A Carseat Nerd's Blog

A Carseat Nerd's Adventures in Carseats

Our First Aid Kit December 27, 2013

Filed under: Stuff You Should Know — carseatnerd @ 12:50 am

As promised, I made a list of the items I pack into the first aid kit that we take on outdoor adventures. This kit goes with us when we camp, hike, or go motorcycling.  Everything is carefully packed into the first aid kit pouch that Target and many other retailers give you free when you purchase two or more Johnson & Johnson first aid items. I purchased a few boxes of gauze pads. When it was all packed, I spent less than $50 on supplies. It weighs about 2-3 pounds, but is very well stocked and ready to handle a variety of problems. I had several of the items already on hand as extras in our home first aid kit, or leftover from previous events (first aid classes, medical procedures, etc). Each type of item is packed into a plastic sandwich sized zip top bag to keep it all dry. We do live in the Pacific Northwest!

The kit, all packed and zipped. Zippers are pulling at the seams, but it does zip!

The kit, all packed and zipped. Zippers are pulling at the seams, but it does zip!


When opened, with everything in its spot, this is how it looks.

When opened, with everything in its spot, this is how it looks.

On the left side, in the single big pocket, I have:

  • First Aid Kit booklet from the American Medical Association. This booklet is the one that comes standard in most first aid kits that you can buy at Walmart or Costco. I have had the book since I bought my first aid kit for my first car in 2000.
  • Thermal blanket. You know, the foil ones you can buy in the camping section of most general merchandise stores. Very helpful for shelter, someone in shock or being easily spotted!
  • CPR microshield. I got the Microkey years ago from a nurse friend.
  • 2 pairs of non-latex gloves. These pairs came out of hair dye kits. (I buy two kits, but only use one pair of gloves to color my hair.) I usually prefer the nitrile gloves we buy at Costco for the garage, but these were already packed in nice little baggies. Our big house first aid kit has nitrile gloves in it.
  • 1 abdominal pad, harvested from previous first aid kit, but available in drug stores. The paper wrapper is ugly because it is old, but the plastic lining of the wrapper is still intact. If it were no longer sterile, I would have replaced it.
  • 2 sanitary pads. You never know when you might need these! They can be soaked in cold water for a cold pack, they can be used for additional bandaging for very bloody wounds. Or, they can be used as intended.
  • 1 tampon. In addition to being useful as the manufacturer intended, or they can be used to plug puncture wounds. The tampon and pads are tucked into the back of the kit, so they aren’t obvious. Hubby didn’t want to get flak from the guys if he had to get the kit out. I said anyone who ends up with a foot peg through their leg will be glad his wife packed a tampon in his first aid kit!
  • 1 instant cold pack. These seem to come in a two pack. I put one in this kit, and the other in my kit at home. I used the pack in this kit when I broke my leg, and bought another two pack. Now my home kit has two in it, and this kit has one. If it gets used, I don’t need to buy another ice pack.
  • 1 green or yellow glow stick. You may need it to provide a bit of light, or to mark your location. Or to comfort a young kid if you spend the night outside.
Top row: sanitary pads, ice pack Middle row: First Aid book, thermal blanket, sports tape, gloves. Bottom row: CPR shield, abdominal pad.

Top row: sanitary pads, ice pack
Middle row: First Aid book, thermal blanket, sports tape, gloves.
Bottom row: CPR shield, abdominal pad.

On the right side, in the three smaller separated pockets, I have:

  • 8-81 mg chewable aspirin.  This was repacked into a very small two compartment pill case I purchased in the travel section of my grocery store.
  • 8-2 mg Imodium AD. This was repacked into the other compartment of the pill case. No one wants to be 50 miles from nowhere and have a system clean out. I’m also a huge fan of BHI Heel Intestine. It’s homeopathic and MAGIC. Even my very logical and skeptical husband says it works well! I keep a bottle of it in my car at all times.
  • 12-25 mg Benedryl. Benedryl is great for allergic reactions as well as insect bites. I left them in the foil pack, and taped the dosing instructions to the center of the foil.
  • 16 Extra Strength Tums antacids. Crushed antacids mixed with saliva or water can also be applied to insect bites or plant “stings”. I purchased a three roll pack of “travel sized rolls”, which contain 8 tablets each.
  • 10-200 mg Advil/Ibuprofen, purchased in the travel size section of the grocery store. I don’t usually pay the premium price for convenience sized packages of things, but I was willing to pay the price so that I could have the small labeled bottle with the expiration date printed on it. You can often find these at the registers also.
  • 10-500 mg Tylenol/Acetaminophen, purchased in the travel size section of the grocery store.
  • tweezers
  • bandage scissors
  • 1-5ml saline solution. I prefer saline to peroxide or alcohol for wound cleansing, and it can also be used to rinse eyes. * The link goes to the exact vials I have, but mine is leftover from my son being in the hospital.
The right side, all organized.

The right side, all organized.


Bandage scissors (red handled ones are in the big pocket on the left side), small blue pill case with two compartments containing Imodium AD and aspirin, elastic wrap, Tylenol, Advil, tweezers, small bandage scissors, Benedryl in the foil packet with dosing instructions taped on, and the triangular sling.

