Checklist of the most important diaper bag essentials for Dad. Plus the best diaper bag for men. And the coolest diaper bag alternative for dads.
When you leave the house as a man, the usual checklist involves the bare essentials. Wallet, keys, phone… and not a lot else.
But when dads need to leave the house with a baby? It’s a whole different story.
Typically, a mom’s diaper bag is filled with everything for any type of emergency. Bottles or sippy cups for a thirsty baby. Baby food and a spoon and bib for a hungry baby. Chewy toys for teething baby. A stroller sunshade for a tired baby. And extra outfits for a poopy baby!
I’m not trying to gender stereotype, but in my personal experience, men tend to pack less than women.
Case in point.
When our daughter was fairly young, my husband tried to maintain his pre-baby minimalism when leaving the house. He’d take her out with only a bottle, a single disposable diaper, and a travel packet of wet wipes.
The incident I’m thinking of wasn’t the first time he took our daughter out solo. But it was relatively early in our parenting life. The ultimate diaper blowout.
He returned home without a T-shirt under his jacket. And our daughter had been wrapped up in his shirt after a ‘poo-nado’ had spilled through her onesie and clothes.
After that, he well and truly learned to embrace a well packed baby bag for dad.
And while he never quite took as much as I did, he has taken a well-prepared dad diaper backpack or cross body ever since!
The rest of this article covers what you need to include in a daddy diaper bag. But what kind of bag should dads use? And is there a good alternative?
My absolute favorite daddy diaper bag alternative is the Dad Hoodie. I’m obsessed with this thing, and think it’s pure genius. I wish I knew about it back when our daughter was much younger, as it would have been the perfect match for my husband’s desire to leave the house with the bare essentials, and the need to be a bit more prepared when baby is on the move.
From the outside and to the casual observer, it looks like a standard hoodie.
Once you unzip it and inspect the lining, however, you see this is no standard dad hoodie.
It’s lined entirely with mesh. Scattered throughout the mesh are a ton of strategically sized and placed pockets.
There’s space for a sippy cup or bottle, diapers and wipes, a favorite toy, hand sanitizer, snacks, and more. Basically, it lets you carry the main essentials when heading out the door with baby, without having to haul and actual daddy diaper bag with you.
It comes in black, heather grey, charcoal grey and navy, and is available in small through XXL.
Diaper Bag Essentials For Dad
So, how do diaper bags for men differ from mom’s usual diaper bag?
For all of the new dads and dads to be out out there, I wanted to share what I think are the essentials. These are the items you need to take with you in your man diaper bag, whenever you go out with baby.
If you were a minimalist in your pre-baby life, don’t fret. I’ve tried to keep things streamlined for you, sharing the main things you need without too much extra stuff.
And I’ve made some recommendations so you look good while dadding!
Sadly, even in 2021, most diaper bags are style to suit moms more than dads. However, there are a few companies out there making great baby bags for men.
One of the companies that’s doing a great job is Mission Critical. Bonus points: it’s a family-run business, so you’re supporting a small business if you buy from them.
Best Dad Diaper Bag Checklist
Okay, so the clue is in the name. A diaper bag should contain – yes, you guessed it, diapers.
But honestly guys, just taking one isn’t enough! Generally speaking, having 3 diapers is a good baseline for a supermarket trip or a lunch. You’ll need to add more if you’re going out for a day trip, or on a flight.
Think about how long you’ll be out for and where you’re going, and make your plan from there. A good rule of thumb is to plan for 1 change every 2 hours. Sometimes you’ll change more often than this, and others less frequently, but it never hurts to be prepared.
Trash Bags for Soiled Diapers
A diaper change can be messy, and afterward, you’ll have the soiled diaper to deal with. If you use disposable diapers, you can just put them in the trash. But know that where baby decides to poop may not always be close to an available trashcan.
Diaper bags allow you to wrap all of the messy and used wipes away in a smell-proof bag. You can keep it tucked under your stroller until you can dispose of it appropriately.
You can also use little baggies to keep soiled clothes, dirty cutlery, etc. However, I prefer using reusable wet bags in those situations. It’s more eco friendly, and is one of those small switches you can make to reduce waste.
When you’re cleaning a baby’s bottom on the go, there’s nothing handier than wet wipes. If you’re a minimalist, you can get travel-sized packs of wipes. Just don’t forget to refill it when they run out!
Wipes are more functional than you’ll ever realize. As well as cleaning baby’s bottom, they can mop up spills, wipe a dirty face, and clean off mucky hands after a muddy puddle session.
We always keep a pack in the car, too, just in case.
Go for non toxic wipes that are eco friendly, such as those from Eco Pea.
A Changing Pad
For on-the-go changes, a changing pad is needed. We’ve all had that situation where we’ve had to change a diaper on the back seat of the car, and taking a change pad saves any mess from spoiling the interior upholstery of your vehicle (or your rental vehicle, as we have personally experienced on the side of a highway in Iceland).
Even in places that have baby changing facilities, you’ll still want to use your own mat to lie baby down on for cushioning and germ-free hygiene reasons, as changing tables aren’t sanitized between uses and can be a bit icky.
A lot of baby diaper bags come with one built-in, but if yours doesn’t, pack a travel folding one.
The Mission Critical changing pads are a good choice, and come in black, grey, and army green.
Once your baby is old enough to stand unaided, you can usually ditch the changing pad in favor of mastering the standing change. We do a standing change most of the time now, but keep our folding changing pad in the car just in case a notable mess presents itself.
Baby Food and Snacks
Even though you may only be going out for a short time, having some baby sustenance is never a bad idea. As a dad, you’re not equipped with a milk-filled bosom and nursing clothes specifically designed for emergency feeding situations. As such, you need to have an alternative handy.
