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Buyer's guide to strollers

Lean and lightweight needn't mean flimsy and flighty

Posted: 22 November 2005
by ThinkBaby

Even if they already own a regular pushchair, many parents find a stroller to be of enormous use, particularly for getting about in town, on public transport, or for travelling. By their nature strollers tend to be low on features and weight and big on simplicity and portability, but even so you're not short of choice and there are prices to suit every budget. It used to be that strollers, being lightweight, were also quite fragile things, but nowadays given the materials on offer you don't necessarily have to compromise build quality for weight. Here are some pointers on what to look for in your ideal stroller.

Reclining positions

Ultra-simple: Cosatto's Comet at £42
As strollers are generally simpler than other pushchairs you'll probably find that you have fewer options when it comes to reclining positions, and many have just one position. If you need a stroller that goes fully flat for a newborn, or fully upright for an older child then check these positions are available. If you buy a stroller as your second chair and don't need it for a newborn then limited reclining positions probably won't be a problem for you. Reclining positions will similarly be lower down your check list if you intend to use the stroller only for brief spurts, rather than for long walks in the park.

Padding The more pared-down the stroller, the less padding it will have. As with the reclining positions, if you're using your stroller for specific purposes, short jaunts around the shops, between car and airport gate, quick trips out etc. and you need your stroller to be super-lightweight and portable, then the less-padded options might not be a bad bet. Limited padding shouldn't necessarily mean uncomfortable though, and the comfort of your baby is paramount, so if possible test a few different options to see which your baby seems to prefer - reclining options will also play a part here.

Portable & popular: Maclaren's Triumph £69
Weight Lightweight and portable is the raison-d'être of the stroller, but all are not created equal. The very lightest strollers are also usually the most simple, so depending on how you intend to use your stroller their might be some compromise you need to come to with weight and features. The popular Maclaren Triumph, for example, weighs only 5.5kg, folds up to a tiny package and is highly portable, but you will only have two reclining positions and limited padding.

While you can now get lightweight and robust strollers, the two don't necessarily go together, so keep a careful eye on build-quality and look out for flimsy-looking features and handles.

Remember too that very lightweight strollers can be less stable than their more tank-like cousins, and many won't be suitable for hanging bags from the handles due to a propensity to tip. Pushchair weights are available to help balance the chair if you do want to use it for shopping trips occasionally, but generally want a very lighweight option. You can easily check the stability of the chairs when having a look in the shops by applying pressure or weight to the handles or by taking it for a quick spin around.

Foldability There are some impressive folding options available on strollers these days, and many have single-action folding and unfolding where you can operate the stroller with one hand. As strollers are so simple the folding action should be similarly simple, ideally you want to be able to hold your baby in one hand and collapse or open the stroller with the other. If you find it the least bit fiddly then you'll probably want to look elsewhere.

Your stroller should also fold down to a small size so you can fit it easily into the boot of your car, lug it on and off buses and use minimal storage space. Some models compact more successfully than others, so this is something to test in-store. You can usually use the forum or user reviews to find out whether a stroller will fit easily in the boot of your car.

Sleek & stylish: Quninny's Zapp £150
Manouevrability There's little point having a lightweight, highly portable stroller if it handles like a misbehaving shopping trolley. Make sure you test the stroller's handling with a quick spin, and you can test the comfort of the handle-height at the same time.

Build quality If you just want the most basic and inexpensive of strollers you might be prepared to compromise a little on build quality, particularly if you don't envision getting much use from the stroller. On the other hand a little investment in a more robust stroller and you'll find it a lot more flexible and will probably give it much more use. Check how robust the stroller feels overall, and check the quality of any mechanisms, fixings and the handles. Also check the wheels and brake functions.

Looks come firmly at the bottom of the list for a stroller, but super-functional and compact needn't mean that a stroller can't also be smart and sleek. For example, Quinny's Zapp is a particularly stylish option if you're willing to spend the money.

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