Loose in the center, I have a baggie containing the gauze pads, and a small white first aid pouch with wound care items.

  • 1 oz hand sanitizer*
  • 1 oz antibiotic ointment* I prefer ointment over the travel spray. With ointment, you can pack it into an open wound to prevent infection from settling in on the way to medical care.
  • 10 alcohol wipes*
  • 1-36″ x 36″ x 51″ triangular bandage/sling. This also came in the big first aid kit I purchased in 2000. I also got one when I attended the American Red Cross First Aid course. I used one when my mom broke her arm and it needed support while we drove to the ER. They are simple muslin cloth triangles and can easily be made from a yard of inexpensive fabric.
  • 1 roll 2″ elastic wrap. I used this for my leg when I broke it, and it was cut off at the ER because moving my leg to unwrap it was extremely painful. I found that the 2″ roll was inadequate to appropriately wrap and support a broken leg.  I replaced it with a 4″ roll that has velcro at both ends to eliminate the need to keep track of the stupid little metal hooks. I won’t be terribly upset if it also gets cut off, as it is leftover from a procedure my husband had done and didn’t cost me anything!
  • 1 roll 2″ gauze
  • 2-2″ x 2″ gauze pads
  • 5- 3″ x 3″ gauze pads
  • 5- 4″ x 4″ gauze pads
  • 2- 3″ x 4″ non-adherent pads.  Have you ever tried to remove gauze from a wound and had it stick? That’s not any fun.
  • 1 sheet moleskin
  • 7 medium butterfly closures*
  • 3 eye patch Band-Aids*
  • 2 knuckle Band-Aids*
  • 2 fingertip Band-Aids*
  • 6 small Band-Aids*
  • 2- 2″ x 3″ Band-Aids*
  • 18 regular Band-Aids*
  • partial roll sports tape
Contents of the white pouch include two baggies; one with wound cleaning supplies, one with Band-Aids of various sizes.

Contents of the white pouch include two baggies; one with wound cleaning supplies, one with Band-Aids of various sizes.

Various sizes of gauze pads and moleskin are in a loose sandwich sized zip top baggie.

Various sizes of gauze pads and moleskin are in a loose sandwich sized zip top baggie.

My kids are able to swallow small pills, and all of the pills in the first aid kit are relatively small. I do need to figure out dosing instructions for them though and put that information in the kit, or I need to pack a smaller pouch that goes into the backpack if they are with us. That pouch would contain children’s chewable ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and Benedryl, along with dosing instructions. I think I will do that once I’m ambulatory again! I do keep children’s chewable acetaminophen in my car already.
The red first aid kit pouch lives in my husband’s Fox Racing Portage hydration pack. His pack carries 3 liters of water. I also carry 2 liters in my hydration pack, and the boys just got their own 2 liter hydration packs for Christmas. We pack snacks into Hubby’s pack too. Usually we toss a couple of frozen Go-gurt sticks, some homemade beef jerky, a couple of Balance or Clif  bars, a few sliced apples and a roll of whole wheat crackers so we’ve got protein and carbohydrates well covered. Being outdoors with hungry kids, possibly several dozen miles from the car or food, doesn’t make for a good time. We make good and sure we don’t run out of food!


Extreme Safety Lessons (TEXT HEAVY) December 10, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — carseatnerd @ 11:36 pm

With kids, sometimes it takes an extreme lesson to truly make an impact. Sometimes, you have to get creative with your safety lessons to really help them understand that you’re not just being mean and trying  to ruin their fun.

My kids are the kind of kids who want to know why something is unsafe. We watch crash test videos. We have vivid safety lessons. To show them why their car seat harness has to be snug, we let them adjust the harness in our lightest weight seat, and my husband flipped the seat upside down. Have you ever ridden a roller coaster with the harness too big? When you go upside down, you hit the harness pretty hard and it isn’t comfortable. Same thing with the car seat harness. Then we adjusted the harness correctly, and suddenly it became funny to be upside down since they were simply and comfortably suspended there.

When explaining that a second story bedroom window was not a safe place to play near, we had them stand on the sidewalk below the window. Then I dropped an over-ripe watermelon out of the window. The exploded melon made quite the visual impact when we explained that that  is what could happen to your head if you fall out of the window.
Some parents think even those lessons are too harsh.   Those parents would definitely not like my most recent safety lesson….
A little background information:
We ride off-road motorcycles as a family. We take the appropriate precautions to decrease the risks in our activity. The boys have roost guards, proper riding boots, gloves, goggles, and DOT approved off-road helmets.  My husband has all of that, plus knee and elbow pads (we do have knee pads for the older son, but he won’t wear them). I don’t have knee/elbow pads or a roost guard.  On the bottom of all of our helmet visors, I have taped a copy of the Emergency Information card that Sunshine Kids/Diono attaches to their Radian car seats.


Some children even wear their full motorcycle gear to ride their bicycles.  (He is not wearing his motorcycle boots here, but his hiking boots.)

Some children even wear their full motorcycle gear to ride their bicycles. (He is not wearing his motorcycle boots here, but his hiking boots.)

