Lifetime Big Stuff Adventure Playset Review

Lifetime Big Stuff Adventure playsetyset - Earthtones color version (model 90042)

Get the low-down here on the Lifetime Big Stuff Adventure Playset (also called the "A-Frame Playset" or the "Heavy Duty Metal Playset with Clubhouse" on the manufacturer's website).

What does it offer kids? What age range is it suitable for? What does it offer parents? Why choose this model rather than a wooden playset? If you're looking for something low-maintenance and/or free-standing, definitely read on!

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This is a great playset. I doubt there's any child who won't have a blast on this thing. Then again, it isn’t hard to get the little ones excited about a climbing wall, a swing set and a wavy slide.

All these various features cater to different ages and keep the kids engaged as they grow. Even teenagers have been known to have fun on it (though strictly speaking, it's not for them)!

Key Features of the Lifetime Big Stuff

The Big Stuff Adventure playset offers a range of activities that will keep your little ones busy for years.

When you buy this substantial playset, you get a swing set, an upper-deck clubhouse, 3D climbing wall (kids can climb inside as well as outside), a 9ft slide, climbing net and all sorts of fun accessories.

Here's the full list:

  • Clubhouse with hard roof.

    The 56in x 45in clubhouse deck is marine quality and non-skid.

    The roof height is 50in minimum, and a fantastic 72in maximum, so there's lots of head room.
  • A-frame swing bar - this is 93in (7ft 9in) high and will take three swings
  • Wavy slide - 9ft long
  • Oversized spyglass / binoculars  (no lenses - just so you know, to avoid any disappointment!)
  • Ship’s wheel  (no steering capability - ditto...)
  • 3-D curved climbing wall - can be climbed on both sides.
  • Cargo climbing net - made from tough polyethylene rope. Easy to grip, great for all ages.
  • 2 Belt swings
  • Trapeze bar - a trapeze and a great mini monkey bar!
  • Propeller swing - great for younger children - room for three to sit on it together.
  • Chalkboard

I love the fact that no wood is used in this product. While a wooden playset definitely has some appeal, the maintenance can really get you down. This steel and plastic playset from Lifetime should last much longer than many wooden playsets, and maintenance will be minimal.

Also, it's freestanding, so you don't have to deal with anchoring the thing to secure it in position. Putting it up in the right place is enough!

The powder coating protects against rust and reduces heat retention. Not only is the powder coated steel less hot in summer, it also doesn't get as cold during the winter months.

It comes in two colorways - earthy green/brown tones (model no: 90042) that will blend in nicely with grass and any trees in the natural landscape of your backyard, and a bright, primary-colored version (model no: 90137) that won't! Kids will love it, whichever one you choose.

The short videos below will give you an idea of the color options - and the playset itself. The voiceover is the same in both, just so you know - so you could mute the second time!

What exactly does the delivery guy bring?

Everything comes in a crate about 9ft x 4ft x 3ft, containing several boxes. The whole thing weighs in at a hefty 681lb!

This includes all the parts listed in the Key Features section above, plus hardware (bolts etc).

If you want to get a real idea of what to expect at your curbside, check out the very beginning of this great timelapse video below. And if you want to see how to get the whole thing up in just over three minutes, keep watching!

NOTE: The manual helpfully tells you which box to look in to find the parts you need, as you go through the assembly process.

What do other users say about the Lifetime Big Stuff playset? To read some customer reviews on Amazon, click here.

How much yard space is needed?

While the playset itself measures about 14ft x 15ft, it's vital to leave an area all round so that the kids can run about and play on it safely.

The minimum recommended by ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials ) is 6ft on each side - but Lifetime suggests a zone that measures about 27ft x just under 30ft, which is a bit more generous.

Safety Zone dimensions for Lifetime Big Stuff

Also, this swing set stands 11ft 5in high (including the fort roof), so be wary of any overhanging branches or electrical wires.

Without the canopy A-frame roof, it's 93in high (7ft 9in)

What is it made from?

The frame material of this heavy duty playset is powder-coated steel, which will ensure it stays comfortably playable on, even in sweltering heat - unlike some cheap models, where the metal parts can get so hot in summer, the kids can't go anywhere near it.

