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Published Aug. 30, 2021

A backpack can be a great way to carry all of your fishing gear, whether you’re headed around the block or around the world. Face it, your old-school tackle bag can get heavy when you load it up, and trying to carry it can get cumbersome when you’re running through a crowded airport or sneaking along the edge of a shallow farm pond — especially if you’re trying to fish at the same time. You could use the backpack from your school days, but that doesn’t have any fishing-specific flourishes, and it’s certainly not made to stand up to harsh environments or to combat changing weather.

Fortunately, a wide range of tackle companies realized this former gap in the marketplace, and have produced backpacks aimed directly at the angling community. That includes both once-a-year casual anglers and those who are out on the water every day.  Some of these packs are made to carry just a few key items, while others seemingly have the ability to haul just about every bit of tackle that you own and still retain room for items like cell phones, wallets and passports. 

Depending on which one you choose, they can be great for long-distance travel and urban fishing alike, and in a pinch, they can even serve non-fishing purposes, too. Choose one that provides you with the best ergonomics and fit, and you might not know it’s there, keeping your hands free to do other things and preventing you from needing a dose of ibuprofen after a day on the water.

Best Fishing Backpack for Tackle: Wild River Tackle Tek Nomad Lighted Backpack

Key Features

  • Color/s: Green
  • Straps: Two adjustable padded straps
  • Pockets: Main compartment, top compartment, six side pouches, and pliers pouch

Why it Made the Cut

This is a fishing bag made for the angler on the go who wants to be prepared for any possibility, so needs to carry a wide range of tackle and accessories. It’s set up to hold four 3600-size utility trays in one large compartment and five 3500-size utility trays in another, with plenty of room left over for odds and ends with everything in its own place. It also works well in low light conditions thanks to an integrated LED light system.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Comfortable fit
  • Holds a huge amount of gear
  • Lights allow you to see exactly what’s inside

Cons

  • Price may deter some bargain-minded anglers

Product Description

This lighted backpack aspires to be the Cadillac of fishing storage solutions. It’s made to fit a large number of tackle trays, making it modular and versatile, and also has a fold-down work surface. Wild River has also taken into account the tools and accessories you’ll need when chasing your prey, with a molded sunglasses holder to protect your precious shades and a removable pliers pouch that has a retracting lanyard. You’ll stay more organized and won’t need to decide which gear to leave at home because you can bring it all. The lights require two AAA batteries, not included. Utility trays, however, are included.

Final Thoughts

Wild River apparently thought of every possible need when they build this bulletproof pack, and if you’re only going to buy a single bag to carry your gear, this may be it.

Best Fishing Backpack for Under $50: KastKing BlowBak Tactical Fishing Sling

Key Features

  • Color/s: Black, Desert Brown, Prym1 Sand Storm, Prym1 Blackout
  • Straps: One adjustable padded shoulder strap with quick release
  • Pockets: Main compartment, zippered front pockets, hide-away zippered pocket, and open bottom neoprene side pocket.

Why it Made the Cut

In addition to being comfortable to wear, this fishing sling holds a remarkable amount of gear for such a small-profiled carrier. It’s tough enough to handle busting through the brush on the way to your favorite mountain creek, yet stylish enough to carry on the subway to work. The colors and patterns will appeal to those who want a tactical design or otherwise want to maintain a feeling of stealth.

Pros

  • Super lightweight
  • Water-repellent
  • Cool stealth-factor design

Cons

  • Single strap design might not be ideal for some anglers

Product Description

The BlowBak is made out of a tough material for brush-busting, and also features a water-repellent coating on the inside to prevent the intrusion of moisture. Building on the tactical theme, it offers a molle tie-down system that makes it infinitely customizable. The main compartment holds two 3600-size utility trays and the neoprene sleeve on the side will hold your multi-piece fishing rod as you hike to a distant spot, keeping your hands free for other things. There is also a dedicated fishing pliers holder and a key chain clip to ensure that nothing gets lost on the way to or from your day on the water.

Final Thoughts

The sling pack looks cool, but this one is about more than just fashion. It packs tons of utility into a stealthy, feature-rich, budget-friendly design

Best Bargain Hip Pack: Piscifun Waist Bag Fanny Pack

Key Features

  • Color/s: Khaki, Army Green, Black, Camouflage, Jungle Camouflage
  • Straps: Waist strap
  • Pockets: Main compartment plus five outer pockets

Why it Made the Cut

Piscifun packs a ton of features into this small bag, and while the term “fanny pack” may remind you of your grandmother or tourists, this “hip pack” is remarkably stylish. It even has a hidden anti-theft pocket that sits flush to your back. It will hold your passport and/or cell phone, making it a perfect option for travel.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Bargain-priced
  • Multiple pockets in a small, easy to tote package
  • Adjustable waist strap for personalized fit up to 56-inch waist

Cons

Material is abrasion-resistant but not waterproof

Product Description

The main double-zippered pocket on this hip pack is where you’ll put most of your gear, but this inexpensive system offers more than just a single compartment. There’s an additional hidden pocket along with an adjustable water bottle holder. If you have a limited amount of gear to tote, and you want to keep your load light and your hands free, you may be surprised by how much this hip pack allows you to bring with you. It’s great not just for travel and for fishing on foot, but also for fishing in a boat when you want to keep the essentials on your body rather than constantly needing to dig around for them.

