The Diono Cambria is the newest booster seat from Diono. Many CSFTL Littles have been fans of the Diono Monterey for some time now; so we were excited to give the Cambria a try!
CSFTL Quick Stats
- High back booster weight range: 40-120 pounds
- High back booster height range: 38-63 inches tall
- Backless booster weight range: 40-120 pounds
- Backless booster height range: 38-63 inches tall
- Highest booster guide position: 21 inches
- Expiration: Varies between 6 and 10 years — check your manual for details specific to your seat
- 2014 IIHS Best Bet for Solana
- 2015 IIHS Best Bet for Cambria
- Flexible lower anchor connectors
- Retractable cupholders
- Recline setting
- Requires head support at all times
Carpooling Essentials: backless mode/Solana
- Easy to set up without (very much or any) adult assistance. Setting up the lower anchors requires a little extra assistance but carpoolers who just set the booster on the vehicle seat had few issues.
- Easy to carry
- Consistent belt fit
High Back Mode
The Cambria is rated for children 4-12 years old, 40-120 pounds, 38-63 inches tall. CSFTL recommends utilizing a 5 point harness until your child has outgrown it and is at least 5 years old. Read more here about whether a booster seat is the right choice for your Little. The highest belt guide setting on the Cambria measures 20″ tall, making it a great, long-lasting choice. However, this seat requires head support to the top of the child’s ears at all times. Once the child’s ears go over the vehicle support, this seat is outgrown.
To use the Cambria in high back mode, place it on the vehicle seat, thread the shoulder belt through the belt guide and the lap belt under the armrests and buckle. Diono recommends the booster sit flush with the back and bottom of the vehicle seat. The high back has a slight recline setting that can be used by pushing the backrest back until it clicks.
The Cambria is equipped with lower anchor connectors that can be used if lower anchors are available in the vehicle. Unlike with harnessed seats, there are no weight limits for lower anchor use, so they can be used the full weight of the booster. Simply connect the anchors and pull the straps on the front of the seat to tighten them.
Once the child’s shoulders are above the top belt guide of the Cambria, they are too tall to use the high back mode.
The Cambria’s back can then be removed, and used until the child reaches 120 pounds, 63″ or passes the 5 step test and is ready to ride without a booster. To remove the back, lay the back flat and lift the arms out of the hinges. This installation as well requires support to the top of the child’s ears. The same installation instructions apply to the Cambria in backless mode and the Solana as above.
The Cambria includes a flexible shoulder belt positioning strap for use in backless mode should the child need it to help properly position the shoulder belt.
Lower Anchor Connectors
The Cambria features flexible lower anchor connectors that secure the booster seat when not in use, and also make it a little more stable for the child to climb in and out and buckle themselves. To extend the strap, push the button just above the front of the strap and pull the connector from the back. Attach each connector to the vehicle’s lower anchors, then pull from the front to tighten. The lower anchor connectors are upside down from the traditional direction that lower anchor connectors typically face. Because the lower anchors are only holding the booster seat and the seat belt is restraining the child, it’s fine to hook them upside down. If use of the lower anchors interferes with buckling the seat belt, do not use them.
The Cambria has EPE foam in the headrest and torso area to aid in side impact protection. There is also a small layer of comfort foam in the seating area to provide a comfortable ride for the child. The cover is easily removable and the manual recommends hand washing and air drying to clean.
The models featured in this review are the Shadow and Sunburst fashion, it is also available in Raspberry and Graphite.
Retractable Cup Holders
The Cambria has cup holders on either side, each side has a circular compartment for a cup and a smaller, rectangular component for a snack or other item. They retract nicely into the base when not in use or to save space in the vehicle. The only problem that we have run into is they retract easily, so it can be cumbersome to get buckled if there is a cup in the cup holder and it is bumped in a way that makes the cup holder try to retract.
The Diono Solana is the backless version of the Cambria — it’s sold separately without the back. It is exactly the same as using the Cambria backless. So if you are only in need of the backless portion and don’t need the high back option, the Solana is the way to go. For information on Fit to Child, please the information above on Fit to Child: Backless booster portion.
