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Don’t call it a comeback: trail-worthy fanny packs have been here for years, and they’re not leavin’ anytime soon.
It’s easy to think fanny packs are a kitschy fad of the ’80s and ’90s, but the truth is, the use of waist bags dates back thousands of years (we see you, Ötzi.) The latest fanny pack renaissance might’ve been introduced ironically, but the truth is, few carry options are as practical on the trail as waist packs.
They’re a lightweight alternative to day packs, many of which are overkill on short or easy hikes. And if we’re tallying up style points – which we are – it’s hard to beat the throwback vibes of a well-worn bum bag. The best hiking waist packs allow you to show a little personality on the trails.
Here’s a look at 14 of the best hiking waist packs, fanny packs, and lumbar bags for carrying your trail essentials – and little else.
REI Co-op Trail 2 Waistpack
Specs: 2 liters, 4.3 ounces
The bestselling fanny pack at REI is also one of its most sustainable products thanks to recycled materials inside and out.Check REI Price
REI manufactures the Trail 2 Waistpack from recycled materials, including the pack’s water-repellent nylon shell and interior polyester lining.
Its organizational design is functional without feeling bulky, and the Trail 2 offers just enough space without feeling cumbersome. It’s ideal for hiking, but if you’re traveling, there’s a secret pocket for cash, travel documents, or portobello mushrooms.
Nathan Peak Hydration Waist Pack
Specs: 0.25 liters, 6 ounces
If you hike and run trails, this hydration waist pack offers a flexible, lightweight fit that works well at any speed.Check REI Price
The Nathan Peak Hydration Waist Pack is technically a running belt, but it also functions as a small, ultralight fanny pack for those of us who toggle between hiking and trail running.
At either pace, you’ll find the Peak’s water bottle easy to access with one hand, and the push-cap makes it easy to get water if you’re moving at a fast clip. The water bottle’s angled holder makes for a snug, comfortable fit, and the quarter-liter expandable pocket can hold just enough basics to be practical.
“I generally don’t like wearing any kind of hydration belt but this one works perfectly for me,” said one reviewer in New York. “It doesn’t bounce and you hardly notice it.”
Related: Gear Review: The Vaer C5 Watch
Sierra Designs Flex Lumbar Waist Pack
Specs: 3-10 liters, 8-12 ounces
The Flex Lumbar pack uses the same agile compression technology made popular on the brand's bigger backpacks.Check Amazon Price
Sierra Designs offers a brilliant hiking fanny pack that expands as needed, from 3 to 6 liters or 7 to 10 liters, depending on the model. They build it with the same “expanding gusset” used in the brand’s larger backpacks, making this fanny pack a practical replacement for a small hiking daypack. It’s one of the best hiking waist packs out there if you’re looking for comfort and versatility.
The expansion happens vertically, so even at full capacity, the Flex Lumbar pack doesn’t get in the way of your hiking flow.
Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Mini Hip Pack
Specs: 1 liter, 3.5 ounces
A salute to the OG neon-drenched ski fanny packs of yore.Check REI Price
This small hiking fanny pack is made from recycled materials and meets REI’s bluesign® criteria, meaning it’s manufactured using “resource-conserving” practices.
When not in use, the Ultralight Black Hole folds into itself for easy storage. But when it’s go time, the functional webbing belt allows you to wear it a number of ways depending on your style and terrain.
Mountainsmith Day Lumbar Pack
Specs: 13 liters, 28 ounces
A beast of a lumbar pack from the folks who started the outdoor waist pack movement back in the '80s.Check REI Price
Mountainsmith is the godfather of lumbar packs – they’ve been making them for more than 40 years and now have waist pack storage down to a science. The Day Lumbar Pack is a behemoth compared to typical fanny packs, with a 13-liter capacity that offers pockets and compression options to keep things tight around your core.
This pack’s ideal for longer trails, and the only downside is with so much room and weight, you may be tempted to carry more than you really need.
Osprey Savu Lumbar Hydration Pack
Specs: 4 liters, 13 ounces
Designed for mountain biking, but ideal for hitting the trails on two feet.Check REI Price
The Savu is designed for mountain biking, but works just as well for hikers, though it is on the heavier side of lumbar packs.
The main compartment’s organization is ideal for quick and easy access to small goods, and the two water bottle holders can hold up to 50 ounces. Even at its size and weight, it still offers back ventilation for long days on the trail.
Topo Designs Mini Quick Pack
Specs: 2.5 liters, 8 ounces
A quick-sling pack that works just as well on the trail as it does in town.Check Price
The Mini Quick Pack is in line with Topo Designs’ signature bold looks; outstanding colors and simple design make this fanny pack stand out from the norm.
It’s also versatile, with an external loop for attaching to bikes, and an interior clip to hold keys and essentials. The zippers are oversized and created to put up with daily wear and tear, and the seatbelt-style strap is far stronger than most hiking fanny packs out there.
REI Co-op Trail 5 Waistpack
Specs: 5.25 liters, 9 ounces
A larger, deeper alternative to the Trail 2 but made with the same focus on sustainability and recycled materials.
