Written by: John Baltes
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One challenge every fly angler faces is storage.

While you're wading in a stream, returning to the bank to change flies, re-spool, or re-tie is a waste of precious time, as well as an unnecessary hassle. Instead, you want to keep your supplies - hemostats, fly storage boxes, spare spools, floatant, etc. - ready to hand.

Options like tackle bags and boxes are obviously not a good choice, and backpacks are cumbersome to say the least.

Traditionalists favor vests, and this is one time-honored solution to organizing your gear while fishing. But chest packs are increasing in popularity, especially among younger anglers, for their ease of access.

And if you’re in the market for a fly fishing chest pack, you’ve come to the right place. Below, you’ll find honest reviews of some of the best fly-fishing chest packs on the market.

Quick glance at the best fly fishing chest packs:

Related:

Best Fly-Fishing Chest Packs Reviewed

Umpqua Overlook 500 ZS2 Chest Pack - Best Overall Fly-Fishing Chest Pack

Umpqua ZS2 Overlook Chest Backpack 35257, Olive, One Size

Amazon 

Material: 420D nylon
Size: 16” x 16” x 6”
Capacity: 9L
Weight: 2 lbs.
Waterproof: No

Umpqua may have a funny name, but their fly-fishing gear is no joke. Long known for quality products, their Overlook 500 ZS2 Chest Pack is a worthy rival for the Cross-Current.

Slightly larger and more capacious than the Cross-Current, Umpqua manufactures this chest pack from 420D nylon. That’s tough material, to be sure, and it should shrug off the sun, rain, abrasions, and cuts threatening it in the wild. 

The Overlook 500 ZS2 offers plenty of storage. On the exterior, you’ll find two large mesh pockets to hold essentials that must be ready to go, as well as multiple lanyard attachment points. In our mind, that gives the edge to the Overlook as it keeps our tools safe and immediately usable.

The front zippered pocket is ideal for accessories of all kinds, and it makes a great place to store a spare spool, extra line, leader, or tippet, and other must-have items. The second zippered pocket is much larger, enabling it to hold as many as 6 fly boxes.

You’ll find a fly patch on the top of the pack, as well, providing easy access.

Umpqua supplies this pack with not one but two back pieces. In addition to the simple, lightweight, breathable mesh, you’ll receive a backpack-style pouch that increases your carrying capacity and provides a place for your landing net. That backpack is perfect for stowing rain gear, lunch, or anything else that you don’t need to reach instantly.

The adjustment straps and fit of the Overlook 500 ZS2 are excellent, and with the backpack detached, the mesh really helps keep you cool when the mercury is headed north.

Overall, we really like this pack a lot, and the only real complaint we have is that the net holder can make it a chore to remove a short-handled design.

Pros:

  • Comfortable fit with plenty of adjustment
  • Excellent interior storage options
  • Excellent lanyard attachments
  • Comes with a detachable backpack
  • Tough and durable

Cons:

  • ???

FishPond Canyon Creek Fly Fishing Chest Pack - Best Fly-Fishing Chest Pack for Minimalists

FishPond Canyon Creek Chest Pack

Amazon 

Material: 420D nylon
Size: 9“ x 5“ x 4.5“
Capacity: ?
Weight: 1 lb.
Waterproof: No

FishPond’s Canyon Creek Fly-Fishing Chest Pack is ideal for minimalists. If you like having the essentials ready to hand but can’t stand being overburdened with gear you won’t use all the time, the Canyon Creek might be the perfect chest pack for you.

Designed to be as unobtrusive as possible, this small chest pack provides plenty of comfort on hot days. The adjustable straps should provide an excellent fit for most anglers, but larger fishermen may find them too tight.

Despite its relatively compact dimensions, the Canyon Creek holds plenty of gear.

On the outside, you’ll find a mesh pocket ready for essentials like floatant or sunscreen, and beneath a zippered main pocket that opens into a fly bench with a silicone fly pad, you’ll find space for a spare spool and other angling supplies.

Don’t let this little pack fool you: it holds more than it seems like it should, and we wouldn’t feel undergunned with what it can carry.

Two lanyard attachment points round out the front storage options, holding hemostats or nippers right where you need them.

On the back, you’ll find an integrated net holding slot.

Manufactured from 420D nylon, the Canyon Creek is built tough and can probably survive more abuse than the Cross-Current. 

