Zimmerbuilt Tailwater Pack

I’m considering buying this pack for the trip to Colorado next year but I would like to hear everyone’s input on this particular pack, ie, what was your reason for buying one, what features you had customized into the pack, why you like the fit, how it carries, etc, and of course, what you didn’t like about it. I would also like opinions on waist belt for load transfer, like or dislike of it. I’m not speaking of a simple nylon strap but the waist belt similar to the belt on a backpacking backpack. I know the pack can be configured many ways. Adam and Tom D. I’ve read your blog posts on it so you don’t have to chime if you don’t want to but of course your comments are welcome.

Thanks everyone.

I still use mine. It’s a nice little day pack. It’s not very large, so you have to choose what you carry carefully, but with your hiking experience this would not be a problem. I don’t carry a water bladder in mine since it takes up to much room. For water, I just carry a cup and a SteriPen.

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This pack will end up having a slightly higher capacity than my Patagonia hybrid pack vest. Which although the hybrid is great, I’ve struggled a little bit if i need to carry an extra layer in it in addition to a rain jacket. The Zimmerbuilt will be able to do that especially if hiking in farther from where the car is parked as it frequently happened in Idaho. Fortunately the week we were there the weather was Texas-like and i had no need for extra layers. I know from living in Colorado that won’t be the case. As you, I don’t carry a bladder either. I use either the steripen, a katadyn befree or the sawyer mini.

I had one customized this year. I will try to do a review on this thread.

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I bought the zimmerbilt Tenkara sling lite. That thing is perfect for day trips that are short distances. Within a couple miles. Most of the water I fish it is all I need. Its nice to just grab that one bag and I know I have everything I need. Including water and snacks. I rigged mine exactly how Jason Klass. The Lite is smaller than the guide sling…I like the smaller bag.

This summer, I did a family trip. 2 mile hike to some remote water…fished a little…and hiked back. I began to realize that the tenkara sling lite was not enough. I pretty much had the sling busting the seams…it was so packed. I also fished some other trips with friends to remote rivers where I could have benefited by a larger pack.

Tom Davis’ review.

So I started looking at the other packs Chris has. Read some reviews, and decided on the Tailwater over the guide sling. I wanted something I could really load up if I needed. I figured the tailwater would still be small enough to actually fish with while wearing it. And it would be big enough to tote wading gear if I needed to. I could also use it for surfcasting. Sometimes I do long hikes to remote water. I never bring anything, because I do not have an appropriate pack for the purpose. Something that is waterproof makes a difference, because I fish in the rain a lot.

I customized mine.

  1. tailwater base price -$95
  2. olive hybrid cuben -$20
  3. removable web belt -$15
  4. interior stash pocket -$10
  5. internal bladder/plastic insert sleeve -$20
  6. additional daisy chain - $10
  7. Supersized the rod sleeves to 4.24" circumference

pack total …$170.
I also added,
Tenkara Strap Pack …29.99

All the customization really added up. Some might consider it kind of pricey, but I think its worth every penny. They are such nice bags, and they are designed for us. Compare them to simms or orvis bags and it becomes crystal clear that the zimmerbuilt bags are apex quality and values, especially considering we have the option of customization.

Here is a pic that compares the sling lite and the tailwater. I mentioned to Chris Zimmer that it would be cool to have a comparison lineup on his site. Its really hard to gauge the size differences.


There is a chest strap and a waist strap. Chris noted that a padded waist strap for this size pack would be overkill. I would agree and do not regret just getting the webbing straps for the waist. I see the waist belt being a plus mostly when bushwhacking. Crawling under fallen wood, it would help keep everything in place.

I have a pair of gear keepers on the front of the pack. My nippers and dr.slick mitten clamp are on the same keepers on the sling. The gear keepers have a quick release that allows me to transfer them easily from one bag to the other. I also have a strap pack for my flybox, tippet, and line. I rigged it so I don’t have to access the pack when I fish.

The hybrid cuben is water proof.

Some review I read noted that items could easily poke you in the back as the pack is not padded. I requested an internal sleeve to hold a bladder in place and to use as an option to slide a plastic sheet or some padding. It could also serve as a compartment to separate items. Like I could fold up a rain jacket to fit in the footprint of the sleeve.

The sleeve is in the back of the bag where the black shiny hybid cuben meets the olive material

This is looking down the sleeve.

I requested the sleeve have a stash pocket attached to it.
I lifted it up to reveal the size.


I asked for another strip of daisy chaining to be added to the sides of the pack. I asked for this so I have more options for anchoring stuff. I decided I wanted this for those long spring and fall hikes. I can fold and strap down waist high waders and even chest waders over the top of the pack. Hike in comfortable…hike out comfortable. Important feature for me. When I overheat. I get angry.

I also asked that the rod sleeves be bigger. The shock cord does a pretty good job of holding everything in place for the sling…and those pockets are pretty loose.

