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Published Sep 9, 2022 10:10 AM

Alongside Crocs, heavy glasses, bright colors, and high waistlines, fanny packs join the growing list of iconic fashion trends. The once-ridiculed waist pack has seen a surge in popularity lately thanks to TikTok influencers as well as the tactical community not just because it’s a throwback to 1980s fashion, but because it’s actually functional.  

Traditionally, a fanny pack is a small bag with a belt that fits around your waist. It’s designed to hold things like a wallet, keys, phone, or whatever handheld object you need. They typically rest on your hip or fanny — the old-time word for butt, and British Commonwealth term for something much more scandalizing — but wearing them crossbody is now common as well. Whether you wear it as a hip pack or over the shoulder, a fanny pack will give you extra storage so you can comfortably carry what you need. 

For this article, we focused on the best fanny packs for things like concealed carry, everyday carry, and medical supplies alongside the classic JanSport as a testing control. We also cover features you should consider before buying a fanny pack for tactical purposes.

When you think of a fanny pack, a JanSport fanny pack probably comes to mind. Currently, the JanSport Fifth Avenue is one of the most popular fanny packs on Amazon with a 4.8-star average from nearly 6,500 reviews. There’s a reason for this. It’s designed with two pockets — the main compartment and a zippered pocket — to deliver 2.5 liters of storage, so you can fit pretty much everything you need for your daily routine, and then some. Plus, it’s constructed from a fairly durable 600 Denier polyester, comes in a variety of fun colors, and costs around $20. All in all, it does everything that most people need a fanny pack to do, and that’s why it’s our baseline standard for what a fanny pack needs to achieve.

While the Fifth Avenue fanny pack may be everything you need for travel or a trip to the gym, it’s far from tactical. The material may be sturdy, but the stitching is not, with loose, spaced-out stitching on critical stress points like the corners near the straps. The material is also very loud, rustly, and cheap-feeling, seeming to be the most durable material they could get for the lowest price. The main compartment cannot be opened wide, meaning that if you have large hands, or are trying to draw out or put in a large object, this could be problematic.

Product Specs
  • Patterns offered: Black, green, blue, and many fun patterns
  • NIR-compliant: No
  • Mounting options: Waist strap
Why It Made The Cut
  • This is what many people think of when they think of fanny packs, and to establish why it’s better to get a specifically tactical fanny pack, we reviewed it.
PROS

Wide color variety

Durable material

Spacious without being overly large

CONS

Poor stitching

Cannot be opened wide

Loud material

BDS Tactical of Oceanside, California, is no stranger to our gear department, having made our list of best gun belts and making a cummerbund upgrade kit that’s arguably the best thing to ever happen to the issued USMC Flak. Between its Super Admin Pouch and today’s subject, its Tactical Fanny Pack, there’s not a single rifle squad, gun section, or truck crew that I’ve seen, active or reserve, who doesn’t own at least one of these two products. The BDS Tactical Fanny Pack was described by my staff sergeant as reminiscent of old-school Eagle Industries gear, which he most definitely meant as a compliment, owing to the absolutely indestructible construction.

The BDS Tactical Fanny Pack is made of 1000D Cordura, which is very uncommon these days. As other brands move towards lighter 500D and 330D Cordura, or high-tech materials like Dyneema, BDS made the decision to go with the much heavier, but much more durable option. This helps to make this fanny pack lance corporal-proof, and it survived a nasty butt-slide down the rocky paths on Range 400 at Twentynine Palms without any tearing, and then made good as new with a quick wash.

The BDS Tactical fanny pack holds a lot of stuff without limiting your waist mobility as much, because the fanny pack expands outward, rather than downward, so even though I was able to fit my Fujifilm XT4, 70-300 lens, and spare batteries in the fanny pack, I was still able to move as normal, provided I didn’t lay down on my fanny pack.

The fanny pack is also scalable, with MOLLE webbing all over, and two MOLLE “wings” that stick out from the sides, allowing the mounting of various pouches, usually water bottle pouches, compasses, and tourniquets from what I’ve seen. Finally, for as many features as this fanny pack has, it’s fairly affordable, even without BDS Tactical’s generous military discount.

There’s a reason why you don’t see many companies still using 1000D Cordura, and a lot of that is because of the weight of the fabric, especially when wet. This, combined with the lack of a drainage hole, means that this fanny pack will retain plenty of water in a wet environment. The abundance of MOLLE webbing on this fanny pack also means that this does not blend in well as a fanny pack for civilian or EDC use, and the lack of internal Velcro or tie-down points means that many of the popular EDC aids on the market like trigger guards and holsters won’t work, should you choose to actually use this decidedly militaristic fanny pack for EDC.

