Ready to pack your kit and spend time on the water in 2023? My advice: pack one of the best fly-fishing chest packs listed below and you’ll be off to a good start. The best anglers will tell you the same thing — catching your limit is all about patience, savvy and quick access to your flies and an organized set of tools.
I’m still learning the patience and savvy parts, but this year I’ve done some homework on the gear side and want to share the results. I’ll leave the mystical choices of rod & reel up to you, but choosing a reliable chest pack is a much more straightforward way to up your game on the river.
To compile the list below, I plowed through hundreds of web reviews, drew from my personal experience, and picked the brains of several seasoned anglers I know. Next, I narrowed my focus to the top names in the game — Simms, Orvis, Marsupial, Umpqua, and other proven performers.
However, I can’t pretend to know your style and must-haves, so I hand-picked some hybrid, sling, and waist bags that run the gamut from ‘only the best will do’ to ‘best bang for the buck.’
So, let’s start by taking a peek at our list of 2023’s best fly-fishing chest packs. And to learn more, there’s even a buyer’s guide at the end with more details. Read on…
Anglers of all skill levels choose chest packs for one or more of the following reasons:
- A well-designed chest pack keeps all your gear accessible and organized. Quick access will speed your fly changes because all necessary tools and accessories are close at hand. And the best packs also offer customizable layouts, so your tippet dispenser, clamps, and clippers will always be right where your fingers expect them to be.
- Packs evenly distribute the weight of your gear on your chest and shoulders. Packs with streamlined and minimalist designs give you a greater range of movement and reduce the risk of snagging on obstacles while wading and casting.
- Anglers can wear chest packs over layers, which makes them a practical and more flexible alternative to fishing vests. In comparison, packs are easier to in any condition and over any combination of clothing.
Not all chest packs are the same. Each is designed to meet specific needs and cater to different angling preferences. Consider the following on your journey to get organized on the stream or lake:
Best Overall Editor’s Choice
Capacity, comfort, and thoughtful features abound in this delightful fishing chest pack from Marsupial Gear. I may be biased (I’m already in love with their bino packs), but this Marsupial pack is in a league of its own. Here are the features I think sets it apart:
- A cavernous main compartment with additional pockets inside, two slotted and one zippered. The 9.5” x 7” space provides enough room to store two large fly boxes and organize small items.
- A one-of-a-kind drop-down front pocket that gives you rapid and convenient access to the contents and provides an ample workstation.
- Four stretch pockets on the front and sides, plus MOLLE attachment points to hang your tools. These add-ons allow you to completely customize your setup.
- It’s a harness-style pack instead of a potentially painful neck strap design. The Marsupial provides even weight distribution and the ability to shoulder your load effortlessly.
The Marsupial is a perfect bag for professional anglers or anyone who demands the most out of their gear. And although pricier than others on this list, I can’t find any downsides to this top-shelf equipment.
Pros: A drop-down front pocket; comfortable; durable; lifetime warranty; large-capacity; made in USA
Cons: A bit pricey for a chest pack
Best for: Professional anglers; anyone looking to ‘buy once, cry once’
Minimalist Pack To Attach To Vest Or Waders
Patagonia Stealth Work Station
Less is more…. when well-executed. And this pack is. If you only need a small, simple pack to attach to your waders or vest, consider scooping up this little number from the trusted Patagonia brand. Here’s why I like it:
- The Stealth Work Station has a low-bulk design thanks to its lightweight yet durable ripstop nylon fabric. It’s quiet and weather-resistant.
- The minimalist features keep you focused on what’s important: keeping your fly in the water and not fussing with gear gizmos.
- A stretchy front pocket handles different-sized fly boxes, with ample room for essential tools, tippets, and floats.
This pack is all about versatility. I can unclip it from my waders, hook it to my belt like a fanny pack, or attach it to my backpack while hiking down the river. The Patagonia Stealth is your best option if you want your chest pack to be a reliable silent partner, not a burden.
Pros: Clip-on; lightweight; durable; weather-resistant; responsibly-sourced materials; Patagonia’s Ironclad Guarantee,
Cons: Not ideal for long trips with lots of gear; a little pricey for its size
Best for: Lightweight set-ups; on-the-go anglers
Sleek, Simple, Full Range of Motion
Simms Freestone is another no-frills, sleek, and simple solution to consider. It’s free from bells and whistles but still holds enough gear to get the job done. Among the features that make this a contender:
- It offers several carrying options: strap it to your waders, pack, or waist, or simply sling it over your neck and let it hang comfortably on your chest.
- It has a compression molded interior with a drop-down workstation that’s compact and efficient.
- It comes with built-in attachments for standard tools such as a tippet caddy, a floatant holder, or an internal key clip.
The Freestone has everything you need and nothing you don’t. Minimalist fishing is one of the best ways to enjoy Mother Nature, and nothing expresses that attitude better than this chest pack.
