This week’s review takes a look at the fantastic Airflo Outlander Covert Vest and Backpack. My biggest challenge was how to make a fishing vest sound remotely interesting to the discerning angler!
I am now onto my fourth fishing vest and my second Airflo vest. I should still be using my third vest the Airflo Mesh Vest still retailing at £59.99 on Fishtec , which is as good as new, but as a keen photographer as well as an angler and writer, the lure of the latest Airflo Outlander Covert Backpack vest proved too much.
I remember when I was in my early to mid-teens; we wouldn’t have seen too many anglers wearing a fishing vest about the rivers and lakes where we fished. Anglers were still very much rocking the waxed jacket and bush hat along with the occasional fibreglass rod. However one could labour the point that any coatless adventure in our unpredictable Northern Irish climates was deemed high risk as our grandparents and similar old folk warned us to stick a coat on or we’d catch our death!
The fishing vest however, still appeared in countless American movies and before long, it eventually caught on and plenty were wearing them here in the UK and Ireland once summer came around.
The main drawbacks were that these were essentially body warmers and had a paltry 4 pockets and not waterproof. They were still too warm for Summer! Even the lighter developed ones, were too light, were not sturdy enough to wear over a coat, and too flimsy to sustain the elements. There always seemed to be a drawback to owning a vest. Fast forward 15-20 years and it’s certainly clear that there has been a huge evolution when it comes to the traditional fishing vest. Before they were more an unnecessary fashion accessory, now they are an essential piece of kit.
The Airflo Outlander Covert Vest and Back Pack and it’s key features:
- Unique Urban Camo to break up the outline of the angler from the water *
- Built in attached rear back pack with storage space for hydration pack
- Moulded lumbar padding and support
- Front vest with multiple zip and non zip pockets
- 2 x built in, zip down fly boxes. One on each chest
- 2 x Zinger attachments
- Internal and external mesh pockets
- 6 x D rings to the front and 3 x D rings to the back
- One size fits all system
*Appears to be identical to the standard Airflo Outlander Vest except for the Urban Camoflage design.
But I already owned a good Airflo vest, so why did i get another?
While the mesh vest still allowed me to carry every accessory, with great ease. I was able to carry reels, spools, flyboxes, forceps, snips and anything else fishing related. It had multiple D loops for nets and was hands down, one of the best pieces of fishing equipment that I have ever owned!
My decision to jump to the Airflo Outlander Covert Backpack stemmed from a recent fishing experience whereby I couldn’t trust the weather. I had to carry an additional bag to carry my camera, my raincoat and an extra warm layer. Imagine my frustration as I arrived at the other side of the lough, to encounter a sudden downpour, only to reach for a bag that I had forgot to lift and get soaked as I went to retrieve it. From one extreme to the other, i did exactly the same thing over the summer with suncream in my bag and came home like a tomato! Lessons learned and i decided to look for something that would give the same carrying capacity of a bag, without me having to set it down and pick it up, every time i move. It’s the simple things that can make all the difference, especially when it comes down to product development and the needs of the angler.
What Makes This Better Than the Previous Vest?
There isn’t a lot of difference but how do Airflo even go about making a really good vest any better? Simple….they add even more storage space and a backpack! With the amount of fishing accessories joining the market nowadays, you obviously need more space to carry them. Strike Indicators, floatants, sinkants, dry fly boxes, wet fly boxes, lure boxes, snips, forceps, priests, tippet rings, leaders, braided loops…..you get the idea!
What we are looking at here is the Swiss Army Knife, or the leatherman tool of the flyfishing vest world. In otherwords, there are so many options that you don’t have to use, but are very handy to have just in case!
There are so many additional tactics and gear to catch fish but few opportunities to carry it in anything more than a bag. That’s to say, the standard vest is perfect for all of this, but if you are going on a longer excursion, then you start to factor in large cameras, food and drink, a garmin or even a fish (if you enjoy taking one for the table), then maybe it’s time to go for the backpack option.
One does not feel inhibited and is not at risk of being over encumbered by the backpack. It is not too big nor too small, it is just adequate. I was able to fit in a Nikon camera, a packet of biscuits, a bottle of pop and another layer of clothing and still had some room left, without distorting the shape of the bag. The pre moulded lumbar support makes sure that there is definitely no risk of overloading and putting you off balance when wading, given that it distributes the weight evenly.
The Outlander Covert does not prioritise warmth nor fashion, it prioritises the ability to carry more. However it happens to look cool with the military tac vest appearance and then the design team added a camo print to enforce this point). That alone taps into my boyish side in that I feel like I now own a military tac vest, however gimmicky that may come across to the discerning angler, it more than answers the call of duty and goes above and beyond in the field.
The camo pattern is also particularly useful to break up the angler’s outline when targeting wary fish. However common sense should prevail, if you are going to combine this with some crazy luminous attire. I personally try to remain discreet and went with the new Airflo Defender 3/4 Waterproof Fishing Jacket. The beauty of the one size fits all, means that this can be worn over almost any type of clothing, without any concerns with fit.
What I like about the Outlander Covert back pack, is that the additional pockets are very discreet. Only you will know where they are and they don’t stick out like a gimmicky sore thumb. A lot of brands (but not all) seem to like to try too much to draw attention to their storage and do everything but add a large neon sign that says, “Hey, this is a pocket, just in case you couldn’t see that!” Maybe I am being overcritical here but I much prefer the subtle approach that both Airflo and Wychwood (to a point) have adopted with their approach to this.
Don’t have the hands free to open pockets? No problem. Another small dual feature that I liked, was the discreet addition of 2 built in zinger tools, which is handy for line snips, or forceps. Not that I would be struggling for room to store them elsewhere, if I wanted. If it’s not in my vest, then I probably don’t own it! The key thing is, you can store so many items, without looking like the human version of the old childhood classic Buckaroo!
Would I buy?
“What are you waiting for?!” is probably the best answer i could give. Without exaggerating, this will probably be the last vest you will ever own. My last one was so good it has unleashed my inner hoarder and i am reluctant to set it free!
Available over at Fishtec at £59.99 for the basic Airflo Outlander mesh vest covert option and a very worthwhile £69.99 for the Airflo Outlander Covert vest and back pack (Be sure to select vest and back pack option in the drop down). Why not add the Airflo Trucker Fishing cap pictured earlier in the blog, weighing in at £12.99.
- Storage, storage and more storage
- Dual zip down fly boxes
- Lumbar padding and support
- Secret pockets galore
- Urban Camo pattern