Pros:

  • Comfortable fit with plenty of adjustment
  • Two lanyard attachments on the front
  • Good interior storage options
  • Excellent net holder on back
  • Super tough and durable

Cons:

  • May not fit anglers over 200 pounds

Maxcatch Fly Fishing Chest Pack - Best Budget Fly-Fishing Chest Pack

M MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch Fly Fishing Chest Bag Lightweight Chest Pack Fly Fishing Pouch

Amazon 

Material: Unspecified nylon
Size: 8.97” x 6.02” x 3.23”
Capacity:
Weight: .45 lbs.
Waterproof: No

We really wanted to love Allen’s Fall River as a budget-friendly option for anglers looking for a chest pack, but in the end, we found too many flaws with its design. And in our search for affordable performance, we think the Maxcatch crushes the competition.

The exterior of the Maxcatch fly-fishing chest pack sports a large, mesh pocket that’s a great place to stow floatant, a spare spool, or extra tippet. You’ll also find excellent options for lanyards, a feature we simply love to see.

The first zippered pocket folds down to a flat fly bench with a foam fly pad that keeps them well-organized. Especially for techniques like Euro-nymphing, wherein the flies will be tiny, you'll find more than enough room for everything you need for a day's fishing.

Behind that pocket, a second, larger compartment can hold fly boxes and other essentials, and you’ll find two mesh pockets to help organize your gear.

Maxcatch uses a neck strap and waist cinch to secure this pack, and the strap is well-padded and comfortable. You’ll also find the usual D-ring and two more loops to secure common tools like nippers and hemostats.

The fit can be a tad rough-and-ready, and you may need to shorten the neck straps to keep the pack high on your chest. In that case, the waist straps may not be long enough, and some modifications may be in order.

But for the price, the storage options are excellent, and the tool attachment possibilities are the best of the options on our shortlist, outpacing packs that cost 5 times more!

If a budget-friendly pack is enticing to you, take a look at the Maxcatch. With a little modification to the straps, it’s a true bargain.

Pros:

  • Great price!
  • Excellent tool attachment options
  • Good interior storage options
  • D-ring on the back
  • Very cool in hot weather

Cons:

  • Some customization of the straps may be necessary

FishPond Cross-Current Chest Pack

fishpond Cross-Current Chest Pack

Amazon 

Material: 210D nylon
Size: 11.5” x 10.5” x 1”
Capacity: 8L
Weight: 1.7 lbs.
Waterproof: No

FishPond has a well-earned reputation for designing and manufacturing excellent fly-fishing gear, and their Cross-Current Chest Pack is a good example of why they’ve gained such an ardent following.

Sized right to fit comfortably high on your chest, this pack should stay pretty dry unless you step into a deep hole, lose your balance and fall, or get soaked by a sudden squall. FishPond designed the back to provide all-day comfort, as well as a great solution for how to stow your landing net while keeping it out of the way and accessible.

The adjustment straps on the Cross-Current are effective at providing a good fit, and they keep this chest pack right where it should be without biting, chafing, or pinching.

The Cross-Current is made from tough 210 Denier nylon, and it can take baking sun, sharp thorns, rain storms, and falls without missing a beat.

Its enclosed storage options are outstanding.

On the front, you’ll find two mesh pockets, as well as a velcro patch that’s perfect for attaching a fly holder. The forward-most pocket is sealed magnetically, allowing easy access to a capacious pocket with four smaller mesh pockets to help you organize your equipment.

Behind this, you’ll find a second, zippered compartment with a smaller internally zippered pocket for essentials like your wallet and phone.

Overall, we found that the Cross-Current provided plenty of room for our gear, offering sensible options for placement that kept must-haves like insect repellant, floatant, flies, and tippet right where we needed them.

One thing we did miss, however, were attachment points for tools like hemostats, pliers, or knives. We’d like to see a few D-rings or loops placed where we’d want to attach lanyards for our most-used tools, and they were notably absent on this otherwise winning chest pack.

If you can live without that option, the Cross-Current is an excellent choice.

Pros:

  • Comfortable fit with plenty of adjustment
  • Excellent interior storage options
  • Excellent net holder on back
  • Tough and durable

Cons:

  • Lacks lanyard attachments on the front

Simms Freestone Chest Pack

Simms Freestone Water Resistant Outdoor Chest Bag with Pockets, Pewter

Amazon 

Material: 330D nylon
Size: 9" x 6" x 4"
Capacity: 3L
Weight: .7 lbs.
Waterproof: No

Unless you’re absolutely new to the sport, you’ll be familiar with Simms, and from waders to boots, gloves to nippers, they’re dedicated to gearing you up for fly fishing.

