When it comes to spending time on the river, I actually prefer working with a chest pack vs. a vest. It’s not every fly fisherman’s preference, however, I enjoy the flexibility a chest pack offers.
On my most recent fly trip to Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains we hit rivers largely accessible by car, so a chest pack was perfect. Near the end of the trip we started to hit rivers 1-2 miles from the car, so I opted for something with a little more storage—but that’s a story for another day.
So when it comes to fly fishing chest packs, how do you go about choosing the one that works best for you?
With my fly fishing gear, for the past 2-4 years I’ve been upgrading my outfit.
The Orvis Safe Passage Chip Pack (chest pack) $80
First, let me point out that $80 on a chest pack is a decent investment, but if you’re like me and prefer the flexibility of a chest pack offers the cost is easily justified. I purchased the Orvis Safe Passage Chip pack on a recommendation from a fishing buddy, and have been very happy with my decision.
Two Compartments (plus a bunch of interior pockets)
Zippered, gusseted compartments
Comfortable neck pad (was my only concern initially, have not been let down)
Detachable neck strap, quite easy to remove
Hooded front slash pocket—second favorite feature, basically spill proof
Zinger/Tool Attachment System
Olive or Grey
5” x 6” x 9 & ½”
Fishpond: Medicine Bow Chest Pack $70
For those lucky fly fishermen who are fortunate enough to own a Fishpond backpack, here’s the only other attachment you’ll need to hit the water. At 13” x 10” it’s a bit bigger than the Orvis Mid Size pack that I personally wear, however—it integrates seamlessly with the backpack, so it’s worth including here.
Aqua-guard water resistant zippers
13” x 10”
Large main compartment (can take larger fly boxes)
Molded zip down fly bench (with replaceable foam)
Can add tabs for additional features
Works very well with Flypond backpack
Umpqua Rock Creek Chest Pack $65-$70
If I had to choose a chest pack other than the Orvis I own, this would be the second one I’d try out. I personally have yet to purchase a fishpond backpack (though it’s on my list)—so I’d go here. It has an attachment to hook to any backpack for additional functionality (love that), plus it holds two fly boxes, has a foam fly pactch, cord tippet holder, snag free shouler sizing, etc.
If you’re thinking about trying a backpack + chest pack combo, consider the Surveyor 2000 ZS backpack from Umpqua.
Snag-free shoulder sizing buckle
holds two large fly boxes
420 denier nylon
Two front overlay pockets for flat leader storage
Two side stretch-mesh pockets for accessories
Cord tippet holder holds up to 8 tippet spools
Internal key clip and organization
Internal Dimensions: 3.5 x 5 x 9 in. (8.89 x 12.7 x 22.86 cm) (200 cubic inches – 3 Liters)
Ballistic Cordura® (in high wear locations)
Reebow Tactical Crossbody Fly Fishing Chest Pack $30
For those of you ex-Army/might still operate on the side fly fishermen, you may enjoy this tactical fly fishing pack. I say that with a slight bit of humor, but the Reebow Crossbody pack is actually quite versatile. Traditionally, when I’m headed camping/hiking I won’t think of grabbing my fly chest pack for day hikes—yet this is the perfect cross activity pack. This would’ve been perfect for my Colorado Springs trip last summer, when on a hike I also took along my fly pole.
1000D CORDURA fabric, 420D lining
Extremely versatile (hiking, camping, hunting, fly fishing, etc)
Tons of extra pockets for holding things like phone, glasses, fly box
Multiple carry options including shoulder bag, chest pouch, back pouch, by hand
Adjustable detachable strap (best feature)