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2018 Nuna RAVA Review and Clek Fllo and Foonf Comparison: Newborn and Hospital-Ready

The Rava is one of the best car seats you can buy for extended rear-facing today in the US.
The Rava is one of the best car seats you can buy for extended rear-facing today in the US.

If you’re interested in extended rear-facing in the United States or Canada, things have never been better. Even though the majority of parents here are still forward-facing once their kids turn 1, there’s a growing minority out there continuing to rear-face past 1, 2, and 3 until 4 or beyond. We’re learning from our fellow parents in Sweden and Norway, and it’s wonderful. But none of this would have been possible if we hadn’t spread the word about the benefits of ERF and forced car seat manufacturers to listen. Well, we’ve spread the word, and they’ve started listening to all we know about best practices for car seat safety.

In the United States today, the best rear-facing seats will let you do so for up to 50 pounds, but not all of the seats target the same parents. These are your options: the Clek Fllo, the Clek Foonf, the Diono Rainier, the Graco Extend2Fit, the Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1, the Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit, the Nuna Rava, the Safety 1st Advance EX 65 Air+, and the Safety 1st Grow and Go EX Air. Today we’re going to look at the Nuna Rava. Its closest 50-pound equivalents are the Clek Fllo and Clek Foonf–high-end rear-and forward-facing convertible seats. Like these seats, the Rava costs north of $400. Is it worth it? I think so. Let’s take a closer look at it together.

2018 Nuna Rava – What’s the big deal? (And Fllo, Foonf, Grow and Go, and Extend2Fit comparisons)

The Rava competes (and does so well) with several 50-pound seats on the market.
The Rava competes (and does so well) with several 50-pound seats on the market.

The Nuna Rava is a 2-in-1 car seat and Nuna’s answer to the Clek Fllo and Clek Foonf. While there are ever-more 50-pound-class seats on the market, Nuna felt they could slip into a niche held exclusively by Clek for a more expensive seat that was easier to use, more luxurious, and potentially safer with some additional built-in-security features. Besides being able to rear-face until 50 pounds and forward-face until 65 pounds like most of its fellow 50-pound convertibles, the Rava includes an infant insert, allowing it to be used from the moment your baby leaves the hospital (unlike the Fllo and Foonf, which require separately-purchased infant inserts). It also includes a seat belt lockoff (called the True Tension belt path) that Nuna explicitly recommends over LATCH for installing the Rava.

Like the Extend2Fit seats, it includes a leg extension for increased rear-facing leg comfort. Two cup holders are present, as in the Graco-and Safety 1st-based seats, but unlike in those seats, the cup holders are retractable to narrow the width of the Rava for 3 across installations. Like most of its fellow 50-pound seats, it includes a no-rethread harness you can adjust with one hand. And finally, it includes a wide range of recline options, with 10 settings ranging from a nearly upright or vertical angle for older rear-facing children to an effectively 45-degree angle for newborns. On the more upright end, this helps the seat take up much less front-to-back space for shorter cars and SUVs.

You can use the Rava with your baby from the day s/he's born.
You can use the Rava with your baby from the day s/he’s born.

As it is a convertible car seat, you can start using it the day you take your baby home from the hospital or birthing center as a rear-facing infant seat. Even though the vast majority of parents use infant seats for newborns, convertible car seats are just as safe for leaving the hospital as long as they fit your baby via lower weight limit, recline angle, harness tightness, and head support. Once your child reaches the weight or height limits rear-facing (which won’t be until well past 5 per boy and girl growth charts), you can either turn it around and forward-face (which is safe from 4 or 5 onward) or start high-back boostering (which is done from 4 or 5 onward in Sweden).

To put it simply, this car seat can take care of the first 5 years of your child’s life, and potentially longer if you truly use it to its limits. On top of this, with its 10 year lifespan, you can potentially reduce its effective cost by using it with multiple children, or at least use it to take full advantage of the 50 pound rear-facing and 65 pound forward-facing weight limits. Once you’re done using it, your child will be ready for a quality high-back booster like the Peg Perego Flex 120, Maxi-Cosi RodiFix or Clek Oobr.

Nuna Rava Limits for Weight and Height

The Rava is available in a range of cool (temperature-wise, although we think they're neat too) colors.
The Rava is available in a range of cool (temperature-wise, although we think they’re neat too) colors.

