Retailer: Chariots All-Terrain Pushchairs
++ Exceptional build quality, great performance, nice features
– Seat isn’t very upright, accessories a bit pricey
If you’ve read earlier entries in this blog, you may know that I have a bit of a buggy addiction. In February 2011, I found my Holy Grail everyday pushchair, the Stokke Xplory. However, it sadly isn’t suitable for solid off-road use.
After being disappointed with the iCandy Apple and the Maxi-Cosi Mura, I finally stumbled across the Baby Jogger Summit XC. Here’s my extensive review of this little-known pushchair.Read More
First up, this pushchair is a sexy beast. It feels solidly built and the sporty styling is very pleasing to the eye. The first thing you’ll notice is the enormous sixteen inch rear wheels which are what this pushchair is all about – all-terrain use. You can see by the included photos of me pushing just how massive they are. That said, it is incredibly smooth and easy to push and takes up surprisingly little room in the car when folded. It’s not even particularly unwieldy to carry around.
There is a very simple and easily accessible switch near the front wheel that converts it to fixed mode. This means the front wheel stays straight, protruding out the front, and gives better stability and response over rough ground, though you can’t turn the pushchair anywhere near as easily.
The XC has complete, all-wheel suspension unlike many other so-called all-terrain pushchairs which only apply suspension to the rear.
One of my favourite features is the hood. So many pushchairs don’t provide adequate coverage, but the XC has one of the best I’ve ever seen. It extends in stages not just over the passenger’s head, but partly down in front as well, while still leaving plenty of interior room. None of this is compromised when the seat is reclined because the hood acts independently and the seat has it’s own rear screen for protection. There are mesh panels at the side for ventilation and a viewing window at the top to allow you to keep an eye on your child. When not needed, it firmly collapses without looking bulky.
Baby Jogger is famed for the simple one-handed folding mechanism used on their pushchairs and the XC is no exception. Just pull up the strap inside the seat and it collapses. The downside to this is that the wheels do come into contact with the handlebar on this type of fold. The best solution here is to remove the wheels, which is super easy, and pop them in a carrier bag for cleanliness. There is another slight negative in that if you are using a 3rd-party footmuff, you have to pull it up out of the way to be able to reach the strap. I’m using my old iCandy footmuff so I have to do this, but to be honest it’s not a big deal. There is a matching Baby Jogger footmuff available that has a built-in slit so you can reach the strap.
The seat is very roomy and I can easily imagine a pre-schooler sitting inside quite comfortably. It reclines to any angle by way of a drawstring release and goes far enough back for a newborn, though I would recommend some kind of padding and/or head support is used in such cases to stop them lolling around. There is a mesh panel at the rear when reclined which can be covered with a drop-down fabric. It’s not the most thickly padded seat, but I have no concerns about comfort, especially as the solid suspension means your child is going to get a smooth ride. The fabric can be removed for cleaning purposes, though I’ve not had any need to do this so far in my ten months of ownership.
Unlike my previous off-roaders, the XC seat can’t be switched to parent-facing. Whilst this is a feature I love in my Xplory, I felt that it wasn’t necessary for rambling around the countryside or strolling along the beach. My son enjoys looking at the scenery when he’s out and about.
I would love it if the seat were more upright. On our first trip out, Sprogzilla was slumped in the seat a bit and clearly not thrilled at being unable to lean forward. As you may be able to tell from some of the photos, I am using the baby insert from my Stokke Xplory to bring him a bit more forward and up. I know some people use cushions to prop their child up in this situation, but it really shouldn’t be necessary.
The handlebar deserves a special mention. It’s not your usual foam affair, instead it’s covered with tough rubber sheathing. I love the secure grip it gives and it feels comfortable to hold for an extended amount of time. For travelling downhill, there is a very useful handbrake which is responsive and effective, this is in addition to the regular footbrake which works as normal. The handlebar is not adjustable unfortunately, apparently this makes the pushchair more stable though I don’t know if that’s just marketing talk. For additional safety, a wrist strap is included in case you the pushchair decides to take off without you!
The basket is a feature often overlooked by manufacturers but frequently important to users. I’m pleased with how deep the one on the XC is, the only slight problem is that it’s a little awkward to squeeze stuff into due to its proximity to the frame at the rear. Thankfully, this can be remedied by undoing the poppers on each side and thus lowering the sides.
There is also a huge mesh storage pocket on the back of the seat. I can easily stuff my bag and coat in it and the elasticated top means nothing will fall out. Also included here is a smaller zipped pocket for valuables. I heartily appreciate it when manufacturers put in extra storage space like this.
The belly bar is an interesting optional accessory. Essentially, it’s a standard bumper bar which attaches to the sides of the seat and you can hang toys from it, or your child can use it to pull up on etc. But it has a surprisingly useful extra function; you can lock it into a variety of different angles so your child can really make the most of it regardless of their age. For instance, at it’s highest setting, Sprogzilla’s toys hang down in front of his face where he can reach them easily. On other bumper bars, the toys hang down by his legs and he tends to ignore them. This would be particularly useful for a younger baby fully reclined in the seat.
Locking the belly bar into the highest or lowest positions also means it doesn’t stick out when the pushchair is folded. When carrying the folded Summit XC it’s handy to grab onto, though I don’t know if you’re supposed to use it for this purpose. You can also unzip and remove the fabric cover which is always useful for any area that regularly comes into contact with sticky fingers. Like the handlebar, the belly bar is coated with a thick layer of durable rubber – no more missing chunks thanks to teething toddlers!
