I'm gear obsessed. This is a common malady in our sport. I have reels I don't have rods for, lines I don't have reels for, and rods I only have the occasion to use a couple times of year. I have sink tips for every imaginable scenario, fluorocarbon and mono in a stupid variety of sizes, and ten times the number of flies I should have. And yet, with all this gear, I've spent the last 5 years toting most of it around in what amounts to a giant duffel bag, rummaging through it feverishly and unproductively whenever I need to find something. Non-fishing gear essentials (camera, lenses, apparel, etc) end up stuffed in with the rest of the mess, treated with less care and respect than they should be.
When the need for a proper gear bag became undeniable, I began the search for a bag that would provide organization options for my over-abundance of gear while providing adequate protection from my carelessness and the elements. These days, it seems like there are ten times the number of options there were just a few years ago, so choosing the right bag seemed quite the task. After way too much exploring, I ended up picking Fishpond's Storm Mountain Gear Bag. The feature set seemed impressive, and given Field & Stream named it one of 2010's Best of the Best, the chances of receiving a dud seemed slim.
Not only did the Storm Mountain bag turn out not to be a dud, it turned out to be quite a surprise. My expectations were modest, and as a result, Fishpond easily exceeded them. Certainly the Storm Mountain Gear bag isn't perfect, but it has provided a much welcome and much needed level of sanity to my fishing life.
The Storm Mountain Gear bag has 16 pockets in all. Big pockets, medium-sized pockets, small pockets. Interior pockets, exterior pockets. You can find a special pocket for practically everything you want to store in your gear bag, from apparel to fly boxes to tools. More importantly, the bag provides this multitude of pockets without having them in the way of the bag's main interior storage.
The bag's sides stand up when the bag is open, whether full or empty, allowing for easy exploration of the bag's contents. The sidewalls are also padded, which allows me to store my digital camera and lenses with confidence.
We've all seen bags with customizable storage sections through the installation of velcro-secured divider panels. They're a great idea, but usually don't work very well. I've had a few camera bags that employed this system, and they ended up being more of an annoyance than they were a help. They either weren't rigid enough to properly support each compartment's contents, failed to stay in place, or both. The Storm Mountain Gear bag uses this same approach. Somehow, however, it works. Sure, the panels were a bit annoying to get situated the way I wanted them, but once I did, they worked surprisingly well. The resulting compartments end up feeling like they're built in instead of removable, and they haven't budged through several trips and lots of rummaging.
Water Resistance, Waterproofing
I had considered a fully waterproof bag as my main gear bag, but decided against it. Though I'm often out in the elements, I didn't feel I needed a fully waterproof bag badly enough to deal with the shortcomings of these bags (high pricing, few pockets, sticky zippers, etc). The Storm Mountain Gear Bag offers the best of both worlds. In normal duty, it appears like a normal bag and comes with the conveniences of such. In light rain or in wet conditions -- it excels. The material the bag is made of sheds water like a duck, and the molded hardbottom keeps it safe from water that collects on the bottom of boats, on muddy trails, etc. When the rain does come down, there's a rain cover which tucks into an exterior compartment, that you can stretch over the top keep everything inside safe from any downpour.
Odds and Ends
Fishpond added a few thoughtful features that gives the Storm Mountain bag some additional appeal. Each side of the bag has cords with a hard plastic coating intended for use as tippet spools. I've taken to using one for larger tippet spools, and have removed one and fashioned a tippet lanyard out of it. The top cover of the bag is pretty much completely flat, unless you've overstuffed the bag. On the boat, or tailgate of your truck, this flat top makes for a pretty good mini-workbench. The flat top also has a long zippered pocket that reveals the entire top to be a large rectangular pocket, perfect for storing maps, magazines, books, or other odd-shaped items.
What Doesn't Work
For the most part, Fishpond has put together a bag with few flaws. The things that don't work on this bag are more nitpicking than they are design failures.
As previously mentioned, installing the dividers is annoying. The velcro grabs when you don't want it to, and figuring out the right vertical position for the dividers can be a bit confusing at first. Once in place, however, they work really well -- which is something I can't say about similar systems I've had the displeasure of working with.
The rain cover is a pain to put back in its pocket. The pocket is small and snug, intended to minimize the bulk of the rain cover when stowed. Getting it minimized and in place can be a small chore. Oh, the agony.
Fishpond has put together an excellent bag that should meet the needs of most fisherman. If your gear obsession has you looking for first-class organization and storage options, you might take a look at the Storm Mountain Gear Bag. At $225, it isn't exactly light on the wallet, but the feature set -- and more importantly -- quality concept and execution, makes it a value compared to similar bags on the market.