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Published Nov. 19, 2021

The best fishing backpacks can mean the difference between a relaxing morning on the water landing fish or a frustrating, under-equipped excursion. Fishing rivers, remote ponds, and large lakes can be a trial of trails just to get to your favorite fishing hole, and the last thing you need or want is to have to turn around and make multiple trips to your vehicle because you forgot your bait, favorite lure, fly box, or, God forbid, your fishing rod. 

If you’re like me, you spent a lot of your youth fishing out of a plastic tackle box with fold-out trays that never quite closed over the secondhand tackle pilfered from your father’s gear. If so, you probably remember the looming fear of that tackle box inevitably getting dropped or kicked over, causing the inside to become a catastrophic mess of iron sinkers, swivels, oversized fluorescent bobbers, and rusty barbed hooks, just waiting for a misplaced finger. The tacklebox setup was all well and good when fishing a backyard pond for bluegill and the all-to-frequent bullhead, but as I’ve gotten older, my wanderings have gotten further and a normal fishing excursion usually involves a fair amount of hiking, which can quickly turn from tranquil to terrible when loaded down with more cumbersome tackle than two hands can carry.

Enter the fishing backpack: With a decent pack, you can put aside the need for a hand-carry tackle box and slip into your favorite fishing hole with ease. That said, not every angler is in it for the same species of fish or utilizes the same fishing style, so you should choose a fishing backpack best suited to your own personal practices. With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of our favorite fishing backpacks, to help you maximize your time with your line in the water.

The Wild River Tackle Tek Nomad Lighted Backpack is not only a mouthful to say, but it’s the Cadillac of fishing backpacks. If you’re someone who likes to bring a lot of tackle and gear options on your fishing trips, this is the bag for you. The Wild River Tackle Tek Nomad features five exterior pockets, each with either internal dividers or mesh pocket exteriors providing plenty of space for extra spools of fishing line, premade leader lines, or portable fly boxes. The main compartment of the backpack has upper and lower access zippers and can be separated into two compartments using an internal divider. The lower half is capable of easily stowing four #3600 tackle trays, which are included in the purchase. On the underside of the top flap is another zippered compartment made of clear plastic, which is ideal for stowing your fishing license, map, wallet, or anything else you’d like to keep dry, but visible.

This is one of the only bags I’ve ever seen with a built-in, internal/external LED light. The light, powered by two AAA batteries (also included with purchase), is fixed to the top front of the bag and turns on with the click of a rubber-coated button (light has three settings: dim/bright/green). The light can be rotated on its mount to either shine on the interior of the bag through a whole in the mount or shine outside of the bag to light up your hands while you tie tricky knots or work the tangles out of your kid’s line. As a side note, the light is smartly positioned directly over the central exterior pocket which folds out into a convenient working surface when needed.

At the very top of this bag is a built-in, molded sunglasses case, ensuring you’ll never crush your sunglasses in transit. The bag also comes with a removable sheath for your fishing pliers and a retractable lanyard for any line clips or pocket knives you’d like to keep off of the riverbed. And finally, the Wild River Tackle Tek Nomad comes with its own built-in rain cover, located in its own zippered pocket, directly behind the main compartment. Simply pull it out, stretch it around the bag, and you’re good to go while your gear stays dry.

Overall, this is a lot of backpack, and because of all the extras, it weighs in at a hefty 4.75 pounds. This, however, is offset by the fact that it carries very well. The large padded shoulders straps, adjustable sternum strap, and padded back-panel offer a pleasant carry and should keep you comfortable no matter how far it is to your favorite fishing hole.

This is a higher-quality bag, so it comes at a higher cost. In my mind, it’s well worth it as long as you think you’ll put the added features to good use.

Product Specs
  • Manufacturer: Custom
  • Leathercraft Dimensions: 18.5 inches x 17 inches x 8.5 inches
  • Weight: 4.75 pounds
PROS

Abundant storage space

Interior/exterior LED light

Fold-out work surface

Molded sunglasses holder

CONS

Added features create additional weight

Added features mean added cost

No rod holders

With the Piscifun Fishing Tackle Storage Bag, we flip a complete 180 into a more minimalist bag. But what the Piscifun bag lacks in bells and whistles, it makes up for in functionality and durability, which is what anybody should be looking for in a fishing backpack. First and foremost, this bag is a sling backpack, which is inherently smaller, but more maneuverable. With a large shoulder strap and two smaller waist straps, this bag can be maneuvered to be carried in multiple configurations to include cross-body carry, chest carry, hand-bag carry, and sling carry. The chest carry option is especially nice if you plan on wading into a river or pond and wish to keep your gear accessible.