Pros: Simple; durable; lightweight; a versatile drop-down workstation
Cons: A modest storage capacity
Best for: Minimalist and efficient anglers
Best Chest Pack For the Money
Allen Fall River
For this pick, I’m talking to the guy or gal seeking a balance of function and affordability. This quality pack from Allen won’t break the bank but is still worthy of being on the river with any angler. Here’s why I love it:
- It features a front drop-down pocket, creating a small but functional workspace to tie flies and fiddle with your line.
- If you prefer neckstraps (I don’t), consider the Allen Fall River Pack. The reviews I’ve read say the well-padded strap makes it surprisingly comfy over the course of a day.
- Its small and lightweight design has all the features of a classic fly fishing pack. These include a tippet tender, a sticky fly patch, and several attachment points for snippers and other tools.
Allen has been making high-quality hunting and fishing gear in the USA for more than 50 years. This Colorado-based business caters to everyday anglers who don’t want to take out a small loan to get outfitted for their fishing trip.
Best Overall Hybrid Pack Kit
Umpqua Overlook 500 ZS2
Here’s one for the angler who comes prepared and always has the right stuff on the water. Umpqua allows you to step up your carrying capacity with the Overlook 500 ZS2, which comes equipped with these standard features:
- Enough storage for everything you need to get down & dirty on the water. My favorite feature is the cleverly placed tippet dispensers on the bottom of the pack.
- A four-point harness system that allows you to carry more cargo comfortably. The back of the harness has a mesh pocket ideal for lunch or a hydration bladder.
- A detachable backpack with a cleverly placed exterior net holder keeps your net within easy reach, allowing you to carry more stuff inside the pack.
The Overlook is a top-notch tool for professional fishermen as well as casual anglers. True, it’s a bit expensive, but it’s hard to find something comparable without sacrificing carrying capacity or quality.
Pros: Large carrying capacity; tons of features; a detachable backpack; rugged 400 denier ripstop fabric
Cons: A tad pricey for beginners or casual hobbyists
Best for: Guides; professionals; people who want to be prepared for anything
Best on a Budget
The Aventik isn’t going to win any beauty contests, but then again, neither are the fish. So, looks aside, here’s what you get with this backpack and chest combo:
- Enough room for a full day on the water, including two substantial main compartments on the front side and three large pockets on the backpack.
- Like the Umpqua Overlook, you can wear this backpack and chest pack simultaneously or split them up for times you don’t have as much to carry.
- A convenient and easily adjustable harness system that fits any body type or size, a breathable mesh back, and a sleeve for hydration bladders.
This is an Amazon brand, but it gets excellent reviews and has many of the same features as some of the high-priced bags on this list. If you’re on a budget but still need a full-featured bag, you can’t go wrong with the value-packed Avintek.
Pros: Affordable; versatile; lots of storage
Cons: Cumbersome; marginally weather resistant
Best for: Beginners or anyone on a budget
The Latest and Greatest Waterproof Sling
If you want a no-compromise option, look no further than the next generation of fishing packs from Orvis. The PRO series has all the classic Orvis features in their other beloved packs, along with such bonus features as:
- A completely waterproof design that keeps all your fishing gear, electronics, and other stuff as dry as your driest fly, thanks to TIZIP zippers and a rugged 840-denier, abrasion- and puncture-resistant ballistic nylon shell.
- A 14L capacity with one large pocket suitable for a day’s worth of gear, plus a nifty side zipper pocket that securely holds your fly boxes.
- A fly patch, a tippet holder on the side, and a cushioned shoulder strap made from a mesh material that minimizes sweating. The strap also has several anchor points for your hemostat clamps and other must-have tools.
The Orvis Pro is a very pricey gadget. If you’re just starting out in the sport, consider a more affordable option before dropping this much coin. However, if you’re already hooked for life, it doesn’t get any better than this Orvis sling.
Pros: Waterproof; lifetime warranty; durable; large capacity
Cons: On the heavy side
Best for: Professional anglers; anyone wanting totally dry gear
Best Fishing Sling Pack for Guides
Yep, Orvis earns yet another entry on this list. Why? Simply put, no one can match their sling packs. The Guide is my top pick for fishing guides because it holds everything you or your clients might need. Plus, there’s much more:
- A 100% lifetime guarantee from a company that constantly innovates and stands behind its products. Think of this as a ‘buy once, cry once,’ peace-of-mind purchase.
- Generous cargo space — 18 liters, to be exact. Volume like this is designed for the needs of multiple anglers; it verges on being a roomy workbench for your clients’ gear.
- A plush, padded sling strap that will keep your casting hands-free at all times. The shoulder strap has a fly patch, several tool attachments, and a small pocket.
If you’re a professional angler or guide, you’ll be impressed with this bag’s capacity, durability, and broad functionality. I recommend shelling out a few extra bucks and buying this bag “fully loaded” with all the extras you’ll cherish on the water.
