Which Are The Best Pack And Plays & When Should You Buy One?

Why would any dad care what’s the best pack and play?

Let us imagine for a moment that your baby has started to crawl. It’s your turn to babysit, and you want to answer the door to get a pizza…where to put your baby? Leave him alone for a moment? Hold her in your arms and try joggling the money-pizza exchange with one hand? Run to another room and place him to a crib?

It's just so much simpler (and safer) to have a playpen in the same room. 

So I figured out that I'm lazy and safety-conscious enough to buy one.

But which is the best pack and play? Keep reading to find out.


Best Pack And Plays Reviewed In This Article

What is a Pack And Play?

The terminology can be quite confusing, so I wrote a small introductory paragraph.

That said feel free to skip this paragraph if you already know the topic.

The purpose of a playpen or a pack’n play is to provide a safe space for your baby to play in. They don’t have to comply with federal laws though.

Playards and cribs, on the other hand, have to follow some federal rules.

This all said, all the reviewed pack and plays have a voluntary JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) certification. This means that they are safe for your kid to play in.

A Toddler Sitting In A Summer Infant Pack And Play

As the name suggests, pack and plays are usually designed for portability

 Pack And Plays Are Lightweight

These days it's rare to see heavy wooden frames. Modern pack and plays use materials like mesh and metal to minimize the weight.

Non-rigid mesh sides are also safe and allow good ventilation. 

Playpen Should Be Easy To Fold

You want a pack and play that's easy to set up and can be folded in seconds.

Wheels Are An Option

Wheels are a good feature if your pack and play is heavy and you don't want to fold it every time. 

Wheels also allow you to move the thing while your kid is sleeping in it.

Make sure that they are lockable though! Unexpected movements may cause accidents.

How To Choose The Best Pack And Play? 

Your needs define the best playard for you.

If You Have a Big House

It’s so convenient to have a playpen in the room where you spend most of your time. This holds especially true if your house has more than one floor. 

Some pack and plays count as traveling nurseries, and you can buy a lot of add-ons- a bassinet, a changing table, etc. These are usually quite heavy and they are not very easy to fold. That said, if you're planning to only use them at home, then they may be perfect.

Even if you have babyproofed your man cave, it may be a good idea to have a designated safe place for your kid. 

For example, if somebody breaks a glass, you need a time to clean the mess. This is where a playard becomes handy. Just leave your kid there for a couple of minutes until the emergency is over.

If The Airport Is Your Second Home

A pack and play is great if you travel a lot. You can always have a little safe playing space for your kid with you.

Although most hotels provide you with a crib, many parents prefer to buy a travel crib that can also function as a playpen.

In this case, it should be lightweight and easy to set up. You should also consider the mattresses thickness.

Consider Your Health

If you have back issues or you are not very tall, then you should check the height of sides and maybe opt for a one with a zip-up door.

The weight of pack and plays can vary considerably. Even playpens reviewed in this article weigh between 12lb and 30lb. If you have back problems, shoulder pains or knee issues, then it's best to buy as light a product as possible.

Which Extra Steps DadProgress Took To Find You The Best Playpen?

A meta-analysis is a study method where results of many different studies are combined to give a more precise answer.

I ended my quest to find the best playpen by reading 14 various “studies.” 

 Only four pack And Plays got mentioned more than five times!

On the diagram, you can see the names of these four most popular playpens.

Different Playards Compared- Diagram

After defining these four best play yards, I dived deep and read a lot of reviews from real parents to detect any problems. You can find the results under the reviews.

How To Find Safe Pack And Plays?

As I’ve already mentioned, pack and plays don’t have to meet any federal standards unless they are also considered cribs or play yards. 

Luckily for us parents, we don't have to dig too deep to make sure a product is safe for our baby though.

There are some independent testing and certification systems like JPMA out there. These are voluntary for manufacturers, but if a product is JPMA certified then it meets federal and state requirements.  

You can read more about them in the blue box or continue to reviews.

Safety: JPMA & OEKO-TEX & Greenguard

JPMA is a voluntary program in the U.S, Canada, and Mexico. It's based on ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) and certified products also meet federal and state requirements.

Oeko-Tex is a worldwide testing and certification system for textile products at all processing levels, as well as accessory materials used. They have a big list of substances that should not be used. There are four product classes. Articles for babies and toddlers should meet Class 1 standards.  

Greenguard is a testing system that ensures that a product meets chemical emission limits in indoors.


