I’m a big fan of having external storage on a 3 season backpack. In addition to external mesh pockets, I really like having pockets on my hip belt for carrying small items that I want to be able to access quickly without unpacking my backpack to get at them.
For example, I keep a 1oz bottle of Purell hand cleanser, a small tin of Dermatone sun tan lotion, a tube of lip balm and a 1oz bottle of Ben’s 100% DEET in a left hip belt pocket and my map, compass, and camera in my right hip belt pocket whenever I’m out on the trail.
I first fell in love with hip belt pockets when I bought a Six Moons Starlight backpack. When you buy it, you can have pockets sewn onto the hip belt for a small customization fee.
The Starlite is a great pack, but it’s a little more fragile than my Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus. (Mariposa is a town on the edge of the Sierra National Forest near Yosemite National Park.) The only downside of the Mariposa is that is doesn’t come with sewn in hip belt pockets, so you need to add these using aftermarket pockets from Gossamer Gear or another manufacturer.
Before my major last section hike, I upgraded my old pockets from Gossamer Gear with a new pair from Mountain Laurel Designs. The GG pockets were literally coming apart at the seams after a year of hard use and leaking gear, while the new pair of pockets from MLD are made using a heavier material (Dyneema X) that gives the pockets some structure and makes them easier to use.
The MLD pockets also come with a really nice attachment system that uses the locking clips shown on the bottom left of the photo above. One side of the clip snaps shut around the webbing on your hip belt and the other end attaches to a loop of fabric on the either side of the external pockets. Really a great system, but unfortunately it doesn’t fit most of my packs like the Mariposa or my Golite Pinnacle because the hip belt webbing is too wide to fit flat in the clip. But a little improvisation using safety pins does the trick.
Slide the pocket onto your hip belt. If the hip belt is way to wide, just pin the rear of the pocket using a safety pin threaded through one of the pocket loops. Her royal highness (she hates being called my “wife”) gave me these cool locking safety pins that don’t come undone for the job. They have a little metal helmet that slides down over the head of the safety pin and prevents it from opening by accident.
Since the webbing on my Mariposa is too wide to fit in the clip lock, I scrunch it down a bit and clip it through the front loop of the hip pocket. This forms a tight attachment that doesn’t slip when I stand up and the hip belt is not closed. Trust me, it’s really annoying when a hip belt pocket containing your camera slides off the hip belt every time you stand up and hits the ground.
MLD makes hip belt pockets in two sizes: a large which holds 70 ci and weighs 1.2 oz and a medium that holds 36 ci and weighs 0.8 oz. I use one of each. They’re kind of expensive, but they do ship out quickly, unlike most of MLD’s other products that have a long backlog. So far, my experience with these pockets has been very good and the zippers are a lot easier to one hand than my old pockets. I do wish the clip locks were available to accommodate wider webbing, but that’s not essential with my workaround.
Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.
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