Anglers enjoy a thrill in catching any wild fish but the experience of hooking wild fish in wilderness waters after hiking miles – and sometimes, days – to access those waters, often proves to be truly magical.
Backpacking anglers need quality gear to get them to camp, gear for camp, and gear for fishing. The options for all three categories are myriad, but to help cut through the confusion over what to pack, we’ve found a few items that will work for well for any wilderness angler.
REI Co-Op Flash Pack 55L
Anytime you add a sport to your hiking adventures, you’ll also add more gear weight. Adding fishing to your backpacking adventures means toting along rod, reel, and tackle. To counter the added weight of the sporting gear, smart hikers trim their overall pack weight, and a great way to do that is to go with a lightweight pack. The updated REI Flash 55 offers a ton of cargo space, with a comfortable harness system, at just 2 lbs, 10 oz, total weight (size M). The pack’s suspension system proved capable of hauling 35+ pounds with ease, though we found a load of 20-25 pounds was as much as was needed for a fast-overnight trip to wilderness lakes. The Flash 55 sports an internal hydration reservoir sleeve, a number of pockets – including a huge ‘stuff-it’ back pocket – and a removable top pocket. The Flash 55 carried our camp and fishing gear up Idaho’s remote Kelly Creek Trail – a cutthroat haven! – and into scores of Alpine lakes in Washington’s Cascades. The pack rode comfortably and securely in all terrains, without unbalancing the hiking angler regardless of the terrain. $199. Buy now
Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Folding Poles
Traditional trekking poles are great for hiking but are generally too long and bulky when compacted to carry as wading staffs. Wading staffs are great support in the water but lack the durability needed for use while hiking endless trail miles. The Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Folding Poles, though, tackle both tasks with aplomb. The CF Folding poles break down to just 16.75 inches long and slide into a slim nylon storage pack that can be clipped to a belt. When extended, though, the poles stretch to 54 inches, giving even the tallest hikers plenty of reach on the trail – or in the river. The CF Folding Poles held up to all the abuse our 6’2”, 235-pouind tester could heap on them. For a mix of wading and hiking, we found it best to abandon the mud baskets – they tend to create drag in the rivers – and go with straight, slim poles. The carbide tips provide a solid bite on muddy trails and slim-slick river rocks. Each pole weighs just 8 ounces, making this a great lightweight option for hikers and waders. And they are ridiculously affordable. $45. Buy Now
Benchmade Griptilian Knife
Hikers and anglers all appreciate a good knife, and the Benchmade Griptilian series of knives were seemingly designed for these activities and users. The Griptilian knives can be configured with straight edged blades or partially serrated blades, and those blades are offered in three different shapes – drop-point, sheepsfoot, and tanto. All the blades are strong and functional. Outside the blade, the Griptilian earns its name from the roughly textured handle scales. The glass-strengthened nylon handle scales are easy to grip, even when soaking wet, and when your hands are cold-numbed from playing in icy river water. The 3.5-inch blade opens to create a knife length of 8 inches. The blade locks open with Benchmade’s patented Axis lock system – a slick locking bar that slides into the blade shank. The Axis lock is incredibly reliable but easy to operate. The Griptilian is a perfect folding knife for hikers and anglers. $120-$145. Buy now
MSR Windburner Stove System Combo
One of the benefits of fishing wilderness waters is the option of adding fresh protein to your camp meals. Even hardcore catch-and-release anglers should consider cooking up a few fish when prowling stocked alpine lakes – many of these remote lakes are actually overpopulated due to a lack of natural predators, so catching and cooking a few fish is actually beneficial to the overall population in the lake.
MSR’s Windburner Stove System Combo is ideally suited for preparing traditional backpacking meals, as well as for sautéing fresh fish. The Combo includes a ceramic-coated nonstick 8-inch frying pan to tackle the task of cooking tender trout. There is also a 2.5-liter saucepan to handle heating large volumes of water for rehydrating meals, or cooking pasta. The Windburner stove itself is a powerful cooker that can quickly boil water, but it can also be lowered to a low simmer to handle the delicate task of cooking trout without burning. The complete cook system weighs just 1 lb, 13 oz, and includes the frying pan, saucepan, locking strainer lid, and burner. All nest together into a 6.5-inch tall by 8.5-inch wide cylinder. $260. Buy now
Orvis Pro Wading Boots
All too often, wading boots feel more like ski boots than hikers. They tend to be bulky, heavy, and stiff. Not so the new Orvis Pro Wading Boot. These incredibly durable boots fit like a running boot, protect like a hiking boot, and grip like crampons on snow. Orvis partnered with Michelin to develop a rubber for the outsole to achieve that last trait: The firm grip on slick surfaces. Testing shows the Michelin Outdoor Extreme outsole boasts a 43-percent improvement in grip compared to other rubber outsoles used in wading boots. Our field tests weren’t that exact, but we found the rubber on par with felt in grip on slime-slickened river beds. The lightweight, supportive upper features a unique design. Orvis employed a cast PU upper that eliminates seams while providing incredible stability and ankle support. While wading rivers from the Yakima to the Yellowstone, we found that these boots are light, tough, and supportive. They also give anglers incredible traction on slick surfaces. In short, they are ideal wading boots. $229. Buy now
Patagonia Middle Fork waders
Patagonia’s Middle Fork waders are the lightest, most compact waders available, making them ideal for backpacking and wilderness fishing. In order to keep weight down, Patagonia eliminated most secondary features from the Middle Fork waders. The waders feature a single interior pocket. The Middle Fork Waders are designed for backpackers and adventure-travel anglers, though many of our testers also enjoyed using the Middle Forks as a warm-weather option when hittingwade ice-cold mountain streams in hot weather. $378 Buy now