Saturday, 21 January 2012

Pram Review: Phil&Ted Smart + Peanut

Pram Review: Phil and Ted Smart + Peanut

When I found out I was pregnant I did what I always do when faced with something I don't understand: I researched. Now I don’t just mean I clicked through some review sites online or went into a couple of stores and bought the prettiest one. Sure I started forming my opinion on the best pram by doing those things, but then delved deeper- like a bloodhound on the hunt I dug deep into the depths of forums, spelunked the stroller manufacturer websites and stalked parents with enviable looking prams to see how they handled in real life. I traipsed through countless baby stores asking questions of increasingly exasperated sales people and suffered through baby-conventions full of screaming infants and stressed out mums just to see the pram displays. From the Bugaboo to the Big W homebranded ones - I was not a snob, and in my quest for the perfect pram I left no stone unturned. I whittled down the hundreds of options to about twenty, ranging in price from $149 to $1600.

You see the pram was the biggest expense on my list, and also an item I knew that if chosen well would be in use for many years to come. So after all the above outlined preliminary investigations, I had a good hard think about my lifestyle and needs.

I made a detailed list of what I do when I go out and made a list of the features I would need in a pram based on the physical terrain of my daily life. By asking a whole lot of seemingly stupid and unrelated questions* I got a clear idea of what features I was looking for in a pram.

*Stupid questions like: how often do I walk around the block, what is the off road terrain like when I cut through the bush to get to the corner shop, how good am I at pushing a laden trolley in tight spaces between parked cars, will I ever grow out of my gothic penchant for black on black, how does my driveway connect to the road and the footpath, how tall am I compared to my husband- at what height do our hands rest, which supermarkets do I shop in most regularly and how wide are the checkouts, how heavy are my two cats, what is the size of the average disabled toilet bay at my local shops, what is the size of the parents rooms at my local shops, when I go ‘window shopping’ how many purchases do I make and how many bags do I come home with, how long does it take my husband to get annoyed at a Rubic's Cube and throw it at the wall in frustration, how big is my car boot, how big is my husband’s car boot, am I capable of going through an entire day un-caffeinated, how hot and humid is it likely to get when I’m out and about etc.

I knew my ultimate pram would need:
  • Big wheels so it can go 'offroad'.
  • Absorbent suspension to allow gentle travel over bumpy terrain.
  • To weigh not much more than two 3 year old cats since those two furry bastards are more than enough weight to lift in one hand.
  • To fit into a space similar in size to a shoe box- Jeep Wrangler's do not have generous boot space.
  • To be adaptable- I wanted it to go from being a bassinette on wheels to a stroller with a minimum of fuss.
  • To be very simple to fold and unfold- if it is as complex as a Rubic's Cube it will not survive more than fourteen minutes and twelve seconds at the hands of my hubby.
  • To have responsive steering- it would not be good if I was crashing the damn thing into the side of my own parked car like a reckless trolley fiend simply for the sake of saving the paint on a nice new car parked nicely over the white line and into my own car space.
  • To have accessories (such as coffee cup holders- turns out I need a constant intake of coffee to survive on this planet.).
  • To be small and simple- I go into lots of boutiques and smaller stores in which a big ass pram would never fit. A wide base pram would leave me looking longingly into the window of stores like a dog looking at the meat through the butchers window.
  • To have reasonable storage and the ability to have a few bags hang from the handles in case my window shopping turns into a spending spree.
  • To have good ventilation- it’s a scorcher here, and any baby would be a sweaty mess stuck to the chair within five minutes if the pram is too stuffy.
  • To be any colour so long as it’s black.

And then I went over my first draft shortlist and crossed off three quarters of the finalists. The main cause for my drastic cull was adaptability. If I couldn’t have a bassinette I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to fork out for a Moses basket or bassinette only to have to shift Hunter into a big cot later- but if I had a pram that had a bassinette then I would have killed two birds with one stone, so to speak. So after the big cull I had these left on my list:

  • Bugaboo Cameleon RRP $1399
  • Baby Love Focus Elite RRP $349 + $109 for the bassinette
  • Steelcraft Strider RRP $699 + $189 for the bassinette
  • Valco Matrix RRP $549
  • Baby Jogger City Select RRP $929
  • Phil and Teds Smart + Peanut RRP $399

And then I played a game of real life Where's Wally. I kept my eye out for the prams I wanted and, just like a dog, I would I chase down the pram and barrel the owners up in the street. Then I would ask them questions like I was sniffing out the clues to a crime: "how easy is it to fold up and fit in your car?" "would you recommend this pram to me?" "Do you own any other prams or is this your only one?" "where were you on the night of the 18th?" and "what are the main faults with your pram?". Unerringly if the parent owned a Cameleon or a City they would also own a second pram for jogging. And just as unerringly the owner of the Smart + Peanut had no need for any other type of pram. Interestingly enough all declined to comment on their whereabouts on the night of the 18th without a lawyer present.

