Most helpful positive review
598 of 608 people found the following review helpful
Pretty deserving of 5 stars, once you figure out how to use the darn thing
on July 16, 2014
We have a mostly love and a little bit of hate relationship with our Dionos. We're not the most patient people, but we've finally put a little muscle into these seats and we've come to love them. If you can stick with these seats, I think you'll find, like we do, that they're a great investment. But, I'll also tell you why they will make you cry at times. If you can bear with this lengthy review, I will let you in on the secrets of the awe-inspiring and tear-inducing Radian.
Why we love these seats (we own two, one for each car):
(1) The Radian is a tank. To my knowledge, it is one of only two seats on the market that is fully steel-framed. The Clek Foonf is the other one, which is unpronounceable, more expensive, and doesn't last as long: your child has to be able to sit upright before using it and it only lasts until the child is 65 pounds. At the rate my child eats, he will be 65 pounds by a year-and-a-half, which would be not long after he started sitting up. Now, with the Radian, although all car seats have to meet government safety standards (quite easy to forget in the guilt/hype advertising of buying baby products), we feel a great sense of peace and security when going on long car trips with it.
(2) The Radian is narrow and therefore still lets you have some of your backseat. When my wife and I were young and naïve (approximately 1 1/2 years ago, while expecting our aforementioned first child), we thought we would have three children, or we at least didn't want to have to re-buy car seats because of that possibility. So, we initially gravitated toward the Radian because it's a super narrow seat and allegedly fits three across the backseat of cars. Well, now that the shock of having a toddler is with us, I can assure you that my wife and I have not measured or tested whether three Radians can fit across our backseats, nor do we plan on testing that out. But, if you are blessed with more baby-patience than we are and plan to have lots of young'uns, then you will probably like this feature of the Radian. In any case, the narrowness of the seat is nice when I'm schlepping my coworkers to Denny's for lunch and two of them can fit in the back of my tiny sedan with no problem.
(3) The Radian's dimensions are compact, but if they don't make sense for your car, buy an angle adjuster. Speaking of my tiny sedan, the Radian probably will fit in your car. Before we bought our Radians, we read about people fitting these in Honda Accords and Honda Fits all day long. So unless you're driving a Pinto, I would think you'd be able to get the Radian installed. But, with that being said, the fit isn't necessarily going to be perfect (especially because the seat is so tall). Although the Radian fits perfectly into my small, older sedan, it was a mess at first in my wife's larger sedan. So, we researched and bought the $10 "angle adjuster" on Amazon that Radian makes, and that solved the problem. Just that inch of foam somehow made a huge difference, such that without the angle adjuster she couldn't see out the rearview mirror, and with the angle adjuster she can barely see that the Radian is even there. Her cousin also had fit problems (even with a mid-sized SUV) until she bought the angle adjuster, though her cousin had to end up installing the seat behind the passenger side instead of in the middle. So, to make a long story short, the fit of the Radian may not be perfect for your car, but you can likely rig it with the angle adjuster to make it work. In any case, I would definitely recommend choosing the shipping option that also offers free returns. I remember seeing that some colors would ship with free returns (I'm not sure if that's a Prime-specific thing or a seller-specific thing or what).
(4) The Radian has high weight limits for rear-facing (45 pounds), which is important to us, so we can have our young'un rear-facing for as long as possible. This is higher than some other seats we were considering.
Why we used to curse these seats (but we're over it now, we promise):
(1) We bought these seats with the idea that this would be the only seat we'd have to buy for our young'un, because it's supposed to go from newborn in rear-facing mode to 120 pounds in booster mode. He was born a hearty size, not preemie but not humongous, yet the angle was so steep that he would have probably been taken away by CPS right then and there at the hospital if we had tried to drive him away like that--seriously, it was more like a 75 degree angle, not the desired 45 degree angle; he would have looked like Hannibal Lecter strapped to the almost-upright gurney in Silence of the Lambs. Maybe it was the slope of our sedans' back seats, and maybe you'll have better luck in your car, but we had to buy a Graco bucket seat (with two bases) that we used for the first several months. So, we weren't happy about spending the extra money on another seat, but in the long run, it didn't turn out to be too much money and it was convenient to be able to carry our infant in a bucket seat.
(2) It took an act of Congress and many test runs with a very upset little boy for us to figure out how to tighten the straps properly. We find this to be a major downside to this seat, or at least a major frustration. The instructions are complicated and the seat is not intuitive at all. You can google it, and terms like "ratchet" and "tug tug tug" will pop up, and to us, that didn't help at all. Basically, what we learned is that there's a little metal bar at the bottom middle of the seat (almost at the base of the seat, in the front). It's a metal clip that resembles an airplane seat belt clip. To tighten the straps, you have to pull up on the metal bar/clip with one hand and pull on that section of the strap, while at the same time putting your other hand behind the car seat where the "slack" in the straps is and using that hand to pull the straps as tight as you need them. Some people say it helps to do this while having only the chest clip strapped; we found this to be true. Two things to note about this: you usually have to adjust the straps every time you get in the car, and the metal clip, at least in our cars, is wedged between the car seat and the backseat. So although we have figured out how to tighten the straps, the Radian is not known for being the most user-friendly car seat.
