The return of hip packs (perhaps better known by their 90’s nickname as “fanny packs”) in the world of mountain biking has left many debating over whether they should opt for that or a backpack. To help you settle the debate and identify which is best for you and your particular needs while mountain biking, we’ve unpacked the major pros and cons of each with the help of evo Denver’s mountain bike shop and their experienced team of mountain bike experts.
- Carrying Capacity
- The most obvious and significant difference between backpacks and fanny packs is the amount of stuff that each can carry. While most mountain bike backpacks range from 10L up to 35L, most fanny packs offer anywhere from 2L to 8L. What those storage volumes ultimately translate to is space to carry things. Where the extra space of a backpack enables you to bring more, the reduced capacity of hip packs means you’re not tempted to carry any unnecessary extras. Sometimes less is more, but for some mountain bikers, the mere difference in carrying capacity is the sole determinant in the debate between fanny packs vs. backpacks. In our opinion, it really comes down to the length of your ride — while hip packs are great for shorter rides, longer rides often warrant a backpack.
- Weight Distribution
- The next biggest variable to analyze between waist packs and backpacks is where that extra weight in your pack actually sits. While some folks prefer having weight distributed over their upper back, others prefer the lower weight and lower center of gravity that comes with hip packs. Related to the positioning of the weight is the ‘swing weight’. Generally the more weight you have and the further away from your body that weight sits, the more it will impact your riding when maneuvering and cornering — generally backpacks, by nature of their larger size impact swing weight more so than fanny packs.
- Perhaps even more so than weight distribution, the difference in breathability between a hip pack and a backpack is a pretty major factor for most folks. While backpack manufacturing companies will callout numerous features that make their backpacks more breathable and sweat wicking than ever before. Don’t be fooled though, the increased surface area on your back that’s covered by a backpack will inherently make you more sweaty than that of a waist pack. For some, a sweaty back is a major nuisance. For others, it’s an inherent and accepted part of the sport.
- Not to be overlooked is the aspect of back/spinal protection — after all, accidents do happen and mountain biking is an inherently dangerous sport. Bike repairs can always be made, but bodily repairs cannot. Recognizing this, many folks actually like riding with a backpack merely because it provides back protection. Fanny packs? Well, they provide a little extra padding for your lower back but it’s really pretty negligible compared to a backpack. What’s more, several mountain bike backpack manufacturers incorporate literal back protection features into many of their offerings. If you ride hard, fast, or technical trails (i.e. most of us) then back protection is a very valid consideration.
- Let’s not underplay the value of being hip (yes, that pun was 100% intended!) either. There’s no denying that the resurgence of hip packs is trending within the mountain bike community as well as among streetwear enthusiasts. No, backpacks are not suddenly seen as “uncool” but the timeless notion of “new-cutting-edge-cool”. The equation is simple yet foolproof; when you look good, you feel good, and you ride good!
Images: evo (Used with permission from Dakine / Giro)
We are evo Denver. We are a bike, ski, snowboard, wake and skate shop, camping store, and clothing retailer all under one roof in Denver, Colorado. In addition to retail, we provide bike repairs, bike rentals, ski/ snowboard waxes & tunes, and ski/ snowboard rentals. Visit our flagship store in the Capitol Hill neighborhood where our knowledgeable staff will happily assist you with all of your outdoor gear and action sports needs.