Umpqua Feather Merchants has long been known for their flies: creating impressive processes to develop great consistency over a very large selection. While they maintain their excellence in this category, over the past few years they have developed into a broader offering of fly fishing gear. Their packs and vests are a newer addition to the company’s heritage, but, in my mind, they have made some great strides with their products.
With the new Umpqua Swiftwater ZS fly fishing tech vest they have thought of everything. The build and suspension work and fit great. With storage pockets galore, you can really load down this vest…making it a pain in the neck right? Not with Swiftwater ZS. It’s design incorporates a fully padded waist belt to help keep the weight on your hips instead of on your shoulders and neck. Beyond that, if you still can’t fit what you need for the day in this pack, it is modular, too, which provides some great solutions.
Umpqua also provides a nice logical place for all your gear. The Zero Sweep system they have created makes gear placement obvious. Forceps stash nicely in a Zero Sweep port, while your nippers and quick access tools can be hidden on a zinger that will tuck right back in after use. Not only that, they incorporate built-in tippet leashes for ease of dispense. There are removable fly patches for drying and quick access for swiftly changing flies with the hatch. On the back side you can carry up to a 3L bladder and still have room for a rain jacket and some grub.
“My vest loaded down with all my gear”
The pockets on the front of the vest have a somewhat ingenious design as they zip from top to bottom both ways. If you need a fly box out of the pocket you zip from the bottom. Looking for your floatant or a hook sharpener maybe? Zip from the top. This design provides some extra clearance when needed, and also keeps things close the the chest when you’re worried about something falling into the drink. The bottom half of these pockets have space for two medium sized fly boxes on each side. The top half has internal mesh pockets to tightly hold in dry shake, floatant, split shot, reel lube and other fly paraphernalia. I also like to keep chapstick and sunscreen in these pockets for ease of access. The vests four internal pockets allow for excellent storage of things like strike indicators and leaders. I also use these pockets for a place for my buff and gloves when needed.
“Getting ready to fish!”
Still wondering how you can carry more? One of the best parts of the Swiftwater ZS is the ability it has to change backpacks. With a quick and unique latching system you can go from an about 13 liter backpack to a monster pack, called the Surveyor 2000 ZS, that adds a total of 33 liters in storage. This backpack offers a full opening main compartment with storage for a 3L bladder and much more.
“My first tight line of many for the day!”
I’ve now used this vest in a few different types of fishing situations, and its versatility has been excellent. From throwing it on and off while hitting road access, hanging at a small trout pond, or hiking a few miles of trail fishing, the Umpqua Swiftwater ZS has not let me down. This vest is ideal for those days that pull you away from the “mainstream”, out into the woods for a day of uninterrupted fishing. It’s also a good option when you’re fishing tailwaters in the winter and need extra places to put insulating layers as you take them on and off.
If you are a minimalist, you should probably look elsewhere. Umpqua provides some excellent choices in this category of packs as well, such as their new Bandolier. However, for the gear junky that just likes having everything they could possibly need for a full day on the water, this pack is a perfect fit. You will hardly suffer the consequences of your greedy gear needs when you fish with the Swiftwater ZS tech vest. A long day doesn’t always have to end rubbing sore shoulders.
“Be good to the fish and the fish will be good to you”
2 thoughts on “Umpqua Swiftwater ZS Tech Vest Review”
Thanks for the shout out! I really like your review after initial use and agree that this pack will last you a long long time. I have now used the Swiftwater ZS for almost a year and it has not let me down.
Another tool you might consider riggin into the zero sweep ports is the Ketchum Release tool, http://www.avidmax.com/waterworks-ketchum-release-tool/. It’s handy to have quick access when trying to keep fish in the water and get them released efficiently.