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When my wee one was nearing her first birthday, we decide that it was the right time for her to make her first visit to her grandparents in Hong Kong. We had put it off up until this point as we felt she was too young to take on a long haul journey, and we were too tired to contemplate the logistics of travelling with all the baby paraphernalia. The main item that we needed to purchase to make our air travel and stay in Hong Kong as easy and stress free as possible, was a decent buggy. With this in mind, we went in search of the 'perfect' travel buggy. It had to be lightweight and compact but also robust enough to endure the rigours of air travel. The buggy also had to be fairly simple to fold and open up so that we could travel easily with it on Hong Kong's extremely busy public transport system.
I did a bit of research on the internet and the reviews for the Maclaren range of buggies (or strollers as they are often called now) were quite impressive. I also have friends and relatives who highly recommended them so on this basis, I had decided that this was the brand that I was going for. Maclaren buggies have been around since 1965 and are sold in over 50 countries, which just shows how popular they are and that they have stood the test of time. They have a range of buggies, including the Volo, Triumph, Quest and Techno. We quickly eliminated the Volo from our list of possibilities; this is their most basic and cheapest model and it does not recline at all so wasn't suitable for my one year old who was still taking frequent naps. The Techno, which is suitable from birth, is a sturdier model but also didn't fit our requirements, as it was a bit bigger and heavier than the rest, so would be more difficult to travel with. This narrowed our choice down to two models: the Triumph and the Quest. There is very little difference between these models and they both seemed to fit the bill, as they were light and compact. Both have multiple seat positions, so that your child can sit up and see what's going on around them when awake, but also can have a little nap when tired. The Quest is lightweight at only 5.8kg but still fairly sturdy looking. The triumph is slightly smaller and a little lighter at 5.2kg, but isn't quite as stylish looking as the Quest. Now as a rule I am not fussy about appearances and as long as the item is 'fit for the purpose' I am happy. But as we were visiting one of the most sophisticated, trend-setting cities in the world, we (or rather my hubby), decided that we should 'look the part'. On this basis, we opted for the trendy looking Maclaren Quest in a smart black/scarlet design. It also came ready assembled which was a bonus. At that time, which was 3 years ago, it cost us £100 from our local Pramcentre. Compared to other buggies this is not cheap as you can buy one from about £30. However, I think that the extra cost is well worth it as quality of the Maclaren Quest is far superior to a lot of these cheaper models out there.
MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE MACLAREN QUEST BUGGY
So off we went to Hong Kong, where the Maclaren Quest was to be put through the ultimate test: to survive being tossed around by airline staff on the long haul journey and to endure a month in Hong Kong where it's 'compactness and usability' would be tested to the limits. As it happened, they allowed us to take the buggy on the plane as it was so small which was
great, as it meant we could literally wheel our sleeping child right up to the door of the plane. We have travelled by air with this buggy several times since then and we have always been allowed to take it on board with us due to it's compact size. At the other end of the journey, we were also pleasantly surprised to find that the buggy had already been unfolded by a kind member of staff. This is one of the plus points about having a mass produced buggy such as Maclarens. Air staff are always familiar with this model, which means they are able to help with folding and opening the buggy for you. (This came in very handy the following year when I was travelling alone with 3 kids. As I stumbled off the plane with my 3 sleepy children after a 12 hour journey I was extremely relieved to see that the buggy had already been opened up for me, ready to bundle my wee one into.)
Hong Kong has an extremely efficient, but incredibly busy public transport system, so we were somewhat nervous about how we were going to manage to fit the buggy in when taking the metro or bus. I have used a number of prams and buggies through the years, including reputable brands such as Mamas and Papas and Silver Cross, and some of them have been an absolute nightmare to fold. However, we need not have worried. The Maclaren Quest is the simplest buggy to fold and open up. The company states that the buggy has a one handed fold mechanism and I would say that this is an accurate claim. It simply involves kicking up the back lever, pressing down the side lever and then pushing the handles forward to fold in a locking position. It is that easy, and it can be done with one hand while holding your baby with the other. I have tried it and it IS possible. To open it up again, you just release the catch at the side, pull up the handles and press down on the back lever. Again, this can all be managed with one hand. I would say that the simplicity of this folding mechanism is one of the best things about this buggy and it proved to be very handy in Hong Kong, as we literally had to fold and open it up several times a day. It is also nice and compact when folded which came in handy when we had to squeeze into the tiniest available space on the Metro. It also had to be folded several times when we were eating out at busy restaurants, as space was limited.
My Quest buggy has proved to be just as handy back in the UK. Once folded, it fits in to the smallest spaces and I have managed to even squeeze it in at the seat alongside me and my wee one when travelling by bus. It also has an adjustable carry handle which allows you to sling it over your shoulder once folded. This is handy when you need your two hands free: one to hold on to your child and the other to pay the bus fare. For those travelling by car, the buggy is only 104cm in length when folded so can easily fit into even the smallest car boot.
This buggy is a dream to steer in and out of the crowds and has been put to the test in Hong Kong's busiest shopping malls. It has lockable swivel wheels, which I prefer to use unlocked. A lot of buggies seem to have a life of their own when it comes to steering, but the Maclaren Quest actually seems to want to conform and follow the direction that you are going in, which is an absolute godsend when trying to weave through hundreds of people. The handles are foam covered which makes it comfortable to hold and push the buggy. I thought this was a nice touch and it does prevent sweaty hands sliding about in hot weather. The handle height is 104cm and not adjustable. This has been perfect for me at 5' 2" but I do have taller friends who equally love their Maclaren buggy so I assume that the handle height has not been an issue for them.