Something else interesting I discovered: the owners of the Cameleon claimed to fiercely love their prams, but repeatedly stated they were not easy to fold up, they were terrified of the pram being stolen as so never left it in the car overnight, were slightly too wide for certain checkouts- and if the pram pusher was out of earshot of the breadwinner they also often said they wished they had spent their $1400 better. From what I could gather the main cause for happiness with the pram was based on the ability to look smug while pushing it around, based on photos published in gossip magazines which show famous women pushing their babies in the same uber-pricey pram. So basically the pram is expensive and exclusive and that’s pretty much all it has going for it that differentiates it from cheaper models (granted, I only asked about ten Bugaboo owners- they aren’t that common and while price may be a factor I suspect the neutral reviews may also have something to do with this). The owners of the City and Matrix complained that the upholstery blinkered the peripheral vision of the seated child, which resulted in bub constantly straining against the harness to see better. The owners of the Strider said it was heavy and folded up like dismembering a corpse. The owners of the Smart+Peanut were pleased with their purchase and were not aware that a pram owner would even have a list of problems with their pram. So why would I chose anything but the Smart+Peanut. I bought mine from Mothercare because they price matched the cheapest Australian retailer and I earnt a bunch of ‘points’ to spend instore too- which meant I could buy accessories for free- yippee!

To begin with I used it as a bassinet on wheels, shifting Hunter from room to room as I went about my day. It was great for my bedridden husband too- when my son was two days old and not yet home from hospital Lee fell off a skateboard and shattered the top part of his left tibia into pieces, shearing the whole top of the knee joint off. As you can imagine Lee was not mobile for a long time afterwards. The Smart + Peanut was very easy for Lee to handle- even with one bunged up leg, unwieldy crutches and no balance. Even now I marvel at how nimble and responsive the steering on the Smart + Peanut is.

When visiting friends I would bring the bassinette in and use it as a Moses Basket/portacot. At a super light 8Kg the pram weighs less than my two cats and is much easier to lift to where I want it- even up the rickety stairs of an old Queenslander. It is compact too- fitting through the narrow hallways of hundred year old houses as easily as fitting through the express checkout at Coles and between the tight aisles of my local comic book store.

The brake is a foot brake, easy to engage and straightforward to disengage. I had concerns the upward motion needed to dis-engage the brake would ruin the toes on my shoes but after six months of constant dis/engaging this has not happened so I guess I'm just paranoid. Our driveway is pretty steep (“epic steep” if you ask Lee even now he is walking without the aid of crutches) and the brake holds like a charm every time- even in the rain.

The wheels on the Smart + Peanut are not pneumatic and so do not need to be pumped up. They are also big- and big wheels translate to a smooth ride for bub, even over rough terrain. I often take my pram on big walks- even bush walks- and never once have I felt that my son was being excessively jiggled about.

Despite all my research I was not aware that the Safe And Sound Unity Capsule is compatible with the Smart Buggy frame- it just clips in. Had I of been aware of this then I would have bought the Unity Capsule and my love affair with this pram would have been eternal. If I have a second bub I will totally do this.

The ‘follow the sun’ visor is fully adjustable, and so I could manipulate it in such a way that I could drape a large muslin cloth over the top and Hunter would be in soft darkness, free from bugs and direct light, happy to snooze whenever and wherever the mood took him. I could have bought a proper Phil and Teds pram cover but decided to spend my instore credit on other items. The ‘follow the sun’ visor is easy to shift about so bub is never in direct light, and is sturdy enough to have light toys dangle from it and be batted about by bub without collapsing under the strain. The only thing that has ever happened to my pram that I have been disappointed in was one of the nuts came off the visor, leaving the internal ratchet mechanism exposed, which left one of the support arms dangling loose- happily I found the nut and re-screwed it on. I'm not sure if that was from me being too rough with it or from having some of my mates kids play with it, but it was easily remedied and has never happened again.

The bassinette mattress is the perfect softness for a wee newborn to snuggle in. The mattress fits standard Moses Basket sheets (which I bought with my instore credit), so I could always have a clean surface to lay my baby down on. When Hunter did have epic spews or poos I could whip the soiled mattress out, put it through the gentle cycle in my washing machine and line dry it without any problems at all. It has not faded or changed shape or form as a result of going through the wash either.