BEST Pack And Plays For DadProgress Reviewed

PROS

CONS

  • Very easy to automatically set up, no loose parts
  • Carry bag: 19 x 23.5 x 5.5in (49 x 60 x 14cm)
  • Assembled: 44 x 32 x 24in (112 x 82 x 64cm)
  • Mattress is included
  • Travel Cot Light is very durable
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    It's JPMA and Oeko-Tex (Class 1) certified
  • The sides of this pack and play are quite high. For example, many parents who are under 5,3" have found it difficult to put their baby in

It's understandable why Travel Cot Light and Lotus Travel Crib ended both with seven votes. They are very good for active parents and are quite similar. I like that the Travel Cot Light is Oeko-Tex certified. Travel Cot Light is also easier to set up and has a thicker mattress than the Lotus Travel Crib.

  • Easy to set up
  • Carry Bag: 24 x 8 x 12in (61 x 20 x 30.5cm)
  • Assembled:  46 x 31 x 25.5in (~117 x 79 x 65cm)
  • The Lotus Travel Crib has a zip-up door for easier baby transfer, soothing and it's great if you've got back issues
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    The carry bag is smaller than the one by BabyBjörn. It's a good thing if you have to fly with it
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    Mattress is included
  • Greenguad Gold certified
  • -

As I've already mentioned (sorry for repeating myself), Lotus Travel Crib and Travel Cot Light got both seven votes. They are great for active parents and are quite similar. A zip up door is a superb feature and sets Lotus Travel Crib apart from competitors. So the small company has really managed to create something unique here. It may also feel bigger than the BabyBjorn which has slanted legs.

  • It comes in a carry bag
  • Assembled: 40 x 28.5 x 33.25in (~101 x 72 x 84.5cm)
  • Mattress is included
  • It's very durable
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    You also get a crib
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    This Graco pack and play has a reversible napper and changer
  • This product is great if you need a second changing station in the beginning (weight limit is 15lb). You also get a crib for first months
  • It has wheels for mobility but some doors in your home may be too small for it 
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    Setup up is quite hard compared to other pack and plays in this article

Graco has a great variety of pack and plays for every need. 9 models were mentioned in my "study" and this pack and play with a reversible napper won the contest. Second most popular model by Graco was the On the Go.

  • Setup up is very easy, takes about 15 seconds
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    Carry Bag: 38 x 7 x 7in (~97 x 18 x 18cm)
  • The play area is 14 sq ft so you can keep two younger toddlers in it
  • Because the this floor is water resistant, it's easy to clean
  • There's no padding on the bars. Many parents have reported that their babies have hit themselves against the bars. You may want to consider a pipe insulation foam
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    Older toddlers can climb out using the crossed bars
  • If you are looking for a playpen where your kid can also sleep then this product isn't for you. You don't get a mattress
  • The canopy is easy to put on and the playpen looks great, like a little castle. That said, it doesn't protect your kid from the sun unless it's directly above you

This Summer Infant pack and play got 5 votes and it's a great playpen for outdoor use.

I ended up with this one because it's easy to take outside and clean afterwards. Summer Infant pack and play is also quite big and we have two little toddler running around parents' house.

That said, my didn't like to be in it and the next year he'll probably be able to climb out of it. One smart parent used this pack and play to make a ball pit...I may try it..

If you feel uneasy with the exposed bars, then you may want to consider other larger playards. Graco Pack 'N Play TotBlock (play area about 9 sq ft) and​ Joovy New Room2 (play area about 10 sq ft) got both four votes.

  • Setup up is very easy
  • Unfolded dimensions: 37 x 10 x 9.5in (~94 x 25 x 24cm)
  • Assembled: 9.5 sq ft
  • This pack and play is also a playpen so it has to meet federal standards
  • You get a mattress and a suitable sheet for this playard. As the play area is so big, you can have even twins sleep in it
  • It has two lockable wheels for portability
  • It's quite big even when folded and so it's not the best pack and play if you have to travel a lot

New Room2 shared fifth place with four other pack and plays. So why did I choose to review this one? First, it’s a playpen, so you get a large travel crib for your two young children. Although it’s big, it has lockable wheels for better portability.

To Sum Up

The best pack and play should meet your needs. Start choosing by first figuring out your lifestyle. After than you can see if any of the winners of DadProgress small study fit in. 

If you travel a lot

...then the Lotus Travel Crib (check the latest price on Amazon) and the Travel Cot Light (check the latest price on Amazon) are both equally good choices. The Lotus Travel Crib may be slightly better as it has a zip up door and it feels bigger.

If you are searching for a big pack and play or want to take it outside

If you are searching for a traveling nursery

Looking for the best pack and play for twins?

The best playpen for twins may be Joovy New Room 2 (check the latest price on Amazon).

Now we can finally order pizzas again!

I was looking for the best playpen ideas and concluded a small study to find the best pack and play for my baby. But why should you even buy it for your infant? I invite you to read why and how to find the best one for you!