Hiking, running, and cycling may be great for your health, but these pursuits can also put you at risk for encountering predators (both the four-legged and two-legged variety). Hikers and runners have been murdered on trails and, if you pay attention to social media, you’ve probably by now seen this standoff between a mountain lion and a trail runner.
If you wish to carry a concealed firearm during these activities, you may find that traditional carry options aren’t entirely satisfactory. Runners and cyclists often wear light, skin-tight clothing that allows few methods for concealing anything larger than a toothpick. Outside waistband (OWB) holsters can be difficult to conceal. Inside waistband (IWB) holsters can chafe or cause a gun to dig into your skin during strenuous activity. With the right holster and clothing, IWB carry may be the answer for some people some of the time, but it doesn’t work well in every circumstance. When hiking in warm weather, as I often do, I sweat like a third-strike felon before a judge, and I’m not keen on repeatedly drenching my guns in sweat. I’m not a fan of pocket holsters because they may limit you to carrying very small guns. Shoulder holsters only work with a concealing outer garment.
The ideal concealed carry option for these activities must provide effective concealment, be comfortable during hours of strenuous activity, and have good firearm retention. It should also offer immediate access to the gun, because if you ever need one in an emergency, you’ll likely need it immediately.
When I’m not hunting, I am an avid day hiker, and I have long struggled to find the best concealed carry solution. What works well for me—and may work equally well for you—are specialized packs or pouches worn on the waist. Some people (mostly gun people) think these items scream “I have a gun” or are less than masculine, but that’s no longer true (also, who cares?). Once out of fashion, waist packs are making a comeback, especially with outdoor recreationists , and many models are designed for concealed carry, providing a great hide-in-plain-sight option. Here are some I’ve tested that may work for you.
1. Elite Survival Systems Marathon GunPak
The Marathon GunPack from Elite Survival Systems looks more like a runner’s pack than anything else. Complete with two 7-ounce water bottles, it gives little hint that it may contain a firearm. Made of ballistic nylon and neoprene, the pack comes in two sizes to accommodate compact, subcompact, and micro pistols. A front pocket will hold a cell phone (I carry a small first-aid kit and pepper spray), while the rear pocket holds a gun in an adjustable Velcro-attached, elastic-loop holster that secures a gun horizontally or in a canted position. With the zipper closed, my Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P Shield 9mm—the gun I used for testing all the products in this lineup—rode securely. The ambidextrous design lets you quickly access a gun by yanking on one of two “rip cords” that unzip the gun compartment. Designed to be worn at the 12 o’clock position, cyclists may prefer to wear it at 6 o’clock, but that would require rotating the pack in order to draw a gun. Runners will appreciate the pack’s non-slip backing, which prevents it from bouncing up and down. It’s available in black/grey, black/blue and black/neon green color combinations. With its elasticized, quick-release waist belt, I found the pack to be very comfortable to wear on hikes, and so did my wife. She quickly appropriated it, and I haven’t gotten it back since.
2. Gun Gear Concealed Carry Cordura Fanny Pack
The Gun Gear store in Texas has been selling its own concealed carry fanny pack for 20 years, and it’s one of my favorites. This tough pack is made of Cordura and has strong YKK zippers. With a primary gun compartment and three other pockets, it’s easy to organize everything you may wish to carry, and it’s one I choose when I want to tote more than a couple of items in addition to a gun. The gun compartment has an actual holster, with a Velcro outer surface, that you can position as you wish inside the padded hook-and-loop back panel of the pack. You can purchase an optional Velcro magazine holder that works with most magazines except for very small single-stack designs. The pack comes in nine colors and three sizes to secure everything from a micro pistol to a full-size 1911. This is another ambidextrous design with pull tabs at each upper corner that allow you to unzip the gun compartment with one sharp outward pull. The pack wears comfortably, and the adjustable belt fits waist sizes up to 52 inches. It can be worn in any position on the waist, but I prefer a cross-draw position with the pistol canted downward.
3. DTOM Concealed Carry Fanny Pack
The DTOM (Don’t Tread on Me) Concealed Carry Fanny Pack has a minimalist appearance despite having three pockets in addition to the pistol compartment. It is an ambidextrous design with two rip cords at each upper corner for quick access to a gun. One thing that sets it apart—and makes it a personal favorite—is that it is newly available in a hunting-type camo pattern in addition to basic black. In my home state of Texas, camo is always in style, so the pack doesn’t really stand out. It also works with my camo hunting clothing should I choose to carry concealed in the field or strap it over the outside belt of a hunting backpack. Made of Cordura, with heavy duty zippers, the pack has two wide, elasticized loops in the gun compartment that secure guns with a slight downward cant. It comes in small, medium and large sizes to fit a wide variety of guns, and I found I could draw effectively from the pack from any position on the waist from 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock. Size large will handle a 1911 or Glock 17-sized pistol. Quick-release waist belts are adjustable up to 42 inches. The pack is also available with metal clips, instead of a waist belt, to attach it to a regular belt.
4. Galco Fastrax Pak Waistpack
The Galco Fastrax Pak design is like no other. It has an internal pivoting holster that rotates the gun from a horizontal stowed position to a vertical presentation for drawing. You just unzip the top zipper, grab an “activation cord,” and pull up. It sounds simple, but takes a bit of practice to do this instinctively and quickly under duress. The pack, made of 400-denier nylon pack cloth, comes in two sizes to fit compact and subcompact guns. You can go on Galco’s website and order by specific make and model of gun and specify whether you want a left hand or right hand version. The holster and draw cord can be converted from one side to the other, and the soft leather holster can be adjusted to fit multiple guns. Recommended wearing positions are 9-11 o’clock and 1-3 o’clock. The elasticized waist strap with quick-release buckle is adjustable up to 50 inches. Color options include black and a subdued multicam camo pattern. You can also get an “elite” version of the pack made of leather.
