In-depth reviews guided by a Pediatrician

The Best Diaper Bag Review

The Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F. has a simple but stylish look with versatile pocket options.
Tuesday October 8, 2019
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With so many diapers bags on the market, how can you tell which options are the best? We researched over 40 top products and whittled them down to 15 impressive competitors to compare side-by-side. We reviewed pertinent factors such as weight, capacity, organization features, cleaning methods, and more. Finding the perfect diaper bag for your family can be an essential component of making outings with little ones easier. Keep reading for the pros and cons of each bag, along with our insider buying advice, so you can determine which bag is best for your family and budget.


1

A Place for Everything


Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F.


Editors' Choice Award
  • 1
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$180.00
List Price
See It

Dimensions: 14"W x 12"H x 6.5"D | Weight: 2.8 lbs
Great quality
Easy organization
Machine-washable
Heavy
Zipper problems

The Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F. is a great, smaller tote or backpack with amazing organization features. Not only is there a pocket for everything, but the pockets are well-designed. Some bags have pockets that are unusual sizes or not arranged in helpful ways; not so with this bag. While it is more petite than some of the others we tested, it's thoughtful arrangement makes it easy to organize your supplies and your baby's belongings. This bag is also machine-washable. We've seen how things can get messy carrying food and drink, and creams and dirty diapers, so it's great that you can toss it in the machine and go.

Coming in as one of the heaviest options, you may want to consider how you'll load your bag. Are you an over-packer? Will you carry items for multiple children? If so, you could end up weighed down, or have difficulty finding enough space in the bag. Also, there are reports about faulty zippers on the B.F.F., and while we did not experience it, it is something to remember. If you have an issue, the return window is only 30-days, so this isn't a bag you want to purchase and wait to use. If weight isn't a concern and you value organization over other things, then the B.F.F. should be at the top of your list.

Read the Review: Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F.

2

Great Organization in a Light Package


Skip Hop Grand Central


Skip Hop Grand Central
Editors' Choice Award
$116.58
at Amazon
See It

Dimensions: 18"W x 13"H x 6"D | Weight: 0.9 lbs
Very lightweight
Easy organization
Great value
Lacks crossbody strap
Changing pad is lacking

The Skip Hop Grand Central is a cute, inexpensive tote that is extremely lightweight. Weighing less than one pound, it is the lightest bag in the review and a lower weight results in less strain on your shoulder when lugging your baby's stuff. This bag is big, but they've done a great job providing multiple organization pockets to avoid a "black hole" from forming at the bottom of the bag. There is also a separate parent pocket that holds all of your essentials. When its diaper duty days are done, it can transition perfectly into a weekend tote. We also like that the bag is BPA and phthalate-free, which is an advantage since it ill hold pacifiers, cups, and bottles. With all of this at a great price, it's hard to beat.

One of the main complaints about this bag is the absence of a crossbody shoulder strap. With how large the bag is, it would be nice to distribute the weight across your body instead of carrying it in your hand. Some users grab a strap from another bag or have purchased one to add. Also, the changing pad is a bit small. While we can assume this is to keep the total bag weight under a pound, it could certainly use an upgrade. Despite the weak changing pad, we think the budget-friendly Grand Central is a lightweight, versatile bag you'll find multiple uses for.

3

Utilitarian Pack for Long Outings


DadGear Backpack


Editors' Choice Award
  • 1
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  • 4
  • 5

$69.95
(21% off)
at Amazon
See It

Dimensions: 12"W x 18"H x 10"D | Weight: 2.6 lbs
High volume
Well-organized
Comfortable
Heavy
Lacks chest clip

The DadGear Backpack looks like a traditional backpack from the outside, but when you open it, it has all the functionality of an exceptional diaper bag. Owned and operated by two dads, they have thought of things like a dedicated front wipe pocket, fully opening zipper compartments, and a diaper hammock to keep diapers easily accessible at the top of the bag. There are also two dedicated bottle pockets (not insulated). This roomy bag has enough interior space to fit items for more than one kiddo and enough pockets to organize everything you need to bring with you. And after you load up the backpack, its comfortable padded straps make wearing it a pleasure.

