Our Diaper Bags (What We Love and What We Don’t)

posted by Andrea | 06/28/2016
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our diaper bags

Although I’m not big on accessories or carrying around lots of “extras”, I always like to have a well-stocked diaper bag with me at all times. I’m the type who likes to be prepared… and with 3 young children, there’s no telling what I might need at any given moment!

As my needs have changed, as our children get older, and as we’ve added more children to our family, it seems that the “perfect” diaper bag for our family also continues to morph and change.

Over the last 4.5 years, we have tried more diaper bags than I can count. Many were purchased online and immediately returned. Others were given to us as gifts, to review on the blog, or as hand-me-downs from friends. They were either used for a while, sold on Craigslist, or returned to the store — depending on the situation. Some were too big, many were too small, some looked too much like a purse for Dave, others didn’t have enough pockets for me, etc. etc.

A few worked FABULOUSLY well for a while… but were eventually outgrown or broken, and then replaced with something different in attempts to find the best bag for our current needs.

Today, I’m sharing some of the diaper bags we’ve used over the last few years, what we like about them, what we don’t like, and a bit more about the bags we use right now.

If you’re in the market for a new diaper bag, I hope my thoughts and insights are helpful for you… and, if you want to bypass years of diaper bag trial and error, I’d also suggest reading through this handy Diaper Bag Buying Guide from Baby Cubby. It’s an extremely helpful resource (especially if you’re new to the whole diaper bag buying arena!)

But make sure you come back here and read what I’ve got to say! 

our diaper bags

The Thirty-One Utility Tote

This was our first diaper bag — a gift from my cousin before Nora was born. I LOVED using this bag because it had so many pockets, it was really lightweight, and it was easy to re-stock and tote around.

However, it didn’t have any type of cross-body strap for hands-free use, it wasn’t easy to attach to a stroller, and it had NO zippers… so if you dropped it (or if your toddler tipped it over) everything fell out.

Once Nora was about 18 months old, I needed zippers so it was time to “graduate” to a new diaper bag.

I still use this bag ALL the time for different purposes (going to the pool, packing stuff for a vacation, organizing various supplies, etc.)

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Precious Little Tot Satchel Diaper Bag

A sweet reader, Jaclyn, from the Precious Little Tot Etsy Shop emailed me when I was pregnant with Simon and offered me a fabulous discount on her handmade diaper bags.

Her diaper bags come in super fun fabrics, they have an awesome adjustable cross-body strap, and contain a boatload of interior pockets for easy organization. Win, win, win! 

However, it still didn’t have a zippered closure, and it didn’t connect to the stroller. Since we went for LOTS of walks after Simon was born, the stroller thing was a no-go for me. They also didn’t have shoulder straps so I could ONLY wear it as a cross-body bag, which Dave wasn’t a fan of.

SIDE NOTE: I see that Jaclyn’s bags now have both shoulder straps and cross-body straps AND they connect to strollers!

I only used this bag as a diaper bag for a short time since I really wanted something to connect to my stroller — but I frequently use it for many of my own personal needs (and I always get compliments whenever I go out with it!)

The photo above is of my bag; the one below is one of her newer bags.

PacaPod Diaper Bag

The PacaPod Portland diaper bag is a FABULOUS diaper bag!

It had shoulder straps, a cross-body strap, stroller straps, super organized pockets, compartmentalized pods for everything, and it looked “masculine” enough that Dave had no issue carrying it around everywhere.

It was perfect for our needs… until we had a 3rd baby and suddenly needed to carry items for a potty-training 3 year old who had occasional accidents, a toddler in diapers, an infant in diapers, 2 sippy cups, a bottle for the toddler, extra clothes for the infant, etc. etc. etc.

I found myself taking the PacaPod bag and another bag when we were going anywhere for a longer period of time — or I’d cram the PacaPod it so full that I couldn’t get the zipper shut and then stuff would spill out.

Also, it’s pretty expensive — thankfully, we were able to sell it on Craigslist!

Organizationally speaking, this was my most favorite diaper bag ever, however it just didn’t have room for everything I needed to take with us when all 3 kids were so small and needed SO MUCH STUFF!

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Backpack Diaper Bag

Right before James was born, I realized that I really wanted to have BOTH my hands easily available at all times — so I opted for a backpack diaper bag. Since I loved my PacaPod Portland diaper bag so much, I thought I might like to try The PacaPod Hastings Backpack Diaper Bag as well.

