Hiking Fanny Packs: The Ultimate Thru-Hiking Accessory
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a resurgence of a long-lost friend from the 90s, the fanny pack. Call it what you want (hip pack, bum bag, belt pack, moon pack, waist pack). Either way, the fanny pack is back and seemly everywhere. These small pouches sit on your waist and typically holding between half to three liters of gear. Their popularity is soaring, but are they more than just a fashion statement?
Why are hiking fanny packs becoming so popular?
There are a few reasons why some hikers are calling out fanny packs as one of their favorite pieces of gear:
The loss of a hip belt or detachable pockets. Over the past few years, many big brands have removed the hip belt pockets as standard. The most notable of these was the Osprey Exos that in 2018 ditched the hip belt pockets completely. Likewise, the “brain” (aka top lid) doesn’t seem to be as popular as it once was.
The fast/light movement. With more people opting for FKTs or just faster hikes in general, the need for accessible storage increases. Fanny packs allow you to get through the day without having to stop to open up your main pack, allowing you to push more miles out of the day. In addition, if you are rocking an ultralight no-hipbelt pack that means no hipbelt pockets, reducing the amount of available accessible storage available to you (see No. 1).
Photography/videography. Phenomenal on-trail pictures come at a cost. We’ve met hikers carrying a large DSLR with 1-2 lenses plus maybe a tripod. This won’t fit into even the most generous of hip belt pockets, so many are opting for a fanny pack to store this equipment instead.
Fashion. Similar to why some notable hikers wear a Hawaiian shirt. Hiking fanny packs look downright cool! A lot of them play on that retro vibe with bright funky colors and customizations.
Why would I use a hiking fanny pack?
Initially, taking a fanny pack on a long-distance hike didn’t make any sense to me. I was trying to carry less, not more, so the thought of carrying two packs with me didn’t sit right. Over the last year, I’ve slowly been converted. I am now firmly on Team Fanny Pack for the following reasons:
Easy access to high-use items. Hiking fanny packs gives you quick access to high-use items like your phone, a headlamp, or your water filter. Having immediate access to your most used items throughout the day can be a timesaver. It also stops you rooting through the cavernous 50L bag only to find your battery pack was hiding in your quilt the whole time. In addition, if you have any medical supplies like an EpiPen or inhaler, having these in quick reach could be a lifesaver.
You can snack on the move. As you start to push longer days you’ll start to notice that breaks where you set your pack down become fewer and farther between. With raging hiker hunger that doesn’t bode well. A fanny pack means that you no longer have to set your pack down, open it up, or rummage down a front stuff sack to get your energy bars. In addition, your wrappers can go right back into the fanny pack when you’re done, reducing the risk of inadvertently leaving a trace.
Doubles as a wallet/purse in town. It’s polite to leave your stinky pack outside when entering a shop or restaurant in town. With a fanny pack, you can set your backpack straight down, knowing you’ve got all your valuables with you.
Don’t risk stuff falling out of your pockets. If you’re rock scrambling, the last thing you want to see is your phone making a break for it. That’s why is it generally a bad idea to keep your valuables in your running short/loose pockets. A fanny pack gives you easy yet secure access to your most valuable things. In addition, if you are to fall, you’re less likely you smash your valuables in a fanny pack than a hip belt pocket. Trust me. This happened to me during a mistimed rock hop in the Sierras.
It can keep your gear dry/safer. A fanny pack sits on your front, meaning that when you put your raincoat on it will cover it for additional protection (we still recommend putting valuable items in a ziplock). Wearing a fanny pack under your clothes can also keep your valuables a little safer if you’re going through somewhere where pickpockets operate.
Overpack on the way out of town. Although it won’t add bundles of storage to your setup, having a place to throw some extra candy bars can be ideal if you have underestimated just how much carrying capacity you have. Think of the fanny pack as an extra storage compartment. Some have a mesh front that expands to fit your extra stash but can be stowed in your main pack taking up virtually no space if you decide you don’t need it. This is sometimes how I rock mine, wearing it for the first few days out of town and then stowing it down the front of my main pack as it gets roomier/lighter.
What are we rocking at The Trek?
- MSRP: $45
- Capacity: 2.5 liters
- Dimensions: 9 x 5 x 3 inches
- Weight: 3.5 ounces
From our contributors: “The Thrupack Summit Bum Fanny pack is an extremely well-made and versatile piece of gear; mine performed great on the Vermont Long Trail this past hiking season. It can hold a surprising amount of small items, from your phone to several snacks, to keys/wallets. Basically anything small that you might want to have easy access to on-trail can fit comfortably in this fanny pack. There are two small pouches inside the main compartment, a clip for keys, and a soft mesh outside pocket for extra organization. The zipper is extremely durable and great at keeping moisture out, and the strap is easily adjustable. While on trail, mine sits comfortably in between the hip belt pockets of my ULA Circuit pack. Off-trail, the Summit Bum is my bag of choice when going to work or running errands!” — Julia Gladstein
- MSRP: $30
- Capacity: 1.5 (also available in 2.5 liters)
- Dimensions: 9 x 5 x 4 inches
- Weight: 4 ounces
From our contributors: “I love the Cotopaxi Fanny Pack due to its storage capabilities and versatility. I need a pack that can fit my phone, keys, and wallet for smaller outings and not be too chunky, but also something that can hold all my snacks for a day of backpacking. I also really like that it has a couple of mesh pockets to separate items. The Bataan uses fabric made from other companies’ larger production runs as part of the company’s (re)purpose mission to reduce their footprint. The pack is super comfortable wearing over the shoulder or around the waist, and the color is just an awesome plus.” — Paige Frendahl
- MSRP: $29.95
- Capacity: 2 liters
- Dimensions: 11.5 x 5 x 2 inches
- Weight: 4.3 ounces
From our contributors: “Although I can’t speak to the performance of REI’s Trail 2 Waistpack in the context of a thru-hike (mine was purchased in March for a PCT NOGO), I can say that it’s been my go-to item for day hikes, city runs, errands around town, and just about everything in between. It’s big enough to hold my wallet, keys, phone, mask, and hand sanitizer, yet small enough that nothing gets lost inside.
