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Hands-on Gear Review

Thule Chariot Cougar 2 Review

Top Pick Award
Price:   $790.00 List | $629.99 at Amazon - 20% off
Pros:  Versatile activity attachments, enclosed seating
Cons:  Hard to stow, difficult to reach brakes, no car seat compatiblity
Bottom line:  Really cool for outdoor adventures, that is surprisingly easy to navigate
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Thule

The Skinny

The Thule Chariot Cougar 2 does not look like the other double options in our review, and that is because it is not like any other option in our review. This winner for Top Pick for Outdoor Activities is a great option for those parents who like to "do"; it is not a product for the faint of heart or those looking for a casual stroll about town. This product offers just about everything the active parent or weekend warrior might be looking for in order to incorporate their little ones in all their outdoor passions. Whether your hobby is running, biking, or even skiing, the Cougar is the right stroller for the job. It is a highly versatile product that has loads of convenience and comfort features that will leave your little riders happy and safe in their cozy Chariot ready for adventure.

Update — February 2017
Thule has released a new line of Chariot strollers to replace the Chariot Cougar 2. Read more about the new Chariot Cross 2 below.


RELATED REVIEW: The top double strollers of 2017: Tandem and side-by-side

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
72
$650
Editors' Choice Award
An ultimate side-by-side double stroller serving double duty as a jogger for older babies
70
$1,100
Editors' Choice Award
Versatile seating stroller that grows with family and is easy to push and turn
70
$710
Top Pick Award
Awesome all-terrain option that is easy to push and jog with
64
$450
Good option for those who value lightweight and small over ease of pushing
62
$650
A good pick for parents with infant twins that is easy to push and turn
61
$650
Quality option, but limited functionality when used with car seats and adapter
60
$790
Top Pick Award
Really cool for outdoor adventures, that is surprisingly easy to navigate
60
$450
Average stroller that is hard to push and keep on track
59
$700
Not terrible for what it is, but it's harder to use and push
57
$280
Best Value Award
Best Bang for the Buck with lots of nice features that make it easy to use
56
$650
Heavy and harder to use with disappointing second seat functionality
55
$200
Best Value Award
Best on a budget that is easy to push and turn even in small spaces
54
$250
Limited functionality, but best sit and stand in the review
53
$500
Strange seating leaves second child without space or visibility
50
$300
Doesn't match the quality of similar strollers making it harder to push and turn
44
$300
Heavy inline option that is frustrating to move and turn
43
$220
Longer footprint makes it hard to navigate with unequal seating features
41
$180
Difficult to use inline with hard to use storage and lower quality materials

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Juliet Spurrier, MD
Mom-in-Chief
BabyGearLab

Last Updated:
Saturday
February 18, 2017

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New Chariot Cross 2 vs. Old Cougar 2


The new Chariot Cross 2 replaces and matches the abilities of the Cougar 2 as a fantastic multi-sport stroller, ready for jogging, skiing, biking, or strolling. Most of the changes have to do with the level of convenience and usability. The new Cross 2 has many upgraded features that should make it a more comfortable ride for kids and more user friendly for parents. These changes include a handlebar that adjusts to more than just two positions, reclining seats, and a redesigned adjustable suspension. The basket on the Cross 2 has a new clip that locks it into place when it is folded up. The adjustable tracking method, which was one of our least favorite parts of the Cougar 2, has been changed and hopefully improved. There are other changes that you can check out at Thule's website. Below you can see the Chariot Cross 2 on the left and the older Chariot Cougar 2 on the right.
 

Hands-on Review of Cougar 2


We are currently testing the new Chariot Cross 2. In the meantime, our review below of the Cougar 2 should give you a pretty good idea of the product's performance, since the two are so similar.

The chart below is a comparison of the overall score for the Chariot Cougar 2 compared to the overall scores for the other strollers tested in this review.


The information provided below includes details on the Chariot Cougar and how it performed during testing in each metric. Individual metric scores were used to compute the overall score for the Cougar.

The Cougar 2 didn't just impress us, our sister site OutdoorGearLab, tested the Cougar 2 in their bike trailer review and it earned their Editors' Choice Award. It was also a finalist in our own jogging stroller review, where it won the Top Pick Award for Versatility. The range of accolades for the Cougar speaks to it not just a capable double-stroller for your babies, but it can serve as the year-round adventure vehicle for the outdoor family for many years.

