hifold fit and fold High Back Booster Seat Review

(Last Updated On: March 11, 2020)
hifold

hifold

Carfoldio’s first product was the mifold travel booster seat, which hit the market in 2017.  They’ve now released their high back foldable booster seat to the United States and EU markets with the hifold fit-and-fold booster. We’re intrigued by this transformer-esque booster seat, so let’s take a look at what it has to offer.

CSFTL Quick Stats

  • Height range: 36 to 59 inches
  • Weight range USA & EU: 33 to 100 pounds (NOTE: some states require children be at least 40 pounds before moving to a booster seat)
  • Weight range Canada: 40 to 100 pounds
  • High back booster only
  • Vehicle headrest support required
  • No age minimum listed. CSFTL advises that children be at least five years old before moving to a booster seat
  • Optional cup holder on some models (can be purchased separately)
  • Vehicle shoulder belt routes OVER the booster’s armrest
  • NOT approved for use with inflatable seat belts
  • Requires replacement after any crash in which the booster seat was occupied.  Crash replacement is not required if the booster seat was stored in a secure location or  if the seat was unoccupied and secured with a vehicle seat belt passing through both lap belt guides and shoulder belt guides at the time of the crash.
  • Fabric cover is machine washable in cold water on the delicate or gentle cycle. Line dry.
  • Limited one year warranty from date of purchase
  • Expiration: 7 years from manufacture date

Measurements

  • Lowest shoulder belt guide position: 14.5 inches
  • Highest shoulder belt guide position: 20 inches
  • Width at widest point when the seat back is in the narrowest position: 17.5 inches
  • Width at widest point when the seat back is in the widest position: 19 inches
  • Internal body width at widest point when the seat is in the narrowest position: 12 inches
  • Internal body width at widest point when the seat is in widest position: 14 inches
  • Internal width at child’s knees when the seat bottom in is the narrowest position: 10 inches
  • Internal width at child’s knees when seat bottom is in the widest position: 12 inches
  • Seat pan depth: 11 inches
  • Weight: 9.9 pounds

Weight and Height Use Recommendations

We were happy to see that on page 1 of the manual, Carfoldio included some very important points about the booster seat:

“Use only with a child that has outgrown their car seat with a 5-point harness and can sit in the booster seat properly for the entire duration of each trip. If your child will not remain seated properly, your child should use a child restraint with 5-point harness”

The manual includes some key definitions and requirements:

Outgrown means the child’s weight or height exceeds the use limits of the car seat.

Sitting properly means the child must remain seated without slouching under the lap belt, moving shoulder belt under arm or behind back, or leaning forward or sideways moving out of position so the vehicle belt remains properly positioned…

The vehicle lap belt MUST be positioned on the pelvis such that it is low on the hips, contacting thighs and not up on the abdomen.

The shoulder portion of the vehicle seat belt’s MUST be on child’s shoulder and not in contact with the neck and not off the shoulder.

Because the hifold has such low height and weight minimums (36 inches and 33 pounds in the US and EU) and no age minimum, some children as young as two and three years old would meet the minimums for use.  We’re glad to see the manufacturer encouraging parents and caregivers to not rush to the booster stage even though at this point in time Carfoldio does not manufacture a harnessed car seat.

Unique Features

hifold - manual diagram 1

hifold – manual diagram 1

The hifold has many moving parts, so we’ve opted to include the diagrams from the manual to make it easier for our readers to understand which part(s) of the booster seat we are referring to during this review.

hifold - manual diagram 2

hifold – manual diagram 2

Vehicle Headrest Required

The hifold requires a vehicle headrest behind it.  Here’s more information from the manual (Page 14): The “back of the hifold headrest must contact the front of the vehicle seat back cushion or headrest. Do not use hifold in a seat position where the headrest is above the top of the vehicle seat back or headrest.”

