As a child of the 80's, fanny packs are no stranger to me. I can remember a number of neon colored gems that I may have sported in conjunction with high-tops and a bowl cut. I'm not sure what I needed a pack for in those days, probably frooties and sling shot ammo. While the 80's were a fun time for a 6 year old, most of the fashion of that decade does not need to be recreated, with one exception: fanny packs. While I knew fanny packs were great for carrying Legos and sugary snacks, I was initially skeptical that one could be a good option for technical mountain bike rides and more physical outings. With the purchase of a new camera, and the upcoming Bike Fish vision quest, I recently decided to give the hip pack another try (lets just forego that unfortunate fanny part). The need for a hip pack is three fold:
- During mountain bike rides, I'm opting to leave the Camelbak and accompanying kitchen sink of bike tools at home. I love the freedom of not having the pack on my back and I can normally carry the essentials in a seat bag. For longer rides, or ones where I want to carry a camera or a few extra pieces of gear, the hip bag is the perfect answer.
- I recently purchased a new mirrorless camera and wanted a sturdy, but handy option for carrying it while adventuring.
- For the upcoming bike fish adventure down the Pacific Coast, I'll need a multipurpose bag that will work on the bike as well as on the river. Isn't that a rule of lightweight packing: eliminate anything that doesn't do dual duty?
With those needs in mind, I started scouring the internet for quality, made in America hip pack options. Surprisingly, there are many. I looked at brands like Hunt, Mystery Ranch, Swift, and Seagull. I didn't get to handle each in person, but there were a number of features that drew me to the Seagull Trail Buddy (the smaller version of the Trail Beast). I contacted Seagull to ask a few questions about their bag, told them about my bike fish trip, and they generously sent me out the yet unreleased Trail Beast.
After a number of fishing, hiking, and biking outings, I'm beyond stoked about the Seagull Trail Beast. It's has quickly become the go-to piece of gear for all my adventuring. From fly fishing to mountain biking, to gravel grinding, it does it all. I was particularly impressed how well it did on technical mountain bike rides. I expected it to jostle all over and work its way off my waist during the bumpy and jumpy trails around Cody. Not the case. It stayed firmly in place without restricting my movement or breathing. I'd even go as far as saying that it's far less noticeable on a ride than a Camelbak. Plus you're spared the sweaty back.
When fly fishing, the shoulder sling makes access a breeze while it holding more than enough gear. The water bottle pouch conveniently holds bear spray or an adult beverage. For my upcoming Bike Fish adventure, the Trail Beast will perform a variety of functions. Versatility is the name for the game: going from on the bike to on the river, simply by a swapping out of its contents.
General thoughts and bad-ass options:
- Size: Just about perfect. Not to big, not to small. For fishing, I can easily fit 2 large and 2 small fly boxes, camera, tippit, leader, and all the little do-dads for fly fishing. When biking, the Sony mirrorless camera, tube, pump, patch kit, multitool, and lunch.
- Water bottle pouch: Normally bag makers skimp on the size of these. Not so with the Trail Beast. It easily and comfortably handles even the big 1.5 liter Nalgenes. Also, this pouch doubles as storage for things like remote shutter release handy for solo photo shoots.
- Quality construction: big zippers, stout Cordura, solid stitching.
- Optional shoulder sling: perfect for fishing or hiking when you want quick and often access the pack. Leave the waist straps loose and swing the pack around your waist with ease.
- Adjustable under-pack webbing loops: perfect size to strap on a fly rod, small tripod, or similar long-skinny objects.
- Handlebar storage: for less technical rides, strapping the bag to handlebars with its dedicated handlebar straps is a great option.