When our Little Monkey was a baby we decided we’d teach him to sleep in all kinds of places so we could tote him around with us and still enjoy life. We thought we’d done pretty well at that, but it turns out that’s just him — great at sleeping. The same strategies haven’t really worked for our Night Owl. So I have no sleep secrets to share, unless you count the secret shame of my prior smugness. Sorry!
It is still, regardless of how well an infant sleeps, useful to have a portacot. We’ve tried several (and bought a couple), and given that it’s holiday season I thought it might be good time to talk about our favourite so far.
There are a few different options when it comes to portacots. There’s the traditional sturdy model, which is structurally good but quite heavy. These sometimes have extra bells and whistles, like bassinet and change table attachments so you don’t have to bend down so far when your baby is tiny.
There are tent versions, which are pretty cool, and very useful if you like to get outdoors and want to do naps on the go (we have one of these too, which we keep in the car). They tend to be much lighter but depending on your child may or may not promote sleep (worked well for our Little Monkey, not so well – yet – for the Night Owl).
How much you care about the features will vary hugely on how (and how often) you’ll use it. If it will just sit at a grandparent’s house and be lugged out a couple of times a year probably any (safe) model will do. If it needs to travel, size, weight and how easy it is to put up and take down start to matter more.
Phil & Ted's Traveller Portacot
Value for money
A pricy but excellently-designed portacot which weighs on 3.2kg and is pretty easy to put up and take down. Highly recommended if you travel often. Secondhand is a good option to keep the price down.
The Phil & Ted’s Traveller is lightweight but similar to a traditional portacot in construction, with the cot working as a sort of hammock hung from the frame. The net inner has little plastic catches on strings at each corner which slot into the bottom of the poles to hold it taut. The poles come apart and are very lightweight (but so far are standing up well to toddler abuse, which they get a fair bit of) and it is relatively compact when folded.
It has a self-inflating mattress pad, and the base sits just off the floor so there’s room for airflow. It’s not crazy big but the legs sit out at a bit of an angle so it still requires a bit of floorspace.
For me, the lightweight and compact elements appeal. The ones available for our use at the grandparents’ houses are both quite heavy (I’d estimate in the region of 10kg), which can be awkward if you’re trying to do everything at the same time (which is basically permanent parenting mode, so…). Either way you need your hands free to put the thing up, but if I can get everything into the bedroom in one trip that at least saves a bit of time. The Traveller only weighs 3.2kg, which feels like nothing after toting a 9kg baby around all day.
The Traveller has zips on all the side panels, so you can unzip a side for access if you want to. The sales spin claims this means you can use it for play as well as sleep, but I remain unconvinced on that. However, if you are camping and baby fusses in the night (or you can’t quite do the reaching-way-down-over-the-sides to pop them in and out) this could be useful. In our household this feature is solely a toddler amusement tool. And once the baby is old enough to work it out herself we might employ cable ties to prevent her escaping.
As I alluded to above, it’s still a bit of a reach down to the sleeping platform, but that’s pretty standard portacot fare. No fun if you have a bad back, but a higher platform would need more engineering which would probably mean the lightweight awesomeness would be destroyed.
In terms of difficulty of putting up, it’s pretty straightforward. Maybe very slightly slower than a collapsing all-one-piece portacot that (important caveat) you already know how to use. But this one is (I think) more intuitive, so could end up quicker. I timed myself putting it away the other day and it was about three minutes – putting up would be about the same.
We’ve been using ours as a daytime sleeping space for our Night Owl for several months. Our kids share a room, so until the Little Monkey dropped his nap last month (nooooooooooooooooooo!) we felt it would be wiser to have her sleeping in our room during the day. It seems to have been just as acceptable to her as her cot is, and I have had no concerns about safety — at least not caused by the cot. 😉
Because it’s so light it’s easy to move around, even when up (though the corner toggles/anchors tend to pop out when it’s moved, so you do have to re-do those).
The major downside is the high price tag. This retails at $300, which I reckon is too much for a portacot. I guess it depends on your level of need. If you really need something lightweight and compact then it might be worth it to you. Anyway, as with many baby items, secondhand is a great way to go, and indeed I nabbed ours on TradeMe in as-new condition for $150.
Basically, I think it’s a great option, and I’m very glad we bought it. It won’t make your baby sleep, and as with any baby-related purchase it needs also to fit your lifestyle (we don’t all need all the things!), but this is the best portacot I’ve used for how our life works.