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Looking for a unique method of carrying your essentials on your next hike?
A chest pack may be the right option for your next hike!
They allow you to carry some low weight, essential items (a map, your phone, some snacks, etc.) on your chest rather than your back.
They can be a versatile option to stay organized, but that is not to say that a chest pack does not have drawbacks.
What Are Chest Packs?
Simply put, chest packs are small packs (or pouches really) that sit on the front of your torso. You may also see them referred to as a kit bag or multi-pack.
They are usually quite smaller than normal daypacks, and they can be worn in conjunction with a daypack or as a standalone piece of gear!
Wearing a chest pack gives you a pouch on the front of your body that gives you quick access to items that you may want to use often without having to rummage through your backpack. (map and compass, phone, snacks, etc.)
Pros and Cons Of A Chest Pack
There are a few reasons why someone may prefer to carry their essentials in a chest pack versus a backpack.
In my experience, a chest pack is just not very comfortable and feels a bit awkward to wear. Though that is not to say it is not right for you.
Easy access to essentials
The pros of a chest pack boil down to it being an easy, lightweight way of carrying some gear that you want to access quickly. It is an alternative to a waist pack/fanny pack.
This can be a particularly interesting option if your backpack does not have hip belt pockets and your shorts/pants do not have secure pockets.
I often hike in shorts without or with loose pockets, but I usually use a pack with hip belt pockets that I use to store my phone and other hiking essentials. (electrolyte tabs/powder and snacks)
If you have a pack without a substantial hip belt, a chest pack is a possibility.
They are also rather lightweight and, if used as a standalone option, come with a comfortable harness.
Can interfere with movement/balance
Not good for carrying more than a couple of essentials on your hike
Not many size and material options
If you are using a chest pack as your primary method of carrying items, it can be a bit awkward to have weight on your chest versus your back.
This can be particularly problematic if you are hiking on difficult terrain. The pack takes a little bit of getting used to because it can impede your vision and balance a little bit.
Because of this it is not practical to have a large one, so the size options are fairly limited. If you are planning to carry more than just a couple of items, you will want a backpack to store the larger pieces of gear.
Additionally, it is difficult to find one in a wide range of materials.
One workaround is getting a daypack and getting a chest pack that can be attached to the pack with straps. This will offset the balance of weight while providing a removable pocket for small pieces of gear or accessories.
Is A Chest Pack Right For You
Consider a couple of factors before deciding whether a chest pack for hiking is right for you.
Difficulty of hiking trails
Put simply, if you do not like the idea of having a pocket on your chest to carry stuff, then steer clear of a chest pack.
Like I mentioned, I find the fit to be a bit awkward and not compatible with my preferences.
I like to have the weight of my pack on my back and have had no experience to change that preference.
If you do not mind the idea, a chest pack can be a convenient option for you. Some people like them, but it really does come down to personal comfort preference.
If you are planning multi-hour hikes over difficult terrain, a chest pack is probably not for you.
It is much more of an option for shorter hikes or in conjunction with a backpack.
They tend to be more popular for individuals with tactical or hunting uses, and they are not too popular among day hikers.
Difficult Of Trails
Because of the increased balance difficulty and vision limitations, I would not recommend a chest pack for rocky or difficult terrain.
Having weight worn on your chest is not as natural of a feel as having a pack on your back, so I would not consider one for anything other than smooth, easier terrain.
Using a chest pack for hiking is not a common way to choose to carry your essentials during a day hike.
There are advantages to using this method to carry some items, though. It can be convenient to have your phone, snacks, or other low weight pieces of equipment in an easy to access location.
You can find a chest pack that is compatible with a backpack or as a standalone pack.
Should you choose a chest pack for your hike, make sure to select one that you can fit to your body and is large enough to hold the essential gear for your hike!