Overwhelmed. That’s how many expectant parents feel about making a stroller purchase.  With so many choices in the marketplace these days, it can be a daunting task to try and learn what makes one stroller better than another.They have analyzed three types of strollers — jogging strollers, travel strollers, and all-round strollers.  Looking at the specific needs of Vancouver parents, and the key features that make a great stroller – excellent handling, reliability, and an easy-to-operate design – they have selected the top picks for 2009.

Best Jogging Stroller – BOB Revolution

Vancouver is such an active city that this type of stroller is highly popular.  It’s even gaining fans among parent who don’t jog, but still maintain a healthy lifestyle, including lots of time spent outdoors with baby.  The jogging stroller offers a comfortable, and smooth ride for anyone wishing to venture off the paved sidewalk —a real plus in a city like Vancouver with so many great parks and trails.

As the name suggests, the jogging stroller is designed for a parent who plans to go out for a jog with their child.  These three-wheel designs need to have great suspension, a strong frame, and bigger wheels to handle traveling quickly over uneven surfaces such as gravel and dirt.  On most jogging strollers the front wheel is fixed so that the stroller will travel straight, even over more difficult terrain.

We’ve chosen the BOB Revolution as our top choice in this category.  The Revolution is not a new stroller. In fact, it has been such a favourite of parents that BOB company didn’t make any design changes this year. And that seems to be a wise decision, since this BOB product is pretty much perfect as it is.

Jogging with this stroller is a delight, largely because of its light frame (23.6 lbs) and fantastic state-of-the-art shock absorbing suspension system that provides baby with an exceptionally smooth ride, even on trails and gravel surfaces.  Our favourite feature on the Revolution is the pivoting front wheel that makes this stroller extremely easy to maneuver.  It allows you to take baby anywhere another stroller would go, but, when you’re ready to jog, locks forward for maximum stability.

The BOB Revolution comes with 16-inch rear wheels that work best for joggers or active walkers.  Those looking for a smaller wheel design can go with the Revolution 12-inch AW, with two 12-inch rear aluminum wheels, to allow for greater maneuverability in tight spaces such as stores and city streets.

The BOB company has created a stroller with many well thought out design features such as a generous sun canopy that keeps baby fully shaded even when the sun is at an angle, and an infant car seat adaptor that becomes a snack tray once the infant seat is no longer needed.  A quick two-step fold takes it down to a compact size that makes it a great pick for those smaller vehicles or storage areas.

Another stroller in this category that gets high marks from us is the Mountain Buggy Urban, which, like the BOB Revolution, can be both a jogging and everyday stroller.  However, we’ve decided that it fits best as our pick for the top “all-around” stroller because there are other features that make the Mountain Buggy Urban more versatile than the BOB.

Best Travel Stroller – Uppa Baby G-Luxe

Uppa BabyTravel strollers are often the second stroller purchase for a family.  In Vancouver, they are generally used to replace a larger stroller that is too heavy or difficult to maneuver through pedestrian areas such as malls or city sidewalks.  They are also the stroller type used when parents head off on vacation.

A great travel stroller must be compact, lightweight, have great handling, and be comfortable for baby.  If the travel stroller does not meet these criteria it will get little use and often becomes a source of frustration.  There is nothing worse than arriving at your destination and realizing your stroller should have stayed at home.

The Uppa Baby G-Luxe offers parents many of the features found on larger stroller while managing to weigh in at only 11 lbs, making it one of the lightest full-size reclining strollers on the market.  It also includes two features that parents have been begging for – solid, well-sized wheels (5.5-inch diameter) and shock absorbing suspension – as they help to produce a smooth ride over uneven streets, often found in places like Mexico and most European cities.

Our favourite feature on the G-Luxe is the easy one-finger pull down recline feature that allows baby to take a nap or relax on the move, while not adding extra weight to the stroller.  Most reclining strollers on the market use mechanisms that increase stroller weight and require a parent to crouch to engage them.  There’s nothing worse on vacation than being forced to lug a heavy stroller around so baby doesn’t miss a nap.

Additional features, such as a removable cup-holder, a pop out SPF 50 sun visor, and the ability to stand when folded should continue to keep this product at the top for 2010.  Its sister product, the Uppa Vista, is equally innovative and came a close second for best overall stroller this year.

Best All-Round Stroller – Mountain Buggy Urban

When choosing an all-round stroller, or “everything” stroller, jack & lola looked at the Vancouver landscape and picked a stroller that is built to face the multitude of activities and conditions found in our town.  Being based on the North Shore, we made sure to calculate in trips to the park, trail walks and the occasional jog as well as regular visits to the supermarket, mall or coffee shop.

An all-round stroller must fit with your lifestyle and make your time out with baby enjoyable and effortless.  This is the stroller that you depend on everyday.  It must accommodate all the needs from the arrival of your baby through to the point they no longer need to be pushed around.  It must be comfortable, handle very well, adapt to the changing needs of your child, and work well in all types of activities.  This stroller must do it all, and do it well.

The Mountain Buggy Urban does all of these things well, which makes it our top pick as best all-round stroller for 2009.

A few changes have been made to the design this year that really helped to place it at the top.  In the past, an infant car seat had to be used in the stroller until baby was about eight weeks old.  Mountain Buggy changed its seat design to allow for almost a completely flat recline so that a newborn can be placed directly in the seat, and with an adjustment to the straps, stay comfortable and secure.  Parents can now choose either to use an infant car seat with the stroller or lay baby flat in the seat.

Maneuverability is the best thing about this stroller. This is proven by the great results with our “coffee test,” which requires parents to hold on to the buggy with one hand while rolling through our store. The Urban’s swivel wheel lets them turn the stroller with a single finger while air-filled tires and rear-wheel suspension keep it moving smoothly.

The Urban has no unnecessary or unwanted features. For example, many strollers require parents to crouch down to click the seat into a reclining position or to engage a number of buttons to collapse the stroller. All the Urban needs is just a tug on the strap for recline and a pull of two levers to collapse it flat.

The Urban is a great jogging/trail-walking stroller with its rear suspension, locking front wheel, air filled tires, and a lightweight aluminum frame. Yet it still offers accessories and a sleek design.  Parents can even purchase a carrycot that attaches to the Urban frame turning the buggy into a pram.

As well, Mountain Buggy has designed easy-to-use accessories. For example, the storm and sun covers are made with zip-open fronts to allow easy access to a crying baby. An extremely large under basket offers easily accessible storage and even a pocket for keys and a wallet. New this year is a water bottle holder near the handle so that you can hydrate on the move.

Many strollers on the market become uncomfortable as your child grows and become heavy to operate with an older child, but this is not true of the Urban. Many of us at jack & lola have discovered that this durable and reliable stroller is one your children want to sit in and even sometimes refuse to leave.

Mountain Buggy even guarantees their stroller, including frame and fabric, for three years.  It is a warranty that can be transferred to a new owner if you decide to sell and perhaps purchase their double when a second child arrives.

For its ability to work as a pram, an urban ride, and an outdoor adventurer – jack & lola picks the Mountain Buggy Urban as the best all-around stroller for 2009.