Chest Pack, Sling, Vest, Hip Pack? What do you use and why?

So, I have gone through many iterations of my wearable gear. I started with a backpack, not a fishing backpack, but a snowboarding one. This proved to be a little, how you say, not effective. It wasn’t long until I was sporting a vest. Honestly, the vest was pretty much everything I needed. I had a Columbia vest and it treated me really well, until the advent of packs started approaching. Maybe I was behind the times, but I went to the William Joseph Catalyst pack, and I tell you what, it was an awesome piece of equipment.
Recently I have been on a huge Patagonia kick, and so I recently just switched to the Stealth Atom Sling. Nothing against my William Joseph but I was just looking for new. (you guys know what I mean).

Anyway, this isn’t a product review or anything (maybe that will come in the near future) I was just wondering what everyone is using out there. Hit us up on the comments to let us know.





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13 Responses to “Chest Pack, Sling, Vest, Hip Pack? What do you use and why?”

  1. Justin Borg Says:

    I’ve been through many of the same iterations. When it comes to steel-heading and the associated the climate challenges or to day tripping on foot a back pack / chest pack combo has been best in my experience. I have a couple of packs, including a William Joseph backpack/chest pack which I’ve used for many years. Recently I looked over several of the current back pack / chest pack combos and the Fishpond pack you have pictured stood out from the rest. When you wear a pack all day the weight makes a big difference and that pack was amazingly light yet packed with features.

    Anyone own the current Fishpond pack system pictured? Like it? Feel like there were any compromises with it? For day trips, boat fishing I have boat bags and hip packs from Simms, but I’m looking to upgrade day pack / chest pack combo.


    Jack Reply:

    I own a fishpond double haul…. It’s great I have no complaints


  2. Mike N Says:

    I’ve gone through all the backpack, chest pack, vest, sling etc phases too. Fishpond, Patagonia, Orvis and WJ – I’ve owned them all.

    As I’m getting a little older, a pack or vest of any size larger than the wader pocket starts to hurt my upper and lower back by the end of a long day.

    When I’m on my home waters, i’m down to a small fly box, nippers, hemostat and a spool of flouro. When I travel, I’m currently carrying the Patagonia stealth hip pack. I still find myself dumping it on the bank whenever I can, but the hip pack is much better on the back and I can wear it for longer periods when I’m covering lots of ground.


  3. Sean Hickey Says:

    Funny, I’ve been through a similar evolution. Though I started with the vest, moved to the backpack, and on to my final solution.

    It depends on the situation. My main pack is a Patagonia Stormfront waist pack. I found that a waterproof waist pack was a solid choice when I don’t need to carry a ton and I’m wading. I tried some non-waterproof (and cheaper) models, but then all my gear gets wet if I wade deep. The waist pack is great for casting and doesn’t get in the way when I’m throwing spey casts.

    If I’m going to be out longer, or for more variable weather conditions, I use the Simms Dry Creek Daypack (the older model). That enables me to carry another layer, lunch, and a few other items.

    When I’m in my driftboat, my Patagonia boat bag and my Clacka 16′ LP are all I need to carry whatever.


  4. Dave Says:

    Rising Flask Pack (chest pack) rigged to my really old Camelbak MULE backpack. I think it’s the most underrated chest pack out there.


  5. Jamie Eggers Says:

    I have never been a vest guy. I also have had several packs, WJ, Simms, etc. I used a chest pack for years, several models of WJ with the backpacks integrated with a chest pack. I was looking for something new, as we always do. I thought I would give a sling pack a try. I am one of those guys that always carries enough with me to fish for days….haha. But I want to be prepared for anything. So I opted to try the Orvis Guide Sling Pack. Man, I am in love. The weight distribution is easy on my back. Completely out of the way, and the hemostats are always right there when I need them. Plenty of room for all my boxes, tippets, tools, camera, wading jacket, etc. When I go salmon fishing I pack in for the day. I was a little apprehensive if it would hold everything, but it performed perfect. So….that is my two cents. Thanks!


