Travelling light is an ever-growing trend with today’s pleasure angler who realises that you don’t have to take the kitchen sink for a day’s fishing. The tcf team focuses on some of the smaller ‘sacks’ around.

tcf Buyer’s Guide
With the rise in the number of lightweight chairs and rod holdalls that carry made-up rods flooding the market, you no longer need to take a cumbersome seatbox to the bank.
The increase in this convenience luggage is allowing anglers, who once dreaded making long river walks while weighed down with so much tackle, to rediscover the art of roving and the fantastic sport that’s available from the UK’s rivers.
Along with the chairs and holdalls, the other item that’s needed is a rucksack to carry all the accessory boxes and other small items. There are a lot of ‘sacks’ out there, and most are massive bags which are aimed at the specimen carp angler. However, in recent times the choice in small-capacity rucksacks has grown considerably.
It’s the small ‘sacks’ that the tcf team is focusing on this month, but as there are far too many to fit in our limited space we’ve taken a small snapshot of what’s on offer.
So what should you be looking for in a small rucksack? We believe it’s really important that once populated it should feel well balanced and comfortable when carried. On the comfort side, padded shoulder straps are a real must, as when fully loaded the narrow, nylon straps have a knack of cutting in, especially in the warmer months when wearing light clothing.
Balance is paramount as a badly packed or designed rucksack can result in you getting backache, so being able to spread the load in different pockets and compartments is essential for a stress-free journey. Another option is a waist belt which can help the lower body to take some of the strain off the back and shoulders. A bonus is a shoulder strap clip across the chest that helps prevent the straps from slipping off in transit.
The amount of tackle you carry is dependant on the sack’s capacity and the smaller bags come in capacity sizes as little 25 to 40 litres, which are plenty big enough to cover all mobile angling needs.
If you do need that bit of extra room to store a jacket, you might well look at a rucksack that has an expandable main compartment. Also, will the protective flaps keep the water out?

tcf THE TEST
To discover if the rucksacks are up to the job, the team attempts to pack each of the bags with all the kit that deputy editor Steve Martin takes with him on his regular sessions to his local river.
Once all the kit is (hopefully) loaded the team then sees if there’s enough room to store a lightweight jacket as well. For the next part of the test, Steve and tcf editor Gareth Purnell get some much-needed exercise by going for a yomp around a reservoir with each loaded ‘sack’ to find out how comfortable it is to transport.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A RUCKSACK
1 Is it the right capacity for your needs?
2 Does it have padded shoulder straps?
3 Does it have a waist/chest belt?
4 How many storage compartments does it have?
5 Does the bag have a solid base (see conclusion)?
6 Does the main compartment expand?
7 Is it easy to adjust?
8 Is there a carry handle?


 

CHUB
SUPER DELUXE

RRP: £39.99
Capacity: 55 litres
No. of compartments: Seven
Padded shoulder straps: Yes
Adjustable straps: Yes
Waist belt: Yes, padded
Chest strap: Yes
Solid base: No
Extras: None
Contact: www.chubfishing.com
tcf Verdict
Steve says: All the gear went in with room to spare and I had no problem fitting the waterproof jacket into the extendable main compartment. Once loaded and the strapping adjusted, the ‘sack’ gave no discomfort on the journey with the excellent back support. Scored very highly in terms of comfort. Chest strap perfectly positioned.


 

FOX
EVOLUTION ROVER

RRP: £54.99
Capacity: Not given
No. of compartments: Seven
Padded shoulder straps: Yes
Adjustable straps: Yes
Waist belt: Yes, padded
Chest strap: Yes
Solid base: Yes, EVA
Extras: Rain cover
Contact: www.foxint.com
tcf Verdict
Gareth says: Good looking rucksack with some nice features. Compact and of a smaller capacity than some of the others so three of the pockets came into play to get Steve’s gear in. Good padding on the straps and back but I didn’t like the way the hard plastic base rubbed the lower back in transit and I think it would be a better ‘sack’ without it. I had to have it at its tightest setting.


 

CARP KENETICS
FUSION STALKING RUCK

RRP: £34.99
Capacity: 35 litres
No. of compartments: Nine
Padded shoulder straps: Yes
Adjustable straps: Yes
Waist belt: Yes, padded
Chest strap: Yes
Solid base: No
Extras: None
Contact: www.dragoncarpdirect.com
tcf Verdict
Steve says: Oodles of room for the gear with added capacity for a jacket or fleece in the main compartment’s nylon expansion. With the straps sorted (fairly easy to adjust) the ‘sack’ sat well with no strain on the back. Scored well in the comfort stakes.


 

SHIMANO
TRIBAL
RRP: £39.99
Capacity: 25 litres
No. of compartments: Five
Padded shoulder straps: Yes
Adjustable straps: Yes
Waist belt: No
Chest strap: Yes
Solid base: Yes
Extras: None
Contact: www.shimano.com
tcf Verdict
Steve says: At only 25 litres I managed to get around 60 per cent of my gear in with room for a jacket. When fully loaded the sack sat too high on the back and was quite uncomfortable, so I’d only use it if travelling very light. The easiest to adjust though.


