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In the wild, it’s not tough to tell the chameleon and the buffalo apart – one is an itty-bitty lizard, and the other weighs north of a thousand pounds. But their namesake strollers are, at first glance, a little tougher to tell apart. The Bugaboo Buffalo and the Bugaboo Cameleon 3 have a similar silhouette, and similar seats and canopies.
Nevertheless, as with any stroller we sell, the Bugaboo stroller you choose is going to be dependent on your lifestyle, and a closer examination shows that these strollers are best suited for different families. Let’s take a detailed look.
Let’s take a look where the two strollers are similar, first. Both the Cameleon and Buffalo have the same seat configuration – you get one seat frame, one toddler seat fabric, one bassinet fabric, and Bugaboo’s new-for-2014 extendable canopy. The seat frame is super versatile – it can be mounted onto the stroller facing either direction, with several recline positions. Both the Cameleon and the Buffalo have a weight limit of 37.5lbs, which can accommodate a child of around three and a half years old. Second, both have the familiar two-piece compact fold, which allows either stroller to be easily transported and placed in the trunk of a car.
Finally, as with all Bugaboo strollers, both the Cameleon and the Buffalo are engineered from the ground up with superior parts and construction, backed by a three-year warranty.
Suspension and Wheels
Here’s where these two strollers begin to diverge. The Cameleon has two sets of foam-filled tires, and the forward wheels, which are six inches wide, have a four-position adjustable spring suspension. This allows the stroller to “grow with baby” by making sure that you have enough damping for your child’s weight. As your little bean gets older (and heavier), you simply advance the suspension every ten pounds to compensate! The second set of wheels are twelve inches wide – big enough to swallow most bumps in the road, but still small enough to keep the stroller’s weight down and remain super agile.
Now, it’s usually around this point that expectant parents looking at the Cameleon look down at the small front tires and say,“Isn’t that going to get stuck everywhere with those small wheels in the front?”
Actually, this is where the Cameleon really shines! Press the two white tabs on the handlebar, and you can reverse the handlebar! This puts the “that’s-more-like-it” twelve-inch wheels in front, which helps this stroller tackle (almost) anything you throw at it.
Over in Camp Buffalo, however, things are a little bit less complicated. The wheels are also foam-filled, and where the Cameleon “makes do” with six-inch wheels in the front, the Buffalo is equipped with ten-inch wheels. Bugaboo calls the Buffalo wheels “shock-absorbing,” which is why the Buffalo doesn’t have any suspension. I took it for a walk around the neighborhood of our Cambridge store, in Huron Village, and I can confirm that it takes broken sidewalks very well. (Editor’s note: we also took the Buffalo out on the snowy streets of Brookline this past January, and it was great!)
Fold and Construction
The fold can really make or break a stroller: even if you love a stroller, if the fold is convoluted or results in an awkward package that’s tough to lift and carry, you’ll still think twice about buying it. However, Bugaboo strollers are created with absolutely obsessive attention to detail, so while neither of these strollers is light, their fold is easy, intuitive, and designed for convenience.
The Cameleon’s fold (pictured here on the left) is a fairly straightforward three-step process. First, you take off your stroller seat or bassinet; then, you press in the two tabs on the handlebars and lower the handle to the ground; finally, you pick the stroller up by its crossmember, completing a remarkably flat fold. Remember that obsessive attention to detail in design that I mentioned earlier? The basket stays completely intact and level, so you don’t even have to take anything out when folding! Additionally, you can set the toddler seat down onto the ground, and it will work as a portable little bouncer!
The fold in the Buffalo is almost exactly the same. You remove the seat, and squeeze the triggers placed on the sides of the handlebar, and after lowering the handlebar, pick the stroller up by its crossmember. Like the Cameleon, your basket remains unfolded, and you can set your little tot safely on the ground in the seat.
But there’s more! The Buffalo also offers a one-piece fold, that even stands independently: you don’t need to remove the seat, and while the end result is a little bulkier, this gives you a quick way to fold the stroller and slide it in the closet or the corner. You don’t get the always-open basket with this fold, but it’s speedy and simple.
Which Bugaboo Is For You?
The Buffalo’s huge wheels, wider track, and seriously robust design (did you know that the Buffalo is the only stroller rated to hang up to 13 pounds from the handlebar?) all help to make it an absolute monster both off-road and on. My customers have told me that they take it on mountain trails, through rough terrain, and so on, with no problem. It is truly the go-anywhere stroller, with emphasis on “anywhere.” If sidewalks are only the beginning of your stroller, then the Buffalo is the stroller for you.
The Cameleon, on the other hand, is suited better for the urban family. It folds neatly and tightly, it’s maneuverability is unmatched by anything in its class, and for the times when the going gets tough, the Cameleon gets going.
If you’ll pardon an automotive comparison: the Cameleon can be compared to an Audi A4, which is sleek, stylish, and capable, and can even tackle driving on grass every once in a while thanks to its all-wheel-drive. The Buffalo, on the other hand, is an Audi Allroad: they’re built on the same platform, but it has upgraded road clearance, a wider track, better tires and other equipment in place to help it traverse terrain easier.
Ultimately, with two strollers that are this beautifully designed, you can’t really ask “Which one is the best?” A more appropriate question is, “Which one is best for my needs?”
So, get the Bugaboo Cameleon 3 Stroller if you:
- Prefer maneuverability and street manners over go-anywhere ability.
- Need a compact and light stroller, and space is more of a concern.
- Go on the occasional stroll through the park or a field, but your primary territory is sidewalks and smooth trails.
- Would choose an A4 over an Allroad!
Get the Bugaboo Buffalo Stroller if you:
- Lead a lifestyle more geared for the outdoors, especially rough trail and other wild spaces.
- Space is not a huge concern for you.
- Want the confidence to know that you’ll unlikely to get stuck, but still have great road manners.
Pictured: (left to right) Audi A4 and Audi Allroad, what the Cameleon and Buffalo would be if they were cars.