The Best Fishing Backpacks of 2021

Geoff Stadnyk in Fishing Accessories on

Adding a good-quality fishing backpack to my arsenal has dramatically improved my comfort and organization when heading out for a long day on the water. I can easily carry all of my tools and tackle while leaving my hands free for more important things, like rigging lines or netting fish.

First, let’s look at the different things to consider when choosing the best fishing backpack. Then we’ll go into an old-fashioned backpack shootout to help you decide which one is right for you. Of course, if you’re a gear head like me, chances are there may be more than one.

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How To Choose The Best Fishing Backpack

Backpack Type/Storage Size

Choosing the right fishing backpack starts with selecting the right type and sized pack for the specific type of fishing you’ll be doing. When I’m fly fishing, I like to keep things pretty minimalistic. I know that I’ll be walking long distances and want to keep things pretty light and comfortable. Therefore, my pack needs to fit pretty snug and out of the way of casting while still allowing quick and easy access to flies, supplies, and accessories.

On the other hand, the pack that I use for bass fishing is much larger and bulkier, offering much more storage space. I know my bass fishing pack will be on the deck of the boat for most of the day. This pack is heavier, allowing me to neatly organize trays of baits and terminal tackle along with rain gear and anything else I might expect to need while on a bass boat.

Traditional (Two Straps)

Traditional two-strap fishing backpacks will offer you a large amount of storage space, with multiple options for attaching tools. Some models have the added function of storing a rod holder for hiking to distant waters. This style is ideal for carrying a set of rain gear, a cold beverage, and maybe even a shore lunch. However, this pack will be heavier to carry in the field and bulkier to wear while fishing. I use this type of pack when hiking to remote water, where I know that I may be fishing longer or maybe when I know I’ll be camping for a day or two.

Frame Backpacks

Frame backpacks are ideal for the boat angler. These are hard framed packs that often open to an area to store hard trays of baits and terminal tackle. This style is a modern well-organized tackle box, making it easier to carry a ton of lures and tools efficiently and in a well-organized manner. Carry your gear from the car to the boat with ease leaving your hands free to bring coolers and other items needed to fish from a dock or boat. This style of fishing backpack is my go-to for all my Bass and Walleye trips.

Sling Backpacks

Sling backpacks are ideal for the stream, creek, or river angler. They offer a minimalistic approach to toting your tackle and tools for long hikes. They are typically lighter, and the sling feature provides an elegant and ergonomic way to quickly slide the pack from your back to your chest.

When walking and actively fishing, you slide your gear to your back, keeping your equipment clear of your casting motion. When re-rigging, the pack can be moved to the chest position to access your tools and often a convenient work area.

This is my pack of choice for fly and light spin fishing and in any situation where I know that I’ll be covering a lot of water on foot. However, because these packs are form-fitting, you’ll need to consider that you’ll have less storage space available with this style of bag.

Hiker stands on the rock with fishing backpack and fishing rod and enjoys sunrise river view

Waterproofing

Waterproofing is an essential feature to consider when choosing a fishing backpack. Fishing equipment is expensive, and there’s nothing worse than getting water in the storage compartments holding your baits or flies.

Rusted hooks and damaged lines lead to frustration on the water and the potential for lost fish. I’ve owned many bags over the years, and I’m always bummed to learn that a pack is not as waterproof as advertised.

When choosing a fishing backpack, I would recommend looking for the one that offers the highest level of waterproofing possible for the style you’re interested in.

Price Range

All outdoor equipment has a wide range of price points these days. This also applies when looking to pick up your first fishing backpack. Packs run anywhere from fifteen bucks upwards of several hundred dollars and everywhere in between.

Price is dependent on the materials used in construction, the size of the backpack, and the overall craftsmanship. In my experience with fishing gear, you get what you pay for.

I’d rather spend a few extra bucks for a quality piece that I know will last a long time. But, on the other hand, I want my stuff to do the job it’s meant to do, and I don’t want to worry about replacing an item once it’s bought. There is, however, a sweet spot when it comes to price.

You could go crazy and spend just about anything on any piece of fishing equipment the way the market is now. Every so often, though, you find the perfect piece of mid-priced gear that meets all of your needs, and you’re happy to carry reliably for years.

Take your fishing habits in mind and choose a backpack that’s right for you. If you’re on the water four or five days a week, you probably aren’t going to want to go with the bottom-of-the-barrel budget price point pack.

On the other hand, if you only get out a few times a year, the less expensive option might be a good fit for you because you won’t have to worry about your pack getting beat up with too many days of hard fishing.

Material Quality

Our price point conversation plays right into this discussion on material quality. For example, I’m always disappointed when I order a piece of fishing gear online, only to find that the materials are of low quality with little attention paid to construction when the item is finally delivered.