Product Specs
  • Patterns offered: Coyote brown, black, ranger green, multicam, multicam arid, multicam tropic, multicam black, M81 woodland
  • NIR-compliant: Yes
  • Mounting options: Waist strap, MOLLE
  • What does it do better than a JanSport? Durability, NIR compliance, Velcro space, MOLLE, tactical camo patterns
Why It Made The Cut
  • BDS Tactical made an ultra-durable fanny pack that’s everything a military fanny pack ought to be, with tons of MOLLE space, storage, and old-school charm.
PROS

Loads of mounting points

Affordable

Great internal storage

CONS

No Velcro for organizers

Overtly military appearance

Heavy fabric retains water

Helikon-Tex is a completely underrated brand that makes clothing, bags, and other tactical soft goods. Many readers recommended the Poland-based company to me as an economical choice that over-delivers in terms of build quality, and I’m happy to say that the Bandicoot waist pack delivers in a big way. This is a capable tactical fanny pack that can be tailored to your individual needs in terms of mounting, color, and storage, and does so for a frankly unbeatable price.

The Bandicoot Waist Pack has several fabric options, but today we’re focusing on the Cordura variant since that’s a durable fabric that’s commonly used by the military. The durability extends beyond the 500D Cordura, including bar-tack stitching on high-stress points, a metal buckle covered by cloth to increase waist strap durability, reinforced zippers, and high stitch density overall, meaning these packs can take a beating.

The biggest advantage that the Bandicoot brings is the incredible amount of internal organization that you get, due to the fact that this fanny pack features a removable Velcro organizer panel, a tie-down point for something like a compass or other sensitive items you don’t want to lose, a mesh internal pocket, and front and rear external zipper pouches.

This fanny pack comes in a wide variety of colors, including many popular camouflage patterns, and neutral tactical colors like coyote brown and black. It also comes in more EDC-friendly colors like red, blue, yellow, and gray. Finally, this fanny pack can be mounted in a variety of ways, using the waist strap, a pass-through sleeve on the back, or the included MOLLE webbing to mount this to a belt, chest rig, or just around your waist.

While Helikon-Tex makes this fanny pack in a variety of colors, only certain patterns are suitable for military use in the same way that most tactical nylon is. Not all of the patterns are NIR-compliant and will glow unnaturally when viewed under night vision, negatively affecting camo. Only patterns like Multicam, Pencott Greenzone, and the A-TACS camo, as well as a few others, have this capability, and it’s somewhat disappointing as a Marine to see that even the coyote option isn’t NIR-compliant, since most Marines wear coyote brown gear.

It’s also a fanny pack that tries to bridge the gap between utility bags and EDC fanny packs, not as large as the Shaw RAID V2 or the Mystery Ranch Hip Monkey, but also not small enough for those who want a small EDC pack to just hold their personal belongings while on the go. Finally, if this pack gets waterlogged or if you’re in the water at any point, it won’t drain as fast, due to the fact that it lacks any sort of drainage hole, which is a must-have for military use.

Product Specs
  • Patterns offered: Adaptive green, black, coyote, olive green, multicam, M81 US woodland, and 24 other colors and patterns
  • NIR-compliant: Multicam, PenCott GreenZone, PenCott Badlands, PenCott SandStorm, and A-TACS only
  • Mounting options: Waist strap, belt sleeve, external loops, internal Velcro
  • What does it do better than a JanSport? Internal organization, NIR compliance, storage, durability, and mounting options
Why It Made The Cut
  • We were seriously impressed with the performance and features of the Helikon Tex Bandicoot, a decidedly tactical fanny pack, as well as the incredible level of internal organization.
PROS

Durable construction

Excellent internal organization

Huge color variety

CONS

Not all colors are NIR-compliant

No water drainage

Too large for some, too small for others

Ex Umbris Designs is a little-known boutique gear shop hailing from the Pacific Northwest, who impressed us when we reviewed one of its gun belts, owing to the fact that it offered theoretically unlimited customization in terms of sizes and colors, made durable nylon products, and offered it at a competitive price. Since then, it has stayed busy producing modular chest rigs, pouches, and today’s fanny pack, designed squarely for the EDC market, and which is low-profile, durable, and well-made.

Not every situation calls for a general-purpose solve-all solution, and the Ex Umbris EDC Fanny Pack is designed specifically for people who like to keep a handgun, first aid kit, or other tools on them in a way that doesn’t take up pocket space. Features like internal loop-side Velcro aid the mounting and organization of holsters, magazine carriers, and first aid kits.

In spite of this fanny pack’s small size, I was still able to fit a lot of my field essentials such as my map pens, notebook, protractors, and JFIRE training publication, which I could very well swap out for things like flashlights, multitools, and GPS receivers. The hand-made character of this fanny pack, like other Ex Umbris products that I’ve evaluated, really shows in the use of materials like Cordura laminate and high-density stitching, meaning that I was able to fill the fanny pack with fishing weights and swing it around like a sling or flail without any failure of stitching or zippers.

