Diaper Bag Buying Guide: How To Choose The Best Bag For You

Diaper Bag Buying Guide: How To Choose The Best Bag For You

Whether you’re a first-time parent, growing your family with another bundle of love, or hoping to score the perfect gift for an expectant mother and doting father in your life, diaper bags are a staple item that should be added to every baby registry and home around the country. 

Let’s face it: babies come with a lot of much-needed baggage. From diapers and wipes to feeding supplies, a change of clothes, soothing essentials, and medications, a bag is imperative to keeping you organized and prepared on the go.  

As a baby grows, their needs change over time, but one thing remains true: their diaper bag can (and should) grow with them for their first few years of life (or longer). A simple swap out of supplies in your same trusty bag can save a world of time, energy, and headaches as you care for your baby outside of your home. 

You may be aware that a diaper bag is a non-negotiable when having a baby, knowing exactly what style, color, material, size, or features you need can feel like a whole other difficult feat. Trust us; we get it. We’ve been in the same boat, searching online, perusing in local shops, all in hopes of scoring the perfect, essential baby bag. Luckily, we are here to help you through it all. 

Explore our expert diaper bag buying guide to help you determine the best fit for your family’s needs today. 

Woman standing in front of a fire pit carrying a Sage Elkin Diaper Bag Backpack on her right shoulder

What is a Diaper Bag?

In short, a diaper bag is a type of specialized bag that parents and caregivers use to tote all of the essentials needed to care for a baby on the go. Diaper bags are used in a variety of settings. From a day trip on the road to the daily bag you send along with your child to daycare, diaper bags are larger bags, filled with storage pockets to house all that your child needs while they are away from home.

It’s no secret that babies need a lot of stuff. From unexpected blowouts to away-from-home feeding sessions in the car, diaper bags are the much-needed parent companion to keep your baby cared for and your sanity in check when you head out the door. Diaper bags are a wonderful way to store all that you and your baby need in one place.  As a new parent, what more could we ask for?

Let’s get a little deeper into the importance of these parent staples.

Diaper Bag vs. Regular Bag: What’s the Difference?

Although it seems like a no-brainer to grab a bag you already have at home to tote your child’s essentials, in most cases, they just won’t do. Don't get us wrong- we love the idea of recycling pieces you have from a sustainability standpoint, but, diaper bags are an essential product all their own, created with the needs of babies and young children as the primary focus. 

Think about this for a second: Every accessory is made for a specific purpose. When considering other types of bags, in most instances, they are made for less child-friendly uses such as housing books for school, protecting your laptop and electronics, or storing clothes and essentials for a trip. While they could work as a short-term solution in needed cases, other bags simply don’t cut it. 

The goal when it comes to finding the perfect bag for your child is to find a bag that fits everything they need comfortably without being too bulky or out-of-sorts for you. Opting for messenger bags, laptop bags or even small luggage won’t support the life you’re trying to live and the organization you need as a new or veteran parent. 

How Long Do You Use a Diaper Bag for?

Diaper bags are the must-have baby essential that grows with your child. You can expect to use a diaper bag for, at least, your child’s first year. In most instances, diaper bags can be used long after their big first birthday. Although children grow out of bottling and diapers, there are still essentials you need to carry with you on a trip away from home, and a compatible diaper bag is a perfect option for the job. 
Swap out diapers and bottles for hiking snacks and water bottles. Fill your diaper bag with fun road trip games or their favorite nighttime stuffed animal. A diaper bag is a perfect way to pack all of the items your kids need for time away from home- at any age. 

When Should I Buy a Diaper Bag?

A diaper bag should be one of the first items you purchase or add to your registry when you find out you’re expecting a baby. 

A great option to bring with you to the hospital, you can pack your diaper bag with newborn baby essentials and their going-home outfit all in one place. This allows you to have your own hospital bag and one specific for the baby. This is a great way to organize prior to the baby’s arrival, often relieving stress and uncertainty when it comes to your impending birth plan. 

Although there’s no right answer to the question of exactly when you should buy your diaper bag, our advice is this: the sooner, the better and definitely before the baby arrives. 