This bag is a bit heavier than several of the other packs we tested. While the comfortable straps and easy adjustments should help distribute the weight, it lacks a chest clip to help take some of the pressure off the shoulders. With all the gear you can fit in this bag, it would be nice to have help bearing the load. This beautiful, non-traditional diaper bag will have every dad (and lots of moms) wishing they had one.

Read the Review: DadGear Backpack

4

Best Bang for Your Buck: Easy to Use


Skip Hop Mainframe Wide Open


Best Value Award
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  • 5

$49.96
(29% off)
at Amazon
See It

Dimensions: 14.8"W x 14.2"H x 6.2"D | Weight: lbs
Easy internal access
Well-priced
Good exterior organization
Straps are uncomfortable
Needs more interior pockets

The Skip Hop Mainframe Wide Open Backpack diaper bag can easily stay open to help you find your desired items. It has several good-sized exterior pockets, including two large side pockets perfect for your water bottle and cups for the kids, and enough space for your essentials as well. This bag is well-made and can transition from tote to backpack all for a great price.

The backpack straps are designed to almost look like a seat belt, but a bit thinner. While the material is soft, it isn't padded which could be uncomfortable. You'll want to ensure it isn't uncomfortable making it a bag you want to try before you buy. Also, while we like the exterior pockets, there is very little internal organization which could require investing in storage bags to avoid a black hole situation. Given how often you'll reach for items and how often you may only have a single hand for searching, we think the Mainframe is a game-changer for parents who enjoy an open bag they can manage with one hand.

Read the Review: Skip Hop Mainframe Wide Open

5

Best Value Backpack


Bag Nation


Bag Nation
Best Value Award
$55.20
(21% off)
at Amazon
See It

Dimensions: 14"W x 17"H x 7.5"D | Weight: lbs
Large
Lots of pockets
Value-priced
Needs additional bottle holder
Quality control issues

The Bag Nation backpack is a nice sized pack with a nice price. This gender-neutral bag is roomy with 14 multi-sized pockets for all of your essentials. Among these are an insulated bottle pocket, a dedicated wipes pocket, a changing pad, and sundry bag as part of your purchase. It has water-resistant fabric, which is useful for spills or wet weather. You can also feel good knowing you are buying a bag that is BPA and phosphate-free, as well as made in the USA. This bag is the least expensive backpack we tested, and there is a lot to like about it.

While the Nation has an insulated pocket for a bottle or sippy cup, it is not large enough to fit an 8 oz bottle with lid or anything larger. There is no exterior mesh pocket for larger bottles. Also, there have been some reports of quality control issues with broken straps and frayed material. On the upside, they offer a lifetime guarantee and have awesome customer service if you need a replacement. If you want a bag without a feminine touch or baby theme, Bag Nation could be a top contender.

6

Best Value Tote


Hip Cub Original Tote


Hip Cub Original Tote
Best Value Award
$50.00
List Price
See It

Dimensions: 14.5"W x 13.5"H x 4.8"D | Weight: 1.6 lbs
Low cost
Perfect size
Cute
Color fading
Gets dirty easily

The Hip Cub Original Tote is a great option if you are looking for a budget-friendly bag. While it comes in with the lowest price, you still get a quality bag that is cute with a simple striped pattern that doesn't scream "diaper bag." It is a perfect medium-size bag that will fit the essentials without feeling like large luggage. This bag is one of the lighter options, and it has two carry positions (tote and crossbody).

While moms love the striped pattern, the cotton canvas can show every speck of dirt. The dark colors hide it better, but the white stripes are going to showcase the inevitable grime. The manufacturer suggests hand washing the bag or dry cleaning. While this may take care of the stains, it creates another problem, as the colored stripes fade when washed - even with spot cleaning, which is a bummer. However, for the price and convenience, it may be worth purchasing this stylish choice for the budget-friendly price alone.

