The Thule Chariot Lite is modern, sleek, user-friendly, and capable of rocking the outdoors in all four seasons. Designed to take a beating from energetic toddlers and outdoorsy moms and dads, the precision-built Lite will be your trusty sidekick through years of constant use (and abuse!) on the trails.
The Lite is what is called a multi-sport trailer, a label it executes with excellence. Sold standard with a bike tow arm and double stroller wheels, the Lite can cover the miles in whatever capacity you choose.
For avid runners, a jogger wheel kit is a smart upgrade. And for snow lovers, the ski kit for cross-country skiing and fat-biking means you can still get your fill of winter wonderland before your baby is old enough to strap on their own skis.
We even used the jogger kit to conquer the frozen tundra of Texas during Snowmageddon 2021. It kept Baby Bike Tester snug and warm, and gave me a killer workout! The Lite is an incredible multi-sport trailer that empowers you to dominate the outdoors, no matter what the weather gods throw at you.
As a self-proclaimed gear nerd who has used the Thule Chariot Cross for many years, I was itching to get my hands on the very similar (but more affordable) Thule Chariot Lite. In this review we’ll primarily cover how the Thule Chariot Lite is different from the Cross, and when it makes sense (or doesn’t) to save $200 and get the cheaper Lite.
Thule Chariot Lite Overview
BEST FOR: Multi-sport families who will use the Lite primarily as a bike trailer or ski stroller
TRAILER CAPACITY: Single (Thule Chariot Lite 1) or Double (Thule Chariot Lite 2)
TRAILER ARM: Included
JOGGER KIT: Upgrade available
STROLLER KIT: Included
- Impeccable design and quality make for a luxurious bike trailer
- Comes standard with double stroller wheels
- Exceptionally smooth ride in both trailer and stroller mode
- Easier to load and unload kids than other trailer brands
- Weather covers are easy to use and provide thorough protection from the elements
- Front mesh cover pulls taut for a sleek, polished look, and clips in at the bottom to prevent kids from tossing things out
- Reclined angle of the seat back and padded seat bottom are extra comfy for kids
- Through-trailer ventilation with front vents and rear mesh backing (front vents can be closed in cooler weather)
- Suspension for bumpy terrain
- Stroller wheels and tow bar are stored on body of the trailer when not in use
- Ample rear storage
- Inside snack pockets are hard for little ones to reach
- Covered top of trailer makes it difficult to see your child while in stroller mode
- Seat padding is not removable/washable
Thule Chariot Lite Video Review
Visual learner? Check out our video review of the Thule Chariot Lite to see this beauty in action. We’ll also show you side by side comparisons of the Lite and the Cross.
Thule Chariot Lite Conversion Kits
Before we dive in to the meat of the review, it’s important to lay out that the Thule Chariot Lite is a multi-sport trailer, available in single and double capacity. (Known as the Thule Chariot Lite 1 and Thule Chariot Lite 2.)
It comes standard with a 4-wheeled stroller conversion kit and the bike trailer arm. Optional conversion kits for jogging and skiing can be purchased separately. It is only available in the color gray seen below.
Thule Chariot Lite Review – How It’s Different from the Cross
The Thule Chariot Lite is incredibly similar to the even higher-end Thule Chariot Cross. To the untrained eye, they may even seem identical. But the Lite is $200 less than the Cross because of a few variations in features. We’ll cover those differences below.
If you’re interested in the overall features, sizing, performance, and usability of the Lite bike trailer, we cover that in great detail in our Thule Chariot Cross review. We won’t re-hash that here, because all of that information is the same.
Here are the 7 differentiating features between the Thule Chariot Lite and the Thule Chariot Cross. Whether these features matter to you will really depend on how you’re using the trailer, and if you really want to save $200.
