The Essential Fanny Pack
If you lived through the 80’s or 90’s as an adult, teenager, or child – then you probably witnessed or partook in the “fanny pack craze.” What you also probably witnessed during or shortly after these times… was the death of the fanny pack; a fall from grace, past its prime, and shunned from public appearances outside guided tour groups in or from faraway lands. Well, I’m here to tell you that the fanny pack lives again! I am happy to inform that the age of its revival is back (at least within the backpacking community).
I like many others have shunned the fanny pack for the better part of my awareness of its existence. Plagued by embarrassing childhood memories of walking around in public or on class field trips with my mother; who kept everything in there from makeup to tissues with which to wipe my snot nose face with. I was naive then, but have realized the error of my perceptions now; the fanny pack is amazing!
Many long distance backpackers will carry an ultralight fanny pack within their main backpack to store essential items in; wearing them only while walking around trail towns. They’re wonderfully convenient to store wallets, cash, or other items while perusing local venues in pocket-less running shorts.
Recently, I discovered the value of wearing a fanny pack in addition to my backpack while hiking. You might think the hip belt of a pack might interfere with the wearing of a fanny pack, but I assure you it does not. If both are worn correctly and comfortably, they do not affect the other.
While most hiking packs do have hip belt pockets these days, I have yet to find one that can hold everything I would ideally like to put in them. One of my pet peeves while hiking is being forced to stop and take off my pack to rummage for trivial (and not so trivial) things I would have liked to have had within reaching distance to begin with. Things like… a camera, a cell phone, a battery pack, sun glasses, head lamp, a knife, tweezers, athletic tape, snacks, a lighter, some cash, gloves, beanie, etc. While I could fit some of these in hip belt pockets, I could never fit all of them while being able to easily get them out at a moment’s notice. I still have yet to find a hip belt pocket that easily fits my phone (with otterbox case) or a decent camera inside of it. The fanny pack solved this problem for me, and with fashionably functional gusto at that.
I can keep an almost ludicrous amount of essential items in there at all times. The fanny pack I currently use can hold all of the items I mentioned above (minus a camera) at the same time. Usually I will only include the gloves and beanie in there when expecting or already in cold/windy conditions. Other than that, there are other items I rotate in and out of there as needed, depending on when and where I am. It’s not only convenient while hiking, but also while in camp. After taking off your pack, you still have your fanny; when it gets dark or comes time to cook your food, you don’t have to worry about wandering over to your pack or shelter in search of a lighter or headlamp. You’ll always have those items on your person and within quick and easy reach. This can work for just about any essential item you use on a daily basis that would normally send you rummaging through your pack or back to your shelter from the campfire or camp gathering. I also keep a folded up one gallon Ziploc bag in my fanny pack. If it starts to rain, I stop and put all moisture sensitive items inside the Ziploc and voila! Perfectly safe!
The fanny pack revolutionized my hiking game in a way I’ll never come back from. It’s simply too convenient, while saving me a ton of time, energy, and potential heartache. You can go as light or heavy on your fanny pack as you prefer, but I personally believe that any minor extra weight accrued from a slightly larger or heavier duty fanny pack is functionally worth it. I’m a larger guy however, so an extra few ounces or even a pound here and there doesn’t affect me too bad. I will say that regardless of how heavy your fanny pack or the items you put in it are; I much prefer that extra weight shifted to the front of my hips and off my shoulders/back – no matter how many ounces.
Below are a few options for fanny packs, ultralight and heavier duty. I picked up the “Dakine” model at an outfitter in Wyoming and have been in love with it ever since. I quite literally wear it everywhere around town, to dinners, appointments, family functions, and even to the gym when I work out. The front pocket is lined with fleece for potential sunglasses storage, and there is a secret zipper compartment in the main pouch that is perfect for keeping money, a small wallet or identification. I like the secret zipper compartments because it keeps my really important items separate from the miscellaneous stuff; this way they don’t get accidentally knocked out when rummaging around for things in the dark or otherwise.
(the one I currently swear by)
(I’ve bought family members a couple of these and they love them!)