1,750 cu/in. Perfection.
I’ve donned back packs, sling packs, chest packs, hip packs, a variety of combo packs and, of course, fishing vests. Aside from having a minor aversion to chest packs (it’s me, not the chest packs), I think that all of these products work well, depending on the kind of fishing day you have planned.
It’s nice have the opportunity to try out all of this gear, but I’ve always struggled with how much stuff to take along on a single day fishing excursion. I’m a minimalist at heart: nippers, tippet, two extra leaders, pliers and, of course, flies - the end (that’s my little fly fishing fantasy). When I do head out, though, I generally carry more gear. The process I’ve developed is to lay out all of my gear and then decide what’s definitely not coming on the trip, one obvious example: popper box stays home if I’m targeting trout.
Something else I wondered about recently is what is the ideal carrying capacity that a product should offer? I envy minimalists: 325 cubic inches and you’re set (and you probably have some space left over for a small sandwich), and my sympathies go out to anglers from the ‘everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink’ school: 11 fly boxes, 3 or 4 line spools, 7 tippet spools, thermometer, rod repair kit (etc., etc.) I’m sure this group is fine with carrying everything they own… maybe even necessary for a three-day excursion in the deep wilderness.
For one single day, however…
After some careful (and honest) calculations, I’ve come up with a volume figure that insures you’re not carrying too little – and equally prevents you from carrying too much. That number is 1,750 - cubic inches.
1,750 cu/in automatically disqualifies all sling packs, chest packs, and hip packs, which generally start at 350 and max out in the 950 cu/in range. We’re left with vests and back-packs. Learn to stock your vest – properly – and that vest becomes a valued treasure on the water, but ’ve heard more than a few anglers complain that they wish they could figure a way to stop overloading their vests, logic being that if the pockets are there, then you have to fill them with something, which makes sense on some level.
Vests, by virtue of their small compartments, require you to be organized. Not a bad thing, but let’s be honest, how many vest-wearers have you seen unzipping or ripping Velcro - and cursing? Then hearing “it’s usually in this pocket.”
Hip packs are great, but there’s no way that one can be developed to carry 1,750 cu/in worth of gear – comfortably.
Chest packs have a way of getting in the way.
I’ve worn a few combo systems, generally of the chest-pack/back-pack variety, and I like them, but for some reason manufacturers outfit these ‘systems’ with far too many straps, buckles and doo-dads – so that users can tailor a proper fit. Smart enough. Nearly every model I’ve tried, however, left me with way too many pull-straps flailing in the wind - you end up looking like a mummy coming undone, snagging branches on the way to your fishing hole.
If I were forced to choose just one of the carrying options listed above, back packs would win. Handily.
Plain back packs have two shoulder regulators, and sometimes a chest strap or waist belt. Clean, simple and efficient configuration. A fishing-specific backpack also needs straps to secure a rod tube or two.
With a 1,750 cu/in backpack, you just throw everything in there, in one or two large compartments, and you can comfortably fish out an item out when needed. Small items tend to sink to the bottom, and I can deal with that.
What can comfortably fit into a 1,750 cu/in back pack? This: a reel, additional reel spool, 4 medium sized fly boxes, leaders, several tippet spools, nippers & pliers, 2 apples, 2 power bars, crushable rain top/windbreaker, thermal top, 750ml water bottle, 2 cans (beer, juice, pop… OK beer), compact thermometer, sunglasses, ball cap, long-sleeved T-shirt, knife, w/c paper, wallet, car keys, PCD and, of course, that large sandwich.
Secure your 4-piece rod to the side of the pack and you’re set.