The Best Travel Crib Review
Which travel crib is the best? After months of testing 5 popular portable cribs, we have the answer. You may be in search of a truly lightweight, compact crib for your travel needs, or perhaps you just need an extra crib to store at the grandparents house. Either way, we have the information you need to make the best decision for your family. We carefully evaluated each one side-by-side and ranked them on five separate rating metrics; weight and size, comfort, ease of use, quality and safety. Read on for a detailed break down of our findings.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Choosing a Travel Crib
When we were setting up our baby shower registry and coming to terms with the seemingly unending list of new gadgets and equipment that would be needed once our daughter was born, everyone told us we had to get one of these little portable beds. Unaware of the many differences in price, manufacturers, styles, accessories, etc., we, like most first-time parents who are admittedly a bit lost and overwhelmed with all of the planning that goes into bringing another human into the world, got the one that all of our friends had, and that was that.
Fast-forward a year. If we had the chance to do it again, we would have likely made a different choice. Here at BabyGearLab, we strive to shine a light into the often foggy arena of choosing baby products so that you won't find yourself in the same kind of point-and-shoot decision making that we did. We'll help you decide if you even need a travel crib, and if so, which model might be right for your budget and intended use. Size and weight, safety of materials, and overall design vary widely from brand to brand and we've spent the time obsessing, researching and testing so you don't have to.
Why Purchase a Travel Crib?
Types of Travel Cribs
The full feature cribs we tested were in general heavier, slightly larger overall, and include additional features such as bassinet attachments and changing pads. The Graco Pack 'n Play On the Go Playard and the 4moms Breeze Playard fall into this category.
Full feature cribs have a larger play area and are sturdier than their minimalist competitors. Both of the models we tested also had an elevated base for the mattress making them a bit warmer when used in houses with un-insulated or drafty floors. They also feature a removable bassinet. The bassinet is a nice feature for use with infants. They are shallow and make getting your child in and out of bed easy which is nice when you are getting up several times a night for feeding and diaper changes during the first few months of life. However, it is important to keep in mind that your child will quickly outgrow the bassinet. Once they reach 20lbs., or can push up into a sitting position on their own, it is time stow the bassinet in the closet. Considering that you will likely be using your this bed for several years, it is important to remember that the bassinet will only be useful for a fraction of the overall life of the product.
The major downside to full feature portable cribs is their weight and size. With weights in the 20 to 30 lbs range, they are NOT easy to travel with. Both full feature cribs we tested were heavy and a bit cumbersome to lug around in airports or hotels.
These cribs are lightweight and fold up into a compact package. Rather than offering many add-on features, they are designed for easy transport and quick setup.
The greatest advantage of a minimalist unit such as the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light is the low weight and compact size. With weights between 12-15lbs, and a size that fits nicely into a compact, tote-able bag, you will not mind carrying these everywhere you go. Setup times were fast for all of the minimalist cribs we tested, furthering there utility. Once set up, these cribs had a lower overall height and a smaller footprint than the full feature cribs we tested. If portability and/or tight spaces (like use in a tent while camping) are factors for you, then the minimalist approach is a great option.
The downside of the minimalist design is lack of durability and features such as a bassinet. It is important to note however, that you do not need a bassinet for safe sleeping with a newborn. The bassinet is convenient but it is perfectly safe for your infant to sleep in a portable crib without one. The use of lighter materials and less substantial structural components is necessary to achieve low weight, but the drawback is less stability and durability.
Other Factors to Consider
OEKO-TEX verified such as the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light. You will pay a premium for high-end materials, and it is often difficult to justify when there is no visible difference between products. But the potential to limit your child's exposure to dangerous chemicals is worth the peace of mind. The Environmental Working Group has a helpful article to help lay people understand the danger of fire retardants in the home.
Babies are messy, and being able to remove the cover of your crib for washing is a feature you will love. Look for a one with an easily removable cover, and mattress sheet. Cribs we tested with this feature include the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light and the Lotus.
