A while back I wrote a review on the very handy HPA Sooper Trooper Hip pack . This review drew an unusually high number of email queries (which is cool because i love a bit of feedback) but what was odd was that nobody wanted to know about the Sooper Trooper – all the questions were about the enormous pack on my back in one of the photos.
If you haven’t heard of HPA don’t worry. Their reputation is largely built on the quality of their saltwater kit such as the Jig King and Popper store and you know that when some of the finest big game anglers in the world are using a brand like HPA that it’s time to take notice – these guys are meticulous and leave nothing to chance. HPA also create luggage and water borne equipment for a number of different militaries around the world and as such the quality and attention to detail of their kit is beyond doubt.
The bag I use is the Dry Backpack 40l in HD Orange and let me tell you it’s HUGE! 40 litres doesnt sound a lot but in this case it’s more than plenty, this bag is absolutely cavernous. Bought to use as my main guiding pack while i was in the Seychelles for two years (ahem), the size of the bag was appropriate for the amount of kit, water, food and clothing needed for two clients and myself for a day on some very remote flats. It just swallows things. If you’re looking for a pack with plenty of space then the Dry BassPack really is worth checking out. It’s a roll-top design which I far prefer to a zips which often dont seem to hold up around salt water. The roll top design also enables the wearer to control the phyisical size of the pack – if you’re not filling it then just roll more material out of the way.
Straight out of the cellophane the first thing you’ll notice about the BassPack is the heavy duty nature of the material – this bag really feels military spec. The double walled material isnt just 100% waterproof though, it’s insulated too which means that it can keep its contents cool in the warmest weather. All the clips feel more sturdy than normal, all the straps and webbing thicker than most other packs. The almost total absence of metal on the BassPack makes it entirely corrosion resistant – salt water is no issue at all. In fact water of any kind is no issue at all – I’ve done plenty of swimming with the BassPack either on my back or used as a float and never had any issues with any water ingress.
A key feature for me in the buying decision was a lack of pockets. I know that sounds weird but stay with me. I’ve come to a zen-like understanding that pockets are organisers not space creators. Internal pockets actually reduce overall capacity and can make life harder – this is something I touched upon in the Sooper Trooper review. The Dry Basspack has no internal pockets, just a black hole of open space that devours anything you throw in there. The external pocket is large enough for a smaller fly box and has drainage holes – remember when you’re in the water that this pocket is designed to let water in and out!
It’s definitely worth noting that this is not a specialist fly fishing designed rucksack. The side straps will hold rod tubes but keep an eye on them because they can work loose and wriggle out, and the small loops below the side straps were too small to sit the larger rod butts of a 9# or 12# in to. I’ve also had to Heath Robinson my net magnet on with some very heavy monofilament as there are no loops for things like nets.
What sets the BassPack apart though is the quality of material and build. A day on the flats with a fully laiden pack can be hard work but the intelligent design of the straps and padding spreads the load across your strongest muscle groups. No matter where I’ve been in the world or what I’ve had in this backpack i cant remember it ever feeling uncomfortable or a burden.
In all likelihood to 40l BassPack is going to be a little on the large size for most recreational anglers so I would also suggest a glance at the smaller 25 litre version. It may also be slightly under-designed for the tackle tarts out there too but I know that every guide, industry designer or manufacturer has commented on the practical simplicity and obvious durability of this “tough as old boots” back pack. If you’re a regular salt water angler and you havent looked at HPA luggage and tools then I would highly recommend you check them out.