Category: Gear Review

The most recent addition came in February of 2014 as a birthday present from my brother. He didn’t know I try to stick to medium (3600) boxes, but as luck would have it he got me a fishing backpack that uses them. It came from Academy, which is a common big box sporting goods store in Texas. We don’t have them up here in Pennsylvania.


The tackle box section opens in front, which is very convenient. It holds 4 medium (3600) boxes, which conforms to my standardization.  It is very easy to grab the boxes I think I’ll need or want and know they will fit in any of my gear.  If I remember correctly it came with 3 or 4 medium (3600) boxes.


The front door of the tackle compartment has 2 tool pouches and a pocket that is mesh on each end.  These are covered by a flap.  I use the tool pouches for a folding knife and a pair of pliers.  These are more convenient than the one on the Cabelas Expedition XPF Deluxe Anglers Pack.  So far I use the pocket for plastic grocery bags.  I always have a couple to use as trash bags or for whatever other need comes up.


Below that is a cooler. It’s smaller than the cooler in the Cabelas tackle backpack, but it has a stiff material of some kind in the sides to give it some form. I may still try to find a plastic box that will fit.  It opens from the top of the front.  That may make it difficult to find a box that fits.


A feature that it has which the Cabelas fishing backpack does not is a rod holder on each side. The butt goes into the little fabric cup down at the bottom, and the two loops secure the rod.  When not in use the fabric cup stows out of the way in it’s own slip in pocket which zips closed.


There is a front pocket on top that has 2 internal pockets and 2 mesh pouches.  I use it for a variety of little stuff including my ubiquitous wet wipes, a can opener, a pair of binoculars, a float with a pair of forceps and bandage scissors, and other assorted stuff.


Behind that is what I call the “main compartment”.  It is wider than the one in the  Cabelas Expedition XPF Deluxe Anglers Pack, but shorter.  It does not go down the full height of the backpack.  This backpack also does not have a hydration bladder pocket.  This compartment can hold another 3 medium (3600) boxes.


Unfortunately I didn’t get out much last year so I have not really had a chance to put the Academy backpack through its paces.  However so far it seems very good.

I have taken a week off in May and am devoting the entire week to fishing.  I have planned a day to chase native naturally reproducing  trout on Class A Wild Trout Streams.  It will be good old fashioned bushwhacking in places where most sane and normal people don’t go.  Except for a trip with a friend and two excursions with my fly fishing mentor, I haven’t done that sort of tromping through the underbrush since we got the kayaks.  I plan to take this back pack along and give it a good workout.

Years ago when we resumed fishing we started out fishing from the shore, the bank, or sometimes a dock or pier.  My old Field and Stream tackle bag and my Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Anglers Pack were fine for that.  But when I began to get serious about wading  and bush whacking it was clear I needed something else. I needed something smaller, lighter, and less obstrusive. Something that didn’t matter if it got submerged, or if I slipped and fell in the water while wearing it. Something that wouldn’ contribute to me tumbling down a hill if I got off balance while doing the mountain goat thing between bends in a creek.  I looked around for a while before I settled on something.  A Spider Wire Hip Pack, which I got from Dick’s Sporting Goods.


At the time I was on various fly fishing forums, even though I didn’t fly fish yet. But the fly guys knew where the fish were, especially the natives , and if you listenned and read between the lines you could figure it out. You had to put some effort into it.  It wasn’t easy.  But the information was there.  They were very tight lipped, though, especially if you weren’t a fly guy. But I played by their rules, which usually means catch and release unless it’s stocked.  I was always respectful of the fish, the locations and of nature. I put in my time on the ground too, hiking around and looking, stopping by the side of the road in some remote place and wandering off into the undergrowth, and riding my mountain bike up and down remote trails.  I also put in my time doing other research.  Looking at satellite photos, reading maps, and searching online for information.  Even if you aren’t a fly fisherman the serious fly fishermen will respect you if you do your due dilligence and act respectfully.