Although I initially felt a little weird wearing a backpack diaper bag, I quickly shoved my pride to the side when I realized how fabulous it was to have both hands freed up at all times. I could carry the bag on my back, the infant car seat in one arm, and have my other hand/arm free to hold Simon’s hand (or carry him too).

This bag was also much easier on my shoulders and back.

We used this bag for over a year… until the clasp completely broke off. The company gladly let us return it — but instead of replacing it with the same bag, I decided I wanted to try something different again. 🙂

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SkipHop Duo Double

In my search for a new diaper bag that would accommodate everything we needed/wanted for all 3 kids, I stumbled upon the SkipHop Due Double diaper bag that claimed to be one of the biggest diaper bags around.

The reviews were really good so I ordered it from Amazon when they had a great sale. I initially loved how huge it was, but after using it for about a month, I realized that it was actually ‘too big’ for my taste.

Although it had TONS of amazing features, I found that I was often leaving it in the car or taking a smaller bag with just the essentials in it when we’d go on shorter trips. Plus, it was quite heavy for me.

In the end, I returned it (thanks to Amazon’s amazing return policy on baby items) since I just couldn’t see myself carrying that big of a bag around everywhere (in addition to wrangling all 3 kids, a stroller, and other gear).

That said, if you’re looking for a very big, very organized bag that easily clips to your stroller and has tons of different pockets, this might be a strong contender for you!

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J.J.Cole Satchel

I am currently using the J.J. Cole Satchel diaper bag. So far, it seems to be the best combo for our stage of life right now.

It has plenty of interior and exterior pockets to organize all our stuff (even for all 3 kids). It has shoulder straps and a removable cross-body strap, it has clips to attach it so a stroller, it zips closed (and has a couple zippered outside pockets), it’s big enough but not TOO big, and it’s super cute! In fact, most people don’t even realize it’s a diaper bag until they see the sippy cups popping out!

Dave told me that it looks too much like a purse for him, but since I’m the one carrying it 98% of the time, that really doesn’t matter much anymore 🙂

And at least it’s grey!

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My Wristlet

One “bag” that I’ve been using since way before Nora was born is my Vera Bradley All-In-One Wristlet. It’s basically my purse and wallet in one — and it has always seemed to fit nicely into one of the pockets of whatever diaper bag I’m using at the time.

Many years ago, I paid a whopping $35 for this wristlet — and at the time, I felt extremely guilty spending so much on such a small item. I have used this wristlet many times a day for at least 5 years — so it was most definitely worth the $35 investments.

My keys attach directly to the wristlet, all my cards, cash, change, ID, etc. are inside, and the back pocket is the perfect size for chapstick, gum, and an ink pen. Also, it hangs nicely from any stroller or shopping cart.

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One More Bag 🙂

In addition to ALL our other diaper bags, we have also always had an additional going-to-the-park diaper bag with all our park toys, snacks, and essentials. We go to parks quite often, so I take our park bag INSTEAD of our regular diaper bag.

The going-to-the-park bag is a basic tote bag I got as a gift YEARS ago. It seems to be the perfect size to carry a couple diapers and wipes, a sheet to spread out on the ground, snacks, water cups, and a few toys. Plus, it’s SO nice to have this bag ready to go whenever we decide to head out to the park.

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Based on how well the J.J. Cole satchel bag seems to be fitting our needs right now, I think (and hope) we’ll be using this bag for a while. However, I’m not opposed to switching things up again if I feel this bag isn’t working well and meeting our needs.

It has been easy for me to sell (or return) our unwanted diaper bags, and I truly do feel that finding the “right” diaper bag for our current stage of life has helped to simplify and streamline our time away from home.

One thing I wish I would have had before Nora was born was some sort of diaper bag comparison checklist — or a guide to tell me what I would probably want to keep in my diaper bag.

At the time, I assumed I would keep as little as possible in the diaper bag — but I soon realized that life was easier if I had more resources at my fingertips (hence the need for larger bags!)

As I searched the internet while preparing to write this post, the Baby Cubby checklist I mentioned above seemed to be one of the most thorough resources to help you think through almost EVERYTHING there is to think about when buying or registering for a diaper bag.

Maybe if I would have found something like that a few years ago, I could have avoided “test driving” so many different bags!

