Disclosure: Man Makes Fire is reader-supported. When you buy gear using retail links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission that helps pay for our work. Learn more.
The best fly fishing hip packs have organizational pockets as well as multiple attachment points for fly fishing accessories like tippet, nippers, and floatant.
Today’s fly fishing hip packs come in a variety of styles, but the most important key decision factor will be if you choose a waterproof hip pack or a non-waterproof hip pack. Waterproof hip packs are usually simpler with fewer chambers and pockets while non-waterproof hip packs boast more pockets and more room for organization.
As an avid fly fisher, I usually prefer more pockets and organization for fly fishing packs . . . but I also have a hard time not wading deeply into rivers and lakes. If you frequently wade up to your waist like I do when fishing for trout in western rivers, go with a waterproof hip pack that will protect your fly boxes and gear. If you rarely wade deep and fish shallow waters, choose a multi-pocketed non-waterproof hip pack.
Most hip, waist and lumbar packs now come with a shoulder strap. The shoulder straps take a bit of the weight off your backside while still letting you rotate the pack to your front. They work surprisingly well.
What sets the Switchback Pro apart from the competition? The wading belt includes a rail-like smaller belt that lets you slide the pack from back-to-front for easy access to fly boxes and fishing gear. When you’re done, you can slide the pack back out of the way. No other wading belt manufacturer has this system. Better yet, your net stays put behind you the whole time in the built-in net holder, which is both a functional consideration and a cost consideration. While some competitive hip packs have built-in net slots, others require add-on net holster accessories. It’s hard to overstate how cool this ambidextrous system is. Note: The slightly smaller original Switchback System is also great. The key difference to the Pro System is simply the size of the pack.
Any drawbacks? It’s not waterproof. If Fishpond ever adds a waterproof bag option, this will become my personal go-to hip pack.
The Orvis Guide Hip Pack is a full-size organizational powerhouse aimed at guides and hard-core anglers. In addition to a whopping 9-liter main pack, you get two small side pockets that also have a pass-through net scabbard. This lets you choose to stow your net on either side. When you first think about it, this design could get in the way of your elbows . . . but the angles of the net slots hold the net hoop almost perpendicular to your back and angled outward. If you rotate the pack to your hip for access, the net will lay across more parallel to your back. With the shoulder strap, you’ll get good support for the large pack.
What’s cool: We’re big fans of the recessed Tippet Whippet docking station, which is unique to Orvis this year. It’s a relatively small product evolutionary improvement, but it keeps your tippet handy but your fly line won’t snag on it. Plus, you don’t have to buy any add-on tippet holders.
The new waterproof Patagonia Guidewater Hip Pack 9L replaces last year’s previous generation Stormsurge Hip Pack. This year’s Guidewater version is much improved. We particularly like the new padded waist belt design with mesh stuff side pockets. The detachable shoulder strap is far more adjustable and has attachment points for frequently accessed accessories like floatant. The daisy chain webbing loops on the rear and sides offer better organization capabilities than the previous version, but there’s even more organizational options: Like Patagonia’s new Guidewater Backpack featured in our guide to the best fishing backpacks in the waterproof section, the Guidewater Hip Pack has in interior fishing accessory pocket that you can remove and attach to the exterior of the pack for easy access while fishing. After your last cast of the day, you can tuck it back inside the waterproof interior for simplified travel and storage. Last of all, the burly waterproof zipper opens super wide to give you easier access to contents.
What’s cool: Patagonia’s new padded and pocketed waist belt design gives this Patagonia waterproof hip pack a huge boost in comfort and functionality. One more thing: The Pigeon Blue option is pretty sweet, too.
The Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Lumbar Pack is one of my favorite waterproof fishing hip packs. It’s burly, looks fantastic, and the belt holds the pack steady. There is an integrated net slot, but frankly I don’t use it very often with this pack. It’s easier and just as effective to slide a longer handled net in between the pack and my back. The padded hip belt is surprisingly comfortable over full days on the water, and it rotates easily when I want to access the pack while wading. For more detail, check out our full Thunderhead Submersible Lumbar Pack review.