Anyway, from the fly guys I borrowed the idea of the chestpack. I found a Spiderwire hip pack at Dicks that would hold three medium boxes (3600) tightly or two boxes and other stuff.  This worked perfectly as my Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Anglers Pack took 3600 boxes.  I could keep things standard, set up the boxes and then just select the pre setup boxes I needed for the day.  This also lead me to develop my mixed box.  I always have one 3600 box that has a mix of everything; a couple of bobbers, a slip bobber and some stops and beads, a couple of Rapalas, a couple of spinners, etc.

I would wear the hip pack in front, like a chest pack, but could slide it around back if I needed to. Sometimes I wore it over a shoulder ike a ladies purse or diagonal across my back or chest like a sling pack. It worked very well for wading and has come along on some serious bush whacking adventures.  It also worked well when I started riding my mountain bike between spots in state parks.  When I initially got the kayak I wore it in front in the kayak until I got a crate.


There are two compartments, one for the tackle boxes and a narrower one in front of that.  Under the front flap there is a sunglasses pocket, and another smaller pouch pouch.  I keep a glasses strap in the sunglasses pocket, and my clip on shades if I’m not wearing them.  I always strap my glasses.  I am as blind as a bat and will be in serious trouble if they get lost.  The pocket is soft and won’t protect your shades from hard knocks.  In the other little pocket I usually have some wet wipes.


As you can see there are four mesh pockets ont he outside of the hip pack.  I use these to hold a clipper, a pair of forceps, a stream temperature guage (hanging out with the fly guys too much ;) ), and fish scale/ruler.  All of these are secured by gear keeper/gear retractors or lanyards.  When you are wading anything not secured to your body is something you have decided to sacrifice to the water.


The waist belt and back of the hip pack are big, wide, and very well padded.  It was always very comfortable to wear.  There is a handle on top and I would secure my rods to that by lanyards.  Wal Mart, in their camping section, has cord locks which I would use to along with nylon or polypropelene line to make lanyards.  I would usually carry my Daiwa Minispin, and have my Eagle Claw Packit stuck through the handle, and both tied to a lanyard.



For reasons I cannot entirely explain I got in the habit of taking pictures of my gear in remote places.  Here are a few.  The blue box you may notice in one of the larger mesh pockets is a dry box from Wal Mart.  It held my wallet, car keys, and cell phone.  It was also secured to the hip pack.












Many many years ago when we initially got back into fishing I didn’t have any tackle storage. I used plastic grocery store bags at first, unwilling to invest much money until I was sure it would be something we continued to do. Little did I know how much of an obsession it would become.

My first tackle bag was a Field and Stream shoulder bag that held two 3700 size or maybe larger boxes. Maybe some time I will take some pictures of that and do a post on it. It worked great for a while, but as fishing became a bigger part of my life I outgrew it. I began to look around at other solutions.

I knew I didn’t want a regular traditional hard plastic tackle box. I was drawn to backpacks and soft sided bags. Cabelas had a large selection and some really great items. I really liked the Expedition XPG (Cabelas store brand) Deluxe Anglers Backpack. But it was $100. I never could justify to myself spending $100 on a tackle bag. Well, after listenning to me talk about it and watching me drool over it for most of a year my wife broke down and got me the Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Anglers Backpack for Christmas one year. (This started a very good trend. She has bought me an awful lot of my fishing gear, usually as gifts. The biggest upside is that she then expects me to use it) The backpack is just awesome. It seems to go in and out of availability. Here is a screenshot of the stock picture and the description.



Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Anglers Backpack stock photo.

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Anglers Backpack stock photo.

