Expert Review: Orvis Sling Pack

This review is my honest opinion of the sling pack, which I purchased with my own money twice - once in September of 2006 and once in May of 2020.

Two versions of the Orvis Sling Pack sitting next to each other.

All photos by Joseph Smith

Published on

About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the sling pack, which I purchased with my own money twice - once in September of 2006 and once in May of 2020.

My take

The Orvis Sling Pack is a durable, comfortable pack that can easily hold a day’s worth of fishing gear. The improvements Orvis has made over time have only improved on an already great sling pack.

Inside of the Orvis Sling Pack.

About the packs I own

  • Model: 2008 original sling pack and 2019 Orvis Safe Passage Sling Pack
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Size: Mid-size
  • Pack capacity: 11L
  • Pack type: Sling pack

About me

  • Height: 5’9”
  • Weight: 200 lbs
  • Experience: 40+ years of fly fishing

Test conditions

  • When I bought it: September 2006 and May 2020
  • Type of fishing trips: Day trip wading
  • What I carried:
    • Fly Box: Mayfly boxes, Bug Luggage boxes,
    • Accessories: Tippet, Indicators, Floatant, Weights, Nippers, Forceps, Leader Wallet
    • Rain Gear: Simms Freestone Jacket
    • Other: Lunch, water
  • Total pack weight: One pound (unloaded)
  • Used for: Day trips of wader fishing
  • Where I’ve used it: Primarily streams but have also used for surf fishing for bluefish and stripers
  • Seasons I’ve used it in: All seasons

How it performs

Back Breathability

What I was looking for

I originally purchased the sling pack for fly fishing in the surf for bluefish and stripers. I wanted a pack that could hold my gear, be easily accessible, and would not get in the way while casting. I liked this pack so much that when I wanted a pack for everyday stream fishing, I purchased the Safe Passage Sling Pack. Now if I only had an excuse for the newest sling pack.

Outer view of the Orvis Sling Pack.

Why I chose this pack

I originally chose this pack to hold a limited amount of fly-fishing gear while fishing in the surf. As I used it, I started to notice I was moving my saltwater gear out and putting freshwater gear in to use as my everyday stream pack. After a few trips of having the wrong gear in the pack, I knew it was time to change from my William Joseph Chest Pack to a sling pack.

Prior to purchasing a sling pack, I had used fishing vests and chest packs. As chest packs can block what is at one’s feet from one’s immediate line of vision, I wanted to use a sling pack to hold my gear while fishing in the surf. After using a sling pack, I was impressed at how easy it was to use and how well it held my gear. When the time came for a new streamside pack, I purchased another Orvis Sling Pack that had more improvements from the original.

A man wearing the Orvis Sling Pack.

What I love about it

  • Durability: These packs are durable. I still fish the surf with my original sling pack. Zippers still work despite the corrosive salt environment.
  • Weight: These packs are lightweight and even when fully packed, they do not feel heavy on the shoulder.
  • Ease of use: These packs are very easy to use. They conveniently can be slid to the front for access and then slid back out of the way. A convenient strap helps hold the pack tight to the body and prevents slippage.
  • Comfort and Accessibility: These packs are very comfortable and accessibility to the pockets is not an issue. Compared to chest packs I have owned, they are much more comfortable and the pockets are easier to get into and see what is in there.
  • Adjustability: These packs can be adjusted to make the fit very comfortable.
  • Capacity: I have always chosen the mid-size pack. The mini pack always felt too small for me and I felt the guide pack size would carry more gear than what I would need. At 11 L capacity, this pack carries all I need for a day’s worth of fishing.
  • Weather Resistance: This pack is not waterproof. Orvis does make a waterproof sling pack if that is what is needed.
  • Features: On mine, there is a tool docking station which makes frequently used tools easy to get to. On the guide size, there is a smaller pocket on the strap, an integrated net holder, and the newer version has a tippet whippet which conveniently holds tippet spools without the need for a tippet holder.
  • Organization and pockets: With each successive version of this sling pack, the organization gets better. The large main compartment has smaller pockets to help organize smaller items. A smaller external pocket can hold fly boxes and other items that would be frequently accessed.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Ease of use: This pack is really set up to be worn over the right shoulder. As I am a right-handed caster, this is not an issue. If one were a left-handed caster, this could be a potential problem with their casting arm contacting the pack. I have heard from friends who use the guide size pack that when loaded with too much gear, their right shoulder can become sore after a long day of fishing. With the smaller size packs that I use, though, I have not found this to be an issue.
  • Features: It would be nice if in future models, Orvis could include the integrated net holder and pocket on the strap in the smaller model sizes.
The Orvis Sling Pack,

Favorite moment with this gear

My favorite moment with this gear was salmon fishing in Pulaski, New York. The autumn air was crisp, and the leaves had started to change. For whatever reason, the river was uncharacteristically empty, and I had a whole section to myself with only my friend as the only visible person. On that day, chinook and coho pods of fish were coming through and we even managed a steelhead or two. Everything seemed to align for a perfect day fishing.

Value for the money vs. other options

The Orvis sling pack has become a favorite of mine. Over the years, Orvis has made improvements that have made it more user friendly and practical for a day’s fishing. This investment is worth the money. Unless one is sold on the sling pack, they should still consider other pack options. Here is a comparison of the different types with pros and cons.

Final verdict

The Orvis Sling Pack has become my go-to pack, be it my newer stream pack or the original which keeps on working for surf fishing. This pack is a great option for anglers looking for a comfortable way to carry a day’s worth of fishing gear.

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Written By
I am an avid fly fisherman. Luckily, I have a pond in my backyard exactly two minutes from my fly tying bench. If there is open water, I will fish just about every day. Although I grew up fishing the fabled streams of Pennsylvania, I love to travel and fly fish for diverse species both fresh and sa...

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