My husband and I both  carry our cell phones, which work in our local riding area, and our wallets with ID and health insurance cards. Hubby also carries a backpack with snacks, water, and a well-stocked first aid kit. At some point, I will edit this post to include a list of what is in our FAK.
Our family knows where we ride and when to expect us to return.  When we all ride together, we sandwich the boys between the adults to ensure that the kids are visible and protected by a full sized rider since most other riders are likely not watching for half-sized bikes. We added bright flashing front and rear LED lights to both kid bikes to maximize their safety. The boys were not allowed to ride a motorcycle until they had ridden a bicycle for a full year. They learned in the safety of our fenced yard under close supervision. Their bikes have throttle limiting screws so we can control how fast they are able to go. They have to be able to lift the bike from a 45-70 degree angle. Their bikes weigh 125 lbs for the 7 year old, and 85 lbs for the 5 year old. Neither of them can lift their bikes if they are fully on their sides, but usually the side of the trail is such that the bikes are rarely totally on their sides.
My husband has been riding motorcycles for 20 years, both on and off-road. I used to ride on the back of his street bike with him in our BC (Before Children) days. He sold his street bike shortly after our oldest son was born because of the inherent risks of being on a motorcycle in a country traveling in cars and SUVs.  Our older son began riding August 2012, and our younger son started riding July 2013. I started riding my own motorcycle in about June 2013, so even our 7 year old has more experience than I do. I ride at the end of the line, and frequently have to get off my bike to run up and help a kid bike over a branch or help pick up a bike on its side.

Our typical riding order. Hubby is turning his bike back around, as he had circled back to us after checking how much further ahead we could find a spot to break to hydrate and snack. Clearly, we are slacking here. Hubby isn't even wearing a long sleeved shirt, or his elbow guards. Neither child is wearing their roost guard, and the younger son is wearing BOGS boots instead of his riding boots.  Not that it's a good excuse, but it was about 90* and we spent three days straight riding most of the day.

Our typical riding order. Hubby is turning his bike back around, as he had circled back to us after checking how much further ahead we could find a spot to break to hydrate and snack.
Clearly, we are slacking here. Hubby isn’t even wearing a long sleeved shirt, or his elbow guards. Neither child is wearing their roost guard, and the younger son is wearing BOGS boots instead of his riding boots.
Not that it’s a good excuse, but it was about 90* and we spent three days straight riding most of the day.

And now my (hopefully) very effective, but very expensive safety lesson.
On Sunday, October 6th, 2013, we went riding as a family at a riding area about an hour and half North of our home. It is a sanctioned and maintained legal off-road vehicle park. My husband has ridden there often. I’ve ridden there about 4-6 times. There’s a variety of trails, from fairly flat forestry roads to pretty technical trails for advanced riders. We ride a lot of the roads, but also ride the easier wooded trails the even little kids and new riders can navigate, perhaps with a little help from an experienced rider. On this particular ride, our younger son didn’t want to ride his own bike, but chose instead, to ride with Daddy on Daddy’s bike. He sits in front of hubby and holds on to the cross bar of the handle bars. I fully trust my husband to ride safely and use his best judgement to avoid risks to our son.
We rode for a few hours and decided to head back to the car for a snack and potty break around 2pm.  To get there, we had to ride a few miles on the forestry roads. No big deal.
Unless you ride behind a not-quite-seven year old. You see, young children are prone to random actions, including stopping suddenly for no obvious reason. My son stopped, for no obvious reason in the middle of the road. I was following at a safe distance, but lack the experience to respond quickly and  appropriately every time. So I grabbed my front brake instead of us

ing my rear brake. I was going slow, so I didn’t fly over the handle bars, but I did drop my bike and slide across the road Superman style, because I never learned to tuck and roll as a child because I am not a risk-taker. I got back up, picked my bike up and got back on. I went to pass my now moving son to tell Hubby we  needed to break to explain to children that you cannot just stop to look at butterflies or whatever.
And he DID IT AGAIN. This time, his pushed up sleeve had fallen down, so he stopped to push it back up. This time, however, I was not at a safe following distance because I was getting ready to pass him.  And because I am apparently not a fast learner, I grabbed my front brake AGAIN.  This time I was not so lucky as to slide across the road on my stomach.
This time, I slammed my right foot down as the bike was going down. Apparently, with my knee locked.  All I know is that I was rather suddenly knocked on my butt with pain. I collapsed on the ground, rolled onto my back, grabbed my leg and screamed a string of obscenities I won’t repeat here. They just came out. That’s when Hubby knew there was a problem. He parked his bike, got the little guy off and ran (on his sprained knee) in his riding boots the short distance up the hill to where I was writhing in pain. He asked what happened and I told him, “I broke my ******* leg.” He naturally asked if I was sure.  Um, yes. He removed my boot and the lower part of my zip-off pant leg to check for protruding bones or places in obvious need of major stabilization.
I told him to get me the FAK. We wrapped my knee in the Ace bandage with the instant ice pack and downed four ibuprofen. Then I added my neoprene wrist wrap at the top because the bandage wasn’t enough. I already no longer had a knee; just a really long thigh.