Though smaller, the Piscifun Fishing Tackle Storage Bag has plenty of pockets and compartments for holding all of your essential fishing gear, and most of the zippered pockets have smaller sub-pockets set inside. The largest pocket on the bag is fully capable of carrying two #3600 tackle trays. The outside of the bag features a number of nice extras, including a water bottle holder, extra removable straps for securing rods, a built-in rod holder/pliers holder, and MOLLE webbing along the front pocket to secure additional gear or add pouches if desired.

Virtually every part of this bag has either cinch straps or Velcro straps to keep your gear secure and prevent equipment from shifting and bouncing. This is especially nice if you plan on changing from a sling carry to a chest carry. Built with water-resistant nylon fabric, you can tell the Piscifun Fishing Tackle Storage Bag is made to last from the moment you pick it up — and for less than $30, I have no doubt you’ll be getting your money’s worth out of it.

Product Specs
  • Manufacturer: Piscifun
  • Dimensions: 8.3 inches x 4 inches x 11.8 inches
  • Weight: 1.76 pounds
PROS

Built with water-resistant/durable nylon fabric

Can carry in multiple configurations

Built-in rod holder

Bottom pockets for pliers or fish grippers

CONS

Limited storage capacity

Excessive amount of straps can be tricky

The Fishpond Summit Sling Fly Fishing Backpack is just an all around cool bag. With a sleek nylon design, this bag is a fly fisherman’s dream. As a sling bag, this model can be carried both as a regular backpack or across the chest. The molded front pocket unzips and folds out to serve as a workstation for tying flies and also contains a strip of fly foam for keeping your flies secure and organized. The outside of the molded compartment is lined with Velcro-ready pile fabric, allowing for the addition of more fly foam as the wearer sees fit. The inside compartment is spacious as well, and can easily fit two #3600 tackle trays if needed, but due to the bag’s shape, it doesn’t seem designed to hold regular rectangular trays.

On the exterior, the comfortable padded shoulder sling offers a workstation of its own, featuring more pile fabric for more fly foam and a hypalon (synthetic rubber) strap for securing pliers, snippers, and other small tools. The back panel of the bag has a built-in sleeve for easily stowing your fishing net, and the rear-most packet has a water-resistant zipper to prevent its contents from getting too wet if the bag happens to get submerged. The outside of the main bag has several more, conveniently-located hypalon sleeves for carrying tools or rods, as well as TPE lash points for tying on additional gear, and the bottom of the bag has a sleeve pocket for carrying a water bottle.

Of the bags I tested, this was definitely the most comfortable and the easiest to carry and manipulate. At $99.95 on Amazon, the Fishpond Summit Sling Fly Fishing Backpack is one of the more expensive sling fishing backpacks out there, but you’re getting what you pay for with a quality brand, useful and durable features, and a bag made of mostly recycled material, so you can feel good about doing your part for Mother Earth while you’re slaying brook trout.

Product Specs
  • Manufacturer: Fishpond
  • Dimensions: 13 inches x 8.5 inches x 9 inches
  • Weight: 2 pounds
PROS

Comfortable carry with chest carry capability

Fold-out work station

Fly foam attachment with Velcro-ready surfaces

Shoulder strap work station

CONS

Higher price

Limited storage capacity

Best for Double Duty

The Orvis Bug-Out Backpack takes the prize for the best double-duty backpack because, in addition to all of its fishing-heavy features, it also offers the sleak, well-balanced build of a hiking backpack, making it ideal for camping weekends on the river. Made of 100 percent recycled materials, the Orvis Bug-Out Backpack offers 25 liters of storage capacity, with a dividable interior compartment. A side access flap allows the wearer to easily access tackle or other items stowed in any part of the bag. The opposite side offers a water bottle holder which extends via a bottom zipper to accommodate for longer rod tubs, and allows the wearer to keep them center-balanced instead of leaning precariously far overhead.

The comfortable shoulder straps offer a nice distribution of weight, along with attachment points for frequently needed tools and anchor-point clips compatible with two variations of Orvis chest pack rigs. The back panel contains a sleeve for securely sliding your net handle, and the padded outer pocket is ideal for carrying anything from a water bladder to a laptop.

Orvis has been a trusted name in the fishing world for many years, which they’ve earned by producing quality outdoor products. Keeping that in mind should help put the $189 price tag into perspective. Though this might seem a little pricey for a fishing backpack, keep in mind that this bag can easily double as a hiking bag or an everyday travel bag.

