The Bottom Line: A well-designed fully featured lumbar pack that is perfect for day hikes and dog adventures. It takes some time to get used to wearing it, but it allows easy access to all of the items you are carrying without needing to take the bag off. My biggest complaint is that the shoulder strap pad is too narrow for my body, so it tends to feel like it is cutting in. Mountainsmith sells Strappettes that might solve that problem. Overall this is a great pack at a great price that will last you forever, and if it doesn't, Mountainsmith stands by their product and will help you out!
We stumbled upon this pack through another pack I use for photography, the Tanack 10L. I was in a rush one day to get to the dog park but wanted to bring my camera as well. I grabbed my Tanack 10L and noticed there was plenty of room to shove our dog park gear in on top of my camera. I threw a water bottle in one side pocket for our dog and a Nalgene in the other for me. On top of my camera kit cube I stuffed our treat bag, a spare roll of poop bags, her harness, and a few other items. I then tucked a light jacket under the outer bungie straps and we took off. When I arrived to the dog park (about a half mile from our house), I loosened the waist belt, swung the pack in front of me, and got our dog easily sorted for the day. She took off to run with another dog and a stranger walked up to me: "Whoa! what's the name of that fanny pack? That's a great idea for the dog park!" After a brief conversation I took off after my dog. At multiple times the lumbar design made it incredibly easy to access the dog and photo-gear I needed throughout our dog park trip. As we ended our walk and got home, I mentioned to my fiancée that we should look for a dedicated lumber pack that we can leave "prepped" for the dog park or dog adventures at all times (we even use this when we go mountain biking). The following weekend we were perusing the local gear exchange and stumbled upon The Tour marked down to $40, score! Note: There is a women's specific version of this pack, The Tour WSD (check out a review here from a fellow contributor).
Our bag has gone through a few organizational iterations, but primarily we use the front zipper pockets for poop bags and a dry bag to put a used poop bag in for longer hikes (carry in, carry out, folks, please! Leaving it on the side of the trail to come back to is not acceptable). The main compartment has two sections and a smaller zippered chord pocket. The back section is created with a neoprene sleeve. We stuff our dog's leash and harness in there so we can quickly grab them as needed. The main compartment is where extras go. We keep a fleece vest for our dog, sometimes jackets for us, spare food/treats for all, and a ball or similar small toy with room to spare. We keep a small headlamp in the chord pocket just in case. The outer two water bottle pockets are for either two water bottles if we are going far or a water bottle for our dog and her treat bag bag in the other if we are doing a short trip and focusing on training. There are adjustable straps on the bottom of the pack that we have used to carry trekking poles or a puffy jacket (I wish the Tanack 10L had these), and the elastic bungie cord on the outside is available for other stow-and-go items, like an extra layer. One side of the waist belt has a zippered pocket for keys, and we keep a small thing of pepper spray in there as well. Finally, there are a variety of stitched webbing loops throughout the pack that allow for customized storage options (which we have not used).
Wearing a lumbar pack takes a bit of getting used to. I have no hips really, and I found that I need to tension the waist belt tightly first and then use the shoulder strap as a backup to prevent the pack from slipping. I found that the skinny pad tended to slide off my shoulder and the narrow webbing strap would dig in. Raising the waist belt and tightening it down first helps quite a bit with comfort. I would say it is unlike carrying a backpack. The weight is at your waist and behind you (lumbar style) or at your side (how my fiancée prefers to carry the pack). These are not designed to carry a ton of weight, so don't be like us and try and cram as much as you can into it. If you do, you will find that the pack wants to ride down as you walk since it will be bouncing around quite a bit.
There are a two adjustment straps that attach to each side of the waist belt (four in total). One small one is at the lower part of the belt, and a larger one attaches from the front of the pack across the water bottle holders and to the top of the waist belt. Tensioning the small shorter ones at the bottom has done very little for me. The big one pulls the pack in nicely to your waist. The issue this presents is that it makes it difficult to easily remove a water bottle from the holder. There are two through clips that I tried threading it through, but that moved the strap lower and it did not have the same tensioning effect, so I am not sure what those through clips are for (the Tanack 10L had them as well). The waist belt webbing itself is wide and supple, so it does not seem to dig in at your stomach when attached. The straps themselves are very long and dangle on both of us. My recommendation is to unthread the webbing from the waist belt clip, slide the elastic band off, rethread the webbing, then fold it up and use the elastic band to keep the folded bundle together (see photo example). We found that if you use the original design as intended, it is difficult to adjust the waist band on the fly. Bundling the straps at the end shortens them and lets you easily adjust them as you go.
The shoulder strap is easily adjustable from either side and can be used to make on-the-fly adjustments. This is great since because we wear the pack very differently. My biggest complaint is that the strap is too narrow and the shoulder pad is not the most comfortable. Mountainsmith sells "strapettes" (basically backpack straps) that might help remedy this issue, and we are looking into picking up a pair to try. The strap is the biggest reason we hesitate to take this pack on anything longer than a short day hike.
The pack itself is made primarily from CORDURA® fabric, which is used primarily in places that need to be durable and tear resistant. It is great stuff, but it is not lightweight. At 1 pound 9 ounces, this pack is not going to impress the ultralight crowd, but I have no doubts it will last a long time without us having to worry about it. The zippers are large and slide easily without snagging. The water bottle pockets are mostly stretch mesh, but they both have a strip of CORDURA® down the center, adding durability and strength. Usually mesh anything is a place of concern for me since that tends to wear out first on packs. In this case my dogs claws haven't been able to make a dent in them, a trade off for not being ultralight.
All told, if you can get adjusted to the lumbar design and the narrow shoulder strap, this pack would fit the bill for anything from day hikes to mountain biking and beyond. The organization options means you can easily access what you need when you need it and keep moving. One of the biggest advantages is the lumbar design itself; simply by loosening the waist belt you can quickly swing the pack in front of you to easily see and access anything you might need.
As a final note, Mountainsmith has been stellar in supporting their products. I have contacted them twice regarding small issues. In both cases I was merely asking how to fix it or if they sold repair products, and both times I ended up with new gear, and most recently they sent a discount coupon as an apology! Obviously this is just my experience, but that kind of product support scores huge points with me (shout out to Dan in customer service at Mountainsmith)!