Vehicle Seat Belt Routing

hifold - shoulder belt routes over the arm rest

hifold – shoulder belt routes over the arm rest

Most booster seats require that the shoulder portion of the vehicle’s lap/shoulder belt routes under the booster’s armrest. The hifold requires that the shoulder belt routes OVER the arm rest while the lap belt routes through the lap belt guides on both seat bottom sides.

CAUTION: Pinch Risk

As CPSTs we always read manuals thoroughly and multiple times, whether for a review or for seats our children will use.

We are aware that not every caregiver is as thorough as we are, so often with a brand new seat, we’ll play with it for a bit before we pull out the manual to see how user-friendly the seat is.  Here’s how this worked out with the hifold.

The hifold ships folded into a box.  The seat itself is held together by a plastic buckle and strap. We undid the buckle and thought “how hard can it be to unfold the seat?”.

Well. One broken fingernail and a few pinched fingers later we DID figure it out, but to avoid this we would definitely recommend everyone reads the manual IN FULL before even attempting to unfold the hifold (we will admit that the manual very clearly states that there is a pinch risk multiple times when instructing how to unfold the booster seat. Thank you manual, warning noted!).

Initial Setup

Folded hifold

Folded hifold

Back to our journey… the hifold arrives folded. To unfold the seat and prepare it for use:

Unfold hifold headrest

Unfold hifold headrest

Unfold the headrest by rotating the headrest up until it locks in position (there is a pinch risk here).

hifold - unfold seat back

hifold – unfolding the seat back

Then, unfold the seat back by rotating the seat back up until it locks in position. There is another warning about a pinch risk after this step in the manual.

Unfold seatback of hifold

Unfold seatback of hifold

Grasp both seat back sides and rotate them out into the open and locked position. There is another warning about a pinch risk after this step in the manual.

Unfolded hifold

Unfolded hifold

Ta da! Our hifold is now unfolded and ready for use.

Here’s how to adjust the hifold booster to the maximum height and maximum width:

hifold Seat Bottom Side Lock

hifold Seat Bottom Side Lock

Pull the green seat bottom side lock on the underside of the seat bottom forward and slide the seat bottom sides out.

hifold seat back side adjustment knob

hifold seat back side adjustment knob

Squeeze the lock on the seat back side adjustment knob, then rotate it counterclockwise to extend the seat back sides out to their maximum width.

Note: there are three positions.  Keep adjusting until it’s on the largest of the three positions.

hifold headrest side adjustment lock

hifold headrest side adjustment lock

Then, push the headrest side adjustment lock down and slide the headrest sides out until they’ve reached their maximum width.

Note: there are three positions.

hifold headrest height adjustment lever

hifold headrest height adjustment lever

Finally, lift the headrest adjustment cover up to access the headrest height adjustment lever. Lift the lever up and raise the headrest to the highest position using the lifting recess. Release the lever to lock the headrest in place.

Note: there are nine headrest positions.

Adjusting the Seat

Adjusting the hifold takes a bit of effort.  Here’s how to adjust the hifold to fit the child:

  1. Place the hifold on the vehicle seat and have the child sit in the hifold. Ensure the child is sitting straight up and not slouching.
  2. Adjust the width of the seat bottom and lap belt guides so that they are close to the child’s thighs by pulling the seat bottom side lock on the underside of the seat bottom forward and sliding the seat bottom sides in.
  3. Adjust the width of the seat back sides so they are close to the child’s shoulders. Have the child lean forward, then move the seat back forward to access the seat back side adjustment knob on the back of the seat back. Then, press the lock on the seat back side adjustment knob, and rotate the knob clockwise to move seat back sides in
  4. Adjust the width of the headrest sides so they are close to the sides of the child’s head by pushing the headrest side adjustment lock down and sliding the headrest sides in
  5. Adjust the height of the headrest and back so that the shoulder belt guide is just above the child’s shoulder. To adjust, have the child lean forward, lift the headrest height adjustment lever up, and move the headrest so that the shoulder belt guide is in the proper position. Release the headrest height adjustment lever to lock the headrest in place.

