Fly Fishing Vest vs Pack – Best Gear for Fly Anglers

Thomas Krik

Written by

Thomas Krik

Marc Lowe


Marc Lowe

fly fishing vest vs pack

Fly fishing is a different technique of catching fish compared to traditional fishing. It involves casting the bait above or just below the water’s surface instead of sinking the bait underwater to attract fish.

Gear used by fly anglers during fishing varies depending on locations and conditions. Fly fishing vests and packs available in the market are designed for this collection of uses.

If you are unsure which option suits you, check out this comparison of fly fishing vest vs pack.

Features Fly Fishing Vest Fly Fishing Pack
Style Vest-style with front facing design – Different styles for storage and accessibility

– Sling, wait, chest, backpack

Weight Lightweight Heavier due to additional features
Accessibility Easy access to gear Most types have easy access; some swings front and back depending on use
Storage Capacity Limited to personal gear and smaller items Can carry larger items (gear, food & drinks)
Mobility Unrestricted arm movement May slightly limit arm movement
Insulation None Some with thermal compartments
Weather Resistance Some with weatherproofing; can be layered with outer layer Mostly made with waterproof materials
Ventilation With mesh panels for airflow With ventilation systems or mesh back panels
Pockets Multiple front and zipped pockets

Tool pocket, tippet holder, fly patch

Roomy organization pockets

With water bottle holder

Attachment Points Multiple attachment points and tool docking stations Exterior attachments points and versatile gear straps

Whether you are an experienced fly fisherman or a newbie, choosing the ideal vest or pack for you is important. Begin by identifying your priorities, be it accessibility, storage capacity, or weather conditions.

Bottom line, selecting the right gear comes down to what feels most comfortable and safe for you.

Fly Fishing Vests and Packs: What You Need to Know

Forget the one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to your fly fishing gear. Sure, a fly fishing vest and pack may seem alike at first glance. But before you make a hasty purchase that fits your budget, do not confuse your vest with your pack.

Gear up, strategic fly angler! Before you cast your line, it’s time to differentiate a fly fishing vest and pack. before casting your line. Level up your fly fishing adventures with the right choice.

Types of Fly Fishing Vests and Packs

1. Vest Variations

1. Traditional Vest


Made with cotton materials, traditional vests are durable and can hold multiple pockets to store your fly fish gear and boxes. This fly fishing vest setup is safe and affordable for newbie anglers.

2. Mesh vest


Constructed from nylon, spandex, or polyester, mesh vests provide good ventilation especially when lake fishing on hot summer days. It is more expensive as it is made from superior quality material and added features like a mesh panel.

3. Modern vest


Modern released vests have innovative features. They are lightweight, very breathable, have ample storage, and optimal pocket placement.

Many fly fishing vests have padded straps for all-day comfort. You can also find a waterproof fishing vest for extra convenience.

2. Pack Variations

1. Sling Pack


This pack has multiple zippered pockets to hold your fishing gear and snacks. A fly fishing sling pack can be worn over the shoulder for easy access. It can also be moved back to your back when not in use so it does not get in the way when casting.

Consider that a heavy sling that rests on only one shoulder can cause shoulder or neck pain.

2. Chest Pack


For minimalist fly anglers who go out on smaller day trips, this type is perfect. It rests above your belly buttons so you won’t have to worry about it getting wet, unlike hip packs.

A chest pack fits your essential fishing gear but it may not be ideal for storing snacks and drinks due to its smaller size.

3. Hip Pack/Waist Pack


Also known as fanny pack, this type has a minimalist design compared to a vest. Ideal for day trips, it provides great comfort when not using a shoulder trap and stays out of the way when you cast. A fishing waist pack has easy access to fly boxes and a water bottle holder.

4. Backpack


This is a pro when your priority is storage capacity. This gear has enough space for your needs during your long hikes and days in the lake as it fits your gear, food, water, extra clothes, and even a fly rod in its case.

