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Babies, diapers, and traveling by bicycle

Posted by on March 8th, 2011 7 Comments

Before we even had kids, we were convinced that cloth diapering was the only way we would ever diaper our children. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that cloth is more environmentally friendly than disposable diapers. 21 billion disposables end up in landfills every year in the United States alone. All of these diapers will still exist in a landfill long after the baby who soiled them grows up and has children of their own! Cloth is also far more economical. And don’t forget natural – no nasty chemicals against the skin.

Diaper Change 300x232 Babies, diapers, and traveling by bicycle

A quick change for Harper on a weekend tour last summer

However, cloth diapers require laundry facilities to remain convenient. So, while undertaking previous bike tours with our toddlers, we have always chosen to use compostable diapers. We were not ready to cope with the added weight and bulk of cloth, not to mention the washing of diapers while on the road. This choice has always bothered us, since even compostable diapers are still disposable, and if thrown in with the regular garbage, will never properly decompose in a landfill. However, the choice made sense since we were only switching to disposables for one or two weeks at a time.

Laundry Day 300x247 Babies, diapers, and traveling by bicycle

Laundry Day can be a big deal while cycle touring

While planning our Big Adventure we faced the reality of 12+ months on our bikes with a diapered toddler in tow. During that time period, Harper would be using five or six diapers a day, or almost 2,000 diapers in total. The idea of producing that much landfill waste was too much for us, so we began to consider using cloth once again. After a little research, we discovered a cloth diaper system that would potentially weigh less and be less bulky than the pocket diapers we already have. We had found Little Beetle diapers made by Better for Babies.
Little Beetle 290x300 Babies, diapers, and traveling by bicycleLittle Beetle diapers are all-natural, and made in the USA. It’s a fitted organic cotton diaper with a merino wool cover. We feel like we talk about merino wool all the time as it really is a miracle fibre- it’s natural, comfortable, durable, odour resistant, and moisture wicking – what more could you ask for? A merino wool cover requires significantly less washing than a traditional cloth diaper cover, so we would only need to launder the internal fitted diaper after each use. This means fewer covers are needed, so there is less fabric (i.e weight and bulk) in total, and less soiled weight as well — a huge factor when we are pedaling everything about under our own power.

To make things even more ideal, Better for Babies is a company that jives really well with our goal to be conscious stewards of this planet while we travel. They sell reusable products that replace disposable ones, they have invested in their city (Carrollton, Georgia) by participating in the renewal of its downtown, and they engage in waste reduction practices by reusing and recycling. Their fabric is USDA certified organic which means it not only meets rigorous requirements but is also fully documented with regular checkups on the farm, animals, and farmers.

Better for Babies 300x110 Babies, diapers, and traveling by bicycle We approached Better for Babies with the idea of partnering with us on our adventure, to allow us to show that the best way to diaper a child is with cloth — even while traveling by bicycle. They will be supplying us with a diapering system for Harper as well as a few merino wool undies for Eden! Now if we could just teach Harper how to wash his own diapers, we’d be set!

We are pumped to use a cloth diapering system while cycling and traveling, but to be honest – we’re intimidated too. We never done cloth while on tour before. We hope to hand-wash each fitted diaper and air dry it on our bikes as we go rather than travel with too many soiled, wet, heavy diapers. We’re nervous to commit to carrying the additional weight of a cloth diaper system, yet we actually feel a weight has been lifted from us as we will no longer have the burden of throwing thousands of diapers into a landfill that will outlive both us and our children.

Many thanks to Better for Babies for helping us travel as sustainably as possible.


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  1. Lou
    March 8, 2011 @ 10:58 pm #

    Good on you for going the cloth route on a cycle tour! That is awesome. I reckon it can totally be done, you’ll find your groove with it quick smart and I look forward to hearing more about how it all goes. You could use a biodegradable liner too, might help with making the pooey one’s easier to handwash. From an Xtracycling (both kids on my bike), cloth-nappy using mama in Sydney Australia.

    • Heidi ( Twitter: )
      March 10, 2011 @ 9:31 pm #

      Thanks Lou! We’ve tried the biodegradable liners at home in the past but never really got hooked on them. We have a roll of them laying around so we’ll probably start off with a few and see how things go.

  2. durbins
    March 9, 2011 @ 11:30 am #

    We have some Little Beetles. They are great. I really like the company too. We had a gift certificate that didn’t work and they applied it through e-mail, which made me happy. I prefer the Thirsty covers though because they are less bulky than the wool and have less soak through.
    We did cloth on our trip (of course not on bike though). We found people more than willing to let us use their laundry for diapers. We also brought a cat litter pail with us which sealed the diapers up nice and tight so we could go all week without smelling them.

  3. anj
    March 10, 2011 @ 12:18 pm #

    I’m so excited that you’re going to be using cloth on your trip! Better for Babies makes some really great products, too! Can’t wait to hear how it goes!

  4. Becki Hall ( Twitter: )
    March 11, 2011 @ 6:04 am #

    Amazing&so pleased you’re committing to cloth while on the go! Huge undertaking but really inspiring and will follow how you get on with interest.

    We’ve used cloth from birth- BumGenius V3s for the daytime, &a combo of little lambs/tots bots with weenotions wraps for night. I really hate using disposables as I’m acutely aware of the impact they have environmentally- not just once theyre disposed, but in their production also! Not to mention their cost financially, &the fact that the bleaching process used in their production irritates sensitive skin. But as our poor BGs are on their last legs from 2.5yrs of use (Velcro going, elastic around legs loose) and they are quite bulky, I’ve had to very begrudgingly admit defeat and face the prospect of bringing ‘sposies with us on our trip :( Theo is close to potty training so it hardly seems worth our while investing in another set for the trip! Wish we could follow in your footsteps- what you’re doing may only be a small mark in the grand scheme of the environment, but it’s a huge individual undertaking and I have enormous respect and admiration for you for it :)

    We use biodegradable liners also, we find it helps in terms of the washing a great deal; without so much soiling, they can be washed at lower temperatures, don’t require so many rinses etc. If you’re handwashing, it’ll be easier/more pleasant for you too!

    Will be watching with interest to see how you get on-&well done for securing the sponsorship/nappies!

    Becki x

  5. Mom
    March 15, 2011 @ 8:40 pm #

    You guys never cease to amaze me! You give “traveling lighter” a whole new meaning…..

  6. Lisa
    May 18, 2011 @ 7:38 pm #

    My sister just sent me the link to your blog & I’m so happy she did–it’s great to read about other biking families. My husband & I are avid cyclists (mostly commuters, not much touring… yet) & now that we have a baby, we’re in the process of figuring out the best way for us to bike with him.

    On the subject of diapers, I’ve used cloth on my son from birth & done a car trip with these diapers, but when we’ve travelled via transit we took ‘sposies to cut down on what we had to pack on our backs. You’ve inspired me: next time I’ll try cloth, definitely!

    I know other people have suggested biodegradable liners, but I thought I’d chime in too. Not sure if they’re all flushable like the ones we use: . The Bio-Soft are very thin & soft, possibly smaller & lighter to pack than the other liners I’ve seen.

    Can’t wait to hear about your adventures on your trip!

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