Note: Additional adjustments of the headrest height and headrest side width may be required to properly position the vehicle shoulder belt fully on the child’s shoulder

Folding the Seat

The directions to fold the seat aren’t quite as straightforward as following the setup steps in reverse order.  Here are the steps for collapsing the booster for storage or travel:

First, adjust the seat back sides, seat bottom sides, and headrest sides to the narrowest positions.

hifold headrest height adjustment lever

hifold headrest height adjustment lever

Lower the seat back height to the lowest position.

hifold seat back side fold lock

hifold seat back side fold lock

Fold the seat back sides by pushing the button on the seat back side fold lock and rotating the seat back sides into the center of the seat back.  Repeat this step for both sides.

hifold seat back fold lock

hifold seat back fold lock

Fold the seat back down by sliding seat back fold lock up and rotating the seat back forward and down, inside the seat bottom.  Note: if the hifold is even slightly reclined, the seat back fold lock will not move easily. Move the seat back to a more upright position and try again if you find this step difficult.

hifold headrest tabs

hifold headrest tabs

Fold the headrest by pinching the headrest Tabs together and rotating the headrest backwards.

hifold headrest side fold lock

hifold headrest side fold lock

Press the headrest side fold lock and rotate the headrest side into the center of the seat Repeat this step for both sides.

Folded hifold

Folded hifold

Finally, buckle the storage straps over the now-folded hifold booster.

Shoulder Belt Guide

hifold shoulder belt guide

hifold shoulder belt guide

The shoulder belt guide is quite unique on the Hifold.  It’s required for use and cannot be bypassed. Unfortunately, the design makes it quite difficult to thread the vehicle’s shoulder belt through the guide.

hifold - threading the shoulder belt through the guide

hifold – threading the shoulder belt through the guide

Here’s what we discovered:  a red piece of plastic “locks” the shoulder belt guide closed so that the seat belt cannot slip out. While we appreciate the attempt to provide a mechanism to keep the belt guide closed, unfortunately, none of our child models were able to route the seat belt through the shoulder belt guide themselves, and all of the parents of our models struggled with the routing. The moving plastic piece combined with a very narrow guide makes a step that SHOULD be very straightforward a difficult one.

Fit to Child

5 Years Old

hifold - 5 years old

hifold – 5 years old

This model is 5 years old, 46 inches tall and weighs 46 pounds. She usually rides in a harnessed seat but agreed to test out the hifold for us in her mom’s 2011 Ford Fusion.

She found it difficult to keep her bum back in the hifold due to the short seat pan. Her mom had to remind her many times to not slouch in the booster seat. When she is sitting properly in the hifold, the seat belt fits her well – low on her thighs touching her hips, and centered on her shoulder. She was unable to buckle herself in to the hifold, but her mom was happy to help her with that step

5 Years Old

hifold - 5 years old

hifold – 5 years old

Our second 5 year old model is 44 inches tall and weighs 44 pounds. She also usually rides in a harnessed seat, but we were very thankful that she was willing to test out the hifold for us.

All of the width settings of the hifold are in the narrowest positions, and she fits the hifold quite comfortably in this 2017 GMC Acadia. The seat belt fits this model as nicely as it fit our previous 5 year old model (but she also was unable to buckle herself into the booster). The convenience loop in the seat belt of the Acadia made routing and tightening the lap portion of the seat belt difficult on this model.

hifold - a bit cumbersome for this 5 year old model

hifold – a bit cumbersome for this 5 year old model

This model was so excited about the hifold’s ability to fold that she asked to carry it around after we were done our photoshoot. While she’s smiling in this photo, we feel the need to point out that she struggled to carry the hifold and would not have been able to carry it for longer than a minute or two – with it weighing almost 10 pounds it was a bit too much for her to manage on her own.