Pros: Large capacity; unobstructed casting; easy to maneuver; very durable
Cons: A bit large for some
Best for: Guides; trips requiring a lot of gear
Best Budget Sling
For regular everyday guys like me, KastKing has our backs by offering value-packed gear. No fancy pants stuff here, so keep a few extra bucks in the bank and hit the water with confidence and features like these:
- A surprisingly large capacity — it can swallow two 8” x 5” tackle boxes, making it an ideal bag for bringing a wide variety of baits and lures to the river or lake.
- A bottle holder, rod holder, and MOLLE attachment points on the front of the bag. I love this feature because you can strap your pole to your back while hiking into your spot.
- A comfy, lightweight mesh design that maximizes airflow, keeping sweat off your chest and back.
Just because you can’t get an Orvis bag right now doesn’t mean you must suffer. Thanks to this budget fishing sling pack from KastKing, regular ol’ working folk can hit the river with just as much functionality as the pros, and at a fraction of the cost.
Pros: Affordable; functional; decent capacity; rod holder on the back
Cons: Probably not the most durable bag on this list
Best for: Entry-level purchasers; anyone on a budget; spin anglers
Sometimes you won’t need all the features of the packs listed above. On those days, simpler forms of organization will do, and the options listed below may just be perfect.
An Efficient And Full-Featured Waist Pack: Patagonia Stealth 11L
This is a scaled-down hip version of the Patagonia Stealth model mentioned earlier. It’s a minimalist waist pack that sits comfortably on your lumbar area and stays out of the way when you cast. Several compartments and pockets mean this hip pack holds all you’ll need for a day on the water.
Cast Friendly Hip Pack: Simms Tributary
The Simms Tributary may be one of this list’s most comfortable and cast-friendly options. It sits effortlessly on the front or back of your waist or can be worn bandolier-style over the shoulder.
Minimalist’s Dream Fanny Pack: Umpqua Bandolier
This bandolier model is for the ultralight junkie who wants to be nimble. Perfect for quick outings on the stream or as a spare for the truck or office. The Bandolier has a tool attachment point, fly patch, and can switch between sling or fanny pack modes.
There are about a half-zillion items in the fishing tackle marketplace. Just search for “fishing chest packs” online and you’ll find an absolutely dizzying array of choices. I sure did!
To compile this list, I navigated a deep sea of selections and trolled through fishing forums, Facebook groups, and Amazon reviews. I was picky and focused on choosing only the best choices in each category. Hey, that’s my job, and I did it so you won’t have to.
Here are the factors I considered. Add these to your own criteria and feel more confident in your purchase decisions.
Size and Capacity
Storage capacity is probably the top consideration, so think carefully about your fishing plans for 2023. Will you make many long trips? If so, lean towards the higher capacity packs that have all the features you absolutely require. And if you’re a beginner, ask your angler friends for their advice on what sort of supply and tool storage you’ll need when you hit the water together. In the end, it’s your call.
Comfort and Fit
Packs that dig into your shoulders are a pain in more ways than one, especially after a few hours. Choose something that’s comfortable from the start and conforms to your body. Adjustable straps are an absolute necessity, as is padding that will handle the weight you intend to carry. And breathability matters if you’re to avoid being sweat-soaked in the heat.
Materials and Durability
You’ll want a pack that lasts and won’t fail midstream. Look for thicker materials with higher denier counts, for example. The seams also matter, so consider welded vs. stitched construction. Double stitching is better than single. And prefer beefier buckles and zippers over skinnier, no-name counterparts. You get the idea.
I’m sick of buying cheap imitations from unknown brands that don’t offer product guarantees or customer support. There are good reasons that some brands last for many years or decades — the odds are good that they consistently make quality, durable products and keep their customers coming back for more.
How much should you spend on a new chest pack? That’s up to you, based on how long you need it to last. Set a budget and look for a bag with your desired features within that price range. There are several high-quality options for every budget on this list.
So, what’s going to be? Will you choose the sleek and sporty Patagonia Stealth? The cavernous Orvis PRO? Or the entry-level sling from KastKing? Whatever your fancy, I hope this guide has helped you find the perfect fly fishing chest pack for your 2023 season.
Whether you’re a pro guide or an average joe, I hand-picked the items above with you in mind. From high-end chest packs to budget-friendly sling bags, I’ve tried to include solid choices for your needs and style of fishing.
The picks I made here are just conversation starters. Please post your comments and questions below and we’ll all benefit from a broader range of experiences and sharing. Also, consider signing up for our email list if you want the latest info and automatic entry into our regular giveaways.
Thanks for reading our list of the 12 best fly fishing sling packs for 2023. Our blog covers many topics for anglers, hunters, and the outdoors lifestyle in general, so come back soon!
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Last Updated on January 18, 2024
Josh Riley lives in Colorado with his wife, Mary, and their three wild and crazy children. He’s an avid hunter, fisherman, backpacker, elk meat connoisseur, and international traveler.