7

Great for Multiples


Ju-Ju-Be Be Prepared


Ju-Ju-Be Be Prepared
Top Pick Award
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  • 5

$200.00
at Amazon
See It

Dimensions: 18.5"W x 14"H x 6.5"D | Weight: 3.5 lbs
Easy organization
Ergonomic & well-padded
Durable
Heavy
Expensive

The Ju-Ju-Be Be Prepared does exactly as the name implies by providing space for you to "be prepared" for almost anything. This bag is super spacious and well organized, so you never have to decide whether or not you have room for more than the essentials. There are multiple compartments and pockets to store your baby gear, plus a nice sized parent pocket. The Ju-Ju-Be puts padding in all the right places to make this large bag more comfortable to carry, whether tote style or crossbody. It is a great investment if you are planning on using it for multiple children, as it is durable with plenty of space. The exterior of the bag has a Teflon coating to make it waterproof, which means the color won't fade no matter how many times you need to wash it.

This bag is large and heavier materials make it the heftiest option with a weight of 3.5 lbs. While the bag is well-designed, the weight will ultimately end up on your shoulders. While it is the most expensive on our list, knowing that you can use this bag for years and it won't need replacing in 6 months helps create value that makes the price a manageable situation.

Read the Review: Ju-Ju-Be Be Prepared

8

Short Outing Messenger


Ju-Ju-Be Helix


Top Pick Award
$100.00
See It

Dimensions: 12.5"W x 15"H x 3.5"D | Weight: 1.6 lbs
Lightweight
Unisex
Memory foam base
Small volume
Only crossbody wear option

Ju-Ju-Be XY Collection Helix is a great minimalist bag that can easily work well beyond the diaper years. This crossbody style bag is a perfect mix of lightweight design with quality materials. The style and size work great for moms or dads who want a bag that can carry the essentials and not be loaded down. It also works well for outings with older kids who don't need the infant gear or as a work bag with some of the bells and whistles like insulated pockets and a changing pad. We were impressed by the thought that went into the storage and organization of this modest bag, including the memory foam base that can help protect tablets or small laptops.

This bag's design is not intended to carry lots of gear. If you have a full day outing in the works or multiple kids, you will likely need a larger bag. Also, it is only a crossbody style, so if you are hoping for a roomy bag with various carry options, then this is not the bag for you. But, if you are looking for a small bag for a quick outing where a large bag would be a pain and unnecessary, then the Helix could be the thoughtfully organized essentials carrier you are looking for.

9

High Volume Expandable Tote


Storksak Expandable Tote


Top Pick Award
$99.00
(32% off)
at Amazon
See It

Dimensions: 19"W x 13"-15"H x 8"D | Weight: 1.5 lbs
Expandable
Large Volume
Changing pad w/pockets
Fewer pockets
Expensive

Storksak Expandable Tote is a unique expandable tote with an innovative design. The exterior tote zippers enable it to expand when you need extra room. When unzipped, it will provide an additional two inches of height to the bag. Because of this, it is one of the roomiest bags in the review. It also comes with an insulated bottle pouch, a crossbody strap, and a changing pad with pockets. The pockets are convenient for storing your diaper changing essentials like wipes, diaper cream, and a diaper or two, so its all you need to grab for a quick change.

Although this bag is roomy, it has fewer pockets to keep it organized. It does not offer the same level of organization that we saw in the competition. There is one smallish interior zippered pocket for a phone and possibly a wallet, one exterior pocket, and two interior stretch pockets. Although this is not the most expensive bag in the review, it is on the high end, and we feel the bag is somewhat basic for the price point. However, if you are looking for an innovative bag unlike the usual fare, then the Storksak is an enviable option for parents looking for more space.

10

Zip-Down Changing Pad


Petunia Pickle Bottom City Carryall



$124.18
(27% off)
at Amazon
See It

Dimensions: 13"W x 12"H x 5.5"D | Weight: 2.8 lbs
Superb quality
Long adjustable shoulder strap
Water-resistant material
Limited volume
No insulated pocket

Petunia Pickle Bottom City Carryall is a high-quality tote that is available with multiple colorful patterns and fun designs. The design of the bag makes it a great diaper bag that can transition into a cute handbag when your kiddos outgrow it. There are two carrying options including real leather tote handles and an optional crossbody strap. Carry style versatility is always useful as people have different likes and body styles. This bag has a zip down changing station that is great for creating a hygienic changing area when you can't find one. The exterior has a water-resistant coating, so wiping off messes is an easy task.

While the sleek design is appealing to the eye, it has limited interior volume. This product is the smallest in the review, and while it balances its size with multiple interior and exterior pockets, it doesn't hold as much gear as the competition. Also, there are no insulated pockets, which can be a pain when you are traveling with breastmilk or other items that need refrigeration. You will need to invest in a small cooler bag if you want to keep things fresh with this diaper bag. If you primarily breastfeed and don't need an insulated pocket, then the City Carryall offers versatile carry options with useful features and a waterproof design.

11

Eye-Catching Style


Itzy Ritzy Boss


Itzy Ritzy Boss

$149.99
at Amazon
See It

Dimensions: 10.5"W x 18"H x 7"D | Weight: 2.5 lbs
Stylish
Front zips all the way down
Rubber bottom feet
Heavy
Zipper sticks

Looking for a diaper bag backpack that doesn't scream baby? The Itzy Ritzy Boss might be your answer. This cute backpack not only looks good, but it performs well too. It is spacious, with useful organization features and tons of pockets. The main compartment zipper runs down the sides of the bag which makes digging around for lost items so much easier. No need to stick your hand deep inside to feel blindly around. Also, bag bottoms can get gross when they sit on the floor of restaurants, bathrooms, cars, or grass. This bag has rubber feet on the bottom of the bag that can be easily wiped down.

Itzy Ritzy uses quality materials. However, this means that the bag is somewhat heavier than several competitors. While this bag weighs a little more, it has padded straps, so it is more comfortable to carry. There are also some reports of finicky zippers, though we didn't experience this. While the complaints are few, you may want to check your bag's zippers to make sure no returns are necessary. If the zipper is good and you want a backpack, it is hard to go wrong with the Ritzy Boss and its wide mouth main pocket and keep clean bottom.

12

Feminine Backpack in Vegan Leather


Freshly Picked



$174.98
at Amazon
See It

Dimensions: 13"W x 15"H x 7"D | Weight: 2.3 lbs
Feminine style
Multiple carry styles
Roomy with nice pockets
Expensive
Side snaps come undone easily

The Freshly Picked is a stylish faux leather bag that is feminine without being delicate. It has multiple carry styles to fit your mood including backpack, crossbody, or purse. It is super roomy and well-designed with multiple pockets (inside and out) to fit everything you need for the day or longer. This bag has huge side pockets that fit a large water bottle or tumbler, a back pocket compatible with a smaller laptop, and interior space with multiple stretch pockets for cups, wipes, and diapers. The Freshly Picked is durable with materials that wipe clean, something you're bound to appreciate as life with little ones can be messy.

If you are currently on a budget, you may have noticed the high price tag of this gem. However, the higher quality materials and construction of this bag may mean it will stand up to daily use and won't need replacing. Also, while the two side snaps at the top of the bag keep it looking sleek, the snaps have a tendency to come undone unexpectedly, which could be bothersome. If your budget allows and you need a great bag for the long haul, then the Freshly Picked is a winner.

13

Budget Vegan Tote


Babymel Grace


Babymel Grace

$90.00
at Amazon
See It

Dimensions: 14.6"W x 16.5"H x 5.7"D | Weight: 1.8 lbs
Modern & stylish
Well-priced
Wipes clean easily
Few pockets
Not great for multiples

Babymel Grace is a super modern and chic tote, with an optional crossbody strap (sold separately), and a great price. The soft faux leather exterior wipes clean without a fuss, and it stands up to the elements with no problems. It comes with a machine-washable changing mat, so it is easy to sanitize after several changes. Sporting neutral colors and a classy style means it could do double duty as an all-around bag when your diaper days are over.

This bag has a total of five pockets, but that may not be enough. Depending on your organizational style, having few pockets can be positive or negative. Without enough organization, your bag can quickly turn into a black hole, digging endlessly for the diaper cream. On the other hand, sometimes too many pockets can become an endless search of "Which pocket did I put that in?". Limited organization features make the Grace unsuitable for multiple babies, but it is a classy, quality option that gets the job done for one.