Rear-facing: 5 to 50 pounds. Best practices urges rear-facing until your child can’t fit his or her child seat by weight and height, which in this case means rear-facing until 50 pounds or 49 inches if possible, since there is no safer way to travel in a car than by rear-facing. The seat is considered outgrown rear-facing when either the weight or height limits are reached, or when the top of your child’s head peeks past the head rest when fully extended. The shell height is a generous 25 inches. Per growth charts from the Center for Disease Control (which are identical for girls and boys), a 50th percentile child won’t reach 50 pounds until age 7 and 49″ until 7 years and 5 months.

The fact that you can rear-face longer by weight than by height makes the Rava a rarity among convertibles. The only other 50-pound seats that let you do so are the Safety 1st Advance EX 65 Air+, the Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit, the Graco Extend2Fit. The important thing to remember is that you’ll be able to rear-face the vast majority of preschoolers (who should ideally rear-face) and kindergartners (who can rear-face, forward-face, or booster) without changing seats.

Although most parents buy the Rava to extended rear-face, you can also forward-face with it.
Although most parents buy the Rava to extended rear-face, you can also forward-face with it.

Forward-facing: 25 to 65 pounds. The height limit is identical to that when rear-facing at 49 inches. The Rava’s manual suggests rear-facing until 2 years old, which is better than suggesting doing so until 1, but still far behind best practices as practiced in Sweden, where children rear-face until at least 4 or 5.

The height limit, as noted above, is one a 50th percentile child will reach at 7 years and 5 months. The weight limit would independently fit a 50th percentile child until 10, but the height limit overrules it. Despite this, the rear-facing and forward-facing combinations suggest you could rear-face a typical child until 7 and then forward face for another 6 months before needing a high-back booster seat like the Peg Perego Flex 120, Maxi-Cosi RodiFix or Clek Oobr to get you completely through the booster years.

In practice, you can move directly from rear-facing into boostering, as is done in Sweden, as the vast majority of children will be sitting appropriately in high-back booster seats by age 7 (with some capable of doing so at 6 or even 5). However, it’s perfectly fine to continue forward-facing until its limits are exceeded.

Dimensions and Key Features of the Nuna Rava

The Rava isn't the narrowest 50-pound seat on the market for 3-across installations (you'll want the Fllo or Foonf for that).
The Rava isn’t the narrowest 50-pound seat on the market for 3-across installations (you’ll want the Fllo or Foonf for that).

The Nuna Rava is 17 inches wide at the hips and 19 inches wide at its widest point at the shoulders. This makes it a 3-across-friendly convertible for small cars, although it’s not quite as 3-across compatible as the Clek Fllo or Foonf, both of which are 17 inches wide at the base and at the shoulders.

The lowest harness position with the infant insert is 7 inches, while the highest tops out at 17 inches. The shell height, as noted above, is 25 inches, giving a good amount of room to grow into the seat by height. The seat pan is 13 inches deep without the extended calf support and 16 inches when the support is extended. There are 3 crotch buckle positions at 3 inches with the infant insert, 4.5 inches without it, and a 3rd extended position for older children at 6 inches. The seat weighs 27.2 pounds when installed with the infant insert.

Using the Nuna Rava (Rear-facing installation, forward-facing installation, child fit, and additional tips and troubleshooting)

Installing the Rava is straightforward whether rear-facing or forward-facing; you can use seat belts in either orientation and use LATCH lower anchors until your child weighs 35 pounds rear-facing or 40 pounds forward-facing.

I generally recommend installing car seats with seat belts instead of LATCH; it’s just as safe and takes up less space for 3 across installations. Another advantage of using the seat belts and lockoff system in the Rava, which is particularly relevant here, is that you won’t need to remember to switch to seat belts eventually anyway when your child weighs 35 or 40 pounds.

I’m not generally a fan of cup holders in car seats, as our culture’s habits of constant snacking have strong ties to childhood and adult obesity. However, many parents find them essential, and there are two included with the Rava; they are retractable and can also be removed for parents who don’t like or use them. There are other 50-pound seats with single or dual cup holders, but the Rava is the only one so far to make them both foldable and retractable. Kudos, Nuna!

