We’re on our third kid now, so I’ve humped around my fair share of diaper bags. Babies need a lot of stuff when you’re on the move, and a diaper bag is designed for extended outings so that you have all the essentials on hand. But, what if you’re just going out for a couple hours – is a full-sized diaper bag really essential? If you ask me, no it is not – and this is where the Mystery Ranch Hip Monkey pack comes in.
Yes, if you’re going to be out and about all day you should have a full-sized diaper bag (er, backpack – but I’ll save that for another article). But if you’re just heading out for a maximum of 3 hours, you don’t need all that stuff.
After going to grab the family diaper bag again and again for quick outings, such as taking all three of my kids to the playground, I got fed up with what felt like unnecessary baggage. I also realized I was spoiling my older kids by lugging around some of their stuff that perhaps I should be imparting on them as their own responsibility.
Further, I kept making a decision not to bring our full-sized diaper bag when I made the rounds to pick up all three kids from their respective school / daycare locations (three separate places) because it seemed like overkill when I would be home in just around 30 minutes. But I invariably found my baby – who I pick up first – crapping her pants before my journey ended and was stuck with poo pants until I got home because I had no diapers or wipes.
In search of a solution, I landed on the category of fanny packs / waist packs / lumbar packs / cross body bags. This pack category certainly landed in my lap because of current trends in that direction, but perhaps for once a trend has some merit. Maybe those fanny packs of the 90’s didn’t deserve all the hate they once got.
I searched and read about a ton of packs. I found myself in Reddit rabbit holes or knee deep in Amazon reviews trying to get some perspective on what might be the bag I was looking for to replace our diaper bag for short outings. Eventually, I landed on the Mystery Ranch Hip Monkey pack for two reasons. First, I am familiar with Mystery Ranch’s quality as an owner of the Mystery Ranch 2 Day Assault Pack. And second, I found a sweet deal on the Rastafarian-colored version of the Hip Monkey (I guess Mystery Ranch tactical bro fanboys don’t want a Rastafarian pack, but I hosted a reggae radio show in college so sign me up!).
I decided to set up my Hip Monkey as a system. Here’s what I keep in it as a system of the essentials for a 2-3 hour outing with three kids, one of which is a baby:
- Three diapers
- One 16-count pack of baby wipes
- A onesie in case my baby has a poo-splosion
- A 1-gallon zip bag to keep any pooped-upon clothing
- Snacks – two iced oatmeal cookie bars and two wild berry fruit strips – just enough to stave off a hangry episode until more food can be found
- A sunscreen stick
- Three cloth face masks (one for me and two for older kids) in the event we enter somewhere they’re required
- A tiny bottle of hand santizer
- Several band aids (I keep a full first aid kit in each vehicle)
- A hair clip for my older daughter
- A carabiner in case I need to clip anything extra that won’t fit in the bag
- A Nite Ize DoohicKey
- My own Klean Kanteen water bottle (link is to newer model because I guess they don’t make my model anymore)
- A water bottle for my baby – she is old enough to drink water from a straw
- Two Hydro Flask water bottle slings for the older kids to carry their own waters – teach them some responsibility! These fit most brands, not just Hydro Flask (we don’t own any Hydro Flask bottles)
How I Wear It
The Hip Monkey can be worn three ways – as a traditional waist pack, as a sling bag, or as a cross-body bag. I find myself defaulting to the sling bag method as the easiest and quickest. On occasion I’ve used the cross-body method, but it can be a challenge when I’m holding my baby – it kind of gets in the way. I have not yet used the waist pack method, and would probably only do so if traversing rough terrain, e.g. a hike in the woods – but I have other packs for that.
This system is not perfect. It works well, but I was running into a challenge with the water bottles. Sometimes my 4 year old daughter just would not carry her water bottle herself, and in picking my battles, I will carry it for her. But the Hip Monkey isn’t big enough to carry my water bottle, my baby’s water bottle, and my 4 year old’s water bottle. I really wish the Hip Monkey came with an external water bottle pouch, but it doesn’t. So I got creative and added the Mystery Ranch Bottle Pocket. Note that this particular model is discontinued, and not wanting to spend full price on the current model I found it on eBay for much, much cheaper. Because I didn’t want the bottle pocket sliding around, I use a bit of Gear Aid Fire Stand 550 Paracord to tie it into place – bonus points for being able to start a fire if needed to! Dad to the rescue amirite?
It is important to note that the Hip Monkey would probably just straight up not work if you had to carry breast milk / formula bottles on you. Maybe it would, but keeping the bottle chilled could be a challenge. I’ve not had to do that, as I use it mostly when baby has recently been fed before going out or if she will be fed in the near future so that I don’t have to worry about it. Also, my baby is old enough to eat real food so I can hold her over easily with a big kid snack if necessary.
- Spacious at 8L
- Versatile with multiple wear methods
- No water bottle pocket
- Not a true replacement for a diaper bag
Rating: 4 / 5
Because of the challenges I’ve listed above, and because it is not a true replacement for a full-sized diaper bag, I’m giving the Mystery Ranch Hip Monkey pack four stars. But, I love it and use it all the time. Some might feel undergunned with this system, and rightfully so. It is a bare bones package for a 2-3 hour outing with my three kids – nothing more, and it is not trying to be anything more. If you share my frustration with lugging around a full-sized diaper bag when just going out for a short bit, then the Mystery Ranch Hip Monkey pack (or other similar pack) might just work for you.
Have you used the Hip Monkey before, or created a diaper bag lite of your own? I’d love to hear how it went, comment below!