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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > Fishpond San Juan Vertical Chest Pack > Owner Review by Jamie DeBenedetto

San Juan Vertical Chest Pack
By Fishpond

Owner Review by Jamie J. DeBenedetto

July 12th, 2021

Report Contents

Reviewer's Information

Product Information & Description

Collective Use and Field Conditions

Pros and Cons

Reviewer's Information Back to contents

Name Jamie J. DeBenedetto

Age and Gender 48 year old female

Height 5' 11" (1.8 m)

Weight 179 lb (81 kg)

Email JamieD1005(at)


I grew up outdoorsy but didn't catch the backpacking bug until high school. Not long after, I started a local hiking club for people and their dogs. I've been leading day hikes and two to three-day backpacking outings ever since. Family car camping and kayaking trips round out my other outdoor obsessions. I prefer hammocks over ground sleeping and I gravitate toward multifunctional gear that enhances my comfort level with minimal fuss and weight. My total pack weight is typically less than 25 lb (11 kg) for overnighters, less for day hikes.


Phoenix, Arizona (AZ) - The Grand Canyon State - USA


















Product Information Back to contents

Manufacture URL

Little River Outfitters Inc

Year of Purchase


Made in



$49.95 USD

(Listed Specifications - Taken from the packaging and/or website)

Listed Weight Not given
Dimensions 5" x 4" x 8.5" (13 x 10 x 21.5 cm)
Interior Capacity 180 cu in (2.95 L)
Color Options (mine)Saddle Brown and Tidal Blue
Materials and Care Instructions Not given

(Specifications as received and observed by this writer)

Weight (taken with a digital office scale) 6 oz (170 g)
Dimensions Confirmed

Product Description Back to contents

The manufacturer's website describes the Fishpond Vertical Chest Pack as a mainstay for fly fisherman because "this chest pack is light, small and designed for the minimalist who wants to go fly fishing unencumbered by bulk and weight." I don't fly fish but I bought it for those very same reasons. I was looking to replace a worn-out compact camera case with something slightly roomier. The San Juan had all the features I wanted: One large ¾ zippered main compartment which houses both a zippered interior pocket and an elastic divider pocket; in front of that is a smaller fully zippered pocket that opens to 90 degrees (they call this the "zip-down fly bench"). This compartment comes with a little replaceable foam piece. In front of that is an external webbing pocket. Four cord loops and two stretch loops round out the gear hanging or storage options. The chest pack can be worn in a few different configurations: on a belt via a loop attachment point on the back panel or hung from my neck using the padded neck strap alone or as a sling or full-on chest pack by combining the neck strap with an included waist strap. Attachment straps connect via four plastic D-rings, the straps are removable, the D-rings are not. All zippers, except the one on the inside pocket, have corded pulls. Lastly, the back panel is covered in mesh with a light padding underneath and the bottom portion is reinforced with a little extra fabric, in my case this is the part that is saddle brown color. The rest is olive.

Collective Use and Field Conditions Back to contents

I've been using the San Juan chest pack since March 2020, in that time I estimate I've used it on something like 20 day hikes and one overnight backpacking trip, all in my home state of Arizona (AZ).

Our overnight backpacking outing took place on the Picketpost Loop trail within the Tonto National Forest near Superior, AZ. Elevation at camp was 2,700 ft (820 m). Weather was brisk for the desert. We had our usual late spring cold front roll in dropping snow on the nearby mountain tops and rain on us several times throughout the day and into the evening. I woke up to ice accumulation on my tarp so I know the overnight low was at least freezing for a short time. Our track took us through a mix of Sonoran Desert vegetation mixed with Arizona riparian habitat. (The picture on the right is from this trip)

Day hikes took place in several locations from Sonoran Desert trails near Phoenix, AZ (elevation around 2,000 ft / 600 m) up to the high desert and oak scrub of the Prescott National Forest near Prescott, AZ (elevation 5,200 ft / 1,600 m) and into the Ponderosa pine forests of the Coconino and Apache-Sitgraves National Forests near Flagstaff and Payson, AZ respectively (elevations between 5,200 and 7,000 ft / 1,600 and 2,100 m). The San Juan has also tagged along on a few camping trips and other weekend travel excursions. Other than when I've attached it to my backpacking pack, it stays on my day pack which goes with me pretty much anywhere I feel there might be a possibility of hiking.