The Rava has a 10 year lifespan and expires 10 years after the date of manufacture, which is included beneath the seat, along with its FAA approval sticker for use on airplanes. There are a number of additional stickers carrying a range of information, but they are tastefully located either beneath covers or close to belt paths to make them less distracting and visually unappealing. It adds up to make a rather attractive seat that’s available in 5 colors: slate, caviar, indigo, berry, and blackberry.

Why Buy the Nuna Rava?

It's not a cheap seat, but it's cheaper than a trip to the hospital.
It’s not a cheap seat, but it’s cheaper than a trip to the hospital in a country without universal healthcare.

The Nuna Rava is one of a handful of car seats you can use to rear-face until your children are past preschool, kindergarten, and well into elementary school. Parents can us the Rava to rear-face to 4, 5, 6, or even longer thanks to a 50-pound rear-facing weight limit and a class-typing 49 inch height limit; no other seat in the US comes with higher weight or height limits for rear-facing. This is huge.

It’s very hard to find flaws with the seat compared to the other 50 pounders it competes with. It’s not the cheapest 50 pounder, but seats like the Graco Extend2Fit exist to fit that niche. It doesn’t include a booster mode, but the Diono Rainier does, and you can also buy the Peg Perego Flex 120, Maxi-Cosi RodiFix or Clek Oobr to have a dedicated high-back booster that will do better than that found in any combination or 3-in-1 seat. It’s not 17 inches wide throughout its shell, but the Clek Fllo is. It does offer a great blend of safety, comfort, and ease of use for parents that make it well worth considering if you’re cross-shopping it with the Fllo or Foonf. In the end, the most important features of this seat will be based on the extent to which you take advantage of its weight and height limits. Use them as much as you can.

You can buy the Nuna Rava here on MBeans or buy it here if it’s cheaper on PishPoshBaby. You can also buy the Clek Fllo here and buy the Clek Foonf here.

If you find the information on car safety, recommended car seats, and car seat reviews on this car seat blog helpful, you can shop through this Amazon link for any purchases, car seat-related or not. Canadians can shop through this link for Canadian purchases.

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2018 Diono Cambria High Back Booster Review, Solana Review, and Monterey XT Comparison

If you're looking for a high-back booster for under $100, the Cambria's one of the best options out there.
If you’re looking for a high-back booster for under $100, the Cambria’s one of the best options out there.

Child car safety can essentially be summarized by the following guidelines: rear-face as long as possible (until at least 4 or 5), and then booster kids until they pass the 5-step test (which is most often passed between 10 and 12). It sounds simple in theory, but finding the right seats to meet those guidelines as cheaply as possible can be a challenge. The Diono Rainier will take care of the rear-facing end, but what about the booster end?

If you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on some of the best booster seats on the market (e.g., seats like the Clek Oobr, Maxi-Cosi RodiFix, and Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120 high back boosters), you’ll want to consider seats like the Diono Monterey XT, which I reviewed recently, and the Diono Cambria High Back Booster, which I’m going to review today. Coming in under the $100 mark, it’s one of the best choices for a high-back booster in its price range; let’s see how it compares to the Monterey XT when it comes to keeping kids safe and comfortable. This review will also touch on the Diono Solana, the backless booster portion of the Cambria.

2018 Diono Cambria, Diono Solana – What’s the big deal?

The Diono Cambria is a high-back/no-back booster seat made in China by American car seat manufacturer Diono. I previewed it years ago as a replacement to the original Diono Cambria, and it shares a number of design elements with the more recently-released Diono Monterey XT. Its special features include lower LATCH anchors, the ability to recline, additional padding for comfort and safety, and retractable cup holders.

Beyond these features, the Cambria is a high-back booster, which makes it suitable for use with your kids once they’re done rear-facing (which ideally won’t be at least until they turn 4 or 5, as in Sweden) until they can use adult seat belts without car seats (typically between the ages of 10 to 12). Attractive and affordable, the Cambria is a good choice for a budget high-back booster seat.

The Diono Solana is the backless (bottom) part of the Diono Cambria. When included with the Cambria, it’s the part your child sits on. When sold separately, it’s called the Solana. Besides the fact that it’s sold separately and costs half as much, everything in this review referring to the backless portion of the Cambria booster applies equally to the Solana. To put it simply, if you don’t need the high-back part of the Cambria, save yourself some money and just get the Solana instead.