Ease of Use


The Chariot earned a 5 of 10 for ease of use with some features and functionality that vary from the norm given its overall different design and intended uses. Four other strollers in the review also earned 4s in this metric, so it has plenty of company in this spot.


The UPPAbaby Vista Double earned a high score in this metric with an 8. Phil and Teds Dot, a hard stroller to use, earned the low score of 3.

The fold on the Chariot is initiated by pulling the red release levers on both sides.
The fold on the Chariot is initiated by pulling the red release levers on both sides.

Fold and Unfold


The Chariot requires two hands to fold, or disassemble. The fold itself can range between 3 and 13 steps to complete depending on if you go with a straight forward fold, or the smaller more compact version where you remove the wheels, handle bar, and storage bin. If your trunk space is small, or you are looking to put it in a back seat, the extra parts will need to be removed. This can be a chore and time consuming, not to mention you now have multiple parts to keep track of. If you stick with the traditional fold it is pretty easy and quick to fold. It is the same for the unfold. It is easy if you do the standard fold, or it is difficult if you go for the more compact fold. It is once again between 3-13 steps and it requires a lot of squatting and bending to put it all back together, almost as if you are reassembling it.

The brakes on the Chariot are somewhat hidden under the storage bin and even with the bin folded up  they can be hard to find with just your foot. It would be difficult to hit the brakes quickly if you needed to.
The brakes on the Chariot are somewhat hidden under the storage bin and even with the bin folded up, they can be hard to find with just your foot. It would be difficult to hit the brakes quickly if you needed to.

Brakes


The brakes are more difficult than most to set and release, we found that the frame and storage bin sort of get in the way of pushing the pedal. We often ended up kicking the frame when searching for the brake. The brakes are single action, but they are not sandal foot friendly. Once set the brakes have more play in them than we would have expected from an adventure product, wiggling about 1.5 inches. The sliding resistance for these brakes on a hill is very good compared to the competition.

The bin on the Chariot is huge and holds a lot  but you aren't going to be able to fit a giant bag inside thanks to the metal frame.
The bin on the Chariot is huge and holds a lot, but you aren't going to be able to fit a giant bag inside thanks to the metal frame.

Storage


The storage on this product is a medium to large sized bin that sits off the back of the product. This bin is a bag like pouch that hangs off the back and is easily accessible from the top. Our big diaper fit easily inside with room to spare. The only downside to such a large bin, and its easy access location, would be putting too much in the bin and potentially tipping the ride over backwards. It also has a large mesh pocket on the back of the seat for quick access items like phones, wallets, and keys. Some testers felt the ample storage almost made up for the lack of reclining seats.

The back mesh pocket on the Chariot is large and runs the full length of the back of the stroller.
The back mesh pocket on the Chariot is large and runs the full length of the back of the stroller.
For passengers the Chariot offers two inside mesh pockets, one on each side. While the pockets are large and will probably fit just about anything a passenger might want to travel with, we suspect riders will not be able to reach the pockets when buckled in. Sure it's better to have a pocket than not have one, but it might be frustrating for passengers who want their toys while riding. There is also a large mesh pocket on the back of the seat as well.

There is an additional sun cover for the Chariot that can be used with or without the full vinyl front.
 

Sunshade


The Chariot doesn't have a traditional sunshade like the other products in our review. There is no pop open adjustable canopy with some kind of SPF rating or optional kick out visor. Instead the Chariot is a completely enclosed travelling bubble that has more of a zip on cover that doubles as a sunshade and weather block offering protection from the elements as well as additional privacy. The canopy is made of a mesh layer and top vinyl layer that are both see thru and act as a roof and giant peek-a-boo window. Children are easy to see and are protected from debris. The shade can be used as mesh or vinyl only, or a combination of the two. Some of our little testers didn't like being zipped in and had difficulty accepting this configuration leading to difficulty using any of the shade or wind screen options at all. Something to consider if your little one doesn't like enclosed spaces or small enclosures.

