The fanny pack is back, baby! Once a symbol nerdy parents in the 80’s and 90’s, fanny packs have made a resurgence into pop culture as we head into 2019. Fanny packs may also be called “waist bags” today, but we’re sticking with the classic name.
One key difference that we’re seeing a lot in this iteration of “fanny packs” versus those popular decades ago is that many people today (especially men) are wearing them more like “sling bags” or messenger bags. Instead of wearing the strap around the waist, many are choosing to drape the strap over their head and keep the compartments in front of them on their chest, though some may keep the bag on their back.
It’s all a matter of preference. I think that wearing the bag around the waist is functionally superior (easier access to the compartments with both hands, less strain on the back if the bag is heavy, etc) but for style or aesthetic reasons some may prefer it around the chest instead. Also many of these bags are much larger than traditional fanny packs, so wearing them around the waist likely can be an issue.
I won’t debate you on the merits of the style of the fanny pack – to each their own – but fanny packs can be a very useful way to carry your valuables as you travel. The fanny pack has two main alternatives that you should consider for your travels – the backpack and the money belt. Let’s take a look the best fanny packs you should consider for your travels this year, and then we’ll compare fanny packs against alternatives to see what you might find most valuable for your trip.
Our Top 6 Travel Fanny Packs
1. PacSafe Venturesafe Waistpack
When it comes to a fanny pack dedicated strictly to travel, this bag is everything you need. The biggest differentiation is the security features that PacSafe is known for. This includes locking zippers, a strap and nylon shell that are slash-resistant (from anyone trying to cut your bag to take it and run or get to your belongings on the inside), RFID-scanner blocking pockets, and more.
With a 4 liter volume, this bag measures at 7 inches high, 15 inches long, and 4.7 inches deep. 4 liters is a pretty big volume for a fanny pack so it should be enough to replace a backpack on many day trips.
Since security is the priority this bag is very discrete and looks unassuming which is great. It’s offered in black or “blue steel” colors. While it’s a bit more expensive than most fanny packs, if you do a good amount of traveling I think this bag is well worth it.
2. adidas Originals Utility Sling Bag
First up, I like this “sling bag” from adidas. It’s pretty large – 10″ long, 8″ tall, and 2″ wide. Great for your day travels to carry all of your valuables including large phones with room to spare.
This bag has one small front zipper pocket, a main compartment that’s accessed from a zipper on the top of the bag, and then a third zipper on the inside of the bag where you should keep your most important items that you may not access often.
This bag may be too bulky or too expensive for some, but it has a lot of versatility and can easily be worn cross-chest as well.
2. HuntVP Tactical Fanny Pack
Next up, this cheap but well-made “tactical fanny pack” from HuntVP. I’m not a huge fan of military styling, but in black this bag is pretty plain and inconspicuous.
It has a variety of storage space and pouches which makes organizing your stuff really simple. It measures at 10.6″ long, 6.7″ tall, and ~2-4″ wide (depending how much stuff you have crammed in it).
If you’re looking to get the most on your budget and want plain styling that doesn’t call attention to itself, this is probably the best bag to go with.
3. Nike Heritage Hip Pack
If you’re looking for something more streamlined and smooth, but still big enough for traveling, then take a look at the Nike Heritage Hip Pack. It’s about 10 inches long, 6.7 inches tall, and can expand out to almost 6 inches if needed.
With only one zipper compartment and an additional mesh zipper compartment inside for organization, this is a great bag for your travels if you’re looking for something relatively minimalist.
4. REI Trail 2 Waistpack
Looking for something more sporty? The REI Trail 2 Waistpack was made for more active use so it’s a good choice if you plan to be doing some hiking on your trip.
It features a 2-liter capacity at 11.5 inches long, 5 inches tall, and about 2 inches wide. It’s made from nylon so it’s sure to be lightweight and breathable, perfect for warmer climates. It has a small front compartment, one main top compartment, and then a “secret” back compartment where you can store your valuables like your passport, closest to your waist.
