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Is the Chariot Cougar worth the investment?

Claire sent me the following question (via ask outsidemom). I have a lot of thoughts on this, but would also love to hear from other Chariot owners who could offer some insight on her questions.

I’m thinking about buying a Chariot, primarily because I’d love to ski this winter and I’d like to be able to get some cycling in once my son is big enough. I’d love to hear some detailed reviews, tips, experiences from other women who use a Chariot too. I’d love to hear what skiing is like with it – hills, response to snow conditions, reaction of kiddos… And what using a bike trailer is like too – can you hear your kiddo, how does it handle with a road bike, tips for keeping kiddo safe and happy.

-Claire

A few weeks ago I had a Chaco shoe giveaway on my blog and asked people to enter by telling me: “What is the one outdoor baby/child item you wouldn’t want to live without.” The item that claimed the first prize? The Chariot.

First of all I just have to say that we own the Cougar 2, and own the bike trailer kit, the jogging kit, the infant sling, baby supporter and we made our own skis. We currently have 3 kids ages 6, 3, and 7 months. Here are my thoughts on the Chariot:

1. Biking

On the Pavement:
The outdoor family activity we do more than anything else (aside from wandering around in the desert) is biking. The bike attachement has made it possible for us to be able to continue doing so. We’ve done a stretch of the coastal highway and have used it a lot to ride around town and run errands. It works great, and all three of our kids have absolutely loved being in there. Although when they were young there were times when they didn’t exactly love wearing a helmet…

On the Dirt:
We’ve also use it for mountain biking. We have the Cougar 2, so we can’t tackle single track, but we’ve biked on old jeep trails and wide dirt, gravel or slick-rock trails. The chariot performed perfectly. I can’t say I’ve ridden in it personally, but our kids have never complained. The shock system on the Chariot seems to really pad its passengers. In fact our two-year-old even fell asleep in there while we biked on a mostly slick-rock trail (pictured to the right).

The trailer handles really well, and I have no complaints about turning, going over bumps, or any other maneuvering issues.

You can’t really carry on a conversation with your child if your zooming down the road, especially if you have the rain/wind cover on, but you can still hear if they are screaming their guts out or fighting.

2. The Infant Sling

The infant sling, in my opinion, sets the Chariot apart from other conversion strollers. My babies were able to start riding in the Chariot at just a few weeks old. It’s been a life saver as far as staying mobile, and all my kids have liked being in the sling.

My kids never liked the baby supporter (although I had an older model). It always worked better for us to use the infant sling until our kids were about 18 months then we just started strapping them in like normal. We finally just got rid of our baby supporters last year.

3. Chariot Packing

Chariot packing: a sport similar to backpacking, only you put all your stuff in your chariot and roll your gear down the trail instead. Just this fall we were out hiking and discovered the perfect little campsite at the end of an old OHV trail. We went home, loaded up all the gear we would need for an overnight family camp-out and pushed it up to our hidden camp spot. I bet Chariot hadn’t envisioned this option when they drew up their plans for an all-purpose stroller.

4. Winter Excursions

Getting out in the winter is always a little tricky with little kids. They get cold. They get tired. It’s understandable. I love having a warm and roomy place where they can get out of the cold, snuggle up with their blanket and take a nap, have a snack, all while we stay mobile.

Note that we made our own chariot skis instead of purchasing the ski kit. The chariot ski kit does great on groomed trails, but doesn’t do well in any sort of powder. Even the homemade version isn’t great on powder, but because you can make it with thicker skis it does better. Still it get’s a little tippy if you try to tackle hilly or uneven terrain.

Check out how the chariot handled for Velo Mom on a yurt ski trip.

5. Jogging

I must admit, my husband used this more for jogging than I did. I exercise to get away from the duties of motherhood, so I didn’t use it very often. The jogging wheel makes it hard to turn the chariot, you have to actually pop a wheelie and turn the whole stroller to take a turn, but it glides along nicely… its just more bulky than something like a Bob.

6. Multi-Child Mobility

I use the Chariot even more now that I have three kids. As in, I use it just about every single day. Riding bikes with the kids and commuting my oldest son to and from school. I even stick my littlest one in it when I’m working in the yard and wheel her from one area to another. She’s comfortable and content in there and with three kids and two hands I rely on this a lot as a safe warm or shady place to keep the baby while I deal with the other kids and their mobility.

I even hook the chariot up to the back of the trail-a-bike for longer excursions to the park. People laugh at our bike train, but hey, it works great!

Do I want the Cougar 1 or the Cougar 2?

This a serious decision every parent has to make. We didn’t make this decision because our Chariot was a gift (best gift ever). We got the Cougar 2. The first few months we owned it I sorta wished we had the Cougar 1, only because I felt like we were pushing an SUV with all this room and only one tiny infant. But it quickly grew on us. We could push the child and load the stroller with groceries, or pack the child and the gear we would need all day, or pack the child and the dog and ride to the dog park , push our kid and a friend’s kid, etc. Plus we knew we wanted to have more than one child and thought it would come in handy. It has.

