Do you need a diaper bag, or is a regular backpack just as good?

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A diaper bag and baby supplies

>Babies sure do come with a lot of stuff. It’s hard to believe that one little person could need that much!

(Check out my guide to everything you need for a newborn baby.)

However, it’s true, babies take a lot of work and a lot of things, and many of those things need to come along with you when you go on an outing.

For example, you’ll want to bring:

  • diapers
  • bottles
  • wipes
  • a toy
  • a blanket
  • a change of clothes
  • and who knows what else

…with you when you take your baby out for a day. So, where do you keep all of this stuff when you’re on the move?

For a jaunt around town, some parents prefer to bring a classic diaper bag, while others just use a regular backpack.

In this article, I want to break down the differences between diaper bags vs. regular backpacks and help you decide which one makes more sense for you.

The main differences between diaper bags and regular backpacks are the storage pockets that they provide and the way that you carry them.

Diaper bags are usually carried over your shoulder, or some are cross-body style, while backpacks are worn on your back, leaving your hands free. Diaper bags and regular backpacks both have compartments and pockets, but a diaper bag has areas specifically designed to hold baby items like bottles and wipes.

If you’re picky about organization and style, you’ll want to go with a proper diaper bag. But if you just want a comfortable place to jam all of your baby supplies, a backpack will work just fine.

Let’s take a little bit of a closer look at this comparison.

Diaper Bags Explained

Diaper bags have been around for a long time, so they have had some time to evolve a bit over the years.

However, their basic use remains the same — to carry your baby’s things and any other items that you need when you are out and about with your little one.

Diaper bags come in a variety of styles and colors and can be over-the-shoulder, cross-body, or some are even also a backpack.

Diaper bags can be simple with one or two open pouches and a few special pockets for holding smaller items like pacifiers, nail clippers, and extra socks. There are also diaper bags that come with tons of bells and whistles like insulated bottle pouches, built-in wipe dispensers, roll-out changing pads, and more pockets than things to put in them.

The main uses of diaper bags are:

  • To provide a place for you to carry the things that you need for your baby
  • To provide a convenient way for you to get what you need for your baby quickly

Diaper bags are great for just running errands with your baby, spending a day at the park, or even to pack your baby’s things for a weekend at grandma’s house.

Probably one of the biggest perks of going with a diaper bag is that they come in a ton of different styles.

There are diaper bags that look and operate like:

  • Totes
  • Purses
  • Clutches
  • Messenger bags
  • And backpacks

Whether you’re looking for a bag with a floral pattern and a purse vibe, or a manly tactical looking backpack, you can find it.

Diaper bags can be inexpensive depending on how basic they are and become pretty pricey the more elaborate they get, especially if they feature a designer label.

Pros and cons of diaper bags


  • Convenient: Diaper bags usually feature multiple compartments so you can access what you need within a few seconds
  • Multiple styles: Many diaper bags become a statement for new parents; bags come in a large number of colors, patterns, and designs
  • Specific design: Since diaper bags are specifically designed to hold baby items, many of them contain special pockets and pouches that are a must if you are out and about for more than a couple of hours; things like an insulated pouch to keep milk cold for several hours and quick-grab wipes are awesome when you are on the move with your baby


  • Can be cumbersome: Many diaper bags are designed in a way that you have to carry them on your shoulder or across your body, which can become hard to do if you’re also trying to juggle your baby, open a stroller, or do a variety of other things at the same time
  • Can be expensive: Because of their specific use and purpose, diaper bags can be (though they aren’t always) more expensive than backpacks.

Regular Backpacks Explained

A regular backpack

Pretty much everyone knows the deal with backpacks!

But let’s take a look at how a regular backpack can and can’t work as a diaper bag.

Regular backpacks might not be specifically designed for use as a baby bag, but they often feature roomy compartments and multiple pockets. The variety of places to store items makes backpacks a viable option as a substitute diaper bag.

Plus they’re comfortable and leave your hands free at all times. Backpacks are a great way to carry everything you need for your baby while keeping your hands completely free and making it easy for you to perform other tasks.

Of course, a regular backpack won’t have the specific baby compartments like insulated pouches or wipe dispensers — and they won’t feature their own detachable changing pad — but you can always get separate insulated pouches designed to clip onto backpacks, and of course a travel pack of wipes that you can store in an easy-to-reach front pouch.

Backpacks work great when your baby gets a little older or turns into a toddler and doesn’t need as much stuff. When all you need to bring on an outing is a pack of wipes and a couple of diapers, backpacks are a fantastic choice.

Regular backpacks come in different designs and colors, although perhaps not as many as diaper bags. By nature, they’re limited in styles — a backpack is designed to be worn on your back, not slung over a shoulder or carried like a purse or clutch.

Regular backpacks can by extremely cheap or mega-expensive depending on their quality. Of course, one of the main advantages here is that you may already have an old backpack lying around that can double as your diaper bag for a while.

If you want to enjoy the best of both worlds, look for a backpack-style diaper bag like the Hap Tim diaper bag backpack (Amazon link).

Pros and cons of regular backpacks


  • Hands-free: The biggest advantage of using regular backpacks is that they keep your hands free so you can do whatever you need to do without a heavy bag dangling awkwardly off your shoulder or chest.
  • Cost-effective: Backpacks are usually pretty sturdy and if you aren’t set on needing any fancy style or designer label, then you can get a good backpack at a reasonable price. You probably already have a backpack in your house somewhere, too!
  • Easy on back and shoulders: Backpacks are a great ergonomic option for people who have issues with back or shoulder pain since the weight is more evenly distributed.


  • Not as specific: Regular backpacks have multiple pockets, but they aren’t designed with babies in mind, so they won’t include things like insulated bottle pouches. wipe dispensers, and changing pads. They’re not as good as diaper bags for organization.

Wrapping Up

That about sums it up when it comes to diaper bags vs. regular backpacks!

The biggest difference between the two is the design and organization inside.

Expect diaper bags to be more specifically suited to baby stuff. You’ll find compartments for wipes, bottles, and clothes; a changing pad; and other add-ons.

Backpacks will have a few compartments and zippers, but mostly they’re just big empty caverns for you to fill with stuff.

For my money, I think a diaper bag is best when baby is young and you have a ton of stuff to bring with you everywhere you go. When the load gets lighter and your baby is older, a backpack is more comfortable and convenient.

But what do you think? Let me know below!

And check out more baby stuff compared like:

Hope this helps, parents!