Acid-washed denim, hair scrunchies, even near-identical remakes of Toto’s chart-topper “Africa": These vestiges of the ’80s and ’90s—all mocked good-naturedly for decades—are now just as fly as Marty and his DeLorean. But they aren’t the only dusted-off remnants of yesteryear now visible. The fanny pack—updated with sleeker style and even some high-tech materials—is back.
Once the pariah of packs, the hip belt has rejoined the mainstream for good reason. “Fanny packs stay in place, and they’re accessible,” says Darlene Fiske, who’s worked with style-forward, luxury travel brands for decades as founder of the Fiske Group. She’s also been wearing a fanny pack for years. (AFAR’s senior commerce editor was another early adopter.) “It’s easy to grab what I need—my car keys, my phone, my money—and I have two hands to multitask.”
Indeed, fanny packs are arguably a near-ideal travel companion for many reasons.
- They facilitate freedom of movement. “Hands-free convenience can be pretty essential at times,” says Jan Lo, cofounder and CEO of accessory (and fanny pack) brand Lo & Sons. “Nobody has time to fumble for their passport in the airport security line!”
- They’re versatile. No longer is the fanny pack relegated to one’s hind-quarters, note our experts. These days, fashionistas wear them as cross-body slings and on different points around the waist. For that reason (and likely because brands are still leery of association with the original moniker), expect to see a range of alternative names on store shelves from hip pack, hip belt, and belt bag to waist pack, bum bag, and even lumbar satchel. But don’t fret; a fanny pack by any other name is just as versatile.
- They keep items within view. After Lo’s mother had items stolen from her backpack, “she wanted to keep her passport and valuables within eyesight, not on her backside,” Lo says. Thus, the fanny pack is a core item in their travel bag lineup—and it should be in yours.
- They force minimalism. While brands make fanny packs in different sizes, they all grant the wearer permission to bring the basics but not much more. “Sometimes you just want to take one or two items when you’re exploring a new town or just running out to grab a quick coffee,” Fiske says. “It’s liberating!”
- They’re gender-neutral. It’s not only those who identify as women or who are built like a boulder (and refer to themselves as its synonym) who can rock the fanny pack. “Men are liking them not just for hiking and other outdoor rec,” says Dan Swansinger, who, along with his wife Grace, owns boutique and sundries supply store Scout’s General in Crested Butte, Colorado. “We are seeing more guys wearing them around town for everyday use and for carrying around essentials when the back pocket of their jeans just doesn’t work to fit everything they need.”
- They’re packable. While bum bags are excellent for hands-free airport navigation, they also take up minimal space in a carry-on or checked bag, Fiske points out. That’s why she always packs a few.
Ready to embrace the fanny pack? Here are 11 of our favorites.
Field Day Hip Pack by Mountain Hardwear
Best overall fanny pack
- Buy now: $35, mountainhardwear.com; backcountry.com
- Pros: Versatile style, heavy-duty fabric, recycled materials
- Cons: Doesn’t fit the kitchen sink (though that’s kind of the point)
Our top pick for packs to wear on your, well you know, is Mountain Hardwear’s Field Day Hip Pack. It offers the big-enough-but-not-excessive sizing that our experts love. “We don’t have to pack every little thing with us when we go out on an adventure or we’re going shopping,” Grace Swansinger reminds us. “With a fanny pack, I’ve only got this much space. So what do I actually need?”
At four liters (roughly the size of a Chipotle burrito), the Field Day has plenty of room for must-have items like your ID, keys, and a credit card (shove those in the hidden-away interior pocket), as well as a few snacks and even a thin extra layer of clothing. This option also ticks the boxes for comfort (thanks to a padded back panel) and versatility, since it wears well in front, in back, or as a cross-body sling. Mother Nature also approves: The Field Day is made entirely of recycled materials, namely 210-denier ripstop nylon, which is lightweight yet still durable enough to handle the rigors of navigating through TSA or rubbing against rocks on a midtrip hike. As for style, the Field Day keeps things simple with monochromatic offerings like Bright Copper, Vinson Blue, or a straightforward black that allow it to work just as well on a scouting mission to see the Northern Lights as it does flavor-hopping around the Big Apple.
The Waverley 2 from Lo & Sons
Most versatile hip belt
- Buy now: $126–$176 (was $210–$220), loandsons.com
- Pros: Wearable four ways, urban chic aesthetic, vegan leather option
- Cons: Leather exterior isn’t for rugged pursuits
Fiske recommends choosing a bag in a neutral color to go with multiple outfits. Elevate the look even further with an elegant leather exterior, and you’ve got a hands-free hauler that works well on any occasion. The Waverley 2 from family-first, Asian-owned accessories brand Lo & Sons comes in textured Saffiano leather, buttery smooth Napa leather, and (our favorite) a durable, scratch-resistant vegan leather made from Nopal cactus. The versatile pack comes in a range of Fiske-approved colorways (black, navy, graphite, sienna) with multiple hardware and interior options to mix and match.
