The Patagonia Black Hole® Waist Pack 5L is a durable fanny pack built for hiking, biking, and travel. Coming in at a lightweight 11.3oz, this water resistant pack provides a very nice feature set with two external stash pockets, cinch straps, a large storage compartment, and a padded waist belt. I’ve enjoyed hiking with the Black Hole 5L so much that I won’t grab a backpack unless my outing requires more than 2L of water. I’ve been wearing the Black Hole 5L a few times a week over the past few months, and will be sharing my thoughts in this review.
Build, Design, And Functionality Overview
Every year I find myself experiencing one or two gear revelations that encourage me to switch up my kit. This year I found myself gravitating towards a minimal running belt or fanny pack for shorter trail runs instead of a pack or vest. I feel more comfortable running with unencumbered shoulders and an uncompressed chest, especially on hot days. I can’t carry as much gear or hydration with a waist belt, but what I do have is much easier to access. After finding a few really nice waist belts for running, I got curious and started looking for a fanny pack I could use for hiking. My hiking pack needs are more demanding than my trail running pack needs, since I carry more water, my camera, camera accessories, and ample nutrition. After doing a lot of research and trying out a few options, I settled on the Patagonia Black Hole® Waist Pack 5L as my pack of choice. When I bought the Black Hole 5L, I only intended on using it as a quick-access camera bag on shorter hikes. It has filled that role nicely, and has quickly turned into the bag I reach for most often.
The bulk of the Patagonia Black Hole® Waist Pack 5L (8.7oz) is made using a thin but durable 300-denier polyester with a thermoplastic urethane (TPU) laminate overlay. The internal liner of the Black Hole 5L is constructed using 200-denier polyester. All fabrics are coated with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish for increased protection from the elements.
Storage, Pockets, Hydration
The Black Hole 5L has a deep 5-liter main storage compartment with one internal sleeve. The inside is not padded, so I use a padding panel from one of my other camera bags when carrying my camera gear. I can easily fit my Fuji X-T3 with an attached lens and two extra batteries. My wallet and phone fit nicely into the back sleeve while carrying my camera. When I don’t have my camera with me, I can store extra hydration, warm layers, snacks, and more, with room to spare. I do wish the back sleeve was zippered to keep my items separated. It’s great to have a quick access area inside the pack, but I’ve had smaller items slip out into the main compartment. The mesh sleeve also requires me to be mindful of what I carry, ensuring that nothing sharp edged will scratch my camera or lens through the mesh holes. A zippered 200-denier internal pocket would be a better option for my use.
There is a small zippered pocket on the front of the pack with an internal key ring. The pocket is just large enough to fit an iPhone 11(XR). I tend to use this pocket for chapstick, dog waste bags, extra camera batteries, and other items I don’t frequently access during a hike.
The Black Hole 5L doesn’t come with any hydration options when purchased, so bottles and/or bladders will have to be purchased separately. The two external stash pockets are perfect for .5L bottles and can easily accommodate 1L bottles as well. I’ve used hard bottles and soft flasks, and the stretchy stash pockets do a great job on both to minimize movement and sloshing. As you can see in the photo below, the stretch pockets can fit a thin layer alongside a bottle, and can easily expand for gels and other forms of nutrition.
Hip Belt, Compression, and Sizing
The hip belt of the Black Hole 5L is my favorite part of this pack, and is the main feature that separates it from other waist packs I’ve tried. As you can see in the photo below, the Black Hole has a thickly padded back panel like you would find on a hiking backpack. It also has a thick belt that doesn’t bounce or loosen over time. This quality hip belt distributes the load evenly across my hips and feels well balanced when fully loaded or empty.
The only storage compression on the Black Hole 5L comes with straps that sit on top of the external stash pockets. This is useful when carrying a near empty load. Still, with the massive 5L internal storage area, items can bounce around a bit when not secured. This is another reason I think an internal zippered pocket would work better than the sleeve. A central vertical compression band with a buckle could be a nice additional as well.
My only real nitpick with the waistband on the Black Hole 5L is that it is huge! I have to cinch things down and double loop the extra straps back through the hoops to keep them from dangling to my knees. I guess Patagonia is ensuring that a one size fits all pack really does fit all.
The Patagonia Black Hole® Waist Pack 5L has been my go-to day hiking bag over the past few months, and has also been my dog walking bag and casual use camera bag. I’ve been pretty hard on this waist pack, and it still looks and feels brand new. Much like everything else I own from Patagonia, the construction and durability of this pack is top notch.
The Black Hole 5L isn’t “waterproof”, but it has proven to be very water resistant. In all but the heaviest and sustained downpours, the internal contents of this bag have stayed dry. The Black Hole 5L is virtually dust proof though, which is far more important to me as a Southern California resident. I do a lot of desert hiking in dusty winds, and am very confident that my camera gear is well protected.
The Black Hole 5L has “all day” comfort and just seems to disappear when I’m out on the trail. A large part of this comes from the well padded back panel and sturdy waist belt. I’ve loaded this pack up with two liters of water, a camera, and snacks, and enjoyed a bounce and chaffe free hike at 3 mph over 10 miles.
At $60, the Patagonia Black Hole® Waist Pack 5L comes in at a high price point when looking at the larger market of fanny packs. The Black Hole 5L offers way more than many of those packs though, and is much more akin to a hiking backpack or hydration vest where $60 is considered a bargain. The feature set on the Black Hole is minimal, but what it does have performs very well. If you’re looking to take a load off of your shoulders while hiking and still want to carry around a decent amount of gear, make sure to take a close look at the Patagonia Black Hole® Waist Pack 5L. You may never go back to wearing a backpack on shorter hikes.