I have not used this pack a ton. The times I have, it operated very nicely. I will update this thread if I run into any further considerations. I will start migrating from surfcasting into tenkara for the late fall, winter, through early spring. It ought to get more use shortly. I suspect that in the winter, my jetboil may be getting a ride with me on the river.


I like it. Good color choice also. I went with the standard Tailwater, a Strap Pack and a water bottle holder. I like all your customizations for the pack. They seem to be well thought out. I’ve found over the years with my packs and storage options they have, I have generally dumped everything in the main compartment and rarely use the zippered pockets and such. Most of the time, I have smaller items separated into smaller cuben sacks or ziplocks if necessary. That hydration bladder hook that is in the Tailwater will end up holding my car keys because I don’t carry a bladder. I need this pack to hold these specifics: rain shell, insulating layer, hat, food, first aid and sometimes a small alcohol stove set up and a small, folding sit pad (the sit pad will be inside the pack against my back). Lastly, my Chota hippies if I hike somewhere over a distance of more than a couple of miles before fishing. I generally only carry two tenkara rods on any given fishing trip and sometimes just one with maybe a spare tip. Those standard rod pockets will work well for my needs.

I’ve been using my Patagonia Hybrid vest pack for a couple of years now and the only drawback to it is the rather smallish 13L integrated backpack compared to the Tailwater which is 21L. I generally can put everything I need for a day of fishing in it like food, first aid, my water filter and a light layer. But, if hiking somewhere, I would have to wear my waders rather than having an option to pack them and wear them later. Also there wasn’t enough room to pack and extra insulating layer in the pack. So either I carry a waterproof layer or an insulating layer, but not both unless it was cold enough to wear one of those things all day long. Generally though in the late summer/early fall you might encounter cool mornings and a warm afternoon, I could have crammed it in there to make it fit but then you have a bulge against your back all day. The Tailwater’s size will be just right for what I need to carry. The Strap Pack will be used for the obvious fishing items and the waterbottle pocket will most likely hold my Katadyn befree filter which worked very well in Idaho.

Too late for @R_Ruff, but for anyone else reading this thread I would also recommend considering a ULA CDT backpack. It’s light enough to work just fine as a day pack (for the purposes described in this thread), but it’s also big enough for short backpacking trips if you have light & compact stuff.

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I probably should have stuck to the camo. Went with the olive because my wife makes fun of me whenever I buy anything camo. I figure it would serve just as well plus it looks nice.

The interior pocket is for extra line, fire starter stuff, TP, first aid, and whatever other odds and ends I can get into it. I do hear ya about the stuff sacks, but I kind of like one location that I can beeline to…vs…having to juggle searching the bags in bags.

I would like to hear more about the water filtering stuff. The Katadyn befree and how you use it during your outings.

I go with a bladder, because I use the transit to/from the water to hydrate. When I am on the water, I rarely think of it…too focused on fishing. I often have to make myself stop for a break. The downside is having to tote the weight.

Thanks for posting. I like seeing these packs for other applications. Looks like the ULA fastpack or photon is closer in volume, but over double the weight. Those look like nice comfortable backs though.

another company with options is:

The tailwater is about 21L and 8.75 oz…

It might sound silly to talk about a few ounces, but in this case the difference with the ULA packs is close to a pound. That is one thing that is nice about these packs. On their own they are so light. I generally cannot fish with stuff hanging on my shoulders…or feel weight shifting around. Granted, if you pack them up with a bunch of heavy stuff then the difference is moot…especially if carrying water. For me, I would use the pack to store shed layers on a hike in…then layer up when I am idle in the river.

You can strip the CDT down to about 19 oz if you take out certain bits.

I hear you on weight and won’t argue. Personally, though, I’d rather buy one pack that costs only $145 and can cover both day-on-the-water activities as well as overnight trips.

If you really want to talk about weight though…my most used day pack for fishing is the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Sack. It holds 18 liters (enough for a jacket, ditty bag and lunch), weighs under 4oz, and has a water bottle pocket. Since I’m talking about multi-purpose stuff, it doubles as my food bag on overnight trips. And it only costs about $35 on amazon.

I looked at HMG packs but I didn’t think for the price it was something that I had to have nor did it really fit what I was going to use it for.

The Katadyn befree is a nice little filter. Filters water fast compared to the Sawyer mini. The filter and collapsible bottle are very lightweight under 3 oz empty. I was using it in clear water so all that was needed at the end of the day was a shake with tap water if that. I used it much more than my Sawyer Mini. I used the Mini in Montana last year and actually considered it a chore in both filtering and filling the collapsible bottle. It takes much more pressure to force water through the filter. The Befree has that 42mm opening and it was easy to fill the bottle. The pressure required to get the water through the filter was much less and the flow was greater than the Mini. By about the middle of the week, As with any hollow fiber membrane they have to be handled with care, don’t drop, don’t let it freeze etc. It works. Filters to 0.1 micron. I’ve used it fishing and backpacking. I have the original 0.6 liter bottle and a 1 liter hydrapak container. Both containers have the 42mm thread so the filter fits.

