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Parental Unit

Regular price $150.00
Add Shoulder Strap Upgrade: Add Wheelchair or Stroller Straps:
  • Everything you buy from us here at TOM BIHN is satisfaction guaranteed. We’ve been in business for over 30 years and we stand behind what we make.

    If something goes wrong and it's our fault, we'll fix it for free. Repairs due to normal wear and tear or due to other things that are not our fault will be performed, when possible, at a reasonable charge right here in our Seattle factory where your bag was made. Defects in materials or workmanship are uncommon and almost always evident while the product is still new. Keep in mind that bags and packs are often subject to extreme wear in everyday use: do not expect them to last forever. Only true love lasts forever! You can expect a TOM BIHN product to give years and years of hard service.

    Face Masks
    Our masks are satisfaction guaranteed. Please if you're happy with your mask *or* there's something that doesn't work for you. We want to hear from you!

  • Our bags and face masks are designed and cut & sewn right here in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

    That allows us to be control freaks in the best way possible; we have direct control and oversight of the quality of our materials, our products, and the jobs and working environment that we help create. It also offers us a unique spontaneity: when we have an idea for a new product or accessory, we can design it, figure out how to build it, add it to our website and be ready to ship it out our front door all within just a few weeks. How cool is that?

    Intrigued? You can more about the unusual way we do business on our Company Philosophy page.


bluesign® certified 525 denier High-Tenacity 2x2 Ballistic nylon
— or —
bluesign® and OEKO-TEX® certified Ultralight 400d Halcyon/420d nylon ripstop exterior
bluesign® and OEKO-TEX® certified 200 denier Halcyon/nylon ripstop fabric lining
#8 YKK coil zippers
Tough Duraflex®, Nexus, and Woojin buckles and related components


Sewn in USA with globally sourced materials
100% finished seams


Dimensions: 16.1” (w) x 9.6” (h) x 7.9” (d) / 410 (w) x 245 (h) x 200 (d) mm
525d Ballistic: 19.8 oz / 560 grams
400d Halcyon®/420d nylon ripstop: 15.3 oz / 433 grams
Volume: 13.5 liters, 825 cubic inches (ASTM Standard Measure)
What's Included:
1x Standard Shoulder Strap, May be Upgraded to Absolute Shoulder Strap
1x 8-inch Black Webbing Snaphook/Snaphook Key Strap
1x Black Zipper Pulls w/ Plastic Ends (8-Pack)
Total O-rings: 10 (4 in the main compartment, 2 in the front top pocket, 1 in the front bottom pocket, 2 in the back top pocket, 1 in the back bottom pocket)
Want to see the specs for all of our bags?

Our design mission was this: a brilliantly useful diaper bag that could be used even beyond the diaper stage.

The Parental Unit has been on the drawing board for a very, very long time. Preliminary prototypes went in all sorts of directions: variations on current designs were proposed and discarded; crazy and cool but impractical accessories were tested and rejected. It spent time on the shelves in the design studio—a sad place not unlike the Island of Misfit Toys. With a growing realization that we were, if anything, over-thinking the whole thing, and had perhaps gone down one too many rabbit holes, Tom returned to the concept in mid 2014, designing from the ground up.

The Parental Unit you see here is the result of Tom's resolve to build a "diaper bag" that does more than just assist parents with changing diapers: it'll help organize and mobilize any parent or parents that participate in the modern world with their young kids. Unless you're just letting them go feral out on the back 40, you're likely to appreciate how the P.U. can make trips to the store, to the in-laws, daycare and even the museum less stressful and perhaps just as much fun as they should be. Plus you won't look like a dork with some huge encumbrance slung over your shoulder, whacking nice people in the face as you navigate the narrow aisles of public transit or cozy restaurants. We particularly eschewed goofy printed fabrics: if you want a bag that screams "I'm a parent!", you'll have to look elsewhere. The Parental Unit was designed to be as svelte as possible, and equally stylish for all genders: long after the kids are out of diapers and on their way to college, the P.U. might still be your favorite go-to bag for everyday carry.

The P.U. is a shoulder bag, intended to be carried over one shoulder or with the strap cross-body, like a bike messenger bag. It comes with the Standard Shoulder Strap, but you can upgrade to the Absolute Shoulder Strap

In terms of organization, the Parental Unit has it in spades. It is symmetrical front-to-back: both facets have gently curved zippers that open to generous, but not excessive, organizer compartments. Both of these are further divided into three vertical sub-compartments; the dividers themselves are more generous at their tops so that the wearer can easily see down into the sub-compartments. The center of the three is sized to fit most diapers, wipe dispensers (travel or home size both fit) and/or a changing pad; the spaces on either side are good for baby bottles, water bottles, or snacks. Most parents tend to divide the utilization of the bag by putting food and drink on one face and diaper changing accoutrements on the other. Both front and back have smallish zippered pockets that are nonetheless more than adequate for big phones or even phablets, a wallet, keys, etc.

And while we’re on the topic of organization: inside The Parental Unit are 10 O-rings — small, round, plastic rings to which you can secure Key StrapsOrganizer Pouches, and other accessories for custom organization. We've included one 8” Key Strap in Black.

