We tested the best waist packs for hiking in 2023. Read on to see how they performed, which is best for you, and get some buying advice.
Table of Contents
Best Waist Packs
The best waist packs are:
- Best Overall Waist Pack: WAYMARK ZIPP PACK
- Lightest Waist Pack: ULTRALIGHT FANNY PACK BY HIGH TAIL DESIGNS
- Best Budget Waist Pack: REI CO-OP TRAIL 2 WAISTPACK
- Waist Pack with the Best Pockets: HYPERLITE MOUNTAIN GEAR VERSA
- Waist Pack with the Best Weight-to-Volume Ratio: COTOPAXI BATAAN FANNY PACK
- Waist Pack with the Most Streamlined Design: LITEAF FEATHERWEIGHT
|1. Waymark Zipp Pack||$44.99||2.4 oz||1.25L||9/10|
|2. Chicken Tramper Gear 1 Liter Fanny||$45||2.5 oz||1L||9/10|
|3. Ultralight Fanny Pack by High Tail Designs||$72||1.8 oz||1L||8/10|
|4. Hyperlite Mountain Gear Versa||$79||2.9 oz||2.25L||8/10|
|5. LiteAF Featherweight||$50
|2.3-2.6 oz||1.4L /
|6. Zpacks FUPA||$69.95||2.8 oz||1.7L||8/10|
|7. REI Co-op Trail 2 Waistpack||$29.95||4.3 oz||2L||7/10|
|8. Cotopaxi Bataan Fanny Pack||$35||4 oz||3L||7/10|
|9. Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Mini Hip Pack||$35||3.5 oz||1L||7/10|
|10. Flex Fanny Pack by Red Paw Packs||$65-$75||3.6 oz||1.7L||7/10|
Best Overall Waist Pack:
WAYMARK ZIPP PACK
❌ A bit clunky
- Weight: 2.4 oz (0.15 lbs)
- Volume: 1.25L
Waymark’s Zipp pack ticks most of our boxes which is why we chose it as our best overall waist pack. We like that it’s made of ECOPAK material which gives it better water resistance than normal nylon and is more durable than Dyneema. It also makes this pack slightly heavier than its Dyneema counterparts of a similar size.
The ¾” hip belt is on the skinnier side, which means if you pack this too heavy it can dig into your waist. However, we found that the nylon webbing is less likely to slip over time compared to some other options on the market. The buckle attaches near one side of the pack which keeps the hip belt smooth around your back. Perfect if you’re wearing a full backpacking pack along with this waist pack.
Lightest Waist Pack:
ULTRALIGHT FANNY PACK BY HIGH TAIL DESIGNS
✅ Simple design
✅ Colorful patterns
❌ No inner mesh
- Weight: 3.5 oz (0.22 lbs)
- Volume: 1L
The Ultralight Fanny Pack from High Tail Designs is the lightest pack on our list thanks to its minimal design and use of ultralight Dyneema fabric. We like that the rectangular pouch has a waterproof zipper on the top of the main pocket and a small zipperless pocket on the back for storing cash and cards.
The hip belt has a fixed clip near one side of the pack keeping the clip off your back. The belt isn’t removable, so it won’t thread into your hip or chest strap. If you buy the version featuring watercolor art High Tail Design will donate 15% back to the artist.
Best Budget Waist Pack:
REI CO-OP TRAIL 2 WAISTPACK
✅ Many features
✅ Classic design
- Weight: 4.3 oz (0.27 lbs)
- Volume: 2L
The REI Trail 2 waist pack is a budget option for the fans of a classic fanny pack design. We appreciate that it has a small front pocket for cards and a large top-loading main compartment. A third “secret” pocket runs along the back of the fanny pack for keeping valuables.
With 2.0 liters of storage space, it’s a decent balance with its 4.3-ounce weight at its price point. The recycled nylon fabric is treated with a DWR finish to give it extra waterproofing. We do wish the hip belt had padding as it can be uncomfortable if loaded up with too much weight.
Waist Pack with the Best Pockets:
HYPERLITE MOUNTAIN GEAR VERSA
✅ Weight-to-volume ratio
✅ Nylon hip belt
❌ A bit bulky
- Weight: 2.9 oz (0.18 lbs)
- Volume: 2.25L
The Hyperlite Versa features a lot of space and three pockets for storage, particularly in comparison to its relatively lightweight. It’s made of Dyneema fabric which has superior waterproofing and we like that the zippers are also waterproof. If you’re hiking in wet conditions Dyneema is a great choice.
We found that the pockets include a roomy main pocket with mesh dividers, a small front pocket for phones and cards, and a “stash” pocket along the backside of the pack. Having 2.25 liters of storage space is great for day hikes. If you’re incorporating this into your backpacking system - and Hyperlite seems to think you are by not providing a hip belt - it may feel bulky for some users.
