Whether you’re going for a short hike or simply don’t want to lug a big backpack around all day, hiking fanny packs and waist packs can be a great option for storing your essentials on the trails. Our team often uses hiking fanny packs on urban trails, in parks, or when a lot of gear isn’t required. We love the simplicity and ease of a fanny pack, plus they’re much lighter and less bulky than any backpack. For other minimalist hikers, we created this guide to help you choose the best hiking fanny packs and waist packs for your adventures on the trails.
Hiking Fanny Packs vs. Waist Packs: What’s the Difference?
We’ll use the terms “hiking fanny packs” and “hiking waist packs” quite a bit in this article, sometimes interchangeably. However, there are small differences in the two terms, so we’ve outlined our definitions for each below:
- Fanny packs are a type of pack that’s worn around the waist. They typically buckle in the back and provide a storage pocket just below the navel. Popular in the 80s and 90s, these types of packs are making a comeback these days and are a great way to stash small essentials on the trails.
- Waist packs are a broader category that include fanny packs, but also include lumbar packs, which buckle in the front and have storage areas in the back. Lumbar packs are often larger than traditional fanny packs and can hold more stuff, making them an ideal choice for longer hikes or hikers who need a bit more space to stash their gear.
What to Consider When Buying Hiking Waist Packs & Fanny Packs
Comfort & Fit
The #1 most important attribute when choosing between hiking fanny packs and waist packs is comfort and fit. If a waist pack has all of the best qualities but it hurts to wear, it won’t be very helpful on the trails! A lot of the criteria we’ve included in here can help you get a general sense for how a waist pack will fit, but until you try it on, you won’t know for sure. We recommend buying with companies like REI who offer free returns/exchanges so you can choose the perfect pack for you.
The design of a waist pack can greatly contribute to its comfort, fit, and functionality. Many elements play into the design of any backpack, including strap padding, weight distribution, and storage areas. Some things you may want to consider in different hiking waist packs include:
- Lumbar packs vs. fanny packs
- Size and storage capacity
- Waist straps and padding
- Colors and styles
Designs are also quite subjective, but you can typically tell pretty quickly which features best suit your needs and preferences.
Even the most the best hiking waist packs can be cumbersome if they’re too heavy, and a pack’s weight is an important feature we always consider before purchasing. The lightest packs aren’t always the best because they often lack extra features, but packs with too many bells and whistles can also be prohibitively heavy on your hips and waist.
Our recommendation is to determine the 2 or 3 features that are most important to you and find the lightest pack that has those features without too much extra bulk.
While we try to keep price largely out of the equation when we test gear, it’s definitely something you will consider! With waist packs, you often get what you pay for, but that doesn’t mean that the most expensive products are always the best. Most hiking waist packs cost between $20 and $80, with some above and below that range. Set your budget ahead of time so you’ll know what you have to work with when evaluating your options.
Our Picks: Best Hiking Waist Packs & Fanny Packs
Osprey Tempest 6 & Talon 6 Waist Packs
Overall Best Hiking Waist Packs
- Weight: 0.88 lbs (14 oz)
- Pockets: 6
- What We Like: Has all the main features and comfort of a larger daypack in a compact, lightweight waist pack
If you’re a minimalist hiker or are simply looking for something different to stash your gear on the trails, the Osprey Tempest 6 & Talon 6 Waist Packs are a fantastic lightweight alternative to traditional hiking daypacks. These ultralight packs are worn like a fanny pack around the waist, but the straps buckle in front and the main pack sits on your lower back.
With just 6L of storage, these waist packs are meant for shorter hikes or trail runs where you’ll only need to bring a few essentials. Don’t be fooled, though – the Tempest and Talon Waist Packs have a whopping 6 pockets (including the main compartment), including 2 water bottle holders. We wouldn’t recommend these for people who tend to carry a lot of gear or want to bring extra jackets along, but for those who want to carry a few snacks, electronics, and other main essentials, these waist packs are a great choice.
CHECK PRICES FOR OSPREY TALON 6 (MEN’S VERSION):
CHECK PRICES FOR OSPREY TEMPEST 6 (WOMEN’S VERSION):
Cotopaxi Bataan 3L Fanny Pack
Overall Best Hiking Fanny Pack
- Weight: 0.25 lbs (4 oz)
- Pockets: 1 main compartment with 2 internal mesh pockets
- What We Like: This sustainable fanny pack offers a strikingly large storage space for the weight
We love eco-friendly gear, and the sustainable Cotopaxi Bataan 3L Fanny Pack is our choice for the best fanny pack for hiking. Made from 100% repurposed fabrics discarded by other manufacturers, these color blocked hiking fanny packs are lightweight and easy to use for light gear storage on the trails.
With just one main compartment, it’s one of the simplest designs on our list, but that’s why we love it. Two internal mesh pockets help you separate small essentials from the main area. We love how much space you get in this pack without added weight or bulk. Also, because of the way fabrics are sourced by Cotopaxi, each Bataan fanny pack is different, so you’ll receive a completely unique product when you buy one!
If you’re looking for a spacious fanny pack that’s much lighter than other products, this is our #1 choice.
Patagonia Black Hole Ultralight 1L Mini Hip Pack
Best Mini Fanny Pack
- Weight: 0.22 lbs (3.5 oz)
- Pockets: 2
- What We Like: Super tiny, minimalist construction offers space for the bare essentials in a tiny, foldable package
For minimalist hikers and trail runners who want to stash the very bare minimum, the Patagonia Black Hole Ultralight Mini Hip Pack is a great choice for a mini fanny pack. With just 1 liter of storage space, it’s really only enough for the essentials – a phone, keys, ID, and a few credit cards.
