Stillwater season is in full swing here in the Southern Hemisphere and is normally the time we all suffer from the ‘have pockets will fill’ mentality when packing our fly-vests. It would seem it is an acute disease brought on by winter with the primary symptom being the dire need to test out the seam strength of each pocket in our vests, filling it up with every item short of a float-tube anchor (though it probably weighs more).
Since the launch of Vagabond Fly Mag we have been fortunate to put numerous top-end gear items through the test in real-world conditions. Driven by this and also because we fish a vast array of waters and conditions for various species, we have come to demand the following of every gear item we take along:
- Quality, Durability & Design
- Simplicity without negating on innovation & the necessities
- Versatility & where possible, customizable
- All-day comfort & fit
- Manufacturer Warranty & Local Support
- Affordability – amalgamating all of the above & offered at a fair price-point for the package
We can end the review right here and conclude that the Patagonia Stealth Atom Sling ticked all these off with ease and quite frankly blew them out of the water – but the magic happens in the detail so read on!
If nothing else, sling packs remove the clutter from your chest, free up your arms’ range of movement and reduces those nasty line snags that are normally found dangling from your chest.
The uprising in sling packs has been driven by a market crying out for a simplified and minimalistic approach to the old fly-vest and lumbar pack systems and at the same time still be able to carry along the proverbial ‘kitchen sink’. If nothing else, sling packs remove the clutter from your chest, free up your arms’ range of movement and reduces those nasty line snags that are normally found dangling from your chest.
The Patagonia Stealth Atom sling when launched was immediately on our radar not only because of its great looks, but it comes from the same stable that brought us the iconic Patagonia Sweet Pack Vest. Vagabond Fly had the opportunity really test its applications for the Stillwater fly fisher and found it to be a great alternative from the norm.
THE INS-&-OUTS OF THE PATAGONIA STEALTH ATOM SLING
Off the bat it is clear that no corners were cut in terms of quality of materials and construction used and the design team clearly has great insight into the psyche of the fly fisher. Simply unclipping a single clip allows you to swing the pack from back-to-front effortlessly and similarly keeps the main pack on your back and out of the way when fastened. The adjustment straps have been left extra-long to accommodate various body shapes and sizes – elastic loops on each strap keeps any slack or strap tabs out of the way once the final adjustments have been made…see, only a fly fisher will understand the importance of this!
Essentially it consists out of two components, the padded adjustable shoulder strap and the actual main pack both adorned with the necessary gear hooks and attachment holders. Patagonia’s product video highlights all the main features perfectly; here are the ones that really grabbed our attention during the test:
Padded Adjustable Shoulder Strap:
- The utility keeper is perfectly situated to attach some of those essentials you use more often without getting in the way –floatant, fly-patch & nippers (on a zinger)
- Enough lash-points to keep the most critical gear hoarder happy – we only used one to strap our Loon Tippet Stack 2X, 4X, 6X & 8X Fluorocarbon was always at the ready.
- The fleece lined zipper pocket had us scratching our heads as it did not hold any item we would normally keep at such close quarters – then we discovered it is the perfect place to keep a small pair of scissors and our box of yarn indicators.
- The water bottle holder is out of the way yet easy to access and the elastic securing lasso meant that not once were we left chasing a rogue runaway water bottle down the bank.
- Though the molded front workstation saw very little use from us, the inside pockets of this compartment kept all our spare leaders, supplementary weight (aka lead putty), scale and additional tippet spools securely in place.
- The foam fly-pad came in surprisingly handy and because it is so easy to sling the pack around we found ourselves using this all the time.
- The main compartment is a cavern! Three large fly-boxes and a small sunscreen simply slipped in and were easy to get in and out of the bag.
- The waterproof bag is a handy addition to keep cellphones and car keys safe and kept these items bone dry during pouring rain and an unplanned dunk! Personally we would flip it around to allow for easier access and not have it open to the bottom.
- The larger fleece lined pocket is great for keeping sunglasses between trips and for our social media photos, Colin was able to have is cellphone close by at any given time – it held an iPhone 6 with no problem.
- The D-Ring is placed at the top of the shoulder when the pack is on your back and we used this to attach our nets and magnetic holders to just in case Mr. Double Figure came-a-knockin’.
- The external utility keepers once again allowed you to attach tools and zingers effortlessly to the pack and never had us wanting for more.
DOES THE PATAGONIA STEALTH ATOM SLING FIT YOUR MOULD?
Given, not for everyone as some of our Adboard Members pointed out simply because they prefer a vest or chest-pack system out of habit. For those who spend a lot of time on their float-tubes, though not ideal, we found the pack to work quite well as a make-shift chest-pack. Whether using a vest or chest-pack, we personally prefer to pack all our tools, fly-boxes and gear into the side pockets of our tubes to avoid any additional line snags so never found this to be a consideration.
Pieter loved the fact that he could still wear his DSLR on his chest and comfortably swing the pack around for easy access to his arsenal of tools & flies (no really, he is a walking fly-shop!).
What was noticeable over the 6 week review is that not one reviewer had their fly-line snag on any dangling tool or strap and when fishing 6X tippet to double figure fish in winter these almost always prove to be fatal. Increasing the odds in your favour to land more trophies should be enough to put this sling-pack on your shopping list.
SO LET US LOCK IT DOWN…
Apart from those feature we already elaborated on, what really stood out with the Patagonia Stealth Atom Sling for us was:
- Superior build quality & durability.
- Killer looks & design
- Customisable to the nth degree – lay it out for your own style & comfort.
- Extremely Comfortable fit – far superior to that of a standard lumbar pack.
- Once packed, able to hold all the essentials for a day on our stillwaters.
- Priced perfectly for a product of this caliber.
The Patagonia Stealth Atom Sling receives the Vagabond Fly Double Thumbs up and we will recommend this to any Stillwater angler who wants to simplify their approach, reduce the risk of line snags and spend the day in comfort focusing on targeting bruisers!