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Review: 6 outdoor products for family vacations

POSTED September 29, 2016 10:51 p.m.
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THE GREAT OUTDOORS — The weather may be cooling, but there are still lots of great opportunities for outdoor adventures for families. Traveling with little ones sometimes presents its share of challenges, so it’s important to be prepared. Here are a handful of products that may be worth considering for your next outing.

Add-a-Twist Storage Containers

PRICE: $34

GRADE: A

This clever product is reminiscent of the food containers in India known as dabbas. There are three containers that have a bayonet-style locking mechanism to attach to each other. You can mix and match them, using only the ones you need.

Much like a dabba, the Add-a-Twist is great for bringing food with you on the go. Each container has a double-sealed lid and is completely airtight and waterproof. Yep, it floats. So you can also use them to tote electronics and other items you want to protect while out and about.

The largest container has a 540-milliliter-capacity, while the smallest is 112. Each container has measuring lines for meal prep convenience. And there’s also a handle on top to hang the Add-a-Twist above a table or in a tent for easier access.

Allen Sports S525 Double Bike Rack

PRICE: $219

GRADE: A-

This hitch-mounted rack holds up to two bikes totaling 70 pounds. It’s compatible with most standard Class I-IV 1 ¼-inch and 2-inch receiver hitches. One of the best features to its design is how little wobble occurs once it’s connected to the hitch.

While the S525 is definitely a rugged rack, it’s also quite easy to assemble. Right out of the box, there are only three bolts that need to be installed. And it’s equally simple to use once you’ve got it ready to go.

The rack’s carry arms are spaced in a way that accommodates a wide range of frames, which is important for fat bikes and atypical frames. And the UV-resistant cradle straps do a better job of securing your bike than some others on the market. Plus, there’s an integrated locking loop for additionally safeguarding your bike.

OXO Tot On-the-Go Travel Drying Rack

PRICE: $14

GRADE: A

For families with infants and toddlers, bottles can be a real hassle around the campsite or on a road trip. This cleaning kit/drying rack combo helps alleviate that problem.

It’s a compact little kit, small enough to fit into a diaper bag, but it provides a brush and a drying rack. The brush includes a detail cleaner for smaller components. And the tines on the drying rack are perfect for everything from sippy cups to breast pump parts.

SOG PowerPlay Multi-Tool

PRICE: $89

GRADE: A-

If there’s one rule of family vacations, it’s that things will break. Whether it’s the sliding door on the minivan or the zipper on the tent, there will be malfunctions. So a multi-tool is always a valuable asset to have around.

The PowerPlay from SOG really packs a lot of features into a small space. Aside from the standard inclusions like screwdrivers, a bottle opener and a saw, the PowerPlay offers heavy-duty pliers. The jaws of the pliers use Compound Leverage technology, which give them twice the power of normal multi-tools. That means better grip, less slipping and more crushing power.

There’s also a robust straight edge blade and a fully serrated blade that can be accessed single-handedly without opening the tool. In this way, the PowerPlay is more like a traditional knife and less like the Rubix Cube-type multi-tools where you have to fiddle with several components to access the blades.

Nuna MIXX Stroller

PRICE: Varies by retailer

GRADE: A-

While it may seem like all strollers are pretty much the same, there are definitely some models that are more convenient and easy to use. And when you consider the hundreds or thousands of times you’ll open and close a stroller, for example, it might make sense to purchase one that makes those functions a breeze.

The MIXX offers lots of upgraded features that are sometimes hard to find with other strollers. For starters, it folds down more compactly than many comparable models. This can be crucial on road trips and outings where space is limited. It also has a flat fold option so your little one can comfortably sleep while you’re out and about.

If you’re spending extensive time in the sun, like on an outing to Disneyland, you’ll appreciate some of the other benefits of the MIXX. The UPF 50+ canopy is oversized and provides great shade at any angle, and there’s a mesh peek-a-boo window for discreet check-ins. And the airless, foam-filled tires are quiet and smooth. Add the integrated suspension to the mix and your passenger gets an unusually pleasant ride.

Joovy Nook High Chair

PRICE: $129

GRADE: A-

It isn't surprising that Ikea’s ANTILOP high chair is one of the top selling in the United States. It's an inexpensive product that is simple to use. As one might expect, most of its virtues are tied to its clean and basic design.

On the other hand, there are times when it's really desirable to have better features and versatility from a high chair. The Nook fits this bill. First off, it can comfortably accommodate children up to 50 pounds, so it has a longer life than smaller high chairs. It also has a swing-out tray, so you don’t have to deal with the dreaded “leg lock” when you’re trying to get your child out.

Other great features include a five-point harness, which helps keep your child firmly in place (no matter how slouchy they are). The leatherette liner is super comfortable for children, but also wipes clean in a jiff. Best of all, the whole thing folds down to the size of a beach chair, meaning you can easily throw it in your car for picnics and other family outings.

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