Thanks to its two-part adjustable strap, the Waverley 2 can be worn four different ways: from the more casual belt bag and cross-body bag silhouettes to a gala-ready wristlet or shoulder bag. Available in two sizes—8 inches by 5.6 inches and 8.3 inches by 5.9 inches—the bag features an interior zip pocket for can’t-lose items, a handy slip pocket for little must-haves, and an exterior card slot perfect for stashing a hotel key.
S/F Expandable Hip Pack by Fjällräven
Best hip pack for travelers who need extra space
- Buy now: $120, fjallraven.com; specialized.com
- Pros: Expands to fit even large items, made with ecofriendly fabrics
- Cons: Bulkier size
Planning to hit the trail on your next trip? Fanny packs excel there too. “They are a great option for hikers so that you get to spend your energy on the hike and not lugging around too much weight from a backpack,” Grace Swansinger says. “Larger fanny packs on the market even have room to store a light jacket and have water bottle holders so you know you’ll still be well-prepared for your hike.”
The S/F Expandable Hip Pack by Swedish outdoor brand Fjällräven, a collaboration with the bike gurus at Specialized, is a winner in this realm. Technically, it’s designed for bikepacking (expeditions where you bike from point to point and camp in between), but this 4.5-liter pack works well for bipedal outings too with its two slim water bottle holders, a central compartment big enough to house plenty of snacks, and two slip pockets. It’s also water-resistant, a boon for any unexpected showers, and produced without environmentally detrimental PFCs. But just like Clark Kent, this hip pack has a hidden superpower: A discreet back panel unfolds to create a backpack. So while there are certainly times when a minimal, rugged stuff-hauler fits the bill, if you do need to tote a few extras—a cape and full-body skinsuit, perhaps—the S/F Expandable Hip Pack is ready.
Fast and Free Running Belt by Lululemon
Best hip belt for runners
- Buy now: $38, shop.lululemon.com
- Pros: Slim, no-bounce design holds the essentials
- Cons: Only holds the essentials
“As a runner, you don’t want your phone or your keys to fall out of your pocket or get misplaced,” Fiske says. “Having something tight around your waist is helpful. For running, it’s got to be something small.” The Fast and Free Running Belt by Lululemon sits snug against your backside, but it’s made from the brand’s lightweight and fast-drying Nulux fabric, so it won’t feel sticky against your skin.
Since this cummerbund-inspired stuff sack wicks sweat but doesn’t prevent it, Lululemon made sure the Fast and Free Running Belt is machine washable. Reflective hits along the zipper strap keep you visible on predawn and postsunset jogs, while three different sizes ensure you get the perfect, bounce-free fit. Although the belt isn’t made with recycled materials, Lululemon overall is committed to reducing its average freshwater use by 2025 and decarbonizing its value chain by 2030, as outlined in its sustainability initiatives.
Mountain Waist Pack by Topo Designs
Best fanny pack for throwback style
- Buy now: $49, topodesigns.com
- Pros: Retro aesthetic, recycled materials, inclusive brand ethos
- Cons: Long zipper straps create a less streamlined look
Retro style, from neon colors to acid-washed jeans, is cool again. Own it with a two-liter Mountain Waist Pack from Topo Designs—preferably in its hot pink, neon yellow, and black colorway. This everyday carrier features burly YKK zippers, seatbelt webbing strap, and a durable, recycled nylon exterior, ready for rugged outings in the woods and hills—or not. The Denver-based brand champions what it calls the New Outdoor, “an inclusive place that allows us, regardless of who we are, to be both the outsider and the insider, the novice and the pro.” So, whether you wear the Mountain Waist Pack literally on a mountain or just for a postschool hang at The Max, it’s got you covered.
The Sidekick by No Reception Club
Best hip pack for parents
- Buy now: $85, noreceptionclub.com
- Pros: Comes with a changing pad, made with recycled materials
- Cons: On the expensive side
With kids aged two years and two weeks, the Swansingers are in the thick of hand-holding across parking lots, dishing out Goldfish at a moment’s notice, and diapers (so many diapers). “There are definitely times you need the diaper bag, when you need all of the things,” Grace Swansinger says, “but then there are times when you want to go a little bit lighter and you just want to bring the basics like a diaper, some wipes, and a couple snacks. That’s the benefit of a fanny pack.”
New-in-2022 family travel brand No Reception Club heard parents like Swansinger loud and clear. So while its 24-liter Getaway Bag is an innovative backpack with dual entry points and a unique, interior shelf system, the brand also offers the aptly named Sidekick (three-liter capacity) to accompany it. Minimalist in its size, aesthetic, and environmental impact, the recycled polyester Sidekick is thoughtfully designed to hold everything your baby needs to stay fresh and dry. The changing pad is included, and it has enough space to stuff up to a half-dozen diapers, along with some ointment and hand sanitizer. Stick the wipes in the back exterior pocket—we love its magnetic flap closure—and it’s a breeze to swipe and wipe. Don’t stress if a little mess ends up on the fanny pack. Just toss it into the washing machine.
