Traveling light: waist packs
By Barry Kauler
This is one page of a series that I am writing on
"traveling light", whether it be hiking in the wilderness
or wandering the world by boat, bus, train or air.
Over the years, I have done a bit of hiking, or what some would call trekking, rambling, or bushwalking.
January 2015, mid-summer here in Western Australia, I walked a short section of the Bibbulmun Track. I attempted to travel light, but my backpack, loaded with sleeping bag, tent, folding chair, inflatable mattress, food, clothes, toiletries and miscellaneous other items, was a strain.
I'm not a spring chicken anymore. Age 66, my back has a degenerated lower vertebrae, which got stressed a bit carrying the backpack (as did my poor feet!), but trying to crawl around inside my tent was the worst part.
Anyway, moving ahead to the present. I decided to rethink the whole thing. Yes, I did think that I was on the "ultra light" side back in January 2015, however I have now taken it to the extreme.
Although a well-designed backpack is not supposed to pull much on the shoulders, I have yet to find one that doesn't. Also, I carefully observe anyone carrying a backpack, and always I notice considerable downward pull on their shoulders.
To totally eliminate stress on my back, I investigated ultra-ultra-light hiking with only a waist pack. These are also known as lumbar packs, waist bags or bum bags.
What's out there?
The challenge, I soon discovered, was to find a waist pack large enough. I set a minimum size of 6 litres, and this table shows what I found. I know, I know, 6 litres is pitiful, but bear with me.
This cost me AU$49.95 including postage. I bought it from
After arrival, I found the main compartment held about 4 litres. Actual weight: 295gm.
This was on sale at only AU$19.99 including postage, from these guys: http://www.velogear.com.au/bicycle-accessories/bum-waist-bags/sierra-xl-bum-bag-2-colours.html
After arrival, a rough measurement is 4 litre capacity for the main compartment. Actual weight is 297gm.
This cost me AU$95.10 plus AU$40 international postage:
The first two are inexpensive, from Australian suppliers.
I didn't want to spend much more, however, I got enticed
by the Mountainsmith pack. Mostly because of the larger
size, yet still light. Note, actual weight is 408gm.
Comparing the bags
This page does not have full-blown hiking expedition tests -- that comes elsewhere. Instead, I have given impressions of the bags, such as quality, comfort, how much can be put in them, and rough ideas about usage -- such as day-hike, hike-overnight-in-shelter, or airline carry-on.
The most important question, that I hope to answer in
this review, is that of stability. Apparently,
there is a reason that waist bags are not made very large.
A backpack has a frame, which keeps the load in-place,
however, a waist-pack sticks out from the back, only
anchored by the belt, so is going to "bounce" when
I ordered this bag online, thinking that it has 7 litres capacity, however, that is very misleading. The main compartment holds about 4 litres.
Obviously, this pack is not for multi-day hikes! Yet, it
is surprising what I was able to stuff into it:
Note, all of the above items are desribed in depth, with
links to where I purchased them, and prices, in my Base Load web
Very easy to carry, did not bounce or settle down too
much as I walked. A pleasant experience. Excellent quality
The capacity is pretty much the same as the Space Case pack, and I was able to pack all the same items.
Good quality construction. The feel of it is good, was able to walk around without undue bounce or sag. The hip belt is not quite so well padded, so along with the small mesh pouches and less pockets, the Space Case wins.
Ah, now for the big guy. Fully loaded with the claimed
11.5 litres capacity, will it bounce or sag too much? This
is what I put into it:
Yes, I even packed my Sea to Summit Micro II sleeping bag, which is rated at 2 degrees Celsius. In addition, a toiletries bag, towel and electrical kit.
I walked around, and felt quite comfortable carrying this pack, however, it remains to be seen if the comfort persists on a long hike!
Some tentative conclusions can be made. The smaller packs
are OK for day-hikes, and can even stretch to an overnight
in warm summer conditions, sleeping in a shelter.
The Daylight pack is tantalizingly close to being
multi-day hike capable. It could be pushed into this role,
if some sacrifices are made. Such as a tiny summer
sleeping bag (more on that in the field tests), sleeping
in shelters (or under the stars in dry weather). I think
that I could par the weight down to under 3kg, without
food and water.
My feeling is that 4 kg would be about the upper limit for a waist pack, limiting how much food and water can be added. However, the tiny Sea to Summit daypack weighs just 66gm (see items photo, right-bottom), and becomes a 20 litre backpack -- which could be used to carry extra food.I do have some ideas that I want to explore, regarding the Daylight pack and multi-day hikes. Again, will elaborate on that in upcoming field tests.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. I need to get out
there, to find out how these packs really perform.
|(c) Copyright Barry Kauler 2016, all
Please do not copy this page anywhere, instead link to it. I will probably be editing it every now and again, so it is wise to link to this original page.