Hardcore fly anglers know that the traditional fly fishing vest doesn’t always cut it on long days out on the water. Although that iconic item is great to bring along, if you’re an angler who enjoys all-day fishing excursions, you probably need more space to carry your gear, snacks, water bottles, you name it.
Fly fishing backpacks have become more and more popular in recent years. If you’re in the market for your first angling-specific backpack, this article will walk you through some top-of-the-line picks that are great for all anglers.
Benefits of Investing in a Great Backpack for Fly Fishing
It’s so easy to choose price over quality. We all do it. But when you’re purchasing your first fly fishing backpack, you should seriously consider investing in a high-quality product that will last. Here’s why:
Value: Odds are, if you go for a super cheap backpack, you’ll end up spending way more on new products, as it probably won’t last long. As seams rip and zippers fail, you’ll be forced to buy new items over and over again.
Quality: Durability- While high-quality materials tend to be a little pricier, they come with serious benefits, mainly their added durability. It’s no fun having an item fall apart. Quality materials will withstand the weather and wear and tear much better than cheaply-made products.
Longevity: You can rest easy knowing that a quality made backpack will last years longer than one that comes at a super low price point.
What Makes a Great Fly Fishing Backpack?
There are a couple of qualities that most great fly fishing backpacks should possess. Although a great backpack doesn’t need to have all of the following qualities to be a good choice for you, you should at least keep them in mind when browsing online or in store.
Size and Fit
Bottom line, no matter what backpack you choose, it should fit you comfortably and provide enough space for your desired angling activities. There’s no need to purchase a giant pack for day-long fishing trips, and likewise, if you often take multiple day fishing excursions, you may need to move up a size or two.
While this isn’t a make-or-break quality, it can be really nice to have a waterproof, or at least water-resistant, backpack.
Wading in water isn't a problem with a waterproof backpack (Source)
Because fly fishing is an activity that takes place in places with lots of water and you’ll be wearing it on your body, there’s a chance you might slip and end up wet. There’s nothing more miserable than ruining important gear in a situation that could have been preventable with waterproofing.
If you decide to skip the vest and decide to store all of your gear in your backpack, it’s important that the pack has a well-designed organization system. Choose a pack that keeps your most important items accessible in times of need.
It’s also a benefit to get a backpack with connection points on the outside so you can carry more things with you if needed. Having a water bottle holder and a fly rod holder can make all the difference in terms of convenience.
Quick Take - The Best Fly Fishing Backpacks
These are our recommendations for the best fly fishing backpacks:
Fishpond Oxbow Chest / Pack
Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Backpack
Patagonia Sweet Pack Vest 25L
Review of the Best Fly Fishing Backpacks
Because fly fishing backpacks are in an entirely different category than generic packs or backpacks, it’s not easy to know which one will be right for you. We’ve laid out our top picks in a variety of categories to make that choice a little easier.
1. Best Fly Fishing Backpack: Fishpond Oxbow Chest / Pack
A backpack from Fishpond is our first recommendation for two reasons: They create super high-quality products that prove to perform well over and over again AND this company has a killer commitment to sustainability; a quality that is so valuable in 2019.
All products from Fishpond, including this backpack, are created using environmentally-conscious materials made from abandoned fishing nets found in the ocean. This backpack also uses YKK aquaguard zippers, which are waterproof and tough against wear and tear.
This particular backpack has a ton of storage space for your gear. The main compartment is large and features two spacious internal pockets. It also comes with the Savage Creek Chest Pack which can click to the back of the pack or be worn on your chest for additional storage and accessibility. The chest pack has a molded fly bench that can be zipped up and down or can hold your own personal fly box.
The backpack is large, but not excessive. It balances weight with the help of a mesh back and padded, contoured shoulder straps for comfort.
Includes Chest Pack for Extra Space
Includes a Docking Space for a Hydration Bladder
May Be Too Large for Some Anglers’ Liking
Internal Pockets in Main Compartment Reduce Storage Space
While this backpack might be too large for some, this is a high-quality product that offers a great amount of space and gear accessibility. Fishpond’s commitment to sustainability and the use of recycled products also makes this a desirable choice. This is the perfect pick for anglers who want a quality pack with the added benefit of environmental support.
2. Best Waterproof Fly Fishing Backpack: Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Backpack
Another pick from Fishpond, the Thunderhead Submersible backpack was created to be totally waterproof, which makes it great for those fly fishing excursions that are a little more wild and wet.
This backpack is near the top of our list for good reason; Fishpond wowed the fly fishing community with this pack when it took home the American Fly Fishing Trade Association’s Best of Show Award in the eco-friendly products category in 2017.
Like all of Fishpond’s products, this pack is made from recycled materials. This one is created with a 1680 denier industrial waste recycled nylon. It’s made from nylon scraps that would usually be burned or thrown away. The pack features a fully waterproof zipper on the main compartment to prevent any potential leakage.
