Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Unpacking: Fishpond Westwater Guide Lumbar Pack

Unboxed. Distinctively Fishpond.
Today a package arrived from somewhere out west where Fishponds are hatched. Enclosed was the Fishpond Westwater Guide Lumbar Pack pictured at right.

I've been using a Simms waist pack* for a few months now. I tried lumbar packs years ago, an early offering from Orvis I believe, but it was just too much of a compromise from the vests of the day. I switched to Fishpond vests for a while. I liked their functional design, fit and overall comfort. Then along came Sling Packs (I never reviewed the Orvis one, but I like it a lot) and, finally, Simms hooked me with their waist pack.

The one real disadvantage of most waist pack offerings on the market is that they're not waterproof. Sure you can wear your waist pack high up on your back. That's why they all have shoulder straps, to keep them from slipping down into the water. But if you're going to really wear it near your waist, you'll someday be tempted to wade one step too deep and you pack'll get drowned. I do that several times a season.

Most of the major manufacturers have come out with packs made of a material which is a relative newcomer to the sport -- thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). This is a material that can be worked like a fabric, stands up to abuse, and keeps things dry. I think Orvis was the first to market with their Gale Force line and Simms has it's Dry Creek offering. Or maybe it was the other way around.

I've never used these packs. It pains me to say that it's not because I don't appreciate or desire their waterproof capabilities. While I'm not out on the water to look fashionable, it's the aesthetics that get me. They're ugly. They look like some alien seed pod. I've seen what Aliens** can do. I want no part of it.

So Fishpond comes out with a TPU offering and ups the ante a bit. It actually has some sense of style to it. It looks like something more than a pod to store gear in. While the TPU material has some look and feel issues that can't be avoided, this product actually looks like it belongs in the Fishpond line-up.

The pack is about 20% larger than current offering by Orvis and Simms.  I have no doubt that this pack will swallow a bunch of gear. The interior is essentially a large open pocket with two organizing pockets against the back wall one of which is made of a clear material so you can see what's at its bottom.

After the Simms pack (and most vests for that matter) which have a place for everything, basically having to put everything in one large pile will be a change. I suppose those back pockets will provide some organization for the small stuff that usually gets lost. I'll load this out in the next day or two and let you know.

Outside there's a single waterproof pocket, I'm thinking for a fishing license, as well as many places to lash zingers and such. There are also some sturdy looking D-Rings and zinger points on the belt. Tag ends of straps are secured from flapping by elastic keepers. Handy.

My complaint about most waist packs is that they don't have a place for a net (other than stuffed in the belt). I'm not sure why adding a D-Ring to the shoulder strap is so much trouble but Fishpond has come up with a unique solution -- a passthrough slot in the back of the belt. You still have to stick it in your belt, but they've design it that way. I'll be interested to see how well that works in practice.

Hopefully I'll get this out for a spin on the water in the next week or two and give you some first impressions. In early September I'm bringing it to Idaho and Wyoming for some dedicated time on the water. That'll be a fine test of it's practicality.

See you around the west.

*Fanny Pack = Lumbar Pack = Waist Pack. Though I suppose some marketing type will correct me.
** Sigourney Weaver. Space Marines. Blowin' shit up. Nuff said.

Disclosure: This pack was sent to me gratis. I'd like to think that doesn't matter in the words that I chose. You judge for yourself.

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