Vest vs. Sling Pack vs. Hip Pack vs. Backpack and More


Which options fit your needs?

Pack options for anglers have exploded over the last decade or so, and vests have become lighter and more comfortable, with more technical features. With such a variety of tackle-storage . . .


Which options fit your needs?

Pack options for anglers have exploded over the last decade or so, and vests have become lighter and more comfortable, with more technical features. With such a variety of tackle-storage options, there is no one answer to the question, “Which is better, a fly-fishing vest, a sling pack, or a hip pack?” for all experiences. However, you should treat a pack or vest as any tool designed for a collection of uses — wading from the car in spring, wet-wade hiking to backcountry lakes in late summer, float trips, and so on. Mix in those desired uses with a heavy dose of personal preference, and you’ll find the right pack for you.

To help you narrow down the best fly-fishing pack or vest for your needs, I talked to some of our endorsed guides from across the country to get their own personal preferences for fishing in different conditions. And, of course, you’re invited to share your bag or vest preferences in the comments below.

The Guides’ Take

“I find a time and place for each pack — waist, sling, or full backpack. On days guiding in Yellowstone National Park, I carry spare jackets, water bottles, first-aid kit, bear spray, snacks, and all of my fly boxes (plus a spare rod or two for clients) and use a backpack. When fishing for myself, I find that a larger sling pack does the trick for extra layers, some food and drink, and my fishing gear. When I’ve layered up in the colder months, I prefer not to have anything over my shoulders due to the bulk of my waders and clothing. That’s when the waist pack — and plentiful jacket pockets — best suits my needs. I guess the solution is to have one of each!” – Mike Mansfield has been guiding in Southwestern Montana for 17 years. You can find him guiding the area rivers for Montana Angler throughout the year, or exploring the alpine terrain of the region on foot, bike, or skis.


Our resident Euro-nymphing expert, Jesse Haller, prefers a vest.

“The beauty of the options available today is that there is seldom a need to compromise when selecting a tackle-management system. On days when I’m primarily in a boat, I use a waterproof boat or tackle bag. This allows a handy storage system for my gear and keeps my flies dry and my body unencumbered with the weight of a vest. When I plan on wading for a day, whether it be on a river, stream or saltwater flat, I prefer to use a sling pack. This gives me enough space for fly boxes, tippet, leader, a rain jacket and water. This changes when I’m guiding clients and need to carry more gear, and beverages and lunch. Then I switch from the sling pack to a day-size backpack. If I’ll be on the river for a shorter period and not far from my vehicle, and when spot hopping from a vehicle, I prefer a good old-fashioned lightweight vest. The pockets in the vest give me ample room for fly boxes and other trinkets we reach for while on the stream and are easy to get to. During cooler weather when the bulk of my clothing is an issue, I’ll bail on the vest and either go to a sling pack or waist pack depending on how much tackle and other stuff I feel a need to take along.” – Joe Demalderis has been a full-time fly-fishing guide for over 25 years, named Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide of the Year in 2010. He owns Cross Current Guide Service and makes his home waters on the Upper Delaware River System.

“Chest pack, backpack, sling pack, etc. Choice. Choice. Choice. Guiding can be fairly physical so personally, I’ll use different packs depending on the trip; but very often I go back to the Orvis chest pack. It’s light, has plenty of room and I can move it around my body, so it’s out of the way. To me traveling light is key: I can move longer and faster without getting tired. A good pack that survives all the abuses will become your best friend. But again, as Truel Myers of the Orvis Fly-Fishing School says, ‘The situation will dictate what you’re going to do.’” – Antoine Bissieux taught thousands to fly fish at the Orvis Fly-Fishing School in Manchester, VT. Now you can find Antoine (The French Fly Fisherman) and his FJ Cruiser year-round on the Farmington River and surrounding rivers in Connecticut and the adjacent Northeast.


For backcountry trips, a backpack allows you to carry the essentials.

“Our home waters here in Arkansas have us using a boat as part of our daily program. For me, the boat bag is the key piece. It’s ‘home base’ and the mothership. I love this piece. It’s not too big, not too small and most importantly, not a fly-line trap. The next, almost as critically important, piece is the hip pack. When we drop the anchor and take off on foot, separating ourselves from the mothership, I will have the hip pack with the must-have essentials for our wading session.” – Jamie Rouse co-owns Rouse Fly Fishing with his wife Kati, based on the Little Red River in Arkansas. Jamie was Guide of the Year in 2007 and has been an Orvis Endorsed Guide since 2004.

“As a guide along the Colorado Front Range, I’m primarily wade-fishing. I’ve used vests, hip packs, but decided I prefer the sling packs. Besides storing everything I need, it’s comfortable on my back, easily keeps my net secure, and rides a little higher for those deeper river crossings. When I do have an opportunity to float, I put the sling in a drop bag and have access to whatever I need.” – Scott Dickson has been working and guiding in the fly-fishing industry since 1999. Primarily a walk wade guide for Trouts Fly Fishing, he puts in many miles hiking around the Deckers area of the South Platte River, as well as the Dream Stream, Blue, Eagle, and Colorado.


