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Stroller Showdown

A guide to the top buggies, lightweights, and all-terrains

“There are too many strollers on the market, and none of them is perfect,” says our resident gear expert, Jamie Grayson (a.k.a. The Baby Guy). Well, that explains why most expecting moms lose their minds trying to figure out which stroller is right for them.

“You have to choose according to your lifestyle,” explains Grayson. Will you be taking public transit or cars? Do you walk a lot? Will you be lugging it up stairs? Do you have a spot to store the stroller, or will it take up your kitchen?  With these variables in mind, Grayson reveals here the key differences among the top brands.

The Buggies: Buggies, or System Strollers, span infancy to toddlerhood. They’re generally built for navigating city sidewalks, and aren’t known for easy folding or transit. Most feature a bassinet and can also accommodate an infant car seat, before converting to an upright seat once the child reaches 3-6 months of age and has better head and neck control.

BUGABOO FROG ($760) AND CAMELEON ($980)
Bugaboo offers two buggies: the Frog and the Cameleon. Both models feature a bassinet and a chair with three reclining positions. All Bugaboo strollers have a reversible seat, so that the child can face you or face outward; and these two in particular have reversible handles so that you can change the wheels according to the terrain. (Note: little wheels in front 90 percent of the time; big wheels in front for sand, gravel, snow, cobblestone.) The Cameleon is a few pounds heavier than the Frog, and can accommodate a taller child. The Cameleon also has a height-adjustable handle, a larger undercarriage bag, and foam-injected rubber tube tires, which means no blow-outs.

Car seat compatibility: Graco, Peg Perego, Maxi Cosi

Age range: Birth to 40 pounds

Perks: Stylish. Versatile. Lots of accessories. Well-made: Bugaboos are very durable and the original Frog revolutionized the stroller industry, so we owe the Dutch a round of applause for that.  

Drawbacks:  The Frog and Cameleon are notorious for being difficult to fold, and  all adjustments—reclining, removing belly bar, harness removal, folding—are two-handed processes. The bassinet is not free-standing—it will wobble with a baby in it if you place it on the ground—so you have to leave it in the stroller frame if you want to use the bassinet as a bed.

UPPABABY VISTA ($680)
A relative newcomer, the Vista has given the veteran buggy brands a run for their money due to the fact that you get a lot of bang for relatively little buck. The organic cotton-and-soy bassinet comes with a latex mattress, and is a completely separate piece from the seat—which means no fabric swapping. The reversible seat has four reclining positions; the foot support is adjustable to help with posture; the undercarriage bag is gigantic; and the canopy is entirely UV-protected and has a large vent for airflow (an accessory for most other strollers). The Vista also offers a smooth ride, thanks to a great frame-based suspension, and can be pulled like a sled on wheels when folded.

Car seat compatibility: Graco, Peg Perego, Chicco

Age range: Birth to 50 pounds

Perks:
Recline, harness and removal of belly bar are all accomplished one-handed. Converts into a double stroller with attachable Rumbleseat. Comes with play date cards. Too cute.

Drawbacks:
It’s wide—a full 1.5 inches wider than the Bugaboo buggies. The cup holder . . . where to begin with that one? Everyone hates it—get the Baby Jogger Liquid Holster for this one!

MICRALITE TORO ($525 +$175 for bassinet)
Micralites have a cult fanbase, but have been sorely overlooked by the bulk of consumers and baby store employees. The Toro is completely durable yet lightweight (18 pounds), and has a great one-handed fold. Don’t let the appearance distract you: wider wheels in front means stability going over curbs, and a narrower rear end means you can pop a wheelie to push through a crowded store aisle. The new Toros have optional height-adjustable handles with a wonderful rotation adjustment, for changing the angle. For what it’s worth, Consumer Reports rates this stroller Number 1 in their testing.

Car seat compatability: Maxi Cosi, Graco, Peg Perego

Age range: Birth to 40 pounds

Perks:  A lightweight stroller with a heavyweight’s durability. Amazing one-handed fold, and very easy to adjust the seat to three different reclining positions. One-handed harness release.

Drawbacks: Seat is forward-facing only. Small undercarriage bag. The shape of the handlebar throws some people off, but you get used to it.

