Updated Aug 18, 2022 3:51 PM
A backpack can be a great way to carry all of your fishing gear, whether you’re headed around the block or around the world. Face it, your old-school tackle bag can get heavy when you load it up, and trying to carry it can get cumbersome when you’re running through a crowded airport or sneaking along the edge of a shallow farm pond — especially if you’re trying to fish at the same time. You could use the backpack from your school days, but that doesn’t have any fishing-specific flourishes, and it’s certainly not made to stand up to harsh environments or to combat changing weather. While there’s no one size fits all backpack, I picked the best fishing backpacks that cover a wide range of scenarios for this review.
Fortunately, a wide range of tackle companies realized this former gap in the marketplace, and have produced backpacks aimed directly at the angling community. That includes both once-a-year casual anglers and those who are out on the water every day. Some of these packs are made to carry just a few key items, while others seemingly have the ability to haul just about every bit of tackle that you own and still retain room for items like cell phones, wallets and passports.
Depending on which one you choose, they can be great for long-distance travel and urban fishing alike, and in a pinch, they can even serve non-fishing purposes, too. Choose one that provides you with the best ergonomics and fit, and you might not know it’s there, keeping your hands free to do other things and preventing you from needing a dose of ibuprofen after a day on the water.
- Color/s: Green
- Straps: Two adjustable padded straps
- Pockets: Main compartment, top compartment, six side pouches, and pliers pouch
Why it Made the Cut
This is a fishing bag made for the angler on the go who wants to be prepared for any possibility, so needs to carry a wide range of tackle and accessories. It’s set up to hold four 3600-size utility trays in one large compartment and five 3500-size utility trays in another, with plenty of room left over for odds and ends with everything in its own place. It also works well in low light conditions thanks to an integrated LED light system.
Pros and Cons
- Comfortable fit
- Holds a huge amount of gear
- Lights allow you to see exactly what’s inside
- Price may deter some bargain-minded anglers
This lighted backpack aspires to be the Cadillac of fishing storage solutions. It’s made to fit a large number of tackle trays, making it modular and versatile, and also has a fold-down work surface. Wild River has also taken into account the tools and accessories you’ll need when chasing your prey, with a molded sunglasses holder to protect your precious shades and a removable pliers pouch that has a retracting lanyard. You’ll stay more organized and won’t need to decide which gear to leave at home because you can bring it all. The lights require two AAA batteries, not included. Utility trays, however, are included.
Wild River apparently thought of every possible need when they build this bulletproof pack, and if you’re only going to buy a single bag to carry your gear, this may be it.
- Color/s: Black, Desert Brown, Prym1 Sand Storm, Prym1 Blackout
- Straps: One adjustable padded shoulder strap with quick release
- Pockets: Main compartment, zippered front pockets, hide-away zippered pocket, and open bottom neoprene side pocket.
Why it Made the Cut
In addition to being comfortable to wear, this fishing sling holds a remarkable amount of gear for such a small-profiled carrier. It’s tough enough to handle busting through the brush on the way to your favorite mountain creek, yet stylish enough to carry on the subway to work. The colors and patterns will appeal to those who want a tactical design or otherwise want to maintain a feeling of stealth.
- Super lightweight
- Cool stealth-factor design
- Single strap design might not be ideal for some anglers
The BlowBak is made out of a tough material for brush-busting, and also features a water-repellent coating on the inside to prevent the intrusion of moisture. Building on the tactical theme, it offers a molle tie-down system that makes it infinitely customizable. The main compartment holds two 3600-size utility trays and the neoprene sleeve on the side will hold your multi-piece fishing rod as you hike to a distant spot, keeping your hands free for other things. There is also a dedicated fishing pliers holder and a key chain clip to ensure that nothing gets lost on the way to or from your day on the water.
