Simms Headwaters Day and Chest Pack Combo

Review: Simms Headwaters Day Pack and Chest Pack

In the past 12 months alone, my poor 2003 Accord has been broken into four times. Four times. It wasn’t until I started doing inventory for my 2014 trip to Montana and Idaho that I discovered those bastards got away with my five year old Simms Headwaters Chest Pack. That thing had three full fly boxes in it. Son. Of. A. Bitch.

When I discovered that the 2014 Simms Headwaters Chest Pack was not compatible with my ‘legacy’ Day Pack, I decided to cop for the whole package, though not without a side eye to innovations and our good friends at Simms.

Simms company line on the combo quips, "Skip river gridlock and make haste for upstream seclusion in Simms’ most technical backpack yet. The Headwaters™ Full Day has a chasmic 1,830 cubic inches of storage accessed via a large zippered compartment. Inside, stretch mesh dividers add intuitive organization for raingear, layering options, and all destination essentials. Break out the rods and elevate your angling thanks to Catch & Release modular convenience that allows you to dock or disembark with Simms’ Chest and Hip Pack options via rock-solid magnetic attachments. Packs ride comfortably thanks to a breathable mesh back and a plush strap system, while three hardworking levels of high Denier fabric enhance durability."

The key change on the redesigned model is the new “Catch and Release” docking system for hitchhiking companion components, like the chest pack. Gone are the plastic squeeze clips. This thing adds magnetic clasps that, while convenient and quick, one might wonder just how long their effective lifespan will be. Remaining in the design from legacy models, acceptors are present on both the front of the shoulder straps to provide access while angling as well as on the pack’s “front side” to keep it out of the way during the hike in.

Seldom do I spend time on the water that is not the entire day. I’m talking eight hours on the water, if not more, mostly spent on foot, wading wet. I need a true day pack that is going to hold a rain jacket, hydration, food, emergency gear, a camera, and other various and sundried items, not to mention leaders, fly boxes, a spare reel, etc.

While I really like the “Lead” color option, I went with the corporate “Fury Orange.” Can you imagine leaving this thing behind in the bushes somewhere and having to hunt to find it? I can.

What Works

Simms’ new Headwaters Full Day Pack checks in at 30 liters, or 1,831 cubic inches, which is more than enough room for a full day’s requirements. I don’t know what the capacity of the previous version of the pack was, but this version has grown some for certain. It is a true daypack.

Simms Headwaters Day and Chest Pack Combo
Simms Headwaters Day and Chest Pack Combo

Where this pack really wins is in the details. The shoulder straps and backside have added breathable mesh ventilation features like the best daypacks offered for general hiking purposes. The padded hip belt (also ventilated) continues to provide real support taking a huge amount of the load off of the shoulders. Big win there. And the external side pockets cinch tight helping prevent its need-to-be-handy occupants of various sizes from escaping. It’s not as lightweight as some of the best general-use daypacks on the market (those come in closer to 2 lbs. for up to 32 liters), but it’s got the on-water features anglers will appreciate and it’ll likely handle abuse for years. Empty it weighs in at 3 lbs.

The companion Headwaters Chest Pack appears mostly unchanged in terms of functionality. There’s plenty room for at least two large fly boxes with plenty of mesh compartments for leaders, floatant and the rest of your what-have-yous. There’s also a removable tippet-spool and floatant retainer in the front pocket. The lightly padded neck strap and waist strap keeps it in place while in use on its own.

What Doesn't

The well hidden, yet supremely useful and appreciated rain cover from previous versions has gone missing. It was stuffed at the very bottom of the pack and permanently attached to its compartment so there was no way to lose it. I can’t find that feature on this one. That’s a miss.

Final Word

Although not without a few minor misses, Simms has continued to evolve the Headwaters Day Pack and Chest Pack with added room, improved design and thoughtful features that add up to a significantly improved combination that will suit full-day riverwalkers well. In addition to improved functionality, the latest incarnation of the Headwaters Day Pack seems destined for long term survial, as well. Its 420 Denier fabric construction along with the heavier 630 Denier on the base pretty much ensures years of use, that is, as long as no one else decides they need yours.

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