On shorter hikes with stable weather you might feel a little silly bringing a huge backpack (which has to be packed sufficiently to provide stability) only to carry some water and a snack in it. On the other hand, you will always want to have your hands free rather than carrying water bottles, accessories etc. This is where a lumbar waist pack will serve you superbly. If you have back or shoulder problems, a lumbar waist pack can be recommended as the weight of the pack and its content will be carried by your hips rather than your shoulders. You will thus have a better balance and it will be easier to walk with a healthy straight posture. Carrying a waist pack rather than a backpack will also prevent you from getting a sweaty and sticky back which even the most superbly ventilated backpacks cannot completely avert. On warm summer days especially women will also appreciate the possibility of wearing tank tops with thinner straps as a lumbar waist pack, unlike a backpack, will not rub against the bare skin on the shoulder blades.
A lumbar waist pack of course has its limitations; it is not for every hiking trip – or for everyone. If you prefer to bring nearly everything you own for hiking, climbing or mountaineering trips, a waist pack is not for you (instead have a look at our list of the best daypacks). Carrying a waist pack truly means lightweight hiking, where you bring what you need and nothing else. A precondition for bringing a waist pack rather than a backpack is stable weather – whether it being good or bad. You can of course tie a light rain jacket or sweater around your shoulders or hips if you don’t need it, but otherwise it is not advisable to only bring a waist pack along if you expect to be changing between layers of clothing for varying weather conditions.
Below we have chosen the five best lumbar waist packs available. We have steered clear of “fanny packs” – which are waist/hip packs carried on your front rather than back, as they are too small to carry water bottles etc. without being in the way.
1. Buying a Hiking Waist Pack – What is important?
The most important thing to bring for any longer-lasting outdoor activity is water. If you know that you will be passing by sources of drinkable water on your trip, you don’t have to bring much more than a half-liter bottle, but otherwise it is crucial to bring enough water to stay sufficiently hydrated. This is especially important on warm summer days where you can easily become dizzy or disoriented when dehydrated. How much water you need depends on your speed, body weight and the weather. As a general rule you should drink 33ml of water pr. kg bodyweight pr. day, but more when you are exercising and/or in very warm climate. For this list we have prioritized waist packs which can carry 1 liter of water or more. The majority of them come with water bottles or hydration reservoir included, but you can of course replace with your favorite bottles of aluminum etc. For more information about hydration on hiking trips check out our article How much water to take on a hiking trip. To learn more about benefits and shortcomings of hydration reservoirs read our article Hydration Systems Vs. Water Bottles.
Lumbar waist packs for hiking should be made out of durable materials and offer some basic weather protection. The backpanel should, like on a backpack, provide some ventilation.
Although waist packs self-evidently can only contain a few accessories and a snack besides water containers, they should have conveniently placed pockets which allow you to arrange your necessary gear.
Lumbar waist packs can easily be worn by both genders – no matter the model. A few brands, like for example Osprey, have made slightly diverging models for men and women respectively, but we would dare to suggest that any women’s model can be worn by a male and vice versa. This is not to diminish the efforts of Osprey and others, but simply due to the fact that lumbar waist packs are meant for carrying relatively small loads unlike backpacks where it might be smart to choose a model that serves your body shape best.
We only list top-tier products. Read how our selections of best hiking products differ from others here.
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2. The Best Hiking Waist Packs Review
The Best Lumbar Waist Pack – List
- Osprey Tempest/Talon 6
- Evoc Hip Pack 3 L
- MountainSmith Tour
- CamelBak Repack LR4
- Patagonia Nine Trails Waist Pack 8L
|Feature/Product||Osprey Tempest/Talon 6||Evoc Hip Pack 3l||MountainSmith|
|CamelBak Repack LR4||Patagonia Nine Trails Waist Pack 8L|
|Dimensions||8.27 x 9.84 x 5.91 in.||11 x 7 x 3 in.||10 x 11.5 x 5 in.||7.3 x 11 x 6.1 in||11 x 8 x 4 in.|
|Dimensions (Metric)||21 x 25 x 15 cm||28 x 18 x 8 cm||27 x 29 x 12.7 cm||18.5 x 28 x 15.5 cm||28 x 20 x 10 cm|
|Weight||0.9 lbs||12.3 oz.||1 lb. 12 oz.||11 oz.||13.4 oz.|
|Weight (Metric)||408 g||350 g||795 g||310 g||380 g|
|Capacity||6 liters||3 liters||9 liters||2.5 liters + 1.5 liters for reservoir||8 liters|
|Size of included water reservoir||/||1.5 liter hydration reservoir||/||1.5 liter hydration reservoir||1.5 liter hydration reservoir|
|Fits waists/hips||24 – 44 in. (Tempest) 25 - 50 in. (Talon)||n/a||28 – 48 in.||26 - 42 in.||26 - 34 in.|
|Fits waists/hips (Metric)||61 – 112 cm (Tempest) |
|n/a||71 – 122 cm||66-106 cm||66 – 86 cm|
1. Osprey Tempest 6 and Talon 6
- Cross country skiing
- Mountain biking
Unlike most other manufacturers, Osprey makes lumbar waist packs for men (Talon 6) and women (Tempest 6) specifically. However, the two lumbar packs are basically identical apart from color options and the fact that the women’s Tempest fits slightly narrower waists/hips (24’’-44’’) than the men’s Talon (25’’-50’’). Both versions have been redesigned continuously over the years, and are today more sustainably made than ever as the fabrics used are recycled, bluesign approved, and treated with PFC-free DWR-treatment. Otherwise the Osprey Tempest 6 and Talon 6 have retained most of their beloved features such as the Horizontal StraightJacket™ compression system to stabilize and compress loads, a zippered stash pocked in front, the two dual-zippered hipbelt pockets and Osprey’s signature AirScape backpanel (now with a flexible BioStretch harness and hipbelt). Osprey’s lumbar waist packs still have two bottle sleeves with bungee retention straps at the sides, but the water bottles are no longer included.