Thule Chariot Lite vs. Cross
|Feature||Thule Chariot Lite||Thule Chariot Cross|
|MSRP||$899 single, $999 double||$1,099 single, $1,199 double|
|Interior Features (Child Comfort)|
|Suspension||Yes, but not adjustable||Adjustable suspension|
|Seat Back||Not padded||Padded lower back|
|Seat Bottom||Thickly padded||Removable seat pad|
|Exterior Features (Adult Convenience)|
|Trailer Top||Solid, can't see your child||Mesh for easier viewing|
|Rear Cargo Area||Large pocket||Small pocket, detached trunk|
|Weight (single)||25.8 lbs.||28.5 lbs.|
Recline – Thule Chariot Lite Does not Recline
The ability for a bike trailer’s seats to recline is considered one of the most high-end features of a trailer. As a result, there are very few bike trailers on the market that offer recline. The Thule Chariot Cross is Thule’s only trailer with reclining seats. In the image below, you can see the angle of the seat back on the Lite compared to the most reclined position on the Cross.
Compared to other trailer brands on the market, it’s not a big deal that the Lite’s seats don’t recline. While most trailers sit a child relatively upright, the angle of the Lite’s seat back is set in a pretty reclined position.
In fact, in the Thule Chariot Cross that I’ve used for last few years, I’ve only used the recline on a handful of occasions. The standard sitting position in the Cross and the Lite is leaned back enough to be very relaxing and comfortable for most situations.
By contrast, with some other trailers that have reclining seats (like the Burley D’Lite X), the recline function is much more necessary. Even the most reclined position in the Burley D’Lite X isn’t very reclined – it’s about at the same angle as the Lite’s stationary seat back.
Whether or not you feel like you need more recline than the Lite offers is up to you. Some of our mom testers use the recline in their Thule Chariots frequently, others periodically, and me… basically never. Many toddlers will be able to sleep just fine with the angled back of the Lite.
But what about sleeping infants you say? If you’ll be using the Lite in stroller mode with an infant, you’ll need the Thule Chariot Infant Sling. This sling is a baby hammock that hooks into your trailer and sits independently above the seats. When using the Infant Sling, reclining the seat doesn’t affect the sling in any way.
I used the Infant Sling until my monster baby was 7 months old, so if you’re thinking you want reclining seats for an infant, you wouldn’t be using the recline function anyways.
Suspension, But Not Adjustable
Suspension is another feature only found on high-end trailers. While not a necessary feature for most families, suspension is a “nice to have” feature for anyone. Realistically, even if you’re not planning on doing anything crazy, you never know what condition the roads will be in.
Suspension absolutely smooths out big bumps in the road, whether paved or mild singletrack… or just uneven sidewalk! We’d deem it pretty necessary for families who will regularly be adventuring over dirt or gravel, or on bumpy streets like cobblestones.
The Thule Chariot Lite features suspension, but it cannot be adjusted for heavier or lighter loads like the more expensive Cross. The Lite’s stationary suspension is set to the lightest load level on the Cross’ adjustable suspension.
We tested the difference with our 41 pound, 3-year-old. With both the Lite and Cross in jogger mode, we braved our way over very uneven, snowy terrain. It was much more bumpy than most terrain we usually venture out on, including groomed singletrack.
With the Cross’ suspension set for the heaviest load, (and the Lite at the Cross’ lightest load setting) I could feel a slight difference between the two trailer joggers. The Cross was able to absorb more of the jostling, although the Lite still did a good job. Should this be a determining factor for most families? Probably not, but completely dependent on how you will be using your Thule Chariot.
Seat Back in Thule Chariot Lite is Not Padded
Most high-end bike trailers have pads to provide cushioning to the child’s back. While in some trailers these pads are removable, the Cross’ back padding is actually incorporated into the seat back.
The Thule Chariot Lite does not have padding on the back of the seat. As you can see in the image below in the blue Cross, the arrow indicates its padded area, which provides lower back cushioning.
Thule Chariot Lite vs. Cross
Thule does offer removable padding as an upgrade – $50 for a single trailer, $65 for the double.
Seat Bottom Padded, but Not Removable
The Thule Chariot Lite’s seat bottom is thickly padded. The padding in integrated into the trailer, and cannot be removed like the Cross’ seat bottom padding (on the right below, in the orange trailer).
Thule Chariot Lite vs. Cross
From a child comfort standpoint, both the Cross’ and the Lite’s bum padding are plenty comfortable – there’s really no difference. But from a keeping-your-trailer-clean difference, this could be a pretty important point.