Thanks. I will look into it. The only filter I own was bought in 2002. Very old tech. I think its an older MSR MiniWorks. Its a ceramic style filter… It works…but its heavy. I only pack it when I am backpacking.

The befree is specifically a one person filter but there are those who have made systems with the filter to make it work for larger groups. I think however there are other filtration systems that are more efficient for larger water requirements like in a group setting. Also Sawyer is getting ready to unveil a new filter that is supposed to compete with the befree.

The Sawyer Mini has to be backflushed to keep it flowing well. The Befree doesn’t need to be backflushed and actually that isn’t recommended from Katadyn. The Sawyer mini has a claimed life of 100,000 gallons and the befree is 1,000 liters. But really, for personal use, that 1,000 liters would take several years or if you are a thru hiker, then it would probably be good for an entire thru hike before needing to be replaced.

There have been reports that the bottle has developed leaks around the weld at the top of the bottle. I haven’t had that issue but I’m pretty careful with my gear. Katadyn may have addressed that issue also.

I received the pack today and it is very well put together. The material is robust and definitely weatherproof. At the last moment I had decided to switch from the grey to the multicam. Chris took care of it without issues.

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A little late to the game but I’ll add my review here for those who find this page in the future and are interested in the pack.


I used the Tailwater pack in Rocky Mountain National Park this past week and it was perfect. It handled thunderstorms and even a dunk in the river after I fell because a rock under me shifted! Everything stayed dry.

The weather was rather mild for the week but there was a chance of afternoon thunderstorms each day. I carried two rods, a Marmot Precip jacket, food, a Katadyn Befree filter, 1st kit, a Spot GPS messenger and other incidentals. The pack held everything. I generally spent at least 8 hrs out each day which entailed hiking and fishing, mostly fishing. No complaints, great pack. I did take a total of 4 rods on the trip. They were a TRC Sawtooth, a TBum 36, a Daiwa Sagiri 45MC and the TBum Traveler 39. Depending on where I was fishing, I would choose which two would go with me on the stream. Most of the time it was using the Sagiri 45 or the TBum Traveler 39.

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I realize that this thread has been dormant for awhile, but why not revive it instead of create something new. Besides, this fits in completely. Lest I digress any further, I will get to my point.

Earlier this year, I went fishing with some friends. I exclusively used my Vedavoo Beast sling, that I have written about previously. That had been my only pack for fishing, whether my days were short or long. After almost a year and a half of use (best guess is about 110 days of fishing), my enthusiasm has waned quite a bit for the pack.

I still feel it is durable and very well made, so in that there are no faults. I feel it works relatively well for shorter trips, on warmer days. On longer days, like earlier this year (and fairly regular days I have during the season), I have been very frustrated.

This all lead me to ordering a customized Zimmerbuilt Tailwater. As have others before me, I cannot say enough good about this pack. I really like it and feel that it will likely fit my needs quite a bit better. I’ll see how I feel in a year and a half, but somehow I suspect that I will likely enjoy it even more.

As you can see, one of the big customizations that I had don was for it to no longer be a top-load pack. I had the upper zipper eliminated and one put in down the middle. I liken it to being opened like a baked potato and others liken it to a duffel bag. Either way, you get the idea. There were a number of reasons for this, but I won’t get into them. At each end of the zipper, I also had pull tabs with D-rings. One of the reasons for this is to attach my net. After some use, this works perfectly. I’m very happy with how this turned out. I also omitted the compression cord from the daisy chain. It’s something I don’t personally use and it would obviously get in the way of the zipper. I also had the internal bladder hook omitted (I don’t use water bladders).

Here I added the padded shoulder straps, a recommendation from several people I have spoken with who have Zimmerbuilt packs. As I am 6’5" (197cm), I also took advantage that this was being custom made for me and I lengthened the pack to better fit my torso. The standard Tailwater is 18" (~45.75cm) long, but I had it lengthened to 22" (~56cm). Obviously, this also increased the internal volume of the pack as well. Because of this, Chris recommended that I add a hip belt so it doesn’t slide around, which I had done.

Last, but not least, I asked Chris if he could make the entire top panel into a pocket. He suggested the zipper where it is and it turned out great.


I bought another one and stripped it bare.

I really enjoy this pack.

The therm a rest sit pad fits perfectly inside and goes along with it. Seriously consider pairing one with it…


Nice @anon86692127. That’s looks pretty good like that, a nice day pack. Did you have the rod sleeves removed too?

No hip belt or rod sleeves. I did have him add in the daisy chain in the center of the pack later.

Please check out the therm a rest sit pad…