Best Portable High Chair
The Inglesina Fast Table is a comfortable and sturdy seat, and we were pleasantly surprised at its user-friendly features. It is relatively easy to attach the chair to a table or bar using the twist clamp system. The fabric seat is a high-quality canvas that easily wipes clean. It can also be removed for handwashing if a little more elbow grease is needed. The chair can fold flat and stow in the attached carry bag hidden within the seat. This feature dramatically increases portability, making it perfect for outings and in-home use alike.
This chair leaves a sizable gap between the edge of the table and baby. It is large enough that food may fall in the baby's seat or on the floor. Even with the additional purchase of a tray, the problem remains because it is only a cover for the table; it does not close the gap. Another potential problem is the 3-point harness. There are reports of little ones squirming their way out of the restraint, so make sure you keep an eye on your child and check that the harness is correctly adjusted. While this chair conveniently slides onto the edge of most tables, you'll want to review the instruction manual to see what surfaces are suitable before installing. Despite these concerns, we love the quality and functionality of this versatile seat and highly recommend it.
Read review: Inglesina Fast Table
The Fisher-Price Healthy Care Booster Seat is a compact and durable booster-style option that easily attaches to most chairs. The adjustable straps attach to the underside and back of a chair for a secure fit. The design makes it easy to clean, and small crevices were kept to a minimum to prevent a hard-to-clean mess. This seat is entirely plastic, so a good wipe down is sufficient to get the chair clean. The feeding tray is also dishwasher safe, although we recommend hand washing for longevity. This chair has three height settings and will work with dining chairs of various heights, so you can lessen the boost as your child grows taller. The back of the chair folds down for convenient travel and storage.
Some crafty toddlers can figure out how to remove the upper feeding tray, which can lead to a big mess on the floor and result in fixing a replacement meal. Also, users report that the t-straps holding the harness straps to the chair can work themselves free. Since the tray cannot keep a child in place, it is essential to check that these straps are secure before each use. Despite these drawbacks, the Healthy Care Booster is an excellent option that can last for years.
Read review: Fisher-Price Healthy Care Booster Seat
Summer Infant Pop 'N Sit is a cute, foldable camping style chair that is fun for little ones to use. The chair comes with a carry bag that is super convenient when you are on the go. The simple design makes it easy to pop open and use wherever you might need it. It comes with straps to attach to a chair if you want to use it up to a table and has a tray if you plan to use it on the ground outdoors or in. The chair is sturdy and useful in various settings, such as picnics, the beach, or your backyard.
There have been several complaints about the straps of this chair. Several users noted that the waist strap is sewn low on the seat where the chair's bottom and back meet instead of higher up near a child's natural waist. The problem with this is that the straps wrap closer around the thighs, making it harder to keep active children restrained and less comfortable as the straps could potentially dig into their legs. Some users also noted that their average-sized babies outgrew the straps faster than anticipated. Another thing to keep in mind is that the seat material is spot clean only. You cannot remove it for a more thorough cleaning. The dishwasher-safe tray can be stiff to put on and take off but should loosen up with use. This seat is not perfect, but for the parent looking for a compact, portable high chair to use in the great outdoors, this is a unique option.
The First Years On-the-Go is an inflatable booster seat that impressed us with its lightweight and slim profile and could be perfect for jet setting families. Unlike many travel-friendly options, it provides a substantial boost 3.5-inch boost, bringing baby closer to table height during meal times. When it's time to go, this booster will deflate and fold up to the size of a large laptop case, an easily packable item. No assembly is required to use this seat, and setup only takes a few steps. Simply undo the wrap-around zipper and the self-inflating base will rise to its full height in a matter of minutes, so no huffing or puffing is required. It has a three-point harness that is simple to operate and keeps baby secure. There is a mesh pocket on the back of the seat that we like to use for items such as baby utensils or an extra bib. We also appreciate that the low price makes it less of a bummer if you accidentally leave the seat behind.
The most pressing complaint we have about this booster seat is its instability. Due to the nature of a blow-up chair, there will be some movement in the base. For younger babies or those with less bodily control, this seat may not be the best choice. As a general rule, we always recommend closely monitoring your child while they are in a booster, and this seat is no exception. Our second complaint is cleaning the chair. The On-the-Go fabric is a slick canvas that is easy to wipe down but may absorb stains from more brightly colored food, such as spaghetti. There are also some crumb magnet crevasses where the seams come together are nearly impossible to get clean. You cannot remove the fabric, and you should not submerge the entire seat in water. While we would probably not recommend this booster for everyday use, it is still a favorite of ours for travel. It is one of the few products that bring baby up to table height while still being very light and packable. We recommend The First Years On-the-Go booster for anyone who likes to be conscious of how they pack.
