While your wife’s diaper bag works wonders for her, especially if it’s a fashionable one she feels great flaunting around in public, you’ll likely need a more manly dad diaper bag when out with the kids yourself.
Plus, besides the fact that you don’t want to carry something so floral and look like a princess when on baby patrol (give me something more like a tactical diaper bag, thank you very much), your wife’s bag is likely to be filled with a whole bunch of items you don’t really need when outside the house and looking after the little one.
Chances are it’s best for you to buy a backpack diaper bag for dads, and not one of those standard baby bags that moms use everywhere.
Not only do backpack diaper bags look more macho if you’re trying not to get mocked by your buddies – I’m sure you’re not looking forward to carrying your wife’s pink tote diaper bag in public! – they’re also easier to carry thanks to the shoulder straps that keep you hands-free.
But what should you pack in a dad’s diaper bag? What are the essentials you really need, and what could you do without to leave valuable space for other items and not feel like you’re carrying more than your own body weight in a bag?
Here’s a list of baby diaper bag essentials dads need to take along when away from home with a baby in tow.
(P.S: You might also want to take a look at this article that lists diaper bag essentials for moms, just in case your wife or partner needs some help with hers, too).
Diaper Bag Essentials for Dads
Sure, you could pack everything but the kitchen sink in there, but that’s not a great idea.
Start off by packing the absolute essentials first, and then move on to the other stuff you’d like to have for personal preference if your bag has the space for it.
Here’s our ultimate dad diaper bag checklist:
What kind of baby bag would it be if it didn’t contain – erm – diapers?
The first essentials you need to ensure you pack are baby diapers, and plenty of them!
Of course, the longer you’ll be away from home with your baby, the more diapers you’ll need to pack to last you all that while. If it’ll be hours before you get back home, packing a whole pack of diapers is a good idea.
Vice versa, if you’re only going to be away for a short while before you get back from running a few errands, you can get by with a fewer number of diapers in your bag.
If it’ll only be an hour or two before you get back home, packing a handful of diapers with you should be enough.
As long as you have a new and clean diaper in the bag to put on your baby for every 2 hours you’ll be away from home, you should be just fine.
To play it really safe, have a new and clean diaper in the bag for every 1 hour you’ll be away from home.
Diaper Changing Pad
Depending on the diaper bag for dads you buy, it might come with a detachable changing pad you can use without having to buy one on its own.
If the baby diaper bag (or backpack) you buy doesn’t come with one, you’ll have to purchase it on its own. Or, you might not think the one you got for free is good enough, in which case you would prefer to get one on its own. That’s totally normal!
Whatever the case may be, a portable changing pad is absolutely essential when changing your baby’s diapers away from home.
Diaper Rash Cream
Have a tube or jar of diaper cream available at all times, because you never know when your baby might develop diaper rash, and that’s definitely not fun!
Pack a big box of baby wipes in your diaper bag. The bigger the box, the better, on condition it doesn’t take up too much space at the expense of other essential items.
Us men have a bad habit of using handful of baby wipes at a time, so it’s best to pack enough to last you until you get back home.
Wipes are also useful for other tasks besides cleaning your baby during diaper changes, so if you can store another box in some place like your car, that would be a great idea as well.
Pro tip from a dad that’s been there and done all that: An important reason to why you should get big packs of wipes is that as you get near the bottom of the pack, it becomes more and more difficult to take wipes out of the bag with just one hand, and you’ll soon find that both of your hands are occupied while you’re struggling with wipes.
What are you going to do with your baby’s soiled diapers when away from home? Where are you going to store them till you get back to the house? That’s why you need trash bags!
You don’t have anywhere you can throw your baby’s soiled diaper when not home, so put it in one of these baggies until you get back to the house and can properly dispose of it over there, or until you find a waste bin you can throw it away in.
Wet bags are also super necessary if you’re cloth diapering, since that’s where you’ll hold your baby’s soiled cloth diapers until you get back home and can store them until it’s time to do laundry.
Besides holding dirty diapers, these bags are also useful for any other trash you might have with you, which is a given when young children are involved.
Most of the times you have to change your baby’s diaper outside, it’s not going to be in a bathroom.