14

Removable Feeding & Changing Pods


Pacapod Mirano



$190.00
at Amazon
See It

Dimensions: 17.7"W x 14.2"H x 7.9"D | Weight: 3.1 lbs
Removable pod system
Large-volume
Unisex
Heavy
Expensive
Few pockets

Pacapod Mirano is a unique style bag with special pods designed for diapering and feeding. The removable pods are great for on-the-go organization and quick access to the essentials. The pods store in a separate compartment, but take up space in the main area. Because accessories for feeding are taken care of in the pod, it leaves a decent amount of room in the rest of the bag for the remaining gear. The cotton coated canvas material wipes clean easily and is also phthalate free. The bag comes in multiple colors with tote and crossbody styles that are perfect for mom or dad.

While the Pacapod is well-made, it comes with a hefty price and a higher weight. If this is something you are going to be carrying around all day, you may notice it's extra weight even when it's not full. Also, although we love the pods and the style of the bag, we do wish that there were more pockets and organization for the rest of the gear. That said, this is a quality bag that endures serious use. If the price is a problem, but you're still interested in a Pacapod, the unisex Pacapod Picos Pack is one pound lighter and a skosh less expensive.

15

Roomy Versatility


TWELVElittle Foldover Tote


TWELVElittle Foldover Tote

$175.00
List Price
See It

Dimensions: 13.8"W x 16"H x 6.3"D | Weight: 2.3 lbs
Multiple wear styles
Unisex
PVC, BPA, and phthalate-free
Expensive
Strap needs to be more adjustable

TWELVElittle Foldover Tote is a medium-sized tote with a strap that morphs a long carry strap into a shoulder bag as well as a backpack. Its unique style and neutral colors are great for moms and dads who want to share a bag. This bag is roomy and has a cool secret zippered pocket at the bottom of the bag to store your wallet or dirty diapers to keep them separate from the rest of the bag. To top things off, The Foldover Tote is PVC, BPA and phthalate-free, so you don't have to worry about chemical exposure to pacifiers and bottles.

This bag is an investment with a higher price tag, but it feels durable and should last a long time with a manufacturer warranty for defects. Petite users should note that the backpack strap is the crossbody strap, so adjustability is limited because the padding on the strap gets in the way. However, for taller parents who want to share a tote, this versatile option could be the right choice, especially if one parent wants a backpack while the other prefers a shoulder strap.

With so many kinds of bags to choose from it can be difficult to know what to look for and avoid getting swayed by a fashionable face.
With so many kinds of bags to choose from it can be difficult to know what to look for and avoid getting swayed by a fashionable face.

Why You Should Trust Us


Our diaper bag review team consists of real parents who've been trapped in a car with a diaper blow out and sick baby while carrying a useless diaper bag. The team lead is Dr. Juliet Spurrier, mother of two and a board-certified pediatrician. Dr. Spurrier has used multiple bags over time and strongly believes that organization is key and more important than looks. She researched and selected bags for this review that focus on functionality and quality, as well as design and the styles parents want. Senior Review Editor, Wendy Schmitz, is a mom of two that got locked into a pricey bag her husband liked that was far too heavy for her to carry. After a year of frustration and shoulder pain, she realized there had to be something else out there. Both women are driven to find quality bags that make on-the-go trips with a baby easier and help keep all the supplies you need close at hand and easy to find. The bags in this review reflect the team's 10 years of combined bag experience with their test and research background working at BabyGearLab on all kinds of gear from strollers to bassinets. This is our third diaper bag review giving us a unique hands-on experience with a large variety of bags that you can't find anywhere else.

The Skip Hop Mainframe Wide Open has plenty of interior space and will stay open to easily see inside.
Padded tech pocket for your phone.

How We Evaluated


We spent over 100 hours researching, analyzing, and testing diaper bags to find out which ones are the best. Several important factors such as capacity, weight, ease of use, accessories, style, and quality were used to determine our ranking. We packed the bags full of diapering essentials and evaluated them on their performance to help you determine which bag is best for your family and budget.

Analysis


Our analysis broke down the pros and cons of each product. We looked at over 110 diaper bags, and after a careful selection, we were able to narrow it down to the top 15. We then spent time studying and testing the bags individually and side-by-side to give you the information you need to find the perfect bag.

