While ultra lightweight strollers are all the rage, there is one brand that is bucking the trend: Austlen Baby Company. This newer juvenile products company was founded by engineers - many of whom are also parents - that understand the daily lives and frustrations of moms and dads today.
So while other strollers are going minimal, Austlen is going the other way, offering a stroller that holds and does, well, everything! I like to call it the minivan of strollers - take everyone and all that you want along for a ride. The Austlen Entourage expands into three different sizes, with a single seat and the ability to expand into a double stroller and carry all the days gear with you. It's really impressive, and is already causing a stir in the market for its innovative design and ease of use.
I was given an Austlen Entourage stroller in exchange for my honest review. By the time you finish reading you will find out why I have to give it a 4½ out of 5-star review with a few glitches. Let's start with the fabulous features:
This is not a stroller for quick errands - it really is for those of you who are out often for longer periods of time and you need cargo space. Think of grocery runs, day trips to the park, the need for a double stroller plus space for your shopping bags. If you're that person, think about the Austlen Entourage - the versatile design is quite handy!
The most innovative part of the Entourage is the expanding frame. With a quick squeeze and slide of a button, the stroller expands or retracts with startling ease. It's SMOOOOTH! Really impressive.
In the fully expanded mode, you have enough room to hold a second seat or the sit and stand plus your cargo. Or you have several options for bag accessories such as the adjustable length cargo bag, big enough to carry all your sports equipment in one trip.
A stylish market tote bag is included that is designed to expand with the stroller. It has two large pockets with mesh sides and one section that is covered that has smaller compartments to keep your phone and keys, etc. Pop it off the handle to take with you.
You'd think pushing a stroller this long would be difficult, especially when it is loaded down with weight. I took the Austlen Entourage around the neighborhood a few times and put 25 pounds in the seat and 35 pounds in the cargo area. That's still less than half the weight that this stroller can carry; the maximum capacity - stroller plus child(ren) - is 150 pounds! And I'm sure the Entourage can handle that much weight with ease. But could you?
Even with 70 pounds, I was feeling like I was getting a good workout by the time I got home. This stroller is HEAVY. By itself it weighs 34 pounds. The official site says that without the bumper bar and canopy it weighs 32 pounds. Why would they take off those two items before weighing it?
All four wheels on the Austlen Entourage have suspension and the front wheels (shown above) have ball bearings for extra smooth steering. The stroller glided right over uneven sidewalk and I managed to pop it over a curb loaded down. I took the Entourage to a nearby park and pushed it over grass and playground mulch, and it certainly passed muster!
However thick gravel and sand - impossible. I saw photos of this stroller loaded down with beach equipment and I can tell you that no stroller, unless it has the largest tires like a jogger, is possible to push in sand unless it is super-hard packed. And if the stroller is loaded down there is no way. So make sure you stick to a boardwalk or harder flat surface if you're going beach side. UPDATE: Austlen will be coming out with beach wheels in the near future, though, so beachside strolling is in the works!
One handed steering and turning I could manage carefully when carrying 60 pounds. The maneuvering is one feature I have to say is stellar. More weight than that, of course, is going to be more of a challenge. And the longer you extend this stroller, the less likely you will be able to handle it one-handed. It's physics.
I like the one touch linked brakes; very clear if they are engaged or not. Check out the spring suspension!
The first thing I noticed was how upright the seat sits, which is something a lot of strollers don't have that parents wished it did. Very good for older kids who are curious and want to check out the world around them. A five-point padded safety harness keeps your passenger safely in the seat and the buckle is pretty simple to fasten and unfasten.
This seat holds up to 50 pounds and you can also turn your Austlen Entourage into a travel system. Car seats from Nuna, Maxi Cosi and Cybex brands fit right on with the adapter that is sold separately. The seat on this stroller does not reverse.
I like the adjustable leg rest and the nubby rubber, which makes cleaning a breeze and the accent looks stylish. I also like the faux leather bumper bar - the color and stitching matches the main handle bar and it looks gorgeous. A push of a button releases the bar, or release one side to rotate it out for quick ins and outs. With all the storage this stroller has, I would have liked to have at least seen pockets inside the seating area so your child could access a sippy cup or snack pod.
Next, the recline. The seat has five positions from upright to nearly flat. The handle on the back of the seat can be often be "sticky" in that I would pull up on the handle to change position, and had to struggle to get it to work. This is something that can happen with brand new strollers and as you use it over time, the stickiness will go away. But you need to know about this going in. I wish it had a levered one-handed recline instead of a handle to pull up.
One of the features I hadn't seen in other reviews is the bassinet mode! Put the seat into full recline and fold up the leg rest. Behind the leg rest is a pocket with the bassinet enclosure fabric. Pull it out and wrap it over the leg rest. Velcro tabs fasten to strategically placed loops at the sides of the seat. It's a fantastic alternative to adding a car seat and additional weight. And the canopy comes down farther than shown in the photo - I wanted to show you the seat.