ORBIT G2 ($750 with seat; $900 with car seat)
Talk about improvements! The new G2 has really stepped it up with a terrific new seat insert (for newborns) and an absolutely lovely new recline. The seat also has a new adjustable footrest and the chassis has a new locking feature when folded. The handlebars adjust much easier now with a push-button feature; and the tires are no longer air-filled—so they cannot go flat.

Car seat compatibility: Orbit car seat

Age range: Birth to 40 pounds

Perks: Seat rotates 360 degrees. Folds with the seat attached; can be dragged like a sled on wheels. Organic fabrics. Available in red (!)

Drawbacks:  You can push it one-handed sometimes, but it’s not easy to do all the time. The toddler car seat is VERY heavy.  

STOKKE XPLORY ($1,000 + $200 for bassinet)
The Stokke Xplory is known as “the stroller that sits really high.”  Indeed it does—the idea is that your child is higher off the ground, farther away from car fumes and animals and closer to parents for better interaction and a better view of the world. You can get a bassinet option as an accessory, but the stroller is suitable from birth with a very nice infant insert. It has, hands-down, the most ergonomic seat on the market in terms of back and leg support. A few small improvements since the original model have really won me over: the belly bar is now much easier to remove, the foot rest is adjustable with one hand, and the seat has a terrific new fabric that is much softer.  

Car seat compatibility: Graco, Peg Perego, Maxi Cosi

Age range: Birth to 45 pounds

Perks:  The handlebar is both height and angle adjustable. The seat is reversible as well as height-adjustable, which can come in handy when dining out.  

Drawbacks: The handlebar lacks neoprene (or any other gripping substance), which makes it awkward and nerve-wrecking on steps—and if you’re wearing gloves, forget about it. Ride tends to be less-than-smooth. The seat, even at it’s lowest position, is rather high for kids to climb into, which means you’ll eventually be lifting a heavier kid into a higher position—more strain on your back.  

The Lightweights: Lightweight or “umbrella” strollers are ideal if you travel frequently, want something that is public transit-friendly, or are in the market for a toddler stroller. They’re not meant for day-to-day pavement pounding.

BUGABOO BEE ($650)

The completely redesigned Bee came out just a few weeks ago and is a major improvement over the original: the canopy is much shorter—so kids can actually see out and look around now—and is attached to a height-adjustable seat. The seat is a whopping 2.3 inches wider, while the stroller’s overall footprint only increased by a half-inch. Everything from adjusting the height of the handlebar and seat back to expanding the seat depth to reversing the seat is ridiculously easy. (Reversing the seat direction is actually easier than reversing the seat on the Frog or Cameleon.) The suspension has been tweaked, and the stroller now feels incredibly sturdy.

Car seat compatibility: Graco, Maxi-Cosi

Age range: Birth to 40 pounds

Perks: Reclining, reversible seat. Lots of new accessories, like a canopy with a zip-in sun/bug screen and an iPhone handlebar holder.

Drawbacks:
The seat is very low to the ground, which is a turn-off to some parents. Harness buckles can cause discomfort.

MACLAREN QUEST ($230)
A great companion piece to a larger, buggy-type stroller. At 12 lbs, the Quest is not the lightest umbrella stroller on the market—nor is it the heaviest. While the seat only faces out, there are four reclining positions and an adjustable foot rest (rare on lightweight strollers).

Car seat compatibility: None

Age range: 3-4 months, up to 55 pounds.

Perks:
  One-handed fold; comes with rain shield and shoulder strap—for easier carrying on stairs and public transit.

Drawbacks:  The wheels will shred down over time, depending on use (you can have them replaced). You cannot push it one-handed in most situations—certainly not if you have a coffee, umbrella or phone (get adept at “elbow steering” if you want to accomplish this). No cupholder. Fabric is very difficult to clean.

BABY JOGGER CITY MINI ($230)
Baby Jogger built the City Mini for parents who wanted a sportier look and better steering out of a lightweight stroller. At 16.5 pounds, it’s a few pounds heavier than the Quest, but you get a LOT out of those few pounds: it can accommodate a bassinet or car seat, with a separate adapter, and comes with a huge canopy and vented seat back that make this stroller terrific for surviving the elements. Baby Jogger strollers are known for their fold, and the City Mini is no exception: in a small apartment, you can pop off the wheels and slide this guy under most couches.  

