© 2012 Will K Simms Collage

Gear Review: Simms Headwaters™ Pro Waist

I’ve been in rather a heated identity crisis since my first days fishing.  It began back in my childhood first as Rapala-casting Bass fisherman, then as an ultralight spin-fisher and the past many years throwing feathers.  The crisis isn’t seated so much in the many chairs of fishing tackle I’ve used, but the bags, sacks, boxes and whatnots that I’ve carried the accoutrements of that tackle.

For years I carried what I needed on the water in a small, South African military bag.  It worked really well and doubled as a great image-buster of the typical fly-fisherman.  It’s downfall came in Tennessee, though, hiking through the backcountry for mile after mile; the 1″ wide strap literally wore into my shoulder in the first day.  It also left a nice strained shoulder muscle to add insult to injury.  It just wasn’t right for long days on the water when time and weight multiply together into absolute misery.  It had to go.

But what would replace it?  Another shoulder bag? Vest? Waist pack? Sling? Backpack? The options really are almost unlimited these days; so are the prices.  Trying to avoid dropping enough cash to fund a new reel or a decent 3 day trip, I set my budget around a $100.  That helped narrow the field considerably.  I also was so tired of sore shoulders that I wanted something that would either distribute the weight of boxes, water and food so perfectly that it floated on my shoulders or, preferably, never touched them in the first place.

After months of debate, searching and shopping, I decided on a waist pack.  I’m a big fan of Simms products, so I gravitated toward and bought the Headwaters Pro Waist. It seemed to compromise well between capacity and wear-ability.  Plus, it has pockets.  Lots of pockets.  I haven’t wasted my time counting them, but you won’t run out of them.

It retails for right at $100 and is 800 cu. inches with change and measures 15” x 9” x 6”…just big enough to fit some big boxes inside, handfuls of gadget-crap and a small Nalgene and food.  It comes with a shoulder strap that I’ve used on quick warmwater outings, but have avoided its use on full-days while wading.  The waist straps are super-wide and grab my non-existent hips fairly well without cutting me in half; they lack any kind of anti-slip material which means I can easily grab-and-swing it around to my side or front when I need to get in it.

The typical load I pack it with is two large fly boxes and two mediums with an occasional small tossed in if I think I’ll need my #24s and smaller.  I have my tippet on a holder clipped on the outside, a thermometer in a pocket along with a spare hemo, floatant, a tick remover and a few other things I’ve forgotten about in other various pockets.  Honestly, I don’t carry a lot with me these days; lots of flies, water and a snack are all I need for a full-day.  I have a serious lack of gadgets, and I don’t see that changing.  If anyone were to have them in plenty, there are places for every single one of them.  Honestly, there may be too many pockets; some of them are tiny and tight and may lead to fumbling for gear.  There are definitely no excuses for getting one bit of gear tangled with another, though.  What I love about the pockets is the multitude of types: elastic, mesh, zipper close, flap, divider…the list just goes on and on.

The first time I had it out, I slid down a muddy hill the quick way–on my back and ass.  Having skated over a few rocks and some roots I wasn’t excited to check the condition of my brand new butt buddy, but it was un-fazed.  The construction of the bag is heavy-duty in every stitch, seam, flap and panel.  It’s a tough bag that is going to take a few seasons to wear-in.  I’m fine with that.  The fabric is water-proof, but not in the submersible way.  I’ve dunked it a few times wading deep, and my camera in one of the side pockets stayed dry (didn’t dunk it above the top of the pocket, though).  The zippers and pocket-flaps work together to keep a lot of water and rain out; I’ve yet to get it wet inside despite some strong efforts.  But, it is NOT submersible.  Too bad.

What I’ve learned to be careful with is load distribution (duh).  Keeping heavy stuff close to the waist helps the bag to not sag down, which makes it difficult to zip up.  In the outer two pockets, I only put lightweight stuff, which does limit what I can carry.  It hasn’t proven to be a real problem, just a compromise with the god of physics and the way the world works.  Get over it and don’t put 14ozs of water way out there.

It’s a great looking, great functioning and shoulder-free design that truly has brought back some of the pleasure of fishing I lost in other bags.  It has completely squelched any notions of going the vest route–its just not necessary with this bag.  I love the freedom of movement I have with it on, and the access to what I need is instant.  It’s an easy on-and-off design, too–good for bathroom breaks! I would probably subtract some pockets and make a few others larger, but that’s really the only change.  I love it.

3 Comments

  1. Posted April 18, 2012 at 11:02 am | #

    Great review, Will!!

  2. Posted April 18, 2012 at 12:37 pm | #

    Heh heh. You said butt buddy.
    Great review!!

  3. Cheryl K
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 2:37 pm | #

    I love your fanny-pack! 😉

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