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The Gear Guy Guide: October Edition

Taking a closer look at the Bugaboo Donkey, OXO Sprout Chair, FreeHand Baby Carrier, Phil&Teds Free Rider

Last week was the ABC Kids Expo, where each year the top baby-gear companies unveil their latest creations. Our discerning (and seriously opinionated) Gear Guy, Jamie Grayson, headed out to Vegas to troll the show, where he inspected everything from Boppy’s new activity gym to Chicco’s version of the Snap N’ Go.

“Being the ever-diligent gear-head, I squeezed 45 appointments into three days. I saw thousands of products at this show—here are just a few of my favorites. Trust me, if I reviewed everything I loved, you’d be reading until next year’s show.

BUGABOO DONKEY, price TBD
Bugaboo is the brand that got me into this business; so regardless of whether I think their new double stroller is perfect, I hold a special place in my heart for them. That said, I love the Donkey. Love. I spent the better part of an hour with the designer—folding it, changing it, pushing it, bouncing it. Quick recap: the Donkey expands from a single to a doublewide and back to a single in three easy clicks. In its single configuration, the Donkey holds a bassinet, car seat, or chair and an attached shopping basket—which sounds silly but is actually terrific. As a Duo, it can accommodate two bassinets, two car seats, two chairs, or any combo. The seats can also face each other, which is amazing. And get this: the wheelbase is the same width as the Cameleon. The wheels are air-filled and large—which means fantastic steering and maneuverability. The conversion into the Duo is incredibly easy, as is flipping seats—even while holding a child. The Donkey folds without removing the seats (though for a compact fold you must remove them). The one thing that this stroller sadly cannot accomplish is fitting through a standard door with two car seats attached—it’s just a few inches too wide in that setup. So parents of twins will still need a double Snap N’ Go. But that’s a small price to pay for this genius piece of machinery. It launches this spring, and as of now has no suggested retail.  bugaboo.com

OXO Sprout Chair, $249.99
I am a high chair snob. So it’s a big deal—to me, at least—that I am adding the OXO Sprout to my very short list. This chair is a practical and attractive mix of European-style wooden chairs and more mainstream plastic options. The 5-point harness seat is very well padded; the footrest is adjustable, as are the seat height and depth. It’s super easy to wipe clean, and the tray lies flat—so no fluids spill out. Like all high chairs without a recline, the Sprout is suitable from around 6 months. Bonus: tools are not required to make any adjustments on this chair—other than to remove the crotch post when you start using the chair with an older child. I am a huge fan and cannot wait to see what happens when this chair explodes into the marketplace at the end of this year. oxotot.com

FreeHand Baby Carrier, $119.95
I first spied the FreeHand Baby Carrier in the airport on my way to ABC. The lady next to me was wearing a carrier I had never seen, so of course I had to ask. Turned out she was the FreeHand rep—on her way to Vegas. Needless to say we were besties by the time we reached the convention center. The no-frills, soft-structured carrier can be used for babies weighing 8-35 pounds, and features criss-crossing straps on the front of the carrier that support the thighs of an outward facing baby, holding her at a 90 degree angle—which aligns the spine and helps eliminate the “forward slump” caused by most front-facing carriers. I wore the carrier with a year-old nugget for a bit and can honestly say it’s one of the most comfortable, lightweight, and non-obtrusive carriers I have ever worn. Available now at togetherbe.com.

Phil&Teds Free Rider, $99.99
It was about time someone improved the wheeled board. Phil&Teds’ new Free Rider is brilliantly designed like a narrow three-wheeled scooter, so your little guy can ride along behind the stroller while you walk comfortably to the side—no more awkward straddling. And, yes, the board pops off and converts to a stand-alone scooter. Genius. For now, the Free Rider is only compatible with the Mountain Buggy Urban Jungle; adaptors for other strollers are in the works. Oh, by the way . . .  don’t even get me started on the new line of Phil&Teds strollers. I’m predicting that after a few years of disappointments, P&T is positioning itself to make a serious comeback with the recent release of its new jogger, the Explorer, and the coming-soon Verve, a cool four-wheeler with a reclining back seat. Stay tuned for the details later this year.”

Follow Jamie Grayson on twitter @thebabyguynyc