OXO Tot Perch with Straps is an excellent choice for toddlers and older kids who need an extra boost to sit comfortably at the table but don't want a babyish high chair. The seat offers an added 3" of height, which is just about perfect. The Perch has a non-skid base that helps it stay steady on the chair, and the 3-point harness keeps little ones safely seated. It is easy to wipe clean, and the cushion is removable, so you will be able to get those extra crumbs without a hassle. The back of the seat folds down, making it perfect for storing. Plus, it is BPA, phthalate, and PVC-free. The straps are removable for use with older children who no longer need restraints.
Some users were surprised by the size of the seat, noting that it is smaller than anticipated. The dimensions are 12" x 13.5" x 5", so double-check that this size will be sufficient to fit your toddler's bottom. While we like the element of durability, some users report the seat pad peeling. Other users feel the booster has too many nooks and crannies that make deep cleaning challenging. However, if your toddler needs extra support to meet the table height and isn't as messy as younger children, the Tot Perch with Straps could be the perfect solution.
Mountain Buggy Pod is an easy-to-use hook-on chair compact enough to fit in a large diaper bag or a stroller basket. Coming in at only 2.2 lbs, it is one of the lightest portable chairs we tested. The simple design is easy to attach and remove from tables by twisting or untwisting the clamps. Just be aware that it will only fit on tabletops thinner than 1.8". The Pod has a solid aluminum frame and a zippered fabric cover that makes the chair highly portable thanks to the winning combination of sturdy yet lightweight materials.
One of the significant downsides to this chair is the size of the leg holes. They are much smaller than we would expect with the weight limit, as some thicker kiddo's 15 or more pounds under the weight limit have had significant issues with this. The problem becomes especially apparent if your baby is wearing shoes or has some (adorably) chunky thighs. Another drawback is that the fabric is not machine washable. Luckily, it is easy enough to wipe down, but you will have to unzip and wash it by hand in a situation where it requires a deep clean. Before each use, you will need to make sure zippers are secure when putting it back on as there have been reports of the cover unexpectedly unzipping. Keep in mind that the clamps on this chair will only fit tables up to 1.8 inches thick. If you are planning on using this at home, make sure your table is compatible before purchasing. However, if you are only planning on using this for on-the-go situations, 1.8" is sufficient for most restaurant tables. Overall, the Pod is a great budget-friendly product and one of the lightest seats we tested.
The Ingenuity Baby Base is a grow-with-me chair that will last for years. The foam insert can be used during the younger years and then removed when your child no longer needs it or fits. You can use it on the floor as a tot chair or strapped to a chair in booster mode. It comes with a tray that has a convenient storage area at the bottom of the chair. The entire seat can easily be wiped clean with a damp cloth. Both the tray and the foam insert are dishwasher safe when it needs a more serious cleaning.
This chair performs well in terms of versatility but is not as convenient when it comes to portability. It will work in a pinch if you need something to bring along to grandma's house, but being the second heaviest we tested, don't expect to take this out for comfortable restaurant dining. Also, the position of the harness straps can make them difficult to use. The crotch strap is placed directly behind the middle leg divider making it frustrating to access if baby is already seated. All in all, if you're looking for a chair that you can mostly use at home but is still small and light enough to bring along occasionally, the Baby Base is a good quality chair that will last through multiple stages of childhood.
Smart n Comfy is a 3-in-1 product designed for use during many day-to-day situations. It is an excellent portable high chair, but we love its tri-functionality as a cover for grocery store carts and a walking harness. The fabric harness has two leg holes for your child to step through and then a wide waistbelt that wraps around their belly and latches in the back with a hook and loop closure. This simple design keeps kiddos nicely snug and secure while being comfortable to wear. At less than half a pound, the Smart n Comfy was the lightest product we tested. Thanks to its extremely lightweight and small design, it is also potentially the most portable product in this review. It is convenient to keep it stashed in your diaper bag, ready for you to use at a moment's notice. Additionally, it happens to be one of the least expensive items we looked at, making it a win-win situation.