2. Evoc Hip Pack 3 L
- Mountain biking
- Cross country skiing
The Evoc Hip Pack 3l is a hydration waist pack where you can use the included hydration bladder for easy hands-free hydration on the go. Unlike the Camelbak FlashFlo below, the Evoc lumbar waist pack also has one mesh side pocket where you can store a big water bottle if you prefer this hydration option. The Evoc Hip Pack was designed with mountain bikers in mind but will do equally well for hiking, mountaineering and other outdoor activities. Upon its launch in 2017 (then named the Evoc Hip pack Race) it received the Design & Innovation Award – in no small part due Venti Flap System which regulates the distance to the back and can be individually adjusted to provide ventilation when and where you need it the most. The body of the Evoc Hip Pack is made of 210D PU-coated ripstop nylon, while the back padding is made is of EVA (Ethylene-vinyl acetate) and the straps feature 3D Air mesh. As the name indicates, it offers 3 liters of storage space, and comes in three colors.
- Great back ventilation due to mesh panel and the Venti Flap System
- You can choose whether to use the hydration bladder and/or bring a water bottle
- Well-placed pockets for optimal organization of your accessories
- Very little storage space if you use the included hydration bladder
Where to buy?
3. MountainSmith Tour
- Tactical use
- Mountain biking
- Everyday use
Mountainsmith prides itself that the brand’s Tour waist pack “helped start the craze in the 80’s”, but in 2020 the brand gave all of their lumbar waist packs a major design overhaul. The Mountainsmith Tour waist pack has the biggest capacity (9 liters) of all the packs on this list and is also the heaviest. It is, however, made to last out of durable 420 Oxford Nylon and 420 HD Nylon Ripstop with a 210d Nylon Liner. Besides the main compartment, it has smartphone compatible hipbelt pockets, reinforced bottle (up to 1L) pockets on the sides, a backpanel stash pocket for flat items, a foam padded sleeve for tablet or such, and a beaver tail attachment pocket on the front, under which you can store a rain jacket. The hipbelt can be tucked away, so you can use the back as a regular shoulder bag with the included shoulder strap. The Mountainsmith Tour is, like all the brand’s waist packs, compatible with a strapette (which is sold separately).
4. CamelBak Repack LR4
- Cross country skiing
The Camelbak Repack is like the Evoc Hip Pack Race a hydration pack and thus features an internal 1.5L CRUX™ lumbar Reservoir (included) and a long tube to drink from when needed. As there are internal compression straps securing the reservoir, it won’t start to slosh around in the bag as you gradually drain it. The CRUX reservoir is furthermore designed to position the weight of the water low on your back for more stability and better balance and is equipped with a magnetic tube trap that lets you stow your drinking tube in place with one click, so you can drink without hassle. While the Camelbak Repack offers the smallest amount of storage space (besides that for the hydration reservoir) among the waist packs on this list, it is nevertheless cleverly designed with lots of pockets so you can arrange your essentials in the most optimal way. The CamelBak Repack is available in olive green, dark blue and black.
5. Patagonia Nine Trails Waist Pack 8L
- Mountain biking
The Patagonia Nine Trails Waist Pack offers almost as much space (8 liters) as the Mountain Smith Tour pack (9 liters), but only weighs about half. The Patagonia waist pack includes a 1.5-liter HydraPak® reservoir, but it also has external stretch side pockets which can be used to carry traditional water bottles if you prefer this hydration option or simply need to bring a lot of water with you. Similarly, the actual gear capacity can be stretched as you can overstuff the front pocket, for example with a warm and bulky extra layer, and secure the content with the compression straps instead of zipping it close (see how in video below). The front side-zippered pocket otherwise opens workbench-style and is lined with smaller mesh pockets for easy organization of smaller items. The Monomesh backpanel is highly breathable to secure airflow, and the hipbelt is similarly padded with perforated foam for optimal ventilation and comfort. As a curiosity it should be mentioned that the buckle of the hip belt is offset as the Patagonia Nine Trails waist pack has been designed primarily with mountain biking in mind. The durable, yet lightweight materials and excellent design, however, make it more than suitable for hiking and mountaineering too.