As a diaper bag carrying father of two, Dan searches for solutions to dealing with hungry and stinky munchkins.
Though there is nothing wrong with a flowery Vera Bradley diaper bag, some dads may feel just a bit awkward. Personally, I have a hard time finding a pattern that fits my style.
Sure you can stuff a diaper and a pacifier in your pocket as you head out to the park, but what about the other accouterments of baby care. Also, you look kind of ridiculous with a diaper hanging out of your back pocket like Bruce Springsteen's bandanna.
The thing is, with more Dads than ever actively engaged in infant childcare, there is a baby industry void in father-friendly diaper bags. The trick is finding a bag that is utilitarian in nature, practical and asserts our manliness. In this article we'll explore a couple of non-traditional options for diaper bags for Dads.
The man bag...
"It's where I keep all my things. Get a lot of compliments on this. Plus it's not a purse, it's called a satchel. Indiana Jones wears one.
— Alan, The Hangover
An outdoor inspired diaper bag
Kelty Diaper Bag for Outdoor Dads
If you've spent any amount of time backpacking, you'll know the Kelty name. As a backpacker and camper, I've toted and trusted their equipment on treks and adventures for years. While shopping for a kid-carrying backpack, I noticed that Kelty produced their own diaper bag and it immediately went on my list. After perusing dozens of bags, it was on this model that my wife and I reached our compromise.
This medium-sized bag holds enough baby gear for trips out without being so large that you need wheels to move it. In external appearance it is gender neutral and available in a couple of different colors. We picked the green but weren't too enthused with the color variation when it arrived; however, it kind of grew on us.
With six internal pockets of varying size and stitched elastic loops, this bag isn't a black hole that swallows that tiny tube of diaper rash ointment when you need it most. There is even one pouch dedicated for your phone with a pass through for earbuds so you can jam to music with this bag slung over your shoulder.
On the outside, you have a mesh pouch which is perfect for carrying your own water bottle. However on the opposite side is an insulated pouch for carrying milk; I find it keeps it chilly for about an hour and a half.
After using this bag with two kids, it is holding up nicely (except for some staining from some unspecified food product). We haven't babied this baby bag either, with several trips and having it dragged around the ground by my older child as he "helped" us out. The Kelty bag has reigned supreme as our big diaper bag that holds everything from pacifiers to spare outfits.
UTG Multi-Functional Tactical Diaper Bag
It isn't often that the words "tactical" and "diaper" go together, but in this bag they do. Now, this bag wasn't designed to be a diaper bag but as an EDC (every day carry) bag. If you are looking for a diaper bag to tote through the zombie apocalypse (or maybe just to the park), this one may be for you.
Even though I use a lot of tactical gear for search and rescue, I'm not usually a fan of tactical-looking things. I usually find the excessive PALS webbing and ultra-heavy duty buckles to be over the top. The UTG Multi-Functional Tactical Messenger Bag, however is a great size for quick trips with the kids. The styling of the bag has grown on me and I made it even more tacti-cool by adding some patches from my favorite knife companies. I tend to use this bag to carry a few baby necessities as well as some EDC survival gear that usually bulges my pockets.
Though UTG manufacturers this particular bag, similar versions are made by Maxpedition and Propper. I've found this one durable enough however and it seems like I keep discovering new features.
Now this thing is an organizational beast with one large pocket big enough for diapering and feeding essentials and an additional eight pockets of varying size. On those warm walks around the park you'll appreciate the water bottle holder that is big enough for a one liter nalgene too.
The adjustable shoulder strap is pretty comfy thanks to a non-slip shoulder pad and there is a cool clip located on it for attaching keys or pacifiers. If you feel like running with this shoulder bag, a hook and loop strap on the inside can be attached to your belt. This belt strap avoids bag flop and any unnecessary concussions that may incur from running foolishly with your diaper bag.