Making the Final Decision
When choosing a portable crib, the number one factor should be type of use you intend it for. If you are going to frequently travel by car or air, consider a minimalist set up such as our Editors' Choice the BabyBjorn (pictured below, left). If you are looking for one that will primarily be kept at an alternative location where your child frequently stays, such as their grandparent's house, then a full feature unit may be a good option such as the 4moms Breeze Playard (pictured below, right). It can be folded up and stowed in a closet out of the way when it's not needed. For a full-featured travel crib that isn't as heavy on the wallet, the Graco Pack 'n Play does the job.
Safety Considerations: Structural and Flammability Standards
At BabyGearLab, product safety is always one of our primary concerns when we approach any review category, and travel cribs are no exception. In order to help you make the best decision when selecting one, there are some particular areas of concern that deserve to be addressed. The vast majority of items sold for infants and children, such as mattresses and diaper changing pads, are treated with chemical flame-retardants which have been linked to a range of health problems in both children and adults. In order to better understand why products are treated with flame-retardants a bit of background is in order.
In 1975, the state of California enacted Technical Bulletin 117 as a standard. TB-117 requires all household furniture, including furniture for babies, to meet flammability standards. TB-117 was enacted out of concern for fire safety in the home, and was designed to give occupants more time to escape in the event of a fire. The standard requires the foam in furniture products to withstand 12 seconds of open flame exposure, such as from a candle. To achieve this standard, manufacturers treat foam with flame-retardants. Many of the flame-retardants used in furniture have been proven to increase the risk and or cause a host of health problems including cancer, infertility, genetic mutations, birth defects, developmental delays, and obesity.
In an interesting twist, it turns out that these flame retardant chemicals do not work to slow the spread of fire in real world conditions. Instead, they are of limited use and have even been shown to increase the levels of deadly toxins in smoke. As smoke inhalation is the leading cause of death in fires, flame retardants are serving to exacerbate an already grim reality. They allow materials to pass a lab test, and meet the standard, but that's about all.
How Is It Legal For Manufacturers To Use Toxic Chemicals In Home Furnishings?
In 1976, the federal government enacted the Toxic Substances Control Act. The law was supposed to regulate chemicals, but upon its enactment, some 60,000 chemicals that were already in existence were grandfathered in as "safe". The law is fundamentally flawed in that the burden of proving a chemical is safe does not lie with the manufacturer. Rather, the EPA must prove that the chemical is dangerous in order for it to be banned. This unfortunate "regulation" has allowed literally tens of thousands of synthetic chemicals to go untested and inundate the marketplace and consequently, our homes.
Back to TB-117
Though TB-117 is a California law, its effects are felt throughout the United States. Manufacturers do not want to carry dual inventory, and thus sell furniture that is TB-117 compliant throughout the United States and Canada. As of January 2014, the law was amended and is now known as TB-117-2013. The new law changes the open flame test to a smolder test (like a smoldering cigarette) that can be passed without treating furniture with toxic chemicals. What TB 117-2013 does NOT do is to prevent manufacturers from using flame retardants. Industry however does have the option to produce furniture without them. As with BPA-free products, flame retardant-free home furnishings are sure to increase in supply in 2015 purely due to consumer demand. However buyers need to be savvy during this transition time as manufacturers are allowed to sell off existing product made before January 2014 that complies with the old TB-117 standard. Though TB 117-2013 is a step in the right direction, we are still a long way from eliminating toxic chemicals from our homes.
What all of this means for you
More information on this topic can be found over at GreenSciencePolicy.org
More on Safety: Structural Standards
Travel cribs and portable play yards are subject to safety oversight by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, known as the CPSC. The CPSC has adopted the ASTM International standard known as F406-13A. The F406-13A standard went into effect on 8/19/2013, and replaces the old ASTM standard known as F406-12A. The ASTM standards primarily regulate structural safety. The new F406-13A standard address structural issues of add-on bassinet accessories. Manufacturers must now permanently affix all structural supports to the bassinet accessory. The previous standard allowed the structural supports to be separate components of the bassinet. Infants have died as a result of bassinet accessories being improperly assembled, resulting in collapse and suffocation. The new standard aims to prevent this by permanently attaching all structural supports. It is important to note that manufacturers were allowed to continue selling products that do not meet the F406-13A standard until they depleted existing inventory. So it is still possible to purchase a portable crib that does NOT meet the current standard. With all of this in mind, we knew we had some very important things to consider as we began our testing phase.
— BabyGearLab Review Team
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