Avalon Diaper Bag Backpack sitting on the ground next to a toddler

Types of Diaper Bags

A diaper bag is an ideal accessory to store your baby’s essentials when you’re out and about. Consider it the on-the-go nursery packed with all the amenities your baby needs to thrive during their time away from home. 

Whether you consider yourself a minimalist parent or a methodical prepper for all possible scenarios, your diaper bag should fit your parenting style and the type and amount of supplies you’ll carry for your baby. This is especially important if you are expecting twins, multiples, or simply need to carry supplies for more than one child.

Just like flavors of baby food and onesie designs, there are hundreds of different styles when it comes to toting baby’s essentials around. From large backpacks to a compact diaper clutch, knowing the type and style of diaper bag best suited for your family helps narrow down your search for the perfect parenting sidekick. 

Let’s explore some of the most popular diaper bag options on the market today. 

Backpack Diaper Bags

The best hands-free option on the market, backpack diaper bags are versatile and ideal for a family on the go. Although the exterior of backpack diaper bags often resembles standard backpacks, the inside is equipped with extra pockets, changing pads, insulated pockets, and enough room to pack all of the essentials your child needs for a day on the town or in the mountains. 

Backpacks are comfortable and easy to carry as they evenly distribute weight across your shoulders and back, leaving your hands free to hold the most important package of all: your baby. They’re also a great option for those who want to wear their baby in a front carrier while toting their essentials on their back. Size-wise, backpack diaper bags are great for one or more children as they can fit a lot more than other types of diaper bag styles. 

When it comes to styling, backpack diaper bags are an excellent choice for parents who just want to share one bag instead of switching between two. Often neutral in color and stylized elements, backpack diaper bags look great on both mom and dad alike. In fact, they are one of the most sought-after options for parents looking for a gender neutral alternative to the ever-so-classic feminine design. Additionally, this is a wonderful option for eco-friendly and minimalist-focused parents who want to reduce their overall footprint and be intentional about the number of items they own. 

Messenger Bags

This sling-style bag is a popular option for those who want a fashionable and functional option that doesn’t feel too bulky. A great choice for a quick day trip or a few hours away from home, messenger bags are typically on the small to medium size and can fit the basics of bottling and diapering for babies. Not a great option for those with more than one child, messenger bags aren’t the greatest all-in-one option to fit all nursery needs, especially for more than a few hours. 

Messenger bags, like other styles, often have insulated pockets, a changing pad, storage, zipper slots, and an adjustable strap. One of the downsides to this style is the comfort level of wearing a side strap with a heavier, or full, bag. The bag’s weight is not evenly distributed across the body as there is only one strap that can be worn on one arm or cross-body, which could lead to back, neck, or shoulder discomfort. The upside to this style is that it can be worn hands-free, allowing you to use your hands to carry your baby, push a stroller or hold your toddler’s hand. A more popular option for moms based on the style, messenger bags come in a variety of colors and patterns with options available for both parents. 

Totes

Like the messenger bag, a tote bag is a trendy style of baby gear that can be worn on one shoulder. It differs by having two straps instead of one. Tote bags are smaller in size, allowing you to store and carry the basic necessities needed for a day away from home. Depending on your child’s needs, this size and style of bag may not be ideal for a longer day trip or a weekend away.  

Tote diaper bags are similar in style and appearance to a standard tote purse. They often feature insulated bottle or cup slots on the sides of the bag, zipper top closures, and interior insulated pockets. Considered one of the more fashionable options when it comes to baby supplies, tote bags are used mostly by moms causing dads to opt for a separate diaper bag that fits their style and needs more noticeably. 

Tote diaper bags are not an ideal option for those with more than one child or those hoping to pack for more than a few hours away from home. However, they are a good option to pack the basics without feeling burdened by carrying a bag full of items. 

Styles & Trends

Although the most popular diaper bag styles we tend to see on the market are the backpack diaper bag, the messenger bag, or the tote bag, there are various other styles that are fast emerging on the parenting scene. 

From fanny packs and wristlet style diaper clutches to convertible diaper bags, belt bags,  and mini bags, the style and shape of the diaper bag are expanding each year to fit the needs of a new generation of parents who want to stay on-trend, keep gear minimal, and have the means to care for their child in the fast-paced everyday world we live in. 