What kneecap? This photo was taken within minutes of injury.

What kneecap? This photo was taken within minutes of injury.

Now the fun part was figuring out how to get me to the hospital. We couldn’t get the car past a gate a mile down the road. We had to get me down the hill. On the back of the motorcycle. I had to hold my leg up with my pant leg and hope for the best. Hubby was careful to go slow and avoid bumps. He did very well too! My leg only touched the ground once in a mile.  He left the Young One with me at the gate and rode back up to where he had left his bike with the Older One…on the Older One’s little bike.  When they returned to us, Hubby left both boys with me while he rode back to the car much more quickly than he could have with either kid with him.
He loaded his bike up and came back to us. The boys were actually very helpful in loading up bikes and gear. I was pretty calm and collected considering I had a broken leg. Hubby helped me carefully wedge myself into the front seat with minimal movement of my throbbing leg, and got in the driver’s seat. While he drove toward the main road, I programmed the GPS to find the nearest ER. Then I called both of our Moms. One was to meet us at the ER, one was to head to our house to collect the kids after Hubby dropped me off at the hospital.

My leg with field bandaging off at the ER

My leg with field bandaging off at the ER

I went almost immediately into radiology. The technician contorted his face all over the place as he viewed my imaging. I can’t imagine why…(sarcasm) He called it “crunchy”.

xray 2

My tibial plateau is broken in five places. There is a horizontal break going all the way around, then four vertical breaks going down to the horizontal break,

My tibial plateau is broken in five places. There is a horizontal break going all the way around, then four vertical breaks going down to the horizontal break.

The orthopedic surgeon for the hospital looked at my images and came into my room to tell me that he would not touch me, but I needed surgery if I wanted to walk again. He had already ordered an ambulance for me and notified our regional trauma center that I would be en route shortly. As much fun as that sounded, I really wanted to avoid all that but the threat of losing my leg sounded much worse. They pumped me full of pain meds and loaded me up.

Let's get this party started!

Let’s get this party started!

Off I went to our regional trauma center! Yay? Hubby met me there as I was being checked in in ambulance receiving. I spent the night in the Orthopedic Trauma floor, waiting for the swelling to go down enough that the surgeon would have a good chance of a successful surgery. If swelling didn’t go down significantly, they would have to attach an external fixator to my leg for a week to stabilize it and operate later.
On Monday afternoon, I finally headed into the OR. The surgeon was hopeful that she would be able to stabilize my bones without needing to utilize bone grafts (read: dead people bone tissue), and that I would walk again, but it was an extremely delicate procedure that would involve a titanium plate and pins on a bone very close to a major joint.  I woke up 5 hours later without an x-fix, which I was very glad of. But my view was still a little unsettling.

A lovely thigh high boot, isn't it?

A lovely thigh high boot, isn’t it?

My new x-ray images look like an Erector set. There is a seven inch long plate and thirteen screws holding the tibial plateau together.
xray post op2 xray post op 1

I ended up staying at the trauma center until Wednesday. I called the Older One’s school and let him stay home on Monday with Nana and Grandma. When I came home, I came with the instructions to be completely non-weight bearing on that leg for three full months to allow it to heal. It has been a long  and difficult road to recovery, for all of us, but we’re making it with the help of family and friends.

Battle scars

Battle scars, post suture removal, but pre-shave.

The important lessons for the kids?
1) Don’t tailgate.
2) Don’t stop for no reason.
3) Learn to use your safety equipment (like brakes) properly and practice until everything is second nature BEFORE you need it.


Evenflo Sympony 65 E3…I kinda like it! April 1, 2013

Filed under: Seat Reviews,Uncategorized — carseatnerd @ 6:18 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Last weekend, I was asked to present Child Passenger Safety to a group of women training to transport foster children. Of course, I was happy to do so! Part of my presentation was letting them touch and oogle seats that might work for their varying needs. They would need to transport kids from newborns through 12 safely and lawfully, while purchasing as few seats as possible and with a tight budget.
I borrowed a few seats from friends to play with and let them explore, one of which was an Evenflo Symphony 65 E3.
Per Evenflo,

For Use Rear-Facing Child Must Meet All These Requirements

  • Weight: 5 – 40 lbs (2.3 – 18kg)
  • Height: 19 – 37 inches (48 – 94 cm)
  • Top of child’s head is at least 1 inch (25 mm) below the top of the child restraint seat back.

For Use Forward-Facing Child Must Meet All These Requirements

  • Weight: 22 – 65 lbs (10 – 29,4 kg)
  • Height: 28 – 50 inches (71 – 127 cm)
  • The tops of their ears are below the top of the child restraint headrest.
  • Age: At least one year of age

For Use as a Booster Child Must Meet All These Requirements

  • Weight: 40 – 110 lbs (18 – 49,8 kg)
  • Height: 43.3 – 57 inches (110 – 145 cm)
  • The tops of their ears are below the top of the child restraint headrest.
  • Age: At least four years of age

To me, this sounded like it might be a good fit. But I couldn’t help but wonder if it was really the wonder seat Evenflo advertises it as. I’ve met many a 3-in-1 seat that failed miserably.  So I got out my trusty measuring tape, my cooperative 6 year old, my extra cooperative newborn doll, and took a seat out of my Pilot.

