After all the theoretical considerations it’s now time to get to the good parts. Yepp, time to talk about which product you should actually be wearing or at least might prefer to wear, given your specific situation. As always, this will be subjective, but since I’ve tried out a lot of things I think I can at least give you some pointers.
Let me preface this by saying that with all this you need to keep in mind that there is a whole hygiene article industry behind all this which isn’t necessarily always a good thing. There’s a lot of pricey drugstore brands and experimental stuff out there whose practicality and effectiveness do not go beyond more ordinary, but cheaper medical products. People’s awkwardness with the subject matter has led to a line-up of funny looking penis-sheaths, pull-up pants with fake patterns to mimic underwear down to inserts/ pads with elaborate flower patterns and exotic scents. While for some situations they may be just the ticket, we will not pay too much attention to those. They are usually only aimed at the most harmless cases of urine incontinence or occasional use and well, the price would in many cases be prohibitive if you needed to use them on a daily basis.
With that out of the way, let’s have a look at some of the basic requirements for a suitable padding.
- It needs to be reasonably absorbent – obviously. This means that its size and thickness need to be as such, that you can go with it for so and so many hours without worrying about anything, you can pee in your diapers so and so many times before a change is due or whatever you make it dependent on.
- It needs to feel safe, convenient and unobtrusive. There is no point in getting the “best” diaper (as per its specs) if it doesn’t feel good. You’ll be wearing it for some time at least, so even minor dysfunctions and annoyances can quickly turn into aggravation and frustration. You simply do not want to be reminded that you are actually wearing something just because e.g. a too wide pad is rubbing against your thighs and causes sores and rashes.
- It needs to hold tight. Again one of those obvious things, but it’s far too easy to end up with a diaper that leaks just because the seams are not strong enough or the pad is oozing out moisture under pressure.
- It needs to fit properly. Often underestimated, it’s actually one of the more critical aspects. A good diaper or pad needs to fit rather snugly. This will minimize the risk of your excretions ending up in the wrong place and helps to seal in odours. It also reduces the risk of your protection getting all wrinkled up and tearing holes into it or loosening the adhesive tapes. Strange as it may sound, it even helps when your diaper is already wet, since keeping it closer to your body will keep it warm instead of the liquid turning cold.
Now let’s have a look at the individual options.
Anatomical pads/ inserts
This is the most basic type of protection and there isn’t really much to say about it. It’s essentially the same as the pads women can buy for their menstrual bleeding, only bigger. There are some considerable limitations in pads due to how they are supposed to work, though.
First, they cannot be infinitely thick to begin with. Since they are meant to be held up by your underwear, they can only have so much weight and surface area, even more so once they get wet. In turn this means that you need to have some rather stable undies and that limits your choices. Forget about those soft micro fibre briefs, loose boxers or laced lingerie, it will be something else from here on.
Second, strange as it may seem, but pads are actually not particularly stealthy. Once they get moist, they tend to become very visible when your underwear is sagging, they shift position, or the color of the pad changes under those light summery polyester pants. You may also end up seeing an additional “seam line” in addition to the one from the underwear itself.
With all those factors in mind, in my opinion pads are really only useful for the mildest cases where you’re just slightly dripping and want to avoid dirtying up your underwear. In these scenarios you can settle for a small pad that may not be that noticeable, but not for really serious situations. There’s just to many cons in terms how it will actually impact some of your everyday choices the bigger the pad will have to be and at some point it simply becomes impractical.
Next on the menu are pull-up pants that more or less can be used like normal briefs. Manufacturers often get fancy and call them Active Pants or similar, suggesting that they are easier to use without impacting your daily routine, but that is very much matter of point of view.
The problem is of course the fit and how well you are actually able to pull them up. I have a hard time imagining this especially with people beyond a certain age that have difficulties due to arthritic joints and other problems with their muscles and bones. Unlike your cloth underwear it’s much easier to rip such a paper pant apart if you don’t have the necessary fine motor control. From my own testing I also find the fit less than ideal. They also generally look extremely unsexy in my opinion. As you can see in the picture below, they tend to look like grandma’s ruffled and laced knickers which is not the most desirable for a male person. ;-)
Otherwise their use is pretty much in line with what I wrote about pads – they’re not meant for heavy duty since the pads in them can only hold so much before welling over or the pant gets so heavy, it’s sliding down your butt. I guess what I’m saying that they avoid some of the problems of just inserts/ pads, but do not necessarily work better – for me, anyway.
Flex/ Belt pants
These are a bit of an oddity for me. Here’s why: Just like a dance belt/ jockstrap they are supposed to be held higher up on your waist line, but as I’ve said many times, I certainly don’t have the figure of a ballet dancer. See the problem?