It is comfortable to use with excellent weight distribution on your back. Organization might be a slight issue, but you can handle it just fine with the right setup. You might want to buy waterproof backpacks, so you won’t have to worry about wading deep into the water.

Key Differences in Features


1 Design

A good fly fishing vest or pack must have an even distribution of weight to minimize shoulder and neck strain.

A good quality vest evenly distributes the load you carry and does not limit your range of motion. There should not be too many pockets in one area.

Pack variations have great options. Most of it, you can swing front and back and unzip, depending on your use.

2 Storage Capacity

You are here to know the right choice for a fly fishing vest or gear, and storage capacity must be your main concern, at least second to comfort. Packs can store more fishing gear and other items than a vest.

3 When to Use

You use a vest when you opt for a long trip. They are lightweight, comfortable, and fit your essential gear. You may use a pack to bring extra fly boxes, water bottles, or clothes. It can be bulky, though, so it’s good only for shorter fishing trips.

Pros and Cons

Starting your fly angler journey is fun, but buying your fly fishing gear comes first. Need help to decide? You might be interested to read and equip yourself with the pros and cons of using fly fishing vests and packs.

1. Vests

  • Easy access to your gears, with ideal front pockets
  • Seamless wear over light layers, best for long trips
  • Suitable for deep wading
  • Limited storage for large items or non-fishing gear
  • Bulky over-winter clothing
  • Can get in the way while casting; it cannot be moved over the back when not in use
  • No complete protection of gear

2. Packs

  • Fits a lot of essential fishing gear and personal items; can carry bigger fly boxes and extra rod
  • Increased mobility; hip packs and sling packs are easy to swing around
  • Versatile, it can be adjusted for enhanced comfort, mobility, and access to gear
  • Potential discomfort for longer trips, especially for bulky packs
  • Accessibility issues for backpacks
  • Hip packs are not suitable for deep wading unless waterproof; also have poor support



Fly fishing vests may vary depending on product color and size. Most vests cost around $30 to $250.

  • For example, the BASSDASH Fly Fishing Vest costs $35 to $60
  • The Orvis Fly Fishing Vest as well as Simms Guide Vest cost $130 to $250.

Fly fishing packs cost around $50 to $250.

  • For example, the VIXYN Fly Fishing Chest Pack/Waist Pack costs $50
  • The Thunderhead Submersible Lumbar Fly Fishing Pack is $250.

As the price increases for vests and packs, you can expect better design, more efficient storage capacity, enhanced comfort, increased functionality and extra features, more pockets, and higher-quality materials.

Vest or Pack: What is the Right Choice for You?

The market is filled with a variety of tackle storage you can choose from.

You need to find the perfect place and time for each vest or pack. Is it just a few hours or a long day? Is it during hot summer days or cold? Do you need a lot of space for your gear? What feels the most comfortable for you?

Take a look back at the pros and cons of each type.

Your preference and fly fishing experience will answer that question for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I Need a Fishing Vest or Pack for Fly Fishing?

It is not STRICTLY necessary to use a vest or pack for fly fishing but they sure are helpful, especially when you carry a lot of fishing gear. If you want easy access to your gears, there is no reason not to use one, right?

Why Is It Necessary to Choose the Right Type of Fly Fishing Tackle-Storage?

You must choose the right type of fly fishing gear for comfort and safety. As a fly angler, the ideal vest or pack for you is your ticket to an optimal fly fishing trip. You wouldn’t want to plan a fishing trip only to get hassled because of a poorly fitting vest or pack, would you? Choose the right gear that suits your body and the fishing conditions.


Choosing between a fly fishing vest vs pack is a personal preference.

By now, you have a good understanding of the key differences between a vest and a pack. Reading through the article, you gained a solid idea of the design, functionality, and cost as well as pros and cons of each type.

Now, it’s your turn to gain your fly fishing experience using one or more of these types. Happy fishing!

5/5 - (2 votes)