Current Retail: $48.95-$55.00
Historic Range: $22.00-$55.99
490 cu in
13 x 8 x 8 in
Mystery Ranch's Hip Monkey is a roomy, durable, well-made lumbar pack that provides easy access to items on the go. With most of its 8-liter capacity in one large pocket, it's versatile for a wide range of uses year-round. Hiking, snowshoeing, mountain biking, traveling, fishing, and more, if the gear fits, you can carry it for your favorite activity in the Hip Monkey. Mystery Ranch even touts it can hold a six-pack or a set of frisbee golf discs.
The Hip Monkey can be worn around your waist or diagonally across your chest (my preference), and its large capacity swallows up more gear than expected. Some users may want more organization than the large main pocket offers, rather than digging around to find items at the bottom. And I regularly wish I could attach items to the pack, like a trekking pole or a monopod underneath.
However, I appreciate its roomy size, versatility, and sturdy construction. Overall, the Hip Monkey is a solid, dependable, larger capacity fanny pack that should last years of outdoor uses.
- Easy access
- Versatile—holds lots of stuff and can be worn around waist or chest
- Large main pocket can mean digging around
- Some may want more organization
- No way to attach items, like poles
Sturdy, durable, burly—these are words that come to mind when describing the Hip Monkey. Made from a medium-weight 500D Cordura fabric, you will not worry about tearing this fanny pack sitting on a rock or brushing tree branches. It's solid and inspires confidence.
I actually kept postponing writing this review because even after several months of use my pack still looks new-ish. It has gotten dirty, but there are no signs of wear on it. I primarily use it for less gnarly hikes and outings, versus my backpacks, but it still has been worn for many miles, been rested on rough rocks, on the ground, and whatnot, with no issues.
The Hip Monkey weighs .9 pounds (my scale says 368g/14.1 oz—just under), so while it is not lightweight, it doesn't feel overly heavy to me and is capable of holding a good amount of gear.
Its fabric is water repellent and I wouldn't hesitate to use it in light rain or snow. In fact, I've done so without ;any precipitation seeping in. Still, depending on what you're carrying, keep in mind it's not a waterproof pack.
Currently it's offered in six colors. I went neutral with Desert Fox, but there are brighter, more fun options.
Fit and Comfort
The Hip Monkey's straps are long enough that you can wear it either as a traditional lumbar/hip pack or across the chest, bandolier style. While I hadn't considered it in advance, I ;almost immediately started wearing mine across the chest and find I prefer that orientation for easy access. There is also a padded back panel, which gives some structure and comfort if worn as a hip pack.
The straps are long; fully extended the circumference is 56 inches buckle to buckle. So, wearing it as a hip pack means you'll likely end up with dangling strap ends, depending on your waist size and layers. It would be nice to be able to contain those ends.
Also, so far, I've worn the Hip Monkey from fall to spring, so with long sleeves and tops with a light collar or a hood. With summer approaching I'm considering ways to keep some fabric between my skin and the strap, so it doesn't rub against my neck and chafe when I wear it across my chest. (I'll report back if I have issues.)
Overall I find this a very comfortable, relatively low-profile pack that I don't think about while wearing, and I've worn it for hours at a time.
With the Hip Monkey you get straightforward storage with minimal organization. Some users may want more, but the positive of the large capacity main pocket is it allows you to fit a range of larger or awkward items.
- a main pocket, which accounts for most of its 8L capacity
- an inner security pocket—for a wallet or valuables
- a small outer pocket with keychain clip
- beefy YKK zippers
- compression straps to cinch down your load
- padded back for comfort
- long adjustable straps
At 490 cubic inches (8 liters), the Hip Monkey is Mystery Ranch's largest volume hip/lumbar pack and is even roomier than it looks. I specifically was looking for a larger volume waist pack, primarily for holding camera accessories. I find this an extremely useful in-between size for when I don't want to carry a backpack, but still need to bring along a range of essentials.
If you don't need as much room, Mystery Ranch's other hip packs are:
Nitpick: I wish Mystery Ranch's website would let you sort for just hip/lumbar packs at once. Tip: You'll find these under its Everyday Carry line, not Trail.
The Hip Monkey has a volume of 490 cubic inches (8L) and dimensions of 13 x 8 x 8 inches. However, I find it far more useful to show what can fit inside.
Main Pocket (this is where most everything goes, you decide what that includes):
- 1L Nalgene bottle OR my 16-300mm camera lens that fits perfectly inside an Outdoor Research water bottle parka (not at the same time though—I don't like to mix water and electronics)
- iPhone 13 Pro with case
- Patagonia Houdini Jacket
- Trailspace wool beanie
- camera lens cap
- snacks, such as a waffle and bar
- small tube of sunscreen
Inner Security Pocket (I rarely use this flat pocket at the back of the main pocket. I would put in it any important documents I want on my person and that I don't need to access and don't want to risk losing when opening the pack for other items):
- travel nylon wallet
Outer Pocket (good for smaller, flat-ish items you want to access on the go):
- car key, which can be attached to the clip
- extra camera batteries and lens cleaning wipes/cloth
How much you fit in the outer pocket will be affected by what you put in the main compartment as well as the items' shapes. If the main compartment is shoved full, don't expect to put many structured items, like a phone and large lens cap, in the outer pocket, since you're borrowing from the same space.
The compression straps let you cinch down the waist pack when not carrying as much gear. They are well made and work, but I rarely bother with them. They're mostly decorative for me, though you could attach a carabiner or clip to one to hang something off the pack.
Instead, I'd prefer a way to strap items onto the bottom of the pack. I keep thinking these straps are a missed opportunity to carry trekking poles, a monopod, or an umbrella, or for the user to attach and stash a raincoat or extra layer. You could use the cinch straps to compress a small jacket, but they aren't set up for that and I'd want the orientation to be horizontal, not vertical, for security.
My Use and Recommendation
I use the Hip Monkey primarily to carry extra camera gear and personal items, or the basics for shorter day hikes. I even used it as a purse once when I arrived for an appointment and realized I had no way to carry my wallet, phone, a book, and some other items inside. It has seemingly infinite numbers of uses.
I like and appreciate its roominess, ease of use, durable construction, and versatility. I have one hang-up about wanting to attach items for increased functionality—it has the strength and durability to do so, just not the ability—but that may just be me.
Despite that, the Hip Monkey is a simple (a positive to me), versatile lumbar pack with a wide range of uses—hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fly fishing, traveling, side trips, summit pack, and more. If you want a sturdy, durable waist pack that can hold a variety of gear comfortably and will last through years of use, consider the Hip Monkey.
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps
(Sample for testing and review provided by Mystery Ranch)