In a Nutshell:

If you don’t want to spend the money on a motorized beach wheelchair, Vipamat Hippocampe All Terrain Wheelchair is the manual model you want. Superb. Recommended for anyone who wants a specialized chair for a time at the beach, but doesn’t want to spring for a motorized model.

Customization options
Ease of Use
Comfort
Performance

Overall Rating

4.5/5

Benefits

  • Stylish three-wheeled design
  • Height adjustable and swiveling/retractable
  • Well-padded with hydrophobic foam
  • No learning curve

Drawbacks

  • No umbrella option
  • Sitting low to the ground may be a deal breaker for some
  • Expensive as it is an import from Europe
  • Extras little bit pricey
Vipamat Hippocampe All Terrain Wheelchair
4.5

Recommended For: Anyone who wants a specialized chair for a time at the beach but doesn’t want to spring for a motorized model.

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Do you have a mobility issue that is keeping you from enjoying life as you once did? Are you tired of the same old designs from the major players in the US market? Are you seeking a top-quality, innovatively designed, go-anywhere (including the beach!) manual wheelchair?

If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, you will like what you see in this review.

Have you heard of the Hippocampe and other Vipamat wheelchairs? We’d be surprised if you have, unless you live in Europe

It was recently featured in our roundup review of the best all-terrain wheelchairs on the market today.

While that review focused primarily on powered wheelchairs, the Vipamat Hippocampe All Terrain Wheelchair was good enough to warrant special mention, but we’re giving it a more complete treatment here. 

Manufactured by one of the major European players in the mobility market, the Hippocampe is a regular fixture at European beaches. Given its stylish design, it’s easy to see why.

You don’t have to go to Europe to get one; you can order online and have yours delivered right to your door.

In the following sections, we’ll give you a complete overview of this great, rugged little chair so you’ll have all the information you need to decide if it’s what you’ve been looking for. Even if you ultimately determine another model is right for you, we think you’ll agree that this is a fantastic chair. Let’s take a closer look!

Key Features of the Vipamat Hippocampe Beach Wheelchair

The first thing you’ll notice about the Vipamat Hippocampe All-Terrain Wheelchair is its stylish three-wheeled design. It looks like a low-slung tricycle, minus the pedals. Instead of pedals, it sports an ergonomic push bar in the back so your trusty assistant can provide the power to get you from Point A to Point B.

Side view of the Vipamat Hippocampe Beach Wheelchair with mountain bike style wheels

Most wheelchair manufacturers tend to list specific specs for their products, but things are a little different with the Hippocampe. The name doesn’t describe one “model” per se, with fixed dimensions, but a range of products in various shapes and sizes.

You can specify the exact size you want at the point of sale when you select your color and order any extras and enhancements you want (we’ll discuss that later).

The main things to note for the moment are: a) the chair is incredibly customizable, and b) it’s super attractive and sure to be a conversation starter when you hit the beach in it!

Adjustability

As we mentioned in the overview, the Hippocampe All-Terrain Beach Chair is amazingly adjustable and customizable. Its closest peer in the US is the Rolleez, which features an almost cartoonishly cute design that’s fun to ride around but cannot adjust and customize your ride.

The competing design philosophies in these two models couldn’t be more evident. 

Ultimately, deciding which is right for you comes down to personal preference. Those looking for a fun, playful design will tend to gravitate toward the Rolleez, while people looking for a more elegant, stylish, and adjustable design will prefer the Hippocampe.

The Vipamat Hippocampe All Terrain Beach Wheelchair with a standard beach wheels

Among other things, you can adjust:

  • The armrests are height-adjustable and swiveling/retractable, making it easier to transfer into and out of the wheelchair.
  • The headrest is articulated, able to move forward, backward, and swivel from side to side to accommodate users of all shapes, sizes, and seating positions.
  • The built-in neoprene harness can be adjusted to accommodate any individual size and keep them securely in the seat.
  • The Vipamat Hippocampe beach wheelchair’s backrest can be ordered in either fixed-position or adjustable configurations, as you prefer.

That, however, is just the beginning. We’ll go over the rest in the next section. Before we do that, let’s close out this section by saying a few comfort words.

Comfort

Although the Vipamat Hippocampe All Terrain Beach Wheelchair is available in various size configurations, remember that this is a fairly low-slung design. As such, people with severe mobility issues may find it somewhat challenging to get into and out of a chair with retractable armrests.

Also, sitting that low to the ground for extended periods might be a strain for some, depending on the nature and type of your mobility issue. It’s not a deal breaker for everyone, but it will be for some, so keep it in mind.

Blue and Pink variants of the Vipamat Hippocampe Beach & All-Terrain Wheelchair

The chair is well-padded with hydrophobic foam, which helps keep your backside dry, even as you enjoy splashing about in the waves. The padding itself is plush and comfortable, and you won’t mind sitting in it for the afternoon, again, provided that the low-slung design doesn’t prove problematic.

On-Board Storage & Extras

This is a bit of a curiosity. While the Vipamat Hippocampe Beach & All-Terrain Wheelchair offers lots of things they describe as “extras,” we’d tend to call them standard features here. After all, can you imagine ordering a wheelchair without a parking brake?