Product Specs
  • Manufacturer: Orvis
  • Dimensions: 25 inches x 11.5 inches x 8 inches
  • Weight: 2.2 pounds
PROS

Abundant storage space

Side access flap

Extendable rod tube holder

Versatility of use

CONS

Compartments not all tailored to fishing tackle

Higher cost

If you’re just looking for a quality tackle backpack without a lot of fancy extras, the BASSDASH Fishing Tackle Backpack is a solid choice. It’s pocket layout is similar to that of the Wild River backpack, right down to the molded sunglasses holder and dividable interior compartment, but it doesn’t come with all the “cool guy” extras and probably won’t get you teased as much by the crusty old fishmen hanging out at the trailhead or boat launch. Instead, the water-resistant BASSDASH backpack seems to focus on just being a quality build, with ample space for all your tackle needs. Some of the extras that are included in this bag are two rod holders (which the Wild River bag lacked), the aforementioned sunglasses holder, side-mounted water bottle holder, pocket-mounted plier sheath, built in rain cover, and MOLLE webbing on the bottom front pocket.

When you strip away all the fancy extras, you can also strip away a lot of the cost. The BASSDASH Fishing Tackle Backpack is currently available on Amazon for around $60, which is well over $100 cheaper than its similarly sized Wild River counterpart. If you like the bag, but are looking for something just a bit bigger, there’s a larger version of the same backpack available on Amazon for a modest price increase, with the only differences in the location of the sunglass holder and the layout of the top flap zipper.

Product Specs
  • Manufacturer: Bassdash
  • Dimensions: 19.7 inches x 15.7 inches x 7.9 inches
  • Weight: 2.3 pounds
PROS

Durable build

Two rod holders

Molded sunglass holder

Lower cost

CONS

Less “cool guy” stuff

A bit bulky

Best Fishing Backpack

When people think of the YETI brand, they mostly just think about high-end coolers and insulated mugs and coffee cups. I’ll admit, I did. But little did I know that YETI has ventured into the backpack business as well, and the YETI Panga Airtight Bag is one of the highest rated waterproof/submersible bags on the market. This bag features a YETI termed “ThickSkin Shell” which is made of high-density nylon and TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) lamination, making it water-resistant and puncture-/abrasion-resistant. The bag also features Hydrolock zippers, which are guaranteed to keep the moisture out. YETI is so confident in the waterproof status of this bag, they’ve gone so far as to include a laptop sleeve on the inside of the bag. This will come in handy if you need to take a break from fishing to take a riverside Zoom call for work or check to see how many “likes” your fishing photos have received on Facebook.

Aside from its waterproof status, the YETI Panga Airtight Bag has a relatively simple design with a spacious main compartment and a mesh zippered pocket inside. The outside is rigged up with several MOLLE-like loops for attaching extra gear and a side handle for an additional carrying option, but aside from that there are no extra bits of flare attached outside and most gear must be packed into the main compartment.

Product Specs
  • Manufacturer: Bassdash
  • Dimensions: 12.5 inches x 7 inches x 20 inches
  • Weight: 3.9 pounds
PROS

Guaranteed waterproof

Durable “ThickSkin” shell

Spacious main compartment

CONS

High cost

Thick, waterproof material makes this bag boxy and rigid

No rod holders or side pocket

A fisherman who really prides themselves on having the perfect cast may not want to have their range of motion obstructed or limited due to a backpacks placement or weight. Those who prefer to keep their upper-body nimble may opt instead for a fishing hip pack, making the Piscifun Portable Waist Bag an excellent option. Made of light-weight nylon, this 10.69-ounce “manly fanny-pack” has a mind-blowing amount of space considering it’s small build. The bag features a spacious main compartment (measuring 9 x 3.4 x 5.3 inches), five outer pockets for additional gear, a water bottle holder, and a concealed pocket that hugs the wearer’s body (hide your money here if you’re worried about getting mugged on the river).

The Piscifun Portable Waist Bag is available on Amazon for a low price of $14.99 and is useful for more than fishing, such as cycling, day hiking, or being the coolest parent at Disney World.

Product Specs
  • Manufacturer: Piscifun
  • Dimensions: 12.2 inches x 4.7 inches x 5.3 inches
  • Weight: 10.69 ounces
PROS

Lightweight

Inexpensive

Versatile

Durable

CONS

Limited carry capacity

Embarrassing to your children

Another good option if you’re looking to maintain a low profile on the river is the Allen Bear Creek Micro Fishing Chest Vest. This chest vest is more geared to fly fishermen who are traveling light, and features a fold-down work station with a built-in tippet tender and fly patch. A padded neck strap offers extra support and there are multiple interior pockets for storing the fishing essentials to keep you on the water longer. In fact, the Allen Bear Creek Micro Fishing Chest Vest, might be a nice addition to your larger tackle backpack. Hike with it inside the larger backpack, then pull it out when you get to your favorite spot. Keep your essential tools on your chest and only go into the tackle bag when necessary.

