Osprey GrabBag: looks dumb, works good

I came upon the GrabBag by accident; didn’t even know it existed until a few weeks ago. I had been thinkering about using a small fanny pack for the GrizzlyMan, to keep map and food instantly accessible, and thought that such a thing might be useful for backpacking as well. On-the-go accessibility is an ongoing problem with backpacks. Absent Aarn packs, which I’d be more inclined to try were they less expensive, I’m not aware of any design which deals with the need to get at lots of stuff while hiking, easily, head on. Hip belt and side pockets have taken great strides, but are imperfect solutions, usually being small, insecure, hard to get at, or all three. As it turns out, the GrabBag is a better way.

It also looks really silly, but that is the nature of anything which can serve as a fanny pack.

The GrabBag weighs 4 oz with a fair bit of the very long main webbing strap cut off.  It’s an oddly potato-shaped pocket designed to be attached to the right shoulder strap (above) and clipped to the left.  The main zip is a #5, there’s a mesh organizer pocket within the main pocket, and a stretch pocket on the outside.  The backing is lightly padded and covered with 3D mesh.

The positioning of the bag on the pack harness is ideal. It’s easy to open with one hand, out of the way of arms and hands while on the move, and less prone to interfere while bushwacking than stuff in side pockets. As a hip pack, it works innocuously well.

Notice the right-hand shoulder strap attachments above. Also note the buckle tucked almost out of sight behind the mesh and padding. This mates with the 3/4″ long strap when in butt-pack mode.

The long strap. Not only is it adjustable, so that there isn’t a huge length of webbing dangling down when wearing it attached to the pack harness, but the excess strappage tucks neatly behind the padded panel.  Paying $25 may seem daft for something so small and simple, but is well worth it when you think of the thoughtful detailing and exacting construction.

The stock pack comes with a nifty buckle for the left shoulder strap which mates both of the above in one piece of plastic. I lost it almost immediately. Osprey sent this replacement post-haste. Serious points for prompt and free replacement, a few points subtracted for the cheesy stitching. While I didn’t lose mine while it was attached to the strap, the tendency of this little buckle to jump ship while not under tension is something worth watching. On a long trip it might be worth rigging something like the above without the slots, and putting it semi-permanently on the shoulder strap.

Not only will the GrabBag be great as a fanny pack for evening strolls, fly fishing, and so forth while on trips, it works easily with every pack in the quiver. It might lift the burden for the MYOGer to produce her own side and hipbelt pockets, which are often a time and materials consuming nuisance to both design and sew. It will make the pack feel a bit warmer in hot weather, and having to undo three buckles to take off the pack is a bit much, but overall it does a modest but important job so well that I’m immoderately enthused, and plan on using it constantly.  I’ll keep this space updated accordingly.

11 responses to “Osprey GrabBag: looks dumb, works good”

  1. I like being able to get at snacks, maps and some spare clothing like hats and gloves without removing my pack and, let’s be honest, there isn’t a side pocket on any pack I’ve used that allows you to do this effectively. I have, in the past, used an OMM Trio Chest Pouch http://www.theomm.com/products/pouches?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=50&category_id=6 (although a slightly earlier incarnation) but I like the way the Osprey version doesn’t seem to interfere with your zips for ventilation. Do you find it obscures your feet at all?

    1. It does not seem to obscure my feet, and though I haven’t taken it scrambling yet, don’t believe it will.

      I like the idea of being able to wear it while packrafting and have essentials on me should I swim and somehow lose the boat.

  2. I have one of those, and liked it so much that I had someone make a similar pack widget for winter trips that is large enough to carry a 1l water bottle + extras. Its super nice to stuff “right there” and easy to get to. I was pretty meh about its ability to switch to a waist pack, but I started using feature while packrafting with a pdf with no pockets. It appears the buckle has changed from when I got it – mine has no webbing on the left side and attaches directly to the pack’s shoulder strap. Alas, it sort of sucks and likes to fall off in inopportune moments.. a bit of duck tape solved that .

  3. I’ve got an OMM Trio too (might even be Joes old one =). Have only used it on short light trips so far but expect to use it on a longer trek this summer.
    When making my latest pack I played with the thought of ditching the normal hipbelt. Instead I would’ve put a pair of buckles where the hipbelt normally attaches, enabling the use of a fanny pack (with same type buckles) instead of a normal hipbelt. Might be a bit fiddly/non-ergonomical to reach back to attach it though. One could have put some webbing on one side to offset the buckle to the side of the hip, but that again could lead to discomfort <- idea not materialized.

    Looks like wearers of fanny packs just have to keep on looking self-confident and mean to not get bullied.

  4. Hey-o. Been reading your blog enthusiastically, figured it was time to stop lurking. I’ve long been trying to figure out a front-pack system, and so far I’ve somewhat enjoyed having a “man purse” made from an OR zippered packing cube and paracord to sling over my pack or shoulder. Works okay, but the Osprey looks better.

    That said, I’m wondering how the Osprey or any like system will work in very wet conditions. It seems that some of the materials will soak up a fair bit of water through rain, wet brush, or your projected packrafting use. Add a weep hole in the bottom? Ziplocs or Loksaks inside? You might find a way to wear it inside a jacket, or just put it in the main pack body when it rains, but in many cases that would somewhat defeat the purpose. Then again, I’ve handled roll-top drybag fanny packs and they just seem fiddly.

    1. My tentative plan is to just let it get wet, and not keep sensitive things in it under those conditions. The stretch material on the front pocket will probably be the most guilty when it comes to water weight gain. The main material is a nice 200ish denier ripstop. I presume it will drain through the seams well enough, but will stick a grommet in the bottom if necessary.

  5. Intresting discussion. I’ve used the top off my old Arc’teryx back pack for some years now as a fanny pack in conjuction with my Go-lite JAM as it has both capacity for a days worth of snacks etc..and a solid belt. It works well as a support system under the pack to transfer load from shoulders to hip. Drawback is if (when) it gets wet as it tends to soak up water and thus add weight. However, that is more than made up for by the way it eases the shoulder wear you can get from the light weight pack straps that Go-light uses. Dave is right about the part where a fanny pack is useful should you and your raft become seperated. In the field (on the go) i wear it as a fanny pack but it can shift to the front to get things out then shift back again for support without having to stop and fiddle around in your main pack.

  6. I own one of the Hill People Gear packs and have seriously thought about going in for one of their Recon Kit Bags – ttp://www.hillpeoplegear.com/Products/tabid/762/ctl/ProductDetails/mid/1916/ProductID/42/Default.aspx It would be great to have some calories and a map and compass right at hand and to be able to hang my GPS and camera off the webbing. What’s stopped me from making the purchase so far is the fact that I get warm enough going uphill and/or through the snow as it is without anything up front.

    1. Interesting company I’d never heard of. I agree, the Recon looks quite warm. And for 95 bucks it best bring me coffee in the morning.

      1. It’s not unreasonable for 500/1000 denier Cordura-wear. Which speaks volumes for that market niche.

  7. […] to the integration of bottle and pocket space on to shoulder straps of larger packs.  I’ve concluded that this is the ideal place for snacks, map, compass, water treatment, and so forth, as well as a […]

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