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In this report

Umbrella strollers: A lightweight and space-saving solution

Umbrella strollers used to be a minimalist alternative for pushing older babies and toddlers without the bulk and heft of a traditional stroller. They tended to be nothing more complex than a sling-type seat -- no canopies or storage -- with a compact fold. But that was then; this is now.

An umbrella stroller can have all the bells and whistles of a full-featured model. Some of the higher-end umbrella strollers offer huge canopies, recline fully for newborns, are car seat compatible and comfortably accommodate children up to 55 pounds. And yet they still fold compactly and are lightweight compared to traditional strollers.

Most stroller brands offer an umbrella-style stroller, with a two-handled frame that folds up tightly in both width and depth, so you end up with a long, narrow package. They generally have smaller wheels and less storage than other stroller types and may be less durable over the long run. If you are looking for a full-service traditional stroller, read our report on full-featured strollers. Parents that want a rugged, outdoor stroller will want to see our report on all-terrain strollers. If you want your car seat to transfer to your stroller easily, head over to our report on car seat strollers. Families with multiple children close in age, twins or triplets should refer to our double strollers report. An umbrella stroller should never be used to run with; if you like to jog, our report on jogging strollers will interest you.

An umbrella stroller should have all the important safety features, including a five-point harness and secure brakes. The buckle on the harness should be difficult for a toddler to open. Linked brakes are easiest to use but are less common on umbrella strollers. A locking fold ensures the stroller won't open while being carried.

One important safety issue to watch for with umbrella strollers is the recline. Experts say that a newborn should never be in a stroller that does not have a full recline. If there is only a partial recline, it should only be used for babies with good head control -- generally from 3 to 6 months. The problem is that stroller manufacturers often do not list lower weight/age guidelines. Unless you can verify that the umbrella stroller has a full recline, it should not be used for a newborn, regardless of what it may say on the manufacturer's website.

Baby products are often subject to recalls, and umbrella strollers are no exception. Maclaren, Britax and Zooper umbrella strollers have all been subject to recalls in the past few years. We have carefully considered the reason for the recall and the manufacturer's response in our research.

In addition to safety, we looked at ease of use, lifestyle features and customer service to pick the best strollers in three categories: Best Overall, Best for Newborns and Best under $80. One of these is sure to be a perfect fit for your family.

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