Final Thoughts

Definitely not your grandma’s fanny pack. If a full-blown backpack isn’t practical or advisable for any reason, you’ll get lots of use out of this small but mighty gear carrying device.

Best Waterproof Fishing Backpack: Plano Z-Series Roll-Top Waterproof Backpack

Key Features

  • Color/s: Gray with black and yellow accents
  • Straps: Two padded backpack straps plus sternum strap
  • Pockets: Large, roll-top main pocket, plus a sleeve pocket and zippered side pocket

Why it Made the Cut

If you’re going to brave the elements — and every angler will at some point — you need a pack that will keep your gear dry. Otherwise you may have a rusty, unusable mess at the end of your trip. Plano has spent decades making high-quality solutions for anglers, and this pack allows you to keep your hands on your rod and reel while ensuring that your precious tackle stays bone dry.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Simple roll-top design keeps tackle gear
  • Molded tie-downs create additional modularity
  • Comfortable padded straps

Cons

  • Minimal number of pockets

Product Description

Plano constructed this hold-everything bag out of 500D PVC casing and welded the seams shut so the traveling angler need not worry about water intrusion. Whether you’re hiking into a remote stream in a major downpour, or just want to leave the bag on the deck of your boat in rolling waves, you need not fear that your tackle, camera equipment, cell phone, or wallet will get ruined. If you’re not satisfied with the number of pockets — or need to carry additional gear — you can lash more items to the external attachment points. This backpack comes pre-loaded with two Plano Stowaway tackle boxes.

Final Thoughts

Plano’s stylish pack will keep your valuables bone-dry. It holds lots of gear, with the modular ability to lash more to the outside, and comes ready to head out into the fiercest elements.

Best Fishing Backpack with Rod Holders: Lunkerhunt LTS Tackle Backpack

Key Features

  • Color/s: Gray with black and blue accents
  • Straps: Two padded shoulder straps plus chest strap
  • Pockets: Main pocket plus large side pocket and large front pocket

Why it Made the Cut

Eventually, just about everything that goes outdoors will get nailed with a splash of water, and packs with inexpensive components, particularly zippers, may be rendered useless. Lunkerhunt gets around this problem by eliminating zippers from the backpack altogether. Instead it relies on a system of cinch-closures with the “belt and suspenders” addition of heavy-duty buckle straps.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Stands upright at rest
  • Easy access to components
  • Clean design

Cons

  • No dedicated pockets for items like pliers and sunglasses

Product Description

Lunkerhunt minimized complications with this stylish, budget-friendly, stand-up bag. The elimination of zippers, combined with the water-resistant construction, means that your gear will remain safe and dry. The main compartment easily fits the three included tackle trays. Anglers who like to tote more than a single fishing rod to their chosen location will appreciate the fact that it offers two adjustable rod holders.

Final Thoughts

Lunkerhunt’s entry into the backpack department complements their innovative lineup of tackle choices. Even if zippers aren’t your enemy this is still a solid choice, at a reasonable price point.

Methodology

While the term “backpack” typically connotes a large compartment running the length of your torso, held on by two shoulder straps, and possibly a waist strap, I defined the term broadly to include sling packs, waist packs and fanny packs — anything that will hold your gear safely above the ground while you chase your next trophy fish.

I didn’t grade the simple, single compartment packs directly against multi-compartment or modular storage systems, but instead I evaluated each product against its intended purpose and its direct competition. These are the main characteristics I look for in a fishing backpack:

  • Storage Space (relative to it’s size does it offer enough space to store my gear?)
  • Organization (will it keep my gear from getting tangled?)
  • Access (how easy is it to reach compartments while I’m wading in a stream?)
  • Durability (is it designed to last?)
  • Value (are you getting what you pay for?)
  • Features (is it waterproof, does it have rod holders, and what is it designed to hold?)

Things to Consider Before Buying the Best Fishing Backpack

What are your physical limitations, and where do you intend to take your backpack? Those factors, along with the amount of tackle that you’ll truly need to haul (yes, most of us take way too much stuff on every outing), will inform your choices. With so many varied systems, and the modular nature of many of them, there’s no need to compromise at all. There’s a system that’ll fit your needs and your budget. Just get what is right for your situation. Fortunately, several of these are inexpensive enough that it’s not unreasonable to buy more than one, as most of them can even pull double-duty for non-fishing endeavors.

FAQs

The answers you need to get your fishing backpack ready for a day on the water.

Q: Do I need a fishing backpack?

Any angler who needs to carry their tackle on a fishing trip while keeping hands free for angling should consider a backpack as an ergonomic way to keep their gear close. It’s also a great tool for air travel and when you need to tote other luggage.

Q: What should be in a fishing backpack?

Anything you’ll need for a day on the water. This, of course, includes lures and terminal tackle, but might also extend to extra line, rain gear snacks, and a water bottle. Many backpacks have specific pockets or attachments for various items.

Q: How do I choose a fishing backpack?

Honestly assess your stature and physical abilities, then figure out the maximum amount of gear you’re likely to carry on a day of fishing. That’ll reduce your universe of options, at which point you can worry about budget and bells and whistles.

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