Tony Liparota, rod builder extraordinaire, trout tragic and gear junkie explains how he keeps his cameras dry on the river.
If like me, you occasionally like to carry substantial photography equipment on a fishing trip, you may well have been through the same laborious search for a solution to carrying said equipment in an effective way that also adequately protects it from the elements. Or perhaps you are just looking for larger than normal packs(s) for lots of fishing and other outdoor gear without going all the way to a large back pack.
In the past, when carting around a DSLR and couple of lenses, I have used waterproof back packs and they do the job just fine apart from one thing that I find annoying which is the access to the camera is not easy or fast enough. I know I’ve missed many good photographic opportunities due to that factor, and I don’t like carrying a heavy expensive camera with a neck strap too much of the time as I know a dunk in the water could mean a few thousand dollars worth of equipment could be trashed very quickly.
I have been field testing the Patagonia Stormfront sling and hip packs over the last month, most recently during ten days of fishing in New Zealand, and feel I have found the solution to my style of fly fishing and photography while on the water. For the NZ trip I dedicated the sling pack to photography gear and the hip pack to fishing. In the case where only fishing essentials are being carried or perhaps just smaller more compact cameras are brought along, either of the packs is sufficient for the task on their own. The sling pack has a bigger capacity, and of course having both provides a lot more flexibility for setting up according to different scenarios.
Both are essentially a one compartment pack with a few internal zip pockets designed to hold relatively flat items such as tippet spools, spare leaders, etc. They each have a smaller external compartment which is handy for keeping smaller items like phones, wallets, bug spray and the like isolated away from the main gear. Having been designed for fly fishing they have external attachment points for zingers, tippet dispensers, fly patches and forceps so that they can easily be accessed without having to open the pack each time.
Sling pack capacity: 20 litres
Hip pack capacity: 9 litres
My sling pack has been typically loaded with: Canon full frame DSLR with 70-200mm lens mounted, 24-70mm lens, Canon EOS-M mirrorless camera with 11-22mm lens mounted, Olympus TG-850 compact camera, large folding filter pouch containing six filters, Hoodman Loupe, spare memory cards, spare batteries, and a light weight rain coat. Even with all that in the pack, there was still room for my lunch, and the DSLR was easy to get in and out.
My hip pack has been loaded with: four fly boxes; two of the large C&F boxes, one medium and one small box, sun gloves, bug spray, hand held UHF radio, spare tippet spools, spare packs of leaders, floatant x 2, phone, wallet, car keys. All fit quite easily with a bit of wiggle room to spare. On the outside I hung forceps, line clipper, fly patch and tippet dispenser.
I found wearing both at the same time more than comfortable enough all day long.
I have been impressed with the design and build quality, and the large waterproof zips are the best I have come across …. they lock with an assuredness that gives me confidence my gear will be well protected from the watery elements. Recently fishing one afternoon during constant fairly heavy rain was a good test for the packs and everything stayed perfectly dry as hoped for.
At AU$250 each they are not inexpensive, however my view is that if a product provides the functionality I need and is built robust enough to last many years, then I am ok with forking out the extra few dollars.
Tony Liparota is a partner in Hardcore Element custom rods.