A few years ago, my brother-in-law gave me a Swix waistbelt drinking bag emblazoned with a bright red Norwegian flag before a cross-country skiing trip. It was part novelty gift, part thoughtful present in recognition of my newfound love of long-distance classic nordic skiing. I used it immediately, even though the design was weird and it was hard to use, because I thought it looked funny. It was the first fanny pack I’d had since junior high in the early 90s (that one was a checkered pattern of alternating neon green and blue; I kept Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and pro hockey trading cards in it, mostly). It sparked an appreciation for fanny packs I didn’t know I had. I’ve carried one ever since.
Lately, I’ve exclusively been using the Patagonia Lightweight Travel Hip Pack. 3L, which they’ve discontinued, but you can still find it for sale at a few online retailers. The 1L pack is still in production, and is exactly the same, just a third of the size. It’ll carry everything mine will—which I’ll get to in a sec—except for a water bottle.
I first started carrying a fanny pack while fishing, especially fly fishing. I keep a 4″ by 5″ box of flies, multitool, extra fly line and fishing license, wallet, car keys, a sandwich and small water bottle (or a beer) in the pack, and it’s about a million times easier than wearing a backpack. If I’m fishing while on a backpacking trip, I bring the fanny pack stuffed with all my fishing gear and dump my big pack in favor of the fanny pack when I’m fishing.
If I’m trailrunning, I’ll bring water, keys, sometimes a phone, and an apple and some nuts in my fanny pack. On a long day hike, I can fit a sandwich, granola bar, phone, a map, wallet, keys, water bottle and a Sawyer water filter in the pack. This is typically what I’ll use if striking out for day missions while basecamped somewhere deep in the backcountry.
Nordic skiing? I’d bring all the above, minus the water filter, plus a pair of gloves and a beanie.
Some of the spots I surf near my Northern California home require long cliffside hikes to get the break. I’ll toss my keys, surf wax, fin keys, wax comb, a sometimes a quick-curing ding repair tube, and a snack in my totally uncool fanny pack and hit the trail down. I can stash my little pack unnoticed in some rocks or under a bush and keep it hidden far easier than a full-sized backpack.
In case you’re wondering, yes, I was self-conscious at first. Somehow wearing it with the pack pushed around to my backside—making it a true fanny pack—felt less lame at first, but now, I have no shame whatsoever and wear it proudly with the pack right there up front. I’ll wear it when traveling too—way, way easier and more comfortable than a backpack when traipsing around a foreign land.
I never would have thought that I’d be a dedicated fanny pack wearer. But now, if I’m in the outdoors, and I don’t have it with me, something feels wrong.
Try one of these fanny packs—I’m sorry, hip belts
Patagonia ditched my 3L in favor of this Lightweight Travel Mini Hip Pack 1L, but it’s still an awesome little pack. $29 • BUY
Old school and simple, the Jansport Fifth Avenue fanny pack is a bargain at $17. • BUY
REI’s Trail 5 pack is roomy (5 liters of storage) but still pretty compact and tough. $40 • BUY
If you want to go full-on fly fishing specialization-type pack, the Patagonia Stealth 10L hip pack is about as good as it gets. $119 • BUY