In Fishpond terms, this thing has been in the line since the dinosaurs. I think I’ve had mine since 2009. For a company that switches up its products frequently, that’s nice, because it gives me the opportunity to comment on the longevity a little bit, and what can go wrong over time.
I’ve used this pack very extensively in a rotation with a larger semi-waterproof snowboarding pack. It’s carried cameras, GPS devices, small portable stoves, a fly box and a few Clif Bar lunches. Pay attention to that list, because that is about all you can get in one of these. Fishpond was smart in designing this: by limiting its overall carrying capacity, you’re forced to make choices about what you actually, really truly need. Too many of us have a tendency to bring the whole fly shop when we go into the backcountry and that just leads to back pain.
What do I like about this thing? The small back pockets make for easy access to the GPS unit, as well my standard terminal tackle kit, which is an old leader baggie containing a wheel of split shot and a bunch of balloons for re-rigging. The next-biggest pocket is great for that Clif bar, and the interior slot for the water pouch is easily accessible and well designed. I also like how the water pouch line slides over the shoulder rather than jumping straight out the top. The shoulder straps are adequate for the size load you should be hauling in this, and the chest strap (this is too short a pack to need a lumbar system) is likewise appropriately sized. I am also a fan of the modularity of the main pocket; unzip a zipper and it doubles in size. I use this feature a lot more than you would think. Overall durability on the pack has been pretty good with a couple of exceptions detailed below.
What do I not like? Typical fishpond feature bloat. There are too many internal mesh pockets which are themselves too narrow and deep for me to get my fingers in and out of. If I had a lot of long, thin objects to store (like, what, pencils?) they might work, but in a fishing pack they are just redundant and unnecessarily add cost. I would also criticize the elastic band holding the rearmost mesh pocket on–over four years it simply gave out and that pocket is now unreliable for holding anything. I have never cared for fishpond’s jacquard patterns, but that’s more of a style thing. I also never use any of Fishpond’s dinky little hanger loops at the top inside of the pack–under load these ALWAYS pull free. Instead, I hang this pack up by its robust net clip D-ring.
But the thing I like least of all is the chest pack. Not that the chest pack is poorly designed: it isn’t. It’s just that having used this in full chest pack mode, I simply can’t stand it. I feel pregnant, or like I am carrying a weight belt to work out. When fully loaded the chest pack sticks out almost six inches; enough to interfere with casting and with your vision as you look down at the trail. I ended up permanently devoting my chest pack to satchel duty (Fishpond is smart enough to include a lengthy shoulder strap for this purpose). It serves very well in the surf zone, and recently I have been using it as a modular system for a portable fly tying kit. In short, I like everything about the chest pack except its primary purpose.
The good news is that I would definitely recommend buying this. The small size is actually somewhat rare and will force you to make good decisions. The chest pack has plenty of uses as a side item and in most cases you aren’t forced to actually buy these as a package. The build quality is about a 4/5 and with some minor exceptions (which can be avoided if you use the pack differently knowing up front what can fail), it should last for up to ten years.
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Purchase: At your local fly shop, but here’s a link to the Fishpond page.