Gear Review: Thule Chariot Chinook Review
This review has been updated after over a full year of (almost daily) use (July 2014)
Disclosure: For our “Stroll On: Get Out on Wheels” project this summer, we approached a variety of jogging stroller companies for reviews. Each of these strollers were given to use for their review purposes free of charge. However, we pride ourselves in having thorough and honest reviews – everything you see here is our honest opinions and exactly what we tell family and friends.
If you just found our blog, you may be interested also in the other Thule products and strollers we have reviewed. You can find the full line-up here: Stroll On: Get Out on Wheels.
Over the past few months we have been putting the new Chariot Chinook through the paces while skiing, running, biking and strolling. I am so glad we have taken our time on this review, because quite honestly, my impression of the Chinook has changed over the weeks (for the better).
As a little background, we have been owners of a Chariot Cougar 2 for the past five years. It has been well-loved (it’s one of our top gear picks) and we can’t help but compare everything to it. When we spotted the new Chinook at the big Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake in winter (2013), we were completely smitten and begged for an opportunity to really test it out.
The Chinook is the Chariot of all Chariots. Designed for a more “urban” lifestyle, this baby has about a zillion added bells and whistles. That said, it is also bigger and heavier (39 lbs vs 28 lbs) than its Cougar sister and at just over $1000 ($1149 for single, $1249 for double), is a serious investment for an active family. It’s a GOOD investment, but absolutely something that needs to be well thought-out and researched (hence the reason for this review).
Special Chinook Features:
– Adjustable reclining seat (let the angels sing about this one!) **this also means no need for the infant sling (that our kids used at just a couple of weeks old) and baby stays safe….as long as Kid #2 is ok with being reclined also…**
– Padded seating with side head rests that provide a little more separation between the kids (than the Cougar). We adjust these down when they are wearing their helmets for cycling so they don’t interfere.
– Extra foot room (great for taller/bigger/older kids)
– Adjustable handlebar (3 different levels)
– Pivoting/locking front wheel (which folds under when biking and means no need for a separate jogging and strolling accessory like the Cougar requires)
– It comes with the “First Year of Life” Series extras: Infant car seat adapter, cargo bag (AKA removable extra “trunk”) and baby supporter
Breaking down the costs:
Before you faint from the sticker shock of a $1000+ stroller, let’s break down the costs of a Cougar 2 and a Chinook 2 just a bit. Again, I compare these two carriers because the Cougar is what we have owned and loved (and is the most popular model) and the Chinook is the new guy (or gal?!?!) on the block.
In general, Chariots are obviously not cheap. However, you absolutely get what you are paying for and can be assured that this is a piece of gear that will last all of your kids (however many that may be) and will hold on to its retail value for years and years (look around on Craigslist – they aren’t easy to find used!) Bottom line: If you can scrape together the money, spend it on a Chariot for the highest quality and easiest way to get out with young kids.
Double Cougar: Base (strolling wheels included) + Running Accessory + Infant sling (we used this until our kids were about a year old and think it is crucial) = $750 + $100 + $85 = $935
Double Chinook: Base and pivoting wheel means everything is included = $1249.95 (or $1149.95 for single) **even if you have just one kid, that extra $100 for a double is WELL worth it.**
**The ski and bike conversion kits are the same price for both models ($275 and $75 respectively)**
A little visual comparison (note that the Chinook wheels are NOT inside the carrier, while the Cougar’s are):
What we love about the Chinook:
– The pivoting/locking wheel is AWESOME and makes switching between strolling and running really easy (part of which makes it “urban”)
– Any stroller that has a reclining seat for sleepers is top notch in our book
– There is just more ROOM for the kids and less elbowing fights
– There is more support for the kids when they fall asleep (thanks to the adjustable head supports)
– I love that there is an option to attach an infant car seat. The infant sling in the Cougar always worked for us (and is my preferred option), but less infant transfers between devices is always appreciated AND you can carry more kids with the Chinook. It is quite a load to push 3 kids (two inside and one on the outside), but the option really is nice. I also don’t particularly like the fact that the child on top in a car seat is more exposed to the elements – one of the features of a Chariot I really like.
– Despite the extra weight, the stroller rides really smoothly and easily. We don’t notice a significant difference when we are running, biking or skiing (though do when we are loading and unloading). It also pulls the same whether there is one child or two inside.
– The side windows completely zip down (and then can be rolled and stored) for added ventilation
– It easily folds down and pops up for easy transportation, storage and moving around
– The car seat attachment from the First Year of Life package doubles AWESOME as a small-bike carrier. We actually use it to attach bikes, packages, etc. to the top of our Chinook more than we ever have attached a car seat. It provides a great base and has a strap (intended for securing the car seat) that is great for securing bikes.
What we aren’t so crazy about:
– It’s heavy – 11 pounds heavier than the Cougar and takes up a lot more room in our car
– When it is in bike mode, the handle bar has to be all the way forward. I know this isn’t something that would normally matter, but we often have little bikes attached to the back of the Chariot. You can’t do it (easily) when it is in that mode because there is no handle to hang them from. **Note, you will see that in most of our pictures the handle IS back with a little bike attached. We forced it to make it work (though it is not intended to work that way)…**
– It’s a tall order, but it would be great to be able to separately recline the seats to accomadate different ages of kids and different kinds of nappers
– The removable First Year of Life Messenger bag (Chinook’s extra “trunk” space) is just ok. It is nice that you can remove it and use it as a diaper bag, but you have to go through more zips and bucks to get there. Also, it sometimes comes unhitched from the bottom brackets – I personally prefer not to use it. The included mesh pocket is surprisingly roomy – anything extra I attach to the top or just throw in with the kids.
– The sun shade/weather protection is a bit awkward. You can add or remove different pieces of it, but then it is held down by velcro tabs (that take more than a moment to do.) We recently upgraded our Cougar with the zipped weather cover (the previous one only velcroed at the bottom) and prefer that system. This is confusing to explain, so check out the photos below for a visual.
The Bottom Line
Yes, this baby is expensive, but it is absolutely worth every penny. We have been talking about it for months - if we went back in time, would we go with this Chariot or the Cougar again - and going back and forth over and over. The truth is we haven't come to any great conclusions. We love the added features of the Chinook, but really appreciate the lighter weight of the Cougar. That said, the extra weight only seems to matter when we are loading or unloading it in a car (and that it takes up more room in general). The Chinook rolls and performs better than any other stroller of its kind...
As a side note, I always ALWAYS suggest going with a double Chariot, even if you are certain you will only ever have one child. The added space for gear, groceries and friends is never regretted.
Absolutely feel free to ask questions in the comments section - other readers always appreciate it too! (and I will be sure to answer them ASAP!)
Chariot CTS/Thule generously provided us this gear in order to facilitate this review. However, as always, the opinions expressed here are completely and honestly our own. Additionally, a few of these links are affiliates. Thank you so much for clicking through them to make your purchases – it helps offset the cost of this blog in a (VERY VERY) small way! You can find my full disclosure here.
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