As I have said many times before, I love it when a product is well designed and practical. So often these two things are hard to reconcile, but that only increases their appeal to me when form and function are successfully united.
I was skeptical when I was asked to take a look at booster seats for kids because I am a New Yorker and we really don’t do cars much. During the year, I certainly put in a lot of miles when we jump the pond to visit my wife’s family and mine in Italy, so I agreed because I wanted to see, based on my particular car seat experience, what was so unique about these booster seats.
The sleek design of the Clek oobr booster seat was the first thing I saw when I walked into the coffee shop where I had my hands-on time with this exquisite piece of industrial design. The first thing that came to mind was a racing car’s bucket seats. One of the smart concepts behind the Clek oobr is to make sure that older kids continue to sit in a booster seat and stay safe without feeling foolish that they are in a “kiddie seat”. For me as a parent, on the other hand, after ensuring (above all else) my child’s safety, the most important feature is the ease of installation. I confess that I do not have to go through the daily routine of getting my son into a car and driving him around, nor do I find myself installing and removing car seats and booster seats to make room for passengers or package every day. I only have to worry about that when I rent a car or, as I mentioned, when I am in Italy. Here I was in a New York City coffee shop that I reached via subway so how could I really judge the convenience and safety of a booster seat? Well, it is exactly my occasional use of these devices that gives me a unique perspective that many such users (and I am sure even some daily users) can relate to.
Let me start by saying that I hate car seats. They are an attack on the very essence the male ego as defined by the stereotype of men and worse – Dads – as “Mr. Fix/Install it”. Inevitably, my wife looks at me with that typical female look of scorn as I struggle to get the stupid thing buckled, latched, hooked or whatever into the backseat. I know women think they can do a better job of it, and I am sure they can, so why do they feel it is necessary to send the man out there? Most probably it has to do with savoring the frustration and growing sense of humiliation he feels as he grapples with the straps and levers on this most nefarious contraption. In my case, the humiliation is augmented as the entire car rental agency staff and customers assist the scene. I admit I am not a pro and no matter how many times I do it, I just never get it right. I no longer go with my wife to pick the car up and usually figure I should get there an hour early to make sure no one sees me as I throw out my back working on getting everything into place. It is worse in Italy, especially during the hot summer months when I end up in a pool of sweat and with burns on my knees and thighs from constantly rubbing against the incandescent car doors and metal frame while wrestling the damn thing into place or trying to yank it out when we are at the beach.
This brings me to the feature that made me fall in love with the Clek oobr in terms of practicality. The easy install rigid latch system that allows you to push and secure the seat into place and then easily release it when you need to remove it. The simplicity and wisdom of Mr. Miyagi’s “wax on wax off” teachings applied to a car seat. Indeed, though, that is not all this booster seat offers. I just wanted to let you know my favorite part because as insane as you think I am, now that you have read this far, in my new life as a parent it really is all about the simple things in life. The Clek oobr is not your usual molded plastic and foam booster seat. Crypton super fabric, of the “I am rubber and you are glue” school of thought, allows you wipe the seat clean despite your kid’s best efforts at working the crushed Cheerios into the seat. The back rest (removable so it grows with your kid) protects your kid from side impact vehicle intrusions and made of the same durable and light weight magnesium frame found also in race car bucket seats and luxury car seats confirming my initial observation upon first spotting the seat “from across the room”. And the cherry on top, the recline system so your kid can sleep without looking like Raggedy Ann bobbing around in the back of the car.
So that takes care of the parenting concerns for safety and the male ego’s desire for practicality. The most kid friendly part of the Clek oobr’s structural make up is the comfort of the actually seat which unlike many booster and car seats is made of energy absorbing comfort-cube construction to go easy on your kid’s tushy. So no more, “my butt’s asleep” whining on those long rides. The headrest is height adjustable just like a car seat so that your kid is always well protected and comfortable which is what you would expect from an automotive seat manufacturer like Clek (I’m sorry, did I fail to mention that about them?). They have also added different seat fabrics to add some fun design elements to allow parents and kids to customize the booster seat. Paul Frank Julius and Skurvy prints are available, as well as the more classic solid colors (and an all black version – I assume for us New Yorkers) to get kids to look at this booster seat as a cool car “accessory” and not a kiddie style crimper.
I would certainly get a Clek oobr if I were not living (as I have already said ad nauseum) in a closet. And this is really my only concern about this innovative, sleek (yet ruggedized) take on the booster seat. And it really is something that I would have to seriously consider when deciding whether or not to buy it for my city dwelling needs. I do not like the loaners that rental companies give you for many reasons that I am sure need no explanation. I do in fact, want to purchase a booster seat that I can use whenever renting or traveling and as much as I am in love with the Clek oobr I just cannot justify occupying that amount of space for a smattering of yearly car rentals and it certainly is not coming with me to Italy or any other destination where I may need a car to get around.
Lucky for me (and those who have the same space issues and concerns) I was introduced to the Clek olli and ozzi models – the backless booster seats that are just as easy to install and remove as the Clek oobr with the added bonus of extreme portability. Given all the other pros they have handed down to their younger, yet larger, sibling, I will be certain to get one of these for my rentals and trips to Italy when my son hits the target age, weight and height because they are very light and easy to travel with and to store at home. I will be sure to report back from the war room once my son can tussle with ones of these seats and put it through the extreme in-field testing that only a kids can put any product through – which at the rate he is growing will be very soon!