We tested the frum world’s most popular strollers to save you the trouble of doing it yourself. Here, the top picks for every terrain and every budget
was sleep-deprived, hormonal, and broke. Just like every other new mother. And like every other new mother, I decided at that opportune time to make a significant financial investment in an item I would use every day. Seeing as I was incapable of coherent thought, I followed the long-held tradition of stroller selection: I got what my sisters-in-law had.
Baruch Hashem, it’s a great stroller and I’m happy with my purchase. But it has its failings, and I can’t help but wonder: Are the most popular strollers really the best? Or are our choices chiefly dictated by postpartum peer pressure?
I resolved to find out.
And so began my odyssey. I would bring perspicacity to the purchase of perambulators. I would change the world! (Or find a classy, compact, affordable stroller. It amounts to the same thing.)
Like all good heroes, I first sought wisdom from the wise. Meaning, I reached out to Shira, a baby gear expert at Pish Posh Baby. She graciously agreed to introduce me to the frum world’s most popular strollers.
With Shira as a guide through the wilderness of wheels and fold mechanisms, I found my candidates.
But I did not rest, for my journey was not complete. I wanted to test those strollers in the demanding environment where they’d be used — real life.
Good to Go
First up: the Doona. You know, those froggy looking little guys that are rapidly ousting the Snap-N-Go from our ecosystem. Shira assures me that the Doona is not a stroller. The manufacturers are quite emphatic that it’s an infant car seat with a complete and fully integrated travel system, and I resolved to chase my Doona-pushing neighbors on their Shabbos walks, just to spread the word.
Hmm... I needed to borrow said Doona from someone, and since I’m short on infants at the moment, I needed to borrow a baby, too. Better not alienate the Doona owners just yet.
I have nice neighbors: A quick text conversation, and the Doona and I were on the way to the pharmacy. Did I say nice? I mean saintly. Since we didn’t want to mess with the latch base, I borrowed her car, too. (And, yes, her ridiculously cute baby.)
The kuntz of the Doona is the aforementioned integrated wheels, which eliminate the need for a separate snap-in frame. But is it worth the $500 price tag?
I recall what the unloading process was like with my trusty Snap-N-Go: Pop trunk, walk to back of car, unfold frame. Open door to get baby in car seat. Run to catch escaping Snap-N-Go. Remember to put the brake on this time. Lift car seat, snap onto base. Wonder why it won’t move. Unlock the brake. Now go.
Contrast the Doona: A few buttons, a heave, and we’re ready to go. The wheels are small but they move smoothly, and though the two-pedal brake system is a bit weird, it works. The handle only has two heights — one for pushing, and one to fit in the car. Tall folk should test the Doona before buying, just in case, but it usually isn’t a problem.
We get our cough medication from the pharmacy, and I look around to see what else I need.
No stroller basket. Nowhere to put the things I need.
I have a little “essentials” bag clipped onto the handle, but that’s all the storage I’ve got, and the bag wasn’t even included in the base price. There are bigger bags available, but they need to be removed in the car.
Since the whole purpose of the Doona is to make running errands easier, this seems like a major oversight. Hmm.
We head back to the car, I pull the lever of the stroller, it starts moving, I stop… and it drops on my toe.
Yeah, it hurt. Thankfully, baby’s safe. Next time I’ll remember to brake before I pull the lever.
It takes a fair amount of muscle to lift the 16.5 lb Doona onto the seat base. That’s fine for most young parents, but if Bubby and Zeidy babysit a lot, it’s something to keep in mind. (The average car seat weighs 8–9 lbs). Of course, because the wheels are integrated, you won’t be shlepping the Doona in the crook of your arm, so the weight is only a concern when lifting it in and out of the car — or if you have a lot of steps.
So, is the Doona worth the money? If your other option is a high-end car seat and frame, the costs are close enough that the convenience of the Doona wins out, especially if you’re a frequent flyer. If you’re a Graco kind of gal, the price difference is more extreme. And if, like me, you think a stroller without a basket is like cookies without chocolate chips, you may want to look elsewhere.
