Friday, January 18, 2013

The Double Stroller Dilemma

I have recently been doing some extensive research for a friend on double strollers. I am a big fan of the side-by-side strollers I have seen, but after talking to her friends about strollers, she was decided to limit her search to tandem-style strollers. After hours and hours of research, I am not sure that there is a truly perfect double stroller in existence, for any price.

Contours Optima tandem from Kolcraft

For those of you who are new to the world of double strollers, a side-by-side stroller is just that - the two kids sit in seats directly next to each other. A tandem-style stroller has one child's seat behind the other child's seat. Sometimes a tandem-style stroller has the back seat higher than the front seat, to allow both children to see out. This is called stadium seating.

Mountain Buggy Duet
Both styles have advantages and disadvantages.
A side-by-side double stroller is easier to maneuver, and most (if not all) double jogging strollers opt for this design. A side-by-side can usually turn on a dime and the two children can see and interact with each other. This style stroller may have one canopy over both children, or each child may have his or her own independent canopy. Foot rests vary similarly from stroller to stroller. Some have three wheels and some have four. Most seats also have independent reclines, so one child can sleep completely flat and another can be sitting up straight. Usually a side-by-side stroller can accommodate one infant car seat (usually with the use of a car seat adapter), but two won't fit together, which is something factor in if you have twins. Some also have the ability to use a removable bassinet or two to convert the stroller to a more traditional carriage-style double stroller. The biggest factor in a side-by-side stroller is usually size, namely width. Can it fit through a standard doorway easily? Is the folded stroller small enough to fit in my car? Can I easily heft the folded stroller into my trunk? Is the stroller too light to be stable? Is the storage basket big enough, and accessible? All of these questions are valid concerns to consider when beginning research.

Kolcraft Contours Options
A tandem has it's own set of pros and cons. A tandem stroller should fit through even the most narrow doorways, though a tight turn on the other side might make entry impossible. With a tandem stroller, you and your children won't take up the entire aisle in a store, but making the turn at the end of the aisle into the next one might be a challenge if your children are heavy. In general, tandem strollers are harder to maneuver. This might be due to the narrow handlebar and long length of the stroller. The adult doesn't have the control that would come with a wider handle. Another issue that comes with the seat positions is fighting over seats. A child that gets put unwillingly in the back seat may kick the back of the front seat or play with the front canopy if there is one. Some strollers require that the heavier child sits in a certain seat. The child in the back may also have a harder time seeing out of the stroller. This is something to consider if you plan to take this stroller to the zoo or other places where children will need to see things from the stroller. Most tandem seats have a limited recline, if any. Tandem joggers are sparse. Most tandem strollers have smaller wheels and therefore the ride (and push) is a little rougher than other styles. Some tandem seats can be turned around to face the adult pushing the stroller. This is a really cool feature. Also, many tandem strollers can accommodate two car seats, which means a lot to parents of twins. Some single strollers have an extra seat that can be purchased later to convert a single stroller into a tandem. These are intriguing to me.

Baby Jogger City Select

Joovy Caboose Ultralight
There is also the fairly new stroller-and-a-half as an option for two children. Usually there is a standard-looking seat in the front of the stroller and a board in the back for a child to stand on and ride as the stroller is pushed. There is also usually a basic seat in the back for the child to sit on if he or she so chooses. That seat generally faces the adult pushing the stroller. Some have an optional forward-facing rear seat that can be used until the child is big enough and reliable enough to stand on the back or sit on a small platform with a 2 or 3 point strap harness. This is an appealing option for many parents, but you do give up some things. For example, if you recline the front seat, there is no room for the rear child to sit. The canopy or canopies tend to be much smaller. I think there is the potential to develop this concept into a great stroller but I'm not sure that it is currently available.

What do I personally look for in a double stroller?
  • I want versatility...I don't want to have four different double strollers, I want one that can work in many situations.
  • I want a tall seat and high weight limit. I want to be able to put a tired 5-year-old in the stroller when she is tired of walking and let her rest.
  • I want both seats to have the option of a flat or nearly flat recline and a very upright position as well.
  • I want a compact fold. The stroller needs to fit into my trunk.
  • I need to be able to lift it myself. I do not need it to be ultralight, but I need to be able to get it into and out of the car myself, and carry it into the shed. I want my stroller to be sturdy, so if it needs to be a little heavier to be sturdy, so be it.
  • I want really big canopies. We have very fair skin, and I strongly dislike sunscreen.
  • I need to be able to walk with a long stride without kicking or stepping on the stroller.
  • I want it to still be easy to maneuver with one child alone - in case the other one decides to walk. That most likely means a side-by-side stroller.
  • I want a smooth ride/push. We live on a dirt road, and the stroller will see a lot of rough terrain, as well as occasional smooth terrain. I may not jog, but I do walk fast.
  • Front wheel(s) can swivel for smooth walking or be locked into place for rougher terrain.
  • I want a solid parking brake.
  • I want good visibility for both children.
  • I want the ability to put my brand and style of car seat on the stroller securely (even though I most likely won't use this feature).
  • I would like the stroller to fit through the doorway at the grocery store and the door to our porch and our shed (so I don't have to fold it every time I put it away).
  • I want decent and accessible storage space for a large diaper bag and for other items as well.
  • Price. I need the stroller to be a wise investment.
Bumbleride Indie Twin

There are also many features that I'd like but wouldn't necessarily base my decision on. For example:
  • included bumper bars that can swing away and be removed completely
  • peek-a-boo window in the canopy. A magnetic closure would be my preference since it is quiet, and some way to hold it up out of the way.
  • included rain cover
  • included tire pump (if one is necessary)
  • one-handed recline on the seats (a strap recline can be put at any angle, but a bar recline can be adjusted easily to one of many set positions. I'd still prefer the bar recline for the convenience factor).
  • easily adjusted harness - it is nice not to have to completely re-thread the straps to use the seat with a larger or smaller child
  • adjustable footrests
  • good customer service availability, in case problems should arise
  • automatic locking mechanism when folding to keep the stroller closed for transportation or storage
  • height-adjustable handlebar
  • removable and/or machine washable fabric
  • included newborn head bumpers and seat padding
  • accessible storage for keys, cell phone, i-pod, nalgene etc. for the parent without stopping
  • easily removable rear wheels
Ultimately, you have to pick a stroller based on what your priorities are and what kind of a lifestyle you intend to lead. If you live in the city, then maybe you need a stroller that can easily pop up onto a curb, and has room for shopping bags and a cup of coffee. The luxuries might mean a lot to you if you are using it often in situations like this. If you jog every morning, maybe a fixed-wheel jogger is the way to go for you and the little luxuries don't mean so much. Then you can really narrow your search and compare more productively. I really don't think that there is one perfect stroller that suits everyone. Someday I intend to make several comparison charts. Maybe by the time I am ready to purchase my own double jogger I will have a better idea of  which one to get for my family, or a way to afford the stroller that has it all!


  1. Good points Heidi! What a fun blog! The Baby Jogger City Mini Double has been our perfect double stroller. It has been a lifesaver in allowing me to take the kids places on my own without worrying about the older one running off. The kids are willing to sit in it because they can both see around well and are comfortable. Since it has been out for several years, they tend to be available on Craigslist too!

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