Fly fishing sling packs are a cross between backpacks and hip packs.
They are a useful addition to your fly fishing kit, and they have been gaining popularity over the last few years.
In this article, we take a look at some of the best fly fishing sling packs out there as well as share the important aspects and features to look for when choosing the best one for you.
Best Fly Fishing Sling Pack: Quick Picks
A minimalist sling that can be worn over your left or right shoulder, the Simms Freestone Ambidextrous Sling Pack has the capacity to carry all the essentials for a day on the water.
With its magnetic tool docking station and compression straps for rod carrying, this fly fishing sling pack has all bases covered for a successful fishing trip.
It has also been designed to be ergonomic meaning it will be comfortable to wear whether you are hiking to your fishing spot, or wearing it in the water.
For a budget-friendly sling pack like the Patagonia Guidewater Sling, it has some features that you might only expect to find at a higher price point.
A sling pack needs to be comfortable and practical (among other things) and this certainly meets the criteria with its main compartment being accessible from either side, and its straps won't absorb any water to make sure you stay dry and comfortable.
How to Choose the Best Fly Fishing Sling Packs
Choosing the best fly fishing sling pack can be a challenge as there are lots to choose from.
One of the first things to think about is whether your chosen sling pack is waterproof or not. This can make a big difference to your fishing trips as you may not be able to wear it in the water if it can’t handle getting wet very well.
The brand of your sling pack is also something to consider. Your fishing gear needs to be made to a high standard, reliable, and work as it is supposed to – you can only feel confident all of this will happen if you buy from a reputable brand that has good levels of customer service and satisfaction.
You need to have a budget in mind and stick to it. Some fly fishing sling packs might have all the features you want but is too expensive at the time of buying. Others might be cheaper than you would expect but fall down when it comes to useful and worthwhile features. You should always try to choose the best pack available at your chosen price point to give yourself the best chance of owning a good quality sling pack.
Cost is something that, unfortunately, tends to be the deciding factor for most purchases. As mentioned above, you need to be able to stick to your budget. That does mean that you may not get exactly what you want, but this article can help you find a suitable alternative that is still awesome but meets your budget needs better.
Before deciding on your sling pack, have a clear idea about what features you want it to have. Some sling packs on this list will likely have features you hadn’t even thought of, which is an added bonus, but you still need to make sure the features you definitely want are included in the design too.
Best Fly Fishing Sling Packs: Full Reviews
This is a very lightweight sling pack weighing just over one pound.
It has a padded shoulder strap for comfort and additional sleeves and pockets on the sides and bottom for increased practicality.
- Lightweight at just over a pound
- Water bottle and landing net sleeves and pockets on the side and bottom of the pack
- Comfortable shoulder strap
It has a 10-liter capacity which gives you plenty of space for a day's worth of gear and it has an additional pocket outside of the main compartment for accessories and smaller pieces of kit.
Bearing the brand of Simms is a surefire sign of high-quality fishing gear and the Tributary is no exception to this.
- Made from recycled polyester for durability
- Net sheath for carrying your landing net
- Padded shoulder strap for comfort
Made from 100% recycled cordura, the Orvis Sling Pack is lightweight, compact, and very durable.
You can attach multiple accessories and tools to the outside to increase its capacity of 11-liters even further.
It has been designed to be worn over your left shoulder which is very useful for right-handed anglers as this will keep your casting arm and shoulder free.
- Zippered security pocket inside the main compartment
- External water bottle holder on base of the pack
- Recessed docking station for tools and accessories
The Umpqua Steamboat ZS2 1200 Camo is an ambidextrous sling pack with a carrying position almost identical to a regular backpack, giving you a full range of motion on both sides.
It has two MOLLE attachment stations for carrying extra accessories with you.
A very useful feature of this sling pack is the thumb loop which allows you to quickly and easily move the pack from your back to your front for full access to all your gear.
- Vented back panel for breathability and comfort
- Large main compartment
- Ambidextrous, so can be worn on either shoulder and sits like a regular backpack
Another ambidextrous sling pack, the Fishpond Flathead has a 10-liter carrying capacity with dividers inside the main compartment to help keep your gear organized.
