If you’re hoping to accommodate multiple car seats or would like to comfortably fit a couple back seat passengers alongside your child’s car seat, you’ll want to check out the Rainier Convertible Car Seat from Diono. Known for making car seats that are high on safety but light on bulk, Diono is the company behind the popular Radian car seat, a highly regarded model among parents seeking space-saving car seats. While the new Rainier is slightly wider at the top than its popular predecessor, it’s still considerably narrower than most seats on the market. For us, that’s great news, as I refuse to trade my beloved, but admittedly compact, sedan for a larger SUV or minivan.
The Rainier is 28.5” high by 16″ deep, but the most impressive dimension is the 18.5” width. Unlike most car seats, this actually gives me the option of my son in one car seat, my daughter in another car seat next to him and still comfortably seating a third passenger beside them. At the same time the interior of the seat is roomy enough to provide a comfortable ride for my child.
While the size of the Rainier is certainly the biggest selling point for me, I’m thrilled that the best-fit option is also one of the safest options with several features that improve performance in the event of a crash. To start, it’s widely recognized that the rear-facing position is safer than front facing, and the Rainier enables you to keep your child rear facing up to 50 lbs – most convertible car seats top out at 40 lbs. For rear-facing mode, the Rainier also provides a rear-facing tether, which reduces the amount of rebound upon impact. Note that most cars don’t have rear-facing tether anchors, so Diono also provides a strap for turning the base of your front seats into anchors. For front-facing mode, the Rainier includes a SafeStop load-limiting strap, which helps absorb the energy of the crash, diminishing the force felt by your child.
The seat itself is comprised of a full steel frame and aluminum reinforced sides. While this makes it heavier that many seats at 26 lbs, you can be sure you have one solid seat, and the weight really isn’t an issue if you don’t plan on moving the seat once it’s installed. For side impact protection, the Rainier is padded in energy-absorbing EPS foam, and the additional inch width that the top of the Rainier has over the Radian allows for thicker head protection as well as new extra deep side walls with a rigid double wall design. With so many safety features, the Rainier has passed NCAP crash tests, the industry benchmark for seat performance in severe accident conditions.
The seat of the Rainier sits lower than most, another safety benefit, while also providing an easier path for getting your child in and out of the seat. Toddlers love that this also gives them the added independence of climbing in and out of the seat themselves.
As with many convertible car seats, the Rainier provides a one car seat solution from birth through the end of your child’s car seat days, eliminating the need for an infant car seat. While infant car seats do have a number of advantages including portability, ability to combine with a stroller as a travel system and, in many cases, increased safety, not having to purchase two separate car seats can be a huge benefit, especially when it comes to your wallet. Children start by sitting rear facing from 5 to 50 lbs, with additional head and body padding to help cushion infants. You’ll want to keep your child rear facing as long as possible, with a switch generally triggered by complaints about comfort as your child outgrows this position. Luckily, the Rainier’s longer seat should buy you extra time. Forward-facing mode accommodates children from 20 to 90 lbs (or up to 57” in height). Should you want to continue using your Rainier as a booster, it can hold children between 50 to 120 lbs (or up to 57” in height).
The Rainier is highly customizable to comfortably and safely fit your growing child. The aluminum-reinforced headrest adjusts to 12 height positions, and there are 5 shoulder harness positions and 3 buckle positions to choose from. The sides of the seat can also be angled out. Given how long your child can remain in this seat, it’s great to know that the Rainier has an 8-year product life as a harnessed seat and an additional 4 years as a booster, which is longer than most other car seats.
Another big question we always get about car seats is “how easy is it to install?” As with all car seats, it’s best if you can see the seat in person and do a trial installation in your car, as all cars are different and some are more or less compatible than others. For example, check that you can wedge the foot of the detachable base between the back and seat of your car’s back seat and check that you have enough front-to-back room to accommodate the seat in rear-facing mode without impeding your front seat. If the seat does intrude too far into your front seat, note that you can purchase a separate angle adjuster that puts the seat in a more upright position.
Once you’ve determined that the Rainier will work with your car, installation is easy, especially with SuperLATCHTM, which should be compatible with all cars manufactured after September 2002. If you don’t have LATCH or prefer to use the seat belt method, don’t fret, as installation with a seat belt is pretty straightforward as well. Note that you’ll also need to use the seat belt method once your child exceeds 35 lbs in rear-facing mode or 40 lbs in forward-facing mode. To help you with installation, videos are available on the Diono website.
In addition to use in cars, Diono seats are also ideal for air travel. They fold flat and are FAA-approved for use on an airplane. Note that the seat is heavy, but you can purchase a separate strap or two to carry it over your shoulder or wear it backpack style. Also, the Rainier is only meant to be used as a harnessed seat on an airplane. Please do not try using it as a booster on a plane.
Because we know your child will spend a good amount of time in his car seat, and that this often involves food, some dirt and an occasional accident, you’ll be happy to know that the Rainier cover is machine washable in a front-loading machine and can also be tumble dried on low for easy maintenance. It’s always a nice benefit when you can refresh your car seat from time to time!
To recap, here are some things we love about the Rainier:
• Narrow seat = more car seats/passengers in your back seat!
• Longer rear-facing position up to 50 lbs
• The only seat you’ll need with infant support pillows, rear-facing, front-facing and booster modes as well as an industry-leading 12 year product life
• High safety with full steel frame, aluminum reinforced sides, EPS foam padding and extra deep double side walls
• High degree of adjustability with adjustable headrest, multiple harness and buckle positions and sides that can be expanded
• Low sides that make it easy to get your child in and out of the seat
• Simple installation with a SuperLATCHTM option as well as tethering capabilities in both front and rear-facing positions
• Folds flat for convenient travel (though a bit on the heavy side at 26 lbs)
A great seat for those who want safety, comfort and a car seat that will let them optimize the space in their back seat, the Rainier is available for $379.99 in 6 colors and patterns. Learn more from the Diono website, including where to find a retailer near you.