When choosing a portable cot (or portacot), it can be hard to tell which ones have the important safety features and are also easy to set up and pack away. While there is a mandatory safety standard for all portable cots sold in Australia, we still find models that fail its requirements. Many fail the further tests set out in the more recent voluntary standard too. That's why we put them to the test. Here's how we do it.
CHOICE maintains a highly professional NATA-accredited laboratory and the vast majority of our product testing is done in-house. We are accredited to test to the Australian standard for portable cots, AS/NZS 2195:2010, so our lab experts really do know when a portable cot is safe.
With so many to choose from, what makes us choose one portable cot to test over another? As with most of our product testing, our aim is to test the most popular brands and types on the market and what you're most likely to see in the retailers.
We survey manufacturers to find out about their range of products, we check market sales information and we also check for any member requests to test specific models. From this information we put together a final list that goes to our buyers. They then get onto retailers – online, by phone or the old-fashioned way of actually going into stores – and purchase each product, just as a normal consumer would. We do this so we can be sure they are the same as any consumer would find them and not 'tweaked' in any way.
CHOICE operates an in-house lab which is accredited to test portable cots against the most current Australian standard for portable cots, AS/NZS 2195:2010, and also against the mandatory standard (which is based on a 1999 version of the standard). The 2010 version has some differences to previous versions of the standard, and our results are based on this version.
Our experts test the cots (and any supplied accessories, such as change tables, bassinet modes and toys) for their safety performance, including:
- Small objects which could become loose and pose a choking hazard
- Sharp corners, edges and points
- Portable cots must have breathable zones (i.e. mesh rather than solid material or non-breathable fabric) on all four sides and at sleeping level. This is to prevent suffocation if an infant happens to roll to the side. Some small or narrow strips of non-breathable areas are OK, such as at the corners.
- Sufficient depth is a strict condition to prevent a child falling from the cot
- Horizontal and vertical strength. We test if the cot's frame is sufficiently sturdy
- Stability; the cot mustn't tip or tilt too easily
- Any castors or wheels must have brakes and must not roll too easily, so that the cot can't be pushed out of place too easily
- Entrapment hazards between any moving components
- Head, limb and finger entrapments in openings
- Strangulation hazards from straps or other components
- The mattress must be firm and level enough to provide a safe sleeping surface (as per the Australian test method for mattresses AS/NZS 8811.1).
We also score the portable cots for their ease of use, including:
- Unpacking and setting up the cot, including any supplied accessories
- Folding it and packing it away (into the carry bag, where provided)
- The quality of the supplied instructions.
The CHOICE Expert Rating is made up of:
- Performance (70%)
- Ease of use (30%).
Performance and ease of use scores are based on the factors listed above in How we test. For performance, we score as follows:
- 100% – no failures
- 80% – only very minor failures
- 60-65% – at least one minor failure
- 40% or less – at least one serious safety failure.
We only recommend models with an overall score of at least 70% or over. These models pass all our safety tests, but may have some very minor failures such as with information labels.
For some tests no models score high enough to be recommended. In this case, look for the models that score at least 60% as they've passed the key safety tests and have only minor safety failures. Read our buying guide for more information on choosing the safest portable cot.
CHOICE has high quality NATA-accredited laboratories, with calibrated test equipment and lab staff who are skilled and accredited in wide range of product testing.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.