You can get the Hippocampe without one, but we wouldn’t recommend it. Unfortunately, if you want a parking brake, you’ve got to be sure you check that box. The same thing holds true for:

  • The headrest
  • The adjustable back
  • The armrests
  • The transport bag (absolutely essential in our view – after all, this chair was specifically made to take it places!)
  • The backrest bag – It’s a little undersized for our tastes, but storage is storage, and we’ll take it (the Rolleez does beat the Hippocampe in this department, offering significantly more storage capacity)
Harness-style Safety Belt of the Vipamat Hippocampe wheelchair
Harness
Front ski kit that can be clipped under the front wheel of the Vipamat Hippocampe All-Terrain Beach Chair
Front Ski Kit
Rear ski kit option for the Vipamat Hippocampe's rear wheels
Rear Ski Kit
Baloon wheels option for Hippocampe Wheelchair's rear wheels
Balloon Wheels
Safety waist belt of the Vipamat Hippocampe All Terrain Wheelchair
Waist Belts

Additional Customizations

  • Harness
  • Front ski kit that can be clipped under the front wheel
  • Rear ski kit that’s interchangeable with the rear wheels
  • Balloon wheels for beach use
  • Waist belt

Note that you can opt for a simple waist belt if you don’t want to use the harness-style safety belt. Totally up to you. 

You can also order the chair in Blue or Pink. Both are sporty and stylish, and you’ll look good sitting in either.

Wheel Options

Now, let’s talk about wheels. In addition to the ski kit mentioned above, you can order two different types of skis. Your choices are standard beach wheels, which, given their size, give the chair a fun, playful look, or, if you prefer, rear wheels that look like they belong on a mountain bike.

If you opt for the mountain bike-style wheels, you’ll find that on the back, on each side of the seat, you’ve got two instead of four, giving you more tread surface for better handling. 

The Vipamat Hippocampe Beach Wheelchair with front and rear ski kit

Also, note that it’s possible to equip the chair with all-terrain (mountain bike-style) wheels and still use it on the beach. The tradeoff is this: The wheels optimized for beach use will offer better handling on the beach but aren’t as useful on other terrains. The mountain bike-style wheels are fair to above average on the beach but can easily handle other types of terrains.

The good news is you don’t have to pick just one or the other. Order both types, and you can swap them out as needed. You can even order the ski kit for the chair and enjoy a day on the ski slopes – try doing that in your average wheelchair! (no – on second thought, please don’t try that! We don’t want anybody getting hurt out there!)

No Umbrella Mount

There’s one final thing to mention here, and we found it a bit of a disappointment. There’s no umbrella option; even if there were, there’s no place to mount it on the chair. 

It could be reasonably argued that the design doesn’t lend itself to one, and in light of that, the manufacturer can certainly be forgiven for not including one, but still. It’s a beach chair. It just feels (to us) like you should have the option. Sadly, you don’t have this model.

We recommend getting the full boat of extras, minus the ski kit, unless you specifically need it. We regard the others as essential.

What About Portability?

We keep comparing this model to the Rolleez, and again, the Hippocampe Beach All-Terrain Wheelchair edges out its peer chair in this category.

Collapsed form of the Hippocampe Beach All-Terrain Wheelchair

The Rolleez isn’t a very portable chair. This one is. Its hollow steel tube frame is lighter than you might think, weighing in at only 37.5 pounds. And it collapses down to a small enough footprint that you should have no difficulty fitting it in the available trunk space of any full-sized sedan. Of course, if you have an SUV, hatchback, truck, or van, getting it from one place to the next is even easier.

Note, however, that if you opt not to order the two storage bags as “extras,” storing the item in its collapsed form will not be nearly as convenient.

No Learning Curve Here

While you might have to spend a few minutes to practice collapsing the chair and unfolding it for use, there’s no learning curve to speak of. It’ll take you less than two minutes to take it from the trunk to ready to ride in.

Another Outdoor Only Chair

This will be a short section here in our Hippocampe Wheelchair review, but we wanted to include it for the sake of completeness. In theory, you could probably use this all-terrain wheelchair in mall corridors and the like, but clearly, this is an outdoor design. Nuff said.

Pros & Cons of Hippocampe Beach All-Terrain Wheelchair

Official brand logo of the Vipamat Hippocampe

We like almost everything about this chair. Its fantastic design is fun to use and easy on the eyes. However, three points might prompt you to choose another model.

  • As mentioned, you’re sitting pretty low to the ground in this chair. For some, that won’t be an issue. For others, it’ll be a deal breaker.
  • It’s expensive – as an import from Europe, you’ll pay top dollar. It’s still cheaper than many (but not all) motorized beach wheelchairs, but there’s no denying that you’ll pay a premium for European styling and quality.
  • The non-extra “extras.”  As we mentioned in an earlier section, we think of a lot of what the manufacturer calls “extras” as standard equipment. While listing the “extras” in this manner does give you a sense that you’re customizing your chair, the reality is that most people are going to want most of the extras they’ve got listed, which will inflate the price further.

Vipamat Hippocampe All Terrain Wheelchair Review Conclusion

World-class quality paired with European styling—what’s not to like? The Vipamat Hippocampe All Terrain Wheelchair is an amazing piece of French engineering that will last a lifetime.

As with all beach wheelchairs, whether manual or powered, these are highly specialized designs and not really made for everyday indoor/outdoor use. As such, the market for them is self-selecting. If you don’t have the discretionary income to afford a chair to play at the beach in, then although it might be on your wish list, from a practical perspective, it’s probably going to be difficult to acquire.

That said, if you’ve got some discretionary income or are willing to squirrel your money away for a while to save up for it, the Hippocampe is well worth the investment.  It is a chair that’s sure to get you noticed and talked about on the beach!  We highly recommend it.

Recommended Reading

Beach Cruzr 4 2 Two-Seater Electric Wheelchair Review

Discover the innovative Beach Cruzr 4 Two Seater, a niche product designed for tandem riding, solid gold for beachgoers.

Rolleez All Terrain Beach Wheelchair Review

Our evaluation of the Rolleez All Terrain Beach Wheelchair reveals an exceptional manual option for beach lovers.


Official Manufacturer Support

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