November 10, 2013

Zimmerbuilt Tailwater Pack -- review

I own a few items from Zimmerbuilt such as the Guide Sling, DeadDrift Pack, Chest Pack, etc.  They are all well built and very versatile. Unfortunately, these packs are not large enough to carry all the stuff I need when I day hike into a stream or creek. Sure, I know, with tenkara you don't have to carry that much, just a rod, line and fly, supposedly. But in reality you do have to carry at least a little more than that.

Bear in mind, I am talking about day hike fishing. Not "start at the stream and hike up it while you fish" hiking, but rather, "get out of your car, take a compass bearing, start hiking into the woods and in 1-2 hours reach the desired stream" hiking. That's what I am talking about here.

For this type of hiking I don't wear my waders (however, I do hike in my wading boots). Therefore I have to have enough room to carry them. If the weather is cooperative, I don't wear a jacket. But I'm just enough of a boy scout that I know I need one along. Also, I'm not stupid enough not to have some basic survival gear with me (bushcraft knife [Mora Companion], three different types of fire starting items, basic first aid, water filter straw and water purification tablets, toilet paper, signal mirror, small backup knife, insta-shelter [Mylar emergency blanket], head lamp, and micro paracord). Most of these are in a small, compact waterproof compression sack. I also need some food. This is lunch for the day and some small, compact, high calorie food in case I have to spend the night by getting injured (of course, I could eat fish, but what if your not near the stream?). And finally, my tenkara stuff (two rods, a couple lines, flies, tippet and streamside tools). Add to this other basics for my neck of the woods, such as a quality field compass (Silva Ranger CL), maps, hydration bladder, bear spray and bells, mosquito repelling stuff (time of year dependent).

My minimum essentials

As you can see, it's more than just a rod, line and fly. To carry all of this I need a pack that is just big enough, but not too big. One that will carry my tenkara rods properly. One that I can attach tenkara Strap Packs to and customize it for my specific needs. And one that is lightweight enough since I can't carry weight on my spine due to my back surgery.

This is where theZimmerbuilt Tailwater Pack comes in. It is large enough to carry all of this stuff, but just so. There is no wasted space. I can carry my full waders, if I feel the need, but usually I carry hip waders. I bought my Tailwater used and it came with the optional hip belt. This means I can carry its loaded weigh on my hips, not my back. Mine has two optional hip belt pockets for ready access items, such as the map and compass. Also, mine as two extra daisy chains on the sides to attach another Strap Pack, if needed.  BTW, there is a compression shock cord on the back that makes it easy to strap down an extra jacket or your tamo.

Tailwater Pack with optional hip belt, hip belt pockets, Strap Pack and cell phone carrier.

Extra daisy chain on the side for an extra Strap Pack.

I've taken this pack through some heavy brush and trees, down into steep canyons, up over a mountain or two, and through chokingly thick willow bogs. It is streamlined enough to not snag or tear. It rides really nicely and is easy to adjust for comfort. I have used it now for many trips this past year and feel that it is about the best pack system for tenkara day hiking that I have tried. Sure, it just a simple design top open bag with shoulder straps and a hip belt, but it does its designed job really, really well.

Tailwater Pack loaded. (the gold disc is a mosquito repellant coil)

Conclusion: I really like this pack. It is simple, yet versatile. It is customizable. It has excellent materials and is robustly built. It carries everything I need for a cross country day hike, but you have to pack carefully -- there is no extra room. All in all, it's a great pack for tenkara adventures!


  1. Great review Tom, you probably don't need to look at another pack since you've got it dialed in, but I also like Exped packs for similar deal, small light weight, robust material, waterproof, trim (not lots of random straps hanging off):

  2. Thanks for your blog and reviews.

    Nice looking light pack. Is the back padded or stiffened at all?

    I think I would strap some bearspray on there somewhere for some of our Idaho "unfriendlies". I have had several run-ins with moose, elk, sheep dogs (nasty!), and irate "domestic" bulls, not to mention the possibility of bears. I have been lucky to have gotten away without using the spray so far, but good to carry it on those little brushy streams. You won't believe what staring at a mama moose and her calf 20 feet away can do for your heart rate!! :)

    Pretty little stream with some interesting looking meadow. It has been on my "to do" list for a few years now. Too many places to fish. Deciding where to go first is the big question!!

    1. Hi CIndy,

      The back is not padded or stiffened. I have not found that to be an issue so far.

      The hip belt has places to attach "bear" spray.

      BTW, the other day I fished that section of the creek where we ran into each other last year. The beavers have been busy. Much of that stretch is now dammed. That really threw me off!!


  3. Thanks. I was in there earlier this summer, and they had built quite a few in that area as well as higher up. It is getting hard to fish some of it. We need another good high water year to thin them out a little.

    On the creek in this post. If you don't mind answering, did you find many natives? I had seen reports that there are LOTS of non natives in there. Just say you'd rather not answer, if your rather not. :)

    1. I caught mostly natives, but there were some non-natives in there too. Maybe it depends on which reach of the stream is fished? It was tough fishing as the sun was full on bright!