Like REI’s smaller waist pack, the Trail 5 is made from recycled materials and offers easy internal storage. But the Trail 5 also features water bottle holders and a convenient top-loading design that’s roomier without feeling overwhelming.
One reviewer even used it to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro. “It was great to be able to offload some of the weight from my back and have water close at hand because I drank 5 liters a day,” she said. “I carried snacks, my phone, and my passport on my waist and had 2 Nalgenes there.”
Cotopaxi Bataan Fanny Pack
Specs: 3 liters, 4 ounces
Funky fanny pack from the brand that lives by the code of doing good in the world.Check REI Price
Cotopaxi’s Bataan has one of the best storage-to-weight ratios of any hiking fanny pack, and because no two are alike, this is truly a one-of-a-kind waist pack.
The company’s signature focus on sustainability and use of materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill makes the Bataan a unique but still practical fanny pack with one large internal storage area and interior mesh pockets.
Osprey Daylite Waistpack
Specs: 2 liters, 7.4 ounces
A mini-but-mighty version of Osprey's bestselling Daylite backpack series.Check REI Price
Osprey’s Daylite series includes some of the bestselling hiking daypacks on the market, but the smallest Daylite also brings the energy in a slim 2-liter waist pack.
Its design is simple, but holds the essentials and does so with an ergonomic build that molds to your waist as you rack up trail miles.
Mountainsmith Trippin Fanny Pack
Specs: 5 liters, 8 ounces
It's style and substance with this vintage-inspired pack from the brand that was there in the beginning.Check REI Price
Fanny packs already have an inherent throwback factor, but Mountainsmith takes it up a notch with their Trippin Fanny Pack, a salute to the ‘80s and their roots as one of the pioneers of outdoor waist packs.
The nostalgic aesthetic reigns supreme here, but it’s also a functional fanny pack that’s surprisingly spacious, all things considered.
Mystery Ranch Hip Monkey Waistpack
Specs: 8 liters, 14.4 ounces
A tactical-inspired waist pack built with Mystery Ranch's signature materials and best-in-class durability.Check REI Price
From their headquarters in Bozeman, MT, Mystery Ranch designs “the best load-bearing equipment in the world.” And if the load you’re bearing is a six-pack, consider the Hip Monkey, a low-key fanny pack with deeper-than-expected pockets and compression straps to keep things in place.
It’s overbuilt in the best way, and though it’s big, the waist belt is wide enough to solidly distribute weight.
Specs: 1 liter, 5 ounces
A small but practical fanny pack that looks like it time-traveled from the '90s just to say wassup.Check Amazon Price
The Spectator – Kavu’s staff’s fave pick – is about as classic a fanny pack as it gets. Two zippered compartments offer a liter of storage, and it works just as well slung on the shoulder as it does the waist.
It’s slim, simple, and great for making the jump from hiking the trails to having lunch in the city.
Arc’teryx Maka 1 Waistpack
Specs: 2 liters, 5 ounces
A compact pack that also slings around the shoulder for versatile use and comfort from one of today's leading outdoor brands.Check Amazon Price
Arc’teryx is known for high-end technical gear, but they also make one of the best waist packs that doesn’t look out of place on an easy neighborhood hiking trail.
It still sticks by the brand’s trademark adherence to durability, so it works well as a second carry option when you’re exploring the backcountry.
Day Hiking Essentials
Back in 1906, a Seattle-based outdoor group called The Mountaineers compiled the Ten Essentials of hiking. The goal was to help folks prepare for unexpected scenarios, like spending the night outside or surviving an emergency.
More than 100 years later, their list is largely unchanged, save for a few updates. Universally agreed upon hiking essentials include:
- navigation (map, compass, GPS)
- light (headlamp, flashlight)
- sun protection
- first aid kit
- knife or multi-tool
- fire-starting gear (matches, lighter, striker)
- extra food and water
- extra clothing
That doesn’t mean you’ll need each of these for every hike. What you should bring depends on the hike, the location, weather conditions, and your familiarity with the area. When I hit one of Peoria’s hiking trails, I don’t need navigation because I can just about see my house from any nearby trail.
But I do need sun protection and appropriate clothing, particularly when hiking in warmer months. And if I’m hiking a new trail in an unfamiliar location with a chance of inclement weather, I’ll want appropriate clothing and supplies to prepare for worst-case scenarios.
Most times, you won’t have to use hiking supplies aside from food, water and clothing, but being prepared to treat an injury, start a fire, or set up shelter is key – especially if you’re on a challenging trek. You can also consider the Ten Essentials a baseline that can be expanded or condensed as needed with items like bug spray, water sandals, or rain gear.
When shopping for the best hiking waist pack or fanny pack, consider your hiking preferences and the gear you’ll need to carry. If you hike close to home on neighborhood trails, the Trail 2 may be all you need.
Hiking with a fanny pack forces you to be selective about the gear you carry, which can be good and bad. No matter what your space restrictions, it’s important to equip for the unexpected on your hikes, and waist packs and hip packs are a good way to prepare without overpacking.
Gear for the Trail
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