The way the are supposed to be fixed for me limits their practical use as you essentially end up with a large towel between your legs with some ribbons attached. Since there is no paper around your thighs, the pad swings around from side to side, which can be an odd sensation. The lack of extra friction by ways of more paper surface also puts the diaper at risk of sliding down rather easily, so it tends to have a rather loose fit with a higher risk of sideway leakage once you have a gap. On the other hand if you have a body type that is suitable and they fit like a glove, they should very likely keep you quite safe even if you are leaking a lot. The thickness is not limited and they come even with the highest absorbency ratings.
One thing that stuck with me is that the tapes have one considerable disadvantage: They use a velcro tape like fixation system and if you are not carefully enough placing it on the strings, it can feel itchy and scratch on your skin. It’s also sometimes a bit difficult to unfold the straps since due to the folding of the diaper in the packaging they stick to the inside and need to be carefully torn off. Once you have managed that part, though, flex diapers are actually the most easy to put on while standing – you can fixate the belt first and then simply pull up the flap. This also makes it easy to use them on the road, when you are just using them as a “just in case” protection, but otherwise want to use the toilet like a normal person.
Funnily the somewhat experimental state of this diaper type is also reflected by everyone having a slightly different system for the belt straps and flap as shown above, making it even more difficult to decide which is the best for you. Personally I wouldn’t use them regularly, but could see them as an alternative on very hot summer days when you want your sweaty skin covered as little as possible.
Slip/ Briefs pants
A cross between conventional boxer shorts and “tighty whities” (the actual appearance varies from brand to brand) these are my favorite shape and actually the most used ones in the medical care industry, hence they offer the widest selection of brands and models. There is of course a reason for this – not only is this the historically established standard form, but also offers the best protection and fit in many cases even if sometimes it’s a lot of paper to wrap around your hip.
Most critically for me naturally is the backside protection. There simply is no other type of diaper that will wrap around your bum as gently and still fit tight enough to not let anything out. Since, as I already mentioned, I also do not have an athlete’s figure, the ability to adjust the fit by strategically placing the adhesive tapes also is more than welcome. Slip/ briefs diapers also have the largest and thickest padding, if you so desire. For the really tough cases there is not much of an alternative to them. And finally: Since they are the most easy to mass-produce type (large area and no fiddly parts = easy to run through machines at high speeds = lots of pieces per hour), they are usually also the cheapest.
Are there disadvantages? Of course there are. Invariably the large number of brands to choose from makes picking the right one difficult. I currently have about 10 different ones in use for every occasion and at some point I must have had like 30 for testing and more on my list still. Ultimately that’s why I started this series (and will continue it with specific product reviews at some point) and that’s probably why you are reading my hubub. From the actual shape of the pad to the minute variations in size (as we all know, a size M is not the same size M everywhere) there are notable differences that require some experimentation. The other downside is that they can cause skin problems more than other types. Due to the tight fit and large area covered even a “breathable” model can make you feel sweaty, which could be a problem in summer.
A subjective matter is the bulkiness. People always go crazy over this. Yes, you can get a rather “fat” butt with a thick diaper, but truth be told, unless I tell people or the nappies peek out of my jeans, they almost never know. Now I’m the person that doesn’t care much about other people’s opinions and reservations (hey, it’s 2015, not Victorian England!), but if you are a bit sensitive and shy this is of course a factor. In such a case you might want to scale back.
There are a number of special products that try to combine the best of both worlds such as Prevail Stretch or the above depicted Attends Adjustable. They simplify the fastening process by only using one adhesive tape per side and borrow the belt from flex diapers, but with a larger width double or triple the one of a flex while otherwise retaining the center piece of the more robust regular types. This actually works amazingly well and they could easily be my favorite. In any case, they should make once again a good alternative for warmer times of the year and are probably as close as it gets to what real underwear feels and looks like while wearing them. If you put some boxers on top they are literally invisible since nothing sticks out. Yay! :-)
Bringing this article to a close, of course there really is only one way to find out which diaper suits you best – actually wearing different models and comparing their advantages and disadvantages. This can be most easily done by asking for free sample pack at your favorite drugstore/ pharmacist/ med supply store or ordering respective packages from mail order outlets. A lot of the samples you see in this article (and the ones to come still) have come from my current supplier Schanders.de for instance. I would also recommend that once you have a basic idea of how well a specific brand and model may fit your needs, you buy a package of the brand and model you want to wear, so you can go through a full cycle of 24 hour use for several days to figure out how comfortable you feel wearing them for extended periods of time and if things like the necessary changes are practical and easy enough under different situations.