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The Gear Guy Guide: August Edition

Taking a closer look at new releases from Britax, Petunia Pickle Bottom, Stroll-Air, and Mamas & Papas

The New Britax Convertible Car Seats
“I’m not supposed to be biased toward one brand in my line of work, but there are precious few times I would recommend anything other than a Britax convertible car seat —and after testing their new line, debuting later this month, I’m as loyal as ever. Britax has re-engineered its seats with a lower center of gravity and added a new “SafeCell” technology that causes the seat to sink and slightly recline into a honeycomb-like cushion during a collision, lowering the center of gravity even more and restricting forward movement of the head. Very cool. The seats have also been reinforced with integrated steel bars that prevent forward-flexing and have been built with a less-brittle, more energy-absorbing EPP foam that helps to distribute crash forces and contain the head, neck and spine. In a nutshell, the new seats are incredibly safe.

Britax also stepped up their ease-of-use and installation features: transitioning from rear-facing to forward-facing is much easier now, and the new seats have a flap in the upholstery that you simply pull aside to adjust the belts from the front of the seat! There’s also a one-handed height adjustment at the top of the seat, and a rubberized bottom that helps protect leather seats. Best of all? Britax is not raising their prices.”
Roundabout 55: $199.99
Marathon 70: $279.99
Boulevard 70: $309.99
Boulevard 70 CS: $329.99
Advocate 70 CS: $369.99
Available later this month at buybuybaby.com

Petunia Pickle Bottom Scout Walkabout Carrier
“Gorgeous. I opened the box when it arrived and was floored: visually, this is a stunning carrier. Constructed of felt and leather, the PPB Walkabout has interchangeable liners made of washable recycled polyester—great for diaper leaks and spit up—that easily snap in and out of place along the edge of the carrier. It resembles the Bjorn in appearance, ease-of-use, and crotch support, but I found it to be a bit more comfortable than the Bjorn Classic; leather pads keep the straps from digging into your back—nice touch! It’s a front-only carrier that allows the child to face in or out, with a weight range of 8-22 pounds. At $199, the PPB Scout is more expensive than other carriers, but the construction is superb, it’s easy to put on, and again it’s gorgeous. Beautiful carrier, higher price, your decision.”
$199 at petuniapicklebottom.com

Stroll-Air My Duo stroller
“In the quest to find a terrific double stroller, there is one that I think has been sorely overlooked here in America: the Stroll-Air My Duo . Out of Canada, and formerly known as the Spyder, this side-by-side stroller has two independent seats that can face you, face out or even face each other, plus a huge undercarriage bag and the capacity for bassinets AND car seats. When I first saw it a few years ago, I thought, Amazing ! Then I looked at the width: 30.5 inches—a half-inch too wide to fit through standard doors. When I learned that the Spyder was being reintroduced as the My Duo, I quickly scanned the specs and saw the new width: 29 inches! The heavens opened up, the trumpets sounded, all was right with the world. Other highlights: padded seats with comfy covers over the harness buckles and straps; a great recline mechanism; adjustable footrests on both seats; a height-adjustable handlebar; and enormous canopies with built-in ventilation. At just 26 pounds, it’s an incredibly smooth ride, easy to steer, and comes with rain shields, bug nets, wind guards, even a diaper bag (which is actually so cute my roommate stole it from me and is currently using it while he tours with Legally Blonde ). My only complaint about this wonderful stroller is that the buttons you press to switch the seats around are in an awkward position—I’ve found that I have to turn one of my hands backwards so that my thumbs have access to pop the seats out. If Stroll-Air were able to redesign this one feature, I dare say the stroller might be perfect.”
$799 at mystrollers.com.

Mamas & Papas Astro Bouncer
“45 minutes. That’s how long it took me to put this bouncer together—and I am quite adept at assembly, I might add. Arriving from the UK this month, the Mamas & Papas line of baby gear has just launched at Babies R Us. The Astro bouncer I received for review came in a ridiculously cute brown, green and white stripe pattern and features a 3-point seat harness with strap covers that use magnets instead of nap-wrecking velcro—brilliant. There are a bunch of bells and whistles, including an iPod dock with surprisingly good sound quality. But perhaps the best feature is the recorded interactive voices, which all sound like adorable British children (think, “Charlie bit me”). On the down side: the seat recline does not adjust; it doesn’t fold for storage or travel; and it’s only appropriate until a child can sit unassisted—which is around 6 months. Oh, and it costs $200, a bit high compared to similar bouncers. But if aesthetics are important to you, it’s a super cute seat and it does its job quite well (my new twin nieces are quite comfy in it). I am interested to see what it does for itself over here in the US of A.”
$199 at babiesrus.com