Your "perfect" stroller buying guide
We're all looking for that one perfect stroller, right? That miraculous pram that is easy to fold and lift into a car boot, compact enough for the narrowest of Singapore's footpaths and shop aisles, but is simultaneously jam-packed with all the amazing features we want our buggy to have: a plush night-sleeping bassinet (carrycot) for baby, parent-facing and world-facing seating options, lay-flat recline, decent suspension (think: Sentosa boardwalk, East Coast Park beach, or off-track at the Botanics), car seat compatibility (what about toddler car seats!?), and that elusive one-hand fold. Plus, don't forget it needs to look gorgeous. But where to start?
Well, before we go too far down the rabbit hole, I'd like to sow a very radical and possibly unexpected seed: if you have what we term 'competing requirements' for your pram (for example, you want to run with it, AND you want it to be cabin sized, or you want it to convert to a double buggy AND you want it to fit down the crowded aisle at Cold Storage), then it is worth considering taking your original stroller budget and spreading that over two 'single purpose' prams, rather than blowing it all on one 'multi-purpose' pram. If all your wish list features are confined to one category of pram (for example, you want to travel with it, take it in taxis, and walk through malls), then it's possible that one pram really could do everything you need it to. But, by and large, the all-in-one prams can usually do all things, but not always so excellently. (PS. I know what I'm banging on about - I ended up owning EIGHT prams in my search for that one perfect stroller, and have finally ended up with two buggies that perfectly complement each other, and my lifestyle).
Ok, now that that little idea is marinating, let's get into features, brands and models.
Easy fold versus one-hand fold
It's an important distinction to note that a one-hand fold is not the same thing as an easy fold when it comes to prams. Not to say that one-hand folds are tough, but most of the time we're looking for something that's really easy to collapse and sometimes the easiest folds require two hands. If you're specifically looking for something you can fold while holding your baby, that's when the one-hand fold comes into play.
An example of a super simple (albeit two-handed) fold is the UPPAbaby Vista V2. Check this out:
An impressive one-hand fold that's also crazy easy comes from Cybex on their Mios pram:
And finally, as an example of a one-hand fold that's totally do-able but arguably not as easy as some of the two-handed folds - check out the Babyzen Yoyo2, which requires you to crouch down to activate the release button underneath the buggy seat.
How to decide which one is best for you? Firstly, try to run through the main scenarios in which you'll be folding the pram (Are you alone? Getting into a taxi or car? Cafes?). Then, come into the boutique to try them out. Nothing beats getting your hands dirty and finding what clicks for you (pun intended).
Parent-facing versus world-facing seats
Typically, prams have either sling seats that are semi-permanently fixed to the stroller frame and almost always world-facing (like the Thule Urban Glide 2) or modular seats that easily click in and out of the stroller frame and can be fixed in either parent-facing or world-facing positions (like the UPPAbaby CRUZ).
It seems like a no-brainer to say that we want a parent-facing seat on our stroller so we can see and bond with our baby during the early months, but if you've already decided to get a bassinet (which you may end up using for most of the first year), then perhaps a parent-facing toddler seat becomes less important.
Bassinets & carrycots
This one is often a dilemma: if you have a pram where the toddler seat completely lays flat (like the Joolz Hub), do you really need a bassinet (also called a carrycot)? Let me lay out some pros and cons for you to consider, around aesthetics, comfort, convenience and peace of mind.
First off, most bassinets click onto the buggy and to do this, the stroller's toddler seat needs to be removed completely (or even converted, like the Bugaboo Fox2 where the frame for the toddler seat is the exact same frame used for the bassinet, but with different fabric attached). This usually makes the stroller look nicer, but it may make it slower to interchange with the toddler seat or car seat.
Some bassinets are approved for either regular or occasional night sleeping (like egg's one) and can give you incredible freedom to take your time running errands, knowing your baby is just as safe and comfortable as they would be in their cot at home. It also means you can carry their bassinet straight to the bedroom if they've fallen asleep while you're out - not having to wake them up. This is an added bonus if you live in a walk-up - you can leave the pram on the ground floor and just carry the bassinet upstairs.
Finally, there's peace of mind in being able to look at your baby in the bassinet, if your stroller's toddler seat doesn't have a parent-facing option. For example, out of the box, the Mountain Buggy Duet has two world-facing lay-flat sling seats (of course one of these can be replaced by an exceptional Joey shopping basket). While you can absolutely use these lay-flat seats from birth, Mountain Buggy's carrycot plus allows you to replace a sling seat with a parent-face bassinet that eventually converts into a parent-facing seat, before you would finally put the original sling seat back into the stroller frame for older toddlers.
Keep in mind that if you're catching a taxi somewhere, then you will be taking the car seat and not the bassinet at all. Hitting the town with your bassinet-fitted stroller makes sense if you can walk or catch the MRT or bus to your destination. Bassinets can typically be used until your baby can pull themselves up onto all fours; most brands will also state a weight limit for the bassinet, so bear that in mind.