“It works well worn in the traditional manner on the front of my body in combination with a backpack, on the back of my waist when I’m on a run, or cross body, typically done when I’m using it as an around-town purse. While not as sexy or thru-hiker centric as some of the other options out there, REI’s Trail 2 Waistpack is a great choice for someone who wants a budget-friendly and versatile introduction to the world of fanny packs.” — Rachel Skonecki
- MSRP: $52 (£39.50)
- Capacity: 1.5 (also available in 2.5 liters)
- Dimensions: 8 x 5 x 2.5 inches
- Weight: 3 ounces
From our Contributors: “The Roo from Atom Packs is a great option for those looking for a lightweight yet well thought through fanny pack. The design does not skimp on features, with a mesh pouch at the front and an internal sleeve at the back of the pack. This is my favorite feature of the pack as it means my phone, cards or keys don’t bounce around when the fanny pack is almost empty. I also use the pack whilst running so this is really helpful for holding a few items secure in place. The Roo is also big enough for me to store a base-layer or raincoat when I want to strip off on the move.
The Cosmic No-Waste Roo is made from offcuts and is perfect for the environmentally-conscious consumer as it reduces the amount of waste going to landfill. With a lucky dip of fabric, these bright packs look amazing hiking through the woods or carrying out errands in town.” — Joal Hos
- MSRP: $45
- Capacity: 2.5 Liters
- Weight: 4.3 ounces
From our Contributors: “The Chicken Tramper fanny pack was a great and necessary addition to another thru-hike. I loaded it up with my phone, headphones, power bank, and snacks each morning and could walk seamlessly until lunch. In towns, the fanny pack made a super smooth transition from my pack hip belt to my waist to carry only what I needed and leave everything else behind. Didn’t have to worry about anything less than a downpour due to its water resistance. For those interested, the 2.5-liter can comfortably fit four beers.” — Brian Steadman
- MSRP: $70
- Capacity: 2.25 Liters
- Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 2.5 inches
- Weight: 2.91 ounces (without strap)
From our Contributors: “Built from ultra-tough, waterproof Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF), this larger-capacity fanny pack can be worn around your waist, slung over your shoulder, or in conjunction with a pack (for most hikers). The zippers are watertight, and the pack has an inner mesh pocket for organizing smaller items as well as a clip for keys. You can also tuck in the ‘wings’ on the sides of the Versa and wear it on your sternum strap as an additional option for organizing and extra capacity.
“This pack has an amazing capacity—it can hold a soft-flask water bottle, a headlamp, compact filter, snacks, and a charger, making it ideal for day hikes. It’s also very comfortable, highly water-resistant, and the top zipper is wide and easy to access. But if you’re on the smaller side and looking for a fanny pack to wear in conjunction with your backpacking pack, I’d opt for something with smaller dimensions.” — Maggie Slepian
Responses edited for length and clarity.
Other Notable Hiking Fanny Packs
While this is not an exhaustive list, here are a few more we’ve heard good things about:
- MSRP: $40
- Weight: 2.3 ounces
- Capacity: 1.7 liters
No frills, no problem. This water-resistant nylon ripstop fanny pack has one job (keep your important stuff near at hand) and it does it well.
- MSRP: $68
- Weight: 2 oz.
- Capacity: 1L
Philly-based Hightail collaborated with artists to create a series of visually stunning watercolor-inspired hiking fanny packs. But their DCF-hybrid packs aren’t just gorgeous—they’re also rugged, ultralight, and ready to hit the trail.
- MSRP: $22.50
- Weight: 3.1 ounces
- Capacity: 1.5 liters
The Bumster is made from ultra-tough Robic fabric for maximum durability and has plenty of internal pockets for organization.
- MSRP: $40
- Weight: 2.2 ounces
- Capacity: 1.4 liters
Liteaf’s funky printed DCF shines in its Feather Weight Fanny Pack. One version of this colorful fanny pack can even replace a detachable hip belt on an ultralight backpack. This pack is fully waterproof, with taped seams and a waterproof zipper.
- MSRP: $65-$75
- Weight: 3.3 ounces with belt
- Capacity: 1.7L
Choose your material and color on this versatile made-to-order fanny pack, which has a removable hip belt. Lead times are currently about a month, so you might want to get on that sooner than later.
- MSRP: $65
- Weight: 2.8 ounces
- Capacity: 1.7 liters
That stands for “front utility pack accessory.” The FUPA is a straightforward fanny pack made with waterproof DCF, waterproof zippers, and fully taped seams for maximum durability and protection. It has plenty of pockets and can be clipped directly to a Zpacks backpack (so you won’t need the removable webbing strap).
Fanny packs have cemented themselves as a great option for any hiker, no matter the distance. For short hikes, they can be a one-stop shop for all the gear you need to carry out. Meanwhile, for thru-hikes, the versatility can outshine the benefits of a more traditional setup. There’s a fanny pack to suit every budget, so this would also make a great gift for an aspiring thru-hiker.
Rocking a fanny pack we should know about? Let us know in the comments.
Some of the items mentioned above were gifted for the purpose of review.
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