3 Best Fly Fishing Packs for Photo Gear

Posted on May 25 2016

3 Best Fly Fishing Packs for Photo Gear

3 best flyfishing packs for photo gear


As a professional outdoor photographer, I often find myself struggling with generic gear and trying to retrofit gear for a task that it was not originally intended.  Carrying photography gear is one of those cumbersome endeavors.  There are a handful of great bags for adventure photographers on the market for carrying photo gear,   however I find most of them don't quite suit my needs  

Here at MtnRanks, we like to call ourselves operators. When we are out in the element of our activities, especially when we are in work mode (shooting or filming for the Ranks), we operate.  We don't  consciously think about the task at hand, we simply go do what we have practiced over and over for years previous. Through extremely rigorous training, Special Operations groups like Seal Team 6 for example have bridged the gap between thinking, analyzing, and doing, so that they simply react to the situation at hand. Part of what enables these forces to operate so effectively, are the tools and weapons at their disposal that they can use with their eyes closed.

I have taken the same approach with my photography, seeking out gear and bags that are reliable and can be trusted in the elements, at a moments notice. This allows me to focus on the task at hand, instead of being pulled away by unnecessary distractions, like failing gear.

There is no professional level fly fishing pack on the market for photographers, so I set out to find a bag that would best cater to my photo - and fishing - needs. I like to say that "Chance favors a prepared mind" and being prepared for those epic moments from Mother Nature will help you land the photographs that only happen once in a lifetime. 


1. Umpqua Tongass 650 Waterproof Waist Pack

This is hands down the best compromise pack for fishing and photo gear that I have used.  It has plenty of room to house a pro DSLR and a large lens.and allows me to carry a Nikon D3S and a Nikkor 80-200mm lens at all times. It also has a roll top waterproof closure, so this pack can protect your gear from those unexpected times you go swimming in the river.  It also boasts a large shoulder strap which can easily be changed from one side to the other and helps evenly distribute the weight of a fully loaded pack.  

The Tongass 650 also has a rod and reel holder on both sides of the pack that work astonishingly well, while still allowing main pocket (and camera) access. This is great when you are mid-river in the Green and want to whip out the camera to GTS (get the shot) your buddy landing a big Brown Trout.

A few downsides of this pack, I wish it had a few more pockets, and maybe some external straps to attach some extra fishing accessories.  Although the main pocket is big enough to fit a jacket and food along with your camera, it will be tough to quickly remove the camera quickly. And when the action is happening on the river, slow doesn't cut it when you're trying to GTS.


3. Simms Freestone Sling Pack


This pack is great for quick missions.  You can't fit a lot of stuff in it but, but for shorter missions it works relatively well.  The water bottle holder in this pack holds my 80-200mm Nikkor lens no problem (note: this pocket is NOT waterproof).  I can also fit my pro body DSLR with a wide angle lens, though it's not ideal. 

If you are shooting with a mirrorless or a regular size DSLR, you shouldn't have any problems. My only real gripe about this pack is it only works on one shoulder, the right one.  So you can't switch the pack between shoulders. 


3. Sage XL Technical Waist Pack


This pack is just huge, allowing you to fit almost anything you would need while on the river. It has plenty of pockets and straps and the main compartment fits a pro body DSLR with wide angle lens.  Unfortunately there isn't quite enough room for a long lens, and the pack has a small shoulder strap that can become bothersome during long days.

Lastly, the main zipper can be a little temperamental with the added weight of a camera, however with a little fiddling it still gets the job done.


You may have noticed that none of these are backpacks, and there is a reason for this.  It is much harder to get in and out of backpacks mid-river. Waist packs are better work stations on the water, and you are less likely to drop anything while working in a waist pack.  Hope this helps anyone out there looking for the best options to capture the moments on the water.  Have a favorite pack of your own that you carry your gear in? Let us know.   





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