Below you'll find we've narrowed down to be the most essential things you should consider when selecting the right bag for you. We invite you to read on and take note before you head out to buy your perfect diaper bag.
Organized Storage is Vital
Imagine you've just brought your new little bundle of joy home from the hospital. While mom and baby take a much needed snooze together, you begin to unload the "overnight" bags. You find a myriad of items tucked inside, ranging from the expected - diapers and wipes, pacifiers (aka the binkie), blankets and booties, to the more, um, unexpected - say a various assortment of creams and ointments a strange bulb commonly referred to as "the snot sucker" and more. Luckily you discover that housed in your baby's nursery is an entire changing table "system" - drawers, baskets and bins included - designed to keep all of this stuff at arms reach for the moment you need it. It's genius.
As you sit back in the not-yet-broken-in cushy nursery rocker and revel at your organization skills, it suddenly hits you - "How will we I ever leave this place with my baby and all of this stuff??"
Well we're here to tell you that there is a way. And if you're reading this article, you may have already guessed it: a diaper bag. A well designed bag will allow you to carry everything you need for you and your baby in a practical, and more importantly, well-organized manner. It will be your very own little on-the-go feeding/changing station. So let's jump into what you might want to consider putting inside.
Items for baby:
• rash cream
• dirty diaper sacks
• a changing pad
• burp cloth
• a change of clothes
• a bottle
• binkies and toys
Items for dad:
• water bottle
• hand sanitizer
• cell phone
• reading material
• 13" Macbook Air/tablet
The best bags on the market will afford you not only the space you need to accommodate the needs of both your child and you, but will do so in an organized manner that makes them easily accessible.
The winner of our Editors' Choice Award, the Pacapod Picos Pack represents the ideal blend of form and function. Every square inch of space is assigned a purpose, which not only acts as a helpful guide when packing, but also keeps clutter at bay. At the other end of the spectrum we have our Best Value Award winner, the Boken Every Day Bag which has fewer internal pockets but is great for dads that do not need/want a bag that comes with the complete set-in-stone organizational package. It is lightweight, highly customizable, stylish, and has plenty of room to accommodate just about anything you might need to carry.
Useable storage is key: Although bags like the Skip Hop Duo Signature and Diaper Dude Original Messenger Bag have many pockets, they are difficult to access and keep organized. In this case, more is not always better.
Capacity is not King
Diaper Dude Messenger II and Diaper Dude Original Messenger offer enough space, but not all of it is useable. With these bags and the Skip Hop Duo Signature we had a difficult time utilizing the front pockets and often turned to packing more into the main cavity of the bag rather than bother with the thin front pockets which resulted in a lot of wasted space.
Preserve Your Back
OiOi Wax Canvas Satchel weighed in at 2.7lbs with its accessories. Once full, it became an unexpected battering ram, nearly knocking our toddler over when we were bending over to pick him up.
Bottom line: while messenger bags are more on-trend, they require constant adjustment and their uneven distribution of the weight of the bag can lead to serious discomfort. Proper positioning of the bag on your back will free your hands so you can worry instead about keeping up with your kid(s).
Both the Skip Hop Duo Signature and the Boken Every Day Bag offer the option to carry as a handbag as well. While this is a useful carrying method, it can, much like the messenger style, lead to uneven weight distribution and eventual back or shoulder pain.
Closures are important
Obersee Rio with Cooler. The OiOi utilizes magnetic closures to secure its main pocket, which are ineffective if the bag is full. The Skip Hop Duo Signature also used magnets to secure the front pockets of the bag which rarely kept the pockets closed. We like magnetic pockets but think their place it better served in the interior of a bag, as seen on the Petunia Pickle Bottom Sashay Satchel, an award winner in our Best Diaper Bag Shoot-out for moms.
What to do with your stuff
Quality & Cost
We have said it before and we will say it again: your diaper bag is an investment. While you can get away with spending less than $50 on a bag, chances are it is not made with quality materials and consequently will not last long enough to warrant the lower price.
Quality bags have a tendency to start at the $60-$70 range and share a number of similar attributes: tight and sturdy stitching, quality fabric, and plenty of storage. More expensive bags ($100-$300+) generally come with more perks.
We recommend you base your purchase on whether the bag itself meets your needs and not what perks are included, as these add-ons are not necessarily as useful as they are chalked-up to be. The two high-end bags we tested illustrate this point well. The accessories included with the OiOi Waxed Canvas Satchel include: a wipes case that is useful but we have found better products out there, a changing pad that is difficult to clean (made of cotton and spot-treat only), an insulated bottle holder that is closed with a drawstring (difficult to keep closed), and the wet bag container can hold one, maybe two soiled items. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Pacapod Picos Pack, which includes highly functional accessories that are designed well and built to last.
The good news is, you definitely do not have to break the bank when it comes to buying a quality bag. We were impressed with the quality of the $68 Boken Every Day Bag, which includes the largest and one of the easiest to clean changing pads we have encountered in our testing.
A note to dads: stay away from PVC. None of the bags we tested contained any PVC in their materials but you should know it is not something you want your baby to be exposed to. PVC is commonly found in soft plastic bags and often used on changing pads because it is easy to clean. To make the plastic on these items pliable, it is heated and phthalates are added. These "plasticizers," as they are called, are considered safe for adults but should not be used in children's products as recommended by the Environmental Working Group.
Many of the bags we tested have innovative options meant to make your diaper bag carrying experience easier. One feature we really liked in particular was having exterior access to wipes containers. Both the DadGear Backpack and Obersee Rio with Cooler had this feature. When we found ourselves in a public restroom it was easy to hang these bags on a nearby hook and easily access the wipes during a diaper change. Between the changing mat, baby, removed clothing, dirty diaper, wipes container and diaper cream, you often find yourself short on space. Not to mention, wipes containers are difficult to use one-handed, so we appreciated that both of these bags offer such a useful approach. Of the two, we preferred the DadGear Backpack, as its opening is wider and makes it easier to access the wipes.
Alternatively, the Pacapod Picos Pack has a perfectly sized changing pod that has a spot to secure all of your supplies. This is a great option for those that might only need to take their diaper changing supplies while out on a quick errand. It also utilizes less space at a changing station in a public restroom. The OiOi Wax Canvas Satchel was the only bag to include a traditional wipes case, which works, but unlike brand name wipes containers, you have to open the entire wipes case to access them. This is difficult to do one handed and challenging to close if overstuffed with wipes. We think you are better off with a Huggies or Pampers travel wipes case as they are inexpensive, work better and are easier to manage.
A Note on Stroller Straps
Strollers straps are often featured on diaper bags as an added convenience, but in reality, are quite dangerous. Only the Obersee Rio and Skip Hop Duo Signature included dedicated straps for this purpose. The other bags, feature methods that allow you to attach them to your stroller in some way or another, such as the Pacapod Picos Pack and Boken Every Day Bag.
We strongly advise against utilizing stroller straps. They throw the balance of your stroller off and can cause it to tip backwards, resulting in possible injury to your baby.
Try it before you buy it
If you can, we recommend you go to a nearby store and test out the bags you prefer in person. This bag is going to be your #1 go-to item for quite a while (years in fact) and it is important you find the right one for you. Test out its features and don't forget to take into account these key qualities: useable organization and capacity, quality materials that are easy to clean, a style you'll enjoy, and useful accessories. Based on our findings, we are sure there is a bag out there that will work well for your specific needs.