When I head to the river, which has evolved into 50 days per season, I’m 40 kilometres from home, out of cell range, and deep in grizzly territory. Typically, I’ve worn a fishing vest and backpack to carry the essentials for a long day on the river: bear spray, a water bottle, a sandwich, two fly boxes, a net, a multi-tool, a can of beer, a rain jacket, and a few emergency items in case I get lost, injured or have to spend a night out. When Fishpond released their 2015 Westwater Guide Lumbar Guide Pack, I thought I’d ditch the vest and backpack, and give it a try.
The first thing you notice when you open the pack, is how much room there is (600 cubic inches: imagine 12 beers or a toaster). This is a lumbar pack designed for guides, and anglers who spend long days on the river or lake. It features a large zippered opening that will swallow most everything you need for the day. In addition, there are two inner sleeves and a zippered interior pocket for a license, cell phone, wallet and keys.
The pack is heavy duty, constructed from CYCLEPOND waterproof welded fabric, made from recycled commercial fishing nets, salvaged from the ocean, part of Fishpond’s “Ripple Effect”, where environmental impact influences business decisions.
Often referred to as “waterproof” by many guides, realistically it’s highly water resistant, as the welded zippers can’t be considered fully waterproof. Your gear will remain dry in heavy rains and brief submersions if you have a spill in the lake or river, but you wouldn’t want to test your cell phone or camera by long submerged river crossings. This is the perfect pack for carrying SLR cameras or other items, where you want the highest protection against moisture, without going to a basic dry pack.
It’s surprising how comfortable the lumbar pack is to wear, even with heavy gear. The ventilated mesh construction and wide waist strap provide a well-balanced load. As well, there is an adjustable shoulder strap for additional support, and the ability to switch to a sling or chest pack.
For those who have never worn a lumbar pack, they are designed so that everything is out of your way, until you need it. At that point, you simply swing the pack to your front and your gear is easily accessible at waist level. The pack has sturdy D rings and tabs that you can attach accessories to, such as forceps, tippet, nippers, zingers and floatant.
The pack features one zippered front pocket (for a multi-tool, or other small items), side cinch straps, and bottom straps that can hold a rain jacket or extra rod tube. On the centre of the mesh backing is a net handle to hold it securely while hiking or fishing.
The only complaint I have with this lumbar pack is that I like to use side cinch straps to secure a water bottle or bear spray. Unfortunately, the strap ends are so thick, it’s cumbersome trying to undo them, to feed the straps through a bear spray, or water battle lid.
If you are an angler looking for a large lumbar pack to carry your gear during a long day on the water, then Fishpond’s Westwater Guide Lumbar Pack is an excellent choice. It will keep your gear dry, in most circumstances, and is extremely comfortable even with heavy loads. At $139.95, it is a good buy for someone who spends a lot of time on the water, and wants to use a lumbar pack, instead of a backpack and vest.