The Storksak Expandable Tote is significantly larger than the Ju-Ju-Be Helix  though smaller and lighter may suit your needs better depending on your goals.
The Storksak Expandable Tote is significantly larger than the Ju-Ju-Be Helix, though smaller and lighter may suit your needs better depending on your goals.

Weight is Important


When it comes to finding the right diaper bag, you may not think weight is an important factor, especially with so many other features to consider, like quality and storage. However, you'll likely be carrying this bag on a daily basis. When you look at the long list of items that will be in the diaper bag, it is going to get heavy. Paying attention to the weight of the bag along with style can mean the difference between a sore shoulder and a happy back.


The Skip Hop Grand Central is the lightest bag we tested at 0.9 lbs; this weight makes it lighter than the closest competitor by more than half a pound. In comparison, the Ju-Ju-Be Be Prepared is a hefty 3.5 lbs. You should consider how you'll use your bag before settling on your final purchase. Will you be taking it in the car or bringing it on walks? Dropping the bag off at daycare or bringing it along on errands? Your bag will carry a lot of crucial stuff so finding the one you are comfortable lugging around is important. If you won't be taking it for long distances but instead using it more in the car, then weight may play less of a role in your final decision.

With style options like totes  messenger  shoulder or backpack variations finding a suitable and comfortable product should be easy.
With style options like totes, messenger, shoulder or backpack variations finding a suitable and comfortable product should be easy.

Buying Advice


Finding the right diaper bag significantly reduces the stress you might experience when aay from home with your baby. Diaper changes out and about are not always a piece of cake, and a great bag can make things simpler by ensuring that you have everything you need in an organized, easy to access bag. A well-stocked, organized, easy to carry diaper bag is one of the most important tools in your parent arsenal, but the market is flooded with must-have baby gear, so diaper bags are often a last-minute decision driven by appearance alone. We are committed to eliminating the guesswork, so you can find a great bag you love that is more than just a pretty face.

Storage is Key


When searching for the perfect diaper bag, your first consideration should be storage features. By "storage" we mean the overall capacity of a bag and the organization options including pockets and other features that make finding and storing gear easier. If you are a first-time parent, you may be surprised at how much stuff you need to haul around for your baby's needs. Here's our list of supplies you'll typically find in the well-stocked diaper bag of an experienced parent:

The number of supplies you will likely need to carry may be more than you initially thought. This photo is an example of the essential goods most parents find useful when out and about with baby.
The number of supplies you will likely need to carry may be more than you initially thought. This photo is an example of the essential goods most parents find useful when out and about with baby.

Baby Supplies

  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Rash cream
  • Bag for dirty diapers
  • Changing pad
  • Burp cloths
  • Clothing changes
  • Blanket and/or nursing cover
  • Bottle(s) or sippy cup(s)
  • Binkies and toys
  • Sunscreen
  • Snacks

Parent Supplies

  • Water bottle
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Snacks
  • Wallet
  • Mobile phone
  • Keys
  • Sunglasses
  • Chapstick and sunscreen
  • Reading material or a tablet

A great bag should fit all or at least most of these things in a way that makes them easy to access with the ability to determine the need to restock essentials like diapers and wipes. We find that bags with exterior storage pockets for bottles and snacks, as well as compartments for a cell phone, changing pad, diapers, and wipes as particularly functional.

The Storksak Expandable Tote has a large central compartment that easily fits a boat load of supplies.
The Storksak Expandable Tote has a large central compartment that easily fits a boat load of supplies.

Your needs will vary when it comes to storage needs. For example, you may need a larger bag if you have more than one child in diapers, or for overnight and multi-day trips. A large bag like the Ju Ju Be Be Prepared is ideal if you need additional storage on a regular basis.

Ease of Use


Your next key consideration should be ease of use. Changing your baby on a public changing table and discovering your diaper cream is still in the bag will make you relieved when you can easily retrieve the cream while holding a baby with one hand. You'll want to have a bag with a light interior with a wide opening so you can see and access the contents without a search party. We found bags with deep interiors, narrow openings, and dark linings to be akin to finding something in a black hole. It doesn't matter how many organizational pockets a bag has if you can't see everything or find what you need quickly, it's going to be frustrating to use.

