One dad's guide to picking the best diaper bag for you
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As a new dad I can say that having a baby has been the most incredible experience of my life, but it's also been an enormously stressful one. Part of that stress? Figuring out what stuff to buy amidst a sea of junk.
While buying stuff seems like the least important part of the process, you want to make sure you get something that works well so you don't have to worry about it. That's especially true when it comes to the diaper bag, which you'll be bringing with you everywhere. After doing extensive research and living with ours for six months, here's what my wife and I have found.
One size doesn't fit all
After trying dozens of bags out at the store, buying our own, and getting a few as gifts, we actually wound up with multiple diaper bags. If you asked me a year ago how many diaper bags I'd own in my lifetime, I'd have thought it was a trick question. But now that I'm here, it's great to have options.
For us, the best all-around bag we found is the Skip Hop Grand Central Take-It-All Bag ($89.99 on Amazon.com). It's basically the SUV of diaper bags. It's big without being overly heavy, and we just keep it stocked up all the time--even if it just stays in the car. We paired it with the Skip-Hop Pronto ($29.99 at Amazon.com), which is a smaller fold-up number that can hold a couple diapers, wipes, pacifiers, a backup one-sie, and has a roll-out changing pad. It's small, it's cheap, and always with us.
Find a middle ground
While we love the big/little combo we've got going, sometimes you need something medium-sized. For that we use a basic messenger bag-style tote. In our case we also got the Skip Hop Duo ($69.99 at Amazon.com) as a gift, and it matches the print on our Pronto. I'm told this is a stylish thing and frankly I'm in no position to object so we stuck with it.
There are plenty of non-Skip Hop options too, like the Weekender Tote by Hip Cub ($54.99 at Amazon.com), or the super-popular and affordable Graco Gotham ($25.99 at Amazon.com) backpack if you want something that looks nothing like a diaper bag. There are also designer options like the Petunia Picklebottom Sashay Satchel ($179.97 on Amazon.com). We usually just toss the Pronto right in whatever bag we've got so we don't have to keep three bags stocked up with stuff.
Have an extra changing pad
Changing a diaper while on the go is like that scene at the beginning of Indiana Jones where Harrison Ford tries to swap out the golden idol for a bag of sand. If you're quick, there's no problem. But every now and again, things go... awry. While most diaper pads are easy to clean, sometimes they need to dry off and you'll need a backup. Most diaper bags include one pad, so you may wind up with a spare anyway.
Backpacks are back
I know, you graduated school and thought you'd never have to get another backpack again. While most diaper bags are shoulder bags and totes, backpacks are an increasingly popular option because they can spread the weight across both shoulders. This works especially well if you're going somewhere that is less stroller-friendly and you'll want to have the baby in one of those front-facing carriers.
Fair warning: if you've got a baby in the front and a diaper bag backpack on, every kid-free guy under 25 is going to shake their head at you and think, "Not me, man. Not me."
You don't have to get a baby-specific bag
Going into having a kid, I assumed that a diaper bag had some kind of magic to it that made it baby-specific. But other than including a changing pad--which you can easily buy separately--and a billion pockets, they're just like any other bag. You may want to add in something like a wet/dry bag, but otherwise any good, well-built bag will get the job done.
This also means that a diaper bag can work for a variety of uses, so if you just like the looks of a generic-looking bag like this Lekebaby Backpack ($49.99 on Amazon.com) there's no reason you can't use it for days when you're not on diaper duty.