Phil&Teds / Mountain Buggy University
Theresa and I were kindly offered the opportunity by Out ‘n’ About, the UK distributors of Phil&Teds and Mountain Buggy, to attend their University course to learn more about their products. Theresa is a self confessed Phil&Teds fan having owned most of the Phil&Teds range and also a Mountain Buggy Duo. I meanwhile was pretty much a P&T / MB novice, and appreciated the opportunity to discover more about the ranges, and which pushchair would suit which type of person or requirement.
Theresa and I arrived at Out ‘n’ About where we met the Out ‘n’ About team and were shown a presentation video of the two brands, Phil & Teds and Mountain Buggy. It was interesting to learn the history of each – and to learn more about their straplines: Phil&Teds – “Adapt & Survive” and how Phil&Teds take you through the day with their products – as you Push, Sleep, Feed, Carry, Drive and Adapt; and Mountain Buggy with their “Life without limit”. Two very different brands which complement each other well.
I was surprised to discover that Phil&Teds / Mountain Buggy make the same products for every market ie the same Verve meets safety standards in the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand etc. They don’t make one version for one country and one for another as other companies such as Baby Jogger do. Also the UK is the biggest market for Phil&Teds. Our attention to the video paid off when we were split up into teams, and we had to face a quick fire quiz. My team – Team 2 – came from behind right at the end, to win a box of chocolates each, for the most number of points!
The rest of the morning was devoted to Phil&Teds Push products – the Verve, the Vibe, the Smart, the Classic and the Explorer. We were talked through each product but were encouraged to be hands on, to learn how the pushchairs folded, how car seat adaptors fitted, how easily the brakes worked, to fit the Peanut bassinets on, etc etc. I know I learnt a lot from the experience – for example that Explorer car seat adaptors have an off centre fitment (sorry I don’t know the proper word!), that means as you unscrew it, the centre rotates off centre so that you can get a precise fit of the adaptor without having to force the adaptor into the sockets. I learnt that the Peanut for the Smart is different to the Peanut for the Vibe and Verve. The Smart Peanut is more padded than the Vibe / Verve one but they are also different sizes. The Peanut has airholes at the bottom for good ventilation but when we asked, there are apparently no British Standards exist re carrycot mattresses being suitable for overnight sleeping which amazed me as this is a selling point for various other pushchair carrycot manufacturers. I learnt how the handlebars are designed to be sturdy enough for them to hit the floor for folding. On a personal note I tried to put the doubles kit onto the Verve and I discovered it was much much easier than mine was, and also it was easier to fold – and as a result Out ‘n’ About have kindly taken my Verve back to be checked over as it may be faulty. It was good to see the Explorer, Classic and Vibe close up and to have a go at folding them. There doesn’t appear to be much difference between the Classic & Explorer in respects to the space for the lower child, but details like the brake, handle heights, doubles kit and footwell are different. The Vibe in many ways is very similar to the Verve but it has the single wheel at the front which will make it better for off roading. But the Vibe doesn’t have a self locking mechanism which makes it slightly more tricky, but still easy for a double pushchair.
I was very pleased to get some hands on time with the Smart as it has always seemed to be a versatile lightweight little pushchair. As a travel system with carrycot, car seat, parent and forward facing seat, it looked a good option where space or weight was an issue. The Smart was easy to fold once you got the knack, but it was longer when folded than I expected. The seats were roomier than photographs make it look, and with a liner inside they looked very comfortable. The Smart was very easy to push although I found my hands are a little too close together for my liking when pushing, but I suspect for a person of shorter stature the Smart would be perfect. The Verso adaptors which make the Smart seat unit parent face, are very clever and we discovered that although they are marketed for 4-6 month olds, they are in fact tested to take some considerable weight. I can’t remember the exact figures, but I remember thinking they would pretty much hold the weight of my toddler!
We had a delicious lunch, and the opportunity to look at the Metoo, Lobster and High Pod Highchairs (I own the first two of these and am a huge fan of both and we use them every day!). Next came my personal highlight of the day – an up close, hands on session with the Mountain Buggy range and especially the new Mountain Buggy +One prototype. During lunch the +One was parked in the entrance hall so I had another opportunity to have a good look around it. The +One was parked next to the Verve, and in that situation, the +One didn’t seem as huge as I remembered. In fact, I actually walked past it when we arrived thinking it was an Urban Jungle! One of the reasons for this was that the hood had been put on a lower setting (good to know there are different height settings) which immediately reduced the height. More importantly, with the hood down low, the hood sits snugly flush with the back of the back seat, thus eliminating the huge open gap at the back of the rear seat which appears when the hood is on a higher setting. This for me was a real bonus as my daughterr hates it when it is “blowy” in a pushchair.
The +One easily converts into a single pushchair but also can take a carrycot or car seat. However as with the other Mountain Buggies, this will involve removing the fabric to do so. Although it is a matter of undoing a few poppers which doesn’t take more than a minute or two, it is not an easy swap like it is say with a Bugaboo or iCandy.
