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Choosing the perfect Fly Fishing Travel Bag

We get asked regularly about travel bags and cabin bags, and with the current market being filled with hundreds of options for fishing luggage, it can seem quite daunting and difficult to decide what you should be looking for. Being in this industry for many years we have developed quite a substantial understanding of what ‘makes or breaks’ a fly fishing travel bag.
However, we would love to hear what you think makes for the perfect travel luggage. Below we have listed 3 questions to get you thinking about what you currently class as ‘the perfect bag’.

What is the best fly fishing travel bag you have used?

Whats good and bad about them?

What would you like to see in a fly fishing travel bag?

There are so many attributes a good bag needs for the travelling angler, and its not all about size! Below are five things we always take into consideration these days when picking out a new fly fishing travel bag:

anglers with Fly Fishing Travel Bag

1.  The weight of bag when it’s empty?

This is an easy one to answer, it needs to be as light as possible because we all like to take as much fishing tackle as we can. The baggage weight restrictions on international flights is never a problem, but when you have to take an internal flight to get to some of the more remote destinations the allowances for weight drop dramatically, and the last thing you want is the bag itself to take up half of that. 

The bag also needs to be really strong to handle all the abuse given by baggage handlers at airports, plus it needs to give some sort of protection to the delicate fishing items you may have packed. This added strength starts to mean that the overall weight is also higher.

For example the XS Travel bag from Snowbee comes in at just 4.5kg when empty, which is very light considering the 6mm thick impact-resistant frame and stand up roller function.

2.  Soft or hard case?

Yet again there are advantages for both sides of the spectrum, hard cases will do a much better job of protecting your delicate equipment, however, as I tend to find with my job, exploring the more remote destinations, often only allow anglers to have soft bags so they can be squeezed and moulded into tight cargo holds on small planes and transport.

This is where a bag such as the Simms GTS Gear Duffel Bag really comes into a world of its own, on those smaller transport shuttles with very small luggage holds.

3.  Material?

When it comes down to picking a material for your bag, you really need to consider the following; It needs to be light, extremely strong and with some degree of waterproofing. Materials such as CORDURA® offer a good blend of these requirements, with companies such as Simms and Patagonia both adopting this material into their travel bags.

For example, the Orvis Carry-it-All designed by Perk Perkins to be sure his equipment stayed safe and in his possession on flights to fly-fishing destinationsis made with a CORDURA® ECO 600 denier polyester and offers amazing protection for travelling anglers. It also needs to be able to withstand all the rubbing & wear and tear from luggage belts that seem to love ripping out the bottom of bags.

4.  Fishing rods – Do you check them in inside your bags or pay separately?

Another huge factor that is often the main concern for us anglers, is our rods. Nothing is worse than waiting at the baggage claim to see if our luggage turns up in one piece.  I really don’t want to check in another piece of luggage at the airports, as I prefer to use travel multi-piece rods packed in a hard rod tube packed securely inside my bag, so the bag needs to be long enough to take these standard rod tubes.

Alternatively, bags such as the Simms GTS Rod & Reel Vault are perfect for transporting up to 6 9’6″ 4-piece rods and eight reels/spools in a highly durable and crush-resistant compression moulded ballistic nylon. Although this would require anglers to bring another bag for tackle, its a great option for carrying multiple setups with complete peace of mind that all your gear is safe.

5.  Roller or carry on?

My last 3 travel bags have all had wheels or rollers as it helps especially when having to transfer between planes and terminals. Lugging 20 kilos on my back around airports along with camera bags and hand luggage is not my idea of fun. However, it is quite often the rollers that get smashed or worse caught up ripping the bottom of the bag in the process.

The Simms GTS Roller is a rugged, weather-resistant workhorse that also pairs up perfectly with the GTS Rod & Reel Vault mentioned earlier to create an almost all-in-one travel setup.

What do you think is the perfect fly fishing travel bag?

I have tested a full range of travel bags over the years from low-cost budget bags to very expensive luxury models, but I am still yet to find a travel bag that will last me more than one season. (I do travel lots each year running a fishing holiday business) which probably makes me a tackle manufactures worst nightmare.