A regular-size sling pack is perfect to wet-wading on small stream when you don’t need to carry lots of flies.

So is one vest or one bag all you need? You can certainly fish a variety of conditions enjoyably with one tackle storage solution for all of your fishing — you may find, however, that your sling pack can be cumbersome on long hikes to alpine lakes, or your vest can’t store a rain jacket and water bottle for longer days wading from the car. With that in mind, here are some pros and cons of selecting a single vest or pack as your only tackle storage solution.

Fly-Fishing Vest

Pros

  • Everything you need is within easy grasp in front of your torso.
  • Wears seamlessly over light layers like a fishing shirt or a shell without insulating layers.

Cons

  • Limited storage for bigger items.
  • Can feel bulky when layered over winter clothing and a shell.

Sling Pack

Pros

  • Fits a ton of gear, generally second only to a backpack.
  • Easy access to everything you need, whether it’s forceps on the chest strap, or your tippet spool and interior compartments within reach at the swing of the bag under your arm.

Cons

  • Not as comfortable as a backpack for longer treks.

Hip Pack

Pros

  • Carries almost as much as a sling pack, while remaining less bulky.
  • Stays out of the way when you don’t need it, but is easily accessible when you do.

Cons

  • Smaller capacity than a sling pack or backpack.
  • Needs to be waterproof if you plan to wade past your waist.

Chest Pack

Pros

  • As accessible as a vest.
  • Can carry larger fly boxes.
  • Outside zipper panels usually act as a convenient tray when opened.

Cons

  • Smaller capacity than other pack options.
  • Can be uncomfortable when wading or walking longer distances.

Fly-Fishing Backpack

Pros

  • Can carry everything you need for a day on the water, including clothing layers for changing weather, food, big streamer boxes, and more.
  • Comfortable on long treks to alpine lakes and creeks, or remote river accesses.

Cons

  • More difficult to access most pockets than other pack options.
  • Unnecessarily bulky for wading short distances from the car, lodge, or boat.

Boat Bag

Pros

  • It’s designed for a day on a boat and lugging everything you need.

Cons

  • It’s designed for a day on a boat.

Still not sure which fly-fishing pack would be best for you? Stop in a store and try some on. Walk around and see how they feel. Do you already have a favorite? Let us know in the comments.

Congratulations to Our Orvis Cover Dog Top Donor Dogs!

It’s time to announce the top-voted dogs from our sixteenth Cover Dog Photo Contest!

It’s hard to believe we’ve been working with Morris Animal Foundation and our customers since 2009 to help to end canine cancer. We are humbled to think that with your help, we’ve raised well over $1 million, all of which goes to canine cancer research at top institutions throughout the US.

It’s time to announce the top-voted dogs from our sixteenth Cover Dog Photo Contest!

It’s hard to believe we’ve been working with Morris Animal Foundation and our customers since 2009 to help to end canine cancer. We are humbled to think that with your help, we’ve raised well over $1 million, all of which goes to canine cancer research at top institutions throughout the US.

Everyone who has participated in our Cover Dog contests deserves a big round of applause, including these three folks and their entries. Though not on the cover of a catalog, together they raised over $1500 in the fight against canine cancer – and that’s what it’s all about.

Without further ado, here are our top vote-getters.

Coming in first place with closing bell donations totaling $800 is Lily. Lily is a Berger Picard submitted by Micheal Fulmer of West Columbia, SC. Captioned: “I love my life.”

 

Not far behind in second with a total of $500 is Prince, a Chocolate Lab submitted by Louise Richards of Flint, TX.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And at $380, we have Cindy, an English Cocker Spaniel submitted by Nicole Crow of New York, NY.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Micheal, Louise, and Nicole for sharing your dogs and for your efforts to help beat canine cancer.

Don’t forget, our current Cover Dog Contest is running. Be sure to enter for a chance for your dog to appear on the Orvis Dog Book and to contribute to this noble cause.

Congratulations to our Cover Dog Winners!

It’s that time again to announce our Orvis Cover Dog Contest winners who will appear on our 2018 Spring and Summer Books.

It’s that time again to announce our Orvis Cover Dog Contest winners who will appear on our 2018 Spring and Summer Books.

As always your photos and participation did not disappoint. From April through September we received just shy of 8,000 entries in our sixteenth contest to date, resulting in what are always fun and beautiful covers.

We can’t thank you all enough for joining this effort. We’ve raised more than $1 million to date since our first contest for our partners at Morris Animal Foundation and their efforts to fight canine cancer. And with this latest round, we just added another $14,000 to the pot thanks to your help. We’ll celebrate those top donor dogs and their owners in a future post.

If you want another shot at the cover while making a difference in the lives of dogs and dog lovers, don’t forget to play again. Be sure to enter our current contest for a chance to get your pooch on the cover and to help pave the way towards another million.

Here are your winners:


Boone, from Claire Oliver in Lascassas, TN
Photographed by Gretchen Kuhn and Amy Bollman.

Reba, from Samantha Stremmel in Reno, NV.

Winston Churchill from David Mullsteff in Richmond, VA
Photographed by Loren Rosado

Cooper, from Rachel Pauley in Barrington, IL.