Or maybe not! 

Do you have a favorite diaper bag? Or a least favorite one?

Do you have any fabulous diaper bag-buying tips or words of wisdom?

diaper bags

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29 comments

  1. Katie

    06/29/2016

    Great reviews!

    I tried several of the bags you have in your list and a few others and ultimately settled on this one – really expensive but I loved these features:
    Can be worn cross body/shoulder/backpack
    Doesn’t look like a diaper bag
    Removable multi-pocketed organizer can easily be removed if you’re not a fan of lots of pockets or no longer want to use it as a diaper bag

    https://www.lily-jade.com/designer-diaper-bags-p/m1-brandy.htm

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    That does look like a cute bag — and I like that the inside compartments can be removed. That’s such a great idea!

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  2. Nicole

    06/29/2016

    I have 4 kiddos and currently love the Harbor Side Tote (although the new satchel looks adorable too), from Vilah Bloom! I believe they are based out of Michigan and the company was very attentive when my latest shipment was late. It has a comfortable, detachable cross body option and lots of pockets inside and out. I too, have gone through a ton of diaper bags over the years as our needs have changed. I’m hoping I can use this one for a few more years, since it doesn’t really look like a diaper bag to me!

    http://vilahbloom.com/

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  3. Katy T

    06/28/2016

    I too have three kids under 5. I just recently purchase the New Day Tote from Thirty One. I LOVE it.

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  4. Carrie

    06/28/2016

    We no longer need to carry a diaper but we do spend a lot of time at various baseball field. I like the organizer bag from myrume.com. I have 2 and I use one for hair stuff and the other for Chapstick, face suntan lotion, eye drops, glasses cleaner and etc. I love the 3 zippered sections. I got mine for free with a $1 shipping.

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  5. Meghan

    06/28/2016

    I loved the SkipHop when we had two kids, but it didn’t hold up well and I decided a back pack was a must. As my younger boys grew, I’d take one of their Pottery Barn backpacks to amusement parks, MLB games, the zoo, etc. They worked great for these trips but I wasn’t a fan of the robots or Spider-Man. For baby number 3, I got a Vera Bradley backpack that I love. The laptop compartment is perfect for a changing pad, diapers, and wipes. The rest of the bag has a good amount of pockets. Also because it’s not technically a diaper bag, I will continue using it as needed after we are out of the baby stage.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, I’m glad I returned our Skip Hop bag. So many people rave about them (and they are nice) but it just didn’t seem like a good fit for our needs.

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  6. mara

    06/28/2016

    Thanks for all the suggestions!! LOVE getting the analysis. Our third is on the way so I am definitely trying to picture carrying around all their stuff with me 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yay for baby #3! congrats!

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  7. Tara

    06/28/2016

    My favorite diaper bag was my Petunia Picklebottom boxy backpack purchased for a steal off of Craigslist. It wiped up easily, and washed up in nearly perfect condition after our years of use and I regifted it to a friend who ended up in the hospital very early in her pregnancy and didn’t have a chance to go out shopping for one. She loved it too. It’s probably still out there toting around sippy cups. The multiple strap options were amazing. It was a backpack/crossbody/shoulder bag depending on your needs in the moment and the shoulder strap had such a wide range of lengths it hung over any stroller and even standard size shopping cart handles. I wouldn’t pay for a new one, but a nice used laminated “boxy backpack” is well worth the money in my opinion. I believe they now have a larger size backpack option too.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, I like the boxy backpack diaper bag too — that’s what we had from PacaPod until it broke. SO easy to carry around!

    [Reply]

  8. Katie

    06/28/2016

    A tip that I wish I had figured out a lot sooner… cosmetic bags are a GREAT “rectangular” size to hold a few diapers and a small wipes pack, plus some other small items (WetWipes, etc). I have several of these diaper “clutches”… they can easily go in and out of our larger diaper bag, and I keep one in each car. I like them a lot better than the true “diaper clutches” that are sold – I don’t need something bulky/fancy that folds out into a changing pad, etc! I have found good size bags at WalMart and Harmon.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    YES! I actually use a couple cosmetic bags inside my regular diaper bag, just to hold little things. I’ve gotten them all for free and they work perfectly!

