Call them what you will — waist packs, hip packs, lumbar bags — it all boils down to the same thing: a fanny pack.
All the rage in the ’90s and the topic of much ridicule in the decades since, hip/waist/fanny packs are almost certainly here to stay. Heck, more than that — they’re making a strong comeback. From fishing to trail running, travel to bike commuting, fanny packs prove endlessly versatile and useful.
Even the skeptics among us have to admit: Fanny packs are pretty great. Whether you want to carry a snack, pack your phone, stash hydration, or speed through airport security, a fanny pack helps you do it all without the hassle of slipping shoulder straps or unreachable zippers.
In fact, there’s a fanny pack for most every use, so we rounded up 10 of our favorites.
Review: 10 Best Adventure Fanny Packs
The Best Day Hike Fanny Pack: Mountainsmith Tour Lumbar Pack ($80)
Long known for making bomber lumbar packs, Mountainsmith’s Tour pack lives up to that reputation. It has plenty of features and is just the right size for a day hike. For hydration on the trail, the each of the side pockets holds a 32-ounce bottle. Or you can stash one with water and one with snacks for fast access on the trail.
The bungee cord is great for stashing a rain jacket, and the padded back provides plenty of comfort. The interior foam-padded pocket keeps your tablet (or beloved Kindle) safe, and the hip pocket can hold a large smartphone.
In response to user requests, Mountainsmith created men’s and women’s packs with a gender-specific fit. The women’s has a 6L capacity, and the men’s has a 9L capacity. Our testers found both remarkably comfortable and well-suited for both on-trail adventures and everyday general use.
The Best Adventure Photography Gear Pack: Peak Designs Field Pouch ($40)
Whether shooting professionally or snapping pics for fun, the field pouch will keep your memory card, power cords, batteries, and accessories organized and protected. The scratch-free, padded felt interior protects delicate camera gear, and we really like the waxed canvas outer.
One of our favorite features, though, is the outside attachment point where smaller cameras can directly clip on, keeping all your adventure photography gear in reach and easily accessible.
The Best Fishing Fanny Pack: Simms Freestone Fishing Hip Pack ($140)
This bag does everything a fishing pack should. It keeps your gear organized, allows for easy one-handed access, and doesn’t get in your way while casting and reeling in the big one. The fold-down workspace gives you a convenient mid-river workbench, and the compression straps easily handle a jacket.
We like to use the pack with the shoulder strap for a bit of extra support, but you can remove it. Best of all, the taped seams on the bottom keep everything dry during river crossings. This fishing fanny pack is a win for anglers everywhere.
The Best Fishing & Photography Fanny Pack: Mountainsmith Dry Tour Lumbar Pack ($180)
For adventurers that don’t fear water, be it rivers or snow, the Dry Tour Lumbar Pack may be the best option. From Mountainsmith, the Dry Tour is a waterproof lumbar pack with a roomy interior pocket and thick, comfortable pads that feel great all day long.
This one is minimal in design, with a central pocket, smaller pocket inside, and one last small exterior pocket. And it’s submergeable thanks to waterproof zippers and fabric.
Mountainsmith markets the Dry Tour for fishing and water-laden activities. But the pack carries so great that it hasn’t stopped us from taking it on multipitch rock climbs, hikes, and splitboard tours. At $180, this pack is expensive. But it’s also one of the most technical and capable on the list.
The Best Running Fanny Pack: Osprey Rev Solo Hydration Pack ($40)
Trail runners and endurance athletes rejoice! This pack was meant for you. The streamlined design keeps it light and comfortable while still having enough space to hold a snack, water bottle, keys, and phone.
As our editor explained, “The lightweight and breathable waist belt is barely noticed. It was so comfortable that I forgot I had it on. In fact, it took 15 minutes after I got home until I noticed I was still wearing it.”
The Best Dry Bag Fanny Pack: SealLine Seal Pak ($50)
It’s a dry bag, it’s a fanny pack, it’s both! The Seal Pak is a favorite for boating and a great choice for travel and everyday use. Stash your keys in the zippered compartment, toss in your daily essentials, roll the top down, and carry on knowing your gear will stay protected.
