The best car seat safe coats for Fall and Winter

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As we head into cooler weather you’re inevitably starting to think about winter jackets and keeping the kiddos warm. If you’re a first-time mom, you may be surprised to know that not all jackets are safe to use in a car seat. And improper use of jackets in car seats (i.e. putting on a heavy jacket and then strapping your kid in) is another way to make the whole seat less effective.

For those of us with kids in car seats, it’s really important to know which jackets your child can wear safely in the car seat this winter. It’s actually much trickier to get a safe car seat coat than you think when you’re also trying to get something that’s warm.

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✔️The safest car seat coat for winter

Before we get into it – if you already know all the science and rationale and are just looking for a safe coat for your kid to wear this winter – look no further. The One Kid Road Coat has you covered. It is a winter-weight coat (read – fluffy down) that has two separate layers so you can safely put it on under the car seat straps.

And it’s warm enough that you won’t need a second coat for outside play. If you look at how the images on Amazon you can see how the dual layers work. What looks like a collar or lapel below is the top layer of the jacket, that goes OVER the car seat straps.

Our Pick

Buckle Me Car Seat Coat

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What makes a jacket unsafe for car seats?

Mamma – I feel you. It seems like every time I turned around the first year there was some other horrible hazard I was exposing my baby to. In truth, many of those “must-dos” and terrible toxins were probably overblown. However, this isn’t one of them.

Car seat safety isn’t one of those “optional” rules to follow. Along with safe sleep, keeping a baby safe in the car is one of the best things you can do as a parent to protect your child. Unfortunately, car seats are more often than not installed improperly, and you can go wrong by bundling your little one up in the winter. I’m not going to get into everything that can go wrong with car seats, but you should do some additional research if you’re looking to educate yourself on a common safety issue.

Those big puffy winter jackets are the biggest culprit of car seat safety no-nos. They should be reserved for outdoor use only. Let’s dive into why certain coats are not safe for car seats, and what options you DO have for car seat safe coats.

For more information on ALL things car seat related, check out the carseat lady – she’s awesome! What I’m going to cover in this post is around winter safety – specifically, safe options for winter jackets you can use in a car seat.

Puffy jackets are NOT safe for car seats

The best way I can explain this is to let you know that using a big puffy jacket under the car seat straps is essentially the same thing as not pulling the straps tight at all, and just heading out for a ride.   A big puffy jacket puts space between the seat belt and your child. Even if you pull the straps tight and it feels secure, there is a lot of space between your child and the strap due to the heavy jacket. In the event of an accident, it’s like the straps aren’t tight at all.

Did you know that adding a winter coat UNDER the strap of the car seat adds up to four inches between your child and the straps? Even when the straps are pulled as tight as you can get them?

If you can’t fathom exactly how unsafe this is, go ahead and stick your baby in the car seat in just a onesie, then loosen the straps four inches. I’ll wait.

It’s CRAZY scary to see how loose four inches makes those straps, and definitely not something you’d expect because the straps can even feel tight on top of the coat.

Although your straps feel tight on the jacket, they won’t keep your child in place. Your baby can go flying out of the car seat in between the straps in a crash. If you’re into terrifying yourself, you can check out a simulated 30 mph crash with a baby wearing a puffy jacket.

If you already have anxiety, don’t watch the video. You can just trust me when I say that even if the straps feel tight, they aren’t.   The worst offenders are the big puffy down jackets, but any jacket that takes up additional space between your baby and the car seat puts her in danger. This includes “approved” car seat safe jackets that are too large.

What coats are safe to use with car seats?

Although many traditional winter jackets aren’t safe for your baby to wear in the car, fear not. This doesn’t mean you have to freeze your kid out in the winter. There are a few different options you can use to keep your child warm in the car while still keeping her safe.

I’m going to review some of the safe car seat coats as well as additional options to keep your child warm without putting a thick puffy jacket under the car seat straps.

Are car seat blankets safe?

Carseat Poncho

Well, that depends on what you mean by a car seat blanket. But in theory, yes. As long as you aren’t putting a blanket between your baby and the car seat straps, it’s safe!

One such option is a car seat poncho. This eliminates the need to use something under the car seat straps entirely. It fits over the head just like a hooded jacket but goes on top of the car seat straps versus inside them. Since it goes over the straps, you can buy a version that’s as thick as you’d like!

{Buying Tip} The car seat poncho is a popular option, and this version is Amazon’s choice. If you can get it for under $35, it’s a steal!

car seat poncho

Pros: Super safe because you aren’t putting anything under the straps. You can also get something extra thick and warm so you aren’t guessing whether or not they’re still cold.