I would love to hear your views and recommendations so please feel free to recommend any make or model based on actual experience and post your comments in the comment box at the bottom of this page. The more peoples experiences we receive the better. You never know between us all we may end up designing the best travel bag ever to be put into production!

Tight lines
Peter Collingsworth

Contact us

Now that you have the perfect fly fishing travel bag, its now time to put it to the test and get travelling! If you are in need of inspiration, why not have a closer look at both our freshwater and saltwater fly fishing destinations pages on our website.

If you have any questions about any of our fishing trips or would like advice on the tackle or equipment we recommend for your holiday even if it’s just about what travel bag to invest in, then please feel free to contact our fishing team by email on or call us on 01603 407596 and our team will be more than happy to help you with any queries you have.


  1. Richard Thomas

    British Army NATO Black Deployment Bag 80 litre. Carry as a duffel or shoulder straps 2kg when empty. Indestructible,waterproof lined, array of pockets and ticks all the box’s you mentioned. You can get them for about £50 but even cheaper if you search around. Anything that is military NATO grade has to pass rigged tests of durability and usage and gleaned over decades of military use.

  2. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

    Yes they are great bags and I know a few people who use them all the time.

  3. Norman Berry

    The 2014 model!!! How old is this post???

  4. Roy Green

    Fishpond bags are and always will be my go to for fishing gear travel bags. Just changed my last one after fifteen years and that travelled numerous times to Africa, Bahamas, Panama along with a lot of family trips. Not cheap but great bags

  5. John

    Have been very happy with my Orvis roller bag pictured above. Decent frame and stands up vertical when resting (many don’t). Good lower compartment for tackle and waders/boots etc. Also have a large North Face duffel if I know I am going to be roughing it (it has built in back straps which allows you to hike comfortably for a few clicks if necessary or doing foot connections) or just want to save on those few kilos. It also takes my 10ft rod confortably (it’s a real diagonal squeeze in the Orvis). One bag I do have my eye on is the Ortlieb RS duffel (my Finnish guide in Greenland had one). Really long for rods (>9ft), waterproof, good value, with wheels AND back straps. Weighs in at 3kg. It seems a great compromise between the very light North Face duffel and a Orvis style roller duffel.

  6. David Milne

    I worn north face mountain clothing for my fishing for well over 20 years wont ware nothing else.Never failed durable warm waterproof.There again their expensive,cross hard bottom soft top case was another story.It failed to withstand the outbound journey to Namibia on its first trip;on arrival it was in half ripped end to end.Maybe just unlucky baggage handlers are well tough on your baggage.
    Got a Animal case now,looks pretty identical style to photo of case above.Cant fault it,done countless long haul flights for past ten years.Not just my fishing tours either;Namibia Angola RSA Senegal Central America basically remote places.
    I’m a contractor in construction l work all over Europe,so inbetween fishing holidays it gets dragged into work use weekly as well.
    Granted it beaten and battered now and around the world a few times;but its intact,and still protects my gear and clothes.Think their expensive but not overly serious amounts, for the £100 l paid in winter sales ten years ago for it,it’s been faultless.This current one will be be replaced with the same again if they make it still..

  7. denis cronin

    JMC do an excellent bag

  8. John billings

    I’m definitely a fan of the North Face base camp bags. They are strong, waterproof, very spacious and have several carry handles located around the bag As well as shoulder straps. I have been using the large as a check in bag which easily has enough room for my clothes, tackle and travel rods and the small as a carry on bag. I would highly recommend having a look at the base camp bag/s, I’ve had mine just over four years and never had a problem with them.

  9. Tim watson

    I’ve travelled the world and now I use either a bazooka tube for the rods if possible or if I can only take the one bag a Gunn and Moore cricket bag. Airlines are used to taking them and they take the largest travel rods I have. They are tough and light yet still have three wheels on so can be wheeeled along. My only tip is to use a piece of large bore drain pipe to encase the rods inside the bag. Lastly take your expensive reels minus the spools (your not allowed to take preloaded spoils on to a plane as hand luggage) in your hand luggage as it keeps the w itchy down and protects them better. Lastly use TSA padlocks or you risk having them cut in America by security services.

