When fanny packs started making their way back in style, some people must have thought...really? For years, they were mainly a tourist essential. But the once-nerdy bag is officially experiencing a renaissance, with both streetwear brands and celebrities giving it their stamp of approval.
These fans are onto the fact that backpacks can be cumbersome and totes are a drag if you only need to carry a few items. The fanny pack is the perfect utilitarian bag that lets you travel light and hands-free. Plus, there are some health reasons you may want to get on board with a belt bag.
The perks of fanny packs
A waist-hugging bag is better for your back than a lot of other options. Millions of Americans suffer from chronic back pain and need an everyday bag that won’t exacerbate the problem. “This type of pain may have been caused by an underlying medical condition or by an accident,” says Dr. Kevin Lees, D.C. from The Joint Chiropractic, the nation’s largest provider of chiropractic care. One-shoulder bags like purses or totes can place unbalanced pressure on the spine, and heavy backpacks can do a number on your back. “A fanny pack certainly will keep the load from attacking your spine, and due to their small size, the weight is kept light.”
The way you wear a fanny pack—around the waist or hips—is also healthier for a body in motion. “It doesn’t add extra stress to the spinal joints and muscles because it sits below the spine,” explains Dr. Lees. “This allows you to move your upper body and your torso when walking, hiking, or running without the added resistance or weight to one area.” Wearing a fanny pack as a cross-body bag can still deliver similar benefits, where your waist and hips can stay fairly centered while walking or running.
How to choose the best fanny pack
✔️ Select your size: While fanny packs are small by design, there is still some variation when it comes to size. You might see dimensions listed, which will help you picture how it’ll look on you, but dimensions don’t necessarily indicate how much volume the bag can carry. That’s measured in liters, and typically ranges from 1L to 3.5L. If you’re looking for something to replace a tote, you’ll probably want one that can carry 3L or more. However, there are drawbacks to a larger bag. “The farther away from you the weight is carried, the harder it is for your body to adapt. Expandable packs allow the weight to sit farther out from your body which may lead to back pain or fatigue,” notes Lees. If you want something slim, try a pack with a height of around 4 inches and volume under 3L.
✔️ Consider the features: Some bags are designed with features like waterproof zippers or fabric, hidden compartments, or an extra pocket. These can give you more options for when and where you use your bag. For example, waterproof or water-resistant material is a great option if you go on long walks or hikes. A transparent pack may be cute at a concert but is definitely tempting for a pick-pocket during travel.
✔️ Prioritize the strap: Longer and wider straps have several advantages. They not only fit more body types, but they can make a bag more versatile and ensure a snug fit, which is critical for your back health. “Wide straps allow the load to be spread out more evenly across many muscles. This distribution of weight will help your spine and neck have a lighter burden,” says Dr. Lees.
Ready to find the best fanny pack for your needs? These picks are stylish and practical for any walk around town or beyond.
This classic sporty fanny pack can be worn across your body or around your waist, and features two compartments for your stuff. The durable polyester body can withstand all kinds of activity and has the perks of a clip-lock closure and key fob. “I didn’t think it was fair that my wife gets to carry a purse, and I carry everything I need in my pockets,” wrote one Amazon reviewer. “Now the playing field has been leveled. My Adidas fanny pack is great quality, has strong zippers, everything you’d hope for.”
Leave your tote or backpack at home. As one of the largest Herschel hip packs, it can carry 3.5 L and has ample storage for anything from a camera to small notebooks. The adjustable strap stretches from 21 to 52 inches and features a buckle for quick release. If you’re planning a long day out, the double pockets can help you stay organized, while the waterproof zipper will keep moisture out.
This super cute purse replacement is on the smaller side, fitting only 1L, but you can still comfortably store a phone, keys, wallet, and a couple of other small items. Truly an “everywhere” bag, the water repellent fabric makes it a fantastic option rain or shine, commuting in the city, or walking in the country.
This pick is an inexpensive, high-value pack: The two pockets will keep you organized and the size is versatile. It’s smaller than the Herschel with a similar length strap and bigger than the Lululemon, making it perfect if you’re traveling with more than just your phone, wallet, and keys.
You definitely won’t have to go digging to find your keys or anything else in this bag. Clearworld’s water-resistant transparent design is easy to clean and is a funky look for the beach, concert, or baseball game. Its stadium-approved size and transparency allow you to pass through security worry-free.
The Renew transit bag is subtle and sleek if you are more of a minimalist. With two pockets, an internal divider for organization, and monochrome colors, Everlane delivers a belt bag that pairs well with both work and leisure wardrobes. The strap presents the only drawback: You can adjust the length to slip it on and off, but there’s no buckle for quick release.
Avoid that bulky feeling of running with your essentials and snap on this slim waist bag. The main draw of the WATERFLY fanny pack is its lean design and multiple compartments, which keep your phone and keys secure as you exercise. The adjustable strap also ranges from 20 to 50 inches, so you can run with it slanted across your chest or around your waist.
The Patagonia Ultralight stows into its own pocket and is constructed with a sturdy lightweight material, making it an excellent travel fanny pack. It won’t take up much space in a suitcase and, while it’s not spacious (only fits 1L), it can still accommodate a phone, keys, wallet, and a couple of other small items. Plus, if you get the Steller Blue/Patchwork color, you’ll sport a serious 80s throwback look.
The Waren Belt Bag still has the classic fanny pack look but is modernized by the designers at Coach for a chic vibe. It’s made from pebble and refined calf leather and features the Coach carriage on the front, an inside pocket, and plenty of storage space. One reviewer noted, “I was skeptical about ordering at first because it’s listed as a male belt bag, but now I’m absolutely happy that I did. I would definitely recommend this belt bag, especially if you want lots of extra space.”
This is the bag to get if you’re constantly running around with kids or grandkids. Kibou manufactures what they call a “deliberately minimal diaper bag” that you can take anywhere from the park to school to on a hike. Its built-in waterproof pocket can keep 20+ wipes wet for up to a week, and the detachable changing pad provides easy access in an emergency. This is perfect for your little one’s essentials and your own.