Using a Backpack as a Diaper Bag
If you are packing up the kiddos and heading off the Grandma's for the afternoon, the daypack is a great way to carry everything that your little one may need. Backpacks have the advantage of leaving your arms totally free to rustle up wayward children and carry baby containment devices.
As a hiker, I had a half-dozen small packs to choose from but I settled on my North Face Borealis. It is a twenty-nine liter daypack with excellent organizations, external stash pockets and is finely made. I liked that a long zipper opened it in a panel style so I didn't have to dig through six spare onesies to find my child's precious frog.
Characteristics of a good diaper bag daypack:
- Panel loading
- Side water bottle pockets
- Multiple organizational pouches
- Daisy chains or loops for quickly stashing stuffed animals
I always attach some sort of toy to my diaper bag backpacks to differentiate it from my regular hiking backpacks. Though I may not make the mistake, someone unloading the car may grab the wrong pack. I don't want to hit the trail early to find out that I'm eating mushed peas and sweet potatoes for breaks and drinking out of a baby bottle.
Must Have Accessories for Dad's Diaper Bag
Of course and empty bag just won't do, especially when one has a screaming hungry toddler or a baby that has a mysterious smell emanating from their backside. In my diaper bag, I carry a mixture of baby items for diapering and feeding as well as a few survival/EDC items. If I had to run out of the house and grab one piece of gear, it would be my diaper bag.
So this is what you need:
- Diapers (at least two)
- Corn starch baby powder
- Empty Ziploc bags for dirty diapers
- Disposable Wipes
- Shemagh - for changing pad
- Bottle with instant formula pouches
- Squeezable food pouches
- Puffs / cheerios in crushproof container
- Insect repellent
EDC/ Survival Stuff:
- First aid kit
- Small sheath knife
- Survival kit
- Emergency blanket
- Granola bars
- Fire starter
- Nalgene bottle
Easy to Pack Infant and Toddler Food
You won't find a hungrier creature than a child going through a growth spurt. Of course as they are in the process of double and tippling their weight, they are undergoing a constant growth spurt. You need something that is nutritious, easy to pack and easy to clean up in your diaper bag arsenal.
Though most people probably know this, please remember that milk should be refrigerated. Even in the the insulated pouch on the Kelty model, it won't be good for very long in your satchel.
For younger babies, I like the instant formula packets. Just dump them in a bottle, add four ounces of water, shake and serve. I've always had fantastic luck with the packets from Enfamil and found that they disolved quite well.
As an infant's teeth and coordination develop, I like to carry small Tupperware- type containers filled with puffs, cheerios or goldfish. Be careful though, as the container makes an interesting toy and you might end up picking these mini crackers out of the dirt.
Let's face it, toddlers eat everything in sight. You could throw a cold piece of pizza in your bag and they'd chow down on it.
I prefer toting squeezable oatmeal and applesauce packets for the tots. These packets require no utensils, it was difficult to make a mess and they were somewhat nutritious.
RTalloni on November 30, 2017:
Adorable baby, indeed. How precious she is! Okay, she's real a distraction, but on to your topic. Bravo and well done. Enjoyed the assessment of whether Vera Bradley bags are tasteful enough for you. :) Though I would not choose the skull emblem for little eyes to feast on, these bags meet the need well. And you, Dad, are rolling right for being an integral part of her life. It will come up from someone sometime (and maybe more often than you expect), but don't let anyone ever tell you that it's time to stop being that. She needs you in this world, as does her cute brother who's ready to be on the run. Hope your manly diaper bag post helps lots of dads decide which will meet their need.
Clive Williams from Jamaica on October 26, 2017:
You are just missing a Bear Repellent, A lockness monster repellent and Maybe an assualt rifle...LOL
That bag is the bomb...wish I had one of those when I was carrying my littles around.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 26, 2017:
Seems like there's a place for Dad's Diaper Bags business (if there is none). Your attitude impresses me. You're a caring, nurturing dad who haven't lost your need for a masculine image. You're the exemplary modern man.