During an interview last week at Fenway Park, Dallas Buyers Club star Matthew McConaughey went to bat for the fanny pack—those small fabric pouches that zip shut and are worn around the waist. "I'm not afraid of the fanny pack," he told a CSN reporter. "Practicality wins out. I've got so much gear in here that I don't want in my pockets."
We don't blame you if you have no idea what he's talking about. After all, fanny packs went out of style in the early '90s, only to be mocked in years since by artists such as Weird Al. They are decidedly uncool.
Despite this, some of us have worn fanny packs for years (granted, I prefer to call them waist or hip packs). I've never felt the need to defend myself for looking like a nerd. As McConaughey points out, these packs accommodate a lot of essentials (keys, wallet, phone, etc.) and are easy to access.
Equally useful in the outdoors as they are in the city, these fanny packs are five of my favorites.
Ultimate Direction Jurek Essential ($30)
Best for: Ultrarunning
I trained for and completed my first 50-mile race wearing this two-ounce belt, and I couldn't have been happier with it. With two large zippered pockets and a small Velcro pocket, the Jurek Essential accommodated my S! Caps, GUs, ibuprofen pills, electrolyte tablets, and trash. It's so low profile that I forgot I had it on—in fact, very briefly, I thought I'd lost it even though it was still around my waist. And it didn't ride up once.
Mountainsmith Tour TLS ($75)
Best for: Day Hikes
The LS in this Mountainsmith pack's name stands for lumbar support, just one indication of how seriously the Colorado-based company takes its fanny packs. During the peak of summer, I ditched my hot daypack for the Tour TLS, which easily fit all the snacks my wife and I needed for five- to 10-mile hikes, plus a cellphone, sunscreen, and two liters of water. This pack is very comfortable thanks to ample padding, and the bungee webbing on its exterior was a good place to stash my shirt during the hottest hikes.
Lowepro Inverse 100 AW Beltpack ($85)
Best for: Photographers
The Inverse 100 will accommodate a DSLR camera and is stacked with smart photo-specific features, including interior easy-to-access lid pockets for memory cards. Although the case isn't waterproof, the top is highly water resistant and offers some protection for the expensive equipment inside.
Patagonia Lightweight Travel Hip Pack ($39)
Best for: World Travelers
This five-liter fanny pack has three spacious compartments to hold all your travel essentials. Made from water-resistant fabric, this nylon pack is also very packable—rolled up, it's about the size of a T-shirt.
Dakine Crescent Hip Pack ($32)
Best for: Festivals
With two-tone suede and nylon styling, this fanny pack is the most hipster product on the list. Ten liters of storage space make it more than large enough to accommodate a day's worth of party essentials. Mesh pockets help keep all the stuff organized. Don't let the pretty Hawaiian and wolf prints fool you—these packs were built to last with 600-denier ripstop fabric and a sturdy mesh back panel to wick sweat.