Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Quick and Dirty* BumGenius Elemental Comparison

*Like, literally dirty. There's a pic of a dirty diaper in this post. FAIR WARNING. Also, I apologize in advance for the picture quality; these are just cell phone pics.

So in news that has the cloth diaper world abuzz, BumGenius redesigned the BumGenius Elemental (aka BGE), their natural-fiber all-in-one diaper. As an avowed fan of the old-style BGE - it's over half my stash - I was both incredibly excited and totally apprehensive about this new development. I love these diapers. Would I have to fiendishly horde my existing diapers, or would I desperately want to replace them all with the new BGEs?  And of course, testing new diapers is a total rush, right? RIGHT? Please tell me I'm not the only one to get excited about a new diaper.

So I bought one pretty much immediately.

If you want to skip to the summary, here it is: I'm not a fan. I hate to say it, CottonBabies, because I love everything you do for the most part, but I dislike the redesign. If you ever see this, my recommendation would be offering the redesigned version as a cheaper version of the BGE and keeping the original BGE as the Elite version. Or something. These kind of suck. :(   <-- Look, you've made me go and use an emoticon in a non-text-message setting. Now that's saying something!

Ok, so let's look at the differences.

The Differences

1. Width
The new cut is much wider than the old.  I never felt like the old version was particularly narrow; in fact, it was one of my wider diapers.  I feel like the new version bunches up between her legs much more and is baggy-er (baggier?) (WHY DON'T EITHER OF THOSE LOOK RIGHT?). At 18 months, she was just shy of 34 inches and was 25 pounds, and she's still on the middle rise and has plenty of room to grow (I like them with a low rise, as you'll see in later pictures).  I'm not sure how being wider is supposed to make the diapers fit a wider range of babies - when I do hear complaints, it's about the rise, not the width.

Old BumGenius Elemental (in Bubble) on top, new BumGenius Elemental (in Mirror) on bottom.

2. Inner
Previously, the BGEs had a cotton lining under under the inserts. They've removed the cotton liner so it's just  PUL underneath. Again, this is not a change I like. I know PUL isn't a delicate flower - I have some covers that are the same and they've done fine - but it FEELS like it's delicate, and I don't like have it exposed!

Also, it looks/feels cheap.

New BGE on the left, old BGE on the right.

Also also, the inserts bunch up while being worn. See pic below (WARNING: ACTUAL BABY PEE PICTURED) (HOWEVER I ASSUME YOU PROBABLY  HAVE OR ARE ABOUT TO HAVE AN ACTUAL BABY WHO WILL ACTUALLY PEE SO IT'S OK) to see what I mean. Now, this was taken mid-pee, as I was just trying to quickly change her diaper to get comparison pics, so it's not a full, um, void. But you can see what happened - as she was wearing it, the insert bunched up in the middle.  Again, this was a small, er, drain, but you can see it already reached the sides of the insert. With a big could easily hit the exposed PUL.  Sure enough, the next use had a regular size, uh, output, and it happened. Pee directly on the PUL. Leak. If you've ever had a pocket diaper with a too-small insert that didn't reach the sides and leaks because of it, it's the same situation.

It also means that the laminated side of the PUL is touching her, which doesn't seem like it would be as comfortable, but since I don't wear the diapers, I can't say whether that's the case or not.

Obviously, the lining was also absorbent, so removing that has removed a bit of absorbency. I'm not sure if they added extra layers to the insert to make up for it, but the inserts looked similar from what I could tell.

Finally, the new insert seems to be longer, and it was much harder to get it to lay flat. I had to tuck one end under (as you can see in the pee picture above), and that created a thick ridge in the diaper.

3. Leg casings
In the pic above, you can see that the leg casings of the new BGEs are encased in the PUL. The older ones had a rolled leg elastic, which you can see below.  Supposedly, this is designed to help prevent leaks and wicking, as the cotton isn't sewn to the outer/non-waterproof side of the PUL. Also, BGEs are known for their wear holes in the cotton, which tend to manifest along the legs since there is a lot of wear in that area. This is not something that I've personally had issues with in the 1.5 years of use, however, I do know people whose diapers have developed these holes. They don't affect the function of the diaper, and you can mend them or put FrayCheck on them if you want. The new design will eliminate those holes.  HOWEVER, the encased (new) elastic casing is not nearly as gentle on the legs as the rolled (old) casing. The new diaper, on the same snaps, left red marks on her legs, which the old diapers have never done. The new design does, however, avoid the "tucking" of the fabric that the old diapers required most of the time. Again, this was not something that ever bothered me, but I do know people who were irritated by it.

Old BumGenius Elemental on the left; new BumGenius Elemental on the right.

4. Miscellaneous
While I haven't tried it yet, the new BGE should make it easier to fit extra inserts into the diaper. I've never needed to do so with the old style, but I know people who do it in order to use their BGEs overnight. The new BGEs are supposed to dry faster, and while I found that to be true, it wasn't a significant enough time difference to make a big difference.

On the Bottom

With actual use, the new version looked bulkier and droopier and baggier.

Front is not incredibly different, but you can see there's more extra fabric between the legs with the new one (on the right) than with the old one (on the left). 

Old (left) versus new (right) - Not much difference from the back. 

 Here's where the difference really manifests. Both are trim, but the new (right) has 
much more extra fabric hanging loose than the old (left). 

All in all, I much prefer the old version. It looks and feels nicer, seems to be more absorbent, and fits my kid better. Your experience may vary, so I encourage you to give it a try and see what you think, but we won't be purchasing any more. 

Non-Scientific Theory Time
I have absolutely NO basis for this theory, but my totally non-scientific guess is that the redesign is actually a cost-saving measure, rather than a functional redesign, and that they are just packaging it as a functional redesign. Cotton is expensive, and the original design uses a lot of it. The original design is also much more complicated and therefore more labor-intensive. My guess would be that the new ones are overall cheaper to manufacturer and that the profit margin is greater on them. HOWEVER, that's just a guess. It could be totally wrong.