Unfortunately, the EDC-specific design of this pack means that it’s going to be on the smaller side for many military uses. I brought this up, along with several other critiques regarding things like drainage holes and tie-down points, to the owner of Ex Umbris and he informed me that they’re working on more military-focused fanny packs, so more overt users will likely have something available very soon.

The only other issue that I identified for some buyers is the cost that comes with being made in a small shop (rather than in a sweatshop overseas). The Ex Umbris EDC fanny pack isn’t cheap at $80 MSRP, and while you definitely get what you pay for in terms of quality and materials, that might be a steep price for some people.

Product Specs
  • Patterns offered: Black, coyote, ranger green, multicam, M81, tigerstripe, and many others.
  • NIR-compliant: Yes
  • Mounting options: Waist strap, interior Velcro
  • What does it do better than a JanSport? Compact size, durability, excellent finishing, EDC-specific features
Why It Made The Cut
  • EDC fanny packs are growing in popularity, especially for people who live in gym clothes. This is a purpose-built square fanny pack, made by hand in the USA.
PROS

EDC-specific features

Durable

Handmade in the U.S.

CONS

Too small for many military applications

High cost

Lacks military-specific features

It’s safe to say that I’m generally a fan of Mystery Ranch, having reviewed several of their products and being a semi-professional user of its military packs. One thing that I selected for this article was a fanny pack that Mystery Ranch officially lists as being good for (wait for it) — disc golf.

Advertised as capable of carrying a six-pack of beer, it has an elongated strap that allows you to wear it over your shoulder, which brings it to my envisioned tactical use. Many corpsmen I’ve seen like to use various sling bags for their first aid equipment, seeing them as being more accessible than larger medical backpacks that need to be removed before use. It’s not explicitly tactical, but for people who want a fanny pack that they can carry literally everything in, this is the one.

The eight-liter capacity is over five times as much as some of the smaller fanny packs on this list, and the biggest advantage of the Hip Monkey is the sheer amount of stuff that one can store. I was able to fit an entire liter of water, a PRC-152, a spare lens for my camera, books, notepads, map pens, and other items, with room to spare. Couple this with the fact that I was able to put a 40-pound kettlebell in the pack, wear it, and not only have stitching that didn’t burst, but the padding protected me from the weight digging into my hip. Finally, for those who prefer some sort of over-the-shoulder fanny pack or sling bag setup, the strap is long enough to wear in that fashion.

This isn’t a tactical fanny pack in the strictest definition, and despite the fact that it’s a durable pack that we forced into a military role, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s designed to help you get schwasted during disc golf. There’s a reason we opted for the British DPM pattern, and that’s because it’s one of the two tactical colors available in this model (the other one is black).

Additionally, this is obviously not NIR-compliant, so it’s not going to camouflage as well under night vision. I’d love to see Mystery Ranch develop a distinctly military version of this, possibly somewhat scaled down, since I think it has actual utility, but the large size, combined with the stiffened backboard means that it can somewhat limit mobility.

Product Specs
  • Patterns offered: Black, desert fox (coyote brown with blue accents), DPM camo, garnet (red), hunter (blaze orange), lizard (olive drab with bright yellow zipper pulls), splash (blue), steel (gray with fuchsia)
  • NIR-compliant: No
  • Mounting options: Hip strap that doubles as shoulder strap
  • What does it do better than a JanSport? Roomy, can be worn as a shoulder bag, padded for comfort, can be compressed
Why It Made The Cut
  • This large, roomy, and padded fanny pack can carry everything that you could possibly need, making it a hybrid of a fanny pack and a small backpack.
PROS

Huge carrying capacity

Can be converted to over-the-shoulder

Padded for long-term use

CONS

Limits mobility

Not NIR-compliant

Limited tactical colors

Best Multi-Role

Shaw Concepts is an example of a company that makes outstanding upgrades for other people’s stuff, offering bits and pieces to address shortcomings in commonly available gear. More recently, however, the company started creating its own products, such as the ARC V2 carrier and the RAID V2 pouch, featured here. The RAID V2 pouch is the epitome of a tactical fanny pack. It’s the exact opposite of the JanSport we reviewed, to the point where many might argue that by comparison, a lot of the tactical fanny packs on the market simply are content to create your typical nylon fanny pack in camouflage and be done with it.

The Shaw Concepts RAID V2 is supremely adaptable, able to be converted from a dangler-style pack to a fanny pack with buckles in an instant. An example of how this works is to have a dedicated fanny pack to carry specific equipment (e.g., an individual first aid kit), and be able to carry it with you when moving from wearing your plate carrier to simply walking around in a less kitted-out fashion.

