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Car Seat Review: Britax Marathon 70-G3 Convertible Car Seat

When our first-born graduated from his Graco Lauren snap-in style infant carrier, we cheaped out and bought a safe-but-low-end car seat.

I regretted the purchase almost immediately. Everything about that wretched car seat was a pain, from installing it to getting a wriggling toddler in and out of it. The seat wasn’t well designed for use with shoulder belts, and even when it was properly installed it tended to slide around quite a bit.

We finally had enough and decided to upgrade. This time we did our homework and researched the top end car seats, reading reviews and watching Youtube installation videos.

After comparing the options, we settled on the Britax Marathon 70-G3 Convertible Car Seat, and we’ve been very happy with it.

Top-notch quality

Everything about this car seat screams quality. Each part is well finished, from the plastic base and back to the nicely fitted cover. The materials chosen are high-quality: the straps feel like a better quality webbing, and the clips and buckles are solid and operate smoothly and easily.

Each part seems to have received careful thought and attention. The Britax designers seem like they thought about how their product would be used and weren’t just looking to meet minimum safety standards. This results in nice touches like velcro to hold the shoulder straps in place while you put your child into the seat.

I give the Britax Marathon 70-G3 an A+ for quality.

Difficult installation

Installing this car seat is a cinch if your vehicle has a LATCH system–and a frustrating ordeal if it doesn’t.

Don’t get me wrong–the Britax works well with over-the-shoulder seatbelts once you get it installed.

But that initial installation involved a lot of struggling and sweating in the mid-summer heat (which always puts me in a “patient” mood).

The tricky part with the installation is the clips that lock the seatbelt in place. These clips keep the shoulder belt from retracting and tipping the seat (a major problem with our previous car seat). And while I’m glad they’re there, they were a challenge to fasten.

First you have to open the clips–a tricky feat to begin with. The real fun starts once you’ve threaded the seatbelt through both sides and buckled it. At this point you have to lock the clips down. The clips lock the belt tightly, but they don’t give you a lot of clearance to work with. If you don’t keep both the shoulder and lap portions of the belt completely flat, the clip won’t shut. This was the main source of frustration while I was installing the seat. It’s hard to simultaneously tighten the belt, prevent it from twisting and snap the clips shut.

On the plus side, removing the seat’s cover was easy, so I was able to see clearly while I worked.

Once you’re able to get the seatbelt fastened and the clips locked down, the Britax is anchored firmly in place. Forget sliding around–I could barely even wiggle the seat.

Easy to use

While installing the seat was a harrowing experience, in day-to-day usage it’s a joy to use. With our old car seat, getting our son in and out was a struggle. After placing him in the seat, I’d have to root around under his bottom for the buckle, then wrangle the straps in place and fumble around to untwist them.

The Britax addresses both of these issues. The buckle is enclosed in a paddle-shaped flap, which makes it more comfortable for the occupant but also keeps the buckle from sliding down into the seat when I’m loading my son into the car.

Similarly, two little velcro tabs on the shoulder straps help to keep them out of the way until it’s time to buckle up. The top portion of the strap is covered with a rubber slider that greatly reduces twisting. This seat is almost fumble-free.

The only feature that I’m not thrilled with is the mechanism that allows you to tighten and loosen the shoulder straps. The release lever is tucked away inside the seat. It’s simple enough to operate once you figure it out, but it took me a little while to figure it out. It’s also hard to reach when the seat is installed in a rear-facing position in our vehicle.

Highly recommended

Despite the difficult installation, we’re completely satisfied with our Britax Marathon 70-G3 Convertible Car Seat. In fact, we liked it so much that we bought a second one a few weeks later when it was time to graduate our younger son from the snap-in carrier.

It’s pricey, for sure, but it’s one of those purchases that makes me smile every time I use it.

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Baby Gate Review: Munchkin Auto-Close Metal Gate

When our younger son was born, we decided to buy a gate to keep his older brother out of the nursery during nap time.

But we couldn’t get just any gate. Our oldest is a big, strong toddler who ranks in the 90th percentile for both height and weight.

We needed a gate that could keep Godzilla at bay.

After doing some comparison shopping, we settled on the Munchkin Auto Close Gate, available for around $59 on Amazon.

The Munchkin Auto Close Gate is made of sturdy steel tubing, and it feels solid. It doesn’t bend when our 3-year-old grabs it and flexes his muscles, and I’ve never once worried that he would be able to break it.

After nearly 18 months of use and abuse, it’s held up well.

Installation

Although I was impressed by the quality when the gate arrived, getting it installed was a bit of an ordeal. The gate requires a fair bit of assembly, and the instructions left a lot to be desired. I’m a handy guy who has, among other things, remodeled our kitchen and bathrooms. But it took some fiddling to figure out how to put the Munchkin gate together. The main problem was that some of the pieces I was working with looked different than what was shown in the assembly guide.

Even after I had the gate put together, mounting it in the doorway was tricky. The gate is a pressure-mount style, with four individually adjustable feet that hold it in place. Each threaded foot needs to be tightened separately, first by hand, then using a wrench once they’re too tight for your fingers to turn.

Not too bad, right?

Yeah, except there’s nothing holding the feet in place, and while I tightened one the others kept falling out. I needed a couple more hands to hold everything together while I worked.

But once I got the gate installed, it was rock sold. The doorways in our home are an in-between measurement, and the traditional wooden gates with pre-set notches are completely useless. Our toddler would calmly walk up to the gate and yank it out of the doorway in one fluid motion.

By contrast, the individually adjustable feet on the Munchkin Auto Close Gate let me find a perfect fit. Now our 3-year-old can rattle the gate and throw his weight into it to his heart’s content and the gate doesn’t budge.

The Munchkin fits doorways from 29.5″ to up to 38″ wide using the included extenders.

Operation

The gate’s swinging, auto-closing door was the main reason we purchased it. While many gates force you to climb over them, the Munchkin gate allows you to just unlatch it and walk through–perfect for when you’re clutching an infant and don’t want to risk a precarious climb.

The door works as advertised. It swings smoothly in both directions, closes quickly and latches securely. It provides some peace of mind to not have to worry whether you remembered to close the gate.

Unlatching the gate is a little awkward: You have to slide a button with your thumb, then lift the door a fraction of an inch before pushing it open. That same awkwardness makes it virtually impossible for a child to open, though.

The only downside to the auto-closing mechanism is that the gate slams shut loudly if you don’t make an effort to slow it down. Not ideal at nap time.

Conclusion

We’re happy with our Munchkin Auto Close Gate and would purchase it again without hesitation. It’s a great choice if you’re looking for a sturdy, reliable gate and don’t need to be able to remove it frequently. The auto-closing feature is a life-saver when you’re carrying a baby while fending off a hulking 3-year-old.