Waist packs / bumbags / fanny packs

Waist packs, hip bags, lumbar packs, belt packs, bumbags... call them what you will. These are the rucksacks that don't tug on your shoulders, the ultimate lightweight carry system you simply sling beneath your midriff. Chris Townsend delves into the world of bumbags.

They might have been designed for weight-conscious fell runners and mountain bikers but they have plenty to offer walkers and backpackers. I often wear one round my front when carrying a heavy load to give me quick, on-the-move access to sundries such as map, compass, mini binoculars, camera film, sunscreen and energy bars. A bumbag can carry gear on strolls away from camp while larger ones can be used for shorter, lower level walks when you don't want or need to carry a pack but do want to have a few bits of gear with you.

Two types of bumbag are available. Traditional models are long, fairly narrow, and curves round the body. This is the style best-suited for use with a big pack as it is comfortable worn over the belly. The more recent trend is for lumbar packs ö tall rather than long designs which gain their name from the fact that they fit into the lower back. They're more stable than traditional models which makes them good for running and cycling, and they carry more weight more comfortably than traditional designs. But they're not comfortable when worn round the front.

Some bumbags come with water bottle holders or pockets, useful in hot weather but the weight of the water does mean that a good harness system is needed. Big padded hipbelts and lumbar pads support a load best but don't work well when wornwith a pack hipbelt. Then a narrower, thinner belt is best; if fastened above the pack hipbelt the latter takes some of the weight anyway.