I let my toddler eat in the trailer – fig bars, gold fish, peanut butter crackers. And there’s always a water bottle that comes along too. On several occasions I’ve returned home from a run or ride to find the water spilled and cracker mush all over the seats. It’s really gross. (This also happened once with milk. DON’T bring milk in a trailer! Yuck!)
When using the Cross, I’ve been able to remove the bottom seat and put it in the washer. This wouldn’t be an option with the Lite. If you see this potentially happening to you in the future, the Cross might be a better bet. Alternatively, you could just pay $50 – $65 to get the removable pads upgrade, which you can see here below.
Optional Seat Padding Upgrade for Thule Chariot
Trailer Top Solid, No Viewing Window
The top panel of the Thule Chariot Lite is solid fabric, while the Cross has a mesh ventilation and viewing window. If you’re primarily going to be using the Lite as a trailer or ski stroller, this won’t matter.
Thule Chariot Lite vs. Cross
But, if you’ll be using the Lite as a stroller or jogger frequently, a solid top is a disadvantage. When pushing the trailer/stroller from behind, you can’t see your child inside unless you stop and tip the stroller waaaaay back, or walk around to the side or front.
Whether or not this is a problem is really a matter of personal preference. Other exceptional trailer strollers (like the Qeridoo Kidgoo) don’t have viewing windows either. But as someone who uses a trailer/stroller daily for exercise, a top viewing window has been quite helpful these last three years.
Rear Cargo Area Has Ample Storage Space
Storage in the Thule Chariot Lite is ample. The entire rear portion of the Lite is covered by a large storage pocket. The top is made of mesh, to allow for ventilation through the rear of the trailer (when it’s not stuffed full). The bottom portion is a thick, sturdy vinyl.
We’ve used the storage pocket to store a scooter and helmet, or a backpack, lunch bag, and puffy jacket. Because the pocket is directly attached to the back of the trailer, it’s usually better to store softer or less bulky items that won’t end up jabbing your child in the back.
The pocket is quite deep, which is great for capacity, but it’s less ideal for storing small items you need easy access to. As a 5’10 woman, I need to extend the entire length of my arm into the pocket to reach the bottom.
Thule Chariot Lite vs. Thule Chariot Cross
The Cross’ storage (blue trailer on the right above) consists of a smaller pocket that extends only half-way down the back of the trailer. This makes the pocket much more shallow, and great for small items like phones or snacks.
It also has a detached rear storage trunk for storing larger items. Because the trunk isn’t connected the back of the trailer, anything you put in there won’t poke your child in the back.
Storage is another feature that will completely depend on how you plan on using your trailer/stroller. On a regular basis, I only store the Lite’s weather covers in the back, along with a few “just in case” water bottles and snacks. The Lite’s storage area offers plenty of room for my regular needs. For most families, this won’t be a determining factor between the two trailers.
If you’ll be using the Thule Chariot Lite stroller or jogger regularly, I highly recommend buying the handlebar console. It provides convenient storage for your phone, your keys, a water bottle, and an extra snack.
With a lot of comfort features and innovative “bells and whistles”, all high-end trailers weigh more than entry-level or mid-range trailers. Of the high-end trailers, the Lite is the most lightweight.
As a comparison of single trailer models, the Lite weighs just 25.7 pounds while the Cross weights 28.5 lbs. The Burley D’Lite X single weighs in at 27.6 pounds, and the Hamax Outback single weighs 37.5 pounds!
Between the Lite and the Cross, I honestly didn’t feel the 3-pound difference.
Thule Chariot Lite Bottom Line
You cannot go wrong with a Thule Chariot trailer. Every inch of the Thule Chariot Lite is proof of Thule’s intense focus on user experience. Incredibly comfortable for the child passenger, and incredibly easy to use for the parent, the Lite certainly simplifies the process of getting out for adventures.
Are you wondering if you should save $200 and get the Lite instead of the more high-end Cross? In our opinion, the Lite is a great alternative for families using it primarily in trailer or ski mode, and who don’t need the additional recline of the Cross for sleeping toddlers.
For a look at the entire Thule line, check out our article Thule Chariot Bike Trailers: 8 Reasons We Love Them!