Cons: If you’re going to be outside for a period of time or it’s REALLY cold out, you will need to get your kiddo into another coat from the car to the house or wherever you’re going.

Carseat Covers

Carseat covers are another great option if you’ll be leaving your little one in the infant car seat for transport. These won’t work if you’re going to be taking your baby in and out in the elements, but if you’re going from the house to the car or daycare, this is a perfect option.

J.J. Cole Carseat Cover

This version is Amazon’s choice, and with so many great ratings it’s well-liked by parents as well. It’s on sale a lot, so if you see it for under $30, snag it!

Seee More Pictures

The Pookie Poncho

One of the safest options is to just skip the jacket altogether. Then you’re never guessing whether or not the jacket you’ve chosen is adding too much bulk. If you can keep your kiddo bundled up with a heavy blanket over the straps, that’s your best bet. However, we know that isn’t always an option.

Sometimes a blanket just isn’t enough, so when our little lady was an infant we tried the pookie poncho.

The Pookie Poncho

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It was SUPER warm and we loved it for the infant car seat. However, it is supposed to fit over a convertible car seat and strollers as well, and we couldn’t ever figure that out.

If you live in a really cold climate and/or will be commuting outside a lot, this is definitely a good option. It’s not cheap but definitely worth the price if you’ll be able to use it.

Pros: Super safe because you aren’t putting anything under the straps. They are super warm and cozy so you really don’t have to worry about the thickness or whether or not your kiddo is still cold.

Cons: You also need a winter jacket if your baby can walk or will be outside without the poncho. We couldn’t get it to go over the stroller tightly so it was only really great for our infant car seat.

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What winter coats are car seat safe?

If you’re not going with a Road Coat, or a coat specifically designed for the car seat, for maximum car seat safety, you’ll want to skip the heavy coats altogether and go with a thin fleece. The good news is, there are lots of options out there. Fleece is great because although it’s not bulky, it adds a lot of warmth. You can layer baby up in a long sleeve onesie, a thin fleece or bunting, and then tuck a blanket on top of the car seat straps.

Babe is then super safe, and super toasty, and you don’t have to worry about getting her in and out of a different coat or jacket to go outside the car.

Columbia car seat safe coats

We used Columbia fleece buntings and jackets during the first two winters and loved both options. The snowtop II bunting was great when she was super tiny since I didn’t want her legs to get too cold and the Benton Springs fleece worked well for an entire winter when she wasn’t outside much. The Steens Mt. II version is for boys!

Columbia Baby Bunting

Best for Infants

Columbia Girls Snowtop Bunting

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Columbia Mt. Steens Fleece (Boys) Benton Springs (Girls)

Columbia Boys’ Steens Mountain Ii Fleece

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The important thing to note in both of these options is that they are the FLEECE layer only. The bunting and coats with added down, or plush down and fleece linings are most likely NOT car seat safe. Here’s an example of something I would NOT use in the car seat.

Pros: You get the benefit of both warmth and safety. You don’t need to take your kid outside without a jacket on, or fit to make a transition into a new jacket just to get out of the car.

Cons: It’s sometimes hard to know if these suits and coats are truly car seat safe. You definitely need to do a safety check (outlined below) to ensure there isn’t any extra bulk in the coat. They also aren’t as warm as the big puffy jackets you’re likely used to in winter, so you will need another jacket for outside play or snow if you’re in a really cold climate.

The North Face car seat safe coats

Thin North Face fleece jackets are safe to wear under car seat straps. Avoid all the down versions, but regular fleece is fine to wear in the car and out for play.

The North Face Infant Glacier Hoodie

The North Face Toddler Oso Hoodie

Great for Fall

THE NORTH FACE Kids’ Suave Oso Fleece Hoodie

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The North Face Toddler Oso Hoodie is made of TNF high pile fleece that is super soft. It’s also very lightweight so it’s safe for the car seat. They also make this style in infant sizes, so you can’t go wrong with either North Face fleece option for winter.

We have this coat for our daughter in the car, but also have a heavier down jacket for her to play outside in the winter. While the fleece jackets are great when they’re infants and for the car seat, you’ll want something warmer if your kiddo will be playing outside in the snow.

Patagonia car seat safe jackets

Patagonia Better Sweater

Thin Patagonia fleece jackets are also safe for the car seat. Again, as long as you’re avoiding the puffy down and going for a thin layer, you should be ok.

A nice option is the Better Sweater (Recycled Fleece) for both babies and little kids.

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Patagonia Furry Friends Fleece Jacket

This Patagonia fleece is a great option for the car seat because it’s an option that is one thin fleece layer, without any extra bulk from the down typically found in winter jackets.

