Backpack Diaper Bag VS. Tote: Which is Best for Cloth Diapers?

By April Duffy •  Updated: 05/27/24 •  6 min read

There are a lot of choices when your baby is on the way. One of the more challenging ones (though there are many), especially for new parents, is what diaper bag should I choose?

There is a right and wrong choice, but it is different for everyone and their unique needs. There are also some extra considerations you’ll need to take into account for your cloth diapers, most notably the bag’s size.

So, let’s take a look at your options to find out which one is best for you and your baby.

Diaper Bag Vs Backpack Vs Tote – What Are The Differences?

First of all, let’s get our terms right.

A diaper bag is any bag with pockets and compartments designed for baby gear. A diaper bag can be a backpack-style or a shoulder bag. So there are really two options: backpack or tote/shoulder bag.

Both styles come in sizes and configurations that will accommodate cloth diapers, so no worries there. The choice really comes down to what your lifestyle is, and what your budget is.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons for each:

Backpack Diaper Bags: Pros and Cons

– Leaves your hands free to occupy baby, shop, etc. -Not practical for all babywearing scenarios. For example, may not sit on top of a carrier with straps (but maybe ok with a wrap-style carrier)
-Distributes the weight of all that baby stuff across both shoulders (no shoulder ache).-More casual style, which is not ideal for all situations.
-More practical for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, etc. -Often a bit more awkward to attach or fit into your stroller.
– Often more gender-neutral (depending on colors) if sharing its use with a partner or caregiver of a different gender. – Often have to sling it off, and then back on when you need something (Can’t just reach in and grab anything with it on).
-Doesn’t fall on your face if you bend over to pick up something with it on.

Tote/Shoulder Diaper Bags: Pros and Cons

– Can be worn even while babywearing two kiddos if necessary. – Puts all the weight onto one shoulder, leading to a shoulder ache.
– Tend to be a bit easier to pack as the space is horizontal. – Can inhibit your movement and may take up a hand to keep it in place while walking.
– Often easier to attach or fit into your stroller (just put the strap over the handles). – Can look a bit more purse-like
– Can just reach in and grab what you need while wearing it. – Can fall on your face if you bend over to pick up something with it on.
-Better for occasions where you’ll need to be a bit more dressed up (vs. a backpack)
– Can be found in a ton of styles like messenger bags (a flap that folds over zipper), totes (zipper at the top), crossbody bags, satchel diaper bags, etc.

Where To Buy Diaper Bags

Now that you know a little more about each style of diaper bag, you’re probably wondering where to shop for them.

Diaper backpacks and totes can be found at your local Target, Walmart, or baby store. If you want to have the full selection of shopping online that’s totally possible too, just pay special attention to the dimensions of the bag. Remember that cloth diapers take up much more space than disposables, and once dirty, you can’t just dump them in the trash, you have to wrap them up in a wet bag and put them back in your diaper bag to bring home.

What To Look for In a Diaper Bag When Using Cloth Diapers

So, what are the special considerations cloth diaper parents need to make when looking at diaper bags? First and foremost is size.

Cloth Diapers Take More Space

Cloth diapers are much bulkier than disposables and need to come back home for washing. This means you’ll need quite a bit more space for your clean diapers and wet bag(s).

More Compartments for Bringing Dirty Diapers Home

When you’re out and about and change your baby, you will of course have diapers that are soiled. Unlike disposable, you’ll need to put them in a wet bag to bring home.

You may want to put that wet bag into a separate compartment so you don’t have to pull out that bag of soiled diapers every time you go to get something else. This isn’t necessary for everyone of course (some folks don’t like all the pockets), but it’s something to consider.

Wipe Pouches for Cloth Wipes

Many diaper bags have wipe pouches built into them. These wipe pouches are super convenient but are designed for disposable wipe packages. If you use cloth wipes, you’ll want to either store your to-go wipes in a similar package or look for a bag without one of these pouches since it’s not a convenience but just added weight and less usable space.

Washability or Waterproof Fabrics

Let’s be real, sometimes your baby will keep you busy, and in the thick of a busy day and sleep exhaustion, you may forget that wet bag of soiled diapers overnight, or even longer.

