From before our daughter was born, my wife and I both had the goal of never being tied down with one of those monstrosities of a diaper bag. We really wanted to try and go for a minimalistic approach rather than bringing half of the house with us every time we went out to play. To that end we were able to create a bare bones diaper bag approach which has allowed us to stay light.
The first and most important aspect to a minimalistic approach is to purchase a lower profile bag. I find that when people (myself included) have a larger container, they tend to find reasons to fill it. By selecting a smaller bag, you are forcing yourself to pack more efficiently.
The Minimal Diaper Bag List:
1. The Bag Itself
We used The JJ Cole Metra Diaper Bag. Finding the right diaper bag is a personal choice. There are many options out there to fit your own style. We chose the Metra because it has a neutral design that allows either myself or my wife to wear it. The materials are burly and the construction solid. If I’m personally going to use something, I want it to look good. I want it to be efficient, functional and have great durability. These are the most important aspects of any product I use. If I didn’t have my baby in my arms, you probably couldn’t even tell that this was a diaper bag. I loved being able to go into incognito dad mode. The Metra was able to fit all of the necessary items we needed while away from the house. One of the highlights for us was that it comes with a changing pad which quickly turns any surface into an acceptable changing area. The pad was something I didn’t think I would end up using but in the end, the pad was a vital component to on-the-go diaper changes. The interior allowed me to store all of the items necessary for a day trip on the town and stay organized.
There are many different approaches to diapers. Some of you may use disposable and some of you may use cloth diapers. Either method is great, this is a personal choice that is largely dependent on your lifestyle and availability of certain utilities. We chose to use disposable diapers. Originally we were purchasing expensive organic and eco-friendly diapers in an effort to avoid skin irritation. In the end we found that better quality wipes usually helped more than the quality of the diapers.
Once you have made your diaper selection, you can now stock your bag. This is where most of the mistakes are made. Unless you are going to be isolated for 10 hours or more, you don’t need 20 diapers in your bag. It can be tempting to pile them all in so you don’t have to worry about it, but stick to putting only the bare minimum you need. I usually had 4-6 diapers in the bag. It is important that you continue to restock the bag every time you get home so that you don’t end up with an empty bag when you need it most. The key to making a minimalist bag work is actively restocking it as needed.
We usually buy the bulk boxes of Pampers Sensitive Wipes whenever we hit the store but Amazon is another great place to pick them up. In these boxes there are usually an assortment of wipe disbursement options. Throw just a single travel bag (these are usually around 2″x 3″ x 5″) into the diaper bag. You don’t need 10 bags, one will do. Just don’t forget to refill when you get low. Avoiding diaper rash was always a priority for us and we’ve had great luck with these wipes over the other options out there. Every baby is different though, so find a brand and style that works best for you. When you find one that works, stick with it.
4. Dry Towels
A idea came to me early on when changing our daughters diaper. Every time I was taught how to change a diaper it involved using a wipe to clean everything off and then slapping a diaper back on. Imagine right now that every time you went to the bathroom you had to take a wet towel and wipe your entire butt with it and then throw your underwear right over that wet mess… it sounds horrible. I assumed our baby felt the same way so I started using small baby towels to dry her off after every change. This method drastically reduced diaper rash flare ups and without exaggeration, it almost eliminated them completely. I’m sure that I didn’t invent this idea, but if you haven’t heard of it before, give it a try. The washcloths from Bamboo Organics are great. They are ultra soft which helps when tending to an already broken out bottom. These can double as both reusable wipes and bath-time wash cloths. If organic is not your thing, a cheaper option is to purchase a bulk package of simple cotton wipes such as Luvable Friends Washcloths.
5. Zip Lock Bags
You won’t always be able to find a trash can when you are away from home. Of the trash cans you do find, its not always appropriate to just throw a stinky diaper into it (think before you stink up a small room or office). A simple and cheap option is to stock your bag with Ziploc baggies. We usually use the quart size bags. If you know you will be gone for a while then you can go with a gallon sized bag instead but one thing is for sure, you never want to be stuck with a leaky diaper and no where to put it.
6. Change of Clothes
This is one item that I do stock more than one of. Two changes of clothes is a good minimum to start with, especially in the first year. There were days that I had four blown out diapers and four ruined outfits. Luckily, baby outfits in the first year are small and you can stuff a few of them into one of those handy Ziploc baggies. We personally stocked our diaper bag with extra onesies because they were light and didn’t take up much space in the bag.
Always have a couple squeezies (I dont even know what you call them, but we always called them squeezies). Gone are the days of jars, there are now awesome packets of food with a twist off top that you can convinently open up and serve like a lentil or fruit-filled boob. You never know when your child will get hungry outside of their normal schedule so it’s great to have a couple of quick meals that require no utensils.
8. Crying Baby and Magic Trinkets
Babies cry, babies get upset and babies do their baby thing. Luckily the baby whisperer is here and you have your own special techniques that you have created for yourself to help soothe your little one. Take your best one and put it in your bag… notice I said one. It can be easy to fill your bag with a ton of toy options in order to be prepared for anything. It would take an entire extra bag to be prepared for every scenario so try your best to save space with this category. Pick one toy and a teether at most. Leave the rest at home.
A Separate Bag For the Car
If you feel that you need more stuff to go with you, a simple duffel bag that you leave in the car is a great option. Not everything needs to be on you. Having a bigger bag that stays in the car can be a great way to store extra clothes, diapers, toys and food without having to carry the extra weight on your shoulders. The key is not feeling bogged down when you’re out with your child and to minimalize what you carry with you. A gigantic bag that stays hidden in the car can help you live the best of both worlds.
As your child ages, you can start to adjust the items you bring with you. For instance, the closer our daughter got to two, the less diapers and changes of clothes we needed to pack. Constantly reevaluate what you are bringing out with you and make sure that you’re not over packing. What you needed to pack at 6 months of age will be vastly different from 18 months. With Ellie now hitting the age of two, our diaper bag lives in the back of our car and rarely leaves that location. We consider the back of our car as our “basecamp” where we can go back to the diaper bag if needed and we know that their will always be an emergency stash of various items. Weather we’re hitting the trails for a day hike or going out on the town for dinner, the diaper bag stays in the back of the car. Before leaving the car, we grab a diaper or two, stuff a few wipes in a ziplock baggie and aside from the light backpack that carries our wallets, keys and phones, we leave the rest behind.