We all have our favourites. Some prefer the traditional waistcoat, some the waist pack and some the chest pack (I’ve even seem some use a plastic carrier bag). My personal preference is for the chest-pack, most of the fishing I do is in rivers, where the levels can vary drastically. I need something which sits high on my check, is easily accessible and has as little as possible to get in the way when casting. I have tried numerous chest-packs in my time, from Simms to William Joseph and I have always found that I have a problem with the way the pack sits on my neck. They all seem to put undue pressure on the back of my neck, giving me neck and back ache after a few hours (my posture when fishing doesn’t help either!). So the search was on for something which spreads the weight over my shoulders rather than my neck. I did a similar search a few years ago and settled on the Umpqua Overlook Chest Pack, I’ve been really impressed with the quality and thought that went into the design of this, so when I heard about the new Rock Creek ZS Chest Pack (ZS stands for Zero Sweep), I took the plunge and bought one.
Essentially its very similar to the Overlook 500 but much smaller (just enough room for the days flies, tippet and essentials). The “Zero Sweep” mentioned in the “ZS” makes reference to the design. The pack is designed to have no protruding buckles or snags, even when loaded with all your gear, everything is covered up (a really neat touch – and something you don’t really appreciate until you are on the water). You can tell these have been designed with great attention to detail, to give you an example:
- Retractors are attached inside on high-wear hypalon tabs and then threaded out of side ports where tools are housed for snag-free access.
- Hemostat/Forceps are attached under the front panel, there’s even a special tab to clip them to.
- They even designed their own buckle, because nothing on the market could provide the function they needed without being a snag-hazard.
I’ve now been using this chest pack for the last 6 months and have been really impressed with it. I like the way it sits high on your chest, so you can be very ambitious when your wading (and not worry about your gear getting a soaking). Yes, the design is great and the attention to detail magnificent, but for me, it’s the way it sits on my chest and back when I wear it that impresses me. It has easily extended the amount of time I can spend on the water without compromising my ability to concentrate on my fishing. It is the one thing I have bought in the last few years which has really improved my fishing! I bought the bundle where you get the Chest Pack & Overlook ZS Back Pack, I’ve not had chance to use the backpack yet, but it looks to be of a similar quality to the Chest Pack, also from the looks of it, it will spread the weight over the whole of your shoulders and back.
So, those are the good points, what about the bad points. It took me a while to think of any to be honest, here’s a few (and I am being really picky here):
- I would have preferred to have fly patch on the front which is not made of so dense a material. I only use barbless flies, and found that they would fall out easily. This was easily rectified as the fly patch is Velcro backed and it was easy to swap it with one I made myself a few years ago.
- I would like to have a version in Olive Green, just for those stealthier days!
Here’s what Umpqua say about the Chest Pack:
“This mighty little chest pack keeps things simple without compromising functionality or comfort. Comfort is the most common failure of chest packs resulting from the simple, loop neck strap that always ends up digging in. Our four-point back panel (connects over both shoulders and sides) provides all-day comfort and allows for d-ring net attachment. Our new Zero Sweep™ design is particularly useful in this pack because its streamlined/imbedded functionality take up less space. Two Zero Sweep™ retractor stations, a Zero Sweep™ tool sheath and Zero Sweep™ foam fly patch and a cord tippet holder round out this mighty little pack. Also integrates with both Overlook ZS back panels/compartments and our Surveyor 2000 ZS Backpack (sold separately).”
• Zero Sweep™
– Two internal retractor Hypalon attachment tabs
– Nipper stations/ports
– Tool sheath
– Foam fly patch station (patch included)
– Snag-free shoulder sizing buckle
• Four-point back-panel with net D-ring
• Main compartment – holds two large fly boxes
• Two front overlay pockets – flat leader storage
• Two side stretch-mesh pockets – accessories
• Cord tippet holder – holds up to 8 tippet spools
• Internal key clip and organization
• Closed-foot sliders
• YKK zippers
• Volume – 200 cubic inches (3 Liters)
• Fabric – Body fabric – 420 denier nylon – High wear locations – Ballistic Cordura®