Car seat compatibility: Graco, Peg Perego, Maxi-Cosi, Chicco, Britax, Evenflo

Age range: Birth (with car seat or basinet adapter) to 50 pounds

Perks: One-handed steering, multiple seat positions, decent storage capacity, one-handed fold

Drawbacks: Seat lacks structure, and only faces out. Wheels aren’t the best over rough terrain.
 

UPPABABY G-LUXE ($160)
Speaking of wheels, the 11-pound G-Luxe has rubberized wheels with terrific suspension for a stroller of this class. The seat is outward-facing only, but is made with a terrific mesh material for airflow and easy clean-up.

Car seat compatibility: None

Age range: 3-4 months to 40 pounds

Perks: Nice seat, high handles, shoulder carry-strap, one-handed fold. Oh, and it stands when folded (!)

Drawbacks: Rain shield sold separately. No adjustable foot rest.

MICRALITE FASTFOLD SUPERLITE  ($320)
Finally: a compact, lightweight stroller with air-filled tires! The newly redesigned Fastfold Superlite resembles the Toro in shape, but weighs just 14 pounds. The seat features a wonderful breathable mesh material; inserts are available for extra cushioning and protection against colder weather. You can purchase alternative (i.e., taller) handles for people with longer strides.

Car seat compatibility: Graco, Maxi-Cosi

Age range: Birth (with car seat adapter) to 55 pounds

Perks: Incredibly smooth steering, due to air-filled tires. Compact, one-handed fold. Seat shape allows children to sit cross-legged so their legs do not dangle. Even I can fit in it.  

Drawbacks: Seat faces outward only. Smallish undercarriage bag. Rain shield sold separately.  

The All-Terrains: These strollers offer amazing maneuverability and terrific wheels for parents who no longer need a bassinet and may not require a reversible seat, but still want something more substantial and sturdier than a lightweight stroller.  Some models have front wheels that can be locked into a stationary position for light jogging.

PHIL & TED SPORT ($450)
This stroller became famous, and rightfully so, with an ingenious tandem design that could turn a single stroller into a double by adding a rear seat without changing the basic footprint of the stroller—a critical need in cities where sidewalk space comes at a premium. The canopy isn’t amazing, the reclines can be awkward, and parents worry about their children’s hands getting caught in the wheels. (This has been addressed with the addition of wheel fenders, but depending on your child’s proportions this could still be an issue.) Side note: yes, you can fold it with the second seat on the back; it’s just a bit bulkier, but will still fit in most cab trunks like this.

Car seat compatibility (as a single stroller): Chicco, Graco, Peg Perego, Maxi-Cosi

Perks:  Adjustable handlebar. Compact fold. Great tires. Converts to a double stroller.

Drawbacks:  The recline positions are basically “sitting up” or “lying down.” The quality of the product has been questionable over the past few years, depending on which batch your stroller was in . . .  but hopefully this will be on the upswing now that Phil & Ted represent themselves in the States and seem committed to constantly improving their products.

BABY JOGGER CITY ELITE ($400)
This stroller has terrific wheels and amazing suspension, plus car seat compatibility and an optional bassinet feature. There’s an impressive selection of every conceivable accessory—including a cooler for “drink transport” that attaches under the stroller. The 2010 models also have “forever-air” tires, which means less maintenance.

Car seat compatibility:
Graco, Peg Perego, Maxi-Cosi, Chicco, Britax, Evenflo

Age range: Birth to 75 pounds

Perks: Adjustable foot rest, handbrake, terrific canopy, padded seat, amazing fold. Assembly? What assembly?—Snap on the wheel and canopy and go to town!

Drawbacks:  It’s not the lightest of strollers, weighing in the mid-20s.

REVOLUTION BY B.O.B. ($390)
A perfect hybrid of a jogger and an all-terrain, the Revolution will always be considered one of the best-made, most durable strollers on the market. The seat is wide, the wheels are great, and the suspension is top-notch. A great stroller if you want a rugged option without the frills of a buggy.

Car seat compatibility: Graco, Peg Perego

Age range: Birth (with car seat adapter) to 70 pounds.

Perks: Amazing suspension. Handbrake. Easy fold.

Drawbacks:  The stroller, when folded, is long. No adjustable footrest. Not an ideal stroller from birth, but if you use a car seat adapter, you’re good to go.