The center compartment opens with a top zipper with two zipper sliders. We assume you'll leave that unzipped most of the time for fast access to a toy or a spit-up cloth, but you can zip it shut in bad weather or if you need to stow it during travel. Two billowy open-top pouches are sewn front and back inside this main compartment—you can choose to leave them empty and just take advantage of the large space, or you can use them to further organize changes of clothes and more diapers, or stash food, wipes, rags, etc. The outer surfaces of these pouches have zippers that allow you to join them together, dividing that one big space into four smaller separate ones (we know that's hard to picture—see the images above). You might find that our Travel Stuff Sacks keep changes of clothes better organized, but of course zip-lock type bags are fine too.

Two simple 1” / 25mm webbing handles can be found inside the zipper of the main compartment. These two handles give you an easy way to grab and move or carry the Parental Unit while its main compartment is zipped open. This is mostly to use while loading the Parental Unit: say, moving it from the kitchen to the nursery, for example. Because the handles are sewn inside, they politely disappear when you zip the bag shut.

Outside, near the top on the back, is a 1" / 25mm flat triangular snaphook: if you require fast access to your keys you'll appreciate this, but Junior would probably prefer you put a small teddy bear or binky there instead.

The P.U. is made of easy-to-wipe 525 ballistic nylon, and lined with 200d Halcyon/nylon ripstop. We agonized over whether to use YKK Aquaguard zippers; in the end, we went with standard #8 YKK coil zippers instead because they are noticeably easier to use, and we know that parents often do whatever they are doing with one hand. Otherwise the Parental Unit has the usual TOM BIHN attention to detail in construction: top-shelf materials, taped seams, and lots of bartacks.

Choosing an Exterior Fabric

You like choices and we like to give you choices! That's why the Parental Unit is typically available* in two different exterior fabrics. Our Materials Glossary explains each fabric in great detail, but here are some quick facts that may help you decide which to choose. And we're always here if you have questions:

400d Halcyon
Weave: plain weave with 1/4” / 6mm ripstop
Fibers: 400 denier type 6 filament nylon (base fabric); 420 denier ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene ripstop grid
Coating: light urethane
Made in: Japan

Choose this fabric if:
  • You want a lighter weight alternative to traditional nylon fabrics that has remarkable tear strength and good abrasion resistance.
  • You're looking for a fabric with a modern, "technical" appearance.
  • You have pets: 400d Halcyon doesn't collect pet hair, reducing your monthly lint roller costs.

525d High Tenacity Ballistic Nylon
Weave: 2x2 “ballistic” weave
Fibers: 525 denier type 6,6 (high tenacity) filament nylon, twisted
Coating: heavy urethane
Made in: South Korea with Canadian yarn

Choose this fabric if:
  • You want your bag to be soft and supple yet tough as nails.
  • You want a fabric that's stately enough to be at home at work, the mountains, or a nice hotel.
  • You don't want your bag to collect pet hair or abrade your clothing.

*There may be times when one of the exterior fabrics mentioned here isn't available. Even with our best efforts, the demand for our bags occasionally outpaces our production capabilities: at times, some products, color combinations, or fabrics might be temporarily unavailable or "In Production." See the In Production color combinations as a guide to what our factory crew is making and what will be available next.

Customer Reviews

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Design Notes

The story of the development of the Parental Unit Diaper Bag is a long and circuitous story indeed. Originally, I had hopes of introducing it with two cool accessories: a diaper changing pad, and a truly waterproof zippered pouch (to keep wet stuff from getting everything else in your bag wet too, or to keep dry stuff from getting wet with everything else). The diaper changing pad went through several false starts: I designed and built a very cool pad that was held in its folded-up state by small magnets: with a flick of the wrist (of one hand, no less - you've got the baby in the other hand, right?), you could open the pad. However, the materials were problematic as they weren't readily machine washable, plus the pad ended up being far more expensive to build than even we could justify. After much consideration, I realized that there were plenty of affordable and washable changing pads already on the market, and that what I was working on was, on all fronts, overkill.

The completely waterproof zippered pouch, on the other hand, was coming along pretty well: it was going to be made for us by a company that specializes in welding plastic (in our case, the heavy-duty clear urethane we use on our Clear Pouches). It featured a very specialized, truly waterproof/airtight zippered closure that was going to be made for us by a new, small company that had invented it. We had samples made, we tested them and we were excited. Well, I was very excited, anyway. Then, in the eleventh hour, the company decided that it wasn't able to offer us the zippers it has promised us: the military also wanted the company to develop something, we couldn't compete for the company’s time and attention. I think I was a little heartbroken, as the first samples of this pouch were so cool, and I knew we'd want to eventually offer it in other sizes and configurations for other users as well.

So back to the drawing board with the whole idea I went, eventually realizing that most people are going to use Ziploc® -type plastic bags anyway, and are likely to already have a favorite changing pad. So then... I needed to get down to the nuts and bolts of the bag itself. Again, watching how people used their existing diaper bags was key: being able to access the pockets and compartments with one hand, while the bag sat on your hip, was the Holy Grail (though most parents claim to have eyes in the back of their heads, I think they'd prefer to have as many arms and hands as a Hindu God or Goddess). I wanted the bag to be very flexible in its organization, with the maximum number of pockets/compartments that accommodated the largest array of the common objects that most parents tended to carry. And I wanted to make sure that the basic bag would also be usable to non-parents: parenthood lasts a long time, but our bags tend to last even longer.

I'm pretty proud of results, and I think the finished bag speaks for itself.
- Tom

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