Waterproof Backpack For Fly Fishing Put To Test

If you’re a fly fisherman, you know stalking trout can be a contact sport.

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The perfect hole is rarely a trailside experience. Thickets barricade river access, briar tears at every loose strap, and once you finally make it down to the river, slick mossy rocks are a slip away from a spontaneous swim. So, a good fishing pack has to hit a lot of marks: bomber durability, comfort, easy access, the right size, and with the ability to protect gear from the elements.

Last year, Simms put to market one of the first dry bags with a zipper opening. Patagonia has one as well, the Stormfront, a 28L pack offered at the same price.

We’ve been reviewing Simms’ Dry Creek Z Backpack for about a year now, using it for fishing (of course), and a variety of other activities, including hiking, work, travel, and even hauling our kids’ swim gear.

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Cut to the chase: the Dry Creek Z is exceptionally expensive for its limited bells and whistles. Simms offers top-shelf gear that garners top price. Even so, $300 for a day-pack will make even the most affluent angler’s eyes water.

It’s important to note that the $300 price tag is due largely to its really expensive zipper — you won’t find a pack cheaper with the same zipper — as well as heavy-duty materials and bomber construction. This is a specialized piece of gear with an affluent consumer in mind.

If you don’t mind forking out serious bucks for a small backpack, here’s a rundown of what you’ll get.

Waterproof Zipper

There are dozens of waterproof packs on the market. What makes the Dry Creek truly unique (and expensive) is the TIZIP zipper. Under the German parent company Titex, TIZIP pretty much sets the industry standard for watertight zippers — if you have a drysuit or inflatable with a zipper, chances are its got a TIZIP zipper.

(Note: See below for test of waterproofness)

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The TIZIP’s molar-sized poly teeth couple the two rubberized bands running between the teeth to seal the pack water tight. We’ve overloaded the pack several times and the zipper has yet to wince at a bloated load.

But zipping it shut takes a lot of force. To help close the zipper, a robust T-shaped zipper pull and a hypalon finger loop helps you wrench the slider around the pack. The zipper “pops” into place when shut watertight.

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Waterproof Fishing Backpack Review

The pack itself is a simple oblong shape welded to the suspension. Simms uses a heavy duty TPU coated fabric … much like what you’d find on a river raft. The panels are welded together, eliminating any needle holes (points of access for water). Because of this, it is a fairly simple shape; no form fitting arcs, no stretchy panels, just a utility bucket — a tradeoff for its waterproofness.

The pack holds its shape whether empty or full, and the 25 liters is ideal for the day tripper or work travel; I’ve stashed a laptop and a week’s worth of clothing, making it an ideal carry-on pack.

Backpack Straps, Suspension

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The breathable, water-resistant foam suspension is welded to the pack and the shoulder straps have a daisy chain and hypalon patch to attach items via carabiner or clips. A chest strap clips the shoulder straps together to keep the pack secure around the torso.

Like a streamlined alpine pack, the simple webbing hip-belt is svelte and out of the way. But because it doesn’t have padding, it won’t carry weight on the hips. But at 25L, it’s really not intended to lug a heavy load … the belt is intended to keep the pack from swaying.

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All of the pull straps roll up tight and stow cleanly out of the way of the brush or casted line.

Four exterior hypalon patches are welded to the pack, allowing you to lash your rod. A bungee shock cord is laced on the back of the pack to stow wet gear or stripped jacket.

Four internal mesh pockets, including a zippered pocket, help keep your flies, keys and license organized.

A fat strap is welded to the top of the pack to make it easy to hoist.

‘Waterproof’ Claim Tested

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It’s burly and it’s comfortable, but ultimately the pack’s merits pivot around its ability to seal out water.

The Dry Creek passed the 5-minute submersion test. But to really put the Dry Creek’s dryness to a test, I filled the pack with the most water sensitive item I could think of … toilet paper. I tossed in a few river rocks for weight, zipped it tight, and chucked the pack into a stream, and went to bed.

The following morning I retrieved the pack and heaved it out of the stream … along with about a liter of water.

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This was an extreme test, and, as noted, the pack maintained its waterproofness for shorter dips in the drink. But to me billing the Dry Creek as a 100% waterproof bag is a little misleading. When submersed for an extended time, water eventually seeped through the zipper.

We spoke to the product developer at Simms and he shared this shouldn’t have happened and that the zipper should keep the contents 100% dry when the zipper is properly seated. What went wrong? We’re not sure.

Would I put my SLR camera in the pack? Yup. I’ve done so many times and the pack keeps the contents dry from splash, deluge, and the occasional spill.

Would I bring it canyoneering? Probably not. For hours of bobbing in and out of submersion, I’d reach for a more traditional roll-top backpack.

What’s Not to Like?

Because it’s a waterproof zipper, it only has one zipper pull. So you either have to put “need-to-have” items stashed on the zipper-pull side, or be prepared to open the entire pack to get access to the inside.

The price; $300 could buy a solid, all-purpose 25-30L pack plus a set of dry sacks to keep your gear dry with some coin left over to put toward a tenkara rod.

Why buy it?

The Dry Creek is a specialist’s pack for fisherman who want easy access to all of their supplies in a highly water resistant package. Instead of rooting around for supplies at the bottom of a top-loading, roll-top pack, the TIZIP horseshoe access allows complete, open access to the pack’s contents.

Bottom Line

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While we liked the durability and size of the Dry Creek for day-to-day use, it’s really targeted to the user who can’t compromise on accessibility or waterproofness. And this is what ultimately tips this pack over the traditional roll-top drybag style pack or even its nearest competitor, Patagonia’s 28 L Stormfront (also $300). Simms uses burlier materials, has a longer zipper to provide more access and a bungee cord to strap wet gear or stash a jacket.

Even though we found a chink in the Dry Creek’s 100% waterproof billing, the pack is tough as nails and is resistant enough to make it an ideal pack for fly fishing or other wet sports.

Simms Dry Creek Z Backpack

  • Fabric: Waterproof 840D TPU coated fabric
  • Weight: 30.4 oz.
  • Capacity: 25L
  • Dimensions: 19” x 12” x 7”
  • Size: One size fits all
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Contributing Editor (and Gear Junkie Idaho Bureau Chief) Steve Graepel is allegedly a crook and a thief, conning his friends to steal away time from their families in pursuit of premeditated leisure, which typically involves a bike, a pack-raft, skis, running shoes, climbing rack, or all of the above.

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