    1. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest


      Thanks for your comments and ideas I am sure everyone will find them very useful.

    2. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

      Ha Nick

      Love the idea of stuffing your pockets with lures and heavy stuff. I have been away with you and seen you do this with my own eyes.

      Talk soon buddy

  10. Nick Peat

    For me any checked in bags have to be hard to protect the contents from baggage handlers. I use the American Tourister non zip cases with TSA locks as zipper cases can be opened with a ballpoint and expensive reels stolen. The best rod case I’ve used is the Nucari which I picked up from Seven Seas in Bangkok. This extends to over 2 metres and opens along its entire length so there is less risk of damage to rods if TSA open it. It also has internal foam blocks for additional protection. I get round weight limits by wearing my 20 pocket waistcoat on the plane and stuff the pockets with heavy items. I take the hooks off lures and have them in my pockets or carry on as plastic lure boxes often get smashed if you check them in.

  11. jacques mathan

    Flyfishing anglers face more and more problems of things beeing stollen in their bag during transit. Myself i always join the two ways zip with a padlock.
    That means that the bag should be so designed that all its zips are two ways zips.i am interested in à snowbee new bag. When looking the picture of this new bag It seems that the right and left upper compartments are single way zips. Can you please confirm?
    Thank you

  12. Gordon Balcomb

    The fishing bag that never goes tearing apart one’s mood while packing or unpacking ever on fishing is a true choice! A durable excellence should rather be broadly sought. Adequate attributes may also go varying as per various views and recommendations searched; customization required.

  13. Dave humphries

    I have a Sierra fishing travel bag which I put in a large canvas bag to protect &keep prying eyes of, the only down side it’s heavy when empty,so I use a large wheelie case you can lift with your little finger ,rod tubes in the bottom with gear & clothes packed around ,use this every year when going to USA ,Canada with no problems.

    1. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

      Dave sounds like a plan, do you have any pictures of your set up you use and we will add them up to the article for others to see.

      Regards Peter

  14. Dave humphries

    I have a Sierra travel case but it’s heavy when empty,also I have to put it in large body bag to protect it & keep prying eyes off. so I use a large wheelie case that you can lift with your little finger when empty.rods in tubes at the bottom & clothes & tackle packed around.use this in USA ,Canada on many occasions with no trouble.

  15. Bruce Mahony

    I’m running a Snowbee and am happy with it. I bought it just prior to the changes to international luggage sizes so it is 10cm over length. I use the compression straps on the bag so it never looks as though it is oversize.

    When I do get a new bag I’ll look around as the current High Sierra, Antler & Clear Creek bags are good bags as well and not as pricey as the Snowbee.

    One thing I’ve done with my travel with rods is to make a 100mm dia rod tube. It holds five rods and is the weight of 4 50mm tubes so that is a saving of 1+kgs in weight.

    Make sure you pack the tubes properly so the rods will not move. I’ve been travelling with rod tubes for 35+ years and to date I’ve had no breakages. B|

  16. david milne

    Interesting thoughts can only say what im using for the past ten years.As a international travelling contractor l get about on every mode of transport invented,and a angler that travels abroad annually.

    Bought my standard Animal 80 litre holdall,its semi hard on bottom and one side , wheeled and retractable rigid handle.Carried all my gear and tackle,excluding rods,all over UK and Europe,States and Central America and survived the vigors of some real remote parts of west and central Africa,Deserts and jungles.

    Not the most expensive when bought 100 quid,but after where its been and how far its still amazingly totally intact,zips included,few scraps and scuffed corners thats it.And never had any damaged valuables inside my prized saltigas.

    It will be replaced by another one in future best by chance buy ever,as at the time of purchase,my north face holdall lasted one trip to Namibia and fell to bits,needed a replacement in a hurry for Costa Rica, found it by chance in some department store, looked good felt strong, never looked back ten years on, enough said.

    1. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

      That sound like the perfect bag if it can last the duration as you quite rightly said some of the so called purpose made bags in reality can not handle real travel. Ok for 1 annual trip and it they will last you a few years. Would love to know if you can still get the same bag as yours ???