First, let me talk to you about the fancy SureLATCH connectors. Holy moly, those are awesome! In my vehicle, I really did only have to click-click-press and the seat was tight! I do know that in some vehicles, the Sure LATCH doesn’t work as designed and isn’t as tight as it needs to be for a safe installation.  It’s very easy to change the LATCH strap from rear to forward facing too!

Rear facing LATCH strap

Rear facing LATCH strap. Very clear, right?

You just pull the big ol’ connectors up through the belt path holes, flip the whole assembly up, and stick the connectors back through the forward facing belt path.


Forward facing LATCH strap!

Ta-da! SO cool!

The other super spiffy thing about this seat is that the harness tightens at the hips instead of at the shoulders. This means that every time you tighten the harness on the child, it lowers the shoulder straps to meet the child’s shoulders and pulls the slack out at the hips. Thus, the shoulder straps are always at the appropriate harness height for each child, and YOU don’t have to move it!

I measured the lowest harness position between 7.5″ and 8″ This is better than some seats, but not as good as others. I think it could work for a good sized newborn, but certainly not for a petite baby or one with a shorter torso.


The harness comes out between 7.5″ and 8″ on the lowest setting.

You can see here that my doll would not be able to come home in this seat.


There is about an inch between the doll’s shoulders and the lowest harness position.

If my doll were a little bigger and closer to the size of an 8 lb baby than a 5 lb baby, he would have fit nicely.


If only he were a little bit taller!

There was a HUGE amount of crotch room for a newborn too. You would definitely need to put a rolled up washcloth between the baby and the crotch strap.


There’s a good 1.5″ between the baby and the strap. You would need to put a rolled up washcloth here to keep baby from slouching, which poses a safety hazard.

First, I installed it rear facing in my Pilot with the SureLATCH connectors. Like I said, it was super easy. Click, click, push. You do have to push it down pretty hard though to get it truly tight enough.


Rear facing installation, appropriate for a newborn.

It has handy stickers on the side with directions for which recline position to use for which type of installation too, so you don’t have to remember.


Handy sticker on the side of the seat showing you the recline options for each installation option.

It had about 13.5″ of legroom for a rear facing child in my vehicle.


Decent amount of legroom for a rear facing child.

I had plenty of room to install it rear facing in my Pilot. I don’t think it would be too big for a smaller car either.


Plenty of room for rear facing installation.

It’s super easy to adjust the height of the headrest without uninstalling the seat also, even if installed forward facing.


To adjust the head rest height, you squeeze the red handle on the back and move the head rest up or down. Super easy!

After I was done playing with the seat rear facing, I flipped it around, which was very easy with the spiffy SureLATCH strap. Click, click, push. If I were using this seat and following best practice ie, rear facing to the limit of the seat, I would not be able to install with the lower anchors in this car for a forward facing child. My lower anchor weight limit is 40 lbs. The seat belt installation was not difficult either, but I didn’t take pictures of it.


Click, click, push and it was installed tightly. You can see the booster mode shoulder belt guide in red on the head rest.

I had Mr Orange sit in it. He currently weighs 48 lbs and is 47 inches tall. By weight, he has 17 lbs before he outgrows the harness in this seat.   On the CDC height/weigh charts, he runs about 47th percentile.


6 year old, 47 lb, 47 inch child with the harness properly adjusted.

Unfortunately, he is not likely to make it to the full 65 lb weight limit. There is only about .75-1″ of harness height left above his shoulders.

He has about .75" of harness height left,

He has about .75″ of harness height left.

Since he was close to outgrowing the harness by height, I checked to see how the seat fit as a booster. I was actually pretty pleased on the fit for a 3-in-1 seat. I would like the belt lower on the hips, but over all, it wasn’t too bad. It looks higher in the pics than it was in reality. I don’t think it would actually fit a 57″ child well though. I didn’t have access to a child that big, so I didn’t get to try it.


Decent belt fit for a 3-in-1!

I have to say though, that I don’t think an average child would be able to buckle it by themselves in booster mode.  The buckle is WAY down there!


There is no way he can reach down there to buckle it without locking the shoulder belt.

My overall opinion of the seat is that it is very user-friendly, with a good useable period, but unlikely to be the only seat you’ll need to purchase. I would definitely recommend it for a grandparent/daycare provider/carpooler/etc who will be transporting several children of different sizes.

Oh, I almost forgot! You can take the cover off to wash it without taking the seat out of the car too! The cover also moves out of the way of seeing the belt paths easily. No more fumbling in the dark or scraping off your knuckles threading the belt through the belt path!