Having a diaper bag that is waterproof and wipeable and/or washable will be a lifesaver in those situations and when other accidents happen like bottle and food spills, baby spit-ups, etc.

My Top Pics For Each Style

I have compared A TON of diaper totes and backpacks, and chosen some of the absolute best ones that will fit your needs AND fit those cloth diapers you need to bring along with you. I won’t list them all here, since you’re likely now thinking about one style over the other, but here’s where to find them:

1. Backpack Cloth Diaper Bags

To see my complete list of the best backpack diaper bags for cloth diapers click here. In that post, I have sleuthed out the best backpack diaper bags for small budgets, for stylish families, families with multiple kids in cloth, for dads only, and for a-type parents (organization nirvana).

2. Tote/Crossbody Diaper Bags

I have a full list of tote diaper bag picks for cloth diaper parents coming soon.

But Wait, is There a Third Option?

Still can’t decide between a tote style bag or a backpack?

Maybe you don’t have to!

Here are two diaper bags that are convertible so you can go from backpack to tote whenever and wherever you want! Get the best of both worlds!

Best Convertable Diaper Bag (Backpack & Tote in One)
Petunia Pickle Bottom Pivot Backpack

While this luxury diaper bag isn't cheap, it's well worth the price because it's the only diaper bag you'll need. Both a backpack and a tote, this diaper bag can go from hiking trail to dinner with no problem.

Many parents love Petunia Pickle designer diaper bags because they are super stylish, they are customizable with their Inter-Mix System Pixels for extra organization, and they have brand recognition.

While this diaper bag is not massive like others on our list (definitely not suitable for two kids in cloth diapers on the go), it has enough room for everything you'll need for a typical day out.

Here are some of the key features of these luxury diaper bags:

  • Modern silhouette with a roomy interior
  • Insulated front zippered pocket, hidden side bottle pocket, and a spacious zip-around bottom compartment, all with wipe-able lining
  • Felt-lined zippered pocket to keep phones safe and easily accessible
  • Interior open tech pocket and mesh pockets
  • Expandable side water bottle pocket
  • Trolley strap/luggage strap
  • Interior key clip
  • 8 total pockets inside and out.
  • Rose gold metal styling and genuine leather trim
  • Zip-top closure
  • Removable, washable changing pad
  • Water-resistant, durable, and easy-to-clean interior and exterior.
  • Compatible with all of Petunia Pickle's mix & match accessories
  • Multiple carrying options for maximum versatility: As tote or backpack without adjusting straps, in hand with top grab handle, or on a stroller with stroller clips (sold separately).

Dimensions: 14.5” H x 15” W x 5.5” D

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03/08/2024 01:16 am GMT
Best Budget Convertable Diaper Bag
Zpoint D1, Messenger & Backpack, Convertible w/Stroller Belts

If you can't decide between a backpack or tote-style diaper bag, and are on a tight budget and can't afford both, this is the diaper bag you've been searching for.

Large enough for your cloth diapers and all the rest, this bag has it all for an incredible price!

Here are some of the features:

  • One main department with four sleeves (One padded for laptop and iPad, up to 14"; two small side sleeves, and one front sleeve)
  • One front department with 3 insulated bottle holders
  • Two side pockets(1 with open for wet wipes quick reach)
  • Two pockets on the front cover
  • Two invisible stroller bets
  • Two invisible backpack straps
  • A detachable shoulder belt with shoulder pad
  • A top handle for quick grabbing

Dimensions: 16.5 x 13.4 x 2.7 inches

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.


So which diaper bag is better for cloth diapers?

At the end of the day, you can find a great diaper bag that will be big enough for your cloth diapers and fit your unique needs and budget, it just takes a little more searching.

I hope this post made that search much easier for you, but if you’re still looking for help, maybe head on over to the Cloth Diapers for Beginners Facebook group and see what other cloth diaper parents are using.

April Duffy

April is the founder of Cloth Diapers for Beginners and author of The Cloth Diaper Wash & Care Handbook. Since 2015, April has helped well over 75,000 parents and caregivers cloth diaper their children through this website, her book, her YouTube Channel, and the Cloth Diapers for Beginners Facebook Group.