Simms Headwaters Chest Pack review

Simms' Headwaters Chest Pack is designed to be used as an alternative to a traditional fly fishing vest, sling pack or waist pack. However, this pack can do a number of things a fly vest can't.

Simms Headwaters Chest Pack review
© Fly and Lure
Simms Headwaters Chest Pack review
Picture copyright © Fly and Lure
Simms Headwaters Chest Pack review
Estimated reading time 6 - 9 minutes

How does the Simms Headwaters Chest Pack work?

The Simms Headwaters Chest Pack is designed to be worn, as the name suggests, on your chest. A strap fitted with a soft, wide and comfortable neoprene support goes around the back of your neck, while a strap with a quick-release clip on goes around your waist.

What type of fishing is it designed for?

Simms fishing products are designed mainly for fly fishing, however, there's no reason why you shouldn't also use this when lure fishing - I do. It has a number of neat features that make it more practical than many lure fishing bags and packs.

How many pockets does it have?

The Simms Headwaters Chest Pack is not low on pockets! There are three main ones: a fold down front pocket with tray, a fold-down middle pocket with tray and a padded rear compartment. Each of these is also subdivided and has various other pockets and compartments.

My Simms Headwaters chest pack has been heavily used.

What can you fit in the pockets?

The front pocket: The front section has a slim zipped pocket on the outside. I'm not entirely sure what you're supposed to put in here and it seems to be there more for aesthetic value than practicality.

You could probably get your licence in there, but the pocket isn't waterproof, so anything you put in here is at risk of getting soggy.

The front pocket zips down via two zips with lovely ergonomic zippers. This reveals a tray into which you can attach a velcro-backed fly patch. I use mine to keep my used flies out of the way and it works really well.

The middle pocket: The main middle pocket on the Simms Headwaters Chest Pack is the biggest. The front part has room for a large fly box (I can fit one of those double-sided Orvis fly boxes in here no problem).

It folds down flat so you can use it as a tray, which is really, really useful - and something you won't find on the average vest.

At the back, there are a couple of compartmentalised pockets that I use to store my leaders, floatant and sinkant in.

There are also a couple of special floatant holders, however, these appear to be made for very large bottles as my Gink bottle is far too small.

The rear pocket: The rear pocket is very deep and padded. At the top there's a tiny velcro pocket, though I'm not entirely sure what you're supposed to put in it.

I use this pocket to store spools of tippet. There are half a dozen in here and plenty of room for other stuff, like my car keys, phone and a priest, if I need one.

You can fit a surprising amount of stuff inside the pockets.

Doesn't it get in the way when you're fishing?

Obviously it's bulkier than a vest, but it doesn't really get in the way much. The Simms Headwaters Chest Pack has some side pull cords that allow you to adjust the waist band and effectively move the chest pack up and down your body.

If you find it's restricting your casting or retrieving, just move the pack up or down until it's out of the way. The same applies if you're wading deep, just give the straps a tug and you can lift it up out of the way of the water.

How comfortable is the Simms Headwaters Chest Pack?

I've fished some long days with the Simms Headwaters Chest Pack, often with the pack loaded with heavier bits of gear. Obviously you can feel some weight there, but the soft, wide strap spreads this out and it's very comfortable to wear for long periods.

What are all the clips for?

The Simms Headwaters Chest Pack is designed to be used with the Simms Headwaters Day Pack. The extra clips on the Chest Pack allow you to attach it to the Day Pack.

When I'm going on a longer session and am carrying a flask, lunch and spare clothes, I tend to put that in the Day Pack and then clip the Chest Pack to the rear until I reach my spot.

I can then either wear the Chest Pack around my neck, or if I prefer, attach it to the clips on the front straps of the Day Pack so the weight is all on my back.

It's a clever idea and it works really well, so it's comfortable to wear even if you're hiking for a few miles to reach your favourite spot.

Can you store the straps?

Yes, if you're not using the neck strap there's a concealed pocket on the back of the Simms Headwaters Chest Pack to allow you to tuck the strap out of the way so it doesn't flap around and get tangled in your fly line.

Where do I store snips and forceps?

Like most fly fishing vests, there's nowhere to immediately attach and connect your snips and forceps and you'll need to buy zingers and rectractors.

The side of the Simms Headwaters Chest Pack does feature two leather patches which are pre-cut with holes to take the pin from the pin-on Simms Retractors.

I bought a couple of these (they're about £7.99 each) and pinned them to these patches so I could attach my snips and forceps to the sides.

They do they job OK, although perhaps a little forceps holster would make a nice improvement as they do tend to jangle around rather a lot when walking between spots, and my fly line does sometimes become entangled in the forceps.

Is there anywhere to hang my landing net?

Unfortunately not. That's probably this chest pack's greatest drawback. A D-ring on the back of the neck strap would help, but sadly that's missing.

I tend to mainly use a Vision Sili Trout Net when fly fishing and, fortunately, this comes with an elasticated strap, so it doesn't cause a huge issue.

Would you buy one again?

I've been really pleased with my Simms Headwaters Chest Pack. It looks good, it's fairly comfortable to wear, it's very practical and can hold pretty much all of my essential gear.

It's also, as you would expect from a Simms product, very high quality. The materials and finish are great and it's clearly built to last. It wasn't that expensive, so it's really pretty decent value for money I think, so I'd happily buy one again.

The only notable downside for me, is that I have a tendency to carry the kitchen sink in mine, so it does give me neck ache by the end of a long session, so I've now switched to a sling pack for longer sessions instead. 

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