You can also replace the belly bar with a toddler tray so your little one can pop their food/drink/toy somewhere. It’s a little over-priced in my opinion, but it is a nice option for the older child. There is a cup holder which is nice and deep, though it could be wider. The main section is ribbed and quite deeply set so food won’t easily go flying off. One end is hinged so you can swing it to the side without removing it completely – very handy for quickly popping your little one in and out. Because my son is on the short side, the tray does come up quite high, though he doesn’t seem bothered by this. It’s also angled slightly toward the passenger – this is probably to prevent items falling off frontwards, but it does look a little odd not being flat.
I opted to buy the raincover as hey, we live in England! The first thing I noticed is that it is huge! Particularly around the hood area, where it seems it may fit the square design of the older Summit 360 better. It hangs very loosely around the edges of the pushchair and there’s a section near the handlebar that looks like it should secure on somehow but doesn’t. Chariots checked with Baby Jogger and they have confirmed I was definitely sent the correct cover and that the design is as it should be. Luckily we haven’t had to use it often, but it’s a shame it doesn’t fit more snugly – especially as it’s an optional extra you have to pay for.
I feel it is a bit cheeky for Baby Jogger to sell very basic items separately. The raincover is one example, the belly bar is another. Most pushchairs come with these as standard.
So I’ve waxed lyrical about how nice it looks and feels, but does it do the job? Well, a couple of days after it arrived, we took it on a test run to a favourite beach. Pushchairs invariably have trouble on this type of terrain and we saw plenty of parents dragging their buggies backwards across the sand and pebbles under the hot sun. Conversely, I was pushing the XC along forward-facing and though it wasn’t the easiest task in the world, it certainly handled the tricky terrain admirably. For straight stretches, I enabled the fixed front wheel mode and it happily traversed sand dunes and bumpy paths as we walked down to the nearby bird reserve.
I’ve also taken it on plenty of countryside rambles and this is where it really shines. It goes over anything (apart from those annoying stiles and kissing gates!) and provides a really smooth ride for my son. It does everything I could possibly ask for.
Although my primary use for the XC is going off-road, I have taken it on the occasional supermarket trip or wander around town. It’s nimble and light, despite its chunky appearance and certainly doesn’t look out of place in an urban environment.
Important variations in the UK model
I spent a great deal of time looking online for photos of the XC before buying. I noticed that some people owned a gorgeous royal blue version, but could find no UK store that stocked it. After speaking to Chariots, I discovered why. Apparently, the fabrics made for the US market do not meet UK fire safety regulations, so Baby Jogger had to create new ones for the UK. In order to keep costs down, they chose to only offer two colours: red/black and sand/black.
I also noticed that the position of the red colouring on the seat fabric was different, this is because Baby Jogger also create slightly different designs for each country they sell to. I must admit that I prefer the more extensive red colouring on the US models but it’s not a deal breaker.
Potential buyers may have also noticed that the XC is highly praised for supporting a child up to a whopping 75lbs or 34kgs. Check out the details for the UK model however and it says the maximum weight is 33lbs/15kgs. Once again, Chariots cleared things up. The UK model *can* support the same weight as the US model, we just don’t officially test pushchairs for anything more than 15kgs in this country. Thus it can only legally be sold as suitable for up to that limit. Daft, eh?
If you look closely, you’ll noticed that I’m using an iCandy footmuff with the XC. It came with my old Apple pushchair and is such a good colour match for the XC that I decided to keep it for this purpose. Most of my photos have the footmuff attached, usually with the front section removed. In some of the older pictures, you can also see the blue Stokke Xplory booster cushion I use so my son is seated more comfortably.
I am also using a parent console by Sunshine Kids. This is basically a little wire-framed bag that velcros onto the handlebar and gives whoever is pushing a place to put small odds and sods. Baby Jogger do offer their own parent console which has the benefit of a sealed compartment, but it is quite a bit more expensive.
There are several other accessories available for the XC. A child console, which is a bag that goes over the belly bar and does the same function as the parent console. There is a matching footmuff, as mentioned earlier, which looks very similar to the one I’m using but with the added benefit of easy access to the folding strap. And I’ve also seen a very handy looking cooler bag which sits neatly on the frame above the rear wheels – this doesn’t seem to be easily available in the UK however.
The model I have is the 2010 / 2011 edition. A 2012 update has been released, as far as I understand the only difference is some minor cosmetic changes and a re-design of the front wheel enabling you to fine-tune the tracking. This would primarily be useful for those who regularly use it with the front wheel locked for jogging.
The Summit XC is a fantastic pushchair that deserves far more recognition than it currently has. Whilst everyone raves about Baby Jogger’s more mainstream pushchairs, this rugged gem sits un-noticed. Perhaps that’s because its all-terrain use makes it rather specialist, but then I think it is a viable alternative to the ubiquitous Phil and Teds, or even the iCandy’s that you see around all the time. It’s also competitively priced and dare I say it, far better quality (at least compared to the iCandy that I have experience with).
I would also like to say that the customer service from Chariots has been absolutely outstanding and I heartily recommend them if you’re thinking of buying this pushchair in the UK. While they may not initially appear to be the cheapest, they do offer deals when buying accessories such as the raincover and belly bar. Even if you can find a better price elsewhere, I think paying that little bit extra to a retailer who knows their product inside-out and offers solid after-sales is worth every penny.
I hope this review has been helpful, but if you still have questions or would like to request further photos, please leave a comment and I’ll get back to you quickly.