Ask Shelly: Recommended backpack diaper bag for travel?

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North Face Borealis
The North Face Borealis daypack — almost everything I’d like in a travel diaper backpack. Almost. 😉

I had this recent question from another Shelly with one ‘e’, and thought this is a great topic to look at from several points of view and experiences. So I put the question out there to some Travels with Baby facebook fans and some fellow family travel bloggers and included their responses below. If you have a recommendation that isn’t covered here, I hope you’ll leave it in a comment to this post for others to find. But first, the question:

I’ve searched your site and have not been able to find any recommendations for a diaper bag.  Specifically I am looking for the best backpack diaper bag.  Any suggestions? I apologize if I’ve simply missed the post.
We are heading to Hawaii with a 8 month old and 3 year old along with our Ergo, Chicco C6 and 2 Britax roundabouts!  We’re still using your site to figure out baby rentals.  Travelling with baby takes planning but it’s so worth the effort.  Thanks for making it much easier!
Shelly K.

For me (now happily traveling without diapers after nearly a decade!), my best solution became a Kelty daypack that wasn’t marketed as a diaper backpack at all, and has unfortunately been discontinued. But it had these features that I think are essential for any good diaper backpack for a traveling family and should be considered in your search for your ideal pack.

Anatomy of a good backpack diaper bag for travel:

  • Not just one but TWO bottle holders (sometimes we could use more!)
  • An easily accessed pockets to fit the TSA-friendly Travel Kit for security (an “attic pocket” in my case)
  • A low-profile organizer pocket for airplane tickets/passports/map/cell phone
  • Has interior compartments big enough to fit a change of clothes for mother AND child (if not an additional child or two)
  • Fits under an airplane seat when fully loaded, with “lug handle” to help yank it back out again
  • Has loops that can be used to attach toys, an extra water bottle, or whatever the mission requires…
  • It can live on as a very useful daypack beyond the diaper years
  • What I would add if I could: A bungee cord to tuck in that extra jacket or blanket when needed.

I simply kept a diaper changing mat that folded up around a few diapers and travel-size wipes in the outer pocket, so that I could just pull that out when needed and not necessarily lug the entire pack into the lavatory during a flight. I’ve also been able to keep my big camera in it and have often been thankful for the chest strap to help bear the extra weight, those these may not be issues for you! 😉 When I searched, I couldn’t find a single backpack online offering all of those features (what happened to the “attic pocket” fad?), so I included one of the closest I found, the North Face Borealis, above. So what else do traveling parents recommend?

The recommendations are in:

Dad Gear diaper backpack
The Dad Gear backpack: Two bottle pockets, diaper wipes flap, diaper hammock above, plentiful pockets.

Travels with Baby fan Lesley Thacker writes, “I splurged on a Dad Gear backpack for my twins and I love it. Features I liked: wipes flap and diaper hammock. What I didn’t like: the wipes flap is awesome and a selling point, but I really really wish it could accommodate a full package of wipes instead of the travel-sized wipes package. It’s great for going to town but if I’m staying over night somewhere, that’s just not enough wipes for both babies and I end up having to pack more anyway.” What I don’t like about the Dad Gear backpack is that it makes the assumption, as many do, that you will always have a place to set it down beside your child as you change his diaper, eg. you’d be hard pressed to access the wipes flap on your back while standing in a cramped lavatory, and retrieving a diaper from the hammock atop may require the skills of a yogi. Still, I like the gender-neutral options (yes, I could get my hubby to wear this), and the overall organization. See loads more designs and color choices here at Amazon.

Petunia Pickle Bottom
Meet the convertible Petunia Pickle Bottom Boxy. High style, but high maintenance with dry (or spot) clean only fabric.

Hilarye Fuller of raves about her Petunia Pickle Bottom Boxy diaper bag, which converts from hands-free backpack mode to messenger, and can be clipped to the stroller. While the “Pickle Bottoms” lose serious points in my book for using dry-clean only fabrics (though I love the patterns and travel-inspired names – this is called “Holiday in the Hague”), they nearly make up for it with an unrivaled FOUR bottle pockets. Still, you may have trouble getting your partner to sport the Pickle Bottom for you while you rest your shoulders on your next adventure. See more designs and details here at Amazon.

Jansport Odyssey Daypack
The Jansport Odyssey – wahoo! A daypack with that up-top pocket I love behind the handle).

Keryn Means of shared, “I liked our Diaper Dude because it worked for both my husband and I, but honestly a regular Jansport or Eddie Bauer backpack is all we use these days. There are enough pockets to separate out bottles and baby food, but it also holds more than the usual diaper bags and can double as a daypack when we are out and about. With two kids under age 4 this is just how we roll these days. I’ve seen a lot of families take this route especially after 2 kids.” Here-here, Keryn! 😉

Le Sportsac Ryan Baby messenger diaper bag
Le Sportsac Ryan Baby messenger diaper bag in waterproof black patent.

Two travel bloggers offered comment on messenger diaper bags, which I think deserve a mention in this discussion since they do meet most of the criteria and, as I’ve pointed out before, can keep your diapers handy at your hip when doing diaper detail in a cramped space.

Liz Borod Wright of said, “I loved the Skip Hop Versa — very lightweight and great with the pockets… But soon all of the zippers broke! So now the Le Sportsac Ryan Baby Bag in black patent (important detail because it’s waterproof) has been my bag for a while. I’m a huge Le Sportsac fan in general…” See more about the Le Sportsac Baby Ryan here at Amazon.

The Skip Hop Via messenger diaper bag -
The Skip Hop Via messenger diaper bag – two bottle holders and 18 pockets to keep you insanely-well organized.

Corinne McDermont of said, “My Skip Hop Via was awesome to travel with. A convenient amount of pockets and the front ones perfectly fit the passports. When we travelled, it was my purse, carry-on, and diaper bag. I’m *almost* sad my kids are out of diapers. I *am* sad I have to figure out another bag to travel with…” More about the Skip Hop Via here on Amazon.

Well, Shelly K., hope that gives you plenty of food for thought and a little help in choosing the diaper backpack or bag that will work best for you in your family’s travels. If you get a chance, we’d love to know what you end up choosing and how it works out!

How about you?

Do you have a great travel diaper bag or backpack you think should be included here? One you’d steer clear of? Share your wisdom with a comment below.

Thanks, to everyone contributing their thoughts and experiences to this post, and thanks to anyone clicking through this site as they shop to help keep Travels with Baby content flourishing and available subscription-free to all. 😉

What, you want more tips for managing diaper changes during travel? Don’t miss:

Safe journeys,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby and Take-Along Travels with Baby   facebook   twitter   about the author  

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