Chicco Keyfit 30 Overview January 27, 2013

Filed under: Seat Reviews — carseatnerd @ 9:20 pm
Tags: ,

Chicco Keyfit 30 installed in a (very messy) 2003 Honda Pilot

Chicco Keyfit 30 installed in a (very messy) 2003 Honda Pilot

As a CPST, I’m not supposed to have favorite seats. The best seats are the seats that fit your child, your vehicle and your budget and that you can use correctly every single time. The reason I admit to liking the Chicco Keyfit is because I can usually be pretty confident that the only part of that equation that may not work for every family is the budget part. I can be pretty safe in an assumption that the Keyfit will fit most newborns well.  I can be pretty safe assuming that it will fit in the majority of vehicles I will be in. And this has got to be one of the *most* user friendly infant seats I have ever touched. It retails for about $190 for the Key Fit 30, about $160 for the Key Fit 22, and $85 for an extra base.
Chicco produces two models- the Keyfit 22 and the Keyfit 30.  The 22 lb model is rated for babies from 4 to 22 lbs, and is compatible with Chicco Cortina, Cortina Together, Trevi and S3 strollers.  The 30 lb model is rated for babies from 4 to 30 lbs, and is compatible with the same four strollers. Other stroller manufacturers may have adapter kits to make their stroller compatible with both seats.

I have a Keyfit 30 to play with, so my measurements may be different than the 22 lb  model.

Preemie sized doll in a Keyfit30 with infant insert


Infant insert reduces lowest harness height to 6″.

First, the Keyfit’s newborn fit. My doll is somewhere between a preemie and a newborn size. The Keyfit comes with an infant insert, which places the baby in a better position to reduce reflux and provide better support for the spine.  The insert must be removed when the baby reaches 11 lbs. The insert reduces the height of the lowest harness position to 6″ and the crotch buckle depth to a tiny 3″.  My doll’s shoulders were almost level with the lowest harness position.


Infant Insert makes the crotch buckle depth 3″.


Closer view of the lowest harness height.


Doll’s shoulders are almost even with the lowest harness position.

Without the insert, the crotch buckle depth is about 4.75″.


Crotch depth without the infant insert is about 4.75″.

Baby gets about 13.5″ inches of legroom when the seat is installed in my Pilot. Your vehicle’s seat back contours may have different results.


Pilot seat back offers about 13.5″ of legroom with the Keyfit 30.

This picture isn’t particularly clear, but overall shell height is about 19.5″ inches, which means that a baby may have a seated torso height of about 18.5″ before they outgrow this seat.


Overall shell height is about 19.5″.

Without the infant insert, the harness positions are at roughly 7″, 9.5″, and 11.5″.


Harness position heights without the infant insert.

The only “complaint” I’ve had or received about this seat is that the canopy is fairly short, at 15″. Some of the newer models have longer canopies that will shield babies from the elements better.


Barely functional canopy measures only 15″.


Canopy doesn’t offer much protection from the elements.

The seat base is very lightweight and narrow. It fits three across pretty easily in many vehicles.


The level indicators are built in to the base. This is great for installations using the base. On other models, one must install the base, click the seat in to check the level, then removes the seat from the base to make adjustments and replace the seat to check. With the Key Fit, you can make the adjustments even if you left the seat in the house!


Built-in level indicators!

A brief installation process offers easy installs whether you’re installing with the LATCH connectors or the vehicle belt. To demonstrate how easy this seat is, I took pictures of the entire process using both installation methods. Keep in mind that you must choose one method or the other. Never install with the lower anchors and the vehicle belt.

First, LATCH. I’ve only captioned the photos instead of typing everything twice. I did not photograph the actual connecting of the LATCH connectors to the lower anchor bars in my seat. I have simplified things a bit, in that I don’t describe checking or adjusting the seat/base angle.


Step 1: Connect both LATCH anchor connectors to your vehicle’s lower anchors, which are typically located in your vehicle’s seat bight, or crack. Sometimes, they may be hidden behind a fabric flap or a plastic cap. Sometimes, they may be above the seat bight a few inches.


Step 2: Pull the center strap. This strap tightens both LATCH straps simultaneously.


Step 3: Roll up the excess center strap length and stuff it in the storage cavity. Check for less than 1″ of movement in any direction, by grasping the base at the belt path with your non-dominant hand and giving it a firm but polite handshake. The belt path is where the vehicle belt or LATCH straps go through the seat. In this base, you can grasp the pieces that look like handles on the sides.

And the almost as easy and straight forward vehicle belt installation.


Step 1: Thread the vehicle belt through the belt path and buckle. Pull the shoulder portion of the belt to snug the lap portion. I had a very hard time getting a decent photo while also installing the seat, but if you grasp the shoulder portion close to the buckle and PULL STRAIGHT UP, you get better leverage than if you pull across the seat where my hand is in the photo. My hand is here to show the two portions of the belt webbing.
Step 2: Guide the excess webbing across the seat, maintaining a snug lap/ lower portion.


Step 3: Guide the shoulder portion of the webbing into the opposite built in lock-off on the base. These are orange tabs on the bottom of the “handles” on the sides. Do not try to use the lock-off on the seat belt buckle side of the base. Slide the webbing as far into the slot as you can without damaging either the webbing or the base.


It should now look like this. You’re done!


Side view of the belt sections going through their respective spots.Remember to check for side to side and front to back movement by using the method described in the LATCH installation above.