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Cabelas Description

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Cabelas Description


Here’s the link

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Pack

I have used it an abused it heavily over many years, and it’s as great today as it was in the beginning. It has more pockets and pouches than I know what to do with.  In fact sometimes I fnd things in various pockets that I forgot were there.  It holds, and came with three medium (3600) boxes.  This is what started me on using all the same box size so I could set up the boxes and then just grab the boxes I wanted to take for the day.   That decision has so far served me well. I don’t think it matters what size you go with, but once you pick a size life is much easier if you stick to it for everything.  There is side access to the area for holding the three medium (3600) plano boxes. It occupies about two thirds of the top half of the back pack.  You can cram a couple of smaller boxes in there on top of and in front of the medium boxes if you need to.


Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler 3 Medium Plano Box Pocket

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler 3 Medium Plano Box Pocket

As mentioned it does have a cooler. It is the bottom front compartment. I only have 2 complaints about the backpack. The first is that the cooler has nothing to give it form so the weight of your tackle and other gears causes it to crumple. This can potentially crush sandwiches or styrofoam worm containers and also prevents the backpack from standing up when you set it down. I solved this easily by finding a plastic container at Wal Mart that was a snug fit in the cooler.  However it would have been nice if they had included a hard plastic form like many regular soft sided coolers do.

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Cooler

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Cooler

Other than that the cooler is awesome. It is definately big enough, and conveniently located. I usually stick a cold pack in there along with food or bait and that will keep things cold all day.  Especially if the contents were refrigerated bfore you put them in.  I tried freezing bottles of water or other drinks, thinking they would thaw slowly throughout the day keeping the other contents cool and providing me with a continuous supply of cold drinks.  However in the cooler they didn’t thaw fast enough and were still mostly frozen at the end of the day.  The other benefit to using a plastic container inside the cooler is that it prevents dirt and crud from getting into all of the nooks and crannys.  I have had styrofoam or platic worm containers break in it and getting the dirt of the corners and edges is very difficult.


If you don’t have anything that you want to keep cool then the cooler can hold 4 more medium (3600) boxes.


The main compartment takes up the back third of the backpack and extends it’s full height.  It could hold a lot more medium boxes, or even larger boxes, but I use it for other things.  It has a pouch for a hydration bladder, with a pass through in the top for the tube.  Unfortunately it doesn’t come with the hydration bladder.  But they are readily available in all price ranges from Camelback to Ozark Trail (Wal Mart).  Mine is a Cabelas store brand bladder that I found on clearance in the bargain cave.  I think I paid around $8 for it.  I used to use that regularly for long hikes and bush whacking.  In fact I would often fill it the day before and stick it in the refrigerator overnight.  It would stay cold enough for most of the day.


Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Full Size Main Compartment Hydration Pocket

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Full Size Main Compartment Hydration Pocket


Usually I have a copy of the Pennsylvania fishing regulations book for the current year in there, a roll of toilet paper, a rain poncho, and a pasta container I use for my snell holders for pre snelled hooks.  That leaves plenty of space which can hold other boxes, my big stringer on a long winder of boat line, or any sundries my wife thinks we need to drag along for the day.  You could even use this to pack basics for a primitive overnighter.


There is a hard compression molded compartment on the top front which I think was intended for electronics.  It is vaguely CD player shaped.  That will give you an idea of how long I have had this.  People still used portable CD players back then.  It may be waterproof too, but I am not certain. I keep a couple of cheap walkie talkies and some batteries in there among other junk.  I don’t store batteries in the walkie talkies so they won’t leak and ruin them.


Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Electronics Pocket

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Electronics Pocket


The front of the backpack, the flap that closes the cooler, has rows of horizontal loops and one verticle loop. I use the horizontal loops for holding my rod holders. The curly Q style rod holders stay in fairly well if you twist them in with the loops going through the curls.  The fork style rod holders have to be twist tied to the loop or they can slide out.  How do I know?  Because I originally had 4 of those ;)

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Front Loops

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Front Loops

The verticle loop was for the tool pouch. This is the 2nd of my two complaints. The tool pouch was located low enough that the ends of the pliers or other tools extend below the bottom of the backpack. If you set the backpack down the ground or a hard surface it would push the pliers or other tools up and out of the holder. There is a retention strap to hold the pliers in, but then the entire tool pouch gets pushed up off of the loop. I have lost the whole tool holder more than once. Thank goodness I have always found it again. But one time when I did not have the retention strap snapped I lost a large collection of various sized and shaped forceps and bandage scissors at Memorial lake.  They got pushed out while the backpack was sitting on a picnic table and I didn’t notice.  I hope whoever found them put them to good use.