      1. david milne

        Peter so would l hope so anyway its really taken some beatings in transit and stood up to everything.Unfortunately as its ten years old now l see similar looking one on Animal suppliers website £110 quid today first one l looked at,out of interest but without actually getting a hold of one and comparing materials and quality of build hard to say from picture,looks same.But as you know companies down grade on quality these days.Mine is really very well made stitching etc,but l just discovered is still made in China.

  17. Annie Margarita

    Custom Leather Fly Rod and Reel Cases!!! To your specifications! Go to Travel in Style! Hugs! Annie

    1. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

      Annie, wow thats some class stuff thanks for sharing.

  18. David Stocker

    At £60 delivered this good looking bag is fab value (I have one)

    but its a bit on the heavy side, and over-designed with too many pockets.

    When travelling, I use a large diameter adjustable artists tube in the middle section, which can take 4 rods and offers adequate protection.

    The problem this solves is the weight of standard protective rod tubes.

    Given the rolling nature of these bags, the end of the bag with the wheels can get scuffed & scraped by the ground in transit. The bottom of these kind of bags should therefore be re-inforced to withstand such wear.

    1. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

      Thanks for sharing all the info David, great to see everyones comments

    2. Tracey Buckenham Sportquest

      Thata a good bag David and a great price too. I agree that it’s got too many pockets, I’d spend too much time looking for stuff in the pockets, I haven’t got the best memory!

    3. Tracey Buckenham Sportquest

      Your friend sounds like a nutter! 🙂

  19. jason

    Hi Tracey, can’t post pics here but if you drop me a mail at I could send you a picture. Depending on numbers of orders etc these come out between 40 & 45, not sure on capacity in litres but swallowed 10 days worth of kit and clothes easily

  20. brian lurie

    i have a Scott soft bag with a 100mm pvc pipe enclosed on the bottom for my 5 piece rods {6}
    space for clothing ,waders and a sectioned area for reels flies and whatever
    has lasted 6 yrs ..getting tattered…even taken and survived a trip to Kenya Watamu/Malindi flyfishing for sailfish

    1. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

      Brian, Thanks for your comments, this is turning out to be a great little post. Its great to see everyones different ideas.

  21. Roger Tilbrook

    Interesting comments and recommendations. There seems to be a theme to keep it simple rather than buy a bespoke (and often very expensive) angling bag and I’m going to reinforce that trend. I purchased a Shetland XL 130ltr sail bag, the material is waterproof, bag light but very strong is long enough for travel rods and very good value. Downside a narrow zip and no wheels but these are easily offset by the advantages.

    1. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

      Roger, thanks for your comments and yes you are correct it seems there is no simple answer, it just goes to show that there is NO clear leader in the travel bag world and something that no real manufacture has really thought through with a lot of investment. I am sure if someone could come up with the ultimate travel bag they would clean up worldwide.

  22. Michael Tweed

    I have had my snowbee for years and its stood the test of time, I’m due for a new one so I’m interest in the comments. I must admit my second favourite is my rucksack or bum bag from overboard, great bits of kit.

    1. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

      Michael, Yes I have had the Snowbee ones and they are a great bag, one of my favourites to be honest. I would like to take a look at the new one, as the 3 previous models I have had the bottoms got worn out from all the time going round luggage belts. The upper part of the bag are so strong and never any issues just the bottoms.

      I think if you are doing just 1 or 2 trips pr year they are a great investment. But I did find from my previous ones do 10 trips pr year and that was about as much as the bottoms could handle.

  23. Mathew Rickard

    Heard many great reports about the north face duffel bags. A family friend has one and used it and abused it for sometime now, it even fell off his motorbike at 50mph and still it fails to break. Might have to invest in one of those. Very light and strong and most importantly all my fishing gear will fit in nicely


    1. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

      They sound worth a look Mathew

  24. Jason Heenan

    Just had one custom made by a guy who makes cricket bags. A couple of rod tube holders built in as well. Heavy duty and with rucksack straps. Ideal for lugging on and off boats and also leaves hands free.