Simms’s Freestone Chest Pack is a minimalist option competing directly with the FishPond Canyon Creek. So how does it stack up?

The Freestone is manufactured from durable 330 denier nylon, placing it between the Cross-Current and Canyon Creek in terms of toughness. And unless you run a bench grinder against this pack, it’ll stand up to anything you can throw at it on the water.

Despite its tiny dimensions, the Freestone can hold all you need - if you’re not a hardcore gear hound. Designed around the preferences of anglers who only carry what they really need, if you prefer a full set of flies and tools, this probably isn’t the best option for you.

But for anglers looking to keep things simple, the Freestone is a worthy choice.

On the front of the pack, you’ll find a large velcro patch that’s great for attaching essentials like floatant and tippet. It can also be used as a convenient spot to dry your flies.

Behind that, you’ll find two zippered pockets. The first folds down into a convenient fly shelf, with the interior offering a foam fly panel and plenty of room for commonly-used items. The second pocket is larger, offering two mesh pockets and space for several fly boxes - at least.

Much as with the Canyon Creek, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by just how much gear you can stow in this tiny pack.

The adjustment straps are comfortable and fit is generally excellent. I’m not sure I’d pick this pack for larger anglers, as the straps may not provide enough room for adjustment.

That said, the rear is little more than nylon straps, making this a very cool option for hot weather, and of course you’ll find a D-ring for your net, right where it should be.

Simms’s Freestyle doesn’t offer great options for lanyards, a major drawback in our mind. But if you’re looking for a small, light, cool chest pack, it’s definitely worth considering.

Pros:

  • Comfortable fit with plenty of adjustment
  • Good interior storage options
  • Large velcro patch on the front
  • D-ring on the back
  • Tough and durable
  • Very cool in hot weather

Cons:

  • May not fit anglers over 200 pounds

Allen Fall River Fishing Chest Pack

Allen Company Fall River Fly Fishing Chest Pack - Fits 2 Tackle/Fly Boxes and Other Accessories - Green

Amazon 

Material: Unspecified nylon
Size: 8” x 3.25” x 9.75”
Capacity: ?
Weight: .5 lbs.
Waterproof: No

Fly fishing accessories can get expensive, and it’s nice to see a product priced affordably. Allen’s Fall River Fishing Chest Pack is priced right, and it’s worth a look for anglers who balk at the price tags Simms and FishPond products wear.

This small pack is better suited for anglers who lean toward minimalism, and its overall capacity is the lowest of the packs on our shortlist. That notwithstanding, it’s an excellent choice for fly anglers who don’t want or need to carry more than a few fly boxes and the essentials.

On the front of the pack, you’ll find a small mesh pocket, as well as a fly panel that keeps your options ready to hand and allows them to dry.

The first, smaller zippered pocket folds down to create a fly shelf and expose an internal, mesh pocket and smaller zippered pocket. Be aware that unlike the picture, the fly shelf does not fold down flat, remaining at a steep angle.

You’ll also find a tippet tender that’s great for keeping extra line ready, secure, and immediately accessible.

The larger rear pocket is capacious enough to hold several fly boxes and perhaps a few essentials like floatant.

The adjustable straps holding the Fall River in place can be very hit or miss. A waist belt secures the lower portion of this pack, while a padded neck strap does the heavy lifting. That has a few advantages to be sure: this pack will fit most anglers pretty well, and it’s very cool and comfortable on hot days. But the neck strap can be poorly sewn, leading to chafing and discomfort.

As you’d expect, there’s a handy D-ring on the neck strap for your net.

Another problem we found with the Fall River is the lack of places to attach lanyards for tools. We’d love to see a few D-rings or loops, at the very least.

If the price of premium fly-fishing gear exceeds your budget, take a close look at the Allen Fall River. If you can live with its minimalist dimensions, and the neck strap doesn’t bother you, it’s a great option that won’t require you to empty your wallet.

Pros:

  • Great price!
  • Good interior storage options
  • D-ring on the back
  • Very cool in hot weather

Cons:

  • May not fit anglers over 200 pounds
  • Neck strap may be uncomfortable
  • No lanyard attachment points

Buying Guide: How We Assess Fly-Fishing Chest Packs

Vest vs. Chest Pack

Vests are the traditional option for fly-fishing storage, and there’s no question that they can hold more gear than a chest pack. They tend to be pretty comfortable, very durable, and easy to fit.

The downside of vests is that they can feel unbalanced when you have an unequal distribution of weight. They also tend to be warmer, a fact that you’ll come to know pretty well as the mercury rises.