I'm going to enjoy this chapter best of all, simply because I'm going to set a record for using tangentially inappropriate language in a baby-goods article. If the stroller pushers (yep, it's happening. ps. that means you or your spouse) are shorter than 5'4" or taller than 6'2", then you should consider a stroller with an adjustable handlebar to make the pushing more ergonomic, comfortable and practical. What do I mean by practical? If the handlebar is too tall for the pusher, it's hard to get enough purchase on the pram to push down the handlebar and pop the front wheels up. This action is called 'kerb pop' and it's critical as the child gets heavier, allowing you to pop up onto a gutter, step, or manoeuvre more easily over obstacles.
One of the buggies that can sometimes be too tall, despite having an adjustable handlebar is the UPPAbaby Vista V2 (min. 101cm, max. 109cm from the ground). This is contrasted with the Mountain Buggy Swift whose handlebar goes so low that siblings can easily push the pram (min. 59cm, max. 108.5cm from the ground).
Not all strollers have adjustable handlebars, but if you're both between 5'4" and 6'2", then it may not be a critical feature for you. Best bet is to come down to the boutique and try them all out.
Car seat compatibility
Broadly speaking, pretty much every good infant car seat is compatible with pretty much every good stroller these days (the exception being Britax who use different adapters). This means if your pram says it's compatible (usually with adapters) with either Maxi Cosi, Cybex, BeSafe, Nuna or Mountain Buggy car seats, then it's compatible with all of those. Of course, the rare exception exists, so double check before you buy.
The trouble begins when your baby outgrows their infant car seat, which usually happens around 12-24 months, and needs to progress to a toddler car seat. If you have a car, skip this part, but if you need to use taxis or Grabs, gather 'round, grasshopper, because it affects which pram you choose from the start.
While there are fairly unlimited options for taxi-friendly baby car seats, there are only two taxi-friendly car seats for toddlers in the entire universe (for future reference these are the American Cosco Scenera NEXT and the European Urban Kanga). While the Urban Kanga folds in half and can fit in the basket of larger strollers or be toted around in its carry bag, as a forward facing seat, it's five times less safe than rear facing car seats, so many parents prefer to use the safer, yet bulkier, rear facing Cosco Scenera NEXT.
And here's the sticking point. The Cosco Scenera NEXT is only officially compatible with one stroller: the versatile, compact Mountain Buggy Nano (ok and the Nano Duo). It can be unofficially 'hacked' onto a few other prams - the UPPAbaby Vista V2 and Bugaboo Bee 6 being the least painful hacks - but unless you are prepared to buy the nano as a second stroller, come toddlerhood, then taking the toddler taxi situation into consideration when buying your first pram can save you a lot of heartache.
By and large, the larger prams that your friends are raving about back home, can end up being a bit too big for a lot of what Singapore has to offer. This category is heavily dependent on your lifestyle but, as a start, measure the clearance of your front door to check you can get the pram inside without having to fold it each time.
Winning the compactness category is, of course, the Babyzen Yoyo2 with a teeny tiny width of just 43.5cm. But not all prams need to be tiny to be compact (I know that sounds crazy). The Mountain Buggy Duet looks like a tank, but at 65cm wide, it's actually the same width as the UPPAbaby Vista V2. Both of these fit inside the size limits for taking an open stroller on a public bus in Singapore (70cm wide and 120cm long).
Strollers with back wheels that are not wider than the stroller frame tend to handle better in close quarters than those whose rear wheels are the widest part. This is because when manouvering around obstacles, our brain checks the width of the frame and uses that as a guide - if the back wheels stick out, we tend to snag them more easily. Prams with rear wheels 'tucked' under the chassis include the Babyzen Yoyo2, Bugaboo Ant and Bee, Joolz Hub, and Mountain Buggy Duet.
Accommodating more than one child
Most of the prams on your hit list can accommodate a buggy board that allows a toddler to stand (or sometimes sit) behind the back wheels, under the handlebar. A few things to note about buggy boards: they can put a lot of strain on the chassis of smaller prams, causing them to wear out sooner; not all toddlers (well, not mine) will happily sit or stand on a buggy board without running gleefully away from you as fast as their chubby little legs can carry them; buggy boards work best when there's a bigger age gap between the kids; and if there's not enough clearance between your feet and the board, it can make walking behind the pram pretty uncomfortable. Having said that, gazillions of parents love their buggy boards and it can be an awesome way to take two kids around on a single stroller.
There are a handful of prams that perform really well as single buggies, but can convert to double buggies later on: the UPPAbaby Vista V2, Mountain Buggy Duet and egg. If you're going to spend a small fortune on a pram, and you have vague plans for more kids, it may be worth considering getting one of these single-to-double prams.
Travelling with your stroller
If you plan to travel a lot with your buggy (when the world opens up again), then investing in a cabin-sized one can make a really big difference to your mobility. Sure, you can take any pram right up to the aerobridge and 'gate check' it, but when your flight lands, you won't get the pram back until it pops out at oversized luggage, which often takes longer than usual luggage to arrive. The key prams in the cabin-sized category to keep an eye on are: Mountain Buggy Nano, Babyzen Yoyo2 and the Bugaboo Ant.
Of course, you can use a stroller check-in bag to help protect your buggy. UPPAbaby has a very clever take on this: when you use their TravelSafe stroller travel bag, any damage incurred during air travel is fully covered by UPPAbaby, under the terms of your original warranty.
Need help? Come see us at the boutique and we'll do it all for you. xx