The company tried to keep comfort in mind when designing the backpack. It features a molded back panel, lightweight foam shoulder straps, as well a hip belt to keep the weight off of the angler’s neck and shoulders. The belt is adjustable and removable, too, so it can be set for different heights or taken off altogether.
Well-Designed and Stylish
Front Pocket is Too Small for Functionality
Waist Strap Adds Extra Bulk When Not in Use
The Thunderhead backpack from Fishpond is without a doubt, a great choice for any angler who needs a pack that can beat the weather. It’s made with high-quality materials that don’t put extra strain on the environment, which is an added plus. The only complaint that some users have is that the front pocket lacks functionality but this isn’t a major downside considering the main compartment allows for plenty of space.
3. Best Patagonia Fly Fishing Backpack: Patagonia Sweet Pack Vest 25L
If you’re debating between getting a vest and a backpack, there’s really no need with this Patagonia mash-up. This pack combines a backpack and a vest in a cohesive whole that is comfortable, functional, and durable. Patagonia is a trusted brand for creating well-made products and this pack definitely lives up to their standard.
The backpack is created with a blend of nylon and polyester. Each part of this product is coated with DWR (durable water repellent), which makes it water-resistant to keep the contents of the bag safe no matter the weather conditions. In addition, they use water-repellent YKK zippers for extra protection.
The mesh vest can be detached from the backpack and worn separately if you would like less bulk. The backpack and front of vest both have many attachment points for extra accessories if needed, as well as dual-side expandable mesh pockets for water bottles.
The vest is designed vertically for maximum accessibility to your most needed gear. It’s constructed with mesh backing to keep it breathable and comfortable for all-day use.
Comes With a Vest for Extra Storage Space and Convenience
Not One-Size-Fits-All as Advertised
Hip Strap Doesn’t Help in Weight Transfer
If you’re looking for a backpack with a little extra oomph from a vest attachment, this Patagonia product just might do the trick for you. As with most Patagonia products, this pack is made with high-quality material and gets extra points for being water-resistant. The main, pervasive complaint surrounding this product comes from the hip strap.
It is quite narrow and unpadded, making it uncomfortable and unable to assist in weight transfer. This is a serious downside, but if you’re willing to overlook it, this backpack is a great choice in terms of quality and functionality.
4. Best Fly Fishing Backpack with Rod Holder: AnglerDream Fly Fishing Pack
A rod holder is a great feature that many backpacks tend to not include. Having a place to store your rod eliminates an extra piece of gear to handle on your way up and down from your favorite fishing spot.
This fly fishing backpack from AnglerDream is one-size-fits-all but is fully adjustable. It has three main pockets to store gear, including a main compartment that is large enough to accommodate a sizable amount of stuff.
There are also two front zippered pockets for extra small items that you may wish to carry. In addition to the main pockets, there are also a couple mesh outer pockets available and various attachment loops.
The backpack is created with 400D polyester and comes with a camouflage design. One side pocket is perfect for holding your water bottle, while the other is used as a rod holder.
Lots of Good, Varied Storage Space
Zippers are Not Good Quality
Rod Holder Pocket is a Little Small
Overall, this backpack from AnglerDream offers a whole lot of storage space for a great price. With several pockets of varying sizes, it’s fairly easy to carry a lot of gear. It keeps the most important items accessible and leaves room for the ones that aren’t as essential. One issue with this pack is the zipper quality; some users have said that their zippers have broken very easily. Keep this in mind when considering this backpack.
5. Best Fly Fishing Vest Backpack: M MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch Fly Fishing Vest
Another backpack/vest fusion, Maxcatch’s vest backpack combines the two for comfort and extra storage space. If you’re tied to the idea of having a fly fishing vest but need more space for your gear, this is a great option.
The pack is created with lightweight, water-resistant material. It’s lined with mesh in hopes of keeping the product breathable and cool on warm summer days. The backpack features three separate compartments for storing all the gear that you don’t need immediately accessible. They are all zippered and expandable. It also has a back D-Ring for a landing net and bottom straps for a rod holder.
Although this product is one-size-fits-all, the vest is fully adjustable. It has two molded pockets on either side to hold your most important items. The pockets are shell pockets and include fly patches on the inside to keep your favorite flies handy on the go.
Good Weight Distribution
Comfortable Straps Don’t Dig Into Shoulders
Zippers are Not Super Durable
Shoulder Adjustment Straps Tend to Slip From Place Throughout Use
This product from Maxcatch is a great option for those anglers who enjoy the support of a vest but also need the space that a backpack provides. Some users complain about the quality of this vest/pack, but many have given reviews that praise it’s exceptional space accommodation and comfort. Overall, while it may not be the highest-quality purchase, it features a great amount of space in its well-thought-out design.
When it comes to a new fly fishing backpack, the more research you do, the better. There are tons of great backpacks in the angling world, the real task is in finding the one that is perfect for you. Hopefully, this article gave you a couple of potentials you could add to your gear list. Happy fishing!