You may also want to read our The Best Umbrella Strollers of 2017 to see how the 19 strollers compared to each other and ranked in our tests.
Why Buy a Lightweight/Umbrella Stroller?
This type of stroller is normally a secondary product in addition to a standard or jogging stroller. Most parents look to an umbrella stroller when they need a simple, compact, stroller for travel or commuting, when the size and weight of a standard stroller just won't work. These products are smaller than other strollers, easier to fold and carry, and relatively lightweight. Most of these products collapse in on themselves like an umbrella, hence the moniker, but a few fold in half or thirds, which often made a more compact package for easier storage in smaller spaces.
In general, this kind of stroller lacks the features of a standard model, which results in a lighter more compact stroller that is not off-road friendly. Alternatively, they are intended primarily for flat surfaces without many obstacles. Most parents purchase this kind of stroller for travel, grandparents, or quick day trip commuting.
The new generation of lightweight strollers have come a long way from the umbrellas of old. Some offer enough features that you might be able to get by using one as a primary stroller. This is especially true if you use an infant carrier and practice baby wearing when children are too small to ride in most lightweight strollers. With their storage bins, reclining seats, sun shades, and leg rests, many of the strollers we reviewed can potentially do double duty for parents looking to pare down their purchases, retain space in their homes, or simply save money.
Types of Lightweight Strollers
Quinny Yezz is a great example of this type. It has a small sun shade, stow pocket, and it folds simply into a compact package that can be slung over the shoulder and carried hands free. However, the lack of features means less versatility than those with more conveniences. It could be difficult to take longer trips without the storage and comfort that the larger versions usually come with.
Recaro EasyLife is a good
This year we have also included two standard strollers, the Britax B-Agile 3 and the Baby Jogger City Mini, in this review as they are under 18 lbs and fold relatively small. These would be lumped into the lightweight stroller options, and are actually lighter than some of the true products in this category.
We tested and ranked these products in our full review, but it makes sense to say a little about the performance considerations of how these strollers work and what you should look for when making a selection. Our review and tests are designed to illuminate the differences between options, and this information can be used as a tool for sorting and narrowing the field.
The performance of each product and their features vary, but we found consistencies and commonalities that you'll want to think about when purchasing a product of this type, even if it is one not specifically covered in our review.
Size doesn't always matter, but when it comes to umbrella strollers, it is pretty much an essential factor for performance. This kind of stroller was originally created because of a size issue. Parents were looking for a small, lightweight, compact folding product that is easy to fold, carry, store, and lift. Size is one of the primary concerns and considerations for this product, and it can influence the overall experience of the user and passenger. If a lightweight stroller is too big, it fails to meet the needs of the user and you won't want to use it for travel. If a model is too small, the passenger might find it too uncomfortable to use.
The products we looked at range in size from 8.6 to 18.3 pounds. This is a big difference for one type of product, and an even bigger difference when you think about carrying them for a long period of time. Ten extra pounds can be a lot of weight, and if you are carrying a child or other items in addition to the stroller, it could be a deal breaker. If the stroller is not small enough it doesn't fill the need, if it is too small, it may not be convenient. Much like Goldilocks and the three bears, the real issue is finding the model that is just the right size for your needs.
How Many Wheels?
One thing most of the strollers in this category have in common is the dual front wheels design. This design has two front wheels on each front leg. Most of the models that shared this design performed poorly in our maneuverability tests. The dual front wheel designs seemed to have trouble with changes in terrain, veering off course for random bumps, and getting stuck in deeper gravel or grass. The products that performed the best in maneuverability did not share this characteristic, so we are at a loss as to why it seems to be the preferred design.
Interestingly enough, 3 out of the top 5 strollers in our review did not have the dual front design, instead they have single wheels on each leg. A clear indication that this dual wheel design is one you might think twice about depending on how you plan to use it. The Quinny Yezz, one of our Editors' Choice winners, and a great performer in the maneuverability tests, has 2 single wheels in front. The Quinny is far easier to push on just about every surface, and doesn't require a locking mechanism to keep the wheels from veering off course.
BabyZen Yoyo+, another Editors' Choice winner, also has only two wheels and rolled better than most of the competition. In the top 5 scoring products only the Britax B-Agile 3 and the Baby Jogger City Mini sport the dual wheel design in the front. However, they both have only one leg (with 2 wheels) in front instead of two legs, which helped them manage smaller spaces easier and improved their maneuverability scores. Overall, it appears as though performance increased when the number of wheels decreased. While it may not be true of each individual model, it is true for the category as a whole, so it is worth some consideration when looking at options.
Each stroller has some kind of braking mechanism, and many of them are similar in design. Weeding out which is which, or what to look for can be difficult. We discussed factors like ease of use and foot friendliness, but given the importance of this topic, it still merits a mention in the performance consideration section when sorting through strollers and deciding what to buy.
