October 30, 2009

Gear Review - William Joseph Amp Pack

I've been looking to get away from wearing a fishing vest for a while now. I like my vest, however I've found it to present some challenges in both very hot and very cold weather. In hot weather, the additional garment just makes me hotter. In cold weather, the extra layer is fine, but I usually already have two or three layers on, and the fit is not optimal. So after doing some research (& a trip to Cabela's), I decided to jump into chest packs with the William Joseph Amp pack. I recently took it out on Valley Creek for an afternoon of fly fishing, and thought it to be review worthy. Enjoy.

Overview: The William Joseph Amp pack is a nice paradox. One one side, it's a small chest pack that ideally accommodates only the basic essentials. On the flip side, it utilizes some really high-tech features that make it anything but minimalistic.

The real draw to this bag is the unique magnetic No Zip closure system on the main compartment and smaller front pocket. Unlike packs that use zippers, there's no fiddling to open your bag and nothing to snag your fly line on an errant cast or retrieve. Simply grab one of the rubberized pulls to open. To close, just push it shut and the magnet automatically self-seals. It's that easy.

Other than the closure, the layout is similar to other chest packs. The small front pocket folds down to form a workstation shelf. It comes complete with a removable foam fly insert to keep a full menu of flies ready for the taking without the use of a fly box.

The larger internal compartment is segmented by mesh dividers into 2 sections, and also features two small zipper pockets for tiny accessories.

Feel: One of the things I like about this bag is that it has really nice "touch" By that I mean all of the places you'd regularly make contact with your hands or body are well done. Examples of this are shown in details like the neck strap. It has a very soft cushion that does not irritate your neck in the slightest. The string pulls that open the magnetic compartments are coated in a clear rubber that give them a nice lightweight bulk. It's all executed well and appears nothing was skimped in terms of materials.

: All of the straps are easily adjustable, so the pack fits your body nicely. The neck strap in particular has some length to it so you can wear the pack up on your chest, or if you prefer lower down by your stomach. While the waist strap is also adjustable, I do question if it would accommodate a 2XL+ angler.

Function: The Amp's size (130 cubic inches) is more than adequate to carry around everything I need on an outing. I loaded it up with flies, tippet, leaders, a multi-tool, floatant, a digital camera, wallet, car keys, and a cell phone. Not a huge haul, but after fishing for about 4 or 5 hours, felt no fatigue or neck/back strain from the contents.

All of the inside compartments are very cleanly laid out. The smaller inner zippers zip easily and there is very little concern of any items falling out, even when bending over while the pack was open.

Now to the calling card, the magnetic closure. While this may sound "cheap" or unreliable, the magnets are quite strong and really do firmly hold the pockets shut. It's something that can't be accurately described and is much better observed in person. In practice, I find it much quicker and more convenient than zippers - believe it or not opening and closing the pockets repeatedly becomes a little fun.

Style: While not aesthetically offensive, I wouldn't say the bag is a visual work of art either. It looks like most other chest packs on the market with relatively clean but dull neutral tones. The stylized "William Joseph" logo is spread across the front and may be considered disproportionately large for the bag. I guess the manufacturer feels the need to advertise...I'm usually not one for wearing billboards, but I can look past this.

: Since the No Zip closure is magnetic, there is a large red patch with a bold Stop sign urging that people with pacemakers not use this bag. I'm not a doctor, so I'm not sure if it would actually kill you, but it's not worth finding out.

Areas for Improvement: While this bag is advertised as "water resistant," it would have been nice to at minimum included a waterproof drybag or compartment on the inside of the larger compartment for sensitive items. It's certainly not a deal breaker, as you can go out an buy an inexpensive drybag if needed. My current solution if a simple sandwich "zipper" bag - in which I toss my wallet, cell phone, and car keys. It's a simple enough workaround to this issue, but something that really should have been integrated.

Price: At at suggested retail of $69.00, it's probably on the expensive side for a chest pack of this size. Similar, but less expensive alternatives are certainly available - the Fishpond San Juan Pack at $49.00 or the Bass Pro White River Spring Creek Pack at $29.99 both come to mind.

Conclusion: I really like and recommend this bag. Switching from wearing a fishing vest, I don't think I'm losing any storage capability by wearing this, and find it very comfortable (and much less obtrusive). The unique No Zip closure makes opening and closing a snap, and the smartly laid out internal compartments keep everything well organized. While I loaded it up for fly fishing on this trip, I can just as easily envision the spin fisherman enjoying this pack as well. I dropped one of my Plano Stowaway boxes filled with spinners inside with plenty of room to spare.

No, this pack isn't for everyone. It's intentionally on the small side, so if you like to bring multiple fly boxes and all sorts of widgets out on the water, you probably won't be able to cram it all inside. At $69.00, it could also be considered a little pricey in relation to the competition. However, if you like to keep it mean, lean, and are willing to pay the modest premium (and don't wear a pacemaker!) - this is an excellent option for you.

Final Rating:
4 stars out 5, the only functional shortcoming being the lack of an integrated drybag, the only practical shortcoming being price.

This independent gear review is not associated with manufacturer or retailer-supplied free goods. The pack used in this review was purchased at full retail of $69.00.


  1. That sure looks like a nice bag. I might have to get something like that for my next trout fishing trip. Great review by the way!!

  2. Thanks Ben. Even if you don't go with this bag, I think a small chest pack is ideal for streamlining. Made me realize how much unnecessary gear I'd bring with me when I'd go fishing.

  3. Read and loved the review! I am also a pack kind of guy and am always looking for someways to refine or micro manage what I'm carrying and what plan of attack I take. Will look into this bag based on your recommendations.

  4. Nice bag and thank your verry much for this review! I like William Joseph!

  5. I use this. Its a newer version but much the same. Its awesome. Unfortunately, the company is going out of business. They're waiters leaked and the bottom of one of their wading boots totally disintegrated under my foot. But there bags and packs are perfect and very well-thought-out. I am a Willie J nut. I have a lot of their stuff and like it because it's a little different and designed by perfectionists.