Fanny packs used to be cool, sort of. In the 1980s, back when you’d regularly see hotshot skiers flying down the slopes in bright fluorescents, you’d see those same suave hipsters donning a pink and yellow pouch around their waste later that night at the bar. And then the 1990s happened, the blacks and grays of previously rebellious punk rock outfits became mainstream, and for a long time, fanny packs were decidedly uncool.
These days the iconic bum bag has been rebranded and can now be referred to by such macho designations as the belt bag or hip pack, for those too self-conscious to include the word “fanny” in their vocabulary. Whatever you want to call it, they’re now back on the cool list with more street cred than ever, and we can all exhale a deep sigh of relief. Nothing keeps your hands free and your passport safe like a fanny pack. That said, not all fanny packs are created equal. Some remain deserving of that dusty spot in the back of a thrift store. Others, though, have extra sass, as well as extra space or extra straps — making them ideal for travel across a variety of situations and destinations.
For museum hopping
There’s an art to museum hopping. You need to know your museums (and that the Louvre requires a lot of standing in line). You need to know your art, so you don’t miss standouts, like “The Birth of Venus” at the Uffizi Gallery or “Sunflowers” at the Van Gogh Museum. And you need the right fanny pack, a sculptural standout that both makes a style statement and makes room for all of your culture fix fundamentals — think Field Notes notebook, a #2 pencil, and all of those keepsake ticket stubs and brochures. It doesn’t hurt that the State Crosby Fanny Pack ($150) is an objet d’art in its own right — just look at the smooth leather and artistic lines.
For the road less traveled
You’re the breed of traveler who is always on the lookout for the next big thing, be it a restaurant, city, hotel, or hole in the wall. In other words, Iceland, Copenhagen, and Austin are so 10 years ago. The Fjällräven Ulvö Hip Pack Medium ($50) is the fanny pack that is ahead of the trends and ahead of the travel industry. It’s a bonus that it hails from the small town of Örnsköldsvik in Sweden, which is where you’re probably heading next, but we won’t tell anyone.
For the “find yourself” trip
Sometimes you need to lose yourself to find yourself, and when you do, Joshua Tree, Tulum, Chiang Mai, and Bali are always there for you. On the itinerary: journal writing, temple-touring, and maybe a shamanic ritual. The perfect accessory for your soul-searching journey is Madewell’s Canvas Fanny Pack ($58), a canvas classic with an adjustable leather strap. It fits the essentials, which is good because you never know how long this whole “finding yourself” thing is going to take.
For island jumping
If you’ve seen one island, you’ve seen them all…said no one ever. A trip that takes you to exotic atolls, say yachting your way through Greece’s Dodecanese islands or touring French Polynesia, might be the ultimate dreamy escape, but what’s not dreamy is losing your stuff. When you’re on and off boats and planes, this is a real possibility, so there’s the Lululemon On The Beat Belt Bag ($58) that’ll come in handy. It’s roomy enough to stuff sunblock and a foldable hat, sturdy enough to stand up to a few splashes of water, and stylish enough so you won’t look like you’re on your grandma’s cruise.
For jet-setting and city exploring
As the fanny pack has transgressed decades and generations, London, New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, Copenhagen, and Milan have remained epicenters of cool. So now that they’re trendy again, it makes sense you’d take along a sleek fanny pack to match the city’s chic vibe. But Mission Workshop’s Axis: VX ($185) is more than just a pretty face. Built to be durable yet design forward, it’s water-resistant for rainy days and can take you from a subway to Uber to scooter to bike — not to mention from day to night — without breaking a sweat. And it doesn’t hurt that it looks just as good on dudes.
For hardcore hiking
Of course, Patagonia has built a fanny pack to take outside. Its Black Hole Waist Pack ($42) keeps snacks, extra layers, and Band-Aids for blisters within arm’s reach, and a front zipper pouch gives you quick access to your phone for photos. The pack gets extra points for stretchy water bottle pockets, super high-tech and water-repellent fabric, and carrying comfort. It’s seriously a cinch to cinch.
For the girl’s trip
A girls’ trip can be a trip, especially when there’s wine involved. Whether you’re road-tripping, resorting, or wine tasting, by elke’s Distressed Metallic Zip-Top Hip Pack ($135) has a lot in common with your travel mates. It’s the perfect companion for beach walks and long dinners, and the distressed metallic leather only gets better with age. No, a bottle of wine won’t fit in there, but the other essentials (keys, money, phone, and lip gloss) will.
For the festival flocker
Festivals have one big thing in common — it’s probably going to be a shitshow. Whether it’s Coachella, Burning Man, Wanderlust, or even some under-the-radar vegan food festival, festivals are a place where like-minded travelers can share in the collective experience of completely forgetting their self-awareness. The answer is to wear a fanny pack. That said, you want your festival pack to stand out while still being practical. Adidas’ Iridescent Belt Bag ($35) stashes your keys, wallet, phone, and that mandatory bandana. Plus, it wipes down easily in case of dust.
For the snow vacation
Yes, ski and snowboard jackets come with pockets, but they’re notoriously deep and clumsy and no one wants their phone falling out on the chairlift. Enter the Madewell x Topo Designs Belt Bag ($49). This ski-bunny accessory not only looks the part — white like the snow — it acts the part, keeping essentials like lip balm, SPF, sunglasses, and hand warmers handy, with an inner zipper for cards and cash. And yes, it can be worn crossbody or around the waist. The ‘80s are back, baby.
For international backpacking
Ah, the life of a nomad traveler. Sleeping in hostels. Getting up at the crack of dawn to catch a sunrise or a last-minute flight to Prague. Eating canned sardines in every country you visit. And schlepping your backpack everywhere. That thing can get heavy and sweaty and stinky, and some days you want to just explore without a beast strapped to your back. Cotopaxi’s Bataan Fanny Pack ($30) lets you carry a ton of stuff yet weighs next to nothing. And in keeping with the backpacker vibe, it’s made of repurposed fabric and comes in a variety of colors.