Due to the simplistic design, the Smart n Comfy lacks features you would find in a more traditional portable high chair. First, this offers no boost, so your child may be sitting below table height. If you are planning on having your little one self-feed from the table, this may be an issue as they might be too short of reaching their food comfortably. While this always felt secure when we strapped in baby, it only has one thin strap to attach it to the chair, which we consider the bare minimum. If you have an extra-crafty kid, they may be able to maneuver the strap over the seatback. However, we recommend always keeping a close eye on the baby when using any high chair. Overall, we love how easy this is to use and the small footprint it offers.
Peg Perego Rialto is a foldable chair that works for children nine months and up. It has multiple adjustments, which allow you to customize the seat to fit the height of various chairs and tables and the height of your growing child. This adjustability is much appreciated as the Rialto can accommodate children up to 45 lbs. The design is sleek and modern. Although it may not look very compact, it folds for portability and comes with a carry sack that fits everything. The material can be easily wiped clean with a damp cloth to get the food that will inevitably fall into the seat.
While the compact fold and carry bag make the Rialto a portable seat, it is one of the most cumbersome products we tested. Even at its most compact, the bag is quite bulky and not something you will be able to keep in your diaper bag "just in case." The tray component of this seat can also be temperamental. Some users noted that it is quite difficult for parents to get on and off. Others stated that their child could pop it off on their own, possibly user error due to the difficulty of securing the tray correctly. But, if you feel that you can work around these few flaws and want a super modern stylish chair with some great features, you should consider the Rialto.
The phil and teds Lobster is a hook-on chair that is super compact and highly portable with a storage bag, folding small enough to fit in your diaper bag. The design is intuitive and seems to literally "fall into place" when removed from the travel case. The claw shape clips are easy to use when attaching the chair to a compatible table. This seat features a 4-point harness to secure baby safely. It is also the only hook-on chair in this review that comes with a tray - which means a cleaner surface for baby when using this chair at a restaurant or park table.
Unfortunately, the leg holes are tiny, and babies often outgrow it faster than anticipated. It also means it can be challenging to get your baby in and out. It also is not compatible with as many table types as the award-winning Inglesina Fast Table. If you only plan to use this chair with only a select few surfaces and double-check to ensure compatibility, there is no need to worry. However, if you want something to use at restaurants or parks, you might encounter a compatibility problem. If you are willing to work around these flaws, it can be an awesome compact hook-on chair that is easy to use.
Read review: phil and teds Lobster
Why You Should Trust Us
BabyGearLab has been purchasing and reviewing baby gear since 2013 to ensure it performs up to par. We evaluate metrics such as ease-of-use, weight, and quality. The portable highchair roundup is led by our founder, Dr. Juliet Spurrier. Dr. Spurrier is a board-certified pediatrician and mother of 2. As a doctor, she has a background in childhood safety concerns and the potential results of poorly designed or inappropriately used gear. Dr. Spurrier approves all final competitors using this background and her time as a mother to guide her. The team also includes Senior Review Editor, Wendy Schmitz. Wendy is a mom of 2 boys and has been a part of the BabyGearLab family for five years. Wendy uses her scientific training and analytical background, in addition to her knowledge of baby products and motherly experience, to analyze test results to help parents find the right products for their families and situations.
When choosing the perfect portable high chairs, we wanted to make sure we thought of everything. After over 70 hours of combined testing and research, we found the top contenders. We measured, cleaned, and compared. Extensive analysis of the products, and most importantly, using the seats with young children help us make our decision. We then took all the information we gathered and condensed it into a simplified list of pros and cons and helpful buying advice so you can be confident in your purchase.
Analysis and Test Results
Finding the right portable high chair includes consideration of several factors. After researching over 45 chairs, we narrowed it down to the top options. We evaluated, tested the chairs side-by-side, and provided you with all of the information you need to find the portable high chair that will work best for your family.
Weight is probably the most critical factor to take into account when you make your purchase. We suggest thinking about how and where you plan to use the chair and how weight might impact your day-to-day use. Situations can include occasional visits to grandma's, restaurant outings, everyday home use, or far away travel.
The Smart 'N Comfy is by far one of the lightest. It can be rolled up, stashed in a diaper bag, and carried without added effort, making it a great choice to keep on hand for planned or surprise dining out. The Peg Perego Rialto is one of the most substantial chairs at 6.6 lbs. You likely won't want to lug around an item this large and bulky, so we recommend it primarily for in-home use.
