If you’ve read our earlier review of Camelbaks, you know we really like these type of products. You can’t beat them on even moderate hikes for hydration. Much more convenient than hand-carrying a Nalgene bottle or looping one onto your belt. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the benefit of a Camelbak when fly fishing with a traditional vest – no place to put the reservoir. That’s all changed with the new generation of vest/packs. Fishpond makes a number of really excellent versions. But the one that caught my eye, with an ideal combination of features (at least for me) was the L.L.Bean Rapid River Vest Pack.
Out of the box (actually more of an packing envelop from L.L.Bean fulfillment center), the Rapid River arrived exactly as expected from the venerable retailer looking very rugged and well made in a conservative taupe and black color combo.
Holy smokes, the Rapid River packs (pun intended) an amazing number of pockets and features into a vest. According to the L.L.Bean website there are 18 pockets and after more than a year of use, I’m still discovering where they all are.
Eight are located on the front of the vest including a stretch mesh pocket that is perfect for holding tippet spools. Two of these pockets hold foam fly patches, which frankly I find completely useless. This is a very small criticism since the patches easily detach from the hook and loop making room for traditional fly boxes. Behind these chest pockets are at least two other pockets on each side of the vest interior. Two additional pockets are on the belt, and another three make up the Rapid Rivers’ pack (the main compartment is expandable). That makes for a total of 17 that I’ve found so far. Hopefully I’ll find the 18th pocket soon ‘cause with all the gear I’m hauling around these days, I’m going to need it.
Weight: 2 lbs 11 oz
Capacity: Estimated 200 cu in/1 l
Beyond the pockets, there are a number of other useful features. Two built-in zingers on the front, small webbing tabs for attaching hemostats, multiple loops on which you can clip fishing licenses, floatant and other items, etc. The pack has a hook for the aforementioned hydration bladder and will easily accommodate a 100 oz (3 liter) reservoir. There’s a loop on both shoulders for routing the tube.
Like I said, the Rapid River has an amazing number of features.
In addition to all the storage, the Rapid River provides a great deal of adjustment – at the shoulder, the side and belt — and should fit just about anyone. I wear a size 40 jacket and the regular fit me perfectly. With these adjustments, the Rapid River can fit over multiple layers for cooler weather fishing or cinched down when you’re wearing on a t-shirt in the warmer months. There’s a larger size also available.
Great vest. And great pack. In fact, this might be the perfect combination of the two. At $99, it’s also a great value.
Fly fishing vest/packs are available at L.L.Bean, American Fly Fishing, Fly Fishing Outfitters, and Platte River Fly Shop.
Thanks for reading another review from GearGuide. Written by Matt K.