  6. Joebe Says:

    I have run the gambit. Started with Orvis vest, needed more pockets went to Simms Guide vest, too many pockets went to Filson strap vest, wanted no clutter on my chest now on Orvis sling pack. As always I like what I am currently using the best. All have good and bad points. I liked the filson vest a lot but I really like not having anything on my chest.

    Kept the Filson Vest, I can be temperamental.


  7. J. Roberts Says:

    I usually just have my old vest on me and an occasional belt bag if I need more things to be on my pocket. I just bring a big tackle box and a bag with snacks, which my wife prepared for me. They guys are usually in charge of our “refreshments” :)


  8. kevin shanks Says:

    I have tried most pack, sling, vest combo’s over the years and I can tell you that none of them compare to the traditional medium sized fly fishing bag. You can drop it on the bank and fish with no restriction or you can wear it and put it behind you and still fish in comfort. Gear is great but most of it is designed to catch fishermen, not fish. “I prefer to fish.”


  9. Michael Says:

    Filson chest pack for a decade now. Quality and simplicity. Every time I buy another vest, sling, hip or backpack it ends up on the rack for guests and family.


  10. CR Says:

    I’ve used a vest from the beginning. Last season, I tried to adjust to a waist pack that attaches to a day pack for those long hikes in. It’s a real nice system, in theory. The day pack itself is great and has a place to attach a net, but there’s no place to attach a net to the waist pack unless the pack is worn in front and the shoulder/neck strap is used. I sewed a “D” ring onto the top of the strap (it didn’t come with one) for the net. It was another case of “Nice in theory:” The pack worn in front is always in the way and quite annoying. So I ditched the lame strap and stuffed the net handle between the waist pack and my back. That was pretty insecure, so I searched for a “bungee” attach the net to the waist pack. Again, nice in theory, but every time I needed to get into the pack to change a fly or add tippet, I’d have to pull out the net and swing the pack around. Often, the waste pack was wet from wading deeply and sagging on its straps. Then the bungee kept detaching. Finally, after losing a $100 net using this system, everything was transferred back to the vest. The vest is good in theory and practice. The waste pack (spelling intended) sits in the garage collecting dust. Try a sling? I’d rather put the money toward a nice rod or reel.
    BTW, I prefer to carry a silicon net when wading because it’s easier on me and the fish, especially when using a long leader.


  11. Dino Says:

    Well I as well have been a vest Guy for 40 yrs. I made the break to a very nice patagonia stealth. I have been on the Madison for a couple days now. In short I miss my patagonia vest. Sandwiches rain gear and limitless pockets. Vest works well with pontoon boat as well


  12. mark Says:

    I have been a vest guy for most of my fly fishing life (20 yrs or so). I do have a trip that requires long days on the river including hikes in of 3-4 miles or more and for that I use a mountain smith approach backpack with a William Joseph Access chest pack. I used the sternum strap on the BP for years to hold the chest pack. That worked well. I now have added some fastex buckles to the pack so I can just clip the CP to the BP. It works just like one of the many fishing backpacks that you see. I love this setup. Easy to pack in and allows me to carry some camera gear if I wish plus lunch, rain gear and I can hike in shoes vs wading boots or sandals. I only need a small selection of flies on the smaller streams so no need for a vest. I carry an slr and a tripod at times as well. I value a solid backpack for the comfort, organization etc and backpacking companies still have the edge there imo.

    When on rivers where I need a larger assortment of flies I used an Orvis guide vest that I have had for 10-15 years. I like the chest pack so much that I bought a William Joseph Confluence to replace the vest. I can use that with the backpack or just as a vest if I don’t have a hike in. Its a very versatile system. I tend to carry more flies than I need so I am just putting the extra boxes in the rear pack and keeping my chest area less cluttered. It is more efficient and easier to find what I need. I have never had a problem adjusting to wading with a chest pack like some. My eyes are usually focused just ahead of the pack and if I need to look directly where my feet are I just look to one side or the other of the pack. I wade fairly aggressively.

    Hope this helps.


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