August 17, 2012

Zimmerbuilt Guide Sling -- Review

In my tenkara adventures I have found that I like to carry at least two rods.  Sometimes I get to a portion of the water that is too closed in or the opposite, too open, for my current rod to be effective. Of course, I never had this issue when western fly fishing. I fished all day with the rod that I had strung. Then again, in western fly fishing if I was using my 2wt, 6 ft Orvis Superfine and came into a larger opening or went to larger water I'd just cast farther -- no problem. I would have issues,however, if I was using my 3wt, 10 ft Hardy/Greys XF2 Streamflex for Czech nymphing and then decided to fish a tight, small stream. It is not a small stream rod.

Well, with tenkara, I find myself being challenged as much by the water as by the fish. One of the things that fascinated my about tenkara was the ability to keep most, if not all, of the line off the water. As I began tenkara I quickly learned that not all rods fit all water situations and still keep to that goal. Also, sometimes I just want to fish a different rod.

So with that in mind I began to carry two rods. If I am just getting out of the car and stepping into the river I usually use a modified TrailLite Designs Ebira Plus. On the shoulder strap I have a Zimmerbuilt Strap Pack so I can get to my fly box and tippet without having to spin the Ebira Plus around. I find that this combo lets me carry everything that I need, and an extra rod, without being burdened.

Sometimes, however, I hike into difficult to reach waters, or I plan on staying a longer time and don't want to have to go back to the car for stuff. In that case, I use a Zimmerbuilt Guide Sling. I have used this sling on a number of outings and have come to a point which I feel that I can review it properly. BTW, When I use the sling, I take the Strap Pack off the Ebira Plus and put it on the shoulder strap of the Guide Sling. This transfers my fly box, tippet, nippers, Ty-Rite, floatant all at one time -- easy!

Zimmerbuilt Guide Sling
With the Strap Pack in place

The Guide Sling is is described on Chris Zimmer's website: "Working closely with Rob, ERiK and John of Tenkara Guides LLC out of Salt Lake City, Utah the Tenkara Guide Sling was born. The pack is designed to carry more then enough gear for a day out on the water. The main pack measures 19.5"x10"x3" and weighs oz. The Sling includes a small cuben fiber pocket for keys or a cell phone. The outer pocket is designed to carry 4-5 fly boxes and includes a mesh pocket to store additional spools of line and tippet. There are 2 external rod sleeves that can carry up to 4 rods with  rod tubes or 6 rods without rod tubes. The external rod sleeves can also double as a pocket when you don't need to carry 4 rods. A daisy chain runs up the length of the shoulder strap to attach modular pockets for easy access to fly boxes and tools." That about sums it up in a nut shell.

As it says, there is an outer pouch or pocket that can carry fly boxes, some food, or even a lightweight rain jacket. It has a mesh pocket that is perfect for other tippet or line spools.

Outer pouch with mesh pocket (the spools are in the mesh pocket)
The larger or inner pouch has a small pocket for keys and stuff, but the main compartment is large enough to carry some Chota Hippies, a jacket, or even a hydration bladder -- this is what I use it for.  There is one issue however that the main compartment doesn't have when it comes to using a hydration bladder -- there is no suspension loop. If you use the compartment for your hydration bladder, the heavy filled bladder will just fall into the depended portion of the compartment pulling your drinking tube with it. That is a pain since it pinches off the water flow. To fix it, I made a loop using some thin parachute cord, tied it to the top of the shoulder strap's daisy chain and then slid it through the hydration opening into the main compartment. That way I can hook/suspend my hydration bladder and keep it from getting away from me.

Main compartment with small pocket (hydration loop at top of pocket)

A closer look at the self-made hydration bladder suspension loop

Main compartment with insulated hydration bladder
Drinking tube exiting main compartment.  Parachute cord seen under daisy chain.
The shoulder strap has a nice sturdy daisy chain for adding accouterments, like a Strap Pack or even a Chest Pack.  To help balance and secure the sling on your body, there is a secondary strap that connects the bottom of the pack to the shoulder strap. This secondary strap clips in place and can be adjusted for different body shapes.  This arrangement makes a very secure pack that moves with your body.

Shoulder strap with secondary strap in place
The back of the sling has two elastic topped pockets. There are also four elastic cords. These can be used to secure up to 4 tenkara rods in place. I usually just carry two; I can then use the other pocket for anything else I need -- I usually leave it empty though.  Something to be aware of if you carry rods with the Guide Sling: unlike the Ebira Plus or Ebira Guide, your rods are not protected from getting snagged in bushes or trees. This is not an issue if your are walking in open areas, but if you have to go through heavy brush, willows, thick trees, etc you can catch your rods on their groping branches. I use dacron loops to keep from loosing my tip plugs, but I had to tie the loops tight against the rods to keep the trees from stealing my tip plugs!

Rods in place

Conclusion: I really like the Zimmerbuilt Guide Sling. I find it to be very versatile, well made, user friendly and functional. I would ask Chris to add a hydration bladder loop to the top of the main compartment for those of us who want to keep from dehydrating while fishing, but this loop is easy enough to add yourself.


  1. When you go through thick brush try carrying the pack like a football under your arm. It protects the rods quickly and easily.