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  9. Mrs.M in MI

    06/28/2016

    For my 15-month-old, I’ve used the Skip Hop diaper clutch since she was born. I can get up to eight diapers, wipes, and a few small necessities in there, and with a sippy cup and the snacks and toys I keep in the car I’m good to go for short trips.

    For longer trips or days at Grandma’s while I’m working, I throw the clutch in a nylon tote with her lunch bag and anything else needed (swim stuff, blankie, toys, etc.). It can be a bit of a black hole, but all those little pockets tend to annoy me.

    Baby #2 arrives in a few months, so we’ll see how well I’m able to maintain my minimalist approach with two in diapers!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I’ve thought about (and tried a couple times) to do the super minimalistic diaper bag/clutch approach, but I just like to have all my kids ‘stuff’ with my just in case — so I always resort back to a bigger bag!

    Congrats on baby #2 — you’ll find your new normal again in no time, and I’m sure you’ll figure out a way to smash a few extra tiny diapers into your clutch 🙂

    [Reply]

  10. Wilma

    06/28/2016

    We used a lululemon backback with a ton of compartments as our diaper bag. After three kids, it’s been fixed a few times, but is still going.

    To be honest, these days I just bring my purse and put a sippy cup and diaper in it. The older children (4 and 6) really don’t need anything at all, and we’re not really big on snacks. If we are going somewhere where we need gear, such as the pool, we just use a reusable shopping bag.

    The knapsack is still great for flying with the kids!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh wow — I just looked up those backpacks and the ARE expensive! But they do look nice!

    [Reply]

    Wilma Reply:

    we paid about $80 (canadian) 7 years ago. it was expensive, but it’s the only one we bought 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    sounds like you got a great deal!! And yes, if it’s lasted for several years, it’s definitely worth it! Some of the newer ones online were almost $300! So maybe you can even sell it again someday 🙂

    [Reply]

  11. Melissa Frederick

    06/28/2016

    I would love to know more about what you keep in your diaper bag. I have a 2 month old and a 26 month old, and I always seem to overpack.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Not too much — but still enough. That would be a good follow-up post idea though!
    Here are the basics:
    1. diapers for both boys, wipes, changing pad, powder
    2. hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, burp cloths
    3. snacks, candy (smarties and suckers), sippy cups, cloth bib for James
    4. matchbox car for Simon, teething toy for James, small coloring book and crayons for Nora
    5. My wristlet, phone, charging cord

    When we’re gone for an all-day thin, I usually pack some extra clothes for the kids just in case — but that’s about it 🙂

    [Reply]

    Natalia Reply:

    Great question, Melissa, and thank you for your great list, Andrea!

    I am preparing to welcome one or two foster children into our lives at pretty much any time, now! I’m planning to use one of the two nice backpacks that we already own, at least in the first few weeks, while I figure out exactly what I need and find out how many children and what ages they will be….
    This list is very helpful and I appreciate all your thoughts about what to consider in regards of a diaper bag.
    I’ve made my own list now, based on your suggestions, and I’ll go place it in the backpack, to be ready for when that time comes. Thank you!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    best wishes on your new adventure!

    [Reply]

  12. Melanie K

    06/28/2016

    The J.J. Cole Satchel Diaper bag was what I originally chose as a diaper bag. I loved it. It’s been perfect to use for the first baby when I packed “everything” and now I use it mostly as an overnight bag if we’re traveling. Only problem is… the zipper did not hold up 🙁 I now use a cheap smaller bag for my every day diaper bag…even with two kids 🙂 It was a great deal at $3!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Well $3 is a great deal for ANY bag!! Bummer about your zipper — I hope mine holds up better than that. If not, I’ll just move on to another bag I suppose. Maybe by then, Nora won’t really need anything for her and I’ll be down to “supplies” for only 2 kids 🙂

    [Reply]

  13. Leanne

    06/28/2016

    I actually LOVE your “going to the park” bag…. is there a brand for it? I used everything under the sun for diaper bags…but even with an 11, 9, and 8 year old, you wouldn’t believe how much stuff I have to carry around!!! 🙂 especially because one of mine has a severe nut allergy… cute post!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I don’t see any brand name on it and it got it as a gift way back in college (used from a friend, not new from the store) — so I have no information for you. Sorry 🙁

    [Reply]

  14. Kristina

    06/28/2016

    I thought I was the only one going through multiple diaper bags over the years! Great post. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — you definitely aren’t the only one!

    [Reply]