I’m long overdue in writing about our carseat/stroller system although I’ve been talking it up in person for ages. So it’s time to spill all the details about our Cybex Aton seat and Callisto stroller. It’s a brand a lot of people haven’t heard of in the US but they’re seriously high quality without the crazy high price.
The Baby Gear Learning Process
With our first baby we were very focused on budget. So we got a good deal on a Graco SnugRide, which went up to 32 pounds. And we got a Graco Stroller Frame off of Craigslist for $15. At the time I thought it was really important that we have an infant seat that would last a long time.
You see, I hadn’t learned yet that when you finished with the infant seat there would be a convertible seat and then a booster seat. I was so focused on that first year of baby-hood that I couldn’t think about down the road.
The first time around we had our baby seat in the middle of the back seat. Now that wasn’t an option. Our car seat for Tessa was going behind one of our front seats, and that meant we wouldn’t have a lot of space.
Our first infant seat priority: space. I wanted a high-quality seat, but it had to be small enough that we could drive our car with the baby in it.
As for the stroller, we were relatively happy with our Stroller Frame and were also pleased with the Maclaren Volo we used as Graham got bigger. But that was when we lived in a suburban setting. Now that we’re urbanites and would be using our stroller on the bus and the subway I had a few things I wanted.
Size: small. Weight: light. Navigation: exceptional, tight curves should be simple. Wheels: strong and not too small, able to manage bumpy sidewalks. Fold: easy, preferably one-handed. A stroller I could use as a stroller frame AND an umbrella was also a big plus. As was a shade that actually provides shade.
My needs were pretty specific. It was clear that the low-budget items weren’t going to get the job done. But we definitely didn’t have room in our budget for the top-of-the-line stroller and carseat models. I needed to find something in the middle of the market, with the quality and features I needed that wouldn’t bankrupt us.
UppaBaby Vista? You’re looking at $700. Baby Jogger CitySelect? Around $500. And that’s less than Bugaboo and a lot of other luxury brands.
We wanted under $500. Period. Preferably more like $100 or $200. So long to that $15 stroller frame, eh?
I spent a lot of time with spreadsheets. Ultimately, though, when I had all the research done and all the numbers crunched, the choice was simple. Cybex Aton was the seat that would fit the best in our car.
The biggest drawback of picking Cybex was stroller compatibility. It’s only compatible with Maxi-Cosi strollers and Cybex strollers. In the end, though, I didn’t mind. The Cybex Callisto was better than most of the other strollers I researched and cheaper, too.
That didn’t mean we couldn’t still save money. A smart thing to keep in mind when you’re stroller and carseat shopping: last year’s model is always cheaper. We got our Callisto on ebay for $229. (It retails on Amazon for about $369.) And we got the Aton on ebay for $145. (Prices vary depending on color.)
Our Gear In Action
The Cybex Aton is teeny-tiny. Most of the bulk of the carseats has been moved to the base making the seat light and easy to carry. It’s only 25 inches long, the seat is 8.8 pounds and the base is 10.25 pounds. Compare that to another small seat, the Chicco Keyfit, which is 28.6 inches long. Or the Graco SnugRide 30, at 27.2 inches long. A couple inches may not sound like much, but believe me: it is. It’s the difference between sitting comfortably while you drive and having your knees sticking up. That’s a big deal.
The harness was easy to use, I rarely struggled. The base takes a little while to get used to, the click in and out requires you put the seat in at just the right angle. The first couple weeks there was lots of trial and error, with some obscenities muttered under my breath. But we had that problem with our old carseat, too. I think it’s just getting used to it. Once I had the hang of it it was very easy.
While light, 8 pounds plus the weight of your baby isn’t negligible. Once Tessa was big enough to sit up, I opted to leave the seat in the car more and more often. Especially if the weather was nice.
The Callisto assembly took me a while. The stroller is great, but the instruction manual didn’t always have the best pictures to illustrate what needed to go where. But I always figured it out and the only times I had to worry were initial assembly and when I took off the carseat adapters and added the cushioned seat. (It would be great if the stroller came with the adapters…)
As a carseat frame I was really pleased. It’s compact and light, easy to push, and does much better at bumps and cracks than the tiny wheels on my Volo. The basket is a little small, but I try not to keep stuff in there anyway. When we couldn’t get an elevator on the T or anywhere else, I could easily fold the stroller and carry the frame in one hand and the seat in the other.
Once we switched to the seat the fold got a little harder, but it’s still okay. I much prefer using it over the Volo when we use the T. The nice soft seat reclines, the shade goes very long and can be moved up and down to block the light. Tessa has fallen asleep in it successfully a few times now. It came with a rain shield, I’ve never actually used it for rain but when it’s very cold or windy I like having an extra protection for Tessa.
What’s most impressive to me about the Callisto is its size. It’s shockingly small given how nice it is. Here it is folded up next to my Volo. And keep in mind, Volo’s are about the smallest strollers you can get, they’re the same size as those tiny $15 umbrella strollers. It’s not a big deal at all to keep it in the trunk of my hatch back. In fact, I often have BOTH strollers in the back of the car and still have room for groceries.
Umbrella fold is definitely the way to go. My old Graco Stroller frame? No umbrella fold there. It took up most of the trunk’s floor. And given its big wheels and nice handlebar, it’s only a smidge bigger than the Volo and a lot sturdier.
To Sum Up
I haven’t once regretted our choice. The Callisto has a great, sleek look and passes for a significantly more expensive stroller. The Aton was light and easy to use. We’ve already transitioned Tessa into her convertible seat, but what I wanted out of the Aton was to have us in a quality seat while Tessa’s head control was weak. I wanted her in a bucket seat until she was a stable sitter who didn’t need to be carted around in her carseat anymore. It worked like a charm.
We’re all done with the carseat, but I’m hanging on to it and intend to sell the seat and stroller together as a set when Tessa’s a solid walker and strollers play less of a role in our life. Somebody’s going to get a great deal…
I got no money for this post. No one asked me to write it. I paid out of pocket for the Cybex Aton and Callisto. Just wanted to share the love for some awesome products.