Look at this fabulous, full-coverage sun canopy! It extends with an extra panel and a pop-out sun visor. The fabric contains UPF 50+ which blocks harmful sun rays from your baby's delicate skin.
I like how the top of the seat is covered when reclined and includes a mesh peek-a-boo window in addition to the peek-a-boo window at the top of the canopy. Mesh allows for airflow through the seating compartment, keeping your baby's space well circulated. The flaps covering the mesh windows have magnetic closures instead of the usual Velcro, a huge plus because the ripping sound and tugging motion can wake your napping little one!
The Austlen Entourage is mostly a stroller for us adults, right? All that storage space is for our convenience, and not only is it a lot of space, it is designed well, too. Look at the storage basket. The sides are flexible elastic-style fabric and the front where I have my finger pulls downward, so that luggage or water coolers or whatever you have that fits onto the frame itself can fit on top of the basket rather than in it. The bottom of the basket is heavy duty vinyl with a weight limit of 65 pounds! You can confidently put as much as you can fit in there without worry that the basket is going to go slack toward the ground.
There's also a mesh pocket on the back of the main seat where you could keep the user manual or your child's favorite book.
Then there's the height adjustable handle bar - the gorgeous faux leather with a hand-stitched look detailing the inside. I also appreciate the safety tether so that you never lose contact with your stroller, giving you peace of mind.
Folding is a two-step process that's rather simple once you get the hang of it. The seat goes down first, then the handle comes down over the seat, resulting in a relatively compact package. Unfortunately my stroller has had difficulty with the smooth fold down motion both steps! - and I have to try again and again to get it to work. The demo videos make it look so easy! Apparently this is something that gets easier over time and use and the fold will get smoother.
Once it's folded the fenders on the rear wheels allow for self-standing. Mine leans up against a wall, so I pop off the front wheels for a more compact area.
Before we go into double stroller options, take a look at my video review.
The Austlen Entourage is sold only by authorized dealers, and I prefer Magic Beans. They also have a ton of video reviews on YouTube to help consumers pick the right stroller and lots of information and assistance.
But if you could buy your new Entourage through this link, it will help me out tremendously, so I can continue to review strollers for you! Thank you!!
This stroller has been designed and engineered to easily add alternative seating options. Here we have the second seat, which also has a recline and a huge canopy with a mesh peek-a-boo window. It clicks right into place and a pull of a pair of levers on either side and it comes right out.
My stroller might be different than others, but like the main seat, I found the second seat's recline difficult. The handle I have to pull up on is "sticky" in that I must tug and tug at it to get it to move and it gets rather frustrating. It will get easier over time as the stroller is used, but you need to know this going in.
You have to have the stroller in the intermediate retraction or extended to use the second seat. For both seats to be reclined fully, the extended length must be used. The second seat has a weight capacity of 35 pounds and baby's got to be at least six months old. This seat has an 11½" width, 18" seatback and 20½" seat to canopy. It will add five pounds to your 35-pound stroller and is parent-facing only.
I love how you can fold the Entourage with the second seat attached! Just rotate the second seat so that it tips toward the handle and then fold down the stroller as normal. Like I said, though, the handle that I pull to recline the seat or tilt it forward to position it for folding is "sticky" and very hard to do. As you can see by the photo I managed to make it work, but it wasn't easy. Also because of the different weight distribution with the second seat attached, a standing fold isn't possible.
Another option if you have an older child who likes to get out and walk now and then but needs breaks would be the Sit + Stand add-on accessory. It comes with both the jump seat and the platform rider, it clicks right into place and the seat folds up when not in use AND can be folded with the stroller.
I did have trouble installing the platform rider only because the instructions were unclear. I thought I had to install it along the silver rear axle. But no, I ultimately figured out that the notches under the platform go over these knobs farther inside the basket and the outer edge lines up with the axle. The instructions could have been better - I almost called customer service! So if you get this accessory, remember this!
I like the padding on the seat - firm but a little squishy for comfort and it has a 3-point lap belt for safety. When your child is using the standing platform there is space around - in other words, your child's face won't bump up against the handle. It's well designed and suitable for children from 2½ years up to 50 lbs.
My overall impression is very positive. The Austlen Entourage has great utility and performance. It is seriously like a minivan where you can travel in comfort and take all you need with you for day long outings or sporting events.
However, the difficulties I had with folding the stroller and reclining and inclining BOTH seats after a reasonable amount of practice knocks the score from 5 to 4½ stars. I understand that the product needs to be worn in a little bit, but I used and practiced with this stroller for a number of days and the problem still didn't get any better. I will revise my rating if the seats and fold ease up by the time I do my video review.
This is a gorgeous, well-functioning product, and you tend to forget about the seat and folding difficulties when you're pushing the Entourage. Keep in mind that this is a BIG stroller, it's heavy and bulky, but you know that getting into it, just like you understand the nature of minivans.
The Austlen Entourage is only available through authorized dealers and a trusted company I like is Magic Beans. They sell it at the MSRP of $849 with free shipping. Buy all your accessories from there as well.
Just imagine yourself loading up the Entourage with your kids and all their playthings and going out for a glorious day!