The inside of the Ju-Ju-Be Helix is small with no internal organization to help prevent losing items in the bottom of the bag.
The inside of the Ju-Ju-Be Helix is small with no internal organization to help prevent losing items in the bottom of the bag.

Closures also play into ease of use. Compartments and pockets have a variety of closures including zippers, snaps, magnets, or Velcro. Zippers are our favorite. In fact, it is essential that your chosen bag has an internal compartment that zips closed. If a pocket is left open, you can lose items if the bag tips over or turns upside down. Magnetic closures tend not to close or stay closed under the weight of a full bag. Nonetheless, one of our biggest pet peeves is Velcro, which we (thankfully) did not encounter in this round.

The Storksak Expandable Tote's main compartment zips closed to help keep contents safely inside.
The Storksak Expandable Tote's main compartment zips closed to help keep contents safely inside.

Why You Should Fear Velcro


In our opinion, bags without Velcro are a big plus, and here are three reasons why:
  • Noisy — Velcro is noisy and can be loud enough to wake your sleeping baby, seriously, it happens
  • Sticky — Velcro sticks to many fabrics which is a bummer for any nice fabric that can be damaged from this stickiness
  • Poor Long-term Durability — Velcro typically wears out, which is a problem as you will be using an item like this for a prolonged period

Once the Velcro has stuck to anything and everything after heavy use, the hooks typically get clogged and the pockets may not close. Unfortunately, some changing pad covers include small Velcro closures as well, but in our testing, even these are significantly loud and virtually useless.

The front pocket on the Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F. has pockets for parent's easy access items like a key clip  sunglass pocket and zipper pocket for cards and cash.
The front pocket on the Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F. has pockets for parent's easy access items like a key clip, sunglass pocket and zipper pocket for cards and cash.

Consider Your Needs Too


It is critical that your bag includes a secure place for personal items like a smartphone, wallet, and keys. It is cumbersome to carry a purse and a diaper bag simultaneously, but with a great diaper bag it shouldn't be necessary. So finding a product with a parent pocket is a necessity but often overlooked. Key clips are also useful and prevent your keys from getting lost in the bag (which happens a lot more than you'd think).

The Ju-Ju-Be Helix has a nice long crossbody strap for hands free carrying.
The Ju-Ju-Be Helix has a nice long crossbody strap for hands free carrying.

Quality and Cost


Bag quality is possibly more important than you first thought. After all, this bag should be able to get you through toddlerhood and situations that are sometimes disgusting. This single purchase is an investment in a useful tool you'll need for years to come. A broken handle, strap, or zipper could create a frustrating day when out and about with your baby. We find that less expensive bags (<$40-$55) often have inferior materials, construction, and function. The cost of two cheaper bags can be more than one higher-quality bag that can last for multiple years. Cheaper bags often have flimsy linings, weak seams, and sub-par storage. Even a small bump in price can result in significantly better quality and durability. Our advice? Find something in at least a mid-range ($60-$100) price. This price often buys a quality product that you can use even after your little one is out of diapers. Of course, high-end bags ($100-$250+) may come with more bells and whistles. If your budget is smaller, you can try adding your diaper bag to your registry or ask your girlfriends to buy your favorite as a gift from them all. Of the bags we tested, we found one low-end gem, the Hip Cub Tote, which impresses with a lower price of only $50.

Fit and Style


Bag style is important for form and function. When it comes to carrying the bag, there are four types, tote, messenger, backpack, and stroller handlebar. Convertible bags combine two or more of these styles which can make a bag attractive to both mom and dad. If your diaper bag is uncomfortable to carry, the style will likely not be able to overcome a poor fit, so fit is potentially more important than style.

With a top handle the Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F. is easy to carry with one hand.
With a top handle the Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F. is easy to carry with one hand.

The tote is similar to a large handbag that has one or two top handles. Many come with a detachable strap that goes over the shoulder and across the body. A backpack has two shoulder straps so you can carry the bag on your back. Some bags also include a stroller strap that allows the bag to hang off a stroller's handlebar. However, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association warns against hanging anything on your stroller because the added weight can cause the stroller to potentially tip backward which could result in injury to your baby. We agree that stroller hanging is a no-no. While strolling, you'll need to carry the bag or place it in the stroller storage bin (check manufacturer guidelines for maximum weight allowance).