Like the hip packs, the chest pack variety typically comes in at a much lower price point, and the Allen Bear Creek Micro Fishing Chest Vest is available on Amazon for under $30.

Product Specs
  • Manufacturer: The Allen Company
  • Dimensions: 3.0 x 5.75 x 7.5 Inches
  • Weight: 0.66 lbs
PROS

Lightweight and low profile

Fold-out work surface

Built-in tippet tender and fly patch

CONS

Limited carry capacity

Geared mainly toward fly fisherman (which is only a con if you’re not one)

Why you should trust us

Anyone who’s been in the military has learned a thing or two about space efficiency in backpacks and the importance of accessibility to pertinent gear. In fishing, as in the military, readiness and organization is often the key to success. My father was an avid fisherman who kept an above-average amount of tackle spread through a number of traditional-style tackle boxes and bags. He was meticulous in his organization, his preparation, and his execution. And though I haven’t reached his master-fisherman level, I like to think I picked up a thing or two along the way.

Types of fishing backpacks

Tackle backpack

A tackle backpack is a fishing backpack built with the primary function of holding tackle trays of various sizes. For the purpose of this review, I based all of my criteria on the #3600 tray size, which is a medium-size tackle tray and fairly common. Many of the tackle backpacks are characterized by dividable inner chambers with upper and lower access flaps. This feature allows the user to keep their tackle trays stacked and separated in a separate compartment and not mixed in with other gear or camping necessities. Most tackle backpacks offer a generous amount of side pockets for additional gear such as line spools, spare reels, and all the other bits and pieces that accumulate with years of fishing. 

Sling backpack 

Geared for the more mobile fisherman, sling backpacks allow an angler to stay on the move. A tackle backpack is likely to be set down along the shore or in a boat, but the sling backpacks are usually meant for long-term wear and are geared toward fishermen who are constantly changing location, looking for that magical spot where all the fish are biting. Most sling backpacks are equipped to either be worn over the back, or strapped across the fisherman’s front. The single strap allows the fisherman to easily slide the bag from their back to their chest, granting easy access to tackle without ever having to leave the water.

Hip back

Whoever said fanny packs went out of style never talked to a fisherman. Hip packs, like sling packs, are meant for constant wear, allowing the fisherman access to most of his vital gear without ever having to leave his position. 

Chest pack

Generally geared to fly fishermen, chest packs are another great way to keep your gear accessible without having to trudge back into shore. Chest rigs tend to be a bit smaller than sling backpacks and hip packs in the interest of preserving range of motion during casting. It’s for this reason that chest packs are usually marketed more toward fly fishermen, who generally require less tackle and equipment needs. If you’re one to wade into deep water chasing trout, a chest pack is a good idea to keep your tackle high and dry.

Key features of fishing backpacks

Accessibility of gear 

Nobody wants to get out to their favorite fishing hole and have to empty their backpack in search of a favorite lure or fly. When scouting for a fishing backpack, be sure to keep your specific gear needs in mind. If you’re a fly fisherman, look for a bag that allows you to keep your fly box at the front and ready. If you prefer lures instead, be sure to find a bag that keeps your tackle trays readily accessible. This may be a personal preference of mine, but I tend to lean toward bags with convenient outer attachments, such as plier sheaths, retractable lanyards for line clips, and carabiner loops for any number of other frequently needed tools. The less I have to go digging through pockets, the better.

Durability

If you’re looking for a fishing backpack, chances are you plan on fishing off the beaten trail, and rugged country requires a rugged bag. It is essential to ensure you have a bag that can stand up to the wilderness around you. Most fishing backpacks are made from thick canvas or nylon, which help them stand up not only to rocks and sticks, but also to the hooks and blades of your own tackle.

Balance

Whether you’re navigating a rough trail before sun-up or perched on a slippery rock in the middle of a quick current, you’re going to want a bag that’s well-balanced and keeps your tackle well-balanced too. Large or small, your fishing backpack should be comfortable on your back, with the weight evenly distributed. Not only that, but the weight within your backpack should be reasonably secured to prevent sudden shifts that could take you off balance on treacherous footing. Fishing is fun. Unexpect swims in the river are not.

