Review: Mountainsmith 'Man Purse'


The Mountainsmith Tour, a new and improved version of the long out of fashion fanny pack, is useful on days when you need to carry just a few essentials that don’t warrant a full pack. For me, it bridges that odd gap between overstuffed pockets and a backpack.

The $70 Tour, which measures about 11.5 × 10 × 5 inches, has numerous pockets and straps. In my test, it proved to be a great all-around gear bag for hikes and shorts excursions. There is a main access zip area and a smaller incidentals pouch inside. The outside has a small pouch on the center front that can house trail snacks and a camera.

Mountainsmith Tour Fanny Pack.jpg

Mountainsmith Tour Lumbar Pack

Both sides of the bag have bomber mesh pouches made for water bottles, and elastic draw cords make it possible to completely close off the pouches for storing smaller items you can’t risk losing. Unfortunately, I always have to use a carabiner or webbing to further attach the water bottles to the bag. While running or hiking hard, the bottles can pop out of their holders.

Overall, I have used this bag as an everyday “man purse” as well as for a carry-on when flying. I use it in the wilderness sometimes as a overnight pack — it is just big enough with about 500 cubic inches of capacity to contain all of my gear for an ultra-light trip. The bungee strap and adjustable webbing on the outside of the bag allow me to attach a jacket. On a recent overnight, I was able to fit in my tarp, a tiny tent, food, stove, water, extra clothes, and more.

The Tour’s ripstop fabric ensures that the occasional scrape on rocks and debris will not send its contents pouring out the side. Supple padding on the back of the bag is adequate and allows you to carry bulky items with out great discomfort.

Mountainsmith Tour Fanny Pack gear.jpg

The Tour with its gear haul on display

It comes with a single shoulder strap that is decent, but not extraordinarily comfortable when you have a haul. In my use, the strap pad shifts a lot onto my back or chest instead of staying firmly on top of my shoulder — annoying. (I never picked up the dual shoulder harness, an optional accessory.)

This pack comes with a waist belt to use in conjunction with the shoulder strap. Some people forgo the shoulder strap altogether and wear the Tour as a true fanny pack. But every time I have attempted it, the bag flops and moves around on my hips.

In the end, you can call the Tour a man-purse or a fanny pack. You can sneer. But for me, it has served as a capable bag in all kinds of conditions. $70,

—Steve Hitchcock is a Colorado-based writer, teacher, organic farmer, and outdoors guide. He blogs at

Posted by Joy - 09/17/2009 11:36 AM

I’m not a man, but have owned the earlier [yellow] version for years. They’re built like iron and very useful.

Posted by Tiffany - 09/17/2009 02:50 PM

Nor am I man. But the day that my MTNSmith tour pack dies, a small part of me will die. Hopefully, I’ll go first. It is one of best pieces of gear I own. I guess I’m saying: I agree, Steve, I agree. :)

Posted by Scott - 09/19/2009 03:12 PM

I have a Mountainsmith fanny pack but I keep defaulting back to an old Kelty unit that is more than a decade old and only has one outside pocket. The reasons? (1.) the Kelty uses 2” wide webbing which keeps it from shifting around, something the current makers of “waistpacks” should reconsider since they’re all based on 1” wide webbing. (2.) the bottle pockets hold bottles properly, which the Mountainsmith unit won’t do.

The Mountainsmith belts suffer tend to work loose and mine (a “Blaze II”, roughly corresponding to the current “Day”) suffers from OverZippification, which is where it has little pockets and zips for everything, limiting the size of what can be carried in the main pouch. That all said, it’s a dandy SLR camera bag.

Posted by JohnHP - 12/12/2013 11:51 AM

That bag fits so many items inside! Ours are a bit more traditional but the premise is the same. You can see them here: Chapman Bags

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