5. Herschel Seventeen Hip Pack
Last on deck is the Herschel Seventeen Hip Pack. It’s available in a wide range of styles from plain black to funky floral prints.
This bag measures 13″ long, 6.5″ tall, and 3.5″ deep which gives it a 3.5 liter capacity. It’s a good size for both wearing around your waist or around your chest if you prefer.
This is a good bag for all activities with one smaller outer compartment and one large main compartment. The front compartment has a waterproof zipper so it keeps your contents safe from the elements.
Fanny Pack vs Money Belt for Traveling
A fanny pack and money belt are similar in one major way. They both strap around your waist and are a pretty good spot to store your valuables like your passport, cash, tickets, and more as you travel.
A money belt is made to not be seen. It’s much more slim and discretely hides under your clothing out of sight and mind of any would-be thief. In terms of pure security and safety of the content, you have to give it to the money belt as the undisputed winner. However there are many other ways where the fanny pack is superior.
For starters, a fanny pack can store a lot more than a slim money belt can. You could include your entire wallet, cell phone, and any other small travel items you might have on you without causing any discomfort from the bag. If you try to load up a money belt it will get uncomfortable fast and can make it very obvious that you’re wearing a money belt which defeats the purpose and security of the money belt.
I would also say that a fanny pack is much more comfortable than a money belt, generally speaking. If you try to wear a money belt in the most comfortable region – around your waist, like pants – you’ll find that the belt may be uncomfortably close to your crotch, especially when sitting. Also, wearing a money belt while doing a lot of walking (especially in the heat) will cause your stomach to sweat, the money belt to pick up some moisture, and can even cause some of your documents to bend and warp. I know my passport took some of this second-hand abuse from a summer trip in Europe.
With a fanny pack, everything is external and not sitting directly on your skin which is an advantage. The only time a fanny pack can become less comfortable is if you’re carrying a good amount of weight in it, then it can start to get annoying quick.
Fanny Pack vs Money Belt Verdict
If you’re going to be somewhere high-risk then a money belt is the most obvious choice. Also if you know you’re going to have a backpack on you all the time, you might not need the extra storage space of a fanny pack and may prefer the more slim and lightweight money belt.
If you prefer a safe place to stash all of your items keeping your pockets free, then a fanny pack is a great choice for your trip.
Fanny Pack vs Backpack for Traveling
It’s also worth comparing a fanny pack to a backpack when planning your travels. Which you choose will largely depend on the kind of trip you’re taking.
If you’re going to be doing a lot of hiking or in a climate where you need to dress in layers that you may want to remove, a backpack will likely be the better choice for the extra storage capacity. Also if you need to take snacks or a drink along with you, a backpack is likely the better choice there as well.
I would suggest a fanny pack if you’re not going to be carry as much or if you want something more secure than a backpack. Thieves will sometimes slash a backpack open from behind while you’re unaware to steal the contents. A travel backpack like the Pacsafe Venturesafe does have anti-theft technology, but even if it works you may still be left with a damaged backpack.
By wearing a fanny pack in-front of you, you make it much less likely that someone steals from you as your valuables are right in your line of sight. Also if you’re in a crowded area in general, a backpack can be annoying as it bumps into places and things, whereas a fanny pack will be easier to manage.
Another big advantage that a fanny pack has is it gives you hands-free storage. When you want to get something out of your backpack, you’re going to have to take it off and hold it with one hand while you dig around with the other, or find a place to set it down while you rummage.
A fanny pack on the other hand lets you simply unzip and use both your hands to get what you’re after which is much faster and more efficient.
Fanny Pack vs Backpack Verdict
When deciding which to use this all comes down to how much storage capacity you need. If you can get away with a fanny pack it has a lot of advantages both in terms of security and functionality, but it will never compete with the capacity of a backpack. A backpack especially comes in useful when your climate changes so you may need to keep extra layers, gloves, hats, etc stowed away until you need it.