Benefits of fishing backpacks 

Access hard-to-reach fishing holes

Trailheads only go so far, and if you’re clattering about with fists full of tackle boxes, rods, nets, stringer lines, rain gear, and God knows what else, you’re probably not going much further than what ease of travel will allow. With a proper fishing backpack, off-roading becomes easier and even fun. With your hands-free and your world on your back, you can more easily navigate steep river banks, thick brush, and downed trees, leaving the overcrowded river access points behind. There’s nothing better than setting off on your own for a relaxing, solitary day on the river.

Keep your gear ready to go

When it’s zero-dark-30 and you’re heading to the river, the last thing you want to do is spend your time rounding up wayward gear or pulling specific bits of tackle from multiple boxes. A good fishing backpack will allow you to keep all your tackle together in one convenient, ready-to-go location. Wake up, grab your coffee, sling your backpack, and you’re on your way out the door.  

Always be prepared

There’s nothing worse than making it out to your favorite fishing spot before anyone else, only to have the rain clouds open up and realize you forgot your wet weather gear back at the truck. With a fishing backpack, you can easily stow away rain gear, extra water, snacks, and other oddities that will keep you out longer. You can’t catch fish if you don’t have a line in the water, so come prepared and leave when you’re good and ready, not when some unforeseen need forces you to go.

Pricing considerations for fishing backpacks

Under $50

This price range is typically where you’ll find most sling fishing backpacks, hip packs, and chest packs, though some of the more high-end bags may come in above the $50 price point, depending on how many extra features have been built in.

$50 – $100 

This is typically where you’d find most mid-grade tackle backpacks and high-end sling backpacks (such as the Fishpond Summit Sling listed above). You can find some very good tackle backpacks in this price range that won’t break the bank. Just don’t expect a lot of added bells and whistles. 

More than $100

This will be the price range for the more premium tackle backpacks. Price tends to rise with storage capacity and, as in the case of the Wild River Tackle Tek Nomad, the added extras that get built into the bags. 

How we chose our top picks

Fishing is not a “one-size-fits-all” activity, and an angler’s needs in a fishing backpack can range widely depending on the style of fishing and the prospective quarry. With these different needs in mind, we tried to incorporate recommendations that would best cover the spectrum of needs. In order to find our best picks, we scoured countless lists of top tackle bags, sling bags, hip packs, and chest packs. We did hands-on testing of most of the listed bags, packing them with our own gear to test durability, accessibility, and storage capacity. We read customer reviews and bounced Amazon product pages off from manufacturing product pages to ensure accuracy of information. After all of this, I feel confident in the recommendations we’ve made, and though I can’t guarantee you’ll catch more fish because of it, I can guarantee these bags will help you keep your line in the water for longer, which is usually half the battle.

FAQs on fishing backpacks

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q. What should be in a fishing backpack?

A: This will be dependent on the fish you’re after, but generally you should always carry pliers, additional line, bait/lures/flies, sunglasses, and a flask of your favorite bourbon.

Q. How do I choose a fishing backpack?

A: Determine the type of fishing you wish to pursue. Fly fishermen can generally get away with smaller backpacks. Lure and bait fisherman tend to have a need for more tackle, so a larger backpack may be required.

Q. What makes a fishing backpack better than a regular one?

A: A fishing backpack will have features tailored to fishing needs, such as rod holders, plier holders, net sleeves, and cargo space for tackle trays. 

Q. Can I only use my fishing backpack for fishing?

A: Most fishing backpacks can serve double-duty as camping and day bags, though some are more suited for dual purpose than others.

Q. What components should I look for in a fishing backpack?

A: Ultimately, you should look for something comfortable that fits your specific fishing tendencies. Fishermen often spend long periods of time on their feet, so a comfortable bag is a must.

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Brett Allen is a humor writer and former U.S. Army Cavalry Officer who served from 2006 to 2010, largely with the 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division. The events of his 2009 deployment to the Logar Province of Afghanistan became the inspiration for his recently published debut novel, Kilroy Was Here, which is a dark comedy highlighting the absurdities of war. Brett resides in Ada, Michigan with his wife and kids and is currently working on his next novel. He enjoys all things outdoors to include backwoods camping, backwoods cooking, hiking, and boating, but can more regularly be found mowing, weed whacking, or performing some other form of backbreaking yardwork.

Task & Purpose and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. We independently evaluate gear by putting products in the hands of subject matter experts. The products we test may be purchased by Task & Purpose, our staff, or provided for review by a manufacturer. No matter the source, our testing procedures and our assessments remain free from third-party influence. Learn more about our product review process.

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