The sling pack looks cool, but this one is about more than just fashion. It packs tons of utility into a stealthy, feature-rich, budget-friendly design
- Color/s: Khaki, Army Green, Black, Camouflage, Jungle Camouflage
- Straps: Waist strap
- Pockets: Main compartment plus five outer pockets
Why it Made the Cut
Piscifun packs a ton of features into this small bag, and while the term “fanny pack” may remind you of your grandmother or tourists, this “hip pack” is remarkably stylish. It even has a hidden anti-theft pocket that sits flush to your back. It will hold your passport and/or cell phone, making it a perfect option for travel.
Pros and Cons
- Multiple pockets in a small, easy to tote package
- Adjustable waist strap for personalized fit up to 56-inch waist
Material is abrasion-resistant but not waterproof
The main double-zippered pocket on this hip pack is where you’ll put most of your gear, but this inexpensive system offers more than just a single compartment. There’s an additional hidden pocket along with an adjustable water bottle holder. If you have a limited amount of gear to tote, and you want to keep your load light and your hands free, you may be surprised by how much this hip pack allows you to bring with you. It’s great not just for travel and for fishing on foot, but also for fishing in a boat when you want to keep the essentials on your body rather than constantly needing to dig around for them.
Definitely not your grandma’s fanny pack. If a full-blown backpack isn’t practical or advisable for any reason, you’ll get lots of use out of this small but mighty gear carrying device.
- Color/s: Gray with black and yellow accents
- Straps: Two padded backpack straps plus sternum strap
- Pockets: Large, roll-top main pocket, plus a sleeve pocket and zippered side pocket
Why it Made the Cut
If you’re going to brave the elements — and every angler will at some point — you need a pack that will keep your gear dry. Otherwise you may have a rusty, unusable mess at the end of your trip. Plano has spent decades making high-quality solutions for anglers, and this pack allows you to keep your hands on your rod and reel while ensuring that your precious tackle stays bone dry.
Pros and Cons
- Simple roll-top design keeps tackle gear
- Molded tie-downs create additional modularity
- Comfortable padded straps
- Minimal number of pockets
Plano constructed this hold-everything bag out of 500D PVC casing and welded the seams shut so the traveling angler need not worry about water intrusion. Whether you’re hiking into a remote stream in a major downpour, or just want to leave the bag on the deck of your boat in rolling waves, you need not fear that your tackle, camera equipment, cell phone, or wallet will get ruined. If you’re not satisfied with the number of pockets — or need to carry additional gear — you can lash more items to the external attachment points. This backpack comes pre-loaded with two Plano Stowaway tackle boxes.
Plano’s stylish pack will keep your valuables bone-dry. It holds lots of gear, with the modular ability to lash more to the outside, and comes ready to head out into the fiercest elements.
- Color/s: Gray with black and blue accents
- Straps: Two padded shoulder straps plus chest strap
- Pockets: Main pocket plus large side pocket and large front pocket
Why it Made the Cut
Eventually, just about everything that goes outdoors will get nailed with a splash of water, and packs with inexpensive components, particularly zippers, may be rendered useless. Lunkerhunt gets around this problem by eliminating zippers from the backpack altogether. Instead it relies on a system of cinch-closures with the “belt and suspenders” addition of heavy-duty buckle straps.
Pros and Cons
- Stands upright at rest
- Easy access to components
- Clean design
- No dedicated pockets for items like pliers and sunglasses
Lunkerhunt minimized complications with this stylish, budget-friendly, stand-up bag. The elimination of zippers, combined with the water-resistant construction, means that your gear will remain safe and dry. The main compartment easily fits the three included tackle trays. Anglers who like to tote more than a single fishing rod to their chosen location will appreciate the fact that it offers two adjustable rod holders.
- Colors: Dark grey (anvil) with orange accents
- Straps: Breathable padded shoulder straps and removable waist belt
- Pockets: Large roll-top main pocket with two internal organization pockets (one zippered), large external zippered pocket with multiple organization pockets (one zippered), integrated net sleeve
Why It Made the Cut
Most anglers like getting away from crowds, and one great way to do that is hiking into less pressured fishing spots. Getting all the gear you need to those hard-to-reach places can be a challenge, and a comfortable and capable backpack goes a long way to making the hike worthwhile. Simms is the industry leader in quality fly fishing gear, but make no mistake, their accessories are meant for all anglers. The G3 Guide Backpack is an exceptional example, combining the best characteristics of a comfortable hiking pack with the functionality and storage required by anglers.