The straps on the Freshly Picked would be more comfortable if they were padded or wider.
The straps on the Freshly Picked would be more comfortable if they were padded or wider.

Finding your best style is highly personal. If you want to be hands-free, consider a backpack or messenger bag. Ergonomically, we find backpacks are the most comfortable as the weight rests equally on both shoulders and your back. However, you need to take the bag off to access your supplies. Alternatively, with a messenger bag, you can hold your baby in one arm while taking a bottle out with the other. Plus, a well-padded messenger bag strap can be comfortable.

Materials


Because your diaper bag will get soiled in ways you can't imagine, we strongly suggest choosing a bag that is easy to clean and maintain. Wipe clean linings are awesome, and water repellant and stain-resistant exterior fabric are useful. However, a bag that can be thrown in the washing machine is living the dream. At the very least, you want to find a bag that wipes clean inside and outside. Always refer to the manufacturer's instructions when it comes to the care of your bag to help maintain its longevity and appearance.

The Petunia Pickle Bottom City Carryall is water repellent and stain resistant.
The Petunia Pickle Bottom City Carryall is water repellent and stain resistant.

Diaper bags can be susceptible to microbe growth as a result of the waste they often carry. To combat this growth, some companies create bags that include Agion, an antimicrobial finish. This material is useful as it limits the spread and growth of these microbes. Agion is cradle-to-cradle certified, which means healthy for you and the environment making it even cooler. An eco-friendly bag can be a plus; because baby's belongings go inside the bag and babies put everything in their mouths, you should look for materials that are healthy or limit exposure to chemicals.

We do not recommend polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic (aka vinyl) use in diaper bags. PVC can be a soft plastic typically seen in the interior of a diaper bag or changing pad linings. The material helps create a flexible, water-resistant surface. PVC seems great, right? unfortunately, PVC is not perfect.

To make the PVC soft, plasticizers, also known as phthalates, are added to the mix. There is concern about the health effects of exposure to plasticizers. There are also durability issues with soft PVC as it often cracks over time, especially if exposed to cold temperatures and sunlight. Plus, soft PVC has a potent chemical smell. We don't like using products with strong chemical smells around developing babies and children. In fact, the Environmental Working Group has a plethora of information surrounding plasticizers and the potential consequences of exposing children to them. "In general, the EU considers many plasticizers safe for use with the caveat that they not be used in children's items." While the subject of chemical plasticizers' effect on health is a very complex one, there are PVC-free options available.

The Pacapod Mirano has a zip down front pocket that holds some of the organization pods used in the Pacapod.
The Pacapod Mirano has a zip down front pocket that holds some of the organization pods used in the Pacapod.

Features and Accessories


A diaper bag's features and accessories can influence your overall experience with the bag. Features like insulated bottle holders, comfy shoulder straps, key clips, and bag feet can make your routine simple or challenging based on the design. While you can substitute subpar accessories with those you love, a diaper bag that gets it right from the beginning can make a big difference in your experience.

The Petunia Pickle Bottom City Carryall changing pad folds out from the front of the bag where two elastic topped pockets can hold all your diapering essentials for easy access.
The Petunia Pickle Bottom City Carryall changing pad folds out from the front of the bag where two elastic topped pockets can hold all your diapering essentials for easy access.

Try It Before You Buy It


Our last piece of advice is to try it before you buy it. Or buy from a retailer with a simple return policy like Amazon. Take your essentials, pack them up, and see how it feels. Look for items and see if you can locate them uickly. Check that the storage options allow frequently used items to be easily accessible. Try the bag on to see if it is comfortable fully packed.

Conclusion


A diaper bag that is functional, comfortable, and durable can make a big difference in your everyday life. Choosing a bag that meets your needs with room to grow will go a long way in helping you navigate your on-the-go diaper years as smoothly as possible. Now that you know what to look for and what you might carry, as well as the pros and cons of each product, we believe you can find a bag to meet your goals.


Juliet Spurrier, MD & Lindsay Selig