Cozmo, from Austin Robinette in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Ellie Mae, from Kayla Hays in Holladay, UT.

Moose, from Kathleen Elliot in Boise, ID.

Tara, Plum, Mugie, Fig, Isla from Lottie Stanley in Seascale, UK.

Congratulations to our newest Cover Dog Winners!

It’s that time again to announce our Orvis Cover Dog Contest winners who will appear on our 2017 Fall and Holiday Dog Books.

It’s that time again to announce our Orvis Cover Dog Contest winners who will appear on our 2017 Fall and Holiday Dog Books.

As always your photos and participation did not disappoint. From October through March we received just shy of 8,000 entries in our fifteenth contest to date, resulting in what are always fun and beautiful covers.

We can’t thank you all enough for joining this effort. We’ve raised more than $1 million to date since our first contest for our partners at Morris Animal Foundation and their efforts to fight canine cancer. And with this latest round, we just added another $21,000 to the pot thanks to your help. We’ll celebrate those top donor dogs and their owners in a future post.

If you want another shot at the cover while making a difference in the lives of dogs and dog lovers, don’t forget to play again. Be sure to enter our current contest for a chance to get your pooch on the cover and to help pave the way towards another million.

Here are your winners:


Aspen, from Samantha Mignone in Falls Church, VA.

Fergus, from Andrea Hobe in Alpharetta, GA.

Nella, from Stephany Backstrom & Phillip Journey in Bozeman, MT.

Noodle, from Brittany Batterton in Sandy Hook, CT.

Crosby, from John France in Denver, CO.

Floss, from Robin Goodlad in Wimborne Minster, UK.

Tank & Taylor, from Tiffany Wilson in Pueblo, CO.

Murphy, from Courtney Widli in Pittsford, VT.

Two $250 Orvis Gift Cards Giveaway- One to get, one to gift

‘Tis the season for giving, but with our Gift Card giveaway, you get something too! . . .

‘Tis the season for giving, but with our Gift Card giveaway, you get something too! We are raffling off two $250 Gift Cards, one for you and one for you to give as a gift.

The contest runs through Thursday, December 15th, and one winner will be chosen at random.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Click here for the full contest rules. The sweepstakes is open only to legal residents of the USA who are 18 or older. (We apologize to our readers in Canada and overseas; please trust us when we say that there are complex legal issues involved.)

Meet the Winner of the Dog Bed & Dog Jacket Giveaway!

Over 2,000 people entered to win the Deep Dish Dog Bed & Dog Jacket Giveaway, but only one could be our randomly choseapollomackenzien winner: Brad Petri. Let’s be honest, his two dogs, Mackenzie and Apollo are the real winners!

Here is the bio of the dogs that Brad submitted: “Mackenzie is a 6 year old lab and Apollo is a 2 year old rescue. Apollo was found on the side of the road when he was a couple months old and was nursed back. He is now a healthy and adoring dog who loves to sleep next to Mackenzie, and some times on top of her. They are both very loving and protective of our 1 year old son who is also obsessed with them.”

Brad chose the XL Deep Dish Memory Foam bed in grey for Apollo and Mackenzie to share and the large Dog Jacket for Mackenzie.

Thank you for all who entered the contest!

Enter to win a Deep Dish Dog Bed & Dog Jacket

As we approach hibernation season, snugly beds and warm jackets are essential comforts for humans and for dogs. In this month’s giveaway, your pup has the chance to win the ultimate winter combination- a Deep Dish Dog Bed with Memory Foam and a Quilted Waxed-Cotton Dog Jacket !

dogbed dogjacket

The contest runs through Wednesday, November 28th, and one winner will be chosen at random. Explore our Guide to Dogs for comprehensive knowledge on caring for your pet.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Click here for the full contest rules. The sweepstakes is open only to legal residents of the USA who are 18 or older. (We apologize to our readers in Canada and overseas; please trust us when we say that there are complex legal issues involved.)

Enter to Win a New Barbour Ensemble in Our Fall Giveaway

Hey there! We are celebrating the peak of fall, and with winter on the faint horizon, we are giving away a Barbour layering system . . .

Hey there! We are celebrating the peak of fall, and with winter on the faint horizon, we are giving away a Barbour layering system. Barbour’s collection offers tasteful, durable clothing and one lucky winner will get to sport three key pieces this year and for many seasons to come.


Barbour Men’s Bedale Layering System
Photo by Orvis

Men’s Set Includes: Bedale Jacket, zip-in or standalone Polarquilt Liner, and a snap-on Waxed Cotton Hood.


Barbour Women’s Beadnell Layering System
Photo by Orvis

Women’s Set includes: Beadnell Jacket, zip-in or standalone Fleece Betty Gilet, and a snap-on Waxed Cotton Hood.

The contest runs through Wednesday, November 2nd, and one winner will be chosen at random.
To learn more about the rich 120 year old history of Barbour, explore our guide.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Click here for the full contest rules. The sweepstakes is open only to legal residents of the USA who are 18 or older. (We apologize to our readers in Canada and overseas; please trust us when we say that there are complex legal issues involved.)