5. Blackhawk Concealed Weapon Fanny Pack Holster
If you’re looking for maximum firearm retention, consider the Blackhawk Concealed Weapon Fanny Pack. Inside the main compartment, you’ll find a universal holster that attaches to a Velcro panel. The holster is further secured with a Velcro retention/compression strap, and the holster has an adjustable, removable thumb-break strap to further secure the gun. There’s also a couple of elastic bands sewn into the compartment to hold an extra magazine. Like others, the pack has rip cords at either upper corner of the pack for quick access. It has a generously sized front pocket and two small side pockets. In addition to the adjustable waist belt, there are two belt loops with snaps on the back of the pack to attach it to a belt for extra security. It comes in three sizes to fit most small-to-large-frame autos and revolvers. This pack is made of 1,000-denier Cordura with double stitching, a padded back and heavy duty YKK zippers with quiet paracord pulls rather than metal tabs. I only wish Blackhawk offered it in color options other than black.
6. 5.11 LV6 Waist Pack with TacTec Holster
5.11′s LV6 Waist Pack is all about versatility. It can be worn as a fanny pack, a chest pack, or sling pack using a quick-release stabilizer strap and an adjustable main strap, and can be attached to a backpack in a number of ways. One drawback when worn as a fanny pack is that the main strap has no quick-release buckle, but you can remove all the straps and use the pack’s C-clips to attach it to a regular belt or the waist belt of a backpack. Another carry mode that worked well for me was using it as a sling pack, with the stabilizing strap around the waist, positioning it at 10 o’clock for cross draw. Designed for compact or subcompact guns using a Velcro-attached holster (like the 511 TacTec holster, sold separately) the gun compartment can get a bit crowded if you use the three mesh pouches inside it for other gear. I carry just one spare magazine there to minimize chances of a gun hanging up when drawing. There’s plenty of other room for storage with a Velcro-closure mesh pocket on the back of the pack, another Velcro-closure pocket behind that and a zippered front pocket. There are no rip cords to unzip the gun compartment, but with practice, you can unzip and draw quickly. The pack is made of 840-denier nylon with a water-resistant coating and is available in black, tarmac, and dark blue colors.
7. VooDoo Tactical Hide-a-Weapon Pack
The VooDoo Tactical Hide-a-Weapon Pack is another high-retention design with an ambidextrous Velcro-attached holster with a compression/retention strap and removable thumb-break strap. There are also loops in the holster compartment to hold a spare magazine. This is a fairly large pack designed to conceal medium-to-large guns in either a horizontal or slightly canted position. Right and left hand rip cords provide rapid access to your weapon, and the pack is built to last with heavy duty zippers and nylon construction. One thing that sets this pack apart is the number of extra pockets and their location. In addition to two small side pockets and a large front pocket, there’s a hidden compartment behind the Velcro holster panel and another hidden, Velcro-closure pocket on the back surface of the pack. There are two MOLLE-webbing straps on the front of the pack to attach extra gear, but this gives the pack a bit more of a tactical appearance than I would prefer in some settings. It is available in black, olive drab and coyote tan colors. One major plus: The pack is quiet because it has paracord zipper pulls instead of jangling metal zipper tabs.
8. Maxpedition JK-1 Conceal Carry Pouch
Maxpedition kept things simple but high-quality with its JK-1 Concealed Carry Pouch. Designed to attach to a belt up to 2½ inches wide or to a PALS system, the pouch comes very close to duplicating the performance of an OWB holster. It makes a gun immediately available when carried in a vertical or canted orientation at any position you might normally wear an OWB holster. The main compartment holds an adjustable Velcro-attached holster designed to fit small and medium-frame handguns as well as a Velcro-attached magazine holder. You can quickly access the gun in an emergency by pulling a large loop at the top of the pack to rip the twin zippers open, or you can leave the top partially unzipped and plunge your hand into the pouch to draw your gun. Expect this pouch, which has an additional front storage compartment, to last a long time. It’s built of 1,000-denier ballistic nylon with a Teflon fabric protector and triple polyurethane coating for water resistance. Internal seams are taped and finished, and the pouch makes use of high-strength YKK zippers, paracord zipper pulls and high-tensile-strength nylon thread. Currently listed only in a size small, I found that I could carry a Commander-sized 1911 with no issue.
As with any concealed carry method, there are pros and cons and tradeoffs to be made. The trick is to find what works best for you and to practice—with an unloaded gun—so that drawing becomes second nature. Use extra care when holstering or inserting loaded guns into tight elasticized loops. While many of these packs can be worn anywhere on the waist from the 9 o’clock to the 3 o’clock positions, I prefer the 10-11 o’clock cross-draw position. This provides the fastest access for me, but requires two-handed operation: one hand to rip open or unzip the pack ,and the other to draw. Wearing a pack at the 3 o’clock position leaves my non-gun hand free, but requires two moves with the gun hand to draw. It’s a good idea to work zippers frequently in advance to break them in. When you use a rip tab, pull sharply away from your body rather than to the side, and don’t cover your arm or other sundry body parts with the muzzle as you draw. Make sure your gun is positioned so the rear sight doesn’t hang up on the zipper. Note that most of these designs would not be considered range safe because the muzzle may cover others while drawing, especially with models that stow the gun horizontally.