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Lifetime A-Frame Adventure Playset Review

We recently reviewed the best swing sets for kids in 2020 and the Lifetime A-Frame Adventure Playset was our top choice.

Note: it is also known as the Lifetime Big Stuff Playset – it is model 90042 in their product range (the Earthtone color, as shown in all the pictures below).

Whilst it isn’t a true commercial set, the caliber of it is so high that many people buy it for their church, pre-school or Homeowners’ Association.

It really does have the feel of a public playground – so much more than your typical backyard swing. It is very safe and sturdy and can easily handle the weight of some adults as well as children.

With its solid build quality and huge range of play activities, it is sure to keep all the adventurers in your family happy for many years to come! Let’s review the Lifetime A-Frame Adventure Playset in more detail.

Features

The playset has a variety of playground favorites, as well as the usual swings. It comes with:

  • 9 foot wavy slide
  • 2 swings, easy to adjust height
  • Trapeze bar
  • Climbing wall
  • Raised playhouse with hardtop roof
  • Cargo net
  • Propeller swing
  • Activity chalkboard
  • Ships wheel
  • Binoculars

The short video below showcases the many features of this playset:

Size and Weight Capacity

The dimensions of this ‘Big Stuff’ playset are indeed big!

  • Swing set – Overall: 11′ 5″ (H) x 15′ 9″ (W) x 13′ 11″ (D)
  • Swing bar: 7′ 9″ (H)
  • Platform: 4′ 10″ (H)
  • Slide: 4′ 10″ (H) x 9′ (L)
  • Distance between platform and crossbar above slide: 2′ 6″

As we’ll discuss later, you should add a protective surface layer (e.g. sand) under and around the playset – up to a distance of about 7 foot all around it.

So the overall footprint of this swing set, including safety zone with protective surface layer, is about 31 feet x 28 feet. You need a big backyard…

The total weight capacity of this playset is 900 pounds (spread across a maximum of 8 users). The individual weight capacity of each feature is:

  • Swings: 135 pounds each
  • Slide: 150 pounds
  • Ladder: 150 pounds
  • Platform: 600 pounds, if evenly distributed

Materials Used

The steel used in this swing set has a weather resistant powder-coated finish to protect it from cracking, warping, rot and splinters.

Lifetime say that it is rust resistant but they do recommend using a rust treatment for extra protection. Use it a couple of times a year, particularly if you live in an area with high humidity.

We would also recommend this as we came across several reports of sets developing a few rust spots. To be fair, some of these were in areas where the paint got scratched off during assembly of the playset. You could prevent rust forming there by touching up the scratches immediately with a good ‘rust paint’.

There is a 5 year warranty but it excludes rust, so you may need to treat any rust that forms. The only other maintenance required is to check annually that all the bolts are still tight. It may also be worthwhile to spray a small amount of white lithium grease on the upper links of the swings.

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Delivery and Pre-installation

As you might expect of such an awesome kit, the Lifetime A-Frame Adventure Playset comes in a very large crate. The crate size is 32.75″ H x 112″ L x 48″ W and weighs in at a whopping 670 pounds. So make sure you clear enough space and be ready to unpack many boxes, some up to 10 foot long.

Before it arrives you will need to have prepared the final site for the playset. Choose wisely as it could take up to 8 adults to reposition it without disassembling again. You really want to make sure you build it in the correct position to start with…

The play set is designed for flat ground and isn’t adjustable for slopes so you should try to prepare a level site. If you don’t, you will have to dig holes to sink some of the legs into. You then have to consider how to protect the parts of the frame that are underground.

You should also cover the entire play area with a deep layer of soft material e.g. 9 inches of double shredded bark mulch or 12 inches of fine sand. See our guide on the best material to put under a swing set for more information.

The aim of this shock absorbent surface, under and around the playset, is to provide a safer cushion for that moment when your child inevitably falls off… So factor in the cost of soft materials for an area of 31′ x 28′ when budgeting for your purchase.

Building the Lifetime A-Frame Adventure Playset

Lifetime Big Stuff Adventure Playset Review

Lifetime claim that it may take 2 adults an entire day to assemble this playset. However, we have read reports of it taking anywhere between 5 hours and 27 hours, for 2 adults. On average it took about 12 hours for 2 adults. You will need a tall ladder for getting the roof in place as the peak is almost 12 foot from the ground.

Some people reported a couple of difficulties in building the playset, including:

  • A few people said they had to re-drill some of the holes as some didn’t line up, particularly on the climbing wall
  • Some initial confusion over parts as some of the boxes and bags were not well labeled
  • A few said the instructions weren’t very clear so they had to take several pieces off again as they were facing the wrong direction
  • Some of the screws were a bit short

A lot of this can be overcome by carefully laying out all the components and reading the instructions in their entirety before starting the build. The playset only goes together one way. You can do this and your kids might just give you the title of best builder dad or mom!

Don’t be tempted to just build the platform and slide section as the frame of the swings gives the whole set stability and vice versa. However, you can attach an assortment of other swings etc. to any of the swivel hooks.

For example, you could replace the propeller swing with a tire swing. Or you could replace one of the regular swings with a bucket or glider swing for smaller children.

After assembly, you will see that it is a very well made set. With the hours of pleasure it will give your children, any minor assembly struggles will soon be a distant memory.

Playset Safety

Lifetime A-Frame Adventure Playset Features

We found reports that it hadn’t budged in winds of 100mph and several tornados! However, if you want total peace of mind, you could purchase anchors for extra stability should your kids (or you) try to do a loop the loop…

All of the metal parts that a child would touch are covered in high density polythene, rubber, or marine flooring. Hence, even in hot weather they should still be able to use it, unlike some swings you find in public parks.

Slides in particular are often culprits for overheating. However, users report that the slide on this playset was warm but still comfortable even after several days with temperatures above 90 degrees! If you prefer the slide to stay cooler, consider facing it North when you assemble it.

The metal frame can get hot in more extreme heat – in this case, Lifetime recommend that you spray it down with water just before use. On the other end of the scale, they recommend that you remove the swing seats (and other easily removable items) and store them inside if the temperature drops below 40 degrees.

For further safety, the binoculars have no magnification, to protect kids eyes in case they point them at the sun.

Recommended Ages

Boy Playing On Lifetime A-Frame Adventure Playset

The recommended age for the Lifetime A-Frame Adventure Playset is 3 to 12 years old. We have read many reports of children of those ages absolutely loving it and not growing tired of it as they grow older.

In the real world, younger children may need lifting up to reach the trapeze bar. On the plus side, that means the bar is high enough for older kids who are potential acrobats!

The 9 foot wavy slide is quite steep so it would be wise to supervise younger children. You could also swap out one of the regular swings for a bucket style swing suitable for toddlers or a glider swing for infants.

Given how sturdy the playset is, and the large weight capacity, it could easily accommodate older kids, teens or even parents! But there is under 6 foot clearance between the highest point of the roof and the platform. Tall users may have to kneel, rather than stand, on the platform in the playhouse.

Just ensure that teens and adults don’t exceed the maximum weight capacity of each feature. We did read reports of heavier adults enjoying the playset, but we’d recommend anchoring it for extra stability if adults were to use it regularly. In normal use, for kids, the playset is free standing and so heavy that there is no need for concrete or anchors.

Durability and Guarantee

Some users report that the rubber coating on the swing chains can sometimes smell a bit when it gets very hot. In extremely hot locations, the swing arms may start to become a bit tacky after several years, possibly leaving a residue on your hands.

It isn’t clear if this is from the rubber coating perishing in the sun or from the glue (that holds the coating in place) melting. You could try cleaning this with isopropyl alcohol every year or two if you live in a very hot climate.

Which brings us neatly on to Lifetime’s Customer Service. The company offer a 5-year limited manufacturers warranty. Most of the people who complained to Lifetime about sticky chains were sent replacements free of charge.

There was also prompt dispatch of free touch up paint where people complained of small scratches. Generally, people gave very high ratings for the levels of customer service that they received.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Maintenance free and no splinters
  • Meets all ASTM safety guidelines
  • 5-year limited manufacturer warranty
  • Does not need anchoring
  • Great customer service
  • Available in 2 different colors
  • No lead based materials
  • 900 pounds total weight capacity

Cons:

  • May need to touch up any scratches caused during assembly, to prevent rust
  • The binoculars have no magnification (to protect kids eyes)
  • Coating on swing chains may become sticky after a few years

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In conclusion, the Lifetime A-Frame Adventure Playset (aka Lifetime Big Stuff Playset) has heavy duty framework, hardware and fittings. A quality powder coat finish makes it more weather resistant.

There is nothing “cheap” about it. Yes, it is quite pricey BUT the price compares favorably to many wooden playsets and, unlike the wooden ones, this is very easy to clean and maintain.

It requires no pressure washing or wood staining, leaving the whole family with more time to enjoy it. We feel that makes the price difference well worth it.


Reference: the assembly manual for the Lifetime A-Frame Adventure Playset is available to download in PDF format from Lifetime here.