How to Choose the Right Size for a Fly Fishing Backpack

Leonard Schoenberger

When gearing up for a fly fishing expedition, selecting the right waterproof backpack is as crucial as choosing the right fly rod or reel.

The size of your backpack plays a pivotal role in ensuring you have everything you need on the water while maintaining comfort and mobility. In this guide, we’ll delve into the importance of size when selecting a waterproof backpack for fly fishing and provide valuable tips on assessing storage needs based on the type of fishing expedition you’re embarking on.

Fly fisherman carrying a backpack
A waterproof backpack is a great piece of equipment when heading out to fly fish. Pictured here: the Simms Dry Creek Rolltop. Photo: Leonard Schoenberger

The Significance of Size in Fly Fishing Backpacks

Fly fishing demands a specific set of gear, including various fly boxes, leaders, tippets, reels, and other essentials. The right size of a waterproof backpack ensures that you can organize and carry your gear efficiently, keeping everything dry and easily accessible during your fishing adventure. The backpack is certainly the biggest option. If you’re only out for a short fishing session and don’t want to bring a lot of gear a sling pack or hip pack might be a good alternative for you.

Efficient Organization

An appropriately sized waterproof backpack allows for efficient organization of your fly fishing essentials. Separate compartments for fly boxes, a designated pocket for a hydration system, and additional space for extra layers or snacks contribute to a seamless and organized fishing experience. Be aware that fully submersible backpacks often feature less of these assets since their primary focus is on bulletproof waterproofness.

Filson waterproof backpacks for fly fishing on wooden dock
Filson has two options for waterproof backpacks for fly fishing. The bigger, slightly bulkiert Filson Dry Bag Backpack (on the right in the photo above) and the more versatile Filson Dry Backpack. Photo: Christian Anwander

Comfort and Mobility

Patagonia's Guidewater backpack is a great mid-size option for a waterproof fly fishing backpack
Patagonia’s Guidewater backpack is a great mid-size option for a waterproof fly fishing backpack. Photo: Leonard Schoenberger

Opting for a backpack of the right size ensures comfort during extended periods on the water. An overly large backpack can hinder your mobility and balance, while one that’s too small may not accommodate all the necessary gear. Striking the right balance is key for a comfortable and enjoyable fishing trip.

A rolltop backpack is a great option if you're unsure how to choose the right size for a fly fishing backpack
A rolltop backpack is great if you’re looking for versatiltiy in terms of size since the rolltop closure gives you lots of options. Photo: Christian Anwander.

Assessing Storage Needs

Simms Dry Creel Rolltop backpack in Oru Kayak.
It always helps to think ahead. If you’re out for a whole day for a kayaking trip you might need extra space for food or drinks. Photo: Leonard Schoenberger

Assessing your storage needs is crucial when determining the size of the waterproof backpack that will best suit your fly fishing adventures. Consider the following factors:

Type of Fishing Expedition

Day Trips: For shorter day trips, a compact waterproof backpack with enough room for essentials is ideal. Look for features like rod holders or attachment points for convenience.

Multi-Day Expeditions: If you plan on longer fishing expeditions, a larger backpack with additional storage for clothing, food, and camping gear is necessary.

Gerber Folding Fillet Knife Review
How to Choose the Right Size for a Fly Fishing Backpack Guide: The Simms Drycreek Z is a similar size as the Patagonia Guidewater. Photo: Christian Anwander

Gear Specifics

Fly fishing tools including a retractor
The YETI Panga 28 is hugely popular fly fishing backpack for a number of reasons: its fabric is very sturdy, its bulky design provides ample storage and it’s fully submersible. Photo: Leonard Schoenberger © The Wading List

Fly Box Size: Assess the size of your fly boxes. Larger fly boxes or a higher quantity may require a backpack with larger compartments.

Rod and Reel Setup: Consider if the backpack has features like straps or holders to secure your fly rod and reel during transportation.

Personal Preferences

Fly Fishing Lanyard over waders
An option to attach an extra rod is always a great feature. Photo: Leonard Schoenberger © The Wading List

Comfort: Some anglers prefer backpacks with additional padding and ergonomic designs for maximum comfort.

Style: The style of the backpack, including color and design, might be a personal preference, but ensure it doesn’t compromise functionality.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, choosing the right size of a waterproof backpack is a pivotal decision for fly anglers. It ensures that you can carry all your essentials comfortably, keeping them dry and easily accessible during your fishing adventures. Assessing your storage needs based on the type of fishing expedition and your specific gear will guide you in finding the perfect backpack to accompany you on the water.

Ortlieb Atrack Backpack
The Ortlieb Atrack is one of my absolute favorite fly fishing backpacks since it opens and closes like a bag (see above). In terms of size it’s great as well since it can hold gear for an overnight trip. Photo: Leonard Schoenberger © The Wading List

FAQs: How to Choose the Right Size for a Fly Fishing Backpack

Can I use a regular backpack for fly fishing?

While a regular backpack might suffice for short trips, waterproof fly fishing backpacks are designed with specific features for anglers, such as rod holders, waterproof compartments, and additional functionalities.

How do I know if a backpack is the right size for me?

Consider the duration of your fishing trips and the amount of gear you need. A backpack that comfortably accommodates your essentials without being too bulky or too small is likely the right size for you.

What are the must-have features in a fly fishing backpack?

Essential features include waterproofing, rod holders or attachment points, compartments for fly boxes, and ergonomic designs for comfort during extended wear.

Our expertise: Leonard Schoenberger and his team spend countless days each year on the water each season, testing and reviewing the best new gear for you. Their goal is to help you learn about fly fishing gear and explore pros and cons of certain equipment in order to make a better purchase decision and ultimately become a better fly fisherman or woman.