What’s cool: It’s waterproof. If you tend to wade deep, you’ll appreciate how easy it is to keep your fly boxes completely dry.
Any drawbacks? Waterproof hip packs lack extra storage pockets for organization, so you mostly have one large waterproof pocket to work with.
Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Lumbar Pack
Gorgeous overall style and design
Excellent waterproof zipper
Waterproof hip packs have fewer pockets for organization
The new Simms Flyweight Hip Hybrid System builds off the company’s new Flyweight Collection. It’s aimed at anglers who like to stay agile and nimble and like to cover ground while they fish. The collection includes waders and packs that use 5.11’s HEXGRID system to let you customize where and how you attach packs, bags, and holders.
What sets the Flyweight Hip Hybrid System apart from the competition? The HEXGRID pouch attachment system webbing lets you attach packs, pods, and even the Flyweight Net Holster at multiple positions and angles. While Simms offers its own Flyweight accessories, many MOLLE-style pouches are also attachable for ultimate customization.
The full-featured Umpqua ZS2 Ledges 650 Waist Pack delivers excellent comfort with massive organization. The main compartment holds four large fly boxes but you also get several more smaller zippered and stretch mesh pockets. Umpqua includes Molle-style attachment points on the front and sides of the belt to let you add additional accessories. Umpqua also makes a similar, smaller ZS2 Ledges ‘500’ Waist Pack.
What’s cool: The latest version of this burly waist belt has a new forward-pull cinch system that makes it easy to snug up the pack for a comfortable carry. Why is this important? When you’re pulling forward on the straps, the rear of the pack nicely settles into your back, making the ZS2 faster and easier to adjust than most of the fishing hip pack competition.
The new updated Simms Dry Creek Z Hip Packlooks similar to last year’s version, but this year’s version, like the Patagonia Guidewater Hip Pack noted above, brings a much improved shoulder strap. You can now lock the padded section into place and use the included D-ring as an attachment point for your net. We appreciate the carryover of the small front exterior pocket, which gives you a different organizational option compared to most competing waterproof fly fishing packs. One difference from Fishpond and Patagonia’s waterproof packs is the lack of rear-facing accessory loop attachment points on this Simms waterproof hip pack. Instead, Simms includes more attachment points on the sides of the waist belt itself.
What’s cool:Simms uses the new toothless, self-healing TRU Zip waterproof zipper system, which Simms says will be more rugged over the long haul compared to traditional toothed waterproof zippers found in competitive packs.
The made-to-order Vedavoo Current Waist Pack features a wide padded hip-belt with a single fold-over pouch. The vinyl shell is very water resistant, and the foldover top does a good job of keeping water out. The integrated net holster gives you three carry positions — one in the middle and two on either side.
What sets the Vedavoo Current Waist Pack apart from the competition? The Vedavoo Current Waist Pack is hand made in the USA!
The Allen Eagle River Lumbar Pack is a deceptively solid fishing waist pack. You get multiple pockets, D-rings, two water bottle pockets, and dual side pockets. And here is a surprise — the bright yellow interior fabric provides contrast, which makes it easy to find and identify contents in low-light situations.
What’s cool:The hard to beat the price-to-value ratio on the Eagle River Lumbar Pack.
10. White River Fly Shop Aventur1 Lumbar Waist Pack
If your budget is tight, check out the White River Fly Shop Aventur1 Lumbar Waist Pack. You get multiple pockets, accessory attachment points, and stash mesh pockets on the front. Like the affordable Allen Eagle River Lumbar Pack above, this beginner fishing waist pack is hard to beat for the price.
Bonus: A few more fishing hip, waist & lumbar packs
These great fishing hip packs didn’t make our top ten this year — but they’re all fantastic and could easily make someone else’s top 10 . . . or turn out to be your number one choice:
Orvis Waterproof Hip Pack:
Patagonia Stealth Hip Pack 11L:
Simms Freestone Fishing Hip Pack:
Tip: How do I carry a net with a fishing hip pack?
Many fly fishing hip packs have slots built into the packs that accept the handle end of a fly fishing net. Even if a hip pack doesn’t have a built-in net holster or slot, you can still slip the handle between the hip pack and the small of your back. They stay put pretty well.