I want durable fabrics, sturdy zippers, and accessory clips that can stand up to a beating. With my fishing gear, I try to look for the most rigid materials possible.

GORE-TEX is easily my favorite material for outdoor equipment, especially when I go ice fishing. It’s light and waterproof. However, It’s more expensive. On the other hand, heavy Nylon is a quality material and can be coated for additional waterproofing.

YKK zippers are great. The zipper teeth are less likely to pull apart, and the heavy material beside the zipper prevents the fabric from getting jammed up. There’s not much worse than an unreliable zipper.

Comfort

When it comes to comfort with fishing backpacks, one of the first things I look at is the padding on the shoulder straps or harness. With a good amount of padding, you can be sure that whatever weight you’re carrying won’t be digging into you on those long walks to the fishery.

I like my packs to be as light as possible with an ergonomic design to add and subtract items as I see fit. One day I might want to have a spot to store an extra rod and a water bottle, while the next, I may be going the minimalistic route. Having versatile gear when it comes to comfort is always a plus.

fishing rod. fishing backpack and the bike on the background of the river

Best Overall Fishing Backpack

This bag boasts a ton of storage space and also features two rod holders. The separate compartments for sunglasses and a water bottle are a bonus. In addition, this pack comes with four tackle trays fit to size and is sure to keep you organized.

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The Rodreel Fishing Tackle Backpack ranks high on my list based solely on its versatility. This thing is like a perfect blend between the old and the new ways anglers carry their gear. The pack comes with four stackable boxes that fit perfectly into the designed tackle storage space and just plain keeps your stuff in order.

This pack is ideal for multiple angling experiences, but I feel like it is perfect for fishing for freshwater species from a boat or dock. Getting up before dawn and lugging a bunch of boxes down to the boat launch isn’t all that fun. Throw one of these into the mix, and you can easily carry all of your tackle on your back, allowing you to take spare rods or coolers in preparation for your trip.

On one side of the pack, you have a spot for a water bottle, and on the other, a slick compartment for carrying a rod. The rod holder and water bottle pockets make this pack ideal for hiking as well. There are attachment points on the outside of the bag for tool attachments, and there’s even a pocket on the top of the backpack for a set of shades. The top of the backpack can be sectioned off for weights and sinkers as well.

This would be my choice for an all-around multi-purpose fishing backpack. This backpack falls into the mid to low range as far as price point, so gauge your expectations accordingly. With all of the tackle boxes installed, there’s not a ton of room for extras.

However, when it comes down to it, you’re getting a ton of functionality and accessories at a meager cost. The materials aren’t necessarily top-notch, but if you’re looking for an all arounder at a reasonable price, this one’s a good option.

What We Like
Perfect Fit - This backpack fits incredibly well for its size.
Two Rod Holders - The rod tie-downs are pretty slick and allow you to securely store a couple of rods when broken down. This feature adds a bit more ease negotiating rugged banks or rocky terrain.
Four Tackle Boxes - Amazingly, the tackle boxes are included at this price point. The boxes fit perfectly in their designated area and create an excellent all-in-one fishing system.
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Durability Issues - The fabric on the pack’s interior is a bit flimsy and can be prone to small tears.
No Drink Pocket Insulation - The drink compartment is just a holder, so don’t expect it to keep your drinks cold.

Best Budget Sling Fishing Backpack

This single strap shoulder pack is perfect for walking creeks and streams. The bag quickly slides from back to chest when needed and comes with a ton of attachment points for tools. The addition of a single rod holder is a plus.

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This is one of my favorite fishing backpacks on this list. I simply cannot believe that such a high-quality piece of equipment is so easy on the wallet. I would spend two to three times the cost on this bag at the drop of a hat.

I’m also partial to walking miles into the woods searching for new stretches of creeks and streams, and this pack is an excellent choice for such adventures. When you find yourself pushing off the beaten trail through the brush and over logs, you want something a little smaller and form-fitting; the fewer things to get tangled up in the terrain, the better.

This pack achieves all of these things. In addition, the materials, both inside and out, are durable, so if you do manage to get snagged on a branch or catch a hook during a cast, you aren’t going to have to worry about tearing your pack.

The strap system Himal designed for this one rivals bags that I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on. The sling system can be moved around to turn the shoulder sling into a chest or waist pack. Like other backpacks that we’ve taken a look at here, the Himal has a water bottle holder as well as a single rod holder.

Zippers and plastic clips on the bag are pretty heavy-duty. Additionally, the quality breathable material on the straps and backside of the pack makes it super comfortable and easy to slide around into different positions. This feature is invaluable as you can keep the pack out of the way of your casting stroke and away from all the action of chaotic fish strikes where avoiding line entanglement with gear is of paramount importance.