5 Years Old

hifold - 5 years old

hifold – 5 years old

Because this booster is pretty unique, we wanted to test it out with many models with different body types and proportions so you’ll notice that we have multiple same-age models in this review. Our third 5 year old model is 47 inches tall and weighs 48 pounds. She also usually rides in a harnessed seat (isn’t it great that all 3 of our 5 year old models’ parents aren’t in a rush to switch them to booster seats? We thought we should give them a shout out for being aware of their children’s maturity and putting their safety before convenience).

This model seemed a bit uncomfortable in the hifold in this 2007 Honda Odyssey’s captain’s chair, but that could be due to not having used a booster seat before. She fit the hifold well, and the seat belt fits her well in return. She struggled to remain centered within the booster, but that may be part of the reason why she isn’t *quite* ready to make the switch to a booster seat just yet.

6 Years Old

hifold - 6 yearsold

hifold – 6 years old

This model is 6 years old, 49 inches tall and weighs 64 pounds. We have adjusted the hifold to the widest body and seat bottom widths for her comfort, and she is riding in a 2006 Kia Sedona captain’s chair.

She was able to buckle herself into the hifold, but required parental help to remove the slack in the lap portion of the seat belt. Like our first 5 year old model, she instantly slid her bum forward in the hifold, and needed reminders to keep her bum back and sit up straight. When sitting properly, the vehicle seat belt fit this model nicely in the hifold.

6 Years Old

hifold - 6 years old

hifold – 6 years old

Our second 6 year old model is 49 inches tall and weighs 49 pounds. Unlike our first 6 year old model, she did not experience the urge to slouch in the hifold, and the seat belt fits her nicely in this 2007 Honda Odyssey’s captain’s chair.

Because the shoulder belt guide is so narrow, we asked this model to move forward and backwards a few times so we could check that the shoulder belt is able to retract through the belt guide. To our surprise, the hifold seatback moved with her, so seat belt retraction wasn’t really an issue – it doesn’t move within the belt guide because the seat remained against her back and she moved forward and backward. This is an interesting feature that this reviewer has not seen before.

6 Years Old

hifold - 6 years old

hifold – 6 years old

Our third 6 year old model is 48.5 inches tall and weighs 53 pounds. He is using the hifold in a 2013 Mazda CX5.

This model also needed help with removing the slack from the lap portion of his seat belt due to the narrow belt guides on the hifold, but the seat belt fit him well and he told us he was comfortable in this booster.

7 Years Old

hifold - 7 years old

hifold – 7 years old

Our 7 year old model has similar stats to our 6 year old models, and is 49 inches tall and weighs 55 pounds. He is used to riding in a high back booster, and he “corrected” the vehicle seat belt routing after he was buckled in by forcing the shoulder portion of the seat belt under the belt guide. We had to reassure him that the shoulder belt on THIS booster routes over the armrest and not under (although we’re not sure we have convinced him yet – but he did humor us by changing the routing).

Both this model and his stuffed beaver were very comfortable in the hifold. The shoulder belt is centered on his shoulder and the lap belt is low on his thighs, touching his hips.

8 Years Old

hifold - 8 years old

hifold – 8 years old

Our first 8 year old model is 50 inches tall and weighs 49 pounds. He thought the “transformer” booster was really cool looking, and he took modeling in it VERY seriously. In this photo, he is sitting up straight with his eyes toward the front of the vehicle “just like I do when we’re driving somewhere”.

He had a bit of trouble keeping his bum back in the hifold, and needed to squirm a bit to keep himself upright as he seemed instinctively to try to slouch so his knees would bend over the edge of the captain’s chair in this 2006 Pontiac Montana. When he sat straight, the seat belt fit him well in the hifold.

8 Years Old

hifold - 8 years old

hifold – 8 years old

Our second 8 year old model is 53 inches tall and weighs 68 pounds. He is modeling the hifold in a 2018 Dodge Ram crew cab. The hifold is in the highest and widest settings for this model.

He was able to buckle himself into the hifold easily, and he appears to have another year or so left before he outgrows the hifold by torso height. He has outgrown a few of his other high back boosters, so having room to grow in the hifold is great.

