The Patagonia Vest Front Sling offers the organizational excellence of a vest, without vests’ weight and warmth.
Slings are great—unless you’re constantly swinging them around to access what you need. The Patagonia Vest Front Sling puts a few pockets right where you need them, and stashes lesser-used items (like a jacket and snacks) behind your back, which makes this vest one of the best designs tested.
Organization This sling does an impressive job of keeping (almost) everything right at the users fingertips. On the front, there’s a foam fly patch, one pocket that’s perfect for tippet, a larger one that holds a fly box, a curved zippered pocket that proved handy for weight, and a fourth “interior” zippered pocket that could hold leaders. There are plenty of rubber patches for optimized placement of a hemostat and there is even a stretchy pouch for flotant. When set up properly, changing flies and re-rigging a rod is possible without ever having to reach the back compartments. A waterproof pouch protects a phone, and two zippered compartments (plus a plethora of stretchy pouches) keep things separated. This pack falls short with net storage and usage. In testing, we tried multiple storage configurations and found a net difficult to configure and use successfully.
Comfort The design of the Sling does a good job distributing the payload—even when weighted with a full water bottle and DSLR camera, testers’ shoulders never felt strained. And it gives both arms full freedom of movement for casting.
Adjustability The Patagonia Vest Front Sling is perfect for average and tall anglers, and the waist straps allow adjustments for bellies big and small. Only the shortest of short people aren’t accommodated by this pack as the front strap bags loosely on testers under 5’3” which resulted in it sliding off the shoulder.
Ventilation The lightweight, ripstop polyester feels unoppressive, even on 90°F afternoons. Every part of the vest that touches the body is made of polyester spacer mesh that creates little air pockets between your skin and the fabric, keeping things relatively cool.
Water-resistance Beyond the waterproof pocket within the main compartment, there’s little that’s water-repellant about this pack. But once soaked (by rain or deep water) it dries quickly (within a half-day).
Capacity The 8-liter capacity is big enough for fishing gear and a rain shell or fleece, however some will overstuff the pack.