Young man walking down the a sidewalk full of shops carrying a Black Elkin diaper Bag Backpack on his back

What to Look for in a Diaper Bag?

At Product of the North, we are all about transparency, and that involves always keeping it real with our tribe. We are passionate about helping families make informed decisions on their parenting journey and love helping each of you find the perfect items for your own tribe. When it comes to parenting essentials, like a diaper bag, there are various factors at play to pick the ideal option for your unique family. Ultimately, the decision on the ideal bag is up to you. 

Your final choice should be within your budget, match your ideal style, and meet your needs in size and functionality. At the end of the day, we aren’t here to tell you what bag to choose but rather guide you through the process so that you can make an informed decision for your baby’s future. 

Cost / Price

Diaper bags come in all shapes and sizes, from low-end to high-end. Thus, diaper bag pricing can vary from inexpensive to more costly options based on a number of factors such as style, brand, size, materials and fabric, construction, and durability. 

Depending on your budget, overall family needs, and long-term plans for diaper bag use, you should choose the price range that works best for your family. 

Below we will explore some details about what to expect from a bag in each of the three price ranges. 

Low-End

Generally speaking, low-end bags are those that fall in the price range of $50 and under. Although great for your budget in the short term, these bags don’t last as long as their higher-cost counterparts. Over time, these bags often experience issues with their overall construction, such as broken zippers, loose stitches, holes, tears from low-end fabric, and cosmetic abnormalities due to poor construction. 

If a low-end priced bag is all you can afford within your budget, we recommend that you opt for a backpack or tote bag style as they will be most beneficial for your needs with a newborn baby in a short-term way. 

Overall though, we encourage you to consider extending your budget a bit on the purchase of a bag so that it lasts you far longer than a few months, saving you headaches and money over time. 

Mid-Range

Mid-range diaper bags cost between $50 and $200. Diaper bags in this price range offer the most value in their construction quality, storage, and organizational features. In addition, bags within this price range are the most versatile options around and the most popular category purchased in the country. 

Mid-range bags provide the quality you need for long-term usage, often made from sustainable materials that can be wiped clean while not breaking the bank.  A worthwhile investment for a growing family and available in all styles and designs, mid-range priced bags give you the most bang for your buck. 

Another notable highlight about mid-range bags is that they often feature the most needed features on the bags,  such as insulated bottle pockets, a changing pad, wipe-clean materials ready for potential bottle spills, soiled clothing, or any other typical messy baby moment, and internal pockets for optimal organization. 

Often mid-range bags include the option to choose add-on features to enhance the use of the bag, such as stroller straps for ease of use while strolling around or a mini cooler to keep all of baby’s bottles, snacks and food cold throughout the day. 

High-End

High-end bags are those priced at $200 and over. Often made by high-end fashion brands, they may not be the most practical long-term investment. However, as fashion designers began to jump into the haute couture baby clothing trend, their designs seemed to extend into diaper bags and basic necessities for babies. 

Although a great way to make a statement if you are a fan of high fashion, they don’t make as big of a statement when it comes to practical baby-focused features. When comparing high-end brands with mid-range counterparts, the features of the bags tend to be more lacking on the higher-end brands. 

With a larger focus on looks versus functionality, they are not the ideal option for families looking for top-tier organization options in a bag. Materials are higher quality than low-end brands but comparable and often more finicky than mid-range options. Usually, high-end materials cannot easily wipe clean and require dry cleaning to get them back to par after a messy accident. Another downside is the lack of eco-friendly materials used to create high-end bags. 

We believe that opting for mid-range diaper bags to support the needs of your growing family is the most beneficial choice for your household, baby supply needs,  and your budget.

Features: What to Look for When Choosing a Diaper Bag

The diaper bag market has grown in recent years, resulting in an explosion of diaper bags on the market. With year-over-year growth of close to 3% expected through 2025, the diaper bag industry will continue on an upward trend for the foreseeable future. 

As parents ourselves, we understand that finding the best diaper bag for you and your baby may feel overwhelming with all of the choices available. To help, we’ve provided an overview of some of the most essential features to look for when shopping for a diaper bag.  It’s important to consider how you’ll be using the bag and which features will help you the most.