Tried, Tested, and Trusted
Next on my list is the Uppababy Vista. I tested this one for years. Literally — I own it and love it dearly. The most notable features on the Vista are the ginormous basket and giant wheels. It comes with an overnight-rated bassinet, too. (See sidebar.)
The basket is the biggest I’ve seen on a stroller, and I can attest to its usefulness. My Vista has lugged lunch and drinks for seven all over the Bronx Zoo, with room to spare for my industrial-sized diaper bag, purse, and a few jackets. It’s very accessible, too, since the seat sits high above the basket.
And those wheels? They bounce up and down stairs happily, plow through blizzards, and roll smoothly over rocky fields.
But giant basket plus giant wheels equals giant stroller, and there’s the rub: The Vista is pretty heavy at 26.6 lbs, and when we travel, squeezing the suitcases around it is an ordeal. The bassinet is great, but the stroller wouldn’t wheel around the furniture in my bedroom without being disassembled, so it stayed parked by my bed most of the time.
The frame is nice and sturdy, and reclining the seat is easy and can be done with one hand. The seat can face either way, but you can’t fold the Vista with the seat facing you. The fold itself is an easy single step but needs two hands, and the stroller stands when folded. Handle adjustment is also easy.
The Vista isn’t cheap — it runs at $900. (While Uppababy’s Cruz stroller is cheaper, it doesn’t include a bassinet. If you plan to buy one separately, the loss of all-terrain wheels and basket space is not worth it.) If it’s in the budget and you don’t mind buying a second stroller for the car, the Vista is an incredible option.
Shout-out for This One
I text out a cry for more strollers. Every single person who responded offered me a City Mini stroller (from Baby Jogger.) Either everyone who buys a City Mini is really nice, or these things are ubiquitous.
“Best stroller ever,” texts one friend.
Well, this I gotta see.
I specifically tested the City Mini GT single stroller, with its all-terrain wheels, since I wanted something that would be comparable to the Vista or Bugaboo Cameleon. I took it for a ride, making sure to walk straight through my friend’s newly seeded lawn to test the wheels on multiple surfaces. I was impressed — we rolled smoothly over mud, brick, and grass. The wheels are smaller than the Cameleon’s and the Vista’s, but as long as you’re not shlepping your stroller on a wilderness hike, there’s not much of a functional difference.
What about newborns? The sporty toddler seat only faces forward, but it reclines almost flat for teeny new additions.
And I learned something wonderful, something that I never knew before.
Apparently, not only does Baby Jogger sell adapters for pretty much any car seat, they also make a bassinet! And before you protest, as did I, that the combination must look a little odd, know this: That seat, which looks so integrated into the chassis? It’s removable. You can leave it on if you like, and the removal takes a few minutes, but the bassinet on the empty frame could be mistaken for a Vista.
I began to see the appeal.
Even more appealing? The City Mini’s fold mechanism. City Mini pioneered the one-hand, one-step-fold years ago, and it couldn’t be easier: Grab a strap and pull. The strap doubles as a carrying handle, which is ridiculously convenient. And the folded stroller is really compact. It fit easily behind the front seat of my car, which is generally the only space available when we’re loaded up for a Yom Tov trip.
But the real reason for the City Mini’s popularity is the price. The GT version is $360, and the bassinet runs around $200. Keep in mind that you don’t really need the bassinet, since the seat has a near-flat recline, but it’s a nice extra.
I loved this thing, but it wasn’t perfect. First, the basket is on the small side and is difficult to access. I managed to stuff my diaper bag in from the side, but I had to pull it back out any time I needed something, and it got a bit squished. And second, call me shallow, but the GT looks a bit utilitarian — the other options are so much prettier. I feel kind of guilty for caring, since this is a great stroller and not everyone has that luxury, but it’s nice to have something beautiful to show off your gorgeous offspring.