    1. Chris Warner-hill

      I know a man who could sell them on eBay jason

      1. Jason Heenan

        I’ll send you some details mate

      2. Jason Heenan

        Survived 6 flights around Africa so far

      3. Tracey Buckenham Sportquest

        I would love to see a picture if you can get one?

        1. jason

          Hi Tracey, can’t post pics here but if you drop me a mail at I could send you a picture. Depending on numbers of orders etc these come out between 40 & 45, not sure on capacity in litres but swallowed 10 days worth of kit and clothes easily 🙂

        2. Tracey Buckenham Sportquest

          Hi Jason, thank you for the pictures, I ‘m really impressed that the bag is in our Sportquest Holidays colours! I’ve added your photos to the bottom of the blog so everyone can see them. Where are you next taking your bag on holiday?

  25. Jasper Vos

    I have a large Samsonite case,
    It is brilliant. I took 5 rods in 3 tubes and some luggage. The case is light and bombproof. These rolling duffels might not be the smartest choice IMO.

    Cheers, Jasper

    1. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

      Jasper, thanks for that, yes they are great bags for just long haul, but on some of our more remote destinations where you need a small plane out to a remote lodge they would not take a big hard case like that one.

      So it was trying to come up with something that could possibly fit lots of different uses

  26. Chris Warner-hill

    Not sure of the best , but my ex was the worst travel bag

    1. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

      Only you Chris only you lol 🙂

    2. Chris Warner-hill

      Seriously, I use my “antique ” Nash waterproof rucksack with a pac safe security mesh

  27. Ally Gowans

    I have been using Mountain Equipment Coop bags for years they are cheap, big, strong and light.

    1. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

      Thanks I will check them out

  28. Mark Latham

    Hi peter , i think theres no such thing as to whats best , i have been down that road aswell , now i generally put everything into seperates , rig ,line, hook , lure boxes and then pack into a holdal , this seems to have been my best option , and replace the holdal every 2 years or so , been using a bag from sporting wholesale for quite a while now cheap as chips , china made , no name , but its seems very durable , and my holdals i have been buying from a local travel bag shop ! unless i get sponsership which i have more chance of winning the lottery , i will continue a the big names are no better , paying for the brand than quality ! and the so called fishing holdals with all the compartments never work practically abroad ! u know this ?

    1. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

      Mark, many people are thinking the same, how can any bag last a longtime so why not just go for cheap options and then its easy and no hassle to keep replacing.

      What does everyone else think ????

  29. Mike Barclay

    The one with your passport and ticket in it.

    1. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

      Wouldn’t leave my passport in it as would need it to go through passport control 🙂

  30. Graeme

    Giant North face duffel bags. Water proof, easy to carry, condense down small when not in use and can take alot of punishment, just ask an Everest expedition!

    1. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

      There is a lot to say about the simplicity of duffel bags, plus they weigh nothing empty. Many designed bags for fishing weigh 3 to 4 kilos empty, when you are on strict weight limits of 23kilos thats a lot of weight gone even before you put anything inside.

  31. kevin mc guire

    living in Ireland-I have travelled to Canada,alaska andof course united states all several times-the bag I found best of ALL was the sierra luggage bag-can hold rods and boots chestwaders etc in the bottom hard section with plenty of room in the other section for clothes etc.I guess this bag has travelled some 15000 miles with me with no problems.

    1. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

      Thanks Kevin thats a new one I will take a look

  32. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

    Thats typical mention bags and the first two people to leave comments are female… Come on guys this is the only safe time we can talk about bags. 🙂

    I need a new bag for my next trip what would you buy?

  33. Tracey Buckenham Sportquest

    I’ve always used the Snowbee bag in the picture above, rods fit in a treat in rod tubes in the bottom compartment and plenty of room for clothes in the top. Going to need a new bag soon so looking forward to reading some recommendations

    1. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

      Tracey the Snowbee bags have served us well, It would be good to have a close look at the new 2014 model

  34. Melanie Brock

    I always find a Mulberry is good……..or am I thinking handbag

    1. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

      Like to see you get a pair of waders in that then 🙂

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