The molded components are made of UV-protected high density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic - which is durable, lightweight, easy to clean, won't chip or crack.

The swing chains are rubber coated to protect little fingers.

The support frame is made from chunky 3in diameter steel tubing, which gives a strong foundation. Metal or wood? It's a matter of personal preference, but no wood means no splinters and no fading, less upkeep.

FYI The metal components are made in China, and the molded plastic components - high density polyethylene (HDPE) - are made here in the USA, where everything is also assembled and packaged.

How easy is it to assemble?

This unit is free standing and requires no cement, making preparation a breeze. Just make sure the ground where you're going to build it is level.

This sturdy playset can be assembled by anyone who can follow instructions and climb a ladder!

But don't be tempted to do it alone - the parts are big and heavy, and at least one extra pair of hands will make a huge difference - to the time taken, and to your enjoyment of the process!

If you don’t consider yourself very handy, get at least two helpers and set aside a couple of days for assembly. It can be done in much less if you're familiar with assembling large products. And it might take more. But it will be worth it.

Take an inventory of all the parts before you start doing anything.

Most people find the instructions are quite clear, but you do need to read the manual carefully, and follow it. Don't take shortcuts or jump ahead - from what I've read while researching, it won't help in the long run. After all, it was the tortoise (not the hare) that won the race!

TIP  Most of the assembly requires bolting the sections together with allen bolts - quite straightforward. A cordless drill will help with this - just do it slowly to avoid damaging the threads.

TIP Some people have found it difficult to get the drill with the allen bit into the right place. They solved the problem by adding a ratchet wrench to the mix. This way it was easier to tighten the bolts quickly and just the right amount.

Can This Playset be Configured a Different Way?

The short answer to that is no. The assembly instructions must be followed precisely, or you'll find it won't fit together properly. So it's not possible to have the swing set on the left (unless you turn the whole thing round so it faces the other way), or switch the positions of the cargo net and slide - questions that are often asked by potential buyers.

Line drawings from above and side, showing dimensions

The only change you can safely make is switching out the swings. Provided the attachments are the same, there shouldn't be a problem. So, for instance, you could replace a belt swing with a baby swing if you wanted.

You could also remove the propellor swing - which is intended for very young kids - to leave space under the deck for older kids to do their thing.

Check out the User Manual here

The latest instruction manual was published in May 2016. It now has three languages in one. (Lifetime, if you're listening, I don't think this is a good move!) I find it confusing having to scan through paragraphs in different languages.

What I would do with this, to make it clearer, is go through the whole thing and highlight the English bits (or whatever language you choose).

NOTE: I've included links to both models (90042 and 90137). But the instructions will be identical as the only difference between them is the color.

For model 90042 May 2016 (English, French & Spanish):

For model 90137 May 2016 (English, French & Spanish):

The links below are to the previous manual, which was current from February to May 2016. I've included these as they are in English only, which I think is much clearer.

NOTE: As far as I can tell, the instructions are the same as in the updated version above. BUT I'M NOT 100% SURE OF THAT - I haven't yet checked with the manufacturer. As soon as I do this, I'll update the information here.

For model 90042 Feb 2016 (English only):

For model 90137 Feb 2016 (English only):

What are the age and weight limits?

Lifetime states that this playset is best suited for 3- to 12-year-olds, although I am sure kids on either side of that range will still have plenty of fun.

Each swing can safely hold 135lb, while the slide is able to take 150lb comfortably.

It's fine for a maximum of eight children to play on it at one time, as long as the total weight is no more than 900lb. That means the eight children can weigh about 112lb each.

How about maintenance?

Compared with wooden playsets, little maintenance is needed. But of course, as with anything, it makes sense to do some checking from time to time, to ensure all is in order.

Regular checks are recommended to ensure bolts etc are tight and secure - and that the protective coverings on corners, bolts and edges are intact.

