Any fly angler can tell you that when it comes to the river, less is more. That of course refers to how difficult it is to carry much gear when you spend the day walking up and down the river. It is for this reason that there are a variety of fishing vests on the market for fly anglers. With so many from which to choose, it can be hard to decide on just one. To help you sift through the selection more easily, today I’ve provided you with a fishing vest buyer’s guide.

Fly fishing vests fall into two basic categories: traditional and chest. Traditional vests are larger and offer more storage capacity for your gear, in the form of pockets and tool loops. Many feature mesh panels to allow ventilation, which is very important on hot days. I always suggest picking up a traditional fishing vest if you’d prefer to be fully prepared and have a lot of gear with you.

Chest vests are smaller than traditional vests and are usually comprised of a single pouch that rests just below your chest. Some offer further storage in the back, as well. Chest vests are really a minimalist’s approach to fishing the river, and are a great idea if you don’t need much or have a few hours to kill on the water. Furthermore, they’re very light and offer a ton of breathability.

Aside from choosing which type of vest to purchase, there are several other features to consider. Length is important to consider, since a vest that is too long can dip into the water and soak your flies and tools, opting for a shorter one can sometimes be a good idea. All vests have pockets, but there are some that offer pockets specialized for specific items, such as tippets, spools, ran jackets, and tools. Too many pockets can be cumbersome, however, and can also cause headaches when it comes to locating gear. Vests with around 15 pockets are usually a safe bet. There are other options for tools, as well, such as retractors and D-rings, that keep gear easily accessible. Lastly, some vests are hydration compatible and have a sleeve for a reservoir, which can be such a blessing on hot days.

When it comes to picking a fly fishing vest, consider the tips outlined above to be a good starting point. Products from companies such as Simms, Sage, White River Fly Shop, and William Joseph are great bets and any associate working where such items are sold will be able to answer any questions you may have. Be sure to focus on what you need and find a vest that fits comfortably to your body, as well as your wallet, and you’ll have no trouble finding to fit your needs.