Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Simms Headwaters Pro Waist Pack Review

Like many fly anglers, I'm a gear junkie. There's nothing that gets my juices flowing like walking into a fly shop or opening the latest catalog and perusing the baubles. There is so much stuff I don't need that I must buy.

One area where I am weakest are vests. Well, not just vests, but waist packs, chest packs, traditional vests, modern vests, and sling packs. On one trip to Pennsylvania a few years ago I couldn't decide between two vests so I bought both. Somewhere out there is the perfect pack. I don't yet own it.

Currently I'm partial to the sling pack designs. I own two; one of which I'm quite fond.

Simms Headwaters Pro Waist Pack
Simms Headwaters Pro Waist Pack, $99
Last fall, Simms sent me a waist pack (Headwaters Pro Waist Pack, $99) as part of the loot from last summer's Yellowstone Blogger Tour. I had tried a competitor's waist pack a few years ago. It did the job of storing the gear but I found that being at my waist it spent a fair amount of time slightly submerged when I was wading larger rivers. So, it was with a fair amount of trepidation that I tried this new waist pack. I've fished it pretty steady through the fall and winter and I've gotten a sense for its worth.

Waist pack configuration leaves little to the imagination. Basically, they're belts with pouches. The Simms pack has three compartments with two side pockets. The outermost pocket came with a large fly patch so it could be used as an ersatz fly box. I learned long ago to stay away from these fly manglers (Fishpond was fond of these on their vests) so out came the fly patch, in went a fly box.

The Middle Pocket: Gadget Holder
The innermost main compartment is where all the big boxes, cigar case, flask, powerbars, camera, first aid kit, etc. go. It's about as voluminous as one would expect and I've yet to want for room. It also includes a couple of mesh internal pockets that allow for some organization.

The middle pocket is the gadget holder. This slim pocket has a couple of mesh internal pockets as well as two bottle holders so you can leash your floatant and desiccant. It does beat having to dig around in the bottom of the pocket for stuff you use often. I do wish that the holders were more rigid. It's difficult to "reholster" bottles one handed though it can be done.

Stuff I liked about the Simms Headwaters Pro Waist Pack

A couple of things strike me right off the bat. First, a very clean design. There are few places for a fly line to catch on. I'm always getting my line caught on one thing or another and with this pack it seems to happens less often. I've noticed that cleaner designs are becoming part of most manufacturer's lines but Simms seems to have this down well.

Shoulder Strap: Great function,
but it needs a connector for a net
Next, there's a shoulder strap. A first I couldn't discern it's purpose. But after using the pack I realized that the purpose of the strap is to keep the pack at a specific elevation on your waist. No worries about it slipping down and getting wet and if you want it to ride high all you do is shorten the strap.

Stuff I didn't like about the Simms Heawaters Pro Waist Pack
The problem with most waist packs is being able to easily see into the depths. This pack also suffers from that. The pack is soft so the larger section seems to collapse at just the wrong angle to make peering into it difficult. I find i have to reach down and pull it up to see in properly. This is partially due to my middle aged body topography but i would appreciate a slighly more rigid design that held its shape.

The large main compartment could hold a water bottle but I prefer mine on the outside. A water bottle holder would be a good addition. I've ended up clipping mine on with a small carabiner.

The should strap just begs for a loop from which to hang a net. Again, a small carabiner has done the trick but it seems like an obvious miss.

Yet to be tested
The belt portion of the waist pack is well constructed. It's got a mesh back and a rigid foam lattice that seems like it would provide good ventilation during hot weather. I've only used the pack with waders and only during cooler weather but it does appear to be design that could be beneficial during the waderless summer months.

Overall Impression
If you're a waist pack person this is a good one. Yes, if you wade deep it's going to get soggy though the shoulder strap helps to prevent this. Perhaps the greatest testament to the design is that I haven't run back to my sling pack yet. I think I've become enamored by the additional capacity a waist pack provides.

Free Stuff
In the next day or so (I'm traveling on business so time for posting is rare) I'll post a Simms scavenger hunt. Rich Hohne of Simms has provided a Simms Wading Belt and Cap as a bit of loot to distribute. Hopefully tomorrow. Maybe Thursday.


  1. I"m a fan of the sling pack. For years I used a vest, and then a fanny pack. Finally I came across the sling and love it.

    1. Sling packs are definitely the way to go. You give up some in capacity but as far as comfort I think they're unbeatable.

  2. Seems like we have a lot in common, Steve. I am a gear junkie also. Have tried all types of vests, fanny packs, chest packs, etc. Can't say I have found the perfect one yet. Do you happen to recall the Wood River Fly Fishing Bags of a few years ago? I had one and and I loved it. It was built with rigid foam so looking in was great. "Had" is the key word. Remember, I am a junkie and moved on.

  3. I'm a gear junkie too aren't we all? But, if my beautiful wife caught me buying two packs instead of just one... I wouldn't be reading and posting this but pushing daisies. I'm a modern chest pack man myself and own a William Josesph which is to small in the front and an Orvis which is to small in the back. I've often thought about cutting them apart and marrying the two into the perfect pack.

    1. I'm not a fan of cheat packs. Can't get over having the thing in front of me when I'm trying to land a fish. I think you'll have to get on ebay an look for one of those industrial strength sewing machines. Time to stitch those two packs together. :)

  4. I like to wear a kilt when I go fishing. Like all true Scotsmen (especially the ones like me who were born in England), I go commando for full ventilation. The storage is excellent.