August 18, 2016 4 min read

Fishpond Thunderhead Sling Pack

There’s an irony to fly fishing: we seek out beautiful waterways only to spend so much time, not to mention money, preventing ourselves and our things from getting wet. It’s understandable: whose wife (or husband) would believe the ‘I’m home late and I didn’t call you because my phone dunked in the river” excuse? It’s the fly fisherman’s dog and homework, except, in most cases much more expensive, and a much bigger hassle, especially when you’re on a trip, deep in the woods.

Who wants to deal with that? Or even the worry of that? Not me — not now.

It’s why I’ve spent a bunch of time over the last few years trying out different water proof fishing packs. I recently tried out the Fishpond Thunderhead Sling and loved it. But before I get into that, I always set out with some criteria when I look for a new pack.

In looking for a waterproof pack, I look for the following features:

  • Is it actually waterproof?
  • If I’m going to wear it, how comfortable is it actually?
  • Can I fit what I need to in it?
  • And — the ever-present question — how expensive is it?

Want to see a video review of this?
Check out the first episode of Gear & Beer here for a review of the Fishpond Thunderhead Sling!

Fishpond Thunderhead: Air and watertight

My dad and I were debating just how waterpoof the Thunderhead sling pack is the other day when, later that day, an event completely settled all debate.

He was using the pack and fishing the incoming tide on a sandbar separated from the beach by a narrow but fairly deep channel. At 6’ 4” and a competitive ocean swimmer, he’s not phased by water and so, when the tide had come in sufficiently to push him off the sandbar, he crossed back to the beach with water up to his neck, his toes barely touching, and the sling pack floating along behind him. (Note: he was wet wading, without the weight of waders, otherwise I would never recommend this.)  Nothing in the bag was wet — not his wallet, phone, or fishing equipment.

As a test, if you zip up the bag when its empty and then squeeze it, you’ll see the zipper doesn’t let any air out. The welded construction and submersible zipper make it completely waterproof.

A Sling of Comfort

I’ll admit up front, sling packs aren’t for everyone. Some are devoted to their old-school vests, and some love their lumbar packs. I gave up the former for the latter, and now use both slings and lumbar packs. My only issue with slings is that, like a heavy messenger bag, they can sometimes cut into your shoulder, or rub uncomfortably against your neck, resulting in red abrasions or uncomfortable chaffing.

Not so with the Fishpond Thunderhead. The sling itself is comfortable over the shoulder for sustained periods of time. Swinging it back and forth is easy, and doesn’t result in any chaffing. Like a backpack, the back also has a fine mesh with some gaps to let air breath. Do I still get a sweaty back? Yep. But anything in the summer sun is going to do that.

Big Enough

The sling pack also fits what you need. My dad, when he spin fishes on salt, fits 4-5 plastic containers of soft plastics and plugs into the bag. I can fit a bunch of fly boxes, plus my DSLR as well. I’ve never felt I like I needed more room for day trips out. In fact, if you had more room and you used it, it would likely be uncomfortable.

Now, if you’re packing for a multi-day trip and looking for a waterproof pack, this clearly isn’t designed for that. This is the perfect solution for day trip, or use over multiple days with another pack.


I’d only have two small criticisms of this pack — and they’re small. First, the interior pouch, which is clearly designed for a wallet, cellphone, etc, is not itself waterproof. Now, mind you — water has never gotten into this pack, and I doubt it will if properly closed. But for peace of mind, and for the time when I forget to properly close it, I’d love for that interior pouch to be waterproof. Second, I don’t understand all of the exterior tabs. Some, I get, but other leave me wondering what I should do with them. I feel like product accessories like this should be intuitive, not confusing.


We’ve loved using the Fishpond Thunderhead sling pack this summer. It’s comfortable, it’s water-tight, and, at just under $200, it’s at a comparable price point to the other sling packs out there.

I’d highly recommend this pack for anyone looking for a sling pack for fresh or saltwater. Now get out there!

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