- Fully waterproof
- Comfortable, breathable, and padded hiking straps, waist, and chest straps included
- Lots of storage
- Limited easy access storage
Simms G3 Guide lineup of gear is known for its quality and is a favorite among year-round fishing guides. The G3 pack is no exception, boasting a number of unique features that make it one of the best hiking and guide packs out there. A fully waterproof design with an external shell made of 420D Nylon Double Ripstop with TPU coating and liner made of 200D polyester ensures anything you put in this pack stays nice and dry. 50L of storage provides plenty of room to pack any extra gear you may need, including first aid supplies, dry clothes, or anything else you might require for a long day of hiking and fishing. One of the better features are the dual rod tube/water bottle holders on either side of the pack, which are deep and provide a secure place for large water bottles or rod tubes. The pack also features an external net sleeve built in, which can come in handy in many situations. In addition to the external storage features, the internal storage is exceptional. In the main rolltop storage area, there are two smaller organizational pockets, one zippered and one open. They provide a great way to keep your more important items (wallet/keys/etc.) organized and safe from the elements. The large front zippered pocket also has several internal organizational pockets, which are ideal for terminal tackle and gear organization. There are also several external straps and clips to attach any extra gear or tools you may want. Finally, the features that really separate this pack and make it unique are the comfortable, hiking-oriented components. The compression-molded hydrophobic back panel and breathable padded shoulder straps are incredibly comfortable and make the pack easy to wear on long hikes. Additionally, the chest straps and a removable waist strap provide support and stability when lugging lots of fishing gear a long way. – Kevin Hughes
Lunkerhunt’s entry into the backpack department complements their innovative lineup of tackle choices. Even if zippers aren’t your enemy this is still a solid choice, at a reasonable price point.
While the term “backpack” typically connotes a large compartment running the length of your torso, held on by two shoulder straps, and possibly a waist strap, I defined the term broadly to include sling packs, waist packs and fanny packs — anything that will hold your gear safely above the ground while you chase your next trophy fish.
I didn’t grade the simple, single compartment packs directly against multi-compartment or modular storage systems, but instead I evaluated each product against its intended purpose and its direct competition. These are the main characteristics I look for in the best fishing backpacks:
- Storage Space (relative to it’s size does it offer enough space to store my gear?)
- Organization (will it keep my gear from getting tangled?)
- Access (how easy is it to reach compartments while I’m wading in a stream?)
- Durability (is it designed to last?)
- Value (are you getting what you pay for?)
- Features (is it waterproof, does it have rod holders, and what is it designed to hold?)
Things to Consider Before Buying the Best Fishing Backpack
What are your physical limitations, and where do you intend to take your backpack? Those factors, along with the amount of tackle that you’ll truly need to haul (yes, most of us take way too much stuff on every outing), will inform your choices. With so many varied systems, and the modular nature of many of them, there’s no need to compromise at all when you’re looking for the best fishing backpack. There’s a system that’ll fit your needs and your budget. Just get what is right for your situation. Fortunately, several of these are inexpensive enough that it’s not unreasonable to buy more than one, as most of them can even pull double-duty for non-fishing endeavors.
The answers you need to get your fishing backpack ready for a day on the water.
Q: Do I need a fishing backpack?
Any angler who needs to carry their tackle on a fishing trip while keeping hands free for angling should consider a backpack as an ergonomic way to keep their gear close. It’s also a great tool for air travel and when you need to tote other luggage.
Q: What should be in a fishing backpack?
Anything you’ll need for a day on the water. This, of course, includes lures and terminal tackle, but might also extend to extra line, rain gear snacks, and a water bottle. Many backpacks have specific pockets or attachments for various items.
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