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Review: Gear for family adventures

POSTED: April 21, 2017 10:10 a.m.
Grant Olsen/

As the weather mellows and snow begins to melt in the higher elevations, this can be the perfect time for a family adventure.

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THE GREAT OUTDOORS — One of the biggest jolts to new parents is the amount of gear required for outings with the baby. Simply getting out of the house and into the car can be a process.

Sure, there are some ultra-efficient parents who can get by with the bare essentials. But the fact remains that adventures with kids sometimes require unique gear.

This review looks at a handful of products that might be worth considering for your family.

Chicco GoFit Booster Seat

PRICE: $39

GRADE: A

It’s a big deal when your child graduates from the car seat to a booster. For one thing, boosters are much less expensive. And they’re not nearly as bulky, which is especially relevant for family road trips.

The GoFit Booster from Chicco does a great job of addressing both of the car seat issues listed above. It costs less than $40 and is small enough that you can easily stow it away when not in use. There’s actually a carry handle, making it a convenient item for family road trips and vacations.

This booster is designed for kids from age four on up (40-110 pounds). It has double-layer foam padding and a contoured seat that make it comfy for your little passengers, even on long drives. Additional features include a belt-positioning strap, collapsible cup holders and removable seat pad and armrest covers.

Sierra Designs Backcountry Quilt 15

PRICE: $249

GRADE: A

Sleeping bags are great for most situations, but sometimes it’s nice to have something a little more versatile. For one thing, it can be difficult to regulate your temperature once you’re zipped into your bag. And younger kids sometimes don’t do well in the tight confines of a mummy bag.

Enter the Backcountry Quilt 15. It’s the latest addition to Sierra Designs’ collection of unique alternatives to the traditional sleeping bag. Although it’s more of a quilt than mummy bag, it can still keep you warm on spring nights when the temperature dips below freezing.

The Backcountry Quilt 15 is extra long, so it can comfortably accommodate sleepers of nearly every size. There are insulated hand pockets in the corners that make it easy to snug the bag up to prevent drafts. There’s even a hood to insulate your head on the coldest of nights. With the quilt’s 700FP DriDown, it’s rated to 15 degrees and weighs less than 2 pounds.

Chicco Bravo Trio System

PRICE: Varies by retailer

GRADE: A-

When it comes to bringing a stroller on family vacations, it’s great when all you need to do is throw an umbrella stroller in the trunk. Umbrella strollers are so lightweight and compact that they’re never a hassle.

But when you’ve got little ones, sometimes you need a more versatile stroller. Ask anyone who’s pushed an umbrella stroller around Disneyland for an entire day and they’ll tell you all about it.

For times when a more comfortable and versatile stroller is needed, the Bravo Trio System fits the bill. It has specific modes for infants, older babies and children up to age three. At each stage, the stroller has clever features to make it more convenient for parents. For example, the stroller folds down super small and will stand on its own when folded, which is helpful for loading and unloading.

Thule Chariot Lite 1

PRICE: $699

GRADE: A

Thule products usually stand out because of their precision components. They’re lean, mean machines. This is unsurprising, considering the company was born in Sweden, which is known for its efficient design techniques. In fact, the company is still based in Malmö, Sweden.

The Chariot Lite 1 is truly a multisport trailer, making it perfect for year-round family adventures. It can be used for biking, jogging and strolling, and the VersaWing system makes it easy to quickly convert the trailer for each activity. The components are actually stored onboard the whole time.

The trailer can also be outfitted with skis, though it’s not quite as seamless as the functions described above. If you’re a winter diehard and don’t mind the added effort, it may be worth checking into.

The Chariot Lite 1 is lightweight (25 pounds) and has incredible suspension, which ensures a comfortable ride. It also folds impressively compact for storage and transport. It accommodates riders up to 74 pounds, so it can provide many years of use for parents.

See Kai Run Johnny Shoes

PRICE: $52

GRADE: A

When you’re out and about, it can be tricky keeping shoes on your little ones. Toddlers simply love tossing their shoes, whether they’re slip-ons or Velcro. See Kai Run shoes are known for their impressive “stay-on-ability.” The Johnny has a sturdy hook-and-loop strap that secures the shoes in place and is difficult for a child to remove on their own.

While these shoes stay snug on little feet, they also have a larger than average toe box, which allows for comfortable movement. It’s especially nice for larger toddlers with rapidly growing feet. You should note that they fit true to size.

These shoes have a padded collar and tongue, which reduces the pressure on your child’s feet. This ensures they’ll remain comfortable even with extended use. There’s also a full leather lining and insole to increase the comfort and breathability. And the rubber outsole is super flexible for better traction.

Summer Infant Side By Side 2.0 Video Monitor

PRICE: $249

GRADE: A-

If you’re going on an overnight trip with your baby, there are times that a monitor can be helpful. Whether you want a basic audio monitor or a full-feature video monitor to fulfill that need is a matter of preference. Many parents like to be able to see their child and remotely check on the temperature of the room they’re sleeping in.

For those who value video monitors, this monitor set from Summer Infant is pretty hard to beat. It comes with two cameras, making it easy to keep track of multiple children. It’s actually one of the few monitors on the market to have a full-time split screen on the parent unit.

The cameras have excellent mobility, so you can pan and tilt for 180-degree visibility. You can add up to two more cameras if you want, bringing the total to four. You can even set the cameras to an eight-second rotation, so you won’t have to flip from screen to screen manually.

What are your favorite products for family trips? Let us know in the comments.
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