If you’ve ever traveled with a bulky car seat or booster, you have probably searched far and wide for a lighter, less cumbersome, and more portable alternative.
After years of lugging a backbreakingly heavy car seat through airports and transferring it from car to car when visiting with friends, the idea of a tiny, foldable booster that weighs less than 2 pounds and fits in a handbag seemed too good to be true. We were skeptical that this could be a viable replacement for our child’s otherwise behemoth booster, but if there is a way to make travel and carpooling easier, we are willing to try it.
About the Milfold Original booster seat
Claiming to be "the world’s most compact backless booster” the Mifold Original booster is small enough to fit into a glove box and, weighing about the same as a hardcover book, lightweight enough to easily be carried in a handbag or a child’s backpack.
The grab-and-go booster is available in five different booster options, including two “luxury” models, which offer more padding and comfort than the original model, a high-back foldable model, and a baseline model that sits flat but doesn’t fold.
The Mifold Original is the one that first gained the brand its fame and is the model we tried. It has a simple design that allows it to fold up to be 9-inches long and 4-inches wide, making it smaller and lighter than a typical kids’ tablet—to give you a baseline item to compare its size to.
Dimensions 9" x 14" x 1.75"
Weight: 1.75 ounces
Assembly: No assembly required; easy fold-out features
How to clean: Wipe clean
Instruction manual: Mifold video and PDF instruction manuals
How does the Mifold work?
Far smaller than a regular booster, rather than raising a child up, the Mifold booster aims to properly align and fit both a car’s lap belt and shoulder belt so that they are safe and secure for children ages 4 and older, 40 pounds to 100 pounds, and 40 inches to 57 inches tall.
The Mifold booster meets or exceeds U.S.’s NHTSA standards FMVSS 213 and is regulated for use in every state and all countries except for Australia. It’s also narrow enough to fit three in a row across the back seat of most cars.
What we like about the Mifold Original booster
Our son’s impromptu play dates increased exponentially since we started testing out the Mifold booster. The thing that we liked best about the Mifold car seat is that there really is no reason not to always have it in your car. We kept ours in the seat-back pocket of our Prius; whenever a child floated the idea of hanging out, we had the means to take them along with us on our adventures.
Suddenly my kid and his friends can socialize with the carefree ease similar to that of my 80s childhood, back when we didn’t have to worry about car seats and boosters. Only, with the Mifold booster, they are much safer than we were back then.
It’s fairly easy to use
It took a few tries but, once we got the hang of things, installing the Mifold booster was a piece of cake. Installation can be a bit fussy to start, so we strongly recommend you view some of the company's installation videos and read the FAQs for specific details on how to install and troubleshoot.
To use the Mifold, simply unfold it, squeeze the red tabs on the underside of the Mifold to extend the belt guides, position the Mifold to rest securely in your car’s seat bight (where the horizontal and vertical parts of your car’s seat come together), pull the lap belt through the guides and then clip the positioning strap so the clip sits approximately 1 inch above your child’s shoulder.
We like that the shoulder belt positioning strap quickly clips around the seat belt for a secure fit and is easily adjustable. This sets the Mifold apart from other boosters and car seats that require the seat belt be threaded through a guide, which can be cumbersome and opens things up to user error when you’re moving it from one car to another.
The Mifold is compliant with the U.S.’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards FMVSS 213, which governs the performance and design criteria of child restraint systems for kids up to 80 pounds, and it meets or exceeds regulatory standards worldwide (excluding Australia).
What that means is you can take the Mifold just about anywhere and can confidently know that you are using a product that is compliant with safety standards in any city and in just about any country you travel to.
It’s perfect for travel
Because the Mifold is so lightweight and compact, it’s a traveler’s dream. It’s perfect for city travel when you’re hopping in and out of cab rides and car rentals.
We traveled all over town with our Mifold. A friend of ours even borrowed the Mifold we tested, as well as two others, for a trip to Mexico with her three children. All three boosters they traveled with were able to fit in their carry-on luggage and, when it was time to hop into a car, all three lined up easily in the back of a sedan.
Prices range anywhere from $29.99 to $129.99 depending on the model you purchase. By and large, the Mifold is an affordable and accessible option for most families. We like that it’s sold at a price point that is within reach of just about anyone.
What we didn’t like about the Mifold booster
It’s not very comfortable
We tested the Mifold Original on six children overall and most complained that it was not comfortable to sit on. The seat itself is hard and stiff and elicited complaints for trips longer than a quick jaunt from a park to home. Unless your nerves are impervious to whining children, we don’t recommend the Mifold Original for long car rides.
It’s not great for all cars
While the Mifold booster fits on most cars, if you have a curved-back seat, it’s going to be problematic. This issue tends to be the case with most car seats and boosters and isn’t a problem that’s unique to the Mifold booster—however, seeing as part of the appeal of the Mifold is that you can throw it in your backpack and pop it into any car anywhere you go, this is a problem worth noting.
It’s challenging for kids to use
While the adults were able to use the Mifold with relative ease, it wasn’t so easy for kids. Adult supervision and, in almost all cases, assistance were required to accurately line things up. We found kids struggled with getting their lap belt into the guides and, when they were successful, the lap belt wasn’t actually where it was supposed to be on their hips—rendering the Mifold unsafe in those instances.
Our children testers, ages 5 to 9, all struggled to get out of the Mifold on their own (one even yelled at me that I "trapped him"). The collapsible seat belt guides do a good job of holding the seat belt in place, but it’s difficult to remove the seat belt when you’re ready to get out of the car. For adults it’s challenging and takes a lot of patience; for kids, however, it seems near impossible.
Each of the six children testers struggled with the seat belt guides. None were able to get out of the Milfold booster independently, even with repeated tries.
Safety is questionable for smaller kids
While some booster seats have fancy extras, a booster really only has one function and that’s to properly position an adult seat belt so that it safely secures a child’s smaller body. They should position seat belts so they lie across the strong bones of the chest and pelvis instead of the belly and the neck, where they could severely hurt a child in a crash.
While the Mifold did an excellent job of positioning the shoulder strap of the seat belt, the lap belt didn’t fare so well on children with smaller hips. Our son is 8 and 46 pounds—so clearly within the recommended age and weight range for the Mifold—but for him and others, the belt slung lower than the fit range that is recommended by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for booster seats.
What this means is, in the possibility of a crash, your child’s pelvis isn’t secure, which can result in serious injury.
Should you buy the Mifold Original booster seat
It’s 10 times smaller than your regular booster, it’s easy to use, and it makes traveling a breeze, but while the Mifold does make travel easier, it isn’t for everyone. Its selling points are attractive, but the drawback of the erratic seat belt fit is significant. Because the issues that we take with the Mifold are ones of safety, we think the cons of the Mifold outweigh pros. Unfortunately, we cannot unequivocally recommend it.
If you are looking for a travel booster and your child has a more sturdy body build, the Mifold may work well for you. Some of our testers love it and our Parenting editor says she found it incredibly useful when in cab-centric cities like New York.
If you buy the Mifold, however, we do recommend you try it and look carefully at fit guidelines by the IIHS before you toss your return receipt.
For my family, however, the fit just isn’t one we consider safe. It looks like we’ll be lugging around our bulky booster for a couple more years.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.