Odds are you’ll be wearing your little one whenever and wherever you can, and we advocate wholeheartedly for that! We’ve featured tons of wraps and slings and carriers that we love, and we fully believe in the benefits of babywearing as much as you can.
That said, we know that in today’s world, particularly if you have multiple children, sometimes you need a stroller. Many babywearing mamas don’t necessarily want a huge stroller, and so a lightweight umbrella stroller can really hit the mark when out and about in situations that wearing baby isn’t as feasible. That’s when some start looking at the best umbrella strollers.
An umbrella stroller is a compact and lightweight stroller that typically folds up super easily…kind of like an umbrella might. It’s definitely lighter in weight than a typical stroller and known for folding to store and take up much less space than a standard stroller might. An umbrella stroller is theoretically easy to fold, easy to store and easy to take with you on travels, which is why families that travel a lot find them handy.
They don’t typically have any bells or whistles, though the ones that do are growing in number. Many still are your standard scoop bottom, often with J-shaped handles and some have a canopy or a sun-brella, but not all. If they have any storage at all (and most don’t), it’s limited compared to that in a standard stroller, and let’s be real: they weren’t made to be the best ride your baby’s had. Still, if you think you need a stroller, or may only need one occasionally or are on a budget, an umbrella stroller might be a good investment, and odds are there is one that meets whatever your needs are.
Why You Might Want An Umbrella Stroller
Again, we are betting you’ll most likely wear your baby whenever you can, and that’s what we love. But, we know that strollers can be awfully handy, particularly if you have several children’ stroller-age.’
Mamas might want an umbrella stroller when they’re looking for something small and simple. Perhaps they need something easy and compact for travel in the air or on public transportation systems and commutes.
An umbrella stroller is also nice if you’re planning day trips with littles. Additionally, many grandparents like having a stroller on hand for their grandchildren, and so you want to make sure they have the best umbrella stroller they can.
Who Should Use An Umbrella Stroller?
Here’s the thing about umbrella strollers, though. Unless otherwise designated by the manufacturer, newborns and babies who don’t have neck and back muscles developed enough to hold themselves (0-6 months, typically, but that’s very generous) should not be in umbrella strollers.
More manufacturers are including reclining positions for their umbrella strollers. This lets your baby lie horizontally, and that’s certainly safer. But, if your baby isn’t at least three-months-old, wearing her or using a standard stroller may be a better idea for safety. Younger babies don’t have the back and neck muscles fully developed enough to be in umbrella strollers that have them ‘sitting up,’ and nothing irks us more than seeing a baby too young in an umbrella stroller.
If you are looking for the best umbrella strollers for babies over six-months-old, you’ll want to make sure that you choose one with lots of cushioning and padding in and around the seat. The padding gives additional support for baby’s neck and back. While many umbrella strollers are upping their games in features, most have thin fabric that isn’t super supportive, so we beg you to look thoroughly for the best umbrella stroller for your baby.
What’s Important When Looking For The Best Umbrella Stroller?
There are several things you want to consider when you’re looking for the best umbrella stroller. Yes, budget-consciousness is one big reason mamas consider buying umbrella strollers, but don’t forget that sometimes, you really do get what you pay for. Sure, you may be able to find an umbrella stroller for under $15, but trust us when we say there are a lot of red flags that should come with that stroller.
One of the biggest things people pay attention to when they’re looking for the best umbrella strollers is the size of the stroller. For many, the whole purpose of buying an umbrella stroller over a standard stroller is because you’re under some size constraint and looking for something compact.
Think about it…the whole reason an umbrella stroller was created was to do what a standard stroller can do basically, but on a smaller (and often, less expensive), more lightweight scale. Make sure that the umbrella stroller you’re looking up is one that folds compactly and is comfortable when carrying, lifting and even storing. An umbrella stroller that’s too big might make you choose not to use it (defeating the purpose of buying it) and one that is too small might be uncomfortable for your little one.
Wheels and Brakes
Most umbrella strollers have a similar design when it comes to the wheels. They have dual front wheels, which means there are two front wheels on each of the front legs. They’re not super-duper maneuverable, especially if you’re in grass or gravel. It seems like the bulk of strollers are made this way, but they’re not as easy to push as those few with single wheels on each leg.