Let’s dive into some key features to consider when choosing the diaper bag for you. 

Construction

The bones of any quality product are important to look at before purchase. This sentiment holds true when it comes to the quality of a diaper bag. 

When looking at the overall construction of a bag, it's imperative to assess key elements such as reinforced seams at stress points, quality and placement of zippers or velcro, and overall hardware makeup and functionality. Always choose bags with sturdy hardware, such as hard plastic, vegan leather, or metal. Also, check the shoulder straps and opt for wide, adjustable, and padded straps for a more comfortable fit and carry. 

Avoid bags that use magnetic closures and opt for zippered tops. These options will ensure that your items are secure from dropping out of the bag, natural elements soiling your items,  and the ever-so-real toddler tantrums. 

Don’t shy away from inspecting the small details of a bag, as these play a vital role in its overall functionality.

Fabric / Material

With all of the diaper bag options, there is a slew of fabrics and materials used to produce and manufacture them. When choosing a suitable diaper bag for your family, consider the material that works best.

Although it’s easy to get caught up in the design and style of the bag, focusing on the fabric and material is the best way to ensure you are getting a durable, easy to clean, and long-lasting bag.

Some questions to consider when looking at the material of the bag include:

  • Is it durable?
  • Is it waterproof or water-resistant?
  • Is it a fabric that I can easily wipe clean and continue using?
  • Will it hold up in the climate I live in? This is especially important for those who live in places that experience extremely hot or cold temperatures. 
  • Is it eco-friendly?
  • Is it safe for my child?
  • For those with severe allergies, consider asking yourself: Is it suitable for my allergies?

Don’t skimp on the material makeup on your bag. Aside from construction, it is the most crucial element of your new bag. 

Sustainability / Eco-Friendliness

Not many brands offer sustainable or eco-friendly diaper bags, but if it is something you are passionate about, various brands, such as Product of the North, fit the bill perfectly. Whether you’re a firm believer in living an eco-conscious life or are just curious about eco-friendly alternatives, there are various positive reasons to opt for eco-friendly diaper bags over ones that are not classified as such.

Here are our top 5 reasons to consider eco-friendly diaper bags:

  1. They have minimal to no toxic chemicals in their construction process.
  2. They reduce our environmental footprint and our overall impact on the planet.
  3. They are made from recycled materials.
  4. They are not resource-intensive. Their production requires less of an impact on water, electricity, and energy consumption.
  5. They help reduce waste since they are made to last. 

Sustainability is at the heart of who we are and what we believe as business owners and Earth-loving humans. So no matter the product, we will always encourage our tribe to find the best eco-friendly options on the market. 

Changing Pad

If you’re searching for a diaper bag for the impending arrival of your newborn, a changing pad is a must-have option to consider. Ideal for on-the-go diaper changes, changing pads are a perfect way to change your baby in a safe and sanitary way. 

Although most diaper bags come with a changing pad, make sure that the one you choose is made from safe and gentle materials and can be easily wiped clean in the event of an unavoidable accident during a diaper change. 

Handles

Kind of like a car, or a fragile package, handling is everything. 

Solid handles are essential when picking out (and picking up!) your diaper bag. As a parent, quickly and easily grabbing your bag without sturdy handles will result in a big headache (and mess) when the handles break.  Always choose bags with wide, adjustable, and padded handles for extra comfort and security. 

Some bags come with a variety of handles that make the diaper bags more versatile, which is an excellent option for a family that plans to share the bag between parents. 

Another thing to consider when looking at diaper bag handling is how compatible they are with other essentials you have, such as stroller straps. Choose a bag that can strap to your baby’s stroller with ease, making all of your walks in the park, well, a walk in the park. 

Color

Diaper bags don’t shy away from the rainbow. The options are endless when it comes to the variety of colors and patterns that manufacturers offer diaper bags in.  Although color, in large part, is about preference, we encourage you to consider colors that go with everything, hide dirt and stains well, and suit your overall aesthetic. 

Our go-to picks, when it comes to color, are neutrals. We love a good neural that matches everything, is suitable for both mom and dad to tote, and fits your favorite color scheme for your child. Our favorite personal option, when it comes to a neutral and wearable bag,  is the Elkin diaper bag backpack. 

