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The Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Lumbar pack is a fully waterproof waist pack designed for fly fishing. It’s been around for several years, but it’s timeless design and ruggedness still make it easily one of the best fly fishing hip and waist packs available today. In fact, we feature it in our guide to the 10 Best Fly Fishing Hip Packs for 2022.
To get Man Makes Fire a closer look, Fishpond sent us a review unit. After fly fishing with the waterproof hip pack over multiple seasons, this is what we learned:
Before we dive into the features of the Thunderhead Submersible Lumbar pack, let’s talk about why you want a lumbar pack, a.k.a. a waist pack or hip pack, for fly fishing. Lumbar packs for fishing let you stow more gear than typical chest packs, plus you can carry the pack behind you out of the way. Fly fishing backpacks are awesome and hold the most gear, but to get at your gear you need to remove the backpack.
You can spin a lumbar or waist pack around your waist to the front for easy access to tippet, flies or fly fishing accessories. Similarly, you can unhook and spin a fly fishing sling pack to the front for on-the-water gear access, but waist packs are a bit simpler and faster than sling packs.
The only down side to a lumbar pack comes when you wade in water deeper than your waist.
Of course, that’s where the awesomeness of the Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Lumbar Pack comes into play. The fully waterproof 1680D TPU coated recycled nylon and waterproof TIZIP zipper will protect your flies, accessories, phone, camera, or sandwich if you wade deep or get caught in a rainstorm.
The lumbar portion is semi-rigid but nicely padded.
Interior stash pockets.
Plenty of accessory attachment points.
Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Lumbar Pack Features
For starters, the Thunderhead Submersible Lumbar Pack is built tough — super tough. If you’re not used to burly waterproof backpacks and dry bags, you might be surprised at how stiff the fabric is, but it’s what you need for waterproof bags you want to last for a decade or more. So the 1680D TPU coated recycled nylon is great, as is the zipper — it’s pretty hard to go wrong with a TIZIP waterproof zipper.
The main pocket is about 10L (610 cubic inches) and measures approximately 13.5″ x 9″ x 5″. It’s large enough to stow a few fly boxes, a backup reel or spool with a different fly line and plenty of accessories like leaders, strike indicators, and weight. It has a slim interior stash pocket with with a see-through front as well as a zippered accessory pocket. I used these for extra leaders, my phone and keys.
Fishpond includes an exterior stash pocket for small items, but the exterior stash pocket is only water resistant.
The exterior of the pack has four tough attachment points for common accessories like a tippet holder, nippers, or forceps.
You could attach your net with a carabiner or clip, which I sometimes do, but Fishpond included an integrated net slot in the middle of the pack. To use it, you just slide the handle of your net into the sleeve with the net portion upright against your back. Depending on your choice of fly fishing net and its size, this can work out really well.
Fishpond built just the right amount of padding into the back panel and hip belt — it has the perfect amount of structure but still gives you all day comfort, even when you overload the pack.
Of course, like most great fly fishing hip and waist packs, the Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Lumbar Pack has an answer for heavy loads — an included shoulder strap. The strap goes over one shoulder on a diagonal and gives you extra support for the lumbar pack. For most fishing close to camp, boat or pickup, I don’t bother with the shoulder strap. If you’re venturing far and are packing a heavier load, you’ll appreciate the strap.
Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Lumbar Pack Review: Superior Detail
Fishpond is known for putting a lot of thought into the design of its products. For instance, while the shoulder strap is optional, you might end up using it all the time because it has a handy spot for forceps and a zinger attachment point.
The front portion of each side of the hip belt has two stout hook-and-loop straps that you can use to attach a sheath for fishing pliers or even just a small pouch for extra storage.
Overall the fit-and-finish on the Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Lumbar Pack is just stellar.
There is really only one con to the Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Lumbar Pack — and it’s really more of a tradeoff. The con is a lack of organizational pockets compared to non-waterproof fly fishing lumbar packs. If you’re not wading deep or fishing in the rain, choosing a waterproof lumbar pack probably isn’t your best choice overall. Why?
Non-waterproof lumbar fishing packs are easier to organize and have zippers that are easier to use. The materials are softer, too. Oh, here’s a TIZIP zipper hint: Most burly waterproof zippers have loops built into the bag or pack next to both ends of the zipper. One finger goes into the loop to give you leverage when opening and closing a stout waterproof zipper with your other hand. And yes, this means you pretty much have to use two hands to open or close a waterproof zippered pack.
Meanwhile, about that waterproofing . . . do you ever fall down or step into water that’s a bit deeper than you expect? I do more often than I care to admit. And sometimes I’ll even fish in the rain. When that happens it’s nice not to have to worry about pulling your gear out of your pack to let it dry on the ride home. As for the Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Lumbar Pack . . . very highly recommended.