The Chariot has a nice 5 point harness that is easy to use with no rethread for shoulder height adjustment.
The Chariot has a nice 5 point harness that is easy to use with no rethread for shoulder height adjustment.

Harness


The Chariot has an easy to adjust 5-point harness. The harness has an adjustable crotch strap and variable shoulder height straps. Putting the harness on and off is relatively easy, but the buckle can feel sort of stiff. Previous incarnations of the Chariot used to modify for a one seat option where the harness could be used in the middle of the ride. The new version of this stroller does not seem to have this option, and both harnesses stay put in their side-by-side locations.

Each passenger in the Chariot has their own stow pocket for snacks and treasures. The pockets are large  but most babies will be unable to reach the pockets when buckled in.
Each passenger in the Chariot has their own stow pocket for snacks and treasures. The pockets are large, but most babies will be unable to reach the pockets when buckled in.

Seat


The Cougar does not offer adjustable leg rests, but instead has open leg room that extends to the front of the product. Passengers sit in this stroller with their legs extended in front of them, which is probably a cozy way to travel, but jiggling over rough terrain could cause little legs to migrate to the middle. This leg rest arrangement might be a bigger asset if the seat backs reclined. However, these seats do not recline at all, something testers felt was a major drawback and little ones seem dissatisfied with as well. This is probably a safety issue given the high level of activity this product is likely to be used for. It is probably risky to have little one lying down when using the ride for skiing or biking, but it does mean there are less options for comfort than other products. The other gripe our testers had was that the two seats have no "divider" like many of the other options in this review. This means little ones ended up vying for the most space and several disagreements about who was touching whom.

Ease of Setup





This product was so easy to setup. It comes with great instructions that are simple and clear with actual photos instead of illustrations. It offers various language options, but all are in their separate sections in the book so it isn't confusing during setup. It took us right around 11 minutes to get this product out of the box and on the road. This easy to assemble ride required no tools.

The rubber front swivel wheels on the Chariot helped it earn a high score for maneuverability.
The rubber front swivel wheels on the Chariot helped it earn a high score for maneuverability.

Maneuverability


The Chariot earned a 9 of 10 for maneuverability. This is the highest score in the group tying with the Thule Urban Glide 2 and the BOB Revolution Flex Duallie.


The lows for the group were 3s earned by the Chicco Cortina Together and both Graco models we looked at. We don't think it is a coincidence that all three of these low scoring strollers have dual front wheels made of plastic.

For maneuvering on hard surfaces this product pushes and turns easily, even one handed. The wide back wheels did catch on some of the tighter spots in the course, but overall it was easy to move and turn in open spaces. While it might have trouble with narrow doorways or tight turns, that isn't what this product is designed for. This is not the product for small cafes and shopping, it is good for the great outdoors where space is unlimited and tight spaces are rare.

The front wheels on the Chariot are swivel  but can be locked in place for easier pushing over uneven terrain.
The front wheels on the Chariot are swivel, but can be locked in place for easier pushing over uneven terrain.

The large rubber air filled tires were good on grass and relatively good in gravel. This product offers a wider ability to move on different terrains than most of the competition, and while it might have had difficulty with the deeper gravel, it still managed to move across everything with relative ease compared to the more traditional strollers.

With larger rear wheels and a low center of gravity this product did better on curbs and stairs than most of the competition. Going up backwards was fairly easy and the large handlebar makes it easier to shift where you need it to make it up.

Folding the Chariot the simple way  with wheels on  doesn't make it all that smaller. The wheels can be removed to help it fit in smaller places.
Folding the Chariot the simple way, with wheels on, doesn't make it all that smaller. The wheels can be removed to help it fit in smaller places.

Weight and Folded Size


The Chariot is a different kind of stroller than any other in this review and the additional features included to make it worthy of going off the beaten path are also some of what makes it a heavier product than most of the competition. It certainly is not going to be the best product for city living with bus transportation, but it wasn't designed for that use and it makes no apologies about this. Given all of this you might expect the Chariot to be a big beast that is heavy and cumbersome, but on the contrary this product weighs in at just 31 pounds, which is a pretty mean feat given its design.