The shoulder belt placement on this model is where we want it to be – centred and touching his shoulder, and the lap belt is low on his thighs, touching his hips. His favorite color is red so he was quite impressed with the hifold – even though he found it off to have to route the shoulder belt over the armrest!

8 Years Old

hifold - 8 years

hifold – 8 years

Our third 8 year old model is 54 inches tall and weighs 71 pounds. He’s a fairly wide kid and the hifold has been extended to the highest back position and all of the widths are in the widest settings.

He very much enjoyed the hifold – as he was able to touch his feet to the ground in the vehicle (his winter boots may have helped) due to the low profile of the hifold. Because he was able to rest his feet on the floor, he had no issues with remaining in position in the hifold. While he does not have much time before he doesn’t fit the hifold by torso height, he fits well in the booster now.

8 Years Old

hifold - 8 years old, 56 inches, 83 pounds

hifold – 8 years old

Our fourth 8 year old model is 56 inches tall and weighs 83 pounds. He is not able to fit comfortably in many high back boosters, but he DOES fit the hifold (barely). Again, we have positioned the back in the highest position and all of the width adjustments are in the widest positions.

The shoulder belt guide is JUST at his shoulder, but for a tall child with a long torso, fitting at 8 years old is a big plus. The seat belt also fits him well in the hifold and he found it comfortable.

9 Years Old

hifold - 9 years old, 56 inches, 80 pounds

hifold – 9 years old

Our 9 year old model is 56 inches tall and weighs 80 pounds. She is using the hifold in the highest back position in a 2011 Ford Fusion.

While she does not have much growing room left in the hifold, she fits the booster well and the seat belt fits her nicely. She is very close to passing the 5 step test in this vehicle, and it’s likely that once she outgrows the hifold by torso height that she would be able to ride in this vehicle in just the seat belt.

Important Information: Where to Find

hifold instruction manual storage

hifold instruction manual storage

Instruction Manual Storage: The manual stores under the seat bottom cover.

hifold date of manufacture label

hifold date of manufacture label

Date of Manufacture Label: The hifold expires 7 years after the date of manufacture. This label is located on the on bottom of the seat.

FAA Label: Like all dedicated booster seats, the hifold is not approved for airplane use

Overall Thoughts

Graco Turbobooster TakeAlong vs hifold

Graco Turbobooster TakeAlong vs hifold

We applaud Carfoldio on developing a booster seat that fits a broad range of children nicely. Unlike the first booster they released, the mifold, the hifold positions the lap portion of the belt low on the hips, touching the thighs, and the shoulder belt guide positions the shoulder belt nicely centered on children’s shoulders.

The biggest cons to the hifold are that it is, quite frankly, difficult to set up and use. Between the 5 steps to unfold it, additional four steps to lengthen and widen the seat before placing it on the vehicle seat, and then repeating those steps to adjust the seat to fit the child, followed by a difficult to thread shoulder belt guide, there are MANY opportunities for misuse with the hifold (and many opportunities for pinched fingers, as we discovered the hard way).

We are also concerned that, because the hifold does not state an age minimum and has fairly low height and weight minimums for a booster (especially on the US/EU versions), that some caregivers might buy this seat for their 2 and 3 year olds. Children that young should NOT ride in booster seats, they are safest if they’re riding in rear or forward facing harnessed car seats.

We do love the concept of the hifold, and our models all thought that it was a really cool-looking booster (which, in our experience, makes kids more willing to use a booster), so we think the transforming booster really is an interesting and intriguing concept. And the fact that it provides a consistently good seat belt fit on top of the ability to “transform” is great.

We struggle with whether or not caregivers will have the patience to adjust the hifold correctly every time they fold and unfold it.  It’s also not a seat that adjusts easily between children, so we fear caregivers may just opt to NOT adjust the seat between children, which may result in children riding unsafely.  This is definitely a booster that’s best suited for families who are willing to put a little extra time into setting up the seat.