See? You can’t get much easier and straightforward, can you? If I were in the market for an infant seat, I would definitely strongly consider a Key fit!


Ever wonder what a 3600 lb dog looks like?

It looks just like your 60 lb dog in a 60 mph collision.

As a Child Passenger Safety Technician, I often encounter parents with dogs who ride in the family vehicle.  Some people, parents or not, opt to use pressure mounted gates to contain their dogs in the car.  My experience with these products has been less than favorable as many will rattle loose and I have actually had the bars fall on my dog while the vehicle was moving!  I typically advise pet owners to purchase and use the Pet Buckle Restraint System by IMMI Outdoor to safely restrain their pet in the car or truck.  I feel this system provides adequate safety for all of the occupants of the vehicle-canine and human.  At the very least, it should prevent the dog from becoming a lethal projectile.  I doubt anyone wants to know what a 60 pound dog feels like when they are hurtling through the air at 60 mph.  It will also safely restrain your dog if emergency response crews need to approach your vehicle after a collision.

According to the manufacturer’s website (http://www.immioutdoors.com/petbuckle/), the PetBuckle restraint has been crash tested at their Center for Advanced Product Evaluation (CAPE).  I am reviewing both harness sizes-Small and Universal/Standard as well as the Truck Tether System. I am using my 2003 Honda Pilot for my review as it is our only vehicle with LATCH. Please pardon the mess!  Also note that the checkered Britax Marathon is NOT installed during these pictures.  It is normally installed in the seating position in which I was putting the dogs, so I just moved it over out of my way.  It should not be installed at the recline angle it is sitting in in these photos.

The newer models of the PetBuckle harness have push-button adjusters to make them more secure. Mine are older and have tilt adjusters that tend to loosen, so I have tied knots in the excess webbing to prevent loosening.  Another improvement with the newer harnesses is that IMMI has replaced the rigid plastic chest plate with a softer more rubbery piece.

The PetBuckle Package

When you purchase the Standard PetBuckle restraint, the package typically includes the harness, a LATCHable Kwik-Connect strap, a D-ring and a handy little storage bag.  When you purchase a Small PetBuckle restraint, you only get the harness without the connector strap.  The connector strap is available for purchase separately.

Pet Buckle Restraint System packaging contents

The connector strap can be adjusted in length from 15 to 20 inches.

When the D-ring is attached to the connector strap, you have a handy out-of-car temporary leash too!

For dogs weighing less than 40 lbs, you can connect the LATCH connector strap to your vehicle’s lower LATCH anchors.  For dogs over 40 lbs, use of the D-ring loop is required. You simply buckle the vehicle seatbelt through the loop and attach the connector strap to the d-ring.  If your vehicle has the type of buckle release button that is on the front as opposed to on the top like in my Pilot, I can see it becoming unbuckled if the dog steps on it.  In this situation, I would try pushing the buckle between the seatback and the seat bottom, or try another seating position.

I’ve lost the D-ring that came with one of my harnesses, so I just buckle the belt though the loop of the connector strap.

The Small Breed Harness

The Small Breed harness is designed for dogs under 20 lbs.  I am using my mother’s 6 lb Poodle as my model for demo purposes.

The Small harness fits the 6 lb dog pretty well, though with no opening buckles you have to pull the dog’s legs through the straps as though you were putting a shirt on the dog. I see no reason it wouldn’t also fit a cat that is used to wearing a harness.  Some cats like road trips too!



There are BIG changes to LATCH system!

Filed under: Stuff You Should Know — carseatnerd @ 7:44 pm
Tags: ,

As a CPST, I spend a lot of time learning about various car seats and vehicle safety features, and how they affect the safety of children vehicle occupants.  I feel that it is very important to share the knowledge I have gained with other parents.
As of February 2014, major changes to the LATCH regulations will be in place. Most vehicle and car seat manufacturers are making those changes now, and they are making them RETROACTIVE. Your vehicle, if equipped with LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), may have a different weight limit now than it did when you installed your seat. For twenty seven vehicle brands, the new weight limit is 65 pounds, minus car seat weight.
The new regulations are making child seat installations a bit confusing, since your car seat weight now plays into the weight limit for your child in a particular vehicle. For example, if you are using a 16 pound Safety 1st Complete Air in your 2014 Ford Explorer, your child may weigh 49 pounds using the lower anchors and tether. But, if you’re using a 27 lb Diono Radian RXT in that vehicle, your child may weigh only 38 lbs. Move those seats into your Honda Accord, and your LATCH limit is still a blanket 40 lbs. Move those seats into your 2012 Explorer, and the LATCH limit is still 48 lbs. Some manufacturers are not making the changes retroactive, some are. Some are still choosing to place the weight limit on the child seat manufacturer.
For a system that was developed to make child passenger safety easier and less confusing, things are getting very complicated! It is essential that caregivers know how to use the vehicle seat belt and the child restraint top tether to install the car seat in use.
Please contact me with your current vehicle make, model, and year as well as your current child seat so that I can tell you what your new LATCH limit may be. For local (King and Snohomish County) readers, I am also happy to meet with you to review installation.
If you’d like more information about the new regulations and what to expect to see next year, feel free to contact me.


