Toddlers are crafty little humans, moving quietly and swiftly when we least expect it. Baby gates take on an crucial role in helping parents create safer environment for their little ones, keeping them away from dangerous areas such as staircases or utility rooms. In an overwhelming saturated market of baby products, we help identify the best baby gate for your home.
After comparing thirty baby gates, we narrowed down the results to six finalists, which were tested daily over multiple weeks with the help of our adventure-seeking one-year-old son. With all things considered, our gate of choice was the North States Easy Swing and Lock metal gate, for its build quality, ease of use, and elegant aesthetics. If wall mounting with drilling holes is absolutely not an option for you, our second pick for a tension-mounted gate is the Munchkin Easy-Close Safety Gate.
Top Pick: North States Easy Swing and Lock Gate
With refined build quality, and a dependable locking mechanism, this gate is easily worth the five extra minutes for installation.
Table of contents
- How we chose baby gates to test
- The six best baby gates
- How we tested the gates
- The best baby gate overall
- Best gate without drilling holes
- Other baby gates we tested
- The bottom line
How we chose baby gates to test
There are absolutely no compromises when it comes to the safety of our children. This is why we spent several hours on forums, review sites, and retailer sites including Amazon, researching baby gates. Amazon had an overwhelming selection of baby gates with four out of five stars and above, which we favored when making a selection. With so many great options we defined four categories we found most important when shopping for safety gates:
- Ease of installation and breakdown
- Locking mechanism effectiveness
- Ease of walking through
- Build quality
We combed through both good and bad online reviews, polled parents, and created an in-home labyrinth of gates for a full hands-on review, to find the best baby gate for your home. All in all, the gates we tested worked as advertised and we felt comfortable using them in our own home. However, a few gates inched ahead in build quality and ease of use, leaving us with clear favorites.
The six baby gates we tested
|Product Name||Install Method||Gate Width||Gate Height||Door Width|
How we tested the gates
Now that we have our six finalists, we paid careful attention to each gate from setup to breakdown. Over two weeks we logged installation times, stress tested the lock mechanics, measured the doorway opening, and carefully examined the build materials of each gate. The gates were set up in high traffic areas for two weeks so we could become fully familiar with each product.
Ease of installation/breakdown
All of the gates come pre-assembled with the exception of the North States and Evenflo, which required wall mounting components. Of the ones we tested, there were two main styles of installation: tension mount and wall mount–each offering varying levels of permanence.
Tension mounted gates are relatively easier to install because you simply extend the screws and twist the tightening ring to create enough pressure to hold the gates in place. Wall mounted gates require drilling and screws to install. Installation and breakdown is a relatively quick process for both mount styles, ranging from five to ten minutes.
Adding length to the pressure mounted models with the panel extenders were easy to install. They are bridged to together with a metal pin that slide in and out. The only concern with the extension panels is that they can potentially extend too much, leaving you awkwardly in between sizes. Tensions screws can only be pulled out so much to compensate for the gap before it starts to affect the integrity of the gate. We also found that the fully extended tension screws also give an undesirable look.
The locking mechanism may be the most important feature when looking for the best baby gate. We require this component to be reliable in both locking and opening, to keep our children safe while still allowing adults to travel freely. The gate should also have good one-handed usability for when the baby is in tow.
We tested each gate by opening and closing them 30 times in one sitting, then with normal usage over the course of the weeks of testing. In addition, we let our one-year-old son play with each of the gates to see if he could open them on his own.
The North States gate was one of the top performers with a perfect score in our test. We appreciate its simplicity and fluidity, while still maintaining rigidness. This locking module requires pressing down on the locking wedge with a thumb and lifting up on the gate simultaneously. The gate easily slides back into the locking position by pulling or pushing against the brackets.
If you’re in the market for a tension gate, we give praise to the Munchkin and Safety 1st gates. The Munchkin’s locking module is a double trigger system that pulls back the locking pin when squeezed. It also performed with a perfect score in our test. The door easily snaps back into place with a gentle push or pull and no lifting is required.
The Safety 1st gate strictly relies on the tension from the gates length, which can be adjusted in increments of ¼” to ensure a snug fit.
Ease of walking through
We should distinguish that all tension-mounted gates require a bar running across at floor level. This is a structural piece to create the proper amount of tension to hold the gate into place without drilling screws into the wall. The caveat is that the bar is a potential trip hazard.
