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Earlier this year I gushed about how much I loved using my Patagonia fanny, er, lumbar pack. In the comments many of you said, basically: “Hey, lumbar packs are great, but what about Mountainsmith? How can you talk lumbar packs and forget them?” Well, I got the message and picked up the Mountainsmith Tour lumbar pack a few months ago to give it a whirl. And you Mountainsmith fans were totally right. This pack is incredible.

I use this pack while hiking. When trail running. When cycling. Walking with a computer to the coffee house. I’ll use it this winter while nordic skiing. But its main use for me is as a fly fishing pack, though it’s so versatile it’ll adapt to pretty much any physical activity that involves carrying something and keeping your shoulders free.

It’s a nice size between too small to be of much use and full-on backpack. Dimensions are about 11.5″ x 10″ x 5″, with about nine liters of volume; Mountainsmith says it can carry up to 12 pounds, but I’m sure I’ve had 20 in this thing, easy.

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The packs wraps around your hips with a plush, thick hipbelt like you’d find on a traditional backpack; one side of the belt includes a zippered pocket. There’s a small lumbar pad for comfort and stability, and the hipbelt folds away into a little slot behind the lumbar pad, if desired. Because the pack is large enough to stuff full of weighty gear, there’s also a padded shoulder strap that you can use to shift weight from the hips. A clever system with tightening straps easily cinches the pack close to the small of the back for greater comfort too.

Typically when fishing with the pack, I cinch the hipbelt somewhat loosely around my waist and attach the shoulder strap. This way, I can easily pass the bag around to my stomach to get out a tool or a snack or a new fly, and the shoulder strap keeps the pack in place. It still allows both hands and arms totally free and grants full range of motion.

Plus, there are all kinds of cool pockets and storage abilities. Bungee cord on the front to stash a rain jacket or something in. Two stretchy mesh water bottle pockets. Compression strap at the pack’s bottom that I strap my fly rod tube with. Small zippered pouch inside the main opening, padded tablet/laptop sleeve too. There’s even a headphone port at the top.

The pack is made of super tough Cordura fabric with thick, solid straps and zippers and zipper pulls. The pack feels like it will last decades. My aunt-in-law has had the same Mountainsmith lumbar pack for over 20 years, she uses it almost every day while kayaking, and other than being faded by the sun, it looks perfect.

$80 • BUY

More daypack goodness

If you want more room than the Tour offers, the Mountainsmith Day is basically the same thing, just with four more liters of storage space. $90

Patagonia’s Stealth Atom Sling is a 15-liter shoulder carry option for fly fishing and I love it. Like the Tour pack, it’s easy to wear while casting. $119

For a traditional shoulder-carried pack, the Gregory Miwok is light, roomy, easy to move with, and inexpensive. $34

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