Which brings us to the Bugaboo, the perfect way to show off offspring and choice gift of proud Bubbies everywhere. I went with the classic Cameleon for testing, thanks to yet another nice neighbor.
Bugaboos are justifiably famous for their durability — they’ll easily last a decade. The chassis on the Cameleon is ridiculously sturdy, and the wheels are the biggest I tested; zaftige rubber monstrosities that look like bike tires and can take on any terrain. It moves incredibly smoothly, too.
But, and I say this with apologies to generous grandparents everywhere, I didn’t love the design.
First, you can’t fold the Cameleon in one piece — you need to remove the seat, then fold the frame.
Second, the seat and bassinet sit fairly low. This means your baby is further away and the basket is harder to access. The basket was recently redesigned, so it’s gotten better, but it still doesn’t compare to the Vista or even the Cruz in size or accessibility.
Third, everything seems to require two hands, and things are placed oddly. Adjusting the handle requires opening and closing two clips, and to recline the seat, you need two hands to press buttons located in the middle of the stroller instead of the back.
(Bugaboo recently released a new stroller, the Fox, which corrects most of these problems. It’s still huge when folded, and it runs at $1,300, compared to the Cameleon’s $1,000, but it’s beautiful and will last forever. You’re welcome, bubbies.)
Okay, I’ll admit it — there are some great strollers in the popular clique. But I’m a rebel, so I asked my intrepid guide, Shira, for a stroller that wasn’t popular but should be.
And I met the Cybex Balios S.
To start, the Balios S runs at just $400. (That’s only $40 more than the City Mini GT, for those of you too Mommy-brained for math.) Affordable, check.
It’s a sleek, classic design, and it wheels beautifully.
The fold on the Balios is unusual. It does take two steps and a bit of practice, but it only requires one hand, and results in a super-compact fold rivaled only by the City Mini GT. Score!
And like the GT, the Balios S features a convenient carry handle on top of the folded stroller for easy transportation.
The one-handed recline is smooth and flat. Cybex makes a newborn insert called the Cocoon (at $100) which can pass for a mini bassinet, but I thought the $170 true bassinet was worth the splurge.
The basket on the Balios is just average sized, but it’s super easy to access since the seat sits really high. And this stroller has the biggest canopy extension I’ve ever seen. Seriously, it can cover the entire seat, with just a little gap for your kid’s legs, which is highly entertaining.
Unfortunately, this was the only stroller I couldn’t borrow, so I wasn’t able to try it over rough surfaces, but the wheels are marketed as all-terrain and the reviews are glowing. Cybex is a well-respected brand, and the Balios is clearly well-made, but it also hasn’t been around long enough to really test its durability.
I, for one, would be willing to take the risk.
Do you really need to stick with Lakewood’s most popular to find your stroller bashert?
Don’t get me wrong — those strollers have earned their places, and I’m not selling my Vista anytime soon.
But if you know what you need and speak to a professional, other options may surprise you. There’s a huge range of compact strollers rolling out now that just may replace our beloved full-sized carriages, and some neglected brands that deserve your attention. (Check out the offerings from Nuna and Silver Cross, for a start.)
And here’s a secret for avoiding the ol’ sister-in-law selection method: Don’t shop when you have a newborn. Shop before if your minhag allows it, or after if you can borrow something for a couple of weeks.
So, do I get a hero’s accolades? (Humble bow.)
Safety, Safety, Safety
You know those little things that aren’t super safe, but some of us do them anyway? I was curious about how bad they really are, so I reached out to an expert. He asked to be identified as “A concerned pediatric care provider,” and confirmed that yes, those dumb things we do are very, very dumb. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: Does it really make a difference if I strap my child into the stroller properly? Isn’t the worst that can happen a few scrapes?
A: If we’ve set the bar so low that success is now defined as preventing the worst thing that can happen, we’re obviously not trying hard enough. It’s always important to read the instruction manual included with every infant and child product, paying close attention to safety warnings. And never disable or disconnect any safety features.