As far as brakes go, braking on a stroller is essential. You want it to be a foot-friendly, easy brake to use, but sometimes umbrella strollers don’t make that their strongest point. We believe that the umbrella strollers that only require one act from you to brake are easier than those that require you to set different pedals. We especially like the ones where you pedal one to lock the brakes and pedal another to unlock because again if you’re using an umbrella stroller, you’re most likely looking for quick and easy.
Brakes on any stroller are functional safety mechanisms, but the reality is that many people fail to use them on umbrella strollers because the lower-ends are cheaply made. It’s important that you use them, and you’re more likely to if they’re easy to use, so that’s what we were looking for when we were looking for and asking experts about the best umbrella strollers.
Where are you going?
Another thing to consider when you’re looking for the best umbrella stroller is just how you want to use it. Are you planning to just have it in the car for ‘what-if’ situations? Take it to theme parks in case your baby and preschooler both get pooped? Do you travel a lot? Do you already have a mega stroller system and you’re not likely to use the umbrella stroller all that much anyway? Will it be bought to appease the grandparents?
More, what kind of terrain will you be on with the umbrella stroller? Think about how it would work on the beach (or not) as well as what your sidewalk/road/streets are like.
Ultimately, the best umbrella stroller for your family is the one that really is the best for your family. Think long and hard about how you’ll want to use it and what the expectations you’ll have for your umbrella stroller will be. There are lots out there from which you can choose, and in various price points if you know what you want.
Are There Any Umbrella Strollers That Are Non-Toxic?
The short answer is, “Sort of.” More manufacturers recognize that mamas want to keep their littles away from chemicals as much as they can, so more companies are marketing non-toxic materials in their processing.
The most significant issues you’ll find when looking for the best umbrella stroller is what is used on the materials and the foam that go into the stroller. Your biggest goal is to find umbrella strollers that are free from flame retardants. They are the chemicals that are added to the fabrics so that if there is a fire, the fire won’t spread. Not all flame retardants are dangerous (wool is a natural flame retardant) but many you find, especially in low-end umbrella strollers are covered with them. You want to stay way from brominated, chlorinated and phosphate-based chemicals. Sometimes a manufacturer might label them as halogenated, but regardless, they’re endocrine disrupters and can damage the brain cells of your little one’s growing brain.
When it comes to umbrella strollers and polyurethane foam? The market is considerably smaller. Polyurethane foam is used in car seats, crib mattresses, carriers and strollers and often found in the fill of stroller tires or the stroller seat.
The issue with polyurethane foam is that it’s made of materials that emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These VOCs can be skin and mucous irritants and research continues to suggest some may even be carcinogenic.
As we said, though… it’s hard to find polyurethane-free foam in standard strollers and in umbrella strollers? Even harder, so we’ve looked for the most non-toxic umbrella strollers we could find.
Mothering’s Best Umbrella Strollers
While it’s on the pricier end when it comes to Umbrella Strollers, mamas rave about their Maclarens and keep them for years and years. Additionally, they find a well-taken care of Maclaren holds incredible resale value.
Maclaren’s don’t have any phthalates, lead, chromium, nickel, AZO dyes, DMFs, flame retardants and a host of other things that many lower-end strollers have. They specialize in umbrella strollers because they’re a company that values the importance of babywearing and attachment parenting, but also knows that sometimes, you just need a stroller. We love that all the cardboard they use is made of recycled materials and the boxes they use are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. Because they are committed to our kids’ generation (and generations after), they pledge to incorporate practices that help sustain our environment.
To reduce waste from landfills, they’ve taken all PVC plastic from accessory packages (and this has saved 100 TONS of waste from being put in landfills) all over the world.
Maclaren encourages responsible citizenship with their recycle/trade-in program. Parents can recycle/trade-in their strollers and get discounts on future Maclaren purchases. An investment, yes, but a wise one indeed if you’re looking for the best umbrella strollers.