The product description advertises that this pack is waterproof, but it’s heavy nylon and not GORE-TEX; I would classify this particular backpack is water-resistant. It will keep your gear dry in medium rain, but the serious stuff or a full submersion would be a problem.

If I were to pick one budget-friendly fishing backpack at the lower end of the price spectrum, this would be it. And, for the value you get, you may as well grab one for your father, brother, sister, and cousin as a gift. Trust me; they won’t be bummed about it.

What We Like
Great Value - I love finding products that out-perform their price point. When you land on a piece of outdoor equipment that performs as well or better than other more expensive options, you’ve struck gold. This sling shoulder pack falls into this category.
Versatile - The pack easily converts from a shoulder sling to a chest pack with one simple slide.
Durable Construction - Heavy nylon prevents fabric snags or tears and provides a fair amount of waterproofing.
Comfortable - Strap and back padding make this one a joy to take out for a day on the water.
Know Before Buying
Size - This backpack is meant to be more on the minimalistic side. However, it does have room for a good amount of tackle. Its size makes it perfect for light stream fishing but, if you plan on bringing a ton of gear on a boat trip, you may want to check out one of the other packs on this list.
Busy - I love clips and tool attachment points; however, this one has a ton and might be a bit much for some anglers.

Best Fishing Backpack for Comfort

In the case of the Kastking Day Tripper, I’m willing to up my price point a bit for added technology and comfort. It’s a good-looking bag that offers added protection for your gear with a hydrophobic coating on the outside as well as a PVC coating inside to keep your equipment dry and safe.

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The Kastking Day Tripper leans more heavily towards a hybrid of a traditional backpack. It’s made of an attractive, lightweight, tear-resistant nylon coated on both outside and inside with advanced technology for added water and salt protection.

Fishing tackle isn’t cheap, and I’m willing to make sure that I have a pack to keep my equipment from getting soaked or rusted. The Day Tripper checks these boxes.

The pack truly shines in the area of comfort. The shoulder straps are well balanced and heavily cushioned. I appreciate a waist strap on backpacks to further secure the bag, and this backpack has a solid design to do just that.

This pack has a ton of pockets which I found helpful in ensuring my valuables are right where I left them. If you’re anything like me, then you’re a bit of a freak when it comes to making sure your wallet, keys, and phone are safe. This backpack helped put my anxieties at ease in this department.

I do admittedly prefer a shoulder sling bag when actively fishing; however, this backpack is perfect for mixing fishing into your hiking or camping schedule. If you’re taking children with you and need a bit more storage room than offered by a sling bag, then the Day Tripper is a good choice.

This backpack does have a little different tackle storage in that it’s accessed from the side or bottom of the bag. I initially thought this was an innovative design feature but soon realized it made it a bit tougher to access tackle boxes.

Unlike one of the previous entries in this backpack bonanza, this one does not come with tackle boxes included.

Despite a higher price and fewer included accessories, I do feel this pack is worth a look as it satisfies a specific use case as noted above.

As with all of these packs, ask yourself what your performance expectations are for your equipment and match the bag to that use case as closely as possible.

The Daytripper is worth a look for the hiking/camping angler that plans to remove the backpack on the bank for access to their gear.

What We Like
Pockets - High-end pockets for a camera or GoPro gear, plus a fantastic fleece-lined compartment for valuables like phones, keys, sunglasses, and wallets. Superior weather protection.
Comfort - High-end padding of shoulder and waist straps evenly distribute carrying weight.
Hiking - A hybrid hiking backpack with all the bells and whistles an angler needs.
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Access - A little challenging to get to tackle boxes unless the backpack is removed onshore.
Tools - As I said, I'm a little crazy when it comes to attaching retractor cords and tippet material to my packs, and the front of this pack lacks in this area.
No Boxes - Tackle boxes are sold separately.

Best Large Fishing Backpack for Boat Fishing

This is my go-to fishing backpack when on the boat. It has a vast four-tray compartment and a handy rain cover for an added layer of protection when I know some dicey weather may be in the forecast.

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I love this backpack. It’s perfect for days on the lake, in a bass boat. If you’re headed on vacation but still want to conveniently pack all of your gear and the rest of the family luggage, this one will do the trick.

This backpack is not intended to be worn while fishing, in my opinion, but it still allows you to avoid hauling a heavy traditional tackle box or a shoulder bag on your trip.

The divider in the main compartment is perfect for creating a separate section for food and drinks and another for tackle and tools.

My kids go through a lot of snacks when we’re out in our boat, and if we’re lucky enough to get invited on a friend’s boat, I still want to be able to bring everything I need for them to be comfortable without packing like we’re going out of town for a week.

It’s this exact situation where I find this backpack’s divided main compartment to be a lifesaver. I get a lot of use out of the interior transparent plastic waterproof compartment as well. For example, I usually stash my phone in there to keep it protected from the elements.

