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Waist Pack Review:
Is This REI Trail 5
What You Need For Your Hike? 

By Diane Spicer

Love the idea of a small, lightweight waistpack but don't know what to look for? Hiking For Her reviews the REI Co-op Trail 5. #waistpack #fannypack #hikingwaistpack #dayhiking #HikingForHerreview

A waistpack review should start out with a few disclosures, so here goes.

I bought this pack with my own money.

This post is not sponsored by REI.

No one asked for, or paid for, this review.

  • In case you're wondering, NONE of the reviews on this website were written for payment. 

Just the facts, dear hiker, no hidden motives.

Fact: I needed a waistpack, bought this one, and wanted to share with you why the Trail 5 is a worthy option for your dayhiking needs by writing this waistpack review.

Because I've been purchasing rock solid gear from REI Co-op since 1977 or so, I've become an affiliate.

  • If you purchase your REI gear through the links on this website, Hiking For Her receives a small percentage of your cost but you pay nothing extra.

Trail 5 specifications in this
waist pack review

A waistpack like this makes a great choice for fast, light dayhiking when you won't be going far and you know the area well.

REI Co-op Trail 5 Waistpack

You can also toss it into your regular backpack to use as a daypack when you do some exploring during a layover day on a multiday backpacking trip.

Here's what I love about this lumbar pack:

  • Capacity: 5.25 liters i.e. 320 cubic inches
  • One large main zipped compartment containing two organization pouches along the back side
  • 4 pockets
  • 2 mesh bottle holders on sides
  • 11.5 x 7 x 4 inches
  • Weight: 9 ounces
  • Materials: shell is nylon, lining is polyester so it's durable
  • Waist: expands up to 52 inches

Can all Ten Essentials fit
inside this waistpack?

Excellent question for a hiker's safety and comfort on the trail!

A thorough discussion of the Hiking Ten Essentials can be found here.

Here's the shortcut list of Ten Essentials (links give you more details and recommendations):

1. Extra clothing

2. Extra food and water

3. Sunglasses

4. Knife

5. Fire starter

6. Matches

7. First aid supplies

8. Flashlight (or headlamp)

9. Map

10. Compass

Does it all fit inside this waistpack?

Here's a confession: this particular waistpack was chosen for its large capacity and hydration options, with the Ten Essentials in mind.

Two large water bottles (1 liter) fit easily on this pack, snugged into the external mesh pockets.

The main compartment, a bucket style top loader, had no problem swallowing up my snacks, lightweight jacket and a minimalist survival kit containing knife, firestarter, matches plus a mylar lightweight blanket (not on the Essentials list but something I always carry).

  • Use the daisy chains on the front to secure your jacket as you hike if you want more room inside.

I put a few first aid supplies including bandages and eye wash, and my headlamp, in the zippered pocket behind the main compartment.

A map of the area and a compass?

  • Not necessary when I tested this pack, as the short day hike I chose was on a familiar, well traveled and established trail with great signage.

But those items would fit inside the smaller external pocket, convenient to open with its pull tab.

I could also stash my sunglasses there when I wasn't wearing them.

In addition to those essentials, a hiker needs to stash phone, lip balm, car keys, i.d. and other necessities. 

  • There's a plastic clip for the keys, so you can put your hands on them fast and never worry about them falling out.
  • There are two internal stash pouches (organization pockets) attached to the back of the main compartment for your odds and ends, like i.d.
  • Your cell phone can ride along in the outside pocket, which is just the right size for it.
  • And there's even a secret back pocket where you can stash your cash.

Fit and function on the trail:
notes in this waistpack review

The belt on this waistpack expands up to 52 inches, and can be quuickly adjusted to accommodate changes in your clothing layers.

  • It's the traditional hiker style of sliding the belt through the plastic buckle and cinching down extra material with a loop so it doesn't bounce around as you hike.

I had no issue keeping the waistpack exactly where I wanted it, wearing only a tank top and shorts.

I doubt the belt would slip when I'm wearing a fleece jacket, but it might be a problem with my more slippery rain jacket. 

  • Time will tell, and then I'll tell you right here.
  • Worst case scenario fix: tie a knot in the belt to make it stay put.

The nylon material will be water repellent, and for good measure, I'll spray it with additional waterproofing so water will bead up and slide off.

  • Nikwax is my go to product for this purpose.


The part of the waistpack that fits against your body has a breathable mesh liner which extends into the water bottle area as well.

I produced my normal amounts of sweat during the hike, and this pack did a good job of wicking it away from my back and waist.

As with any pack against your body, you'll feel heat and moisture, but nothing out of the ordinary with this waistpack.

What I really liked
about this waistpack

I have to say this right up front: love the butterscotch color!

If you're more of a "basic black" gear hiker, they have one just for you (see photo above).

It's also available in gray.

The quality of this pack was apparent from the first time I unzipped the pockets and strapped it on.

And it was comfortable to wear.

The water bottle pockets were placed for easy access to my hydration options while wearing the pack.

I had no issues with putting this waistpack down in the dirt, due to its tough materials.

  • You can wipe off any trail detritus and this pack will still look great.

A few concerns
in this waistpack review

Don't overload this waistpack.

It has a 5 liter capacity to manage all of your essentials, and that's about it.

  • Which is a normal concern for any "go fast and light" approach to the trail.

If you overload this pack and then try to hike comfortably, you're setting yourself up for back strain.

A note about the mesh water bottle pockets: 

  • They do not hold your bottles in a death grip, more like a gentle hug. 
  • So the first few times you bend over wearing a loaded waistpack, be aware that your bottles could slide around and perhaps even fall out.

This didn't happen to me, but I wanted to give you a heads up.


One solution I've used for this problem is to wind a big rubber band around the bottle before putting it into the pocket.

Cost versus trailworthiness

The Trail 5 from REI costs around $49 U.S. at the time of writing this waistpack review. 

Sure, there are cheaper waistpacks to be had in cyberworld.

But with every gear decision you make, you're heading into a long term relationship.

At least you hope you are!

You don't want to buy cheap gear that falls apart on you after a few hikes, even as a beginner hiker.

  • Maybe especially as a beginner, because the wrong gear will put you off hiking forever.

That's why I recommend that you buy a quality waistpack just big enough for your needs, and that you consider the value and craftsmanship of REI Co-op gear.

There are smaller REI waistpacks, like this Trail 2 version (it has a 2 liter capacity and comes in a kicky print), and it's $24.95 U.S. right now. 

Pick the right one for your trail needs!

Setting off on a hike wearing a waistpackHeaded off for a warm summer day hike with my new waistpack from REI

Conclusions in this waistpack review

I have no hesitation in recommending this REI Trail 5 waistpack to you!

And the great thing about the REI website is that you can read more reviews and filter all of that information through your own checklist to decide if it's right for your needs.

Plus, REI has a great return policy.

And you can order online and pick it up at the nearest store, or have it shipped directly to your door.

Pretty convenient, right?

So enjoy your next dayhike with this pretty, convenient and pretty convenient waistpack.

Or check out lots more waistpack options at REI right here.

  • Some might be on sale, making things pretty sweet, too.

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REI Co-op Trail 5 Waistpack Review