This weight puts it on par with the competition, and lower than the average of 32.2. The heaviest stroller in the group is the Baby Jogger City Select Double with a weight of 37.8 pounds. The lightest is the Joovy Caboose Ultralight Graphite at 23.4 pounds.

The rear wheels on the Chariot are a quick release and can easily be removed for folding  fitting into small spaces  or adding other types of kits (skiing).
The rear wheels on the Chariot are a quick release and can easily be removed for folding, fitting into small spaces, or adding other types of kits (skiing).
The Chariot measures at around 31,300 cubic inches when folded. It does take up more space than most strollers and will likely fill most trunks without room to spare, and some trunks may be unable to close. It can becomes smaller when folded if you remove the wheels and storage bin, but the ability to keep the bin on is one of the nice features about the fold. However, it is nice to know that if you need to, you can remove the wheels and bin to potentially get the product to fit in smaller spaces.

We've put our own Chariot through its paces on lots of adventures and the quality shines through in how well it has withstood the beating.
We've put our own Chariot through its paces on lots of adventures and the quality shines through in how well it has withstood the beating.

Quality


For quality the Chariot earned a 8 of 10 tying with the BOB and the UPPAbaby.


The highest score in the group is 9 earned by the Chariot's little brother the Thule Urban Glide 2. The low for the group is 3, a score shared by the Baby Trend Sit N' Stand Double and the Graco Ready2Grow LX.

The vinyl cover is thick and feels durable  and the zipper runs smooth without a hiccup.
The vinyl cover is thick and feels durable, and the zipper runs smooth without a hiccup.
The fabric on the Chariot is very heavy and durable for everything the outdoors might throw at it. It offers rubberized reinforcement on the footrest and the bottom of the basket. It looks likes the edge banding on the door might snag, but the window vinyl is much sturdier than expected. This product also offers reflective accents on portions of the ride, and some of the literature suggests parts might even glow in the dark. We did not test the glow factor. The fabric is fitted to the frame tightly where is should be, and loose where it needs to be. It looks like it is stitched in a way that will wear well over time and withstand whatever abuse the great outdoors has to offer.

The frame is a simple aluminum tube frame that is pretty minimalistic in looks and function. It is sturdy and doesn't have any connections or joints that flex or cause problems. While the frame may feel very utilitarian, also has a lot to offer that might end up feeling cluttered instead of versatile. The stroller has a visor, rain cover, bug screen, snack pouches, side vents, and removable padded seat bottoms.

The large back wheels are rubber and spoked. They are very nice quality like those you'd find on a higher end bicycle.
The large back wheels are rubber and spoked. They are very nice quality like those you'd find on a higher end bicycle.
The back wheels are larger than the front wheels on this product, and both are removable for other accessories depending on how you plan to use the product. The back wheels are the largest in the group we reviewed at 12 inches. They have metal rims with metal spokes that are wrapped with pneumatic rubber tires. The front wheels are significantly smaller, and closer to what we found on the other products in our review. They are plastic wheels, with foam filled plastic tires.

The Chariot uses high end materials and has a nice attention to detail.
The Chariot uses high end materials and has a nice attention to detail.
The handlebar on the Chariot extends the length of the back of the product and can flip over to adjust the height. The diameter of the bar itself is relatively narrow compared to the competition, but isn't too small. The padding is nice and comfortable, but has a strange section in the middle of the bar that isn't covered at all. The bar is easy to adjust, but it does need to be removed from the stroller and flipped, as opposed to some of the easier adjustable models that telescope or rotate.

The Chariot has adjustable suspension and is only 1 of 2 strollers in the review to offer this.
The Chariot has adjustable suspension and is only 1 of 2 strollers in the review to offer this.
This is only one of two models in our review that has adjustable suspension; the BOB is the other. The leaf springs in the rear of this product can be changed based on the weight of the passengers. They can be altered from pretty soft to firm - 0 - 75 lbs. There are no shocks on the front of this product. The cross bar located under the front of the seat also has added padding for the little legs. The removable seat pad is a nice addition that increases the overall comfort of riding in this product.

Ease of Car Seat Attachment


This stroller does not accept any infant car seats. It does however have both an infant sling and baby support system available for purchase. Infant sling: Somewhat difficult to install and it seems like really young/small children would almost be too small. Both items are fairly simple to install, but the baby supporter seems like it would work better than the sling.