The small front compartment is great for separating out your ID and cards, or for stashing a few energy gels or small snacks. When you aren’t using the pack, it stuffs into an included pocket sack and can be stored in a larger bag without taking up much space at all. It’s the lightest choice on our list, which is one of the biggest benefits of this no-frills minimalist hiking fanny pack.
REI Trail 5 Waist Pack
- Weight: 0.56 lbs (9 oz)
- Pockets: 5
- What We Like: Large capacity, multiple pockets, and gear loops make this an extra handy hiking waist pack without too much extra weight
If you’re looking for a waist pack that can hold a lot without weighing you down, the REI Trail 5 Waist Pack is an excellent option. Among the options on our list, it may be the best weight to space ratio we’ve seen. Made from recycled materials, REI has updated this product design to be as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible.
We love the daisy chains along the front to clip on your lightweight gear for easy access, and the small front and back pockets are great for storing the essentials. With 5 liters of capacity, you can stash plenty of snacks, small electronics, cards, and other necessities for longer day hikes. A durable water repellent finish helps protect your gear from inclement weather.
The only drawback with this pack is that it’s a bit bulkier and larger than other hiking fanny packs on our list, so it may not be suitable for more petite or narrow-framed hikers.
Mountainsmith Tour SM Lumbar Pack
- Weight: 1.56 lbs (1 lb, 9 oz)
- Pockets: 5
- What We Like: Robust and intentional design with 6L capacity creates a nice balance of comfort, space, and weight
Mountainsmith is one of the leading manufacturers of waist and lumbar packs, and the Mountainsmith Tour SM Lumbar Pack is one of our favorites in their lineup. This 6L waist pack is designed similarly to the Osprey Tempest/Talon 6 packs, with lots of waist padding, additional storage, and plenty of pockets to store water bottles, small essentials, and snacks.
What we love about the Tour Lumbar Packs is their very intentional design. This one in particular has a waist strap zipper pocket for access to things like keys and cards, plus two water bottle pockets on the sides. We’d feel comfortable taking slightly longer or more strenuous day hikes in these hiking waist packs because they can hold enough water and gear to last for a longer adventure.
REI Trail 2 Waist Pack
- Weight: 0.27 lbs (4.3 oz)
- Pockets: 3
- What We Like: No-frills, ultralight option for short, easy trails, trail runners, and minimalist hikers
As one of the lightest options on our list, the REI Trail 2 Waist Pack is a fantastic option for those who prefer ultralight, no-frills hiking fanny packs. It’s perfect on its own for shorter adventures or paired with a hiking daypack for easy access to all of the essentials.
Weighing in at just 4.3 ounces, this is one of the lightest waist packs on our list, but it doesn’t skimp on space with a whole 2L compartment. A small zippered front compartment provides space for small essentials like IDs, cards, and keys, while the larger pocket can carry electronics and snacks for the trails.
Osprey Daylite Waist Pack
- Weight: 0.46 lbs (7 oz)
- Pockets: 2
- What We Like: Another great ultralight option for shorter hikes or trail running
Another great option for shorter hikes, walks, or runs is the Osprey Daylite Waist Pack. These hiking fanny packs are slightly more robust than the REI Trail 2, but offer a similar amount of storage for your gear and essentials. It comes in a lot of fun colors and patterns and offers two pockets – a main compartment and a front zippered area – for organizing your things. Wear it on its own or alongside a backpack for optimal storage and easy access to your most valuable items on the trails.
KAVU Spectator Waist Pack
- Weight: 0.29 lbs (4.3 oz)
- Pockets: 2
- What We Like: Super fun colors and ultralight design make this a great option on and off the trails
We’ve given you a lot of options for lightweight hiking fanny packs, but if you’re looking for one that makes a statement on and off the trails, the KAVU Spectator Waist Pack is one of our favorite options. Why, you ask? Because it comes in several fun, bold, colorful prints!
This small fanny pack is great for short hikes and easy trails, hanging out in the park, or keeping your essentials close while wandering around the city. We love the unique patterns and prints available, which are totally different than the other packs on our list. This pack is probably too small for any long hikes, but for shorter or more relaxed adventures, it’s a great contender.
Mountainsmith Day Lumbar Pack
- Weight: 1.75 lbs (1 lb, 12 oz)
- Pockets: 4
- What We Like: As the largest waist pack on our list, this offers the storage of a normal daypack with the fit of a waist pack
For those wanting a hiking waist pack that carries a bit more than a typical fanny pack, the Mountainsmith Day Lumbar Pack is the best option. This larger waist pack holds up to 13L of gear, and comes with a shoulder strap for added weight distribution. Because it’s significantly larger than the other packs on our list, this can hold enough gear for longer day hikes, including water and a few small jackets or items of clothing, in addition to electronics and snacks. Some people even use Mountainsmith’s lumbar packs for carrying their camera gear!
While this works great for most body types, it may be a bit cumbersome for shorter folks or those with narrower frames. It’s a trade-off for the added space, but one a lot of hikers really appreciate on their adventures.
Patagonia Black Hole 5L Waist Pack
- Weight: 0.71 lbs (13.3 oz)
- Pockets: 2
- What We Like: Simple, no-frills pack with a thicker fabric construction and larger capacity than other lightweight options
If you want the simplest hiking fanny packs possible with the most space, the Patagonia Black Hole 5L Waist Pack is for you. It’s got the largest storage capacity – 5L – without getting too technical or adding too many bells and whistles.
A unique feature of this pack, the shiny exterior makes this pack a bit more of a statement piece than others, but it’s still got a DWR (durable water repellent) finish to protect against the elements. Additionally, the one main compartment has plenty of space for a water bottle, snacks, and other necessities. Because of its size, it is a bit larger than a lot of the packs on our list, but its lightweight construction makes it easy to take along on any adventure.