The +One is a pushchair excites me enormously. I will be ordering one because it is perfect for our family as I have slightly older children – an 11 month old and a 2.8 year old and I can see the +One being our future pushchair for walking locally. It will be great because it looks like a single, and yet if my eldest gets tired, then there is space behind for her to hop into – or for me to carry lots more shopping when we attach a Freerider! But sadly for us, we won’t be able to take the +One on day trips unless we change the car! I love the large seat units, the extendable hood, the shopping basket. I love the sturdy feel all round of the +One. I was a little bemused that the suspension for the +One is half way down the chassis, but I believe it is similar on the Urban Jungle. But the +One is designed as a off road pushchair – as Mountain Buggy say – for a ‘life without limits’, going off road, on the beach and over mountains! The main disappointment for me is the folded length of the +One. Even with the wheels off the +One is a huge 109cms long – my car boot is only 106cms long and I doubt the +One would fit across the diagonal. I was desperate to have an opportunity to try it before buying but it was not possible. One of the most exciting things about the +One is simply the fact it is designed for older children, with two seats capable of taking 20kgs, and apart from the Verve, there really isn’t anything else on the UK market that is tested to these weight limits.
We looked closely at the Urban Jungle and the larger Terrain with its hand operated brake. The Terrain has a front wheel which can swivel but will lock both underneath the chassis, and in front of the chassis to give greater stability for jogging. The Terrain really is a serious jogging pushchair! The Urban Jungle has slightly smaller 12 inch wheels than the Terrain (16 inch rear wheels) which I am sure makes it a really great pushchair for going off road with whilst yet being a manageable size for life in the city. We loved the ‘Night in the Menagerie’ special edition Urban Jungle with its monkeys and other animals hidden in the leaves on a very pretty turquoise interior. I found the other Mountain Buggies to be equally interesting.
We had a good push of the double Duo pushchair and learnt how the folding mechanism works. It was surprisingly smooth to fold – I have to confess when I have seen the fold demoed, it has always looked rather large and scary – but it really was not and I have conquered that fear! The Duo was very light and easy to push given its size. We practised putting on the carrycots with their central groove and side clips.
What I love about all the Mountain Buggy range is that although the seats and chassis look very simplistic at first glance, they have great attention to detail. These include the use of aeroplane grade aluminium for the chassis. But the front wheel fork is made of steel because it flexes more than the aluminium and therefore helps to absorb some of the shock from any impact that the front wheel gives. I love the storage – the huge baskets, often with side pockets or zipped compartments, and I like the bottle holders too. I love the feel of the Mountain Buggy rubberised handlebars. The Mountain Buggy range are really thoroughly practical, elegant, useful pushchairs.
The final Mountain Buggy we studied was the Swift. This is one gorgeous, neat, practical but colourful pushchair. I have to say, I would have loved to have taken a Swift home with me! We took the fabric off the Swift and added a carrycot to it. Although removing the fabric is a bit of a faff, it did only take a minute or so to remove, and then to replace the fabric again. The fabric is fixed with poppers and a strap. To be honest, if you have a newborn baby, you would start with the the fabric removed in carrycot / car seat mode, and then put back on once the baby had outgrown the carrycot. The Swift is a pushchair that would take any new parent from birth to probably 5 without ever needing to buy a stroller or other pushchair. I only ever hear good comments about the Swift and I wish I had had one before now. But one day when my eldest doesn’t need to be in a pushchair, a Swift plus a Freerider Scooter to go on the back, is on my single pushchair shopping list!! I love the Swift – I love the colours, the manoeuverability, the looks, the neatness, the storage space and the practicality of the Swift.
But our day did not end there! More challenges lay ahead for us!
First of all we had a look at, and a try on, of the Metro and Escape hands free child carriers. The Escape has recently won a Mother & Baby Gold award 2010/2011 for best baby carrier, and also a Junior Design Award 2011 for Best Infant Carrier/Sling Design. It is many years since I last wore a backpack child carrier and I was impressed by the features. Each had sun hoods with wind / rain shields, and a changing mat. The Escape is designed for serious walkers and had extra features like space for a water bladder for the parent, stirrups for the child to stretch their legs in as you walked, a good head & neck support for the child, a zip off backpack and even a tiny mirror located in a pocket on the waist band so that you could view your child as you walked! There were lots more technical features about the fabrics used, how heat and moisture is drawn away from the body, how the weight distribution should be on your hips and best of all the strap adjustors to give a perfect fit. There are two sets of adjustors – one inside the backpack, and the external ones to ensure a perfect fit for anyone, whatever their size. I have to say, I did try a Metro on and it was very comfortable.
The final challenge was to put up a Traveller travel cot! When I first heard that this could be done in under 30 seconds I was amazed because I have a, (what I now realise is an older version,) Phil & Teds travel cot and it is like wrestling spaghetti on wires! So I was very surprised to see that the Traveller has had a radical redesign and the spaghetti has all gone, and has been replaced with shiny aluminum pieces which slot together indeed in under 30 seconds (when done as part of a team). The four teams raced each other to be the first to erect their Traveller and win the prize. Sadly neither Theresa or I were on the winning team. The final piece de resistance was when a member of the Out ‘n’ About team climbed onto a board placed on top of the Traveller cot to prove exactly how strong the lightweight cot was! Amazing!
All round the whole day was brilliant! The team at Out ‘n’ About were so welcoming and informative. I know I learnt a lot, as did Theresa. I came home clutching my graduation certificate, with a much better understanding of the Mountain Buggy and Phil&Teds products, as well as having a wish list of pushchairs for the future
Many Thanks go to the Out ‘n’ About team for making us feel very welcome, for the delicious lunch, and for answering all our many questions.
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