The appeal of wet-wade fishing, to me, is its minimalistic nature — no waders to slog around in, no watercraft issues to deal with. That minimalism translates to my rod, reel, terminal tackle, and accessories as well. I’ve never understood how a 4-6 hour wade could necessitate multiple rods and an expedition-sized backpack stuffed to the gills. Give me one rod, one reel, a spool of tippet, and a pocket-sized fly box with a handful of trusted patterns. Throw in a LifeStraw or some other lightweight water filter and I’m good to go for miles and all day long if necessary.
That being said, shit happens. I’ve paid dearly for my spartan attitude with hikes back to the truck for what turned out to be an essential item I didn’t want to pack in. Sometimes I even called it a day because I wasn’t equipped to handle what the trip threw at me. As with everything, balance is key. I want to take what I might use and not an ounce more. So what I need is a pack that can handle that charge with comfort and ease of operation. Also, I often find myself going from waist-deep in the creek to neck-deep and teetering on a ledge in only a step or two. I need a pack that’s 100 percent waterproof
The Orvis Waterproof Hip Pack had the potential to be everything I needed, but I tend to lower my expectations when it comes to such claims. So far, though, I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
I can’t count the times that I’ve used the Orvis Waterproof Hip Pack as a makeshift flotation device. No, It can’t support my 180 pounds, but it has helped me keep balance as I tip-toed to higher ground with everything below my nostrils submerged. That, to me, says the WPHP is not only watertight, but airtight. The YKK Flexseal zipper is the real deal. Sure, it requires a bit of a tug to cinch down, but snugness equates to waterproofness. Once out of the depths, the polyurethane-coated exterior beaded water like duck feathers. Nothing inside the bag was damp. I couldn’t even detect any condensation on my phone or cheater glasses. The only time the pack has been compromised was when I forgot to zip it up. Note: The waterproof zipper is much like the snap-tight lid on a disposable coffee cup. The seal is only as trustworthy as the operator’s earnestness.
It’s a hip pack but functions more like a fanny pack thanks to a detachable shoulder sling. Most of the weight, which is less than a pound and half empty, is supported by your hips with the shoulder sling serving only as an axis to help keep it balanced. Everything is custom adjustable for your specific dimensions and peculiar taste.
Orvis says the WPHP can swallow 7 liters of gear with one gaping pocket that also houses five smaller mesh pockets. Of course, your gear is not liquid so this quantification serves only as a way to gauge its size relative to other packs, which is about the middle ground. In real-world applications my WPHP holds one hard plastic 8x5- inch meat locker fly box with big buggers, poppers, hoppers, and such; two hard plastic 5x3 boxes of smaller flies, one 6x4 wallet of Clousers; one LifeStraw; two 330 yard spools of Trilene mono — 8 and 12 lb — for tippet (I’m a bass guy); some steel leaders in case I run into gar; cheater glasses; two pocket knives; my keys and my phone. And that’s just inside. Outside features a gear station for forceps and zingers, connections for a tippet bar, a velcro landing pad for most-used flies, and a water-bottle pocket conveniently located underneath the pack. Bonus: The adjustable straps between pack and waist strap work well as handy-dandy net holsters.
Water Bottle Security
While the water bottle pocket is a nice touch and in a great location to avoid line tangles, I don’t trust it. The pocket is equipped with cord-locked elastic straps, but my metal bottle full of water seems too heavy for such flimsy containment. The solution I came up with was to attach a carabiner to one of the welded straps on the pack nearest the water bottle pocket and run the elastic cord through the bottle handle, onto the carabiner, and cinch it tight with the cord-locks. Works like a charm, but it seems like Orvis should have thought this through a little better. That being said, the pocket might hold my bottle just fine. I just can’t bring myself to risk it.
The Orvis Waterproof Hip Pack retails for $229 on the Orvis site. This is about what you’d expect to pay for comparable waterproof packs.
So far so good with the Orvis Waterproof Hip Pack. Outside of that one little issue of water-bottle security, I’ve not found a thing to complain about. Plenty of room for all I need, no wasted space, and I barely know it's there even after hours of fishing.