Atom Sling Bag 8L by Patagonia
Best overall sling
- Buy now: $65, patagonia.com
- Pros: Ideal for travelers averse to carrying a pack around their waist, thoughtful design, made with sustainable materials
- Cons: Bigger size means it takes up more room in your luggage
Travelers who aren’t quite ready to embrace a true fanny pack can ease into the throwback-turned-comeback trend with the cross-body carry system of a sling. This silhouette also tends to have more storage capacity, something Fiske appreciates on longer outdoor outings near her home in Austin. “Depending on your activity and what you’re doing, you need to upsize from belt to fanny to sling,” she says. “I wear a sling on simple, longer hikes where I might need to carry a pair of binoculars or a birding book or something a little more substantial.”
The Atom Sling Bag 8L from certified B Corp Patagonia has proven to be a favorite among travelers thanks to its trio of pockets—one large central compartment, a second stash pocket, and a stretchy, phone-ready pocket on the strap—and ability to swing smoothly from a back carry system to a more secure front carry system. “It was comfortable, had enough room for a water bottle, and the pockets were easy to access,” says one reviewer who used it on a two-week excursion to New Zealand. “I liked being able to have my hands free and had confidence no one would be grabbing the bag off my shoulder.” Another customer who bought the pack for a European vacation calls it simply “a dream.”
Made with recycled polyester, finished with a PFC-free durable water-repellent coating, and Fair Trade Certified sewn, the Atom comes in a range of colors from sure-to-make-you-smile Shine Yellow to a more refined Sequoia Red.
Sunset Sling by Kedzie
Best sling with budget-friendly style
- Buy now: $50, kedzie.com
- Pros: Dressy exterior, interchangeable straps go with different outfits and occasions
- Cons: Vegan leather isn’t made with sustainable materials
For long days wandering through the City of Light or window shopping in Milan, you need a pack with slick, urban styling. Yet you still want enough storage capacity to avoid having to backtrack to the hotel. The Sunset Sling by Kedzie—with its leather-esque exterior, hits of gold hardware, and 6-inch-by-9.2-inch sizing—is just the thing.
Equipped with two primary pockets, plus interior and exterior slip pockets, the Sunset has space for the essentials plus room for a small souvenir or two. And while it comes with a simple black strap (55 inches when fully extended), users can let their personality shine with alternate options like a bold cheetah print or flowery pattern (sold separately).
Utility Pack by Wilderdog
Best hip pack for dog owners
- Buy now: $36, wilderdog.com
- Pros: Thoughtful design, help a shelter dog with purchase
- Cons: Need to pack doggie treats in a separate baggie to prevent odors
With a pair of pups joining the Swansinger’s happy mountain household, they also know a thing or two about dog walking—and dog running and hiking. “When you take them out, you’ve got to have your hands free,” Grace Swansinger says. “This option from Wilderdog would be useful for the poop bag dispenser and stasher bag that is included to store treats.”
Indeed, the canine-focused brand’s 2.5-liter Utility Pack features three separate compartments: one for Fido’s snacks, a second for yours (along with your wallet and phone), and a third ready to fit a roll of poop bags. Stitched webbing along the front of this lifetime-warrantied mini hauler provides attachment points from which to hang your best friend’s additional accouterments (maybe a bowl or pull toy). Best of all, Wilderdog sends a pound of kibble to a rescue shelter in need with every purchase.
Highwater Hitchhiker by Bote
Best waterproof fanny pack
- Buy now: $70, boteboard.com
- Pros: Completely waterproof, fun color options
- Cons: Expensive (for its size)
As a brand that specializes in paddleboards, kayaks, and floats like this sweet inflatable chair, Bote (pronounced “boat”) knows a thing or two about beach life, including the age-old conundrum of what to do with can’t-get-wet items like phones and wallets that you likewise don’t want to leave unprotected by your beach bag. That’s why it introduced the Highwater Hitchhiker, a fully waterproof (even when submerged), two-pocket (one primary compartment, plus a small interior mesh pocket) fanny pack. Seven inches by four inches in size, it’s “perfect for keeping all your smaller items safe and dry,” according to one reviewer.
Twelve Hip Pack by Herschel
Best hip pack for kids
- Buy now: $17 (was $25), herschel.com
- Pros: Kid-focused prints, affordable
- Cons: Selling out quickly
Fiske remembers her first encounter with a stylish hip pack was with a pale pink Herschel version. “That brand is very hip,” she says, “So I thought, ‘If they’re making a fanny pack, then it’s got to be in style.’” We love Herschel’s Twelve Hip Pack, a 6.75-inch-by-4-inch carrier that’s just right for pint-sized travelers. Its simple, one-pocket design makes it perfect for pinecones, rhinestones, and any other treasures your little traveler comes across. Though many kid-approved designs like sharks, surfers, and boats have sold out already, it’s still on sale in a graphic floral print.