Paul “Skunk-Ape” Thomas racked up a full seven years of hardcore hiking experience before launching Thru. Pack, which is making a name for itself with its signature line of fanny packs designed specifically for long-distance backpackers and hikers.
“It all started when my friend Tommy, who I met at the coffee shop I worked at in Norfolk, randomly asked me to go hiking with him at Old Rag, near Sperryville, VA.”
After pushing through the narrow passages of Old Rag’s ascent and reaching a magnificent viewpoint at the summit, Paul was hooked.
“Getting to the peak and sitting atop those rocks, just above the clouds, was an amazing feeling,” he said.
Accompanied by his old friend, Paul began his campaign of “several expeditions all over the Blue Ridge area.”
That soon led Paul to hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2012 – where he earned the trail-name ‘Skunk Ape.’ Add to that several more weekends in the woods and then a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2015, and that brings us to today.
Between journeys, the stout-drinking, music-loving Thru. Pack founder spent a lot of time looking at ultralight gear and noticed that fanny packs were becoming popular. After purchasing one himself and putting some miles on it, he realized how helpful the extra storage space could be in terms of accessibility and overall convenience.
“Everybody should use one during a long-distance hike,” Paul advocates. Even so, Paul realized soon after using the pre-existing fanny packs on the market that there was (pun intended) room for improvement.
“I noticed that larger companies were offering relatively generic products and that hikers could really use something that's designed more specifically for the activity,” he said.
Thru. fanny packs are light, built to withstand the elements, and come equipped with a 0.5 ounce retractable lighter cable, which Paul describes as “something you should never lose while in the backcountry.”
The Dyneema body and Aquaguard zipper keep out the rain, and inside the main compartment there are two distinct pockets. Plus there is enough space to fit most smartphones, snacks or anything else you need handy. The hip packs’ snug, modular designs are built with versatility in mind.
When covering long distances over technical terrain, it’s essential to use gear that performs flawlessly, Paul said. Gear that’s ill suited to the conditions can result in a much slower pace and in turn a much lower enjoyment level of the experience.
Paul started by making several prototypes of his fanny packs for himself. “With the help of friends who have also thru-hiked, I came up with a design to start producing,” he said.
In January of 2017, Paul launched Thru. Pack. It currently includes a selection of three styles of fanny packs and optional Comfy Straps, meant to provide the product with a fun and functional upgrade.
Paul and his business are both stationed in Norfolk, VA, where he lives with his-soon-to-be wife Leslie.
“Leslie comes with me on weekend trips, and she spent a month with me hiking in Northern California, so I know she is dedicated!”
As for the future of Thru. Pack, Paul “would love to be able to employ other thru-hikers and facilitate a rotating hiking schedule, where we always have one person out hiking. We will see what the future holds!” he said.
Want to learn more about Thru. fanny packs for hikers and backpackers? Check out gear review, including a video tour of the fanny packs.