Waist Pack with the Best Weight-to-Volume Ratio:
COTOPAXI BATAAN FANNY PACK
✅ Unique colors
❌ May be too large for some
- Weight: 4 oz (0.25 lbs)
- Volume: 3L
Coming in at a scant 1.3 ounces per liter of storage space, the Cotopaxi Bataan gets rave reviews from us. It has one main zippered pocket with two internal mesh pockets. The nylon fabrics used for the Bataan are made entirely from fabrics discarded by other manufacturers. We like that this gives the design a funky blend of multiple colors, but the look may not be for everyone.
Cotopaxi claims no two Bataans are the same, making this a fun and unique item. The only real complaint we have is that with 3 liters of volume, it can get overloaded easily. But then again, can you ever have too many snacks?
Waist Pack with the Most Streamlined Design:
✅ Nonrestrictive design
❌ Mesh may wear out
- Weight: 2.3-2.6 oz (0.14-0.16 lbs)
- Volume: 1.4L (standard), 2L (extra large)
LiteAF’s Featherweight waist pack sports a streamlined design that makes it easy to hike in. It has an external main pocket with an internal divider. It also has an external lycra stretch pocket on the front of the pack, great for easy access to a phone without having to open the zippered pocket.
We appreciate that the hip belt can be purchased built-in or as a detachable option making this waist pack more versatile. “Slick clips” are included with the detachable option to clip the waist pack into the hip belt of your backpack. The Featherweight also comes in an extra-large size with 2.0 liters of storage at 2.6 ounces.
The Other Noteworthy Models
Chicken Tramper Gear 1 Liter Fanny
❌ Only one pocket
- Weight: 2.5 oz (0.16 lbs)
- Volume: 1L
If you want color options, the Chicken Tramper fanny pack colors can be mixed and matched for 169 possible color combinations. The shape of the pack is fairly standard; however, we welcome the cushioned mesh backing it has which many other options lack. This gives you extra padding and comfort for your hips, especially helpful when carrying a heavier load.
Inside the main pocket, there is a lycra stretch mesh pocket to secure your phone away from other items. We like that this pack is made of X-Pac fabric, a combination of nylon and polyester layers, and has a water-resistant zipper.
✅ Lots of pockets
❌ Hangs down low
- Weight: 2.8 oz (0.18 lbs)
- Volume: 1.7L
Zpacks FUPA, or front utility pack accessory, is available in either nylon or waterproof Dyneema fabric. With either option, we found that Zpacks takes waterproofing seriously with waterproof zippers and taped seams making this a great choice if you need maximum water protection.
Unlike many ultralight options, the FUPA includes padding on the back of the pack for more comfort. It’s designed to clip into Zpacks backpacks with the included hip strap or the hip strap is removable to clip into other packs. We appreciate that the FUPA has a main pocket, an interior mesh pocket for smaller items, and a separate rear pocket for phones and maps.
Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Mini Hip Pack
✅ Streamlined design
❌ Slippery hip belt
❌ Weight-to-volume ratio
- Weight: 3.5 oz (3.5 oz)
- Volume: 1L
During our research we found that Patagonia’s minimalist waist pack is excellent for short hikes, running, or walking around town. It’s made of 100% recycled ripstop nylon which keeps it light, durable, and will dry quickly.
We are partial to the fact that it has two pockets: a larger main pocket for snacks, and a small front pocket great for holding your ID and credit cards or a phone.
The strap lacks padding but with the pack’s small size, the amount of weight you can fit in this pack is limited making it hard to overload. When not in use it stuffs down small into the included pocket sack. Considering the weight-to-volume ratio this is on the heavier side.
Flex Fanny Pack by Red Paw Packs
✅ Unique pocket design
❌ A bit heavy
- Weight: 3.6 oz (0.23 lbs)
- Volume: 1.7L
Red Raw Packs gets creativity points from us for thinking outside the normal waist pack shape with the addition of a stretchy top pocket. We found that this cinchable pocket can hold small water bottles, and sunglasses, or keep your bear spray at the ready. Because of the cinch pocket, the main pocket’s zipper is front-facing, rather than on the top, like other models.
The Flex fanny pack is highly customizable, which we appreciate, right down to the type of material your pack is made of. The removable hip belt makes incorporating it into your backpacking system easy as well. The weight is a little heavier than most, due to the addition of the top pocket.
Key Factors To Consider When Choosing
Weight and Volume
The smallest waist packs, 1.0 to 1.5 liters, have space for snacks and personal items but not much more. These are best paired with your main backpacking pack. Medium-sized waist packs, 1.5 to 2.5 liters, give you a bit more space for extra items and are good for day hikes.
Large waist packs, over 2.5 liters, give you lots of space but run the risk of overloading, making it uncomfortable to carry if they lack a robust belt. For weight, under two ounces is ultralight.
Two to four ounces per liter of volume is a good balance, especially if you’re adding a bit of volume to your pack. Anything over four ounces is probably overkill. You can calculate the weight-to-volume ratio for a pack by dividing the weight by the volume to see how heavy a pack is per liter of storage space.