In general, the strollers that have a single action are the easiest to use. Models that require setting two different pedals, or double action, might suffer from user error over time, as parents become complacent and fail to engage both brakes. The products that have one pedal to engage and one to disengage, sometimes with a color code or illustration to differentiate one from the other, are simpler and easier to use.
While we would all like to believe that everyone will religiously set brakes on any stroller their child is a passenger in, we also can't argue with the notion that if something is difficult to use, people may refrain from using it. Bottom line, if it is easier to use, you will be more likely to use it and use it correctly. All the brakes in our tests worked, however, the method for using them is different, and thus the resulting compliance is also likely to be different. Pressing one pedal is easier than two, pressing a different pedal to disengage is easier than lifting up a pedal with the top of your foot, and so on. The brakes that get used, are the ones that are simple and straightforward, that can be operated quickly. It doesn't matter how fantastic a brake system is, if it doesn't get used, it can't do its job.
Whether or not the stroller you purchase is easy to use and meets your needs is a big performance consideration. Just because a stroller has the features you are looking for, doesn't mean it does them well. Every model in our review came with a sun shade, but not all the shades are SPF rated, or even big enough to protect smaller riders. Some attach to the back rest and give side protection, like the Maclaren Techno XT (below left) while others are more or less an overhead feature letting sun in the sides like the GB Pockit (below right). It is important that features work the way the maker and user intend, otherwise there is little point in having them except to check the box in a comparison chart.
There are many features that can impact the versatility of the item. Having multiple features can be a plus, if the features work well and are thoughtfully designed. It isn't enough to count the number of features, or the types of features, instead you should consider if the feature works as it should, adds versatility, and is done well. If these things don't hold true, then the feature is something that may look good on paper, but will frustrate you in real life.
Narrowing the Field
When you decide it is time to add a lightweight stroller to your baby gear, we suggest you narrow the options by first taking a look at the following considerations.
Location, Location, Location
If you live in the city, and need an agile stroller for getting places quickly, and convenient folding for utilizing public transport, then a more compact stroller with fewer features is the right fit. The Quinny Yezz can be carried hands free, is light enough to lug for miles, folds easily with one hand, and can out maneuver a cheetah running down lunch. However, if you envision using your new stroller for a day at the park, followed by a quick trip to the farmers market on the way home, then the Quinny doesn't offer enough storage or comfort to fit the bill.
Knowing how you will use the stroller can be the difference between finding a really cool product that fails to meet your needs, and buying a "just the right size" fit. There is no one perfect answer to this question, just a personal answer. Don't be taken in or wooed by a flashy design or awesome engineering, if the stroller doesn't meet your needs, you'll be unhappy. Instead, be honest about how you will use the product, this will drive which stroller you look for and thus narrow the field significantly early in the shopping process. You may find you fall somewhere in the middle of the extremes of a minimalist user looking for a quick trip through the airport, and the all day user who needs every feature under the sun to make it through a long day; do not despair, there is a stroller out there for you as well. Luckily there are so many to choose from that no matter what you want, or your budget, there is something that will work for you.
The next thing to think about is how long will you be using this product each time you leave your house. Will you be taking quick trips or all day treks to run errands? Many of the products we reviewed have features and nods to comfort that become increasingly important depending on the length of your average trip.
Mountain Buggy Nano has both features and a large enough canopy to offer coverage to sleeping passengers. Looking for even more? The Britax B-Agile 3 has large under seat storage and two pockets on the back of the canopy. Essentially, the further you plan to go, or the longer you plan to be out, the more features you want to look for, and the more conveniences you are going to need in order to make the trip easy for both parent and child. However, if you plan to be back in a jiffy, then the B-Agile 3 might feel like a cumbersome stroller with too much going on and overkill for that kind of journey.
Once you determine what kind of travel you'll do, and the duration of the trips you'll take, it is important to look at how often you will use the product before you outgrow it. You might be looking for a stroller to use multiple times a week, or you might be making a purchase just for one trip or use at Grandma's house. How often you plan to use your new stroller should influence your decision and further narrow the field.
Budget might be your first consideration, or it may not be a consideration at all. But it should be something you look at when narrowing the field of options to find your right fit in lightweight strollers. Once you know where you will use it, how long your passenger will be in it, and how often it will come out of the closet, you will likely be looking at 2 or 3 possibilities for purchase. The remaining products in your list might have similar prices, or the prices might swing from one extreme to another.
The task may seem daunting when all the options look and feel so similar, but it is worth the time and effort to investigate this category in detail to ensure a purchase you are happy with. The subtleties between the different models may seem minor, but their impact on everyday ease of use or versatility really are great, and you may find yourself wishing you'd taken a closer look at this buyer's guide and related review. After you take everything into consideration you'll find there is a product that is just right for you. If you stay focused on what is important, decide what really matters, and look for the top stroller that meets your needs, you can't go wrong. We feel our award winners do exactly this providing options for just about every kind of user, kind of use, and budget.