Above the cooler and below the electronics pocket there is a small horizontal pocket with 3 internal pouches. I use it for papers, maps, a small Cabelas multi tool, a fish scale/ruler, and wet wipes.  I used to keep my fishing license in there, but since I got my hat it stays on there all the time.

Under that is a hard sided sunglasses case.  That holds my glasses strap and my clip on shades if I am not wearing them.  I always use a glasses strap for my glasses when engaging in outdoor activities.  I am as blind as a bat and will be in serious trouble if my glasses get lost.

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Small  Front Pocket And Hard Sunglasses Case

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Small Front Pocket And Hard Sunglasses Case


On the left, if you are facing the backpack, there are top and bottom pockets with water bottle holders on their outside. I attached the tool pouch to the upper water bottle holder instead of the intended loop on the front. There are also assorted D rings and attachment points scattered about. The yellow thing hanging there is a mini screwdriver I added to one such attachment point.  The top pocket is the opening to the 3600 box compartment.  I used to use the water bottle holders for my telescoping rods.  I would put the butt in the bottom mesh and loop the elastic from the top one over the end of the collapsed rod.

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Left Pocket And Bottle Holder

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Left Pocket And Bottle Holder

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Right Bottom Pocket And Bottle Holder

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Right Bottom Pocket And Bottle Holder

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Right Top Pocket And Dry Pouch

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Right Top Pocket And Dry Pouch

On the right side, facing the backpack, there are upper and lower pockets again. The lower also has a water bottle holder outside of it like the left side pockets. The top right pocket does not. It has a roll top insulated waterproof pouch. This is listed as being for electronics, but you could stick anything in there that absolutely had to stay dry. I never used it for much aside from my cell phone. I did not do much wading with this backpack on. I did a number of stream crossings, and I did slip and fall in several times. But a large backpack really alters your balance, and on slippery rocks it’s almost a garauntee that you will take a plunge. But I never fully submerged myself or the backpack so it wasn’t an issue.

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Padded Back And Tools

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Padded Back And Tools

On the other side you can see the backpack is extremely well padded. The straps are wide, thick and also very well padded. There is a large waistbelt, also well padded. It is very cofortable to wear. In fact it is probably the most comfortable backpack I have ever worn. I have to say that I have never worn a serious hiking/backpacking pack, but compared to any of your standard backpacks this one is a pleasure to wear. I have used it on some of what are long hikes to me. Before I got the kayak I used to regularly hike 4-8 miles each way on fishing excursions. For hikers and backpackers that may not be much, but for most fisherman that’s pretty serious.  I have a pair of forceps and a pair of bandage scissors attached to the strap by a gear retractor and a water bottle holder attached to the other strap. There are various loops for holding the hydration bladder tube, and for attaching whatever other gear you like.


I do not plan to ever buy another tackle bag or box for fishing from land (although one was given to me as a gift).  This backpack is top notch and covers all the bases and then some.  It is well made, comfortable, adaptable, holds more than enough gear, and has all of the extra features one could ask for.  It has held up well to more use and abuse than most fisherman probaby inflict on their gear.  They seem to go in and out of availability at Cabelas.  Currently they do not seem to be available.  If they become available again I may get another one just to have a backup.


Below is another picture of the backpack, and pictures of tha tags that were attached to it.


Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Closed

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Closed



Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Tags Front

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Tags Front


Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Tags Interior Left

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Tags Interior Left

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Tags Interior Right

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Tags Interior Right

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Tags Back

Cabelas Expedition XPG Deluxe Angler Tags Back

SUV Rod Racks

Last year, around May or June, I was looking for a better to transport my fishing rods.  The telescoping rods were in a sort of pile in a back corner of the trailblazer.  The longer rods were leaned in a corner and along the sides of the seats.  The longest rod, one of my wife’s, was always whacking her in the head as it arche against the roof of the vehice.  There had to be a better way.

Of course there was.  A lot of online research lead me to some commercially available vehicle rod racks sold at Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops.  They ranged from about $40 for cheap cloth/rope loops to $150 or more for metal rods and plastic holders.  There were also plenty of home made solutions also ranging from cloth/rope loops to PVC.  There are loads of PVC designs.

I don’t have anything against PVC but it wasn’t what I wanted.  I wanted to use the existing grab handles and garment hangers.   I wanted metal bars if at all possible.  After giving it a lot of thought, and thinking about stuff I had seen in stores I figured I could use the commercially made garment hanging bars.  They are designed to go from one garment hook to another, or one grab handle to another and for you to hang a bunch of clothes on coat hangers on them.  They are available at any automotive store for around $10.

Looking around in Dick’s, I saw several types of Berkely rod hlders.  They were designed to be mounted on a garage wall, or boat deck.  But the simple two hole mounting made it look easy to attach to the bars.  A couple of stops, 20 minutes of work, and a dozen zip ties later and voila!

The bars are adjustable to the width of your vehicle. They attach by either a metal rectangle or plastic hook. They can attach to either grab handles or garment hooks.

The rod racks are two pairs of the Berkley Twist Lock 4 Rod Racks. I chose those because of the enclosed circle type holders. That seemed more secure for the rod butts. I just put the rods through the twist lock front portions, but I don’t use the locks. I mounted them on top of the bars instead of hanging to give me more head clearance.

This gives me a capacity of 8 rods, which is more than enoough right now. Especially since 3 of my rods are telescoping and don’t get put in the racks. If we ever need more capacity it will be easy enough to replace the 4 rod racks with 6 rod racks. I could probably squeeze one more in the center, but I wanted to leave some space for other things.

The mounting was zip ties through the screw holes on each end. So far they worked magnificently. Here is a selection to choose from

The pictures are too big for the blog, so click on them for a full view.






Yeah, I did say TJ Maxx for outdoor gear.  Yeah, I was suprised too.  Hang on, this is going to be a long story.

I have a pretty good wife.  Not that we don’t have our issues, but overall my complaints are minor.  Of course part of any good relationship is compromise, and that means that sometimes I have to not go fishing or shooting or kayaking and have to go shopping instead.  My wife is what is known as a “Maxx-anista”, an avid fan of the discount places like the outlets and especially TJ Maxx (from whence the title comes), Marshalls, and Home Goods.

I was doing my husbandly duty in this regard, accompanying my wife to TJ Maxx, when she said “Hey, have you thought about looking here for that stuff you’re looking for?”  The “that stuff” she was referring to is winter outdoor clothing.  I’d like to develop an interest in winter kayak fishing, due mainly to the fact that it’s winter and I want to continue kayak fishing.  That requires much different gear than in the summer, spring, or even fall.  One needs stuff to stay dry and stuff to stay warm.

There is a huge segment of the outdoor industry devoted to this already.  Plenty of people kayak, fish, kayak fish, hunt, hike, bike, jog, and generally wander around the outdoors all winter while wiser folk sit home where there is heat and shelter.  So there is already clothing for this.  But it can be expensive.  So I was thinking I was going to spend all winter piecing the gear together a little at a time and I would have it all just in time for spring.  And that would be going with the cheapest end of the spectrum.  Now I might actually get to kayak fish before the end of the year.  But first let me talk a bit about the needed gear itself.

