Waterproof packs have come a long ways over the past several years. While most incarnations usually (emphasis on the usually) had the "waterproof" part down, it seems we were always forced to settle for less user-friendliness compared to other, more traditional packs. The reasons for this were understandable, and it seems like there were two primary ones- waterproof zippers are never going to be as easy to open/close as a standard zipper, as well as the fact that waterproof fabric and stiching don't mix well, thus the inability for waterproof packs to have the multitude of pockets and storage options we find as commonplace on traditional packs.
Upon hearing of the new waterproof Tongass series I didn't personally give it much thought. Umpqua has no doubt proven itself in the world of packs/bags over the years, in particular with their Ledges series of hip packs. But still, a waterproof pack is a waterproof pack right? Wrong......
Upon recieving our first shipment, and subsequently opening the box, I immediately realized these were far from your standard 'waterproof' bags. To start, the material used was what first caught my eye. Very pliable yet durable feeling. Secondly, the pocket/storage configurations never seemed to end! This is especially true on the hip pack, where the internal pocket configurations are some of the best I've seen.
Another thing with waterproofing gear- a roll-top design is always going to be your best bet. Umpqua stuck with this roll-top theme, however did so in the most user friendly way I've seen. The tops of the opening are reinforced to prevent wear/add ease-of-use and simply rolling 3 times is all it take to lock in the dryness one would desire when using this gear.
Umpqua currently offers us 4 main products in the Tongass series- a hip pack, back pack, gear bag and several sizes of dry bags.
We'll start with my favorite, the Hip Pack. Giving anglers a massive 650 cubic inches of storage, this pack is large enough to hold several fly boxes, a sandwich and camera...probably with some room to spare. Umpqua was also able to incorporate the "face" feature, which has been incredibly popular with their Ledges line of packs. This outer design let's anglers keep their nippers, hemos, and several spools of tippet at an easy reach. One of the coolest features though might be the multi-use side pockets which work perfectly as a rod holder. This feature would be perfect for wading the flats when having a back-up rod at the ready is a necessity.
Moving on, the Back Pack is easily my second favorite piece of gear in this line up. Coming in at 1800 cubic inches (30 liters), this pack features two seperate roll top compartments, insanely comfortable padded shoulder straps, vented back, built in rod tube carries on the side as well as the same multi-use (rod holder) pockets found on the hip pack, This backpack has a tons of space along with a multitude of techy features to create a serious all-in-one package.
Packing in on a multi-day excursion such as say, the South Fork of the Flathead River in the Bob Marshall Wilderness to look for massive Bull Trout and Cutthroats on Trouts hosted next August (hint hint)? Then this Gear Bag is for you! Offering a massive 5500 cubic inches (90 liters) of storage, this pack allows the user to wear it as a backpack or carry like a duffle bag.
Lastly- what floating/camping/adventuring fly fisher doesn't have the use for a few good Dry Bags? Fairly standard in design (a roll top dry bag might be one wheel that really can't be reinvented), Umpqua gives us 4 different sizes sure to please- 2, 10, 20 and 35 liters.