Graco SnugRide 22 Overview June 25, 2011

Filed under: Seat Reviews,Uncategorized — carseatnerd @ 5:44 am
Tags: , ,

This is Part One of a series of infant seat comparisons.  Part Two will be a Chicco Keyfit 30 Overview.  These  are the most common infant seats I see at seat check events in my geographical area.

Since I lack a newborn baby, and very few have the patience to allow car seat shenanigans to take place for as long as one of my photo shoots  usually do, I used my teaching doll.  I take this doll with me to every car seat check or event to help demonstrate proper harness adjustment and fit etc. He was actually a gift to me from the organization I volunteer with as a thank you for my time. Perhaps at some point, I will show you how I carry him around at events.  He is always rear facing.

Up first: The Graco SnugRide 22 (SR22) .  An identical SnugRide 22, with the rear adjust harness can be purchased for around $80.  For an extra $10, you can get the front adjust harness, which is absolutely worth that Andrew Jackson! More about that in just a moment. I’m personally not a big fan of the SR22 for a few reasons, which are demonstrated in the pictures and explained.  I’m not sure what newborns they designed this seat around, but I certainly haven’t met them!

Here’s a pic of Baby Boy in the SR22. You can kind of see that the baby is swimming in the seat.

“Newborn” in SnugRide 22

A closer view demonstrates that there is a 3.5″ gap between the baby’s crotch and the buckle.  While this can be remedied with a tightly rolled washcloth shaped into a “U” around the crotch buckle strap, I’m not sure why Graco made the crotch depth so large in a seat made for newborns.  I believe that the fewer modifications a parent has to make, the better.   One could  make the argument that my doll lacks a pelvis and a diaper and a real baby wouldn’t fit so poorly.  I assure you that real newborns do not actually fit much better.

Rather deep crotch buckleIn normal daily driving, a real newborn would slide down until their bum met the webbing. This would leave their vulnerable spine completely unsupported by the seat.  It could also cause breathing problems and reflux.

The seat has a 6″ crotch depth for a newborn!

Moving up the seat, you will notice that the lowest harness position is also not making contact with the baby. You may remember that for a rear facing seat, the harness must be AT OR BELOW the baby’s shoulders. Having the harness above the shoulders could allow the baby to ramp up the seatback in a collision before the harness stops him.

Lowest harness position

Again, one could say that my baby is a doll and a real newborn would fit better. Again, I would assure you that most do not.  You can also see that the chest clip is touching the harness buckle (slid all the way down), and is very close to the baby’s neck.  The buckle assembly and chest clip are HUGE!

With only two harness positions and a fairly short shell, not many babies will fit this seat well for very long.  The harness slots measure 8 and 10″ from the seat bottom.  Harness positions are 8" and 10" from the seat bight

The shell height measures 19″.And now the back of the seat. You can see the harness adjusters, which are the metal clips on the harness webbing.   Especially with a newborn, when there isn’t much harness length being used, it can be easier to adjust the harness each time you use the seat.   On the SR22, each side of the harness adjusts individually.

It can be tricky to get each side adjusted the same so the webbing lengths are identical.

It’s just not particularly user friendly.

But it has a nice useful 19″ sunshade!

Here’s the whole seat, with my mismatched base and seat.

So, how does it fit in a vehicle?

Fairly well, but again, not particularly user friendly.  If you happen to have LATCh in the seating position you intend on using, it works great.  If you have a lapbelt, it works well. But if you have to install with a shoulder belt, it’s not user-friendly for the average parent. Which, if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you aren’t. You’re likely above average!

First, the level indicator is located only on one side of the seat itself. So when you install the base, you have to put it in, then click the seat onto the base to check the angle.  If the angle is wrong, you have to take the seat out to reinstall the base, and so on and so forth.

A LATCH install in my Pilot is pretty straight forward.

With a lap-shoulder belt, it looks straight forward. Route it through just like the LATCH strap, buckle it and lock the belt, right?

Not so much. With that approach, you are likely to end up with a lopsided seat over time.

To fix that little issue, I usually recommend using the locking clip (LC) that comes with every car seat instead of locking the belt at the retractor.  It must be within 1″ of the buckle and you ONLY use them on lap shoulder belts.  I took some pictures to demonstrate how to put an LC on a seatbelt, but due to formatting issues,it will have to be a post of it’s very own. Another day…

Anyway, with the SnugRide 22 installed with the base, I measured about 16″ from the car seat “bight” to the vehicle seat back, which means there is 16″ of legroom for the baby. I measured 31″ from seatback to seatback with my driver’s seat where I normally have it to drive.  It was just barely touching the back of the driver’s seat, but not bracing against it.

So, in short, I think that for someone who truly feels like they NEED an infant seat, this one is inexpensive and will do the job, though not particularly well for most babies. I did borrow one from my sister in law to use when I brought Little Man home. And I hated it. She used it for her younger son until I procured from a friend a front adjust SR20, which she used through it’s expiration date. I don’t recommend this seat unless a parent has a real need for an infant seat.  I feel that there are convertibles for less money that will last a child longer and actually fit newborns better.


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