Lubricate metal moving parts. Some customers keep the upper links on the swings in good order with an annual application of a little white lithium grease.
(NOTE: Don't use a spray version, it seems not to work so well. )

Check periodically for any rust, or places where the paint may be scratched or flaking off, so it can be dealt with early. If you find any, it's easy to scrape it down, sand and repaint (see details in user's manual).

Some months in, you may notice tiny spots of rust appearing where the initial coat of paint wasn't complete. This isn't ideal, but a can of Rustoleum spray paint should sort it out (recommended by a Lifetime rep), and compared with the upkeep of a wooden set, it's nothing.

I know of someone who likes to hose the whole thing every few weeks during the warmer months, and then get the kids to dry it with some old cloths or towels. This keeps it sparkling.

There are users who've had Lifetime playsets for more than 10 years that are still going strong, and I don't see why yours shouldn't be the same, if you take reasonable care of it.

The rubber grips can get sticky in summer - problem solved!

Some people have found that the rubber grips on the swing chains can get sticky if it's very hot. Helpful users report that this problem has been easily solved by using a simple degreaser such as Grease Relief or Simple Green.

Warranty info

There's a 5-year warranty, which covers defects in materials or workmanship that impair the use of the playset for five years from the initial purchase. Any shipping or labor costs are not covered. This is standard for this type of warranty.

The warranty is non-transferable - only the initial purchaser can claim. Again, this is a standard condition. You'll find all details in the user's manual.

About the Lifetime company: If you're in the market for a playset or other outdoor items, you may well have heard of the Lifetime brand already. Known for their quality play equipment, this manufacturer knows how to make all kinds of durable outdoor equipment, including the Big Stuff Adventure playset.

From their humble beginnings in Riverdale, Utah, when a father simply wanted to create a better basketball hoop for his family, this company has grown into an international brand. Lifetime now manufactures sporting goods that include basketball hoops and kayaks, as well as outdoor products such as chairs and tables and playgrounds.

What's good about this playset?

  • It's low maintenance.
  • UV-resistant - retains strength and maintains color, even in the summer sun.
  • All-weather resistant – won't warp, crack, splinter or rot
  • I like the fact that this playset is freestanding, and requires no cement or anchoring. It makes assembly so much easier.
  • I also like that I can order extras and replacements, like a belt swing, from the manufacturer. This means you can adapt the playset as your children grow, allowing your kids to use the playset for their entire childhood.
  • No possibility of splinters.
  • No exposed hard edges - all are rounded or covered with plastic caps.
  • This is a residential playset, but users report the build quality is almost as good as the playground equipment in their local parks.
  • Seems to be sturdy enough for parents to play on with their kids - though the manufacturer gives max weights of 150lb and 135lb for the slide and the swings respectively.

What's not so good?

  • There are some reports of minor rust spots where paint has been scratched, or coating not 100%. Not ideal but easily remedied by touching up with paint (see Maintenance section, above).
  • I also feel Lifetime dropped the ball on the ladder rungs. They are quite slippery when wet, and could just lead to a child falling. However, users have come up with the bright idea of adding ladder grip tape to ensure that this isn’t a problem any more.

Big Stuff playset is ideal for you if...

  • ...you have a backyard with about 30ft x 27ft available space.
  • ...you want low maintenance.
  • ...you want heavy duty - you know it's going to get a lot of use.
  • ...you might want to move and take it with you. It's quite time-consuming, but has been done successfully.

You could do better if...

  • ...you have only a small area for the kids to play, you may need to look for a smaller product. Perhaps something like the Lifetime Heavy Duty A-Frame Metal Swing Set - that just has swings and no fort or slide.
  • ...your kids need monkey bars - though there is the trapeze swing, which allows some monkey bar action.

Verdict and Where to Buy

If you want a solid playset, made from durable materials, with enough activities to keep your kids busy for years to come, the Big Stuff playset deserves consideration.

It gets excellent ratings and generally high praise from customers. It's been on the market for some time, so users can vouch for its durability. The Lifetime Big Stuff Heavy Duty A-frame playset is definitely one for the recommended short list.

Prices on Amazon are usually very competitive - better than manufacturer site - and the deal often includes free shipping.

Check out the current price on Amazon here!

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