The Yachtsman has an excellent article on cold weather outdoor gear, but I will try to summarize it a bit here.  You need 3 layers; a base layer, an insulation layer, and a shell layer.  The base layer keeps your skin dry by wicking moisture, especially sweat, away to the insulation layer.  The insulation layer creates a boundary of warm air around your body while allowing moisture to move out to the shell layer.  The shell layer allows moisture to escape while preventing moisture and wind from entering.

Not all materials do these things well.  Cotton, for example, not only does a poor job of these things, but activley leaches heat from your body.  Wool, and silk are among the best natural fibers for these things.  However non natural fibers such as polyester are even better.  Wool, silk, and polyester all retain their insulating properties even when wet.  In other words wet cotton will add to your misery, but wet polyester will still help you.

Polyester does not absorb moisture and dries quickly when it does get wet.  Even though wool and silk still insulate when wet, they do loose efficiency.  And they also absorb moisture and do not dry quickly which can increase your discomfort.  In cold weather and on cold water discomfort kills.  Wool and silk also weigh more in proportion to their insulating abilities than polyester.  Acrylic can also be good.

You may hear the term “techinical fabric” being used by winter sports enthusiasts.  Technical fabrics are things like polyester, acrylic, gore tex, and other non natural materials used in winter outdoor gear.  These fabrics and fibers are designed to perfromed the nessecary functions of cold weather gear.

Don’t forget your accessories such as hats, scarves, balaclavas, hoods, neck gaiters, buffs, gloves, and socks.  You can lose as much as 50% of your body heat through your head, so keep it covered.  If you find your feet or hand are getting cold make sure your gloves and socks are loose enough.  Impeded circulation is a leading cause of cold digits.  If your core is warm enough then your body will circulate war blood to your extremities.  But not without good circulation.

As I said discomfort kills in the cold.  As discomfort increases you lose focus and ability.  You get “the umbles”; mumbles, stumbles, grumbles, and fumbles.  You start making mistakes.  Your fingers and other body parts don’t work like they should.  It makes everything ten times more difficult and makes it easy to make potentially fatal mistakes.  That’s what we’re talking about here.  Life and death.

Turn your kayak over in cold water and you can go into shock within seconds if you aren’t properly prepared.  Maybe you went all summer without turning over.  But now you have cold fingers, and chills, and are wet with frigid water and the wind is blowing freezing cold spray in your face, and you turn a little too far trying to reach something in your crate……………………………………….

So I’m not being melodramatic.  Cold weather gear is life support equiment.  Being comfortable isn’t about  being a wimp.  It’s about not making the mistakes that will kill you.  Comfort is the difference between a fun day fishing and a newspaper story about a guy who drowned in the river or lake during winter.

Even if you aren’t a winter sports enthusiast it is a good idea to have some winter gear.  Winter gear, including all 3 layers, should be a part of every emergency kit or bug out bag.  A spare set should also be included in a kayak dry bag emergency kit.  That would facilitate quickly changing into dry gear should you become immersed.

So, back on course, I was doing my husbandly duty, accompanying my wife to TJ Maxx, when she said “Hey, have you thought about looking here for that stuff you’re looking for?”   I sneared “Here?  I doubt it!”  But she was already headed for the mens clothing section where low and behold there were base layers hanging on the wall.  From Terramar and Weatherproof .  Wow.  I was shocked.  Further looking revealed wool and techinical fabric socks from Cabelas (Hunting and Hiking), Smartwool, Icebreaker, Woolrich, Heat Holders, and Darn Tough.     On subsequent trips I found $250 hunting bibs from Underarmor for sale for $129, and stuff from Avalanche Wear and Carhartt, equally discounted.  I have’t seen waders yet, but I am looking.

They have layaway for those on a bidget, or even less.  So if you want to get out in the outdoors this winter and just don’t have the money to buy from the big usual outdoor retailers give TJ Maxx a look.  They have gear that you can use for anything from fishing in the wilderness to jogging in the city.  I should have known.  I got my Underarmor beanie hat there last year.