Ever since then the only time I’ve wished we had the Cougar 1 was so we could bike on some wider single track trails. But overall I’m SO GLAD we have the Cougar 2, especially now.

The key to making sure your child is happy in the chariot:

1. Start them young so they get use to it, this is especially key if you want them to nap in there

and

2. If you’re going to have them in there for a long time give them something to do, toys, games, snacks, etc. Make it fun.

It is SO worth the investment.

Any additional thoughts, please add!

Also, check out this Chariot review by Cragmama or this one from Tales of a Mountain Mama.

24 Comments so far

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  1. Trieste

    I don’t spend 400-600 everyday. But I can honestly say that our chariot was one of the best purchases to date. When our kids were little we used it everyday. We take it on almost every trip. We still use it for one 4 year old and gear. Side note: for jogging use the stroller wheels. They turn with one hand!

    • Trieste – Hummm. I’ve always wondered about the stroller wheels for jogging. Good to know…

  2. We loved our when our kids were small enough to ride in it. My four year old still uses it as a bike trailer now and then, but mostly we use it to tote groceries or other goods. We also use it to pull gear into cabins on cross-country ski trips. As much as I loved it when they were little, I appreciate how useful it is even without a kid in it. My geriatric dog might be the next rider.

    Also, they hold their resale value really well.

    • Mel – Yes, although they do hold their resale value well, I’m not so sure I’ll ever want to get rid of ours either. So useful, in so many ways.

  3. Brian

    Knowing us, you know we love our Chariot also! We mostly used it for biking both on dirt and pavement. One word of warning…I did tip this thing over while towing it behind my bike….twice. Both time’s it was our daughter who got tossed. The first time she wasn’t even strapped in and I made a sharp turn to get on to a sidewalk and the inside wheel hit the curb instead of the ADA ramp. She was fine. The second time I was goofing off swerving back and forth, at least she was strapped in. Both times, after seeing she was fine, my first thought was…”Mom isn’t going to like hearing about this.”

    • Brian! You did not!?! I’m with “Mom”, you would have been in big trouble. Hahaha.

  4. Bethany

    LOVE my chariot. Wouldn’t waste my money on any other bike trailer

  5. We also got ours as a gift, but we would have paid the big bucks for it too, at all price! We live in Germany in a real bike city, Leipzig, and so many people have trailers for their kids around here!During the pregnancy, we looked at every single trailer crossing our way, and decided the Chariot would be the best for the terrain here (there are a lot of cobblestone streets and streets in verrrry bad conditions!)… Plus we liked that Sweet Pea could lie in it too.
    We started riding our bikes with our little sweet pea in it when he was just 6 weeks old (again: this is Germany! Not North America! The german translation of the Warning label doesnt forbide at all to ride with an infant, interesting isnt it!) although quite, quite slowly then, and he loves it. Now he’s 7 1/2 months and we also use it daily. Biking mainly, but also jogging, and even just strolling around when we dont want to have it in the ergo… It’s a bit big to take on the bus (I have the cougar 1) but we manage, and I’ve even seen a girl the other day with a two seater!
    I recommend it warmly!

    • Gaelle – That IS interesting about the labeling!! Your city sounds wonderful, much different from ours. Here it is more acceptable to pick your child up on a 4-Wheeler (off road vehicle) or throw them in the back of a pick-up truck than it is to pull into the school pick-up lane on a bike. :)

  6. If you could see how well used, our Chariot is after using it for 22 months you would believe it is worth the money. We have actually gone through 2 as our kids are 6 yrs apart. We’ve had to replace a few nuts and bolts and the velcro on the sun shade become useless after awhile but it has held up well considering it’s traveled the world with us. While I agree it may not be easy on ungroomed snow we have done some epic ski trips with the Chariot. Like this one… http://velomom.com/winter-backcountry-hut-trip/

  7. Heather

    We settled on a Wike trailer, made in Guelph Ontario (near where we live) and it’s been excellent. Best quality and great price. Look up Wike online. Fits two kids with lots of leg / play room, has a hard bottom (no wet feet when it’s raining!) and can convert to a stroller in no time. Comes with a mesh cover or a rain cover (which also keeps them quite warm in the wintertime) Rolls great behind a bike, lots of storage for tripping and will still fit through a door as a stroller… everyone who sees us with it wants to buy one!! I would recommend it for anyone looking for a bike trailer.

    • Heather

      AS a side note on durability, our friends towed this trailer from Hamilton to Panama and back with their two kids and loved it all the way. :)

    • Heather – I’m so glad you left this comment. I’ve never seen these but they are so cool! I really like the cargo trailer series too, and biking with your kayak! That’s awesome. I want one of each.

