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The Gear Guy Guide To Stroller Shopping

How to choose your baby’s ride

—Photo by JellyBean Pictures.

Choosing a stroller can seem more complicated than buying a car. No joke. To help streamline the process, we asked our trusted Gear Guy, Jamie Grayson of the BabyGuy Gear Guide, to offer some guidance. “I’ve seen tears, fights, and patience pushed to the limit in a showroom full of buggies. But please remain calm,” he says. “Here are the important things to consider when stroller shopping—so you can be aware of which features matter to you, and which you couldn’t care less about. Now breathe deeply, and let’s begin.”
 
To bassinet or not to bassinet?
Moms having winter babies in snowy cities probably won’t be taking lots of long walks through parks during the early months. So a bassinet feature might not be of utmost importance. For moms due during a warmer season, there will be lots of outdoor strolls, so the bassinet is a terrific feature to consider. Even so, the bassinet typically sees use for only 2 to 4 months, so don’t stress about it. Moms who want strollers with bassinets and stroller seats could try the bugaboo Cameleon 3 (from $979) and the UPPAbaby VISTA ($729.99).
 

Can it accommodate an infant car seat?
A stroller with a good infant car seat attachment makes travel easier; it’s a saving grace for cab use, and if you take the baby to restaurants you can pop that seat off, fold the frame, and keep waiters happy. Be sure to choose the stroller before the car seat, as the stroller will be in action for a longer period of time. A few of my favorite infant seats are the Chicco KeyFit 30, Graco Snugride 35, Cybex Aton, the upcoming UPPAbaby MESA, and the Britax Chaperone, so check to see if the strollers you’re considering are compatible with those seats.
 
What is your living situation?
Walk-up? Elevator? Does a stroller fit in that elevator? Room to store an unfolded stroller? Parents hauling a stroller up several flights of stairs should seriously consider the weight and fold of it, but this is not a huge concern for most people with elevators, or garages, or the ability to leave a stroller in the trunk of a car. Most Baby Jogger strollers have one-handed folds, which makes carrying and storage very easy. When the stroller is folded, make sure there’s a handle or shoulder carry-strap to make transport easy. Maclaren and UPPAbaby have great lightweight strollers with integrated carry-handles or straps.
 
Can you fold or push it with one hand?
While it’s true that you don’t buy a stroller to fold it, there are times when a one-handed fold feature is very helpful. So think about how often you’ll need to fold it up—and give the fold a try to make sure you can handle it. This is also a consideration for pushing. Look at strollers with a solid handlebar and with separate handles. Now try to push each with one hand while pretending to hold an umbrella. For examples, compare the handles of the UPPAbaby G-LUXE ($219.99) to the Baby Jogger City Mini ($249.99). Both of these strollers also offer terrific folds. The Valco Baby Zee ($329.99) also has an amazing fold (and it fits on a shelf in my closet).
 
Is the seat reversible?
If you want a reversible seat, you can disregard about 50 percent of the strollers on the market. Reversible seat benefits: your baby can face you for chatty moments, you can keep an eye on spit-up and whatnot, and positioning the seat facing you creates a nice wind-block. Downfall: for most strollers with a reversible seat, you have to take the seat off and flip it around in order to fold. The Baby Jogger City Versa ($399.99) offers a compact fold with the seat facing in either direction.
 
How are those wheels?
Wheels can make or break a stroller. Large wheels do not necessarily equal a better ride, just as small wheels don’t always suck. Air-filled tires are ideal but require more maintenance; foam/rubber wheels are also terrific options and cannot go flat. If the wheels in back are large enough to cover the rise of a step, curb-bumping and going up stairs is going to be easier. If all the wheels are wee plastic things, well, good luck. Mountain Buggy and phil&teds still use air tires for the majority of their strollers; UPPAbaby uses a foam/rubber mix; and bugaboo and Baby Jogger now use a mix of air tires or tubes injected with foam.
 
What else?
Look at the size of the undercarriage basket. Storage space is key. Can the stroller convert into a double by adding a second seat or wheeled board? Does it have a cup holder? How well does the company deal with complaints and compliments? (Read their Facebook pages—that should tell you a lot.) Buying a stroller is a daunting process, but you’re gonna be okay. And if you need any extra help, you know where to find me.