By contrast, chest packs can be a little harder to fit and certainly can’t carry as much as well-designed vest. They keep the weight of your gear centered and high, however, and they’re a better option throughout the summer.

But vests can obscure your view of the river right at your feet, creating potential hazards every time you move.

Durability

Mother Nature isn’t known to be terribly gentle, and from the damaging effect of the sun to brambles and sharp rocks, your chest pack is going to face a tough life.

Nylon is far and away the best material for constructing a durable chest pack, but all nylon isn’t equal. Manufacturers use deniers (D) to differentiate the thickness and mass of nylon threads, with higher numbers corresponding to heavier material.

For instance, 420 D nylon is heavier and more robust than 220 D nylon, and with similar manufacturing quality, it will shrug off more abuse.

Just how tough you need your pack to be isn’t an easy question to answer, but typically, the big name companies like FishPond, Simms, and Umpqua use very durable nylon in their chest packs.

Unspecified nylon fabric, like that used in the Allen and Maxcatch, probably isn’t as tough, head-to-head, but it’s probably still rugged enough for your fishing adventures. Where you’re likely to see a problem - if one arises - is near the seams.

Comfort and fit

If a chest pack isn’t comfortable to wear, it really doesn’t matter how awesome its storage options are or tough its fabric is.

Fly-fishing chest packs typically use straps similar to a standard backpack, including padded shoulders, to adjust to fit most anglers. Some packs, like the Simms, Allen, and Maxcatch use a neck strap combined with a waist strap.

Both systems work, but unless the neck strap is well-executed, it can feel like wearing sandpaper.

We look at how well the straps can be adjusted to fit smaller or larger anglers, and we assess how comfortable a pack is for all-day wear. Typically, more padding in the shoulder straps, a greater range of adjustment, and a lighter (or absent back panel) offer the greatest comfort.

Most chest packs will be tough to fit to larger anglers, and if you're over 6 feet and 200 pounds, it can be tough to find something that’s going to fit well.

Internal storage

Most packs have two storage pockets, one in the front designed for “loose” flies and light stuff like floatant or tippet, and a larger pocket behind that, intended for fly storage boxes and other big items.

Good pack designs will allow the front pocket to fold down, creating a fly bench that lets you see your flies and work with your line. A well-designed pack will also provide plenty of internal pockets to organize your essentials.

In my experience, a 9L pack can carry a lot more gear than you think, and even the smaller options on our list have you covered for a day’s fishing, no sweat.

External options

I like to see external pockets or fly storage options like foam fly pads, where the air and sun can contribute to drying my flies.

I also think that lanyard attachment points - or built-in retractable lanyards - are essential. You really need to keep your hemostats, knife, nippers, and other tools secured or you’re going to drop them.

Net holders are also really nice, and I like at least a D-ring on the back for tying off my net. Better yet, I love a good net holder that lets me access this tool when I need it and forget about it when I don’t.

Final Thoughts

I can’t tell you which fly-fishing chest pack is the right choice for your needs and budget, but I can recommend several options that really stand out.

If you need a larger pack, Umpqua’s Overlook 500 ZS2 is almost impossible to beat. Built tough, it offers outstanding internal and external storage. For most anglers, it’s easy to get a proper fit, and the Overlook is comfortable, too. The included backpack is a nice touch for carrying bulky items that you don’t need to access immediately - think rain gear or lunch - and the plentiful lanyard options really shine when you need to use your tools.

If small and light are your bywords on the water, take a close look at the FishPond Canyon Creek Fly Fishing Chest Pack. While its dimensions are petite, it can pack a lot of gear, includes excellent lanyard attachments on the front, and fits most anglers comfortably. It’s also a very cool option for hot summer days.

Finally, if the fly-fishing tax applied to gear gets under your skin, Maxcatch’s Fly Fishing Chest Pack may be a great choice. Ridiculously inexpensive, it offers a lot of performance for each dollar that you spend. And from big pockets to lanyard attachment points, a comfortable neck strap to a very cool, open-backed design, you won’t be disappointed for the money you’ll spend.

As always, we hope that this article has helped you make the right choice for you, and we want to remind you that we’re here to answer any questions you might have.

Please leave a comment below!

About The Author
John Baltes
Chief Editor & Contributor
If it has fins, John has probably tried to catch it from a kayak. A native of Louisiana, he now lives in Sarajevo, where he's adjusting to life in the mountains. From the rivers of Bosnia to the coast of Croatia, you can find him fishing when he's not camping, hiking, or hunting.
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