(3) Finally, we won't talk about the long nights that my wife made me install the seats. We just won't. My only advice on that is to watch the video instructions that come with the instruction booklet (through the QR reader on your smartphone), google, google, google, and beer, beer, beer. Then, once you think you have it installed, definitely don't forget to have a local fireman (or two or three) check your work.
Basically, the Radian makes you feel like it's possible to get close to being Parent of the Year for buying a steel-framed car seat, until you realize that you have no idea to use it. And then slowly, you learn how to use it, and then you feel kind of awesome again.
UPDATED JUNE 2015 after traveling with the Radian on six airplane legs with one rambunctious toddler:
I recently traveled on six flights with the Radian and wanted to update my review to offer some observations and tips about flying with it. For starters, I had no idea what to expect and the whole idea of hauling the carseat around the airport and installing it in the plane was previously daunting, but it was actually a relative breeze. This section is lengthy, so read this only if you’re planning on using the Radian for an airplane trip; otherwise, you’ll gouge your eyes out from boredom.
1) I highly, highly recommend buying two straps to attach to the back of the seat so that you can carry it through the airport like a backpack. On the back of the Radian, there are three hooks at the top and two at the bottom, so you'll want to choose the inner two hooks on the top so that the straps are symmetrical; ignore the random hook on the left outer side. The hooks from top to bottom are 19 inches apart so you'll need straps that are at least a little bit longer than that. We had much success with a set of “Nylon Backpack Straps (abrasion resistant 400D diamond grid ripstop nylon straps)” from Amazon (under $10 for a set of two straps). After researching straps for about an hour, including Diono’s straps, and realizing that we were not about to carry the 400-pound Radian and our sizable toddler through several airports if the straps broke, we decided to go with the “Nylon Backpack Straps” because of what we read about some people’s Diono brand straps breaking unexpectedly.
2) Once you get the straps, plan your other luggage accordingly. The woman’s smile on the Radian brochure must be photoshopped, because it's not a fun experience to carry the Radian, but with two straps, it’s bearable. My wife, who is fairly tall and strong, carried the seat like a backpack for just one of our legs, and her shoulders were mildly sore, but nothing too bad. Mine were not sore after carrying the carseat for the other legs of our trip. But it’s still a heavy and unwieldy carseat, even as a backpack, so I would recommend as little carry-on luggage as possible, and for what you must carry on, wheels and/or backpack straps are a good idea. (This was especially true for my wife, who now can only carry my son on her hip because he's now about 1/3 of her weight and half her height. Side-hip toddler carrying is an impossibility when carrying the Radian as a backpack.) For our first trip (4 legs), we had two very large tote bags as our carry-ons and that did not make things easy. For our second trip (2 legs), we checked everything but the kitchen sink/my wife's purse, so that made things much easier.
3) Find your Radian manual and read about how to fold the carseat. It’s extremely easy after you’ve done it once, so that's why a practice run is a good idea. We have two Radians, so we just took one out of the car we weren’t driving to the airport, and folded up this one. If you can't practice on your Radian beforehand, know these things:
(a) You'll need to get on your knees on the ground to fold up this sucker, so plan your outfit accordingly. (I did not do this. To the skycaps who got a show, I apologize.)
(b) The most important thing is to fish out the little red strap with white Velcro. This is located between the chest straps and is accessible through the little slots of fabric. This red strap is what folds over onto itself to keep your Radian folded up while your carry it. Once you fold the Radian (also a bit tricky—you have to push down on two small red levers located on the bottom, back side of the seat), thread the red Velcro strap through the bar underneath the seat, and attach the red Velcro strap back onto itself. This is explained in the manual except the red Velcro strap part was very hard to see on the manual's picture. The first photo I have attached shows the red Velcro strap undone, and the second photo shows the red Velcro strap holding the Radian folded into place (and the third photo is the same as the second but with the entire folded Radian in view).
(c) Consider bringing a few rubber bands to tie together all the random straps that are in the back of the seat. No big deal if you don't bring them, but you'll have lots of straps hitting you and possibly dragging on the ground and generally causing mayhem.
BOARDING THE PLANE:
1) Of course, if you can and want to, board during "pre-board." This is for passengers who need additional assistance or who are traveling with small children--usually additional assistance comes first and then small children, but some airlines lump them together. In any case, this occurs before even the million milers can board, so you'll have plenty of needed time to get situated and get the carseat installed.