Wall-mounted gates provide full clearance, but the walls will eventually require patchwork of the drilled holes when the gates are no longer needed. These gates generally have wider doorway openings because it does not require the same amount of support framing as pressure mounted gates. We prefer the latter because it’s one less thing to worry about when carrying a child and you can’t always see what’s in front of you.
Gates make great partitions, but the ability to walk through the gate is just as important. The last thing you want is to fight with a gate when you have a baby on one arm and a bag in the other. For this evaluation we looked to see which gate has the widest openings.
The wall mounted North States and Evenflo don’t require a substantial amount of framing on either side of the door, making them the easy winners in this category, each gate spanning up to 42” and 48” respectively. The Munchkin gate has the widest opening at 22” for the tension gates. It also features a door that swings both directions for convenience. If you plan on placing this gate the top of the stairs, there is a third lock that can be installed at the base.
Some gates on the market feature a door that will shut behind you as you walk through it, as seen on the Summer Infant model. To some, this may seem like a great safety benefit, while others may find that it gets in the way when you need the door left open to travel through with large items.
The Summer Infant has a narrow door opening at 17.5”, as opposed to 19” and up on most other models. We often have to walk through the gate at an angle, especially when carrying a child. The resistance from the auto-closing door seems to get in the way more than it helps. The door makes a loud noise when it swings shut, so we recommend using this gate away from the baby’s room.
In this category we looked at build materials and rigidity. We began by comparing weights, observing build materials, and performing stress tests on the frame bars to see if they would bow.
Once again the North States baby gate takes claim in another category. Even with its all metal construction, it feels very lightweight and fluid in its swing. Even though the vertical bars were thinner than the other gates, they did not bend when pressure was applied against them. The matte bronze finish is elegant and looks great against hardwood flooring and neutral colored walls. The locking mechanism doesn’t rely on a cheap plastic module like some of the other gates.
The Summer Infant baby gate also gets high marks and for its heavy metal construction, weighing in at 21 lbs. Its framework is thicker than the other gates and will not bow or bend for anyone. Its extension panels also feel exceptionally sturdy.
The Evenflo model could have been on the top of our list as well with its clean lines and metal construction, but the build quality of the locking mechanism is too large and cheap feeling. To unlock the gate, you must squeeze the trigger and pull the locking module away from the wall. We found this motion to stick more often than we would like.
The dark horse of this group is the Safety 1st baby gate, made from durable bamboo and recycled plastics. We love that is made from eco-conscious materials, while maintaining a clean and attractive look. Even though the Safety 1st gate is incredibly lightweight at 4.1 pounds, we were impressed with how tightly the tension mechanics were able to grab onto the wall. We pushed and pulled on the gate to simulate a little more forceful than the strength of a toddler and the gate stood strong.
The best baby gate overall
North States Easy Swing and Lock
A very rigid gate with a high quality latch and refined build.
Our research and tests indicates that the North States baby gate is the superior choice, providing value in both aesthetics and functionality. The North States gate had good marks in almost all the categories we tested with no major shortcomings. The refined build quality, light swing and dependable locking mechanism made for a very convincing argument.
The North States has a unique design with four independent mounting brackets anchored to the wall. With the hinge nestled along the wall, the gate is able to swing completely open, letting open the full width of the hallway. This especially comes in handy when carrying large items through this area. Even though it’s a permanent set up, the North States gate never gets in the way of our everyday routine. In contrast, tension gates require tightening screws in the four corners, which can look quite jarring when they are bright silver and your gate is dark.
The Evenflo is also a wall mounted gate, but does not have the same minimalistic approach as the North States. It has additional framework on both sides of the door instead of independent mounting brackets, which doesn’t allow for a full wide opening.
The two-part locking mechanism on the North States gate is one of our favorites to use. The button feels just as rigid as the first day we installed it. It performed very well in our stress test and have had no problems ever since. The gate makes a pleasant clicking sound when the components are locked into place.
The only weakness we found was the installation time. It took approximately ten minutes to install as opposed to five minutes with the tension style gates. We highly recommend using a measuring tape, pencil to accurately mount the wall brackets, and drywall anchors to securely mount the brackets. Take your time here, because this could turn a great gate into a less than average one. This gate ended up feeling like an extension of our home and have been using it exclusively in our own house since we finished testing.