Diono Cambria Limits for Weight and Height

High-back booster: 40 to 120 pounds. Your child can use it between 38 and 63 inches and the highest belt guide position is 20 inches. In alignment with best practices, infants and toddlers should never use booster seats (they must rear-face), but depending on the maturity of your child, s/he may be a safe booster candidate from 4-5 years of age and up. Preschoolers should still be rear-faced, but highly responsible 5-year olds and kindergartners can be boostered if they no longer fit their rear-facing convertibles. That said, if your children aren’t yet ready to use booster seats at 4 or 5, it’s fine to wait until 6 or 7. It depends on your child’s readiness; kids in Sweden rear-face until 5 and then immediately switch to booster seats with no forward-facing stage. The country also enjoys the lowest rates of child auto fatalities on the planet.

Backless booster: 40 to 120 pounds. The height range is also 38-63 inches. Per best practices, you’ll want to avoid no-back boosters until your children are at least 8, as younger children will have a much harder time keeping their heads in safe positions when falling asleep than older ones.

Headrest support: Whether you use the Cambria as a high-back or as a backless booster, you’re going to need to set it up with a vehicle seat that has a head rest (unlike the Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120, which doesn’t need vehicle head rests). The head rest must always extend to at least the tops of your child’s ears.

Outgrown: The Cambria is considered outgrown when its weight, height, or manufacturing expiration limits are reached, but it’s also no longer safe to use once your child’s ears grow past the top of your vehicle’s head rest (or that of the booster seat) when either is fully extended.

Buy the Diono Cambria on Sale at Amazon here.

Dimensions and Key Features of the Diono Cambria

The Diono Cambria is 19 inches wide at the base with cup holders retracted; when they are extended, it swells to 23 inches wide.  The seat pan depth is 16 inches with 15 inches of hip width and 16 inches of shoulder width. The seat is 20.5 inches wide externally at the shoulders and the height can range from 29 inches to 35 inches when the head rest is fully extended. It weighs 16.2 pounds.

Diono Cambria & Monterey XT Comparison and Child Fit

The most significant differences between the Cambria and the Monterey XT are in top booster belt guide heights and flexibility in width. Specifically, you get 2 more inches of belt height in the Monterey XT (22 inches vs 20 inches) than in the Cambria, which can make a significant difference in booster usability for older children. Similarly, the fact that you can significantly expand the width of the Monterey XT makes it a much stronger choice for wider or larger children, or for parents who need to accommodate children of a range of sizes (e.g., when carpooling).

The Monterey XT is also a better choice for 3 across car seat installations as it can be contracted to as narrow as 17 inches, while the Cambria is 2 inches wider at 19 inches. On the other hand, the Cambria has a much longer usable life at 10 years before expiration than the Monterey XT, which expires at 6 years. Both feature lower LATCH anchors to allow the seats to be restrained without being buckled in, both are affordable at under $100, and both feature high/no-back booster modes. The weight and height ranges are the same.

Why Buy the Diono Cambria?

In conclusion, just like the Diono Monterey XT, the Cambria is one of the best deals on the market for a booster seat on a budget. With the Cambria, parents can safely get kids from point A to point B once they’re done rear-facing (or forward-facing if they were forward-faced before 5) in cars, minivans, SUVs, and pickup trucks. Your kids will be able to stay in the Cambria until they’re ready to transition from booster seats to seat belts (which typically won’t occur for most kids before ages 10 to 12).

The Cambria is a good booster, but compared to the Monterey XT, I’d perhaps choose the Monterey XT simply because it offers more usability for both taller and wider children while falling in the same price range. On the other hand, the Cambria offers a much longer usable life across multiple children at 10 years vs 6, which makes it the better choice for a hand-me down seat. The better budget booster seat ultimately depends on your family’s needs.

You can buy the Diono Cambria in Suburst or Raspberry here or buy it in Graphite here. Alternatively, you can buy the Diono Monterey XT in 4 colors: Heather (black/grey), Purple, Red, and Teal here. You can buy the Diono Solana here. Canadians, unfortunately neither high-back booster is readily available, but you can buy an equivalent seat, the Britax Parkway SGL 1.1, here.

If you find the information on car safety, recommended car seats, and car seat reviews on this car seat blog helpful, you can shop through this Amazon link for any purchases, car seat-related or not. Canadians can shop through this link for Canadian purchases.

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