The Chariot has optional infant sling and baby positioner (sold separately) that make it more infant friendly and viable for twins infant.
The Chariot has optional infant sling and baby positioner (sold separately) that make it more infant friendly and viable for twins infant.

Twins


This product can be used with twins and has inserts for baby positioning and infant slings. It does not accept any infant car seats and there are adventures you shouldn't take with infants like jogging, skiing or anything that moves over uneven terrain. That being said, it could be a good product for twins if your goals do not include transporting in car seats. If car seat transportation is a must have you could pair this stroller with the Joovy Twin Roo+, a double frame stroller that accepts a variety of infant car seat brands, is lightweight, ahs 4 cup holders, and is very budget friendly at $130 list price.

The standard Chariot comes ready to stroll.
The jogging kit for the Chariot turns the stroller into a 3 wheel stroller ideal for jogging.
The Chariot can also be used as a bicycle trailer with the purchase of the bike trailer kit.
A skiing kit can be purchased for added adventures with babies.
 

Best Applications


The photos above show the versatility of the Chariot with the strolling wheels, jogging kit, bicycle kit, and skis.

The best application for the Chariot is for outdoor activities where a safe and contained ride is necessary to ensure a fun experience for little passengers. It has features and attributes that help keep passengers cozy and happy during any adventure. The leaf spring suspension and large rear wheels mean little ones will ride in comfort while parents get to have a little fun. The reflective fabric and various mesh and vinyl door options mean they will arrive in style and dry. With the ability to jog behind, attach to a bike, or even attach skis, this product has everything you need for getting out and about in the great wide world with your kids in tow.

Value


This product is a little on the pricey side, but even though it is more expensive than some of the competition, it really does bring something different to the table to justify the cost. If you are an adventurous outdoor person, it might be difficult to make it through childhood without this little helper by your side. Given that it will mean a pretty big personal sacrifice to change hobbies after children, it might just be a cost you can figure out how to afford to maintain a lifestyle that will keep you healthy and sane juggling life and parenthood. If the two options are avoiding the trails, or saving for a stroller you can use to stay active, most parents will find a way to figure out the cost. With a list price of $790 it is on par with the lower scoring Select Double and it costs significantly less than the UPPAbaby with a list price of $1060 and no off road adventure capabilities.

The Thule Chariot Cougar 2 is a great stroller for parents who love the outdoors and want to keep exploring it with their little ones. These riders are 7.5 months old  15 lbs.  and 12 months  18 lbs.  28 inches tall.
The Thule Chariot Cougar 2 is a great stroller for parents who love the outdoors and want to keep exploring it with their little ones. These riders are 7.5 months old, 15 lbs., and 12 months, 18 lbs., 28 inches tall.

Conclusion


The Chariot is a sporty looking stroller that offers so much versatility you won't know which activity to do first. Should you run? Ski? Bike? It doesn't matter which, because the Chariot can do them all. Little passengers will ride in comfort and style with a padded removable seat and padded harness, adjustable leaf spring suspension, and ample leg room. This product has a nice large bin for storage, and it is easy for little ones to get in and out of. While it might not be the best product for city life or occasional trips to the store, it is the best for trips in the wild where kids can see nature whizzing by in style. We liked the Chariot for all it had to offer, and even for what it didn't. If your life demands adventure, then our Top Pick is likely your only pick.

Other Versions and Accessories


Thule offers various Chariot options, including the Cougar, CX2, Chinook, and Cheetah. We did not review the other models.

The Chariot infant sling is costly  but it is very well constructed and sturdy.
The Chariot infant sling is costly, but it is very well constructed and sturdy.
Thule offers 6 different conversion kits depending on the kind of activity you enjoy, including a Jogging Kit and the Thule Bicycle Trailer Kit. There are accessories for comfort, convenience that include an Thule infant sling and Thule Baby Supporter. Conveniences include holders for cups and bottles. Storage accessories include a cargo rack and parent's tray.

Video


The following video from Thule features their single Chariot, however, this gives you a good idea of the product great quality, fit, and function.
Juliet Spurrier, MD & BabyGearLab Team

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Most recent review: February 18, 2017
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