Gear Review Update: Ribz Front Pack

Ribz Front Pack
Ribz Front Pack

Ribz Front Pack
$60, 12.5 oz. (small)
Sizes: Small (fits waists 26-36 inches), regular (fits waists 32-46 inches)

The Ribz Front Pack won me over when I first started hiking with it more than a year ago because it keeps my DSLR, a second lens, and assorted smaller items in a readily accessible place: right in front of me. So it has replaced a bulky camera chest pack I had worn for years because it’s comfortable and holds more while being less obtrusive. I’ve carried the Front Pack on virtually every backpacking trip since. Now the newly updated version sports subtle but laudable design changes that actually improve upon a piece of gear that I considered nearly perfect before.

What’s new? The harness was tweaked for a better fit, and a locking slider was added to the shoulder pad and a stabilizer to the back to help prevent its crossing straps from tangling like cooked spaghetti when you’re not wearing it. What hasn’t changed? Its two saddlebags—each with a larger and a smaller pocket (all with a zipper)—have a total of 700 cubic inches of space, easily housing my DSLR on one side and my second lens on the other side (to help balance the weight), with space leftover for numerous smaller items like a map, snacks, gloves, hat, sunglasses, GPS, etc.

Me wearing the Ribz Front Pack on California's Mount Whitney (with my son Nate).
Me wearing the Ribz Front Pack on California’s Mount Whitney (with my son Nate).

The adjustable harness fits every time you put it on after adjusting it once, and the whole unit rides low across the front of your torso, not inhibiting movement at all or obscuring your view of where you’re stepping (as camera chest packs often do).

One caveat: I avoid overstuffing the pockets because I don’t like having them bulge outward far enough to get in the way of my arms swinging when I hike.

See my original review of the Ribz Front Pack as well as other reviews of daypacks and other hiking gear and backpacking gear that I like.

NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.

—Michael Lanza



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13 thoughts on “Gear Review Update: Ribz Front Pack”

  1. I wonder if the size/shape of the pockets have changed. I purchased a medium pack and it isn’t a very good fit for a Sony mirrorless full frame A7/A7rii with a large lens. It would probably work great with a prime. Hopefully the size Large I found on Amazon will accommodate the 24-70/2.8 monster.

    I would love to see some pictures posted about how you are packing you camera gear in this bag. Are you using any padding around the camera?

    • Hello Ty, you might put that question about whether the size/shape of the pockets have changed to Ribz, they’re very familiar with my review and when I posted it. I don’t know that they’ve changed. But I’ve inserted a photo in the review (above) showing me wearing the Ribz Front Pack while climbing The Mountaineers Route on California’s Mount Whitney in April 2016. I do not pad my camera gear inside it, but I easily fit my Nikon D7100 digital camera and two lenses.

  2. Hi Michael,

    I have a few questions that I thought you could answer about the Ribz pack. I understand you carry your DSLR in your Ribz pack. I’m interested in buying one to carry my DSLR with lens and maybe an extra lens.

    Looking at the pack, it appears to be fairly large. Larger than I expected I think. I know it takes quite a bit of room to carry a DSLR and lens. They tend to be a bit bulky. Does it ever feel like it gets in the way? Also, I’m assuming since you use one that you feel it provides enough protection for your camera and lenses? What about the straps, do they interfere with the backpack straps? It looks like they are padded and would be a bit uncomfortable riding under, or partly under, the backpack straps. If not, do they ride closer to your neck and do they tend to rub your neck?

    Do you carry just a camera and lens or do you carry an additional lens in your Ribz pack?

    One last question, do you have to order on-line or is there a store that carries the Ribz pack? It would be great to see one before buying.

    Thanks for listening and any help you can offer would be appreciated.

    Mike Ryan
    Pocatello, Idaho

    • The Ribz Front Pack has more capacity than I ever use, because if filled completely, it impedes my arm movement (I’ve done that). It’s also not very bulky when under-filled, and it rides more to the front of your abdomen than the sides, so it doesn’t get in my way when I carry my DSLR on one side and a second lens on the other side. I set my DSLR with attached lens inside one pocket lying on its side, with its flat bottom against my side, which I’ve found to be the best way to carry it and fit it in the pack. I occasionally will have just a few other, small items in the bags, like map, gloves, hat. I keep it low-profile and it stays out of my way physically and doesn’t block my view of the ground in front of me, as my chest pack used to do.

      As far as protecting my camera and lenses, it’s not padded; arguably, a chest pack might offer a little more protection from the impact of dropping. I’m careful with my camera whether it’s inside or out of that pack, but as you know, there’s always that risk when you’re outdoors. This winter, I dropped a lens on rock at Joshua Tree National Park and it cost me over $200 to have it repaired.

      The Front Pack’s straps are widely adjustable. I get it to ride without shifting, and the shoulder straps are slim and have never bothered me when they sit beneath the thicker and/or wider, variably padded shoulder straps of a backpack–and I’ve worn the Front Pack with many different makes and models of packs because I test a new one on almost every trip I take. Those straps have never rubbed against my neck. I can’t promise that everyone would have the same experience (and I don’t know how it would fit on women), but as I say, these straps are widely adjustable.

      I ordered it directly from Ribz. Maybe their website would tell you the nearest retailer to you, I don’t know.

      I carry a Nikon D7100 and Nikkor 18-140 and 10-24 lenses.

      Thanks and good luck. Get in touch anytime.

    • Michael,

      Thanks for the reply. I didn’t notice in your review you said you had a small. The small and medium packs have the same size pockets. The large and extra-large both have larger pockets. Your D7100 must fit pretty snug. The D750 is only slightly larger in the height and width direction but doesn’t fit. I can’t quite close up the zipper. I arranged the camera with its bottom edge against my abdomen also. I really like the pack. I used in for a short hike in Yellowstone several weeks ago and it was comfortable and held my binoculars and a few small things well. I just wished it held my camera with the zipper closed. I’m sure the larger pockets would fit my camera but getting the large size would be too big for my waist and torso.

      I have a small, Lowepro belt pack I can turn around to the front and I’ll try that with my backpack.

      Thank you for taking the time to respond. Maybe our paths will cross sometime out on the trail.

      Mike Ryan
      Pocatello, Idaho

  3. This also might be great to combo along with a child carrier backpack. I always find that it is a challenge to fit everything in the baby backpack and this added space might really come in handy!

  4. Dave, you said you wore the pack while backpacking. Does it interfere with the sternum strap or waist belt of a backpack? Is the pack waterproof?

    • Very good question, actually, Don. No, the Front Pack is not at all connected to a backpack, but it fits in a way that does not interfere with a backpack’s fit or cause discomfort because of buckles or other parts overlapping and pressing into skin. The Front Pack harness is designed to fit underneath a backpack, but it does not connect in any way to a backpack.

    • Dave, I have not tried biking with it, but I suspect the pack rides low enough that it could get in the way of your legs pedaling. Probably more convenient to carry a camera in a small biking backpack, because you have to stop to shoot, anyway.

  5. Umm, I’m really intrigued by this. BUT…have you seen women wearing it? I wonder how comfortable it would be. I guess you can adjust it up or down so it could be more of a belly pack than a chest pack?

    • Good question, Linda. I have not seen a woman using this front pack. However, it does ride low, more across the belly; it’s definitely not a chest pack (which is why I like it). To some extent, you can adjust how low you carry it. You might email Ray at Ribz through its website and ask that question.