Note, it’s a watertight bag, not completely waterproof — meaning you shouldn’t fill it with valuables and submerge it for any length of time. If it’s closed properly, though, it will easily withstand a quick fall off the SUP or rainy-day hike.
The Best Hydration Fanny Pack: Dakine Hot Laps 5L Hydration Waistpack ($70)
Want to stay hydrated but prefer the lighter, cooler freedom of a waist pack? Meet the Hot Laps Waistpack. This pack holds a 2L hydration pack so you can enjoy hands-free sipping while also toting extra food and gear in the zippered pocket. We found it the perfect capacity to hold water, a bike tool, snacks, and a spare tube. And the magnetic buckle did a fantastic job holding the hydration hose in place.
This pack is a great choice for for mountain biking and lightweight hiking. Be forewarned, though, it’s not good for running. The larger capacity inevitably leads to a lot of bouncing around and fighting with the straps. But if you’re heading out to the flowy singletrack and are looking for a hydration pack waist option, this bag is for you.
The Best Lightweight Fanny Pack: Patagonia Lightweight Travel Mini Hip Pack ($29)
This popular pack is perfect for travel, festivals, minimalist hikes, walking the dog, or everyday use. The ripstop nylon fabric is impressively light, yet strong. And we like how quickly it dries when wet. The strap doesn’t offer any padding, but that shouldn’t be a problem because the small nature of this 1L pack prevents heavy loads.
As an added portability bonus, the pack folds into its own pocket when not in use. It’s perfect for stashing in your carry-on “just in case” or keeping as a backup in the car. Available in a variety of colors.
The Best Made-in-the-USA Fanny Pack: North St Pioneer 9 Hip Pack ($58)
Made in Portland, Ore., the Pioneer pack features a removable belt, comes in a variety of stylish colors, and even has a lifetime warranty. It’s not the most technical on the list, but it’s a great chameleon.
Use it as your daily fanny pack, hook it on the handlebars of your bike, or fill it with toiletries for a functional dopp kit. The 2.6L capacity will hold plenty of gear, and the DWR exterior finish gives it water-resistant protection. It’s a great choice for fanny pack aficionados looking for a quality made-in-the-USA option.
The Best Classic Fanny Pack: SoJourner Fanny Pack ($14)
This no-frills fanny pack gets the job done. And the $14 price tag is hard to beat. The nylon fabric is strong enough to withstand regular use and easily wipes clean. And while it’s not waterproof, it does offer some water-resistant protection. So you can rest assured knowing your phone is safe in a rain shower.
This pack is great for traveling, biking to meet friends for a microbrew, and, of course, keeping it weird at music festivals all summer long (check out some of the wild prints available). I like that it holds just enough to be useful (keys, cash, credit card, and phone) but has limited space so you’ll never find yourself toting around an awkwardly heavy fanny pack. It’s a solid, practical pick that won’t break the bank. And for something even smaller, check out this two-pocket fanny pack for $10.
How to Pick the Perfect Fanny Pack
Now that you’ve seen how awesome fanny packs are, you want one but don’t know which to choose. Here are three considerations to help you pick the perfect pack.
- Primary use. First and foremost, how do you plan to use your pack? Do you need something sleek for travel, a carryall for hiking, or is water capacity of utmost importance? These are important considerations. Take a minute and visualize your fanny pack future.
- Front or back. Do you plan to wear your pack on the front or back? Most packs you can switch around, but the larger they are the more awkward it is to wear them on the front. Keep this in mind when choosing.
- Pull out the tape measure. It’s always a good idea to take your measurements and check the pack specs. Most bags fit a variety of people, but some packs don’t cinch down small enough for petite packers while others run surprisingly small. Measuring will help you pick the right pack for your body to maximize success and comfort.
Now it’s time to buckle up and get ready for a life of fanny pack adventures. We’ll even let you call it a lumbar bag or hip pack if it makes you feel better. Just get out there and enjoy the awesomeness that is hands-free packing.
Have a favorite fanny pack we missed? Let me know in the comments for future updates to this article.