So, be prepared by packing hand sanitizer in your baby diaper bag that can keep your hygiene in check until you manage to get to a sink with water and soap to properly wash your hands.
Hand sanitizers can also be very useful for babies, too, in case they get their hands dirty when having their diaper changed, or after eating snacks.
Change of Clothes
Depending on what the weather is like where you’re at right now, always pack a couple of weather-appropriate sets of clean clothes for your baby.
Again, you don’t need to go overboard here. Usually, only a couple of clean onesies or a set of one extra shirt with shorts should get the job done just fine.
It’s only normal that your little munchkin will get themselves dirty one way or another while outside the house. The unusual thing would be for them not to get themselves dirty!
Whether it’s a soiled diaper, getting a bit too carried away at the park, or playing around in mud puddles, their clothes aren’t going to stay clean for the entire day.
Speaking of spare clothes, also pack some for yourself as well, because you never know when a blowout happens … and you know the rest! A spare t-shirt for yourself should be all you need.
If your baby is still using pacifiers, be sure to pack a few clean ones in your bag.
Don’t just pack one pacifier, because these things can always get lost (been there, done that) or your child can throw them out of their mouth onto the ground where they get all dirty.
Ideally, you should pack at least 3 pacifiers in your diaper bag. If there’s comfortable room for more, throw in a few more as well.
Be sure to pack a few age-appropriate toys for your baby to keep them occupied and distracted.
You don’t need to overpack toys, though, since it doesn’t take a huge collection to keep babies entertained. Remember that you don’t want to carry a heavy and bulky diaper bag!
The less items you can carry in your baby bag while still getting the job done just fine when out and about with a baby in tow, and the more lightweight your diaper bag is, the better.
One blanket is likely to be just fine if it’s on the thicker side, but if you have thin ones, then you’ll be good with 2 or 3 of those.
Not only will a blanket come in super handy for swaddling, but you can also use it as a burp cloth if you didn’t pack one, clean up your baby’s mess with it if need be, keep them warm, provide shade if it’s sunny outside, etc …
If it’s exceptionally cold where you’re at, pack thicker and heavier blankets, and not thin receiving ones.
Got a baby that’s drooling all over the place, especially if they’re going through their teething phase? Or, if you’re anything like me, getting spit up all over your clothes is one of your worst nightmares?
Keep your clothes and your baby’s clothes clean by packing bibs in your dad’s diaper bag!
Similar to bibs, burp cloths are just as important to have on hand.
You should apply baby sunscreen on your little one’s skin before you head out the house, no matter what the weather is like outside and what season it is, and you should have a bottle of baby sunscreen in your baby bag to reapply throughout the day if it’s going to be a while before you come back home.
It’s not called a diaper bag for dads for no reason! It’s not all about packing items for your baby, there should also be enough room in there to pack your own essentials as well.
Obviously, try to use most of the space your diaper bag has for your baby’s items, but also make sure you pack the following important stuff in there:
- Car keys
These are the absolute essentials, but you can also include other items such as a book to read when you have nothing pressing to do.
Don’t underestimate how often you’ll find yourself in a situation with time to kill and nothing better to do, because your kid is sleeping in the backseat or their stroller.
A paperback book keeps you occupied, is an excellent way to spend free time, and barely adds any weight to your diaper bag.
It’s also a great idea to pack a very lightweight notebook and pen to jot down anything you need to remember or note. Trust me when I say that this comes in handy more often than you might think it will!
Speaking of snacks, always make sure you’re stocked up on those in your diaper bag.
Ideally, it’s stuff that won’t go bad if you leave it there for a few days.
First Aid Kit
Always make room for a baby first aid kit in your baby bag.
You don’t need anything too fancy or complicated, just the essentials like band-aids are all you really need.
A Word About Organization
We go into way more detail about this in our article on the best diaper bags for dads, but to summarize it here, it’s super important to ensure that the daddy bag you buy is designed to help you stay organized.
Mainly, look for bags that have zippered compartments, plenty of internal pockets so you know and remember exactly where you packed each item, and clips so you have easy and quick access to whatever items whenever you need to reach for them.