For infants, you just need to think about milk or formula.
If your baby feeds on breast milk, keep it in an insulated cooler or sleeve. If they are on formula powder, it’s a little simpler as you can prepare a bottle with the right amount of formula and add water when your baby is ready to feed. A formula dispenser is super handy for this, as is pre-mixed formula. If you’re mixing powdered formula on the go, pack an extra bottle of pre-sterilized water, too.
And if your child is a bit older, then take a sippy cup of water or juice, a couple of jars or squeezey packs of baby food, and some snacks.
There’s honestly nothing more harrowing than trying to run around the hardware store with a screaming child. A small snack can save you from a nightmare excursion!
When choosing diaper bag snacks, think long-lasting and as mess-free as possible. Even though a banana sounds like a wonderful idea, finding one that’s been sat at the bottom of the bag uneaten after 3 days is never fun. And there’s also the possibility of it getting extremely smooshed in the diaper bag too. Our go to is Gold Fish crackers, Veggie Straws, and squeezey packs of fruit and veg puree.
To round up the eating and drinking, also make sure you pack a bib and spoon to accompany snacks and mealtimes.
If your child uses a pacifier then you always need to pack one (or three! – no seriously) wherever you go.
They’re small, so easy for baby to lose when you’re not looking, and when you really need to find one they always seem to be right at the bottom of the diaper bag. That said, you might want to put at least one on a holder (or even attach it to your baby!)
When out and about with your baby, you are generally the busy one, while they experience the world from their stroller or car seat.
Most of the time baby will be amused enough watching the world go by, or the colors that pass. But at times baby will become bored. Packing one or two small age-appropriate toys will keep them entertained for hours.
They don’t have to be big or cumbersome, a small rattle, textured toy, or sensory book are perfect to carry around in a diaper bag for an emergency. If you’re taking the stroller, a stroller arch is a good idea for entertainment!
If your baby is teething, a teething toy will also help too.
Change of Clothes
Accidents happen. From diaper explosions to a messy mealtime. And having a change of season appropriate clothes for your child is always useful.
Depending on the occasion, you may not need to pack a full new fancy outfit, just an emergency onesie or shorts and t-shirt could for long enough to get you home again.
If you’re really cautious or heading out for a longer journey, you may also want to pack a spare t-shirt for dad too, as mess and diaper spillage can end up everywhere if you aren’t super careful! If you’re flying with your baby, definitely pack a spare outfit for the adults and your child.
On one 45-minute flight when our daughter was around 6 months, she ruined two full outfits and my husband’s t shirt and then hoodie before we even took off. He was happy to have an extra shirt nearby.
An Extra Blanket
Drifting off to sleep is easier with a cozy blanket, so keeping one with you is a good essential. A blanket can also help to keep your little one warm if it’s unusually cold. And a lightweight blanket can serve to block the sun out if it’s particularly warm or bright.
In emergencies, blankets can also clean up mess, become a tummy time mat in a waiting room, or be used to swaddle a baby too.
Burp Cloths and Bibs
Even away from mealtimes, babies make a mess and slobber – a lot. So a burp cloth or bib can go a long way to protecting an outfit and keeping baby clean and dry.
If your baby is at that stage when they slobber and spit up a lot – think teething time – you may want to dress baby in one and keep a dry one (or two) in the baby bag.
So these are obviously ‘extras’ and you can get away without packing toiletries, but a small tube of diaper cream will help keep baby’s butt healthy and free from sores.
A Small First Aid Kit
This may not be completely essential for a newborn, but for little ones that are mobile, a first aid kit could come in very useful.
You never know when accidents happen, and a trip to the park can easily end in a grazed knee.
Even just a few antibacterial wipes and some band-aids will help in a pinch. And as well as cleaning a wound and stemming the bleeding, a band-aid always makes my little one’s ‘boo-boo’ feel much better way more quickly! Bonus points for a character bandage (we’re currently on a Lightning McQueen bandage kick at our house).
Have a few different sizes for tiny fingers or knees and elbows.
Hand sanitizer is also super useful. Beat germs on the go, and protect both little one and yourself.
Items for Dad
Once you’re all packed up for baby, you can fit in your man essentials too. This is usually those basic: keys, wallet, and phone.
But the beauty of packing a baby bag for men is that you do, as a dad, have a little more room for a couple of ‘bonus’ items that wouldn’t normally fit into a man’s pockets.
So try packing a book or kindle, for those lovely days in the park when that blissful nap gives you some unexpected free time.
And maybe also some Advil or Tylenol (in a childproof container) for when naptime isn’t quite as blissful!
Dad Diaper Bags
One thing we didn’t discuss was actual diaper bags for guys. A lot of standard bags are pretty large, cross-body bags that women tend to prefer. But retailers have become more aware of dads needs and there is a vast range of diaper bag backpacks for men available now too.
Having one each can ensure mom and dad both feel prepared whenever the occasion to pop out arises, whether you’re packing your dad hospital bag in preparation for birth or heading to the beach with your toddler.
Also, be sure to check out The Dad Hoodie for short trips to the playground and days you don’t want to carry a bag!
What are Diaper Bag Essentials for Mom?
Although we made this article for the dads out there, the same list applies to moms too.
Speaking from experience, however, it seems many moms will just pack more of everything – for every occasion!
Final Thoughts on Men’s Diaper Bag Essentials for Dad
We hope this article on essentials for your diaper bag for dad was helpful to all the parents out there.
Let us know what you pack in your dad baby backpack!
If you think this article would be useful for any other new parents you know, feel free to share it with them!