I mean, even if the only foreseeable thing that can happen to an unrestrained child is a few scrapes, isn’t it worth preventing an injury by simply strapping in your child? Besides which, depending on the age of the child and other factors too numerous to list, there are far worse things that can happen to a child who falls from a height of just three feet, including broken bones, lost teeth, head injuries, permanent blindness, and even death.
Q: Is it okay for my baby to nap in a stroller that’s not marketed as safe for overnight sleep?
A: The difference between “sleeping” and “napping” has less to do with what the infant is doing than what her caretaker is doing. A newborn infant can sleep up to 20 hours per day and makes no distinction between night and day. When an infant sleeps, he sleeps. What is typically referred to as a nap is an interval of sleep when an adult is awake and nearby. Overnight sleep, though not exclusive to nighttime, is when the child is asleep unattended because her parents are also asleep. (“Overnight” bassinets are engineered to provide more airflow and a safer environment in general.)
A few more points:
- Remember to engage the stroller’s brakes and disable any rocking function whenever a child is sleeping or left unattended.
- Infants should be put to sleep on their backs, on a firm mattress, with no pillows and minimal bedding.
- Safety features on children’s products are designed to function only when used as directed and by the specific age for which the product is intended, so don’t use a bassinet for an older baby.
Q: Is a car seat worse than a stroller for a baby to stroll or sleep in? I don’t mean in the car — I’m talking about products that let a car seat function as a stroller.
A: It’s not a good idea for infants to sleep or spend any prolonged amount of time in a car seat or similarly-shaped device. (That’s why infants generally don’t commute to work). This has less to do with safety than with growth and development. While it’s technically “safe” to leave a baby strapped in a comfortable chair near you while you have brunch with the girls, car seats restrict movement, and rapidly-growing infants who spend too much time in car seats may develop a deformity of the head called plagiocephaly. They may also fail to reach age-appropriate developmental milestones that they might have, had they been allowed to move around freely on their bellies.
Q: Is there anything else about safety I should keep in mind when choosing or using a stroller?
A: Child safety isn’t about trying to predict every possible adverse scenario. It’s about being able to foresee the probable outcome of what you’re doing and using your common sense to modify the environment and activity to make it as safe as reasonably possible. Nothing can ever be made 100% child-proof, and no environment can ever be safe enough for children of all ages to be left unsupervised in indefinitely. Injury prevention is a combination of safe products and the presence and active engagement of supervising adults.
In the Hilly Holy Land
sk a bunch of Anglos in Israel about their strollers, and you’ll get some very passionate responses.
The typical stroller in Yerushalayim gets loaded with several days of groceries before being bounced over rough sidewalks and up multiple flights of stairs. Moms report casualties — baskets rip, wheels fall off, stroller frames crack. Only the strongest survive. Baskets are essential — the bigger, the better — since most people don’t have cars to do their schlepping for them.
On the other hand, the lack of cars means lots of buses and taxis, making a lightweight stroller with a quick, compact fold a necessity.
Wait, didn’t we end this discussion with the Balios?
Alas, no. While I’d be comfortable with the Cybex Balios S’s durability in America, the sacred streets of Yerushalayim are more challenging terrain. I wouldn’t risk it without more information.
My top pick for Israel is the UppaBaby Vista — with its giant basket and stair-gobbling wheels, it’s perfect for makolet runs. It’s on the heavy side, but it folds easily and more compactly than its Bugaboo counterparts. One thing to remember: The basket’s spaciousness makes it easy to exceed the 30 lb weight limit, so be prepared to repair it.
If you can, consider buying a second stroller for travel, like the City Mini. I wouldn’t spring for the GT version here — the Vista will be your “big wheel” stroller, and sticking with the original City Mini can save you a few hundred dollars.
Keep in mind that the product selection in Israel is different from that in the US. For one thing, while the much-loved Mamas and Papas line is being discontinued in the States, it’s still available overseas.
Regardless of what you choose, do your research, speak with people who own the options you like, and make sure you buy a stroller with a great warranty.
You’re gonna need it.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 650)
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