Graco Pack ‘N Plays (PNP) have become such a staple in the baby gear market that they are now like Kleenex – the model name is synonymous with the product. We don’t call them travel cribs we call them PNPs just as we call most tissue Kleenex. So as a first time mom it didn’t dawn on me that I would need anything other than a PNP, so when I saw one at my local grocery store on clearance I snagged it up.
It worked AWESOME as a cosleeper when my son was tiny. I put it right next to my bed and I really felt the flat open surface helped him transition to a crib. It worked great as a place for him to nap in our living room after that. Then it was great to take with us as a place for him to sleep when we traveled…. Until he started to stand and jump. Then I didn’t like it because of the raised bottom it would wobble under him when he stood and jumped.
I decided since we do travel a bit I wanted to look for something better and more sturdy for that.
I found a couple that intrigued me – the Baby Bjorn travel crib and the lotus travel crib. Both were around $200 which was more than I had to spend at the time so I decided to make do with the PNP for the time being, but put them on my want list for the future since we planned on having more kids.
Fast forward a year or so and I’ve had another baby and we have a trip coming up for Christmas. My older son still sleeping in a crib so I start looking at the Lotus and Bjorn again scouring for deals. I really couldn’t decide between the two so I thought I would just get whichever one I could find the better deal on. The Bjorn came down around Black Friday so I snagged it up.
Long story short we transitioned to toddler bed before the trip and I didn’t take the Bjorn with us.
So it’s been sitting unused but now that my baby is getting older we’re getting the PNP out again and I said HEY! I have that Bjorn travel crib lets test this thing out and see if it’s worth keeping or if I should sell it.
So this is my review of the Bjorn Travel Crib compared to the Graco Pack ‘N Play.
Side by side visual comparison the Bjorn immediately looks quite a bit smaller. But this is deceiving as I found when I broke out my tape measure! The PNP measures 39.5″ long by 28.5″ wide. The Bjorn is narrower at the top than it is the bottom. The top is 33″ x 21.5″ but at the bottom, what would be the sleep surface, is 41″ (longer than the PNP) x 24″ (shorter than PNP). The PNP is 28.5″ tall with the bottom platform being 5.5″ off the ground. The Bjorn Travel Crib Light is 25″ tall but only 1″ off the ground (overall 1″ deeper than PNP).
In terms of size, it’s a draw for me, so it’s a matter of what’s important to you and what space you’re working with.
Best in size: Tie!
When it comes to cleaning the two portable cribs, the Bjorn is going to win hands down. The entire cover comes off and is machine washable. That is a HUGE plus, in my opinion. Babies and kids are messy. My PNP is nasty just from 1 kid using for a year and it’s not as easily cleaned since the cover cannot come off and be thrown in the washer like the Bjorn.
Cleaning Winner: Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light
Assembly/Pack Up/Stored Size
The Bjorn comes in it’s own zippered handled case. The case is thicker than that of the PNP. The manual for the Bjorn is tucked into a pocket on the inside of the case.
Pull it out of the case and the mattress is wrapped around the crib. Open up the mattress and then open up the crib. Once you’ve opened up the crib, it’s so easy it’s ridiculous. just pull those legs up and they snap into place.
Then flip it over put the mattress in, pull the red tabs through on the corners and snap them in and you’re set! Taking it apart is nearly as easy, just reverse those steps and to get the legs down you just pull them back out (PULL! it says) and they fall back down, fold it up and put it back in the case! Simple!
The PNP … well … not as simple. To set up and take apart is like a 10 step process. The buttons/sides get stuck at times when trying to fold and unfold. There is a thin cover that covers it once folded with a handle.
In regards to portability, the Bjorn is much lighter. The Bjorn folded is long and wide but thin since it’s basically only folded in half. The PNP is a much smaller footprint folded because it’s essentially folded in 4.
Assembly/Pack Up/Stored Size Winner: Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light
The mattress is more plush on the Bjorn than the PNP. This is because the PNP mattress has to be hard on the back because it’s also the outer cover once folded. It’s also more comfortable as it’s essentially on the floor so it’s not going to wobble a whole lot, whereas the PNP floor is very wobbly once the baby can stand and/or jump as it’s quite a few inches off the floor.
Comfort Winner: Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light
The PNP has the Bjorn beat on additional accessories by far. You can get PNP’s with all kinds of features – changers, nappers, bassinets, mobiles – plus you can buy all kinds of sheets and other accessories. The fact that you can even use the PNP as a bassinet is a great advantage over the Bjorn because as a mom of a newborn you don’t want your baby that low to the ground, plus it’s very far to bend to put them in and take them out. For the Bjorn you’re pretty much just limited to sheets for the mattress. This may or may not matter to you in your purchase of a portable crib, but a point to compare as well.
Accessories Winner: Graco Pack ‘N Play
For families who travel fairly regularly such as ours, comfort is very important. You’re replacing the baby or child’s normal sleep environment – a nice cushy mattress – with something much smaller. Comfort and semblance to their normal sleep environment are important to keeping sleep habits and schedules while traveling. Also for travelers, set up/take down and folded size are hugely important. When you’ve been traveling all day or had crying kids in the car, the last thing you want to do when you finally get to your hotel is be messing with this thing getting it set up. Folded size is important because it’s one more thing you have to lug with you when you travel now that you have kids! In all of these areas, the Bjorn wins by a landslide.
However, we do use it at home which is much more often than we travel. As a place to be safe from dogs or to take a quick snooze in the living room, both the PNP and Bjorn will serve those functions fine. However, as a primary sleeping place for a young baby, you can’t beat the bassinet feature on the PNP. In terms of my current decision though, my baby is old enough that we won’t use the bassinet feature too much longer. Fortunately for me, I got my PNP for $40. The same one retails at Amazon for double that, and it’s one of the VERY basic PNP’s. The Bjorn is around $230. I got it for $160. So in my case, I’m going to keep them both – KEEP ALL THE PORTABLE CRIBS! HA!
But, if I were starting all over again, I would go with the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light. It’s lighter, easier to use and maintain as a portable crib than the PNP. For a bassinet type solution, if needed, I would go with something like the Arms Reach – which I also got one of this time (I am a baby gear junkie), maybe that’s my next review!
However if you don’t want to have separate pieces for these functions, or if you have a limited budget, the Graco Pack ‘N Play would be a great choice as well. I really don’t think the ones with the fancy extra features are necessary. Even my basic one had the bassinet feature, which is all you really need.
Now the one we’re missing here is the Lotus! How does it compare? Well I have some friends that might be able to help me compare the Lotus to these so I will update if I can get the Lotus comparison as well!