It's been worn in rain, sun and windy conditions as well as within a wide variety of temperatures. Anything from freezing on the low end up to the low 100's F (38 C) on the high end.

My Experience Back to contents

Over my years of hiking I've tried to solve the age-old problem of how to keep certain items within easy reach. Various configurations of fanny packs, cargo shorts, shoulder strap cases, waist-belt pockets, RibZ, etc. have all been tried. All have their pros & cons and have worked for certain combinations of gear or while on one or two outings but none has worked universally. Enter the Fishpond San Juan chest pack. I discovered the San Juan in the fishing department at the outdoor retail store where I work. Up to that point it hadn't occurred to me to look at fishing chest packs as a possible solution for this problem. All the ones I had seen were much too large for my purposes. The little San Juan, however, was barely bigger than what I was already using, a camera case hung from my chest strap. Seeing that it had pretty much every feature I wanted and gave me more than one choice to wear it I scooped one up and set about modifying it from the perfect fly fishing companion to the perfect hiking accessory.

Of the four ways to wear it, I found the most comfortable option was as a traditional chest pack. The neck strap is comfortable and when the waist strap is added into the equation any back-and-forth swaying or bounce is totally eliminated. The problem for me is I need to wear it with a day or weekend backpack as well and none of the fit options was as comfortable as I wanted in that situation. The good news is the San Juan is so versatile it can be completely liberated of all straps giving me the option of rigging it up directly to my pack's shoulder straps. My solution was to use a combination of small carabineers and my pack's integrated chest strap to create the fit I wanted.

The pockets are well thought out. The larger one only opens ¾ of the way, which offers plenty of room to get my hand inside but doesn't open too much so that things can drop out without my noticing. The small zippered section inside separates smaller items nicely. I generally keep tissue and a cholla cactus comb in there for safe keeping. The rest of the main compartment houses my cell phone and either a monocular or a scorpion black light depending on whether or not I'm day or night hiking.
The smaller front pocket does open to 90 degrees creating the "fly-bench". This originally came with a hook-and-loop attached foam pad for flies and hooks. Whether by accident or on purpose I don't know but when the pad is removed the soft side of the hook-and-loop remains exposed on the inside of the pocket. This works fabulously for me because I use that pocket for my compact camera and the soft hook-and-loop actually provides more protection for it!!
The outside mesh pocket holds my GPS. I used to also keep lip balm in there but after it fell out a few times I realized this is not the right pocket for that. This mesh pocket is small and the top remains open all the time making it the least useful pocket on the San Juan. I only trust it for my GPS because I have it tethered using a nearby gear attachment loop.

Durability hasn't been challenged much due to its location on my body. I generally try to avoid taking too many whacks to the chest from brush. The pack has been subjected to lots of sweat, however, and it doesn't smell even the slightest bit funky. From day one I've only had two areas I thought might wear out over time; the zippers and the plastic D-rings. Both are still working great.

Pros and Cons Back to contents

Things I like...

  • Most of all, I like its adaptability. Even though it's intended for fishermen, I've been able to transition it into a hiker's chest pack with only a few minor adjustments.
  • The price wasn't too steep.
  • The weight is reasonable.
  • Even though compact, I've had plenty of room for things I want to keep handy.
  • Multiple attachment options allowed me to fit it to my specific needs.

Things I don't like...

  • The only thing I don't like about the San Juan is the little mesh front pocket. The stretchy bit at the top is too loose to trust the pocket for anything freely placed inside. Any items I put there have to be secured via a secondary option or I risk losing them.

    Thanks for reading. I hope my review was helpful. - JJD-2021

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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > Fishpond San Juan Vertical Chest Pack > Owner Review by Jamie DeBenedetto

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