A hunter in camo wearing Cabela's Fanny Pack
YouTube/Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Hunting Fanny Pack: Ridiculous Accessory or Brilliant Gear Addition?

Believe it or not, the fanny pack has shown up again in modern fashion. This stylish accessory first became popular in the 1980s and has returned with a vengeance in the 2020s, and it's even leaked all the way into the hunting world.

It turns out the hunting fanny packs on the market are totally viable equipment with some specific advantages. More than an accessory, it can keep lower profiles than traditional packs while holding almost as many supplies in its various pouches. The point of this seemingly-outlandish accessory is that the pack's main body sits against your hips or lower back instead of your entire back and shoulders. Many southeastern hunters have opted for this convenient piece of equipment in areas with thick brush or in hunting situations where a whole pack of gear isn't needed.

Fanny Pack vs. Hunting Pack

Day packs and hunting backpacks are typically a hunter's go-to when they need to pack gear in and out. You may have even worn one passed down from a hunting buddy without a second thought. The versatility and capability of backpacks are great, and it's easy to incorporate a hydration bladder system. That eliminates any need for extra water bottles or containers to be packed inside.

As great as day packs are, sometimes you just don't need that many cubic inches. A main compartment can also be a bit tough to dig through if it's too large, causing unwanted movement and noise in the hunting woods.

Day packs can also catch on thick brush and low-lying limbs; they can make extra noise and not lay as flush to you as you may want, widening and elongating your profile. Alternatively, the hunting fanny packs of today are designed to be quiet, lightweight, and fit close to the body, depending on how full you stuff them.

Plus, a fanny pack can hold a lot more than you would think. Medium to large sizes usually do the trick for most gear, and you can always lash certain things to the straps, like a light jacket or water bottle sling. A pair of binoculars, first aid kit, snake bite kit, bug spray, field dressing knife, gloves, and even a flashlight or headlamp can all easily fit in most hunting packs.

Types of Hunting Fanny Packs

Hunting fanny packs go by many names; hip pack, lumbar pack, waist pack, and others. Some have shoulder straps, some have thicker waistbands, and others have various compartment setups. Some are better designed to fit in small places for remote hunting trips, while others are better for bowhunting in a treestand.

Some packs are attached to your waist with just one series of horizontal straps. They're medium- to large-sized packs without any portion that goes over your shoulders; it's all held on at the waist with a hip belt. These typically rest in the forward fanny pack position but can be worn to the side at the hip and even backwards on the lumbar. This style is secured with only a waist belt. Depending on what you're planning on carrying, this type of pack may work well on lighter hunts or to keep as a go-bag if you embark on an unexpected hunting opportunity with little notice during your season. Many of these style packs can hold at least a couple of water bottles, a first aid kit, a flashlight, binoculars, and even a snack.

On the other hand, I've found that fanny packs with adjustable shoulder straps are the most popular for day-to-day hunts in cooler climates, particularly longer hunts, or for those that tend to carry more gear than others. These packs are often larger than those with just a waist strap, and the shoulder straps allow them to still lay quietly next to the body while supporting good ergonomics.

Some shoulder strap-equipped fanny packs are designed to sit as a front pack while others serve as a lumbar pack. Some have extra side pieces. Packs with shoulder harnesses are particularly useful when you need to carry things that don't easily fit into a pack; you can just lash them to the straps and still keep a fairly low profile.

Hunting fanny packs with shoulder straps can be one of the best choices for weight distribution and ergonomics compared to a typical day pack. They can also help prevent heavy sweating down your back, a valuable asset while hunting big game. Many models include suspension systems, memory foam padding, and features that help minimize excess movement and make the pack comfortable to wear during longer excursions.

What Makes a Good Hunting Fanny Pack?

A hunting fanny pack differs greatly from the fanny packs of the '80s and '90s pop culture fad. There are quite a few differences between the fanny packs of fashion and those being taken into the woods.

Color is the most obvious difference. You won't find flashy, metallic, or neon purple hunting packs in an outdoor shop. Hunting fanny packs will most often be some style of camouflage, and depending on the environment you're hunting in, you'll want it to match. Some will be made with camo perfect for wetlands, others for mountainous terrain, and still others in the classic big wood timber style.

Size is the next conspicuous difference between a hunting fanny pack and those you saw on the old family sitcoms. Hunting fanny packs are a lot larger than those used in fashion. Whereas the cute and flashy fanny packs may hold some extra cash or a set of keys, hunting fanny packs are built to keep extra knives, game calls, ammunition, and a GPS device secure and quiet.

The type of material varies significantly as well. Modern hunting fanny packs are made of specific materials to minimize sound and be water-resistant. A high-quality hunting fanny pack will have quiet and smooth zippers, limited velcro in high-use areas, quieter material, and strategic padding to help with noise and comfort.

The Best Hunting Fanny Packs Available

The Ultimate Deer Hunter's Waist Pack

SITKA Gear Tool Belt - SITKA, $239

SITKA makes a great fanny pack that they've dubbed the "Tool Belt," which definitely has a better ring to it. It features a two-way top loading lid, holds 600 cubic inches, and includes optional shoulder straps. There are also dedicated spaces for a wind indicator plus a secure, zippered compartment for a rangefinder. The water bottle holders seen on either end are removable.

The Tried and True Fanny Pack

Transporter Fanny Pack - Cabela's, $99.99

Cabela's has built and earned the trust of hunters across the continent, and they've developed this Transporter Fanny Pack to do al the things these gear items should, without any fluff or nonsense. There's a holster attachment for a sidearm, something most fanny packs seem to exclude, and there are external attachment straps to carry a rifle or bow with a valuable boot system. MOLLE webbing on the sides and hip belt make for great attachment opportunities.

The Either/Or Option

ALPS OutdoorZ Little Bear - Amazon, $57.25

With the ALPS Outdoorz Little Bear, you get both a waist-only fanny pack and a shoulder strap-equipped fanny pack in one product. This is possible thanks to the detachable straps; you can snap them on to have shoulder support, or snap them off to skip it.

When it comes time to choose your own, know this: a hunting fanny pack needs to be chosen specifically for the hunter's purpose, environment, and accessories. Too big and you might wind up carrying around excess material you don't need; too small and you'll end up lashing more to you than what you can put into the pack itself, or piling it so full of stuff that you can't easily access the things you need.

Ultimately, a hunting fanny pack is practical and minimalist for those that prefer to travel lighter and don't need a day pack. But just because a pack is marketed with "fanny" in a tag line doesn't mean it's so absurd that you should instantly write it off. A hunting fanny pack is worthwhile if you find yourself packing lighter, needing to stay cooler, or just want to try something different with your hunting gear.