2) As soon as you get on the plane, find the first friendly looking flight attendant and ask for a seatbelt extender. You'll need this whether you're installing forward-facing or rear-facing. Also: clarify with the flight attendant that it’s for the carseat, unless you want him or her to stare you up and down to decide whether you need a seatbelt extender.
A note on traveling with the Radian but doing infant-in-arms: if you did not purchase an airplane seat for your child but are traveling with the Radian, it DOES fit in the overhead bins and would even have enough room on the top of the seat for any small luggage. I read online that in order for this to work--being allowed to put the Radian in the overhead bin instead of gate-checking it--you need to follow the high school locker room rule: keep your eyes down. Quickly and calmly heave the Radian into the overhead bin and then sit down in your seat and keep your mouth shut. I did this on one leg of our second trip with the young'un and there were no problems. I felt okay with using the overhead bin space because that was my only "carry on" item and it's about the size of a big rollerboard; my wife had only a small under-seat carry-on--her purse. Also, I've read that gate-checking is probably fine, but I personally don't like that you can't see if the luggage handlers throw (or accidentally drop) the carseat; if that were to happen, I always worry that this could cause damage or render the seat unsafe or unusable. Finally, and importantly, bringing the carseat as a "carry on" instead of gate-checking it also creates the possibility that for those of you flying with an under-2-year-old, you can use the seat if there ends up being an open seat. Now, we know this almost never happens on oversold airplanes these days, so if you want to have even a remote chance of this happening (it happened to us on one of our legs!), book the window and aisle seats of a three-across section as close to the back of the plane as possible. This is because the middle seats in the back of the plane tend to fill up last. Then, when you're at the airport, kindly ask a gate agent if the middle seat can be "blocked" out for you--it will be filled if needed, but it will be the LAST seat to be filled.
REAR-FACING OR FORWARD-FACING?
We did both. We really liked with forward-facing that the seat had a good angle relative to the bottom seat cushion, and that our young’un had lots of room for his legs. He had plenty of room in economy comfort on two of the legs of our first trip (which we splurged on because we wanted to be sure we had enough room for the seat). On the downside, on the trip legs that were NOT economy comfort, forward-facing allowed our young’un to kick the seat in front of him, and he's too young to understand the "golden rule," so we flipped him to rear-facing for those segments.
With rear-facing, the obvious disadvantage is that the carseat is bracing up against the seat in front of it--see fourth photo. This was the case on our first trip, but oddly on our second trip (same airline and same aircraft), the carseat just grazed the seat in front of it but didn't press against it. In either case, however, the close distance between the Radian and the seat in front of the Radian means that the person's movement will move the carseat, and possibly wake your child during a nap. It also means the person can’t recline the seat. We have read online some horror stories about people being angry that they can’t recline their seat, and we decided that if the person in front of us said anything pre-flight, we would offer to turn the seat to forward-facing but mention that there might be some kicking that we aren’t able to control well. Fortunately, we got kids in front of our son those times, and they never even tried to recline their seat. The rear-facing angle is also very upright. (The fourth photo also shows the angle of the Radian in rear-facing mode.) Therefore, I'm not sure how well a very young infant would fare in a Radian in coach (whether rear-facing or forward-facing), due to the fairly steep upright angle of the seat.
1) IT FIT. The Radian easily fit both forward-facing and rear-facing, and we were even able to have the armrest down. I feared we would have to gate-check it, but thanks to the Radian’s narrow frame, we had no problems there.
2) Installation (both forward-facing and rear-facing) was surprisingly simple and quick. After you have the seat belt extender attached, thread the seat belt through while your knee is on the seat (in order to get the most leverage and tightest fit possible). If you have another adult with you, that person can wrangle your young’un in the aisle seat while you are working on the window seat with the carseat.
3) We were never able to get a super tight fit, meaning the seat would move around a little if we pushed on it, but we felt that this was less important in an airplane than in a car.
4) Un-installing the seat is equally easy. Lest we had to wait for the entire plane to deplane before we got off, we just used the time waiting at the gate before deplaning began to take our young’un out of the seat and into one parent’s arms while the other one of us undid the airplane seatbelt and folded up the carseat while the carseat rested in our lap. Very quick and simple. One time we didn’t have enough time to fold up the carseat before we had to deplane, so I just carried it off the jetway and folded it on the floor of the terminal. It was heavy but definitely manageable for a short distance.
One final tip: If your child is old enough to grip food and bring it to his mouth, I also highly recommend bringing along a Munchkin “Click LockDeluxe Snack Catcher” filled with your child’s favorite snack, and then looping it around the harness with the “Baby Buddy Secure-A-Toy.” This way, you won’t be worried about a snack rolling down several rows while your child screams for his food.
All in all, air travel with the Radian was pretty much a breeze. If you do nothing else, buy two shoulder straps to carry it and bring your Diono manual in case you need to refer to it while traveling (whether to fold the seat or install it into a rental car or an unfamiliar car). Safe travels!