With the bassinette in place the storage basket was still easily accessible, and when I swapped over to the Smart Buggy Seat it became even easier to access. The storage basket is made of mesh, and while it looks light weight it can really hold a lot of stuff. I’ve had 4L of milk in there along with my nappy bag and it stood up to the treatment with ease. Also, even when heavily laden this pram still manoeuvres well. When I have been a naughty mummy and hung bags from the handles the pram has not overbalanced, which is a rare feature in prams, and one to take into account when purchasing a pram as sometimes you just don’t have enough arms to hold everything.

The Buggy Seat is made of a firm moulded plastic- Phil and Ted call it Aerocore seat technology. Basically the seat has a cute pattern of holes cut out of the seat-back which allow for good ventilation across the back of the baby, and the firm plastic offers much better back support than any other umbrella type stroller on the market. The Phil and Ted website also describes the seat as hypo-allergenic, ventilating and insulating, UV resistant, waterproof and non toxic, which I guess means this pram is perfect for babies with allergies. Also, being a firm plastic the seat is so easy to clean. Projectile custard and milk mishaps are wiped away in a flash, with no need to undo a hundred press studs to take off a fabric cover for the purpose of laundering. With the addition of the Verso adapter the seat has two additional recline positions and the ability to face rearwards. Some might say that having limited recline positions is not enough, and if that’s the case for you too then the Smart is not going to win you over. My son does three things when he is in his pram- looks wide eyed at the world passing by, plays with his toys, or snoozes, all of which are happily achieved in the upright, semi reclined or fully reclined position. I haven’t bothered to buy him the seat insert and he seems very comfortable indeed without it- however when winter comes I may buy one for added warmth. 

Another wonderful feature of the Smart seat is the harness- it has shoulder straps and a lap sash, so getting a tired or super squirmy baby in or out is a breeze. I should also mention the folding mechanism. There are two steps to folding the frame- pushing in a toggle button, and releasing two levers. Once I forgot to click the levers in place and pushed Hunter + groceries + nappy bag around all day without it once collapsing. I was so shocked when I realised my oversight and so pleased that Phil & Ted have engineered the pram to cope with baby-brained mums.

The hands down best feature of this pram is how small it folds up- it fits in the boot of a Jeep Wrangler and the boot of a Mini Cooper as easy as pie- something the majority of prams on the market are not capable of doing. I personally drive a beat up old Magna station wagon and have a good giggle everytime I just shove the whole pram in the boot without even collapsing it- even fully assembled this pram fits.

In terms of accessories there aren’t a lot available that are specifically designed for this model by Phil and Ted, however a number of generic branded accessories fit well- hello coffee holder. But who needs accessories when the pram is totally stylin’ as is? I’ve had at least three strangers come up to me and tell me my pram is awesome. With the bassinette in it looks like a modern reinterpretation of a vintage perambulator (have you seen the majesty that is the Silver Cross HeritageCollection- pram porn), with the stroller chair in it looks like something out of a sci-fi film. Both of those descriptions are compliments. To be frank, every other pram on the market in this price range looks like a pram always does- like a massive pain the ass. The pram selection in the under $500 category are pretty much united by these descriptive terms: huge, ugly, like camping gear, a drag. And then, humming happily to itself and looking funky, fine and fun is the Smart. The way I feel about this pram is the way Wayne feels about Cassandra: This pram is a fox. In French, it would be called "la renarde" and would be hunted with only its cunning to protect it. You get the picture.  
If I had to rate this pram I would give it a hearty high five, and then while still holding my hand up from the high five I would race around all the other prams and face slap them for not being worthy.

Pram party, excellent
Sandi D

1 comment:

  1. Hey there Sandi,

    I have to tell you I absolutely loved your review. I am currently sitting next to my husband on the couch (he is on his laptop, I'm on mine) and I'm literally reading out your whole post to him (cos it's so well written). I am laughing my head off, too, something you need once in a while when you're a full-time mum. I am on the search for a new pram. The one I currently use is a second-hand (probably 10th hand to be precise) and my little cheeky girl who is 10 months is real active and the straps are so badly designed they can't really keep her down, she finds a way to slide out of them and stand up on the pram (when I'm not looking). It's scary.

    Thankyou for listing out everything you did. I'll def be sure to check out this pram in real life. Thinking maybe this will be the one for me!



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