It has an extra strap that is worn across your body to help keep your pack stable and maintain your comfort throughout your fishing trip.
The pack opens like a clamshell and has a magnetic front pocket for quick and easy access.
- Ambidextrous with an adjustable shoulder strap
- 2 water bottle pockets
- 2 dividers included for the main compartment to help keep your gear organized and accessible
The Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible sling pack is a waterproof pack that has zippers that prevent any water from entering your pack if it gets dropped or submerged in the water.
It has a ventilated back panel to make sure the pack is breathable and comfortable to wear.
Considering its small size, it actually has a capacity of 13 liters making it a spacious sling pack for all your fishing essentials.
- Water-resistant exterior pocket
- Zippered interior pocket
- Lightweight with a 13-liter carrying capacity
With a net holder and a rod tube holder to add more carrying power to its already spacious 15-liter capacity, you can take lots of fly fishing gear with you with this sling pack.
There is a small pocket inside the main compartment which is ideal for storing your personal items such as your wallet and keys.
- Lightweight at under 2 pounds
- Can be worn on your left or right shoulder
- The main compartment can open from either side for easy access to your gear
This is another fully waterproof and fully submersible fly fishing sling pack that made our list.
External D rings allow you to attach multiple accessories for more kit-carrying options.
- Polyester foam and fleece lining on the interior
- Side and top grab handles
- Fully waterproof and submersible
The Simms Dry Creek Z is a waterproof sling pack that has a self-healing zipper to prevent any water from making its way inside.
It has multiple exterior lash points allowing you to carry extra gear with you on the outside of your sling pack.
The shoulder strap is padded with water-resistant foam and the external pocket is also water-resistant and has a net holster too.
- Fully waterproof and submersible thanks to the self-healing zipper
- Stretch mesh pockets on the interior for additional storage space
- Cushioned shoulder strap that is breathable and water-resistant
This is an updated design of an already impressive fly fishing sling pack.
The Orvis Waterproof Sling Pack is a fully waterproof fly fishing pack that is tough enough to deal with all the weather conditions Mother Nature can throw at it.
It has a 14-liter capacity making it one of the more spacious fly fishing sling packs on this list.
- Attachment rings all around the pack for extra storage and practicality
- Fly patch to hold all of your used flies
- Water-resistant secondary pocket and water bottle pocket too
Ambidextrous fly fishing sling packs are not as common as other sling packs available. However, Simms has created this lightweight fly fishing sling that can not only be worn on either shoulder but it also has a 15-liter capacity for all the fishing kit you need for a day on the water.
There are compression straps that can hold your fly rod securely while you hike to your chosen fishing spot and multiple pockets for keeping your gear organized.
- The 4-way zipper allows easy access from either side or the top of the pack
- Adjustable front panel with a loop for wet fly storage
- Magnetic docking station for additional tools and accessories
Fly Fishing Sling Pack Buyers Guide: What to Look For
There are a wide variety of fly fishing sling packs available, so finding the best one can seem like quite a challenge.
Here are some things to look for when shopping for fly fishing packs.
Comfort and design
When you are out fly fishing, you will need to move around freely, and you will likely be on your feet for long periods of time during the day.
Fly fishing packs need to be comfortable to wear and designed in such a way that they actually help you enjoy your trip.
Design features such as a padded sling strap, mesh fabric, and alike all help keep you comfortable and are things to look out for when shopping for fishing sling packs.
Sling packs are ultimately used to carry your fishing gear with you on your adventures.
Making sure you choose one of the correct sizes to give you the amount of storage space you need will be an important part of your decision-making process.
From fly boxes and rods to lunch boxes and a water bottle holder – you will need to check that your shoulder bag has sufficient space for all of your fishing essentials.
Pockets and Compartments
In addition to storage space, great sling packs need multiple pockets and compartments to help keep your gear organized and easy to find.
Having multiple storage compartments will allow you to separate your kit into different sections of your pack. This will make sure that you can get your hands on the exact piece of kit you need exactly when you need it without having to search your entire pack for it.
Sling packs with things like a net sleeve, space for rod tubes, and a water bottle pocket are also useful features to consider to keep useful items close to hand at all times.
