There was a time when you either put all your ride necessities in your jersey pockets or, depending on what year it was, possibly in a strange, cycling-specific backpack that looks the result of a 1990s windbreaker having unprotected sex with a child's school bag. Nowadays, the trend is to make your bike carry that stuff instead of you having to do it, but there are also more options than ever when it comes to being your own sherpa.
It's only been in the last few years that the infamous fanny pack has gone from 'weird dad on vacation' status to being a functional solution for us mountain cyclists, and High Above's $100 USD Lookout pack is just one of many bum-mounted storage solutions these days.
Lookout Pack Details
• Removable, multi-position bottle holder
• Waterproof VX shell material
• Heavy duty nylon webbing
• Three divided interior pockets
• Weather resistant external pocket
• YKK weather resistant zips
• Long para-cord zipper pulls
• Top-mounted utility straps
• Aprx. 204 color combos
• Dimensions: 9" x 3" x 5.25''
• MSRP: $100 USD
High Above designs and manufactures their bags at their Bellingham, Washington, headquarters, including the Lookout pack that's reviewed below. You can call them whatever you want - fanny pack, bum bag, hip bag - but the gist is the same: get the weight off of your back and shoulders and down into your hips where it's lower and less likely to flop around like a sack of doorknobs. The Lookout can also carry a bottle, which not all fanny packs can do, and you can get the 9" x 3" x 5.25'' bag in a few hundred different color combos. Design
The Lookout ain't your pops' old neon butt pouch, with High Above designing-in a handful of mountain bike-friendly features that make this little bag more functional than its size might have you believe. The most noteworthy is High Above's 'Bottle Rocket' system that lets riders carry a single bottle on either side or even a bottle on both sides for rides that require more fluids.
It's a nifty little modular setup that consists of some fabric tabs on both sides of the Lookout and plastic clips that lock it into place. This allows you to mount the Bottle Rocket on either side of the bag so you can use your dominant hand to grab it, or you can stick one on each side.
The bottle holder clips onto fabric tabs where the wings meet the bag. It's quite sturdy.
There are two separate, zippered storage pockets, with a smaller one on the front face of the bag and the main pocket being accessed from the top. Both sport YKK weather resistant zips, and extra-long para-cord pulls should make them easy to grab no matter how clumsy you are or how numb your fingers might be. Opening the main pocket reveals a few dividers to keep things separate, as well as another para-cord pull with a key clip on the end of it.
The adjustable waist strap is wide so as to keep it from feeling like it's splitting you in half, and even wider supports on each side are used to have it be as steady as possible. One of the issues I've had with fanny packs is that there's usually not enough room to stuff a jacket inside of them when I get too warm, but High Above has solved that with a set of adjustable para-cord straps on the top of the Lookout that you can use to carry a jacket or even a larger pump that won't fit inside of the bag.
My tester has even used them to carry a folding saw on many rides to clear trail debris. He's such a good Samaritan.
Heavy duty, water resistant zippers should keep Mother Nature out, and a strap to clip your keys onto means that you'll even be able to drive home after you're done.Performance
I think of on-body storage in three different ways. The most obvious, and probably the most common, are backpacks that vary wildly in carrying capacity and are surely the best way to go about it if you need to carry a ton of stuff. At the other end of the spectrum are pockets, including those built into bib shorts, some of which can even store things like a large-sized water bottle.
Somewhere in the middle are fanny packs, with most offering enough room to carry whatever you might need for most types of rides that don't stretch into all-day epics.
The Lookout pack has a good amount of storage room that we found to be enough for nearly any ride that doesn't call for a water bladder, and the jacket-stashing straps on top of the pack is a big reason for this. It's not uncommon, at least here in southwestern B.C., to have to put on and take off your jacket multiple times during a ride, but you'll need a place to put it when you're not wearing the damn thing. No backpack needed here, though, as the straps on top of the bag do the job perfectly.
They were also used to hold a folding saw, goggles, a pump, and a few other things as well. Not at the same time, of course, but it never once lost its grip on those items.
Internally, there's enough room for a bunch of energy bars if you like to eat gross stuff, or a sandwich or burrito if you're a sane person who likes real food. Other things stuffed into the Lookout included a multi-tool, tube, pump, wallet, some TP because you never know (you did eat the burrito, after all), and even the newest phone that might as well be a tablet.
There's space for much more than just that stuff, however, with it being surprisingly roomy inside. You can also fit a small-sized bottle inside, just in case you're doing a three-bottle-ride on a warm day, but it's a bit tight with everything else in there.
The pack also proved to be quite water resistant. High Above uses the word ''waterproof,'' but I wouldn't go that far. Sure, no moisture got inside, which is important if you bring your phone with you on rides so you can call someone to come get your body when you scorpion, but I don't think I need to tell you not to throw the Lookout into a lake with your stuff in it.
The modular Bottle Rocket system is the most interesting bit about the Lookout, and while it's not perfect, it does work pretty well. Not a single bottle was lost, regardless of how rough the trail was, and it doesn't flop around at all. In fact, it's essentially invisible until you need fluids, and that brings us to the Lookout's only real issue: the sleeve is so tight that you need to stop riding to get your bottle in or out of it. The idea is that it'll never drop your drink, of course, but good luck getting a sip while on the move, which is kind of a bummer. The sleeve isn't stretchy or adjustable, either, so think of it as more of a water storage spot instead of a drink-on-the-go feature.
Our test bag was equipped with a single Bottle Rocket setup, but we'll probably get a second for the opposite side as the days get warmer and rides get longer. There are other fanny packs that can carry a bottle, and even some with a bladder, but High Above's seems to be the most unobtrusive. Well, at least until you want to take a drink without stopping, that is.
Those wide, red wings and the tall waist strap help to keep the Lookout from rocking back and forth.
What's the weirdest thing about a fanny pack besides the fact that it's a fanny pack? It's how some tend to want to tilt backward or even spin in one spot, especially when fully loaded with tools and mid-ride donuts. This is usually down to either not enough support where the straps meet the bag, or the straps being sewn too low on the bag. Due to the large wings (the red bits on our test bag), and the fact that High Above is smart enough to know not to attach the straps too low, the Lookout essentially refuses to tilt or rotate backward. It did take a few rides to get the waist strap adjusted correctly, but the pack was pretty much invisible after that, even on the roughest of descents. Velcro strap keeps also keep the waistband from backing off, which is a nice touch. Pinkbike's Take: