06.10.11 9 months, 3 weeks
I mentioned that I got the chance to test out the Maclaren Quest Sport ($230-260 on Amazon) and Uppababy G-Luxe ($190 on Amazon) umbrella strollers in preparation for our trip to France. I had a lot of trouble deciding which one to take with us; both are really great, and each has its pros and cons. I think the easiest thing to do is start with a list of what I liked and didn’t like about them:
+Shade—Just like on the Vista, there’s an extended sunshade that tucks under the visor; it pulls out instantly and curves down as well as out, so it blocks the sun even in the late afternoon.
+Has a stand so it can balance upright when folded.
+Cute color; washable seat cushion.
+Straps are easy to adjust.
+Ben doesn’t kick it while walking, since the frame is an X shape in the back.
+Handles are set a bit higher.
-Brakes are on the wheels (two separate brakes) and can catch or scuff when you lean the stroller back to get it up a step or curb.
-You have to press pretty hard to get it to open; carrying strap occasionally wraps around cupholder and needs to be unhooked before it will open.
-Extenders to raise front up for little baby’s legs tend to get pushed up so one side is higher than the other.
-To fold you do need two hands (a metal tab flips up and then two little levers (all on the handles) press down to unlock it); it’s a very quick and easy motion and I do it while holding Tucker, but it’s a little harder than a foot/hand combo like the MacLaren when you’re holding a wriggling baby.
-Rain cover sold separately ($19.99).
Maclaren Quest Sport
+Folds using a two-part foot release, so it’s truly a one-handed operation.
+Brake is a toggle in the middle of the stroller, press one way to lock and the other to unlock.
+Feels very sturdy.
+Leg support doesn’t get out of whack (though it’s a bit harder to adjust; I feel like I’ll only adjust it on occasion and would rather not have to mess with it all the time!).
+Comes with a terrific, very effective rain cover.
-Ben kicks into the bottom of the back frame while walking.
-Ben says the handles feel lower.
-Straps are tricky to adjust.
-Sun shade that comes with stroller does very little.
-Add-on sunshade (which comes out this month) is pretty cool, stretchy UV-protectant material that folds down into a tiny pouch. But despite being huge it goes forward instead of down, so depending on the time of day, the sun can still get to the baby’s eyes. It is supposed to be removed before folding the stroller; if you disobey and fold with the shade still on, the inside is in contact with the wheels. Fully extended it looks like you’re pushing a tiny Conestoga wagon. That said, if you own a Maclaren (or other stroller; it attaches with elastic and velcro around the struts of the stroller so it can be used on other brands) and covet the shade-making capabilities of the Uppababy models, it’s $45 and might be a nice accessory.
I decided to go with the Uppababy because of the sunshade. Tuck is really sensitive to the sun in his eyes, and I’m hooked on being able to flip that deep UV shade down instantly when we’re facing the sun, then push it back when we’re in the shade. It’s so simple and effective. I actually preferred the look of the Maclaren; it looked more substantial to me, and a bit sleeker because the seat cushion is separate.
Another difference that I think is a pure matter of personal preference: The Maclaren has a four-position recline, with metal pieces and plastic tabs that you adjust on both sides to pitch the seat pack or forward. On the Uppababy there is a cord laced up the back, and a cinch system that lets you adjust the seat to any position. Since there’s nothing rigid to push against, it’s harder to return to upright, though very quick and easy to recline. I’ve figured out a system where I use one hand to hold the seat up and hold on to the tab while I use the other hand to cinch the cords. You have to make sure you get it evenly tightened so the sides of the stroller back are at the same position. That isn’t a problem with the Maclaren, since there are only four positions and it’s a stiff piece that you can push forward even when the baby is seated. That said, the adjustability is nice (not that I often do anything except all the way back or all the way forward!).
The Uppababy has slightly bigger wheels, but both are surprisingly easy and smooth to push, even on bumpy Cambridge (and Paris!) sidewalks. The Maclaren is a little heavier (with the basket and shade it’s about 13.5 pounds vs. 11 for the Uppababy); but it also goes up to a slightly higher weight—55 pounds vs. 50 for the Uppababy. Both are good from three months, though when Tuck was that small I don’t know if I’d have been comfortable with the umbrella stroller. The baskets underneath are hard to access, especially when the seats are reclined, but I made do in Europe. You can’t fold either stroller if there’s anything in the basket.
I was really impressed by both strollers—they are easy to handle and SO much easier to use in tight spaces and when I’m getting in and out of the car a lot. We’re in NYC this weekend and I’m about to take my first trip on the Subway with Tuck; we’ll see how this goes but at least there’s a shoulder strap on my stroller!
An unrelated note: There is so much mobility right now. Backwards scooting, occasional lurches forward, extremely determined rolling towards goals... I can’t even turn my back for a second or he’s taken apart the play mat or opened a cupboard or pulled everything off a shelf. Childproofing, Kate! Time to really, really get on it!
Kate Flaim is a freelance journalist and food blogger based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.