft approved. However, it’s exceptionally lightweight and easily comes apart, so it could be carried on board and stored in the overhead bin for travel.
Overall, this booster was a hit in my house. My six year old said it was extremely comfortable and really enjoyed using it. As I had the booster out for pictures one day, my 14 year old sat in it as well. At 102 pounds and 61″ she’s too tall for the booster, but she was able to sit in it, was comfortable through the hip area and liked it quite a lot as well. Since the booster is blow molded, it’s lightweight and easy to carry, and since it is relatively narrow, it may be a nice option both for travel and tight situations. The shoulder belt guide is cleverly stored out of the way when not needed, but attached to the seat so it won’t be lost.
The manual did have a couple of unexpected items. It states to not use this booster if there is something hard on the headrest in front of the vehicle’s seat. So if you have an entertainment system built in, or you have attached hangers, this booster is incompatible. It’s always a good idea not to have something hard in front of where a person’s head will go during a crash, but this is the first manual I’ve seen that specifically prohibits it.
There’s also a picture that shows when the seat is outgrown in high back and backless modes by height. The high back picture makes it look like the child’s ears can go over the top of the booster, when this is not the case (as stated in the text). Aidia is aware of this and we hope they will soon update the picture to reflect the text.
* Our booster’s sticker states a five years minus a day expiration, but Aidia has confirmed that this is an error on the sticker and the expiration is six years from the date of manufacture.
The Aidia Explorer is available in a variety of colors and patterns at Amazon.
Our friends at Aidia are giving away one Explorer booster to a lucky reader! Enter below for your chance to win! Read our terms and conditions before entering.