The interior walls of the RAID V2 are covered in bungees to allow you to tie down crucial items, the exterior has bungees, hook Velcro, and a tourniquet sleeve, meaning that you can set this up exactly how you want. There’s even an internal pocket for a soft armor panel to protect your groin and all its sensitive blood vessels from fragmentation. Finally, the build quality is absolutely top-notch, and I’ve not seen a Shaw product that isn’t well-made.

The build quality and wealth of features come at a price though, and the Shaw Concepts RAID V2 is the highest-priced item on the list today, even before adding things like the soft armor panel. In addition, like the BDS fanny pack, it’s overtly military and isn’t designed for EDC use. The complexity of features can seem like added costs for people who just need a fanny pack to hold random things. Finally, the bungees on the front of the fanny pack have gotten at least one Marine I know snagged on an object, so definitely remove those unless you absolutely need them.

Product Specs
  • Patterns offered: Coyote brown, ranger green, black, multicam, multicam arid, multicam black, multicam tropic, M81 woodland
  • NIR-compliant: Yes
  • Mounting options: Waist strap, detachable Velcro flap, outer bungees, internal organization straps
  • What does it do better than a JanSport? Mounting options, lay-flat opening, armor potential
Why It Made The Cut
  • This is a fanny pack that transitions from fanny pack, to dangler pouch, to medkit, and all the way back, offering unparalleled modularity and access to the contents.
PROS

Can be used as a fanny pack or dangler

Supports many external attachments

Fantastic build quality

CONS

High cost

Too complex for those who just need a fanny pack

External bungees are a snag hazard

Things to consider before buying a fanny pack

Dimensions

A bigger pack equals more storage — it’s as simple as that. However, different fanny pack sizes are good for different purposes. 

  • 2.5 liters and under are where I’d generally place “compact” fanny packs that are good for EDC. 
  • 2.5 to five liters is where I’d place utility-size fanny packs that are good for dedicated use, but which might be slightly too large or overt to wear in civilian clothes. 
  • Finally, five liters and up is where I start to question where fanny packs end and full-size waist packs like the venerable ALICE buttpack begin.

NIR compliance

Materials meet near-infrared (NIR) compliance when they appear at the same radiation level as the surrounding area. It essentially helps camouflage your gear against night vision. Without getting too technical, materials or fabrics are treated so they don’t glow with an unnatural shimmer when seen through night vision goggles. 

Intended use

If you need a fanny pack for EDC versus needing one to hold a first aid kit in a military setting, your needs will likely differ. While both parties may need a durable fanny pack with lots of internal organization, the former category of person will likely want something that blends in as a stylish fanny pack, rather than something that is covered in MOLLE webbing, tourniquet sleeves, and military camouflage patterns.

Mounting options

How a fanny pack attaches to your body and what can be attached to the fanny pack is very important. Some people prefer to integrate their fanny pack into a belt rig, so special clips or a sleeve may be required. Others prefer to attach magazine carriers and compasses to theirs, meaning that MOLLE will likely be required. 

FAQs about fanny packs

Q: How should a man wear a fanny pack?

A: Men and women can wear a fanny pack however they please. They’re typically worn around the waist or over the shoulder. 

Q: How do you conceal-carry with a fanny pack?

A: Concealed carrying with a fanny pack would be considered off-body carry. If you want to do it (and meet the legal requirements), you would first need a fanny pack that can hold your firearm. Some are made specifically to store and access a firearm. 

Q: Can you wear a fanny pack while running?

A: Running fanny packs — or running belts — exist and are a popular choice to carry personal items while on a run. However, there are alternatives like armbands, running vests, and specially-designed shorts that are just as popular. 

Q: How do you wear a fanny pack in 2022?

A: It needs to be a Supreme fanny pack, Prada fanny pack, or some other hypebeast brand, and you wear it across your chest so that everyone can see the brand without awkwardly staring at your crotch. Then you get a faded perm and start obsessively speaking in appropriated AAVE. Bussin fr. On God. On baby. No cap. Sheesh.

Final thoughts

Tactical fanny packs really grew on me as a concept. I used to think it was a silly trend, but the reality is that it’s very convenient to have a purpose-driven utility pouch that you can wear anywhere, regardless of whether or not you’ve got your armor or belt on. The BDS Tactical Fanny Pack has been my go-to since I started this article, mostly because I use fanny packs in the field, and I don’t particularly care that it looks overtly military in that environment. Additionally, we’ll be looking at other fanny packs and potentially adding them to this list in the future, so stay tuned for updates. 

Methodology 

Every fanny pack on this list was tested and evaluated on the basis of how well it serves its stated purpose. To make this list, every option had to be durable, have a distinctly relevant tactical use, and most importantly, do what a $20 JanSport could not. These fanny packs were tested on how they perform in the field for practical tasks, their durability against tears and abrasions, and how popular they were for Marines and soldiers from a wide variety of military occupational specialties, to ensure that this isn’t just my opinion, but it’s a well-developed general consensus.

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