I was recently cleaning out the two large Rubbermaid containers that I keep all of the family camping gear in and I came across three waist packs. These packs were originally purchased for a camping trip my wife and I took with our daughter about ten years ago – before our youngest son was even around. We shopped around and selected these particular waist packs for the features they offered. This week’s review is going to take a look at those features and why we chose them, as well as some other packs available with features you might need or enjoy.
First and foremost it’s important to understand that the waist packs are there to provide you access to some items that will make your day more enjoyable and provide you necessary supplies should the day be less than enjoyable. Any decent waist pack will carry at least one water bottle, while many carry two and now CamelBak has a waist pack that has a hydration system built into it rather than carrying water bottles. What are those items that you should have? and how do the waist packs carry it most conveniently?
Just as most backpackers learn early on that one BIG pocket is a bad thing – because you have to put ALL your stuff in there and then dig through what you dont’ need to find what you do need – a compartmented pack is better for organization, convenience and ultimate utility. Our waist packs have a large pocket in the center rear and that large pocket is seperated into two segments – equal halves really. On either side of that large center compartment are two smaller individual pockets. Outside of those are bottle pockets to hold the one-quarter water bottles and then in front of those are smaller triangular shapped pockets that end in the nylon straps which buckle at your front.
The waist packs made to fit adults can usually fit two water bottles with no issue while the smaller ones – more appropriately sized for children – usually only carry one bottle. When we took our daughter camping and used the waistpacks for hiking trips, we still made sure that we stocked some emergency items just in case the hike became an unexpected overnight stay. Those items we packed included:
- emergency “space” blankets. Even though we typically camp when the night time temperatures aren’t going to go below sixty degrees that’s still cold enough to be dangerous unless you’re properly insulated and / or protected. Those emergency space blankets are fairly inexpensive and fold up so small as to take up little room in the over all scheme of things.
- emergency ponchos – the $2 kind you get at sports events or in tourist areas. They’re usually clear or blaze orange. We like the blaze orange ones because that bright almost neon orange serves as a beacon if you’re lost and someone is searching for you. The utility of an emergency poncho is obvious. And remember this: cold water saps your body heat four times faster than cold air.
- Tissues. A small travel package of tissues can be invaluable. Not only is it better than picking your nose, if you HAVE to relieve lower bowel pressure in the woods the tissues are much better than the nearest leaves. Murphy’s Law dictates the the only leaves you’ll be able to reach after pooping in the woods will be Poison Ivy.
- A small container of Motrin or generic same. Ten to twelve 200mg tablets in (essentially) a chapstick container. If you’re out overnight it’s sometimes due to an unexpected injury such as a twisted ankle, or something similar. Being stuck out unexpectedly is only worse if you’re stuck out and in pain. The Motrin helps and is also good as a muscle relaxant, fever reducer and does okay with minimizing swelling.
- Some food source. Because of the size of our waist packs and the pockets we put them in we tended toward crunchy granola bars. The beautiful part about these bars is that if you crunch them up in the pack as you move they’re still edible and taste the same. You just have to be more careful opening them.
- Fire starter. My wife and I both had small containers – such as pill bottles – with ten strike-anywhere matches and some cotton batting soaked in vaseline. It makes starting a fire much easier than rubbing two sticks together.
- a multi-tool. You just never know what you’ll need or when you’ll need it and we consider multi-tools invaluable. We even got a micro-leathermen for our daughter’s pack.
- a good knife. Naturally we didn’t give one to our daughter so long ago, but my wife had a Buck Nighthawk on her waist pack and I had a SOG Knives Pentagon. Good serviceable knives that will perform utility functions are necessary.
- oh, yeah… the two bottles of water FULL of water (or one bottle in my daughter’s case). The bottles don’t do any good if you don’t clean them out and fill them with fresh water!
Waist packs are convenient for hiking and / or other activities where you might need to carry more than you can in your pockets but not enough to justify a back pack. Recently we spent several days in Washington DC “seeing the sights” and then some time in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. I couldn’t begin to count the number of people I saw wearing waistpacks of various shapes and sizes. They are a worthy investment for any day-hiker and are a good thing to have even if you’re going camping. You have to leave camp sometime and having those above listed supplies can make you feel a little bit better prepared when you do.
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