Lightest Waist Packs:
- Ultralight Fanny Pack by High Tail Designs
- LiteAF Featherweight
- Waymark Zipp Pack
- Chicken Tramper Gear 1 Liter Fanny
Pockets are a big help with organization. Phone in one pocket, snacks in the other, and so on. The most basic designs feature a single large pocket. This keeps the weight down but can lead to fishing around to find items. Especially those pesky headphone cables that get tangled in everything.
Other designs have multiple smaller external pockets to separate your items. While this maximizes your organization this also means more zippers that add weight. Internal dividers offer the best of both worlds. A way to organize while keeping the zippers and weight to a minimum.
Some waist packs have hidden back pockets to store valuables. While nice for towns they are overkill on the trail. It’s best to have at least two internal or external pockets to have some degree of organization.
Another thing to consider is if the main pocket opens from the top or front and how large the opening is. If the main pocket or its opening is too small some items, such as a camera, may not fit inside easily.
Best Waist Packs for Pockets:
Hip Belt Material
Belts come in all shapes and sizes. Thinner belts keep the weight down but can be less comfortable on your hips if the pack is too heavy. Thicker belts add weight but are more snug and secure. Padding on your hip belt prevents items in your pack from poking you. Padding also helps on hot days by soaking up sweat to prevent chafing.
If you want to incorporate a waist pack into your backpacking system look for a belt that can be removed. This allows you to thread it into your existing hip or chest belt. Selecting a hip belt made out of nylon will reduce the chances of the belt loosening throughout your hike. Most importantly, choose a belt that feels good when hiking or running.
Waist Packs with the Best Hip Belts:
- Chicken Tramper Gear 1 Liter Fanny
- Hyperlite Mountain Gear Versa
- Waymark Zipp Pack
- Ultralight Fanny Pack by High Tail Designs
The most common materials for waist packs are nylon, Dyneema, and a nylon/polyester polyurethane-coated weave. Nylon is sturdy and inexpensive. It offers some water resistance but won't hold up well in wet conditions. It’s also heavier per square foot of material. Dyneema is waterproof, durable, and super light, making it a great choice for tough conditions. It does however cost a premium.
Some hikers complain about the noise of the crinkly material. Gridstop and X-Pac are materials that contain layers of nylon and polyester mesh. They have a polyurethane coating on one side to add more water resistance. They are heavier but cheaper and slightly more durable than Dyneema.
Waist packs with zippers on the top will be more exposed to rain. Make sure your zipper has some level of water resistance added to it. If water is a big concern, using a plastic Ziploc bag as a liner is a good option to add another level of protection.
Waist Packs Made with the Best Pack Material:
Other Things to Consider
A zipper failure can ruin any trip, long or short. The durability of your zipper is key for getting a long life out of your waist pack. A pack with two zippers means you have a fail-safe should one break in the backcountry. Zippers should also open and close easily. Ideally, they will slide open and close using one hand. This will allow you to grab a snack or your phone without breaking your stride.
Zippers are a common place for water to leak in, make sure the waist pack you choose has waterproofing on the zippers. Pay attention to the zippers' location to ensure they won’t rub on your body or other gear.
Range of Motion
Comfort is crucial while out hiking. Small annoyances can quickly ruin a hike when repeated over and over during a trip. When choosing a pack, the overall shape should be taken into consideration. Bulkier packs and those that hang down low may interfere with your legs while climbing uphill or feel awkward if paired with a larger pack.
Aside from the pack shape, how much the waist pack is loaded and the hip belt design may also impact the range of motion either in the hips or upper legs while walking. Look for smaller packs to prevent overloading.
How do you wear a waist pack?
A waist pack can be worn in several ways: Around your hips, slinging over your one shoulder and under your other arm, or threaded into the hip or chest strap of your backpack.
- Hip (front): The classic look for tourists, festival-goers, and hikers. Wearing the waist pack on your front allows you the easiest access to your gear and snacks. This style works well for smaller and lighter packs.
- Hip (back): Wearing the pack against your lower back provides better support for bulkier and heavier packs, especially those with water bottles. It also is a more natural way to carry for trail running and scrambling over rocks.
- Sling: Wear over one shoulder and under the other arm to sling across the back or front of your body. The method is good for heavier carries or to switch up how the load is riding on your body on longer hikes.
- Threaded: If you’re using it in conjunction with a backpacking pack you can thread the waist pack into the hip belt or chest strap. This lets you carry a full backpack while giving easy access to high-use items and snacks.
What do you keep in a hiking fanny pack?
There is no limit on what items to keep in a hiking fanny pack, but the general rule of thumb is to keep items that you want to access frequently. Here is a list of some items you can keep in your waist pack:
- Cards (ID, credit card, etc)
- Pocket Knife / Multitool
- First Aid Kit
- Bug spray
- Foot care (i.e. Trail Toes)
- Battery Pack and charging cable
📸 Some photos in this post were taken by Ross Enlow (@rossaenlow)