How to select the right diaper bag for Dad

We encountered trouble when it came to fitting the Comotomo into one of the front pockets of the Diaper Dude Original. We finally abandoned this effort and placed it in the main pocket.
Article By:
Natalie Hale
Review Editor
BabyGearLab

Last Updated:
Friday


Share:
A well-stocked, organized, easy to carry diaper bag is one of the most important tools you can have in your arsenal as a parent. But, the market is flooded with must-have baby products such as this, so when it comes to diaper bags for dads, we were determined to remove the guesswork for you.

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.

Boken Every Day Bag amongst all of the items we managed to fit inside. The bag folds into it's own interior zipper pocket for easy storage  perfect for bringing it along as a spare bag on a trip.
Boken Every Day Bag amongst all of the items we managed to fit inside. The bag folds into it's own interior zipper pocket for easy storage, perfect for bringing it along as a spare bag on a trip.
Your baby has a lot of physical needs, particularly at the infant stage. This means any outing will require a laundry list of items to be carried along. Here is an abbreviated list of items that may be important for any successful venture out of the house:

Items for baby:
diapers
wipes
rash cream
dirty diaper sacks
a changing pad
burp cloth
a change of clothes
a bottle
binkies and toys
sunscreen
snacks

Items for dad:
water bottle
hand sanitizer
snacks
wallet
cell phone
keys
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


While the OiOi Wax Canvas Satchel boasts several interior pockets  our list of necessary items quickly filled up all the available real estate.
While the OiOi Wax Canvas Satchel boasts several interior pockets, our list of necessary items quickly filled up all the available real estate.
A bigger bag does not always equal better performance. We found that strategic organizational structures actually play the most important role here. The two winners of our testing have cavernous interiors but took separate approaches to how this capacity is filled. The Pacapod Picos Pack scored a home run on balancing structured organization that is easy to access without going overboard. Alternatively, the Boken Every Day Bag offers just enough of the necessary structure so parents can utilize their own preferred organizational methods. Larger bags like the 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


Backpacks like the Pacapod Picos Pack tend to wear more comfortably  plus  they free up your hands and make it easier to travel with a little one.
Backpacks like the Pacapod Picos Pack tend to wear more comfortably, plus, they free up your hands and make it easier to travel with a little one.
It matters how you plan to carry your diaper bag. Backpacks are inherently easier to carry because once on, they do not require much adjusting. This method of carrying also distributes the weight of the bag across your back, making it easier to carry. Messenger bags have a tendency to fall out of position, swing forward when you bend over, and do not distribute weight well which can lead to neck and shoulder strain. The heaviest bag we tested, the 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


The plastic tabs on the Diaper Dude Original pulled off easily. Again  we much prefer sturdier metal hardware when it comes to bag closures.
The plastic tabs on the Diaper Dude Original pulled off easily. Again, we much prefer sturdier metal hardware when it comes to bag closures.
You need a bag that can close completely and in a secured manner. Zippers are the most efficient closure method at this task. Velcro comes in close second, though it is not preferred. We found many of the bags featured Velcro in some shape or form; we loathe to see Velcro used on baby products. It is loud, wears out quickly with heavy use, and catches on fabrics. Only two of the bags we tested were completely Velcro free: the OiOi Waxed Canvas Satchel and 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


In the pocket nearest to the front of the DadGear Backpack we stored our phone  keys  wallet  frequently requested snacks and pacifier wipes.
In the pocket nearest to the front of the DadGear Backpack we stored our phone, keys, wallet, frequently requested snacks and pacifier wipes.
It is important that your bag have a secure place to hold personal items like a cellphone, wallet and keys. Key clips are a helpful perk that keeps keys from getting lost in the bag. Both of our award winners have dedicated spaces for personal items.

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.

Fabric/Material


The Boken Everyday Bag passed our raspberry jam test with flying colors!
The Boken Everyday Bag passed our raspberry jam test with flying colors!
Diaper bags can be dirt magnets, so keeping them clean is essential. No matter how hard you try, your bag is going to get dirty and it is tremendously important that it be easy to clean. We found that keeping it clean comes down to the fabrics used to make it. Though none of the manufacturers of the bags we tested recommended they be thrown in the wash, we did spill a bottle of milk in the Boken Every Day Bag and ran it through on a delicate cycle, and are pleased to report it survived unscathed. We suspect most of the bags could probably withstand an infrequent hand wash or run on the delicate cycle of your washer, save it be the OiOi Waxed Canvas Satchel. The coating on the cotton exterior does not look like it would take well to a washing. Always refer to manufacturer instructions when it comes to the care and keep of your bag.

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.

Useful Perks


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.

Changing pads are a standard accessory included with diaper bags these days  you will be using this tool a lot so take some time to find the right one.
Changing pads are a standard accessory included with diaper bags these days, you will be using this tool a lot so take some time to find the right one.
One perk that all the bags included was a diaper-changing pad. This is an often overlooked accessory that will play an important roll in your diaper changing experience. You need a pad that offers adequate coverage, plenty of padding, and is easy to clean. Of the bags we tested, the Boken Every Day Bag offered the largest amount of changing space at a whopping 30" on the diagonal. What makes the Boken different from its peers is that the changing pad is almost a square, whereas most are rectangle (or egg shaped, as is the case with the Pacapod Picos Pack. This larger surface area will extend the usefulness of this accessory long after the infant stage, as it can easily accommodate toddlers as well.

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.

Natalie Hale
About the Author
Natalie Hale is a working mom of one happy little dude, from Salt Lake City, Utah. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and recently completed a Masters of Science degree in Ancient History at The University of Utah. Natalie believes strongly in parental rights and the importance of disseminating factual information to new moms and dads about products on the market geared towards them.

  • Share this article:
 

Follow Us


Unbiased.

You Might Also Like