Redington First Run
This mesh fishing vest is the perfect solution for hot days, or as an affordable, well-designed starter vest. The knit collar is comfortable and supports the weight of a 1-liter hydration reservoir and whatever else you can stow in the vest's 11 pockets. $60 | redington.com
Designed for women, this one-size-fits-most fishing vest can swallow your gear for long days on the river. Complete with fine details including lined hand-warmer pockets, it's adjustable to fit a range of chest sizes, is clean, and shatters the function-not-fashion mantra. The Muchacha is both, and if you're a woman, you'll not only look good on the water, you'll have everything organized for that next tight line. $140 | fishpondusa.com
Patagonia Sweet Pack Vest
Straight off the shelf, the Sweet Pack Vest is a monumental carry-all founded on a two-compartment 28-liter backpack. Inside there's a TPU waterproof pouch for your smartphone, outside there are rod tube holders and multiple attachment points for extra gear. The vest portion attaches to the comfortable padded shoulder straps of the backpack, and with three different sizes of top-loading pouches on each side, and large, zippered vertical-entry cargo compartments on each side, there's more than enough space to hold all your gear. The vest also has a hard foam fly patch, tool docking stations on both sides, and an easy-snap closure in the front.
If you don't need all that storage, or for hot weather when the backpack can trap heat, the vest snaps off the shoulder straps and onto a lightweight polyester mesh back. The backpack and vest cargo pouches are made from polyurethane-coated 840-denier nylon. If you go for a swim, your stuff is going to get wet, but we've had the Sweet Pack Vest out in leftover hurricane rain, and the sandwiches stayed dry. $200| patagonia.com
Sleek and modern, this fishing vest is made of thin, quick-drying DWR-treated fabric, and the low profile hugs your body, eliminating the bulky fit of a traditional vest. It may not look it, but it has 11 pockets in all, including four large vertical pockets for bigger fly boxes. Finer details include fly patches that conceal a port for a zinger, a net keeper in the back, and stretch mesh side panels for a comfortable fit. This redesign is so slick, you almost forget it's such a workhorse. $120| orvis.com
Simms G3 Guide Vest
A redesign of one of the most popular vests ever made, the new G3 Guide Vest boasts a staggering 24 pockets of all sizes, suitable for any box you can find. It provides a comfy ride with cushioned, stretch mesh shoulders and a padded rib knit collar. This vest, complete with two built-in retractors, a backside net carry, and a Teflon finish on Cordura ripstop nylon, suits gearheads and guides alike. The two hook fields are enormous, and with a third-hand rod holder, reel sling, Velcro chest tab, and easy access to oversize compartments, this is a hatch-matcher's delight. If it doesn't fit in this vest you don't need it on the water.
L.L. Bean Emerger
This functional cotton vest has 11 pockets designed to hold tippet, fly boxes, split-shot, and other essentials. We like it because it comes men's as well as "kids," and "little kids" sizes. It's always a good thing when you can be "just like dad."