Having led fly-fishing trips, fresh and saltwater, around the world for a quarter of a century I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing what essentials I’ll need and those random little items that can make the difference when traveling. What to pack them in and getting them there is another issue. As I prepare for an upcoming fly-fishing trip to Argentina it’s a perfect time to discuss the bags and luggage I’ve come to trust and depend upon to get my essentials securely to my destination and keep them protected once I get there.
So let’s go big for starters. It’s pretty rare on an extended trip that I don’t use one fairly good sized bag. With the complexity of travel these days and luggage restrictions the choice of what bag to take has gotten a little more complicated. I have two big luggage pieces that I’ve come to depend upon over the years that I pack the bulk of my stuff in, the Patagonia Freewheeler Max and my old trusty Black Hole Bag.
If I can stay within weight limits and a wheeled bag makes sense I use the Freewheeler Max. As I get older I find the convenience of a wheeled bag a nice option. Similar to the Black Hole Bag it’s a large but simple bag, not too many compartments and like all Patagonia bags, tough. Mine’s been through a lot, however sometimes a wheeled bag doesn’t cut it. One consideration in comparing the weight of these two bags. It’s about 10 lbs heavier. That’s similar in weight to a set of waders and boots. Since this duffel doesn’t have wheels the back pack straps are very useful and come in handy when having to haul this particular luggage piece for long distances. Another consideration that the Black Hole Bag has over the Freewheeler Max is the central divider that allows me to keep my wet stuff, or dirty cloths separate from the stuff I want to keep dry. If I was to choose between these two pieces of luggage, Black Hole Bag would be my bag of choice; lighter, plenty large enough, wet/dry options and pretty darn waterproof.
The most versatile travel bag I own is also the smallest and lightest, the Patagonia Light Weight Travel Duffel. This bag is so convenient and compact I use it for many other things outside of fishing, cycling, going to the store, camping, day trips to the river, you name it. This super lightweight duffel will easily fit in an overhead, will second as a boat bag, and when not in use, won’t even be noticed tagging along in your luggage since it packs up so small and light. My son just took the LWTD and hauled it for two month around Thailand and Laos. It didn’t look quite the same upon his return, but one quick run in the wash and it was good as new. My wife was happy about that!
I’m kind of getting carried away with Patagonia stuff here, but for good reason. I’ve used their luggage for years and have found no better substitute for traveling to the worlds fly-fishing waters. Their bags are sensible, durable and have stood the test of some very tough places. Actually hadn’t really thought about who made the bags and luggage I use until I began writing this piece. Although I have travel pieces from a number of other companies collecting dust in my basement or being occupied by my cats, it’s been a while since I’ve used them.
Gear bags are a challenge. We’re all rather particular about this gear piece. For anyone who fly-fishes a good gear bag is an essential part of your stuff. “Stuff”, can you tell I like this word! Fly-fishing gear bags you’ll find there are many to choose from. Most I’ve used over the years with some level of dissatisfaction. That is until I finally purchased the Patagonia Great Divider. I state finally since the first time Patagonia came out with this bag I passed on it. After they re-introduced the Great Divider a second time I didn’t hesitate picking one up.
Most fly-fishing gear bags aren’t waterproof and for my consideration have too many pockets. You spend half your time trying to figure out what pocket you put your stuff in. The Patagonia Great Divider is waterproof, has a few adjustable compartments, and is one tough bag. After going through a number of gear bags I realized they were all lacking in some aspect of what I needed in a bag that I use to transport valuable fly reels, journal, precious flies, camera, lenses and other essential items, whether it’s for a day floating the Green River or a trip to South America. This bag is a great carry on piece, but it’s even better out in the elements. To validate how good this bag is, everyone at Western Rivers Flyfisher owns this gear bag, I’m not the only one.
Finally, the bag I use almost as much as the Great Divider, is yet another Patagonia bag, the MLC (Maximum Legal Carry-on). From commuter business trips, to weekends in the Key’s, this unassuming piece of luggage is awesome. I own three of them. Hidden backpack straps can easily be extracted for use when you need both your hands for other things: beer, quick slice of pizza, rods or something less enticing and heavier like your other bags.
I’m fortunate to travel a fair amount. My arsenal of travel bags helps make my trips more enjoyable. They allow me to have what I need when I’m getting to my destination, yet in a manner that is uncluttered and efficient. Travel isn’t easy these days, it’s not going to get any easier either. Although there are many great gear bags and luggage pieces on the market these day, I’ve yet to find bags and luggage for travel, especially for fly-fishing that will stand up to Patagonia’s stuff.