In my search for the perfect fly fishing pack, I recently picked up the Patagonia Storm Front hip pack. I've always liked the hip pack idea, but I've never had much luck with them since I like to wade in fairly deep water, which causes most hip packs to get water inside. That is not something that is acceptable to me. For the past several years, I have used several sling style packs in order to try and solve this problem. However, with any sling pack, it is more weight around your neck. Most are not waterproof either, so when wading, I would often get the bottom of the pack wet, which could get the contents soaked as well.
When the Patagonia Storm Front arrived, I was immediately impressed with the solid, YKK zipper. It is evident that this zipper is designed to be waterproof and tough. The pack is a simple design, with no external pockets, and one large interior compartment that could comfortably carry up to four normal sized fly boxes (I usually roll with three boxes, which leaves plenty of room for other items). There are several mesh style pockets attached to the inside compartment which were perfect for leaders, indicators, license, and other smaller items. I was initially concerned about the lack of more compartments since I am used to bags that have tons of organizational features, but after field testing this pack, I realized that while nice, I really didn't need them.
I've had other fly fishing packs that looked nice, but didn't hold up well under actual fishing conditions. I put the Patagonia pack to work as the only pack I wore through several days of fishing from dawn to dark on our recent trip to Gunnison.
The pack is truly WATERPROOF. It is not "water resistant", it is actually water proof. During the week of fishing, it was submerged numerous times while I was wading, or fighting a fish. I never found a drop of water inside the pack, and everything in the pack was nice and dry at the end of the fishing day. During the week I was crawling through rocks and brush, and the buckle stayed secure and the exterior of the pack survived unscathed. The only issue that I had was that I lost one of the external rod tube straps while hiking through a rough area of underbrush in pursuit of a rising trout. Fortunately, NocoNympher happened to find it by sheer luck, but I ended up removing both of those straps and keeping them in my gear bag as they are not something that I will likely use.
I wish that the pack had pocket for a water bottle on the outside...but I attached a nylon/velcro water bottle holder on the waist belt strap which worked quite well.
The pack is very simple and straightforward. If you want a pack that has tons of organizational pockets, this is not for you. Most of my odds and ends (nippers, dry fly floatant, tippet, etc) are kept on my Goetzen Lanyard, so I really didn't miss the exterior pockets as much as I thought that I would. The hip belt is basic and comfortable, and the buckle seems quite well made.
I'm very impressed with this pack. Although I haven't had it very long, I've put it through some hard use, and it seems to be well built. I will keep you posted on how is continues to perform in the long haul.
BDF uses a three tiered gear rating system for gear reviews.
Dry Fly = Great Product
Emerger= Good product with potential
Nymph= Could use improvement
The Patagonia Storm Front Hip Pack earns Dry Fly