- The gate’s metal construction is strong, but feels very lightweight in its swing.
- Minimal wall mounts and extendable gate allows for a tailored design.
- Reliable and snappy locking system.
- Gate allows maximum doorway opening for easier passthrough.
Best gate without drilling holes
Munchkin Easy-Close Safety Gate
A reliable locking module, and quick setup/teardown using tension bars.
If drilling holes into the wall is absolutely not an option, we’d gladly recommend the Munchkin baby gate. The locking mechanism is reliable and clicks into place every time. We also appreciate the larger door opening on this model compared to the other tension gates. While carrying our son, we never worried about accidentally hitting his legs against the gate because the opening was too narrow.
The Munchkin gate took approximately five minutes to get set up, like all of the other tension models with a swinging door. They all come with four large screws to be placed in each of the corners. The padded end goes against the wall and the tightening screw can be turned to increase the tension against the gate. This is a great solution for semi-permanent setups or areas where drilling into the wall is not ideal, such as doorways with woodwork.
The two-trigger locking module works very reliably, engaging fluidly every time we used it. When pulling or pushing the door into the locked position, it snapped into place every time with a satisfying click. The ability to swing the door both ways was convenient in frequently traveled areas. If you are planning to use this gate at the stop of the stairs, there is a stopper that is included to force the gate to swing only one way for safety.
In our extensive tests the Munchkin gate impressed, but it didn’t take the top pick for a couple reasons. First, we would have preferred the locking mechanism to be constructed with less plastic. Even though it functions well, it does not feel high quality. Second, the North States has the advantage of tailor-fitting many different sized halls and doorways. Extension panels can be added to the Munchkin gate, but it will not look as seamless.
- This gate has the widest door opening out of all the pressure mounted gates we tested.
- Reliable and easy to use two-trigger lock system.
- Does not require screws for installation, but has a bar at the floor level like all other pressure mounted gates.
Other baby gates we tested
The Regalo baby gate didn’t score as highly because the locking mechanism requires two hands to operate if the lock is fully engaged. If one handed usability isn’t an important feature for you, then you may consider going with this model.
It’s possible that the Evenflo gate required a little more breaking in, but in our experience the locking mechanism was not as fluid as we would have hoped. Without drywall anchors this gate was visibly unstable. The tiny screws that lock the width of the gate could have been better constructed as well.
The Summer Infant gate was well constructed with a heavy frame. It also looks quite nice with the arch above the swinging door. Unfortunately we never got used to the narrow doorway. Otherwise, it was very sturdy and had a well functioning locking module.
We can’t go without mentioning the Safety 1st gate, an excellent solution for your temporary gate needs. Its parts are constructed well and provide a secure partition. This gate was ready to go out of the box with no setup required. Being the simplest gate without a swinging door, it can be placed anywhere with an opening between 28” to 42”. Extend the gate long enough for the tension to hold and lock it in place. We appreciate its versatility to fit anywhere in the house as needed. It is also collapsible and can be tucked away when not being used.
If you have base molding, note that the Safety 1st gate will slightly bow because it will hit the wall at different lengths. Placing the gate above the base molding to avoid the bow isn’t recommended because the floor cannot provide extra support. We didn’t find this to be a huge problem since the tension was still adequate.
The bottom line
Overall we were impressed with many of the finalist gates we tested. The wall mounted North States gate was our favorite for most applications, with its simple but high quality components. The lightweight metal design made this gate feel the least intrusive out of all the gates, while still maintaining toughness. By utilizing the wall as an anchor, the gate is able to pivot from the edge of the wall, allowing for more free space.
The Munchkin gate gives a solid performance for the tension gates. Its wide walk-through opening and reliable double-lock mechanism make this an easy choice. We liked that the door was able to swing both ways for added convenience. The metal and plastic build quality doesn’t feel quite as luxurious as some of the other models, but it was never meant to be. The plain white design and fluid functionality is what made it to the top of the list.
Parenthood is incredibly rewarding, but it doesn’t always come easy, especially when your little one is on the move. After spending an extended amount of time with a variety of quality gates, we easily recommend the North States and Munchkin to keep your home safe for your family.
We told you our favorites, but there may be other features that are specific to your household. If you have a small pet and are looking for a baby gate with a pet door, head over to our pet gates review, where we review the best gates for our furry friends.