In I’ll Need a Crane for That I talked a bit about how for that hike I’d transitioned from my “fanny” pack to my full-on backpack. In a comment, Paul talked a bit about how they used to be called “belt packs” and how nowadays even full backpacks have belts designed to carry 40-60% of the load.
I thought I’d discuss my pack preferences.
Of course, these are my preferences. You’re free to do whatever works for you; I’m just saying that this works for me.
The fanny pack that I carry is a Kelty Hawkeye. It’s the largest volume fanny pack I’ve been able to find. It also has various loops so that, if I wanted, I could attach stuff.
What’s nice about it (and why it really needs to be worn as a fanny pack, not a belly pack) is the two water pouches, one on each side. I usually put a liter bottle on each side (though I’ve even managed to fit 1.5 liter bottles when hiking in the desert at Chaco Canyon). I can also carry a fair bit of stuff: a small medkit, some spare clothing, a windbreaker, a bivvy sack (just in case), some 550 paracord, and a tripod for my camera. (I’ve mentioned before that I put my camera case on the belt in the front, so that the camera is easily accessible.)
When it comes to full backpacks that carry 40-60% of the load at the waist, as far as I can tell that applies more to internal frame packs. I have one, but I really don’t like it.
As you can see, the way the straps attached, you have to carry weight on the shoulders. There’s no way to arrange it otherwise.
As you can see, the attach point for the shoulder straps is low enough on the pack that at least some weight (60-40%, whatever the belt isn’t carrying) is on the shoulders.
And that means that the weight is on my spine. My spine doesn’t like weight. I have vertebrae down there that hate it.
Fortunately, there is another option: an external frame pack. Now, you can arrange the straps on an external frame pack so that the weight is distributed like it is for an internal (40/60), but you don’t have to, and I don’t.
I set it up so that all the weight is carried by my hips.
Here’s a picture of my son with a Jansport pack with no weight on the shoulders.
As you can see, the attach points are above the level of the shoulders. All the shoulder straps do is keep the pack from rotating backwards, but all the weight is on the hips/belt.
This really works for me (and my son prefers it, too).
My pack is actually an even larger Jansport, the D2, with a total capacity of 5520 cu. in. (90,000 cu. cm or 90 liters). As I look at the brochure that came with it, it says
With proper care, your Jansport will last a lifetime.
Mine has lasted since the mid-1980s and it is still going strong. (I did replace the sweat-encrusted shoulder straps, but that’s it.) You can kind of see it at this picture from Conkles Hollow.
Obviously, which pack to use is a highly personal preference. But maybe I’ve given you some suggestions that resonate.