Waist packs and sling packs are my two favorite ways to tote along tackle and accessories anytime I'm bank fishing.
I love keeping things simple and lightweight whenever possible because that equals better comfort and mobility. The market is full of these types of fly fishing packs, but after trying a bunch of them over the years I've learned that finding one that just feels "right" from a comfort and functionality standpoint is tougher than it seems. Another thing I've learned is to hold onto a great pack no matter how cool or intriguing the latest and greatest may seem. My current waist and sling packs have been with me for years now and despite both starting to showing their age, I have no intentions of dumping them anytime soon.
Things to consider in a pack...
Sizing- I like my packs to be more on the compact side because I pack so light. I've fished with some larger ones before and while the extra space was nice, the size increase was a little awkward — especially with waist packs. Of course this totally depends on personal preference and what you like to bring along, but bigger might not always be better for you. If you can, try a few on at your local shop first to see what size seems to click best.
Waterproof- My current packs are not waterproof, but if you can find a good one it's obviously an added bonus. A waterproof pack is useful not just for fishing in the rain, but for protecting gear when wading deep or even guarding against splashes or floor puddles you may encounter if you bring the pack along on a boat. Non-waterproof packs like mine are often a lot cheaper and the material is thin and more supple which I do like, but after my current packs get a bunch more hours on them it may be time for waterproof ones.
Pockets- Jeez, some packs really take storage to the extreme with dividers, pockets within pockets, hidden compartments, etc. I like simplicity. One large, open main pocket for stuff like a fly box, gloves, a GoPro, or whatever else works just fine, and I like one or two outside pockets to hold things like little tippet spools, leaders, hand sanitizer, etc that I might want to access a little quicker. Since I'm usually not bringing a ton of doodads with me, I don't have any trouble finding what I need within seconds.
Bottle Holder- Keeping your bottle or thermos on the outside of a pack allows for quick, easy accessibility and keeps it separate from all your gear so it's not hogging all the interior space or possibly introducing moisture where you don't want it. Problem is, not every pack offers built-in outside bottle holders. Add-on solutions do exist here, such as this one from Fishpond.
Loops, Hooks, Flaps, etc- A lot of fishing packs will have hooks, loops, flaps, receptacles, and other things on the outside which can be really handy for attaching accessories. However, the more stuff you have on the outside of a pack, the easier it is for your fly line to catch on something...and anyone who fly fishes knows that line can miraculously find the smallest, most out-of-the-way things to snag on! Based on my current styles of packs and how I wear them, I often keep the outsides of my packs as barren as possible.
Integrated Net Slot- Do you bring a net along with you? If so, you might like the clean looks and positioning that an integrated net slot provides such as what's found on Fishpond packs. If your pack doesn't have one, you can also buy a separate net holder/release such as the one found here.
More Pack Accessory ideas...
Solyce Tippetac- A personal favorite. It may not look like much, but since our testing of it I've used it way more than I ever imagined. It'll safely hold spare pieces of tippet/leader and the magnet is powerful enough to temporarily hold a fly, pliers, scissors, etc as you reorganize or retie. It's like having a third hand helping out! Check out our past review of the Tippetac.
Fishpond tippet holder- If you like to keep your tippet instantly accessible or just simply don't have a good place to keep tippet spools, this could be of use. Take a closer look at this handy little contraption in our review.
Zinger/Retractor- A zinger or retractor attaches to the outside of a vest or pack and allows you to securely connect an item to its built-in retractable cable or cord. Some of these cables and cords offer up to a couple feet of extension (or even more!) which gives you a lot of freedom to use whatever tool you have connected. Check out this selection of retractors and zingers.
Links to our Past Gear Bag Reviews...
Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Lumbar Pack Review
Umpqua Bandolier ZS2 Sling Pack Review
Check out Trident Fly Fishing's inventory of sling packs and waist packs!