There are several varieties of portable high chairs, and they all have different features that make them portable. Portability encompasses being easily transported and stored at home and being travel-friendly, potentially fitting in your diaper bag. When scoring portability, we considered overall weight, ability to fold, and size.
Not surprisingly, the harness style options are the top scorers in this metric. The ultra-lightweight, foldable, and stuffable products can easily tuck away in your diaper bag or purse without a problem. The Smart 'N Comfy earned one of the top scores for this metric, as it is exceptionally light and folds down to the size of a large wallet. The second most portable style is the hook-on variety. While they aren't likely to fit in your diaper bag, they will fit inside your car trunk and possibly in your stroller's storage basket. The booster-style seats are the least portable. Their rigid structure and larger size make them less desirable for outings, but they could be the perfect product to keep at a grandparent's house or in your home if a full-size high chair takes up too much space. However, The First Years On-the-Go booster high chair lives outside this stereotype and is just as light, trim, and portable as any hook-on chair.
If you dine out with your baby often, you're likely very familiar with the high chairs and booster seats provided by many restaurants. More often than not, they are filled with crusty food from past diners and loaded with an untold army of germs. Straps may be of questionable quality and cleanliness, or maybe they are just missing altogether. To help you avoid this potential mealtime minefield, we set out to find the best portable high chair so you can prepare for anything. With your handy portable chair in tow, you'll know your little one is in a safe, clean place, no matter where you choose to share a meal.
Types of Portable High Chairs
There are three main categories in the world of portable high-chairs: wraps, hook-ons, and boosters. The first two are suitable for babies and toddlers who can sit upright without assistance, usually about six months up to 37 lbs, at which point your child will probably want to sit in a grown-up chair. The age limit for boosters varies more, but are typically suitable once a baby has developed enough core strength to sit unaided and can be suitable for a maximum weight of up to 50 lbs.
Wraps are pieces of fabric that wrap or buckle around a chair to create a harness-style seat for baby. They are the most portable option and ideal for on-the-go families, the perfect size for stowing in your diaper bag. You can use them for dining, and often they come in handy for other activities as well. Additional uses can include doubling as a toddler walking harness or baby carrier. Baby should be pretty good at sitting upright on their own before being put in a wrap style seat.
Hook-on chairs are pretty awesome. They take up zero floor space, require minimal clipping and adjusting, and keep your baby right at table height with the rest of the family. Most have rubber-coated arms that secure to the table with twist fasteners. They are reasonably lightweight, collapsible, and often come with a carry bag for transport. Generally, babies need to be over six months and sitting upright without help to use a hook-on. Unfortunately, the upper weight limit is lower than boosters on average, usually topping out around 37 lbs, so you can't use them for the long haul. However, by the time children reach this point, they typically have enough coordination to sit in a regular chair.
A Note on Surface Compatibility
If a hook-on chair is appealing, consider where you might use your chair as different seats all have varying limitations.
- Thickness: Not every hook-on will fit with every table. If you plan to use this primarily at home, ensure that the chair is compatible with your table or counter by double-checking measurements and learning the seat specs before purchasing.
- Table Shape: Rectangular and square tables have a straight edge, while circular or oval tables are curved. The difference in the table shape can change how the hook-on chair fits on the side of the table. Check the manufacturer recommendations for table compatibility, as each has different limitations.
- Skirts or Lips: Any table or countertop with vertical material at its edge or underneath will render some hook-on chairs unusable. For instance, you can't use the clamp-like mechanism of the phil and teds Lobster on any surface with a skirt/lip.
- Material and Structure: You need to ensure that the surface you plan to secure your hook-on chair is durable with a reliable and sturdy base.
Hook-on chairs should not be attached to a glass surface, single pedestal table, loose tabletop, table leaf, card table, or over tablecloths or placemats.
You can generally begin placing your baby in a booster around 12 months, as long as your baby has a strong core. Boosters are versatile in their ability to fit on almost any chair by strapping around the chair's backside and underside. We like this feature because you can use them practically anywhere except for a booth. If you have one at home, you can hide the seat in plain sight by merely sliding the chair with the booster seat up to the table.
