When I fish a small stream I'm content to go minimal; a fly box in my pocket, a lanyard full of tools, and a trusty small stream rod. But on bigger water I tend to go big. A fly box for every condition, clothing for changeable weather, snacks, lunch and a water bottle. I sometimes carry two rods and a spare spool as well. I need storage, lots of storage.
A few years ago I got into sling packs. They solved the problem of the waist pack, carried at dunkable levels, by moving storage higher up your back. They also keep the mass of stuff close to the body so that it's easier to carry and doesn't feel quite so heavy through a long day.
Most vendors have a "standard" model and a larger "guide" model. Because I'm a bit of a pack mule I've always gone for the guide versions.
I recently had an opportunity to spend time on the Delaware system wading and drifting with the new Orvis Safe Passage Guide Sling Pack. Overall, this pack is a big improvement on its predecessor. During a long weekend this pack spent time on my back, on the bottom of a drift boat and resting on the bank in the sun and the rain. It held a large streamer box that helped tempt a chunky Rainbow from a riffle, a box of small flies that provided just the right treat for a meaty brown and all the other angling gear for those just in case moments that didn't materialize. So how was it?
Did I mention it holds lots of stuff? Half a dozen fly boxes, spare spool, numerous gadgets and supplies (e.g. split shot, strike indicators, leaders, spare tippet, etc), rain jacket, half a sandwich, beef jerky, two Snickers bars, cigar case, flask, camera, GoPro and there was room to spare.
Early packs were nothing more than large sacks. This model has good internal organization in the two main sections. The smaller section has four pockets sewn against the wall. Two of these are mesh so it's easy to see what's in them. The large section has a large zippered pocket with two mesh pockets sewn to it's outside. I found these smaller pockets just the right amount of space to stow the little things that can get lost at the bottom of a big pack. There's also an outside bottle pocket that will hold a one liter beverage. The interior fabric is brightly colored which makes seeing things in the pack a lot easier.
I tend to wade deep, usually when crossing a river, but also sometimes to get to the right spot for a cast. The waterproof bottom of the pack keeps things dry during the quick dunk. which also comes in handy when it's sitting on the deck of a drift boat with water sloshing around.
This seems like a little thing but it was a major complaint with an earlier bag I had. This pack will sit upright in a boat or on the bank making access easy.
Stays in Place
I have another pack that I'm always hiking up as it swivels around my body during the day. Not so with the Safe Passage pack. This pack includes a short strap that clips under your arm so the pack stays out of the way when casting or moving.
Lack of Internal Holders
The strap on the pack has plenty of storage for forceps and attachment points for zingers. However, my two bottles of floatant don't have an obvious home. Sure, this seem like quibbling, but it would be nice to have a place to reliably find those bottles. Perhaps a loop of webbing somewhere in one of the pockets.
No Waterproof Storage
With all the electronics we carry these days, including most car keys, it would be nice to have a secure place to store them. My car keys still ride in a ziploc. For an extra $12 Orvis will sell you a waterproof pocket that is designed to intergrate with the pack by attaching to one of the internal Velcro patches.
No Fly Patch
There's Velcro on the outside where you can stick your flies but I prefer a proper patch. For a gear junkie like me, that's not a problem. I have plenty of fly patches laying about but not everyone is as sick as me.
The downside of this pack’s size is that you’re going to want to take a “kitchen sink” approach. Remember, you have to carry all that stuff. Carry too much and it will be heavy. Carry too little and you’ll kick yourself for not being prepared. Find the balance.
Definitely a keeper. While there are some minor tweaks I'd make to the design, overall this bag makes it easy to spend a long day on big water.