It was time...this weekend was the big experiment with carseats in the back of my car. Also, I needed to decide which carseat or booster I'd bring with me on our upcoming trip back East.
To that end, I bought a backless booster seat, rated for 40 pounds, 40 inches, and 3 years old, of which Gabriel only meets the age criteria. I know other people who've used these for travel even though their kids didn't quite fit that, and saw another similar-looking seat rated for a lower weight, so brought it home with the intention of consulting Dave.
This led to actually measuring and weighing Gabriel. And some of our dilemma is removed! His stats:
Gabriel at four and a half: 39-7/8". 32 pounds (pathetic!).
Julian at two and a half: I didn' t measure his height. 29 pounds.
So, Gabriel is close enough to 40" to call him such, and that will help feel better about using boosters. Really, weight is pretty irrelevant at this age (according to our pediatrician, it did matter for forward-facing him when he was 19 months old and still not 20 pounds) -- it's height and where the seatbelt falls on the child's shoulder that matters. But the laws about carseats mostly use weight. Another example where safety and legality aren't always in line.
Dave's first experiments with carseats in the Outback didn't look good. He had a hard time getting a carseat, a convertible harness/booster seat, and an infant seat installed -- you can sit them all in there, but actually installing securely changes how they all fit together. And, of course, there's no LATCH in the middle.
But then, Dave discovered that our gigantic-looking Britax Marathon actually fits in better than the narrow (we thought) Graco carseat we'd planned for Julian, since the Marathon is narrower at the top. Just as well, because the Graco carseat is intended for smaller toddlers and is rated up to 40 pounds, just like the Britax Roundabout that Julian is in, and Julian's head is now just a little higher than the top of the Roundabout. It's even possible that he's now technically too tall for it, though he's quite safe in it. Still, Gabriel had been in the Marathon for months by the time he was Julian's age. It's time to rotate these guys.
We decided to also get a booster seat with a back, especially since it turns out to convert to a backless booster anyway, to see if that will work. Gabriel really really wants a real seatbelt anyway, he tells me every time he straps himself into the Marathon. (A booster seat isn't installed, it just boosts them up a little and they use the car's seatbelt, not a built-in 5-point harness. The law and safety ratings are actually pretty unclear about when a child can go to a booster seat, especially when you can buy a backless booster that claims to be rated down to 1 year old!)
Finally, here's what we ended up with. We CAN cram 3 carseats into the back of the Outback, but not with a booster, since it'd be very difficult to reach the seatblet latch. The Britax Marathon, the convertible carseat/booster (in carseat mode), and the rear-facing infant seat all fit. In fact, Dave tried replacing the rear-facing infant seat with the Britax Roundabout (rear-facing) and that fit too. Wow! There's some overlap, and it's tight, but it's doable.
For my East Coast trip, I'll bring the convertible carseat/booster for Julian, and the backless booster for Gabriel. Though the back of a booster does help position the seatbelt strap so it's more comfortable, so maybe I'll see if I can fit the backful booster in the carseat bag along with Julian's carseat.
I'll be so glad someday when we're done with carseats and boosters. That won't be until at least 2012!