If you love Maclaren like we do, but are looking for a little less strapping on the wallet, you might fall in love with the Mark II. Obviously you get the benefits of the Maclaren company’s commitment to the earth and in the Mark II? You also get a full-size recliner in a super lightweight umbrella stroller. It’s 7.9 pounds and has a two-stage reclining seat with a mesh insert we love for breathability. The handles are antimicrobial and the UPF 50+ sunshade is extendable and ample. You can remove and wash the seat and the four-wheel suspension lets you trek all over the place. It’s a little lighter than the Triumph, and both come with Maclaren’s Sovereign Lifetime Warranty.
The Jake is lightweight and has a few extra conveniences that parents love. It’s able to hold littles up to 55 pounds (think 1st-2nd grade!) and the basket underneath has quite a bit more storage than the typical umbrella stroller. So again, this is a stroller many moms consider compromises as they wonder whether they need a stroller if they’re going to babywear. It’s lightweight and easy to carry and store and the SPF 50+ canopy is really nice. Height adjustable, even!
UPPAbaby doesn’t use toxic flame retardants, Teflon, latex, lead, BPA, Scotchguard or Phthalates in any of their products. The material is stain and water-resistant but can be taken off and washed and we love that this umbrella stroller has four-wheel suspension for various terrains. It also has a five-point harness for safety and taller parents love the height of the ergonomic handles.
And since you know you can trust the materials and processes of UPPAbaby, another umbrella stroller mamas and experts love is the UPPAbaby G-Luxe. The G-Luxe is, according to manufacturer’s recommendations, suitable for babies 3-months and older, but even if you are using between 3- and 7-months, we think the three reclining positions the G-Luxe offers are important. It does have nice, comfy padding too, but remember it’s not suitable for newborns just because they can lay flat in it. Speaking of reclining, You can recline the G-Luxe with one-hand—you just push a button on the back of the seat and it reclines easily. For real.
We like the adjustable leg rest for a little extra comfort you don’t find in typical umbrella strollers. It does have dual wheels, but it has a single-action brake pedal that we love for the ease of use.
Make no mistake, this stroller is an investment as well, but it’s one that parents seem to really love.
The Joovy New Groove Ultralight works hard to be a replacement for a travel system or bigger stroller, and it does a great job. It’s also reasonably priced for the features it has. It’s graphite/aluminum frame makes it both durable and light and the five-point harness reflectors for safety when out at dark. We love that the stroller canopy has a peek-through window so you can keep an eye on baby (and she on you) and the Ultralight also reclines to a nearly flat position and has an adjustable footrest for your growing kiddo.
It has a carry strap that makes it easy to take wherever you need because it’s light, and it is sturdy enough to carry kids up to 55 pounds. They’re free of flame-retardants as well.
This lightweight umbrella stroller has one-hand folding and unfolding and it’s one of the few we’ve found with no polyurethane foam in the construction. It’s flame retardant free and the padding is a polyester fiber. It has a nice, extendable canopy to offer UPF 50+ and front-wheel suspension. It also has lockable front swivel wheels and an adjustable backrest/recline ability.
The Zoe XL1 has basket storage underneath, but not a ton. That said, it folds compactly and parents like it for that size. Its weight capacity is for kids up to 50 pounds. What parents love the most is that it can expand to a double umbrella stroller, meaning you don’t have to buy another when your family grows.
Mountain Buggy is owned by Phil & Ted’ s—a self-proclaimed little company out of New Zealand looking to take over the world. And we’d like to let them because they’re all about doing good! Their Buggies for Good program helps families and communities with samples, seconds stock and recycled strollers (that they thoroughly vet). They give to organizations like the Ronald McDonald House as well as children’s hospices in Australia and orphanages in South Africa. They’re a company that makes good things to do good things and we love that.
The Nano is free from flame retardants, PVC and BPA, as well as mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, phthalates, antimony and a whole host of chemicals that don’t meet European standards. Most everything in the Mountain Buggy Nano can be recycled and it has an on-board car seat adapter that lets you convert it to a travel system if you like. For this reason, many people choose this lightweight umbrella stroller for their full-time usage, even though it’s perfect for air-travel (meets carry-on dimensions).
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