HPA 40 litre waterproof rucksack review - €89.90 from France
Because I never, ever go out fishing with at least one camera and lens or lenses, plus filters and other bits and pieces, I guess my needs from a rucksack are going to be slightly different to a lot of you - but at the end of the day I still want whatever I take out fishing that goes into my rucksack to remain dry if possible, I want whatever rucksack I am using to be very comfortable for walking some often good distances up and over all kinds of ground, and if at all possible I’d like said rucksack to last a decent amount of time as well.
So you know, I can’t stand those slingbag style backpacks, and the lures I have chosen for a particular session sit around my waist on the “still can’t find anything better after all these years” HPA Chestpack - even though it doesn’t sit on my chest. So whilst I am not filling my rucksack with boxes of lures, I am still carrying that camera gear, a waterproof jacket - and as much as this outstanding Vision Kust jacket is the best waterproof fishing jacket I have ever worn, if it’s not actually raining then I far prefer not having to walk to my fishing spots actually wearing a jacket - plus an extra layer, hat or cap, leader, clips, Costa sunnies if I am not already wearing them, headlamp, spare spool if the miserable tackle company has provided one with the particular reel I am using (increasingly unlikely it seems), and so on.
For many years I have used the pretty damn expensive LowePro DryZone camera rucksack - it’s a specialist camera bag with a totally waterproof bottom section for my camera gear, but the top section of the bag is not waterproof, and as per bloody usual, it’s the zips which end up failing due to constant use around saltwater. Sure, I can use a very lightweight waterproof bag to keep that non-photography gear dry in the top, non-waterproof section, but at the end of the day the bag gets wet in the rain and it can take an age to dry it out. I have been swimming with this bag plus camera gear on my back - intentionally and not intentionally - and thousands of pounds worth of camera gear has always stayed 100% dry, but all this is a moot point anyway because LowerPro have stopped making this particular rucksack.
Anyway, a few years ago I had a good go with one of the Overboard waterproof rucksacks, and as much as I was liking it, in the end it failed on me around the bottom part of the bag where you are constantly putting it down on all manner of (often sharp) surfaces. To be honest this Overboard bag failed on me that bit too quickly for my liking and as a result I shied away from trying those rolltop style waterproof rucksacks.
Until that is I got my hands on this HPA 40 litre one - a French bloke I know at HPA sent it to me out of the blue but to be honest I let the bag sit in the corner for months on end until finally I could take the rusting/broken zips on my LowePro camera bag no more and decided to give this HPA one a go. So for most of this year I have using this HPA 40 litre waterproof rucksack for all my own fishing plus guiding work over in Ireland, and I reckon this amount of time with it has given me all that I need to know about this particular waterproof rucksack and what it can or cannot do for me and my needs.
So what’s it like? In a couple of words, bloody brilliant. Sure, you may not need 40 litres of space when you go fishing - and there is a smaller 25 litre HPA waterproof rucksack available which I haven’t seen and can’t comment on whether it’s as tough as the 40 litre one or not - but my argument for having a rucksack with this capacity is that firstly I’d rather have more capacity than I needed rather than less, and secondly, with the rolltop closing mechanism you can easily roll the unused bit of the bag down so that it becomes that bit smaller overall anyway. This is not a heavy rucksack at all, plus it’s really comfortable to wear when you are walking to and from your fishing.
Now because that Overboard waterproof rucksack failed around the bottom of the bag and started letting in water, I fully expected this HPA one I have here to go the same way - but it hasn’t, not at all in fact. There hasn’t been a hint of a problem with any water getting in, and this includes filling the bag with water the other day to see if I could find any pin-prick leaks - which I couldn’t, and I am really pleased how well this HPA rucksack continues to perform for me. The fact that as a camera bag this HPA rucksack is a little harder to work from with my camera gear than that specialist LowePro camera bag most likely won’t affect you, but I can easily live it with it, and it helps when I know that every single thing inside the bag will stay 100% dry in whatever weather is thrown at it.
Would I go swimming with this HPA rucksack? Nope, but then it’s not designed for that. I’ll wade with it no worries now that I implicitly trust it not to let any water around the bottom of the bag, but that rolltop closing mechanism is not designed for total immersion like the TIZIP secured waterproof section on the bottom of my discontinued LowePro DryZone Rover camera bag. I do not worry about water getting into the HPA rucksack if I fell in and got out fairly quickly, but I wouldn’t go swimming from reef to reef with it as I have done in the Seychelles with the LowePro bag on my back and some rather large sharks swimming below me as well. As for extremely heavy rain for hours on end and spray from a rough sea soaking it time and time again? This HPA waterproof rucksack laughs it all off.
It’s so easy to secure the rolltop bit of the rucksack, and to be perfectly honest I can’t find a single thing I don’t like about this rucksack. For some reason the HPA guy had (kindly) sent me the camouflage hunting version to try out, and when I was putting the bag down on the sand or rocks way back from the water when I was fishing at night, it could then sometimes be a little tricky to find it again if you’ve been moving around. One early morning I hadn’t realised how far I’d moved while I was fishing, and it took me a worried few minutes to locate the rucksack - camera gear, car keys etc., not the sort of thing you want to go losing! I solved this by sticking some reflective tape to it, but I now have the light blue version of the bag here (exactly the same bag, but the fishing ones come in a variety of different colours) and it’s got some inbuilt reflective tape on the front of the bag which solves that particular problem completely.
So there you go - until something better comes along, this HPA 40 litre waterproof rucksack is what I will continue to use. I love it. Nice and simple, it does the job, and with the amount of use I have got from it so far this year, if it did end up failing somehow then I’d be happy to buy another one. No gear we use is going to last forever - especially in a saltwater environment - and for me it’s a case of weighing up how much said item costs versus how much time/use I get from it. The HPA Chestpack bag which sits around my waist on a wading belt and holds my lures, well I reckon I get about a year and a half from one. I know where it’s going to eventually fail - the stitching will start to come away from the shoulder lugs (it’s such an easy, comfortable lure bag to wear if you use a shoulder strap) - but at the price these simple bags are, and with how much I rely on mine, that time versus cost equation sits just fine with me in this instance. Same with this outstanding HPA 40 litre rucksack.
If you want one, it’s a case of heading to the HPA website, and then as per the screenshot above, click on the “Francais” button at the top, and then click on the “English GB” dropdown menu to get the website in English. Compared to the various rucksacks I have used over the years, the €89.90 price seems very fair to me. If it’s any help, that HPA bag I use to carry my lures is here, at €25.90. Here’s to hoping we might see some HPA gear in some UK tackle shops sometime soon………...