Unisex / Gender-Neutral

As most of us have experienced, traditionally, diaper bags were a female-focused product that illustrated the gender biases inherent in our culture. However, while there are still plenty of very feminine diaper bags, an increasing number of baby product companies are offering unisex or gender-neutral diaper bags that both moms and dads are comfortable carrying around with them. 

Although we think that individuality is best when choosing staple products you love for both you and your family, we believe that sharing a unisex bag is a great option for growing families of all sizes and the planet. So if you’re not keen on an overly frilly mom bag or tactical-themed dad bag, consider a unisex, gender-neutral option that is understated, functional, and timeless. 

Storage Capacity / Organization

Having enough room to store everything you and your baby need while away from home is essential. When looking at storage capacity and organization, it is important to check for options such as:

  • Insulated bottle pockets
  • A mini travel cooler for extra storage space for keep-cold snacks, bottles, and drinks
  • Spacious internal and external pockets, large enough to hold diapers, wipes, and bottles
  • A large frog-mouth opening to easily store larger items
  • A designated space for storing a changing pad

Weight

If you haven’t yet, you’ll quickly realize that the weight of baby gear adds up fast. From bottling needs to diapers, wipes, toys, and spare clothing, the weight of your diaper bag can increase as quickly as you can fill it. 

When choosing your diaper bag, make sure the bag itself is lightweight and constructed in a way that the weight you add to it distributes as evenly as possible.  Ideally, you want to opt for a bag that weighs under 2 pounds. 

Man standing in line carrying a Heather Grey Elkin Diaper Bag Backpack at a coffee shop with wife and toddler standing behind him

Diaper Bag Checklist

Because the bag will go with you wherever you go with your child, it’s important that it remains stocked with all the necessary baby supplies. Below is a checklist of diaper bag essentials.

  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Changing Pad
  • Pacifier
  • A change of clothes for each child
  • Bottles and formula (if needed)
  • Snacks and drinks for toddlers and older children
  • Diaper rash ointment
  • Small, eco-friendly empty bags for easy soiled diaper disposal
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sunscreen
  • A light blanket
  • Toys
  • A burp cloth
  • A small first aid kit
  • Breast pads 
  • A breastfeeding cover
  • Emergency contact information

Remember that everyone’s diaper bag will include items that meet their individual needs for themselves and their child. We encourage you to use this only as a guide on exactly what to pack. This is also a helpful list to assist you in determining exactly what you may need so you can choose a bag that is appropriately sized for your household. 

Mother holding toddler while carrying Olive Elkin Diaper Bag Backpack

Key Takeaways From the Ultimate Diaper Bag Buying Guide

We know that a lot goes into making decisions, both large and small, for your growing family. However, we also recognize how important it is to find must-have staple items that fit your family perfectly. From diapers and wipes to diaper bags, cribs, and highchairs, having items that make sense in your home can provide unmeasurable relief, especially when you’re waiting for the arrival of your new baby. 

Although we covered a lot of details about diaper bags here, there are some key takeaways to take note of. If nothing else, we encourage you to:

  • Choose a mid-range priced diaper bag option.
  • Ensure the diaper bag you choose is the correct size, weight, and fit for your family, especially if it needs to be used for twins, multiples, or more than one child.
  • Opt for eco-friendly baby items that save the planet, protect your child and reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Pick functionality and comfort over style and looks.
  • Work with your partner  to choose the best diaper bag options that fit both of your needs.
  • Try out different styles, such as a backpack diaper bag, to ensure it’s comfortable, lightweight, and meets your needs.
  • Buy your diaper bag ahead of time.
  • Put your focus on storage and organization options, such as insulated bottle pockets and a designated area for a removable and functional changing pad.
  • Choose a color and design that matches your aesthetic.
  • Invest in a bag with solid handles, extra cross-stitching over stress areas, and overall sturdy construction. 

More than anything else, we want our tribe to find and use products that are good for the planet, safe for their families, and last for years to come. We believe that finding a diaper bag that fits the needs of you and your baby is possible. 

We also know that eco-friendly options are available and affordable for everyone. So no matter what stage you are in on your search for the best baby products, we are here to help every step of the way and are so excited to have you here as your family blossoms. 

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