Admittedly, I’m a bit “pack obsessed” and very particular. I’ve always been surprised, unpleasantly most of the time, that in more than 30 years of fishing, I haven’t found a vest or a pack of any type I absolutely loved and utilized until it had to be retired.
Umpqua’s new Ledges 650 ZS Waist Pack makes a strong case for becoming one of the first pleasant surprises in this category of gear.
At 650 cubic inches (10.7 liters), it’s as big as it can be without being cumbersome. It’s perfect for either a quick flick or missions of up to six hours. The sizeable main compartment easily holds and nicely organizes enough gear and sustenance to keep you all day (though you’d likely find yourself out of fluids and dehydrated after eight hours on foot). The two external pockets each hold a medium sized fly box, wallet or camera comfortably and each has their own external mesh pocket as well.
The Zero Sweep system
New for 2016, Umpqua’s clever Zero Sweep System available on more than a dozen products in multiple product types helps prevent line snags on dangling items like nippers and forceps on retractors. The four nipper station ports, especially the one on the waist strap, could put this pack into a leading contender for a product design of the year award. Use one on the waste strap for your nippers and the other for floatant. The tool / forceps sheath is perfectly positioned and designed.
The details and structural design
It’s got the quick grab handle, something many wouldn’t notice unless it wasn’t there. Both outboard and stretchy yet “cinchable,” water bottle pockets will hold most 32 ounce + bottles (though stowing a 32 ounce fat bottomed Gatorade bottle isn’t always a one handed task). The waist straps are well padded yet still provide decent ventilation; and the supporting shoulder strap has two slightly tacky silicone inlays to help prevent slippage. This is a particularly nice touch – absent many comparable products – since everything fly fishermen seem to use and wear these days is slick. The slack from the waist straps also find out of the way homes in the stealthy pockets underneath the exterior waist strap pockets, a thoughtful, needed feature I nearly missed. With Ballistic Cordura present in the high wear areas and 420 denier nylon everywhere else, durability should not be an issue.
As claimed by the company, the suspended back panel / ABS frame sheet provides solid comfort.
No dry storage
Soft lined, and plastic (dry) lined pockets would be welcome additions here. Other packs I've used have offered soft lined pockets clearly designed to protect phones. It’s a nice, well-placed feature absent on the Ledges 650.
Despite the sizable, supportive primary waist straps, it still loses some balance, cantilevers and just doesn’t seem to ride quite right when fully loaded. There are two high riding side straps that try to accomplish this. But when cinched down, those straps impede access to the water bottle pockets. While this design challenge and resulting balance issue is not unique to the Ledges 650, it is something I keep hoping someone will fix: balance a full load better without needing the shoulder strap.
As noted, I ask a lot of the packs I don. As such, it's likely no surprise that I've often been left wanting by other waist packs. But the Umpqua 650 ZeroSweep waist pack left me wanting very little.
It's a pack that performed when I needed it to, meeting and often exceeding my expectations. Buy a Ledges 650 ZS Waist Pack and you will likely find your most critical gear of the season living in it. It works so well you will probably be using it all of the time.