This backpack is on the heavy side, so if your fishing excursions usually involve a lot of walking, you may want to consider one of the other options from our fishing backpack shootout. However, if you’re looking for maximum storage and protection, this thing is a tank.

What We Like
Perfect For The Boat - This backpack is ideal for boat fishing.
Rain Cover Is A Great Feature - An excellent included accessory to keep your gear dry.
Tons Of Space - It fits four full-size stackable boxes and still has a separate compartment for food or rain gear.
Know Before Buying
Heavy - There’s always a give and take, and there’s no exception here. More storage means more weight. You aren’t going to want to do much walking with this bad boy.

Best Rolling Fishing Backpack

If you’re an angler who prefers to fish from a pier, especially if you’re a saltwater angler and surfcasting is your game, you can’t go wrong with this rolling fishing backpack. The telescoping pull handle and corrosion-resistant material construction make it a perfect fit for this application.

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I’d be remiss if I left out an option in this little showdown for the pier or surfcasting fisherman. I get jealous anytime I’m driving and happen to see people relaxing on a dock or bridge with all of their gear conveniently wheeled alongside them.

Enter the Recon rolling fishing backpack. This system has four PVC rod holders and a telescopic pull handle. This option allows you to use the backpack function until you hit terrain appropriate for deploying the pull handle and easily wheeling your tackle up to your ideal fishing spot.

The pack can easily store five stackable tackle trays, and the saltwater-safe corrosive resistant construction makes this fishing backpack an exceptional choice when it comes to fishing the surf.

If I were given one choice on the type of fishing backpack to use for this style of fishing, this would be it.

What We Like
Portability - The option to convert this backpack to a rolling pull behind is an exceptional feature for the pier angler.
Excellent Saltwater Option - This backpack is constructed of materials that prevent it from being damaged by saltwater, making it an excellent choice for any saltwater excursion.
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Contents Shift When Wheeled - The backpack must be leaned back to engage the wheeled function, and thus some shifting of contents does occur.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I get a fishing backpack instead of a regular backpack?

Fishing backpacks combine the effectiveness of a traditional backpack with the function of your old-school tackle box. Today’s fishing backpacks are designed with pockets, zippers, and attachments specific to the angler that wants the convenience of well-organized and easily accessible gear. It’s all about the pockets, baby!

In my pack, I know the exact location of every frequently used item. I plan ahead for long days by filling extra storage compartments with rain gear and extra food and water.

How can I put a fishing pole in a fishing backpack?

If you are hiking to a remote stream, having a couple of tie-downs on your fishing backpack to secure your fishing poles / rods is a considerable improvement compared to carrying them by hand.

Other style packs for dock or boat fishing have things like tubes or internal compartments that make bringing a backup rod a snap.

What should I put in my fishing backpack?

My fishing backpack is loaded with two or three fly boxes, dry-fly floatant, and weight material. I have attachments for tippet spools, hemostats, and a good pair of nippers for trimming tag ends on the outside of my pack.

I have a pack that can carry a backup rod, a shore lunch, and plenty of water for longer trips.

The weather is always unpredictable, so I usually have an extra hoodie and a wading jacket close at hand.

Look for a fishing backpack that has options to store and manage all of the tools and tackle for your favorite style of fishing.

How should I organize my backpack for fishing?

For bass fishing, I don’t think I could live without a pack with stackable trays. The old-school bulky tackle boxes are a thing of the past. Instead, you can have a tray for plastics, one for topwater baits, and a separate compartment for all of your hooks and terminal tackle neatly tucked away in a backpack.

There’s nothing worse than having fish hitting like crazy and searching through a tangled mess for the right baits. The fishing backpacks that we cover below will solve this problem.

How to clean a fishing backpack?

I’m being honest here. I beat the tar out of my stuff. But, the stuff that I use somehow stands up to the abuse. I do have to clean my fishing backpack from time to time, but usually I just wipe it down with a warm cloth and let it air dry.

The one instance I would suggest taking more care than I do is if you plan on hitting salt water. I learned that lesson the hard way.

In Summary

Switching over to a fishing backpack has been a game-changer for me. I’m more comfortable and more organized on the water and can more easily carry the things I need with far less hassle.

Take the time to match one of these backpacks with the style of fishing you enjoy, and I can promise you won’t regret it.

Fish on!

Geoff Stadnyk

Geoff started fishing as a child in the gorgeous lakes of Mammoth, while on family vacations. His fishing experience includes the use of fly rod and reel. Guided trips along the Madison and Gallatin rivers in Montana, the Frying Pan and Animus in Colorado, and the Deschutes river in Oregon have all paid off and helped make Geoff the angler and writer that he is today.

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