Topo Designs Mountain Waist Pack Review
The 2L Topo Designs Mountain Waist Pack is good to carry the essentials on your next trip with a fun and casual vibe, though the stiff materials affect comfort.
- Durable ripstop material
- Nice amount of space for the essentials
- Easy to open zippers with large paracords
- Back panel lacks flexibility, which we find makes it less comfortable
- Main fabric stiffness impacts pocket accessibility
- Keepers allow straps to slide instead of staying in place
4.55 oz (129 g)
9 in x 5.5 in x 2.5 in (22.9 x 14 x 6.4 cm)
Recycled Nylon, YKK Zippers, Woojin Hardware
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We’re big on slings. They’re typically smaller and lightweight, so they’re a great way to carry just the essentials throughout the day, like your phone, wallet, and keys. But do you like to wear it crossbody or around your waist?
The Topo Designs Mountain Waist Pack leans more toward the old-school style that wears more like a belt (ahem, fanny pack, ahem) than a messenger bag, although you can, of course, sling it across your shoulder if you prefer. Will you want to? Let’s take a look and find out!
When you think of Topo Designs, does the word “subtle” come to mind? No? So you probably won’t be surprised to see a mishmash of hues on each colorway offered for the Mountain Waist Pack. We’ve got Burgundy/Dark Khaki, but that only lists out two of the five different colors on this bag, which also includes olive green, gold, and hot pink. The interesting color combinations can shout your style to the world, or speak them a little more quietly, such as with the Bone White/Olive colorway (a combination of olive green, gold, beige and bright blue) or Black/Pink (black with hot pink accents). However, if you want to fly under the radar, or loud color combinations aren’t your thing, you may want to go with Black/Black, which is—you guessed it—black, black, and more black.
Another signature design feature is the large Topo Designs logo patch centered on the front pocket. It’s either fun and bold or too much, depending on your preference, but it’s probably something you like if you’re a fan of the brand, much like the paracord pulls.
It’s a sturdy little bag with a ripstop-patterned 400D recycled nylon. It is a bit crunchy and stiff, but that doesn’t impact your use of the pockets by getting in the way as you’re trying to fill or unpack them. We’re also unsurprised to find chunky YKK zippers with thick paracord woven through the pulls, as that’s a signature Topo Design style, too. The design works well on larger bags, giving them an adventurous aesthetic, but it leads to a lot going on for a smaller waist pack.
Both zippers work well, although quite a bit of cord dangles off of each pull. There are loops at the end of the zippers where you could presumably pull the heads through to kind of lock them shut. However, depending on the size of the knots, it can be difficult or downright impossible to do so, so we’re not sure if that’s what they are actually for or if they just add to the design.
The waist strap is a simple webbing strap with a Woojin buckle and elastic keepers. While it’s nice to keep the extra from dangling if you have to tighten it up, the elastic isn’t that tight, so the webbing can create “bubbles” as the stretchy loops creep back toward the buckle, taking the extra strap with them.
Where the strap attaches to the bag on each side, you’ll also find webbing loops for hanging the sling on a hook or connecting an accessory with a carabiner. Or just as a place to add another color to the design; we didn’t find much use for them, to be honest.
The back panel padding is a stiff piece of foam that cushions the feeling of the gear you’re carrying yet doesn’t flex in any way, so the bag retains its structure as you wear it. That’s both good and bad, as you’ll see below.
That stiff back panel padding comes into play when wearing the sling as designed, that is to say, as a waist pack. If you don’t tighten it up to fit snugly against your waist, the sides stick out like wings instead of lying against your body. Be aware, too, that the buckle will be at your rear when you wear it this way, pushing uncomfortably into your back if you’re sitting down.
Of course, like many waist packs, you can lengthen the strap and also wear this as a sling. That’s how we prefer using it since it seems more comfortable in that position, keeps our gear close at hand, and gives fewer 90s-mom vibes despite the vibrant parachute-pants-inspired colors. Plus, the rigid back panel is less of an issue when it’s lying against your chest or back than when trying to encircle your waist.
With the bright colorways, the chunky zippers, and large pulls, it has a very casual style, but that’s OK. This type of sling is perfect for carrying what you need to bring to a theme park or on a short hike, as opposed to heading out for a night of club-hopping or dining in a Michelin-star restaurant.
Inside The Waist Pack
There aren’t a ton of extra bells and whistles to go over on the Mountain Waist Pack; after all, it is just a 2L sling. Nevertheless, there are two different areas for you to toss your gear. Our sample includes a bright yellow 210D recycled nylon liner, and it seems like the same color is used in many of the other options, so it’s easy to spot your gear inside.
The front pocket is a good size for your keys, and there’s a key leash inside where you can clip them. However, it is very short, and this pocket is so small, that we didn’t use it that much. If you carry a car fob, a few house keys, and a keychain, it takes up the entire pocket, making the leash redundant since that’s all you’re grabbing from this pocket. If you only carry an apartment, mail, and gym key—i.e., a few thin keys—you may be able to fit lip balm, a pack of gum, or something else that size in the pocket along with your keys, in which case the clip could come in handy.
The main compartment is much larger, and there’s space here for your minimalist wallet, phone, passport, cash, and potentially your earbuds if you play your cards right. That’s usually what you’re looking for in a sling this size, and it does it well. It’s great if your pants lack pockets or you don’t want to drag them down with a bulkier travel wallet or for emptying your pockets at the airport as you go through the TSA line. If you do so, you won’t have to worry about leaving your wallet behind in the bin; it’ll be hard to forget this bright bag, and if you do, the next traveler or officer will hopefully spot it right away and call you back!
- Classic Topo Designs style with chunky zippers
- Feels nice and sturdy
- Interesting color combinations
- Finding it more comfortable as a crossbody
- Key leash seems superfluous
- Very sturdy, almost to a fault