 

Gareth’s Choice
JRC
40-LITRE RUCK

RRP: £37
Capacity: 40 litres
No. of compartments: Seven
Padded shoulder straps: Yes
Adjustable straps: Yes
Waist belt: No
Chest strap: Yes
Solid base: No
Extras: None
Contact: www.jrcproducts.com
tcf Verdict
Gareth says: Very compact, yet all the gear went into just the main compartment and the front pocket. Easy to adjust and once pulled nice and tight sits upright and is superbly comfortable so that it really feels like it’s a part of you, with good padding at the base where it touches your back. Scored highest in comfort terms.


 

TF GEAR
X-TUFF 6-PACK
RRP: £59.99
Capacity: 30 litres
No. of compartments: Eight
Padded shoulder straps: Yes
Adjustable straps: Yes
Waist belt: Yes
Chest strap: Yes
Solid base: Yes
Extras: None
Contact: www.totalfishinggear.co.uk
tcf Verdict
Steve says: There’s loads of room and some in this bag, but I wouldn’t like to use the elasticated top unless the main section is fully populated. Plenty of padding but I couldn’t get it to sit right on my back and it was also hard to reach the adjustment straps which are right under your armpit. It also dug into the middle of my back. Uncomfortable.


 

Steve’s Choice
DRENNAN
SUPER SPECIALIST

RRP: £29.95
Capacity: 35 litres
No. of compartments: Three
Padded shoulder straps: Yes
Adjustable straps: Yes
Waist belt: No
Chest strap: No
Solid base: Yes
Extras: None
Contact: 01865 748989
tcf Verdict
Gareth says: All the gear went in easily without using any of the pockets, and it was very easy to adjust. Not much padding but so well balanced that it didn’t matter at all and was extremely comfortable even when fully loaded. Scored very highly in comfort terms. Excellent rucksack and look at the price!


 

KORUM
TACTICAL ANGLING

RRP: £49.99
Capacity: Not stated
No. of compartments: Six
Padded shoulder straps: Yes
Adjustable straps: Yes
Waist belt: Yes
Chest strap: No
Solid base: No
Extras: Comes supplied with shower cover, four bait tubs, two large and two small accessory boxes, and two hook boxes.
Contact: www.korum.co.uk
tcf Verdict
Steve says: This is the rucksack I currently use on my river sessions. The sack fits my all requirements taking my kit with a little room to spare for a flask in the winter months and a lightweight jacket. When fully adjusted to fit tightly, the bag was comfortable on the shoulders and sat snugly in the small of my back.


Notes:

Korum have curved the hard plastic base to keep it comfortable.

The boys don’t like the ‘shower cap’ elastic effect on some of the rucksacks.

The chest strap on the Chub is lower than the others – ideal!

There’s excellent padding on the JRC where it touches your lower back.

The straps should be easy to reach and adjust, and the rucksack should be upright on your back and almost feel like it’s a part of you.

Conclusion
At first glance it seemed hard to separate one rucksack from another, but a comprehensive on-the-bank test showed that there are some key features to look for.
The main point is that when fully loaded the rucksack should still feel very comfortable on your back, almost as if it’s a part of you – this comes both from good design features and good balance.
Some of the rucksacks, including the Fox, had hard plastic lower bases. On the face of it these might seem a good idea, toughening up and waterproofing the bottom of the rucksack, and in the case of the Korum providing a separate, tough, zip-up compartment.
However, our test showed that the hardened base can dig into your lower back when fully loaded and we didn’t like them. However, Korum has obviously thought of this and has put a curve into the plastic, which keeps it off your back.
What we all want with a rucksack is to put it on, pull a couple of straps to make it easy to adjust, and head off. So the straps need to be easy to locate and adjust. The easiest to adjust were the Drennan, JRC, Shimano and Korum, requiring a simple tug to tighten and flick of the catch to loosen. On the TF Gear rucksack, the straps ended up right under the armpits and were hard to reach. With the Fox the straps were easily reached although we had to pull them to their tightest position for the most comfort.
On the subject of straps, we felt that, on most, the chest strap was a bit too high. The exception was the Chub, on which the chest strap was lower than the others and, we felt, ideally positioned.
You would think that the more padding there is the better, but we found this not to be the case. In fact, it’s the position of the padding that’s most important. The JRC had plenty of padding where the rucksack meets your lower back – perfect and very comfortable. The Drennan, however, was only lightly padded yet even when fully loaded was extremely comfortable, showing that balance is more important than padding. Only just behind these two in the comfort stakes was the Chub, which offered very good back support. The TF Gear boasted ergonomic six-pack padding, but was nowhere near as balanced or comfortable, while the Shimano sat too high on the back to be comfortable in our view.
Four of the rucksacks tested – the Carp Kenetics, Shimano Tribal, TF Gear and, to a lesser extent, the Chub – had ‘shower cap’-type elastication on the cover flap, presumably to help create a weatherproof seal around the main compartment. We didn’t like this feature as, unless the bag was filled to bursting, the cover wouldn’t be snug.
The amount of room is also important to some, and on this front there were big ticks for the Carp Kenetics, Korum, Drennan and TF Gear ‘sacks’.
Overall, and taking into account space, ease of strap adjustment, comfort and balance, we would recommend the JRC 40-litre Ruck and the Drennan Specialist.


 

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