I would say that this buggy isn't really suitable if you are intending to buy a lot of heavy items. There is a very small mesh shopping basket underneath that you can use for a few small items of shopping. But it isn't advisable to hang too many heavy bags from the handles as it does tip over when your child gets out of the buggy. On saying that I have, on occasion, got carried away with myself at the supermarket and came out with two heavy shopping bags swinging from the handles, rather than the bread and milk that I initially went in for. The buggy seems to cope well with this and if my little one insists on getting out to walk at this point, then I simply take one of the shopping bags and place it on the seat to balance the whole thing and that seems to work a treat. One issue that I have with the shopping basket is that it is near impossible to access it when the seat is reclined. The basket can only be properly reached from the back end of the buggy so I have found that I have often had to push the seat into a sitting position in order to get anything in or out of it, thereby disturbing my little one from her sleep. I have got round this problem by storing more essential items in the handy pocket that's incorporated into the back of the hood. It's just a nice size to hold a cup/bottle, wipes and keys.
The Maclaren Quest has four seat positions and is said to be suitable from 3 months to 3 years (up to 15kg). In my opinion though, it is more suitable from 6 months when babies can just about sit up unaided as it doesn't lie flat and is only very lightly padded. There is an extendable leg rest that easily pulls out from the seat. I found this useful as it prevented my wee one's legs from dangling mid air when she was still too small to pace her feet on the footrest.
There is a water resistant hood and a rain cover, which can be attached very easily and quickly if caught in a sudden downpour. The rain cover folds flat and fits into the shopping basket. I know that I mentioned earlier that it can be tricky getting items in and out of the basket if the seat is reclined, but the rain cover does slip out easily from the side, as it is very compact and completely flat. The rain cover is surprisingly robust and is still in perfect condition after 3 years of use, which I think is pretty good.
In hot and sunny weather, the hood has proved to be a useful sunshade and adequately protects your child from harmful rays. In fact, even the little viewing window on the hood is UV protective. My little one has always been very snug in her buggy and has often had long naps in it while out and about.
There is a five point harness which is very secure and keeps your child safely in the seat. The harness can also be adjusted as your child grows. I would say the harness buckle is VERY secure and even little Houdini's will find this an impossible one to get out of. In fact it is even tricky for adults to release the catch, although it does become a little less stiff with constant use. There are also
Pictures of Maclaren Quest
reflective accents on the buggy for night time safety.
I do find the brakes on this buggy to be a bit of an issue. The brake should work by pressing down on a little lever with your foot, but I've found this to be quite fiddly and involves inching the wheels forward slightly until in just the right position to allow the brake to be pushed into place. This is hardly ideal and from reading previous reviews it seems that the brake mechanism is a problem with a lot of Maclaren buggies and not just mine. This is something that I think Maclaren should address, as their buggies are superb in so many other aspects.
There is a warning on Maclaren buggies to 'keep children away from moving parts when opening and closing the buggy as risk of serious injury exists'. I would say this is common sense and my children have never had an injury. However there were a few complaints about the safety of the hinges on Maclaren buggies back in 2009 with claims that children had hurt their fingers due to them holding on to the buggy while it was being opened up. Maclaren now offer free hinge covers, which can be ordered from www.maclarenbaby.com. and no proof of purchase is necessary. I requested them and they were delivered to me promptly. The hinge covers are very easy to attach but I have found that they do stop the buggy from locking into a folding position as effectively. I stopped using them for this reason and also because my wee one is older now and will sensibly stand away from the buggy when I am opening or folding it. However, if you have a younger, more impulsive child, I think that they would offer you peace of mind.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
The Maclaren Quest is widely available and is sold at all large nursery stockists including www.pramcentre.com and www.kiddicare.com. It does vary considerably in price so I would shop about. I know that it can be purchased for £112 at www.mothercare.com which includes free delivery and I think that is one of the better deals at the moment. There are also matching accessories available at an extra cost of course. The foot muff is about £40, which I consider to be pretty expensive.
My little one has always been very snug in her buggy and has often had long naps in it while out and about. The challenge now is to persuade her, (and myself if I am being completely honest here), to give it up. She has just reached 4 years old and is of course far too old for a buggy. However, we are still using it occasionally when we are going on longer walks or if I am in a hurry to get somewhere. She is small for her age and about the height of an average 3 year old so I haven't been met with too many disapproving stares. However, I don't drive, so the buggy has been a very essential item for both my child and me and has been very well used in the last 3 years. It is still in great condition and reasonably clean as the covers are removable and washable. It will soon be passed on to her little cousin and I'm sure it will continue to prove its roadworthiness.
I highly recommend the Maclaren Quest buggy, especially for travelling at home or abroad. It is both compact and sturdy and in the long run, is well worth the extra cost, especially if you are planning to use it for more than one child. I quite reluctantly take one star off due to the brake being difficult to operate, as I haven't found it to be a big deal. But I do realise that it might be a bigger issue for others and it is something that Maclaren should address. I do however give the Maclaren Quest a very well earned 4 stars as it is superb buggy, which has stood the test of time.
Many thanks for reading and I hope this review is of some use to you if you are buggy hunting.
This review also appears on dooyoo under my user name maggieleung.