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The Umpqua Tongass 650 Waterproof Waist Pack is a feature-packed waterproof waist pack for fly fishing. Unlike most waterproof waist packs, the Umpqua Tongass 650 pairs a roomy roll-top waterproof compartment with a handy zippered front pocket.
To get Man Makes Fire a closer look, Umpqua sent us a review unit. This is what we learned:
Umpqua Tongass 650 Waterproof Waist Pack Review
The Umpqua Tongass 650 Waterproof Waist Pack is one of the most versatile waist packs for fly fishing available today. While it’s not packed with pockets and organization like a non-waterproof waist pack, it’s roomy and includes a front pocket that’s actually usable. Plus, Umpqua gives you plenty of attachment points for accessories on the pack and belt.
Before we take a closer look at the features of the Tongass 650 Waterproof Waist Pack, let’s cover why waist packs, a.k.a. lumbar packs or hip packs are great for fly fishing. Waist packs for fishing let you carry more gear than typical chest packs, plus they let you carry the gear behind you. When you need to access fly boxes or accessories, all you have to do is rotate your waist pack to the front. It’s fast and easy.
Sling packs for fishing let you carry gear behind you, too, and when you unhook a strap, you can rotate them to the front for fast gear access. Fishing backpacks let you carry the most gear out of the way, but getting to that gear when you’re wading can be a bit of a challenge.
Of course, the only downside to a waist pack is how low you carry everything. If you wade deep, your pack and fishing gear will easily get wet. That is, of course, unless you have a waterproof waist pack.
Umpqua Tongass 650 Waterproof Waist Pack Review: Features
The Tongass 650 Waterproof Waist Pack uses a stout TPU welded 420D nylon waterproof fabric. It offers a great blend of durability and flexibility. The overall capacity is pretty large — about 11 liters or 670 cubic inches. Put another way, the pack is about 12″ x 8″ x 10″.
Instead of a stout and sometimes difficult to pull waterproof zipper, Umpqua chose to use a roll-top style waterproof compartment. This method of waterproofing has been used for years for water sports. Dry bags for whitewater rafting, for instance, almost always use roll-top closures. Roll-tops are durable and effective. You simply fold them over three or four times and attach clips to secure the folded “roll.” As for the Tongass 650 roll-top, it works very well. In fact, I think I like it slightly more than typical waterproof zippers.
The extra front pocket of the Tongass 650 — when you spin it to the front for access — is where the Tongass 650 really shines. I can put larger fly boxes, snacks, a camera and other gear in the main pocket and use the front pocket for smaller organization. It has an organizational panel for leaders and strike indicators. I also stow tippet in there as well, just to keep things a bit more streamlined. As a side note, this smaller front pocket isn’t totally waterproof — it’s “weatherproof” which is mostly waterproof.
I found I could wade deep and submerge the front pocket and very little water would seep in. However, you should know that some water can get into the front pocket, and some has for me after a particularly long session of wading in deep water, but not enough to saturate the contents.
For most fly fishing accessories, a bit of moisture isn’t a big deal. If I’m wading up to my waist, I’m usually pretty sure there’s a fish I’m after, so it’s worth it. (The large main compartment is completely water proof, remember, and does not leak.)
Umpqua built plenty of padding into the waist belt and back panel. To help carry heavier loads, Umpqua added a removable shoulder strap that can sling over a shoulder on a diagonal. It works well, but I tend to leave it in my fly fishing duffel bag in the pickup because I don’t need it often.
The front also has a stretchy mesh pocket for small odds and ends. Umpqua included an attached foam fly patch, which is always handy.
The Tongass 650 Waterproof Waist Pack sports two water bottle pockets. Plus, the pack includes two straps that are similar to load-levelers on backpacking backpacks. Basically, two straps let you pull the pack tighter to the waist belt to help keep the weight closer to your body.
One feature I particularly like are two external pockets on the waist belt that let you stow a reel attached to a fly rod. While it’s possible to break down a four piece fly rod and keep it rigged as a backup or second rod — use rubber bands to keep it together — the best use for most trout fishing will be as a temporary storage spot when you’re changing flies. For instance, if I’m standing in the middle of a river, I can drop the reel in the pocket and then cut off a nymph rig and tie on some dry flies to take advantage of a hatch.
Plenty of attachement points.
Reel and rod pocket.
Back up rod ready to go.
Umpqua Tongass 650 Waterproof Waist Pack Review: The Verdict
The Umpqua Tongass 650 Waterproof Waist Pack is one of the best fly fishing waist packs available. The overall build quality — like all Umpqua gear — is excellent. The design is well thought out and surprisingly usable. The Tongass 650 isn’t packed with organizational pockets like a standard waist pack, but it has more storage and organization than most other waterproof waist packs I’ve seen and used. At first, I thought the roll top would be cumbersome, but in practice, it’s not. In fact, I tend to prefer it over stout waterproof zippers. All-in-all, the roomy “extra” front pocket on the Umpqua Tongass 650 Waterproof Waist Pack is its most killer feature because it really extends on-the-water usability. Very highly recommended.