Adorable bear ears on the hood will keep your little one looking cute and cuddly all winter long while staying safe in the car.

Pros: It’s adorable, thin enough for the carseat, and cheaper than many Patagonia coats

Cons: It’s not going to be warm enough to be a full winter jacket. You’ll need something else if you live in a really cold climate and need a snow jacket.

Patagonia Micro D. Snap T Infant Fleece

This Patagonia fleece is very simliar to the option above, but in a different style. It’s also only one thin fleece layer, without any extra bulk from the down typically found in winter jackets.

This is basically a baby version of one of the adult styles you’re likely familiar with.

Pros: It’s thin enough for the carseat, and still “baby pricing” which is cheaper than many Patagonia coats. Note – you can obviously buy car seat safe jackets that are cheaper, but you probably already knew that.

Cons: It’s not going to be warm enough to be a full winter jacket. You’ll need something else if you live in a really cold climate and need a snow jacket.

The Road Coat: The ultimate in car seat safety

The carseat lady recommends The Road Coat which is an actual winter jacket for use up to -25 degrees Fahrenheit — AND is safe for the car. They definitely aren’t cheap, but if you’re buying your kid a North Face or Patagonia jacket anyway, this is a much better option for car seat safety for the cost! I’m comparing our coat (Road Coat) with The Buckle Me jacket as they have similar ability to put car seat straps UNDER the coat and closer to your child.

The Buckle Me Jacket

New Technology

Buckle Me Baby Coats

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While we don’t have a Buckle Me coat, it is the most similar to The One Kid Road Coat that we’ve found. It isn’t as thin as many of the recommended fleece options, and will help you transition to and from the car when it’s really cold out.

We love our Road Coat and even better, we’ve been able to use it for two full years. The features on the Buckle Me are similar with extended sleeves, which is a huge bonus. We got it when she was *almost* a size 3 and made sure it wasn’t too big. She’s now still able to wear it at age 4 although the sleeves are getting a little short. For us, it was worth the money, especially since we’ve been able to extend the wear and get it through two little ones.

The Road Coat Baby Bunting Car Seat Safe Snowsuit

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If you’re looking for a baby bunting or snowsuit that you won’t have to take off in the car, look no further. The Road Coat Snow Suit takes all the guesswork out of keeping your little one warm and safe in the car.

Pros: Best of both worlds. You get car seat safety AND the warmth of an outdoor snowsuit. You’re also not wrangling an infant in and out of a warm jacket before you get out of the car into the cold. There really aren’t downsides because it’s not even hard to figure out how to use the double layers. There are also lots of patterns and color options.

Cons: They aren’t cheap, and you’re paying a higher-end price without the high-end name. For us, this wasn’t a problem because we were looking for safety, but if logos are important to you, you won’t get them with this option.

How should you dress your baby to be safe in the car seat?

The best way to keep your baby safe in a car seat is to use thin layers. We had our daughter wear a long-sleeved onesie, and then maybe a thin sweatshirt or top layer if it was really cold out.

We used the thin fleece bunting or jackets from Columbia the first couple of years before we got our road coat. The main issue with the thin fleece is that you need another warm winter jacket for outdoor play, but at least you’re safe while in transit.

Additionally, if you’re on a long car trip, you probably don’t even need to use a coat. If you warm the car up and use a thin blanket on top, your baby will likely be fine in just regular winter clothing. A hot jacket may even be uncomfortable depending on the length of the trip.

Tips to keep your baby car seat safe during the winter

Never put a puffy coat on and strap your child in the car seat. The best option is to use a poncho or blanket and not put on a coat at all. However, I know that isn’t really feasible for most of us, so I use a thin fleece in the car seat and a blanket on top when it’s really cold. No matter how tempting, even if it’s just for a short ride, don’t strap them in with the fluffy down jacket.

Over 50% of accidents happen within five miles of the home.* It’s just not worth the risk.  It’s very easy to tell if the jacket you’ve chosen is safe to use in the car seat.

The exact steps to tell if your jacket is car seat safe

  1. Put on the jacket and strap your child in.
  2. WITHOUT loosening the straps, take off the jacket and put your child back in.
  3. If the straps are still snug, your child can wear the jacket in the car seat.
  4. If the straps are loose and dangling once you’ve removed the jacket, it’s too big to wear under the straps.

You can easily keep your child safe if you know what kind of jackets to avoid, so take a few extra minutes and make sure you’re using a jacket that is thin enough for the car seat. Or better yet, skip the jacket and use another option this winter!

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