Since most diaper bags double as purses from time to time when Mom throws her wallet and keys into it (Do you always want to carry two bags into every store and restaurant?), the reverse is also possible. Plenty of women just toss their baby items into a large purse and hit the road. Big purses are in style these days, so it makes sense that in addition to carrying your essentials, they can handle the baby's, too.
Diaper bag purists will argue that your hip hobo bag doesn't have all those nifty interior pockets to keep jars of baby food separate from drool bibs or bottles of hand sanitizer, but I've seen a lot of diaper bags, and most of the junk moms carry around eventually winds up in a jumble in the big space in the center anyway. Start exploring the pockets of a diaper bag that's been in use for six months and you'll see what I mean. You're likely to discover a tiny pair of socks that don't fit anymore, a dusty wet wipe used to get a stain off Mom's shirt, and an expired coupon for diapers. The specialized compartments sound like a great idea, but who really has time to put everything in its proper place when you're crouched in the backseat of your car to change a baby who's pooped up the back of his pajamas or you're trying to drive with one hand and figure out where to store extra teething biscuits with the other?
The most practical, no-nonsense folks ditch the idea of diaper-bag-as-fashion accessory and simply wear a backpack. The benefit of the pack is obvious—your hands are free to deal with whatever comes down the road. Backpacks are also sturdy, easy to clean, and come with a few useful zippered areas. Dads have no qualms about carrying them either. The BabyTrend ActivPak is popular with mothers of multiples, who need both hands at all times. California Innovations makes a cool, sporty baby pack, while OshKosh B'Gosh makes a pack that's color coordinated with its stroller.
Backpacks do have their downsides. While a bag on your shoulder can be cumbersome and slip off, it's easy to access and simple to set down. Backpacks require that you remove them completely to get to the goodies inside, and that can be a pain when you need to grab a burp cloth to catch some spit up or when you just want to get your wallet out. Traditional packs can be tough to pull off with dressier clothes, so designers like Sally Spicer and Oi Oi make posh fabric baby packs that blend style and usability.