The BubbleBum has been a favorite CSFTL carpool option since the first days of our existence. Our 2013 review put the older version of this portable, inflatable, backless booster through the paces. Since then, the belt guides have been redesigned so we thought now was a good time to take a look at this updated seat.
IIHS has declined to review inflatable booster seats. While this seat still meets the FMVSS standards, this removal gives us a little pause about this seat. We encourage caregivers to exercise caution if choosing to use this seat.
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Weight range: 40-100 pounds
- Use range: approximately 4-10 years. CSFTL advocates for children to ride in a harnessed car seat until at least 5 years of age.
- To use the BubbleBum, the manual requires the following:
- The child must weigh between 40-100 pounds
- The child must be between 40-57 inches tall
- The shoulder belt must lay across the middle of the child’s shoulder
- The lap portion of the seat belt must be positioned low across the child’s lap through both red belt guides
- The child’s ears are below the top of the vehicle seat or vehicle head rest
- Height range: up to 57 inches tall
- Expiration: 4 years after date of purchase
- Width at widest point: 13 inches
- Length front to back: 15 inches
- Weight: 1 pound
- Updated belt guides
- When deflated, fits into handy bag
- 2014 and 2015 IIHS Best Bet
- Easy to set up without (very much or any) adult assistance
- Easy to carry
- Consistent belt fit
We’ve had an older BubbleBum for some time. It’s served us well in a pinch — it’s so narrow that it works well in 3 across situations and emergency carpool rides. My oldest daughter has used the BubbleBum enough to know how to inflate it and set it up for use. The main area that’s caused her trouble was the older style belt guides. She didn’t quite have the manual dexterity to thread the lap portion of the vehicle belt through them on her own — she always needed some adult assistance. This limitation made it hard to choose the BubbleBum for rides where the only other adults might not be familiar with the seat.
The updated belt guides are a different shape than the previous model. Instead of threading the vehicle belt through the middle of a U-shaped guide, this version of the seat has a triangle-shaped belt guide with a fairly large opening for the vehicle belt. This updated guide makes all the difference in the world for my model. She’s able to get set up herself.
These new belt guides sit closer to the booster than the previous version. For my models, this means the guides flop around less as they’re buckling themselves. Both of my kiddos are able to get set up much easier than the previous version of the seat allowed!
The BubbleBum arrives deflated. To set it up, blow into the valve until it’s full, then close the valve. Once it’s inflated, simply set it on the seat and have the child take a seat.
With the child sitting in the seat, thread the the lap belt portion of the vehicle seat belt through both belt guides. The manual shows an illustration of this setup but doesn’t spell it out. There’s a label on the seat itself that’s a little more clear. We’d definitely like to see this critical piece of the setup explained with a little more clarity. Perhaps thusly:
Thread lap belt portion ONLY through both belt guides.
Fit to Child
Our review of the older model of this seat examines the belt fit on a wide range of appropriately aged children. Though the manual states that the BubbleBum is suitable for children ages 4-11, we advocate that children be at least 5 years old before moving out of a harnessed car seat. Given that wide range of models in the other review, we’ll use this seat with my two favorite models.
6.5 Years Old
This kiddo is a few months into her career as a booster rider. She’s doing a great job about buckling herself in and sitting properly in her high back booster but backless boosters are still a challenge. The high, cushy sides of her main booster remind her to sit properly so not having those constant reminders on the BubbleBum inspired me to say “please sit properly” about a hundred times during the course of this review. We wouldn’t enjoy using this seat every day for her until she’s a little more mature.
However, she was able to thread the lap portion of the vehicle belt through both belt guides and buckle herself in without too much trouble. She had a little trouble unbuckling. We could see using this seat as a carpool option for her, especially if she’s got an older child or an adult sitting next to her to remind her about sitting properly.
Here we see her with the shoulder belt guide attached. This guide pulls the seat belt away from her neck. While it’s not at all dangerous for the belt to touch the neck, it can be annoying or uncomfortable and cause kids to shift away from the irritating pressure, which would mean the belt was no longer properly centered.
10 Years Old
This kiddo is about to head off on a wild adventure in New York City with the BubbleBum in her backpack for taxi and shuttle bus rides. She passes the 5 Step Test in some vehicles and some seating positions, but not everywhere. She knows how to check before getting settled. Having the BubbleBum along for the ride gives all of us confidence that she’ll be safe no matter what type of vehicle she’s riding in, even if it’s a shuttle bus like the one seen here!
She doesn’t find the BubbleBum to be the most comfortable booster ever, but for her purposes, it’s comfortable enough for occasional use. She’s a HUGE fan of these updated belt guides because they’re open enough to thread herself. I can see sending this version of the seat with her for carpooling, where the previous version wasn’t an option.
Important Information: Where to Find
FAA Approval: Like all booster seats, the BubbleBum is not approved for use in aircraft. That’s because booster seats require a lap/shoulder belt and airplanes only have lap belts. However, it tucks into carry on sized luggage and can join you in the main cabin’s overhead bin, then spring into action at your destination.
Date of Manufacture: Unlike virtually every other car and booster seat on the market, the BubbleBum expires a scant four years after the date of purchase. NOT the date of manufacture. The short lifespan is a bummer but the seat is reasonably priced and quite useful so it’s worth the minimal investment for those four years of use.
Manual Storage: The manual stores between the cover and the seat itself.
The BubbleBum is a mainstay of our favorite portable carpool options. These updated belt guides represent a big step forward — the seat is now easy enough for kiddos to thread the belt through the guides to achieve a proper fit without too much adult assistance. This change moves the BubbleBum from a dreaded last resort to our first choice for tight spots.
Our friends at BubbleBum are giving away one seat from their limited collection to a lucky reader. Enter below for your chance to win! Read our giveaway terms and conditions before entering!