  8. Another Heather

    I just discovered outside mom and was so excited to see a Chariot post. We sold both of our cars when we left Oregon for a teaching adventure in Germany in 2011. A few days before leaving we bought our “new car”-a chariot cougar 2 as transportation for our two littles then ages 3 and 1. We got the strolling kit, the running kit, and the bike kit and recently bought the baby bivy for our newborn. We LOVE our Chariot and boy is it well used (EVERY day). It’s covered in mud from all the biking and running that my husband does to transport the big kids to kindergarten and more. He’s put over 1000 miles on it while running and even has even competed in a long distance race with both kids and tied for 1st place. What a great stroller it is! With all the snow we’ve been getting here in Germany it would be really cool to build our own ski kit like Lindsey did. Thanks for the fun post and the fun site.

    • Hi Heather –

      Thanks so much for the comment, and for the compliment about the site, much appreciated! I’m impressed with how much you use your Chariot, way to go! Sounds like a great adventure you are on over there.

  9. Michel Heemskerk

    Is it worht the money? It si definitly worht every euro I spent! We own a Chariot CX2 for 3 years now and use it ever day. Walking to the daycare, cycle to the beach, walk on the beach (using the jogging kit) Even offroad on some rough trails, the kids are fine. Most of the time they fell a sleep. The infant swing works great! an the other is in the baby supporter. We are some much for flexible with the chariot. Going downtown on our bike, covert it with the stoller kit. Bring back the grocery. Go out on a hike in the woods, The chariot folds up very quick, it even fits unfolded in our car..

    Yes it’s a lot of money but haven’t regret spending it!

    Kind regards
    Michel
    the Netherlands

  10. Sérgio Silva

    Hi. i?m from PORTUGAL, and i have the Chariot Cougar 2, and i use it most of the time for cycling. My daughter as 18 months. She is a little big for her age (86 centimeters), and i want to know (more or less) until what age can she stays in the cougar2?

    best regards

    Sérgio

    • Sergio – I think the weight limit is 100 pounds, so she should be ok till then!

  11. Wendy

    Thanks for the post. I thought it was interesting that you said you used the infant sling until 18 months – our LO is 8 months now & he often takes his naps in the Chariot but I worry about his head falling forward, so I wonder if we should put our Infant Sling back in??? We replaced it with the Baby Supporter when he was 5 months but I’m starting to think that was too early? He’s sitting all by himself, great head control, crawling, etc. but I think the Sling might give him better support for napping – Thoughts?

  12. Anna-Lisa

    Thanks for this post, we have a cougar 2 and we are expecting our second child any day now. I was trying to decide on buying the infant sling, it seems like it takes up a ton of room, almost to the point of not fitting two kids in it! But your article and links to other articles convinced me! The build your own ski kit is awesome too! We live in Utah and my husband would LOVE that.

  13. Annika

    Hi LIndsey,
    My husband and I really enjoy and appreciate your blog! We do have a question for you regarding the Chariot infant sling vs. the baby supporter. We have a 3 y.o. and a 6 month old and are interested in doing some cycle touring excursions. We were wondering if you have used either the sling or the supporter during bike rides with your infant? If so, did you have them wear a helmet or simply keep them snugged in tightly? We’re not concerned about our toddler son (as he can easily wear a helmet), but we’re wondering if we should wait to take our 6 mo. old out on the road until she is older and can comfortably wear a helmet. Concerned the helmet might be too heavy and awkward for her right now.
    Thanks for your input!

  14. Anne

    I live in Norway and bought a chariot cougar 1 after a lot of comparing different systems (cheaper bike carrier + ´normal´ pulk, or Nordic Cab). My daughter is 7 months olds now and maybe it´s typical for Norway this season that I only used it in the ski version so far :). I bought the ski kit from Chariot, but the home made version looks very smart, as you can take both the wheels and skis, making it possible to use public transport and cable cars to go skiing with less hassle.
    I was surprised that it is relatively easy to ski with the chariot, although I my experience is limited to hard windblown snow conditions and lovely, 5 cm deep fresh snow.

    I started with my daughter in the normal seat, but as she falls asleep it looks a bit akward, particularly if you stop and take the hip belt off and the carrier tips forward. So I bought the infant sling and an extra warm sheepskin bag, and now it´s perfect!

    ps Is there anyone with tips on adding a dog on a leash to the system (bike and/ or ski)?

    • Lizzy

      We have used skijoring equipment to add our dog while biking with our Chariot. We have not tried it with skiing.

  15. Lizzy

    Happening along this post quite a few years after the fact! We are expecting #2 this spring, and will have a 2 year old. Can we use the infant sling and, eventually, baby support with 2 kids? Has anyone else used the stroller attachment wheels with success for jogging? Any other tips and tricks out there?

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    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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