Gear Review: Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Backpack - Tested in Costa Rica

Fishpond made some serious noise last summer when they released their new series of waterproof/submersible packs and bags. The field of waterproof packs is tough. They are growing in popularity with anglers and especially those taking extended trips. But further, they are hard to make. Well, at least good ones...So when a company, almost solely focused on making quality packs/bags/luggage, decided to go full throttle on a set of submersible fishing packs, I was all ears.

Before I left on a recent trip to Costa Rica, I knew I needed all my gear to be packed in waterproof bags. Fishing for a week in the jungle where it rains everyday would be the perfect place to test these out. I decided to go with the Thunderhead Submersible Backpack as it was able to fit all my gear and provided a good sized accompaniment to my smaller waterproof hip/sling pack (which I was also bringing). On fishing trips where I'm traveling on planes, the size of my bags is really important as I always try and get everything in carry-on. So knowing that this backpack would fit into the overhead bins and not present any issues as a carry-on while traveling is a huge plus! The shoulder and hip straps were very comfortable and allowed me to carry this bag, packed to the brim with gear, on long stretches in the airports with ease. 

When I arrived in Costa Rica to my fishing destination I used the Thunderhead Backpack as my daily fishing pack. It held:

  • Rain jacket
  • Fleece/thermal shirt
  • Extra spools of tippet (the larger Rio saltwater ones)
  • My (not waterproof) smaller camera bag with DSLR, extra lenses, etc.
  • Two large fly boxes holding tarpon flies
  • Pliers, tackle, tools, etc.
  • Water bottle, cell phone, sunglasses case, and other various items

There was plenty of room for it all, and more. That was one concern that I had, especially when packing everything before I left. Fishpond also released the new Wind River Roll Top Backpack as well which has more capacity. So if the 1,648 cu/in with the Thunderhead wont cut it, the Wind River has 2,320 cu/in. 

Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Backpack

The real test was the heavy rain. It wasn't light rain, or sprinkles. At various times of the day and night it down-pored. Specifically at the time the above picture was taken, not only was it raining, but we were headed back to the lodge. The rain combined with the force of us traveling, pushed a lot of water on this pack. (You can see the camera lens had a fair amount of water on it too). The first thing I noticed were the darker areas when it got wet. This made me very nervous. But, after final inspection when I got inside, everything was bone dry. I checked all the seams and the inside of all the dark spots. Nothing got through the final layer(s) of material. The only spot that did in fact leak water was the front top pocket. This front storage slot however is not waterproof and is simply water resistant. The heavy rain combined with us moving quickly allowed water to be forced inside that zipper. No worries however as Fishpond does not list this pocket as waterproof and I didn't expect it to be either. It has a water resistant zipper, but certainly not the heavy duty TiZip® zipper the main compartment utilizes. 

Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Backpack

I liked the waist strap and the ability to (easily) attach pliers and other accessories. Plus, these waist straps can be removed. They can be bulky if not being used, so this is a good feature. The overall durability of the pack is very apparent. It is the same material Fishpond is using for their Thunderhead Sling Pack and Lumbar Pack. They are made from reused fishing nets using 1680D TPU coated recycled nylon. The two pull straps on either side of the TiZip® zipper make opening the pack much easier and they didn't feel like they will fall off after a while. This has been an issue with other waterproof packs using these zippers. They require more "umph" to open than traditional zippers and the constant opening/closing can wear down other pull straps. These felt good. 


  • Fully waterproof main compartment
  • Great capacity 
  • Comfortable wearing for extended periods of time even with heavy loads
  • Heavy duty/durable construction
  • Well thought-out accessory attachment points and removable waist strap


  • Front pocket is small - barely fitting anymore than a cell phone or wallet
  • When attached, the waist strap is bulky if not being used


Words + Photos By: Josh Thelin


Waterproof Fishing Backpack:

Thanks for the knowledgeable article. I appreciate your suggestions and tips which you have mention.Keep writing informative articles.

Jan 30, 2019

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