As sling packs come in different shapes and sizes, you may want to have the option to attach accessories and extra tools to the outside of your pack if there isn’t enough room inside.
Some packs have attachments where your fly rod can be attached and carried; others have MOLLE attachment stations where extra kit can be attached.
A fly patch, integrated net sleeve, and cord loops are all features that can help you carry more kits without having to increase the size of your sling shoulder bag.
Fabric and Denier
Sling packs need to be long-lasting and reliable throughout your fishing trips.
Choosing the best sling pack for you will involve a good amount of thinking about the material your pack is made from.
Most sling packs are made from nylon and polyester, with each one having different strengths and weaknesses. Some sling packs are made from canvas but these packs are not likely to last as long as nylon or polyester ones.
High-quality materials need to be used in the making of your pack to give you peace of mind that it will be able to withstand the rigors of outdoor life on the water.
Denier ratings define how thick the individual threads that are used to make your pack are.
To be confident that the sling packs you are considering are of high quality, a denier rating of between 600 and 700 should be expected.
Strength and Durability
Your fly fishing pack will likely take a bit of a beating from time to time, so it needs to be tough and durable enough to cope with this.
High-quality materials, top-level manufacturing, and brand reputation will give you a good idea of how durable your pack will be before you try it for yourself for the first time.
Many great sling packs are quite expensive, so you want them to last and perform exactly as you expect them to.
Waterproof packs seem like an obvious choice seeing how fishing is a water-based activity.
That being said, a fully waterproof sling pack isn’t always the best option. For example, if you know you will be carrying wet kit with you at some point on your trip, you need to be aware that it isn’t likely to dry out inside a waterproof pack.
This might not be a big deal for you, but it could be an issue if you are on a multi-day adventure and don’t want wet gear in your bag for the majority of that time.
If you are one of the fly fishermen who enjoy fishing in the rain, though, then a waterproof sling pack is a great choice as it will keep all your essential gear dry while you enjoy your time on the water.
Some of the packs on this list aren’t fully waterproof but have a waterproof pocket where you can secure gear that you don’t want to get wet. This is usually a zippered pocket that keeps any water out, even during heavy rain.
As previously mentioned, the price of your pack will probably be the biggest factor in which one you ultimately choose.
Some high-quality packs can be expensive so a mid-range pack might be better suited to your budget.
Something to bear in mind, though, is that a lower price doesn’t always equate to better value, as some of the cheaper options out there may not last very long, meaning you will have to replace them after a short period of time. If this happens, it might actually be better value to buy a more expensive pack in the first place, knowing you won’t need to replace it any time soon.
Fly Fishing Sling Pack FAQs
Fly Fishing Vest vs Sling Pack – What Is the Best?
Both have their merits, and we certainly use a vest on some days and a sling pack on other days.
Fishing vests are good for when you need a wide range of fly boxes and other gear at your disposal, as there is a bit more carrying capacity and more pockets to keep everything organized.
But you’d be surprised how the weight mounts up with a vest – all those little things add up.
So we tend to favour the sling pack for fishing – say – a mountain stream in summer where you only need a handful of flies. Whereas for a session on a technical river with a range of hatches and fussy fish, we really want the full range of fly boxes and other options, so a vest is better.
Fly Fishing Backpack vs Sling Pack – What Is the Best?
We prefer a sling pack if you can get away with it because it is much more convenient from the point of view of accessing it easily and taking stuff out, and putting it back in. A backpack stores more gear and is definitely better if you are taking a lot of food, water, and things like camera gear, safety equipment, and fly boxes, but a sling pack is ideal for ease of use on shorter trips.
What Should You Pack Into the Fishing Sling Pack?
That depends on the trip, but for a simple outing, you should pack: fly boxes, sunscreen, your car keys (ideally in an internal pocket), and food/snacks. We prefer to carry tools such as forceps, tippets, nippers, etc., on a lanyard for convenience.
What Should You Pack Into a Fishing Backpack?
All of the above plus a Camelbak or other hydration bladder, your lunch, a personal locator beacon if you are going into a remote territory, and a camera if you want to take some nice shots. Of course, you can use your phone camera, but do so at your peril when you are wading, as it is easy to drop if it is not on a strap.