Fanny Packs that Don’t Suck: Outdoor

Title Image courtesy of Logan Waddell

The whole impetus for this series (urban & crossover) came from an encounter I had with an older gentleman  along the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River. Our paths crossed one day when I stopped for tea along the river bank.

It was early afternoon and I had stopped to heat some water and eat my lunch. It had rained on and off all morning, and temperatures had risen into low 40s. I heard a rustle off trail behind me. I turned to look over my shoulder and a German Longhaired Pointer approached to scout my site, his owner just beyond appeared through the tree line. He was an older gentleman. His white hair was mostly covered by a dripping packer hat, and he stood tall, almost growing out of his gaiters, with a trekking pole in each hand. We were about eight miles in and I didn’t expect to see anyone this deep in this weather.

I finished my tea and headed back shortly after fully expecting to pass this guy once more. I never did. He’d kept his 20 minute lead over eight miles and my young legs. Two poles, a dog, and a lumbar pack. It worked for him…

We spoke briefly. I asked how far he’d gone (only another mile or so) and I offered him some hot water, but he had a schedule to keep. He called for his dog and headed back toward the trail head. “Damn, that’s a big day for an ol’ timer and his dog,” I said to myself as I sipped my tea.

It wasn’t until he turned that I noticed his Mountainsmith Lumbar pack. Being in the industry, I’ve known about the packs for sometime but hardly considered ever getting one because fanny packs have always been lame. Right?

I finished my tea and headed back shortly after fully expecting to pass this guy once more. I never did. He’d kept his 20 minute lead over eight miles and my young legs. Two poles, a dog, and a lumbar pack. It worked for him, and I tip my hat to him for it. HYOH.


Today’s argument for the fanny is load distribution.  The weight is transferred directly to your hips, and assuming you don’t have more than ten pounds of stuff to carry, it should ride pretty comfortably. Your pelvis is your center of gravity, it’s the crux of your musculoskeletal structure, and it’s the best place to carry weight. Fanny packs are also generally out of the way, so when ducking underneath blow downs there’s no guessing where your backpack is.

Here are your best options if you’re looking to achieve the highest levels of trail zen.

Mountainsmith Tour

tour
Mountain Smith Tour. Photo by Logan Waddell

The Tour is the bag that started this category back in the 80s, but its roots can be traced all the way back to ’79.  I’m nearly certain that fanny packs existed before this point as leather “possible pouches” and military butt packs, but Patrick Smith of Mountainsmith secured a patent for the first lumbar pack in 1979 and that ushered in the last +35 years of the fanny.

Largely unchanged since its inception, the Tour is nine liters in volume, made out of 610D Cordura nylon, has two stretch mesh pockets and a removable cross body strap to support heavier loads. This is very similar to the bag the ol’ timer had in the above story. It’s a work horse through and through and works as great for adventure travel as it does on the trail.

Mystery Ranch Hip Monkey

hip monkey.png
Mystery Ranch Hip Monkey. Photo Courtesy of Mystery Ranch

Mystery Ranch has built a reputation on quality. They build some of the best bags in the world for military members, fire fighters, and big game hunters, and they don’t shy away from that in their fanny packs either. The Hip Monkey is just over eight liters, made out of 500D Cordura nylon, and big enough for all your essentials or a sixer. Dual compression straps keep the weight close when your aren’t carrying a full load.

With the build quality from MR, you can confidently carry this with you into the mountains (anywhere for that matter) for all your day length adventures. Bonus: It’s currently on sale.

Hill People Gear M2016 Butt Pack

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Hill People Gear M2016 Butt Pack. Photo Courtesy of Hill People Gear

Hill People Gear makes some of the most well thought out purpose driven gear out there. The M2016 Butt Pack is an attempt to bring the classic military style bum bags into the 21st century and I really think they’ve succeeded.  It’s a super versatile top lid for many of their larger offerings, a sling bag with the included cross body sling, a chest rig with an optional H-hardness, and a butt pack as shown in the photo.

My favorite feature is the exterior compression panel that allows you to store all manner of soft goods on the outside of the bag. Some internal organization rounds out the feature set and keeps your odds and ends in place. The belt system isn’t included in the price tag unfortunately, but the pack is designed with a velcro back panel that allows it to mate with many belts.

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