Fit to Child
High Back Mode
5 Years Old
This child is very small for her age, she weighs 40 pounds and is 40 inches tall. She’s closer to a 4 year old by height and weight. She does meet the minimum height and weight for using the Cambria, and gets a good vehicle seat belt fit when using the headrest in the bottom setting. The belt sits across her chest and on her lap. The Cambria is very generous with interior room and she’s very little, so it can look like the seat is “swallowing her up” but she said she feels comfortable and is happy to use the seat. She can buckle herself without much trouble and is able to adjust the belt properly so that it is snug and fits her correctly. When using the seat in backless mode, she does not get a good shoulder belt fit without using the belt adjuster strap. Since the Cambria comes with that strap attached (and hidden under the cover on the bottom) that would definitely be recommended for smaller children. While there is no safety difference between using the back and not using the back as long as the child can get a good fit, I would probably recommend using the back for a younger booster rider, because generally he or she will need that extra support from the sides.
6 Year Old
Our 6 year old model weighs 43 pounds and is 47 inches tall. He carries most of his height in his legs, and is only on the first headrest setting. The Cambria gives him an excellent seat belt fit: placing the lap belt low on his hips, touching the tops of his thighs and the shoulder belt even across his collarbone and flush with his torso. He is very happy riding in the Cambria, the vertical spacing of the armrests makes it very easy for him to buckle himself, and the generous shoulder belt guide allows the belt to slide freely through as he buckles.
The Cambria has ample head and torso support. This makes for a comfortable ride whether he is awake or asleep.
7 Year Old
At 49 inches tall and 48 pounds, this child is a taller 7 year old who carries most of his height in his torso. Even so, he is not using the top setting on the headrest and would have lots of room to grow using the seat in high back mode. He, too, can easily buckle himself and really loves that he does not have to buckle the seat during drop off at school in the mornings. He has some sensory issues and enclosed spaces make him uncomfortable, but the wide Cambria affords him lots of space and also a good bit of support for when he feels sleepy. In backless mode, he gets a good fit without the shoulder adjuster strap, but seems to prefer using it. Belt fit can vary in different vehicles, so it is good to know that the shoulder belt adjuster strap has a convenient storage spot, and can be stowed or used easily.
9 Year old
Our 9 year old model weighs 58 pounds and is 52 inches tall. She finds the Solana very comfortable. It offers proper vehicle seat belt fit — the shoulder belt hits her right across the middle of her shoulder and the lap belt sits across her upper thighs. The seat itself is a bit wide so she needs to move the Solana over a bit when to access the buckle stalk when she’s getting into the seat. She’s a big fan of the cupholders.
At 115 pounds and 52 inches tall, this child is right at the weight limits of to use the backless portion of the Cambria. This is actually the Solana backless booster that is sold separately from the Cambria. We’ve had a difficult time finding a booster to fit him and the Solana is doing a decent job at it. It’s nice and wide for his wider hips, but the belt fit tends to fit somewhat low on his thighs. He likes how deep and wide the seating area is and the cupholders are a bonus. We also both love the lower anchor connectors so he doesn’t have to buckle it in after every ride.
Important Information: Where to Find
Expiration The date of manufacture can be found on the very bottom of the booster and the manual states on page 2 to not use the seat after 10 years. Some manuals list 6 or 8 year expirations, so do be sure to check your manual for your seat.
FAA Approval As with all booster seats, the Diono Cambria and Solana are not FAA approved due to airplanes only having lap only belts according to the car seat manual.
Manual Storage The manual is a bit hidden, it took me some searching to find upon initial receipt of the Cambria. When looking at the back of the backrest, there is a small sleeve on the left side where it tucks away. Note: newer versions of the Cambria have a different manual storage location. Please consult your manual for the correct location for your seat.
- Lower anchor connectors
- Deep head & torso wings for lots of support
- 40 pound weight minimum does not allow small but appropriately mature 6-7 year olds to use the seat
- Does not allow overhang
- Requires a vehicle head restraint
- Backless portion doesn’t stay connected to the high back portion when the seat is being moved around
All CSFTL review seats make their rounds among different CSFTL admins and their families. This particular booster has visited a few families along the way and the cover has lost elasticity along the way. Since the seat is still being made, we were able to order a replacement cover.
One thing I noticed after a month or so of use is that the cover tends to come off the front and slide up the booster. The cover has since started getting ‘fuzzy’ on that corner from the repeated sliding on it. After contacting Diono, they replaced the entire Solana seat for me. They stated it wasn’t a safety concern, but was still under warranty.
The Diono Solana is also a great long-lasting backless booster option. It fits larger children well and is a great option for children not quite ready for the adult belt alone. It can be found for under $50 on Amazon.com, also making it a great value for a backless booster option.
Diono provided the Cambria used in this review, CSFTL was not otherwise compensated and opinions, as always, are all our own.