The main draw of using a booster is that it can bring your little one closer to the table action so they can eat with the family. However, in reality, this goal does not always come to fruition. Depending on the chosen chair, the height of the table, and the height of your child, the booster may come just short of actual table height, or be too tall, not allowing enough spaces for a toddler's legs. Having an adjustable height feature can increase the odds of compatibility. The Peg Perego Rialto has a height adjustment that is very useful if you regularly dine at various locations with different chairs and tables.
One deterrent of boosters is that they always require close monitoring to ensure a safe dining experience. You'll need to stay close by a child in a booster attached to a chair. There is always the potential for kids to push against the table and cause the chair to tip backward. This is even more likely if you have a particularly wriggly or rambunctious child. Another downfall is their bulk; booster high chairs are much less portable. Even if they collapse or fold down, they are almost always too cumbersome to fit in a diaper bag or stroller basket.
Features to Consider
Selecting the perfect on-the-go dining seat requires examining essential features and functionality to be confident in choosing the best option.
Ease Of Use
The whole point of having a portable high chair is to be able to take it with you. You will be setting it up and taking it down frequently, and quickly becomes apparent how important ease of setup is. The complexity of assembly is the main factor at play. How many parts does it have? How long does it take to put together every time? For portable high chairs, less is more. When you combine a hungry toddler and a time-consuming chair set up, you've got the perfect recipe for a meltdown. A product that can be ready to go in a matter of seconds is invaluable.
Another potential issue to keep in mind is compatibility. Not every seat works with every table, countertop, or chair, and if you are traveling, you may not always know what to expect. Booster seats can strap onto most chairs but become problematic when you are faced with a booth. Some hook-on chairs do not fit round tables or those with vertical skirts, and you CAN'T use hook-on options with glass tabletops. Flimsy, foldable, or pedestal tables are also a no-go.
Safety and Quality
Your baby's safety should be a top priority when using a portable high chair. Most chairs come with a 3-point harness, and it is essential to have adequate adjustability in both the crotch and waist straps to get a secure fit. The best chairs have a deep seat and a high seatback that can help your baby find a more ergonomic sitting position. You don't want a product that allows your child to "Houdini" themselves out. Before placing your child in the chair, always be sure to fasten the attachment mechanisms securely, so there is absolutely no give or movement in the booster or hook-on. A quality product will function correctly and allow you to use it safely without fear of your child falling or escaping from the chair.
The chairs' main selling point in this review, and probably the reason you are here in the first place, is portability. We recommend carefully comparing each chair's weight, as even a 1/2 pound can make a big difference when added to the rest of a baby's travel gear. Every chair in this review falls within the range of 0.9 to 6.6 lbs. That's a sizeable gap and can make a big difference in the useability of a product. If you're on foot, holding your baby and towing around a diaper bag, a 7 lb chair is not something you want to add to the mix. We appreciate the chairs that can fold into something less bulky, especially when they come with a carry bag or padded shoulder strap.
The biggest problem with boosters is that they are typically larger, even when folded (except for the First Years On-the-Go), so if you are taking it to dine out or are planning to travel, you'll be stuck carrying a pretty bulky item. We found the hook-on chairs to be more travel-friendly than boosters in general, as they fold down and usually fit inside an included carry bag. Being able to fold the chair flat, slip it in a travel sack, and toss it over your shoulder is all too convenient. Even more portable are the strap on harnesses, which can usually fold up and fit into a pocket of your purse or diaper bag.
Ease of Cleaning
Babies are messy, especially during meal times, so finding a chair that is easy to clean is a big plus. Being able to take the mess with a quick wipe down can simplify your life, and we prefer chairs that have large smooth surfaces with minimal cracks and creases. After all, if you are going to be cleaning up after little ones by the hour, why not make it as painless as possible? Chairs with crevices are more challenging to clean as food and liquids can get stuck in hard to reach places. Removable covers that are hand or machine washable and smooth plastic that you can wash in the sink are useful features.
Purchasing a portable high chair is a good move if you like to dine out with the whole family, or plan to travel with your baby in tow. It can come in handy for trips to the grandparents and be an excellent space saving option for those living in tight quarters. A portable chair can help your little one eat comfortably from baby to toddlerhood. In the end, safety, comfort, functionality, and portability are critical components you will need to consider when purchasing a high chair. If you keep these factors in mind, you are sure to find a seat that can tag along wherever you and baby happen to roam. Eat well!
— Juliet Spurrier, MD and Lindsay Selig