Fly fishing gear breaks down. Waders leak, boots fall apart and pack zippers fail. The stitching at the seams of all this stuff takes a lot of abuse, so how long can it hold up? How well is it built?
The 100 Day Gear Review Series on Troutbitten takes a look at how gear is performing after the century benchmark. Should our fly fishing gear last longer than 100 days? You bet. But after many months of heavy use, we have an excellent understanding for what we bought. And two things reveal themselves:
First, material failures or flaws become apparent.
Second, the design and function of a piece of gear is fully understood — be it positive or negative.
To most anglers, durability and longevity are at the heart of quality. But many gear reviews tout the advantages of gear that’s fresh off the shelf. And items are reviewed with only a handful of days as a reference point. Candidly, I find those kinds of reviews almost useless.
After 100 days on the rivers that I fish, real perspective is gained. These are days averaging eight hours, sometimes covering miles of water, in all four seasons, through icy winters and sweltering summers. Most days are full of hard wading, with routine hikes that often include bushwhacking to remote areas. In short, these are the kind of days that challenge fishing gear.
** Note ** Links for buying the Simms G3 Guide Vest are at the end of this article.
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Why a Vest?
A few months ago, I wrote an article laying out all my reasons for choosing a fishing vest over other carrying options like sling packs, chest packs or hip packs.
Of course, I acknowledge that everyone has their own favorite system. And this is mine.
In short, a vest is the most efficient option. And if you’re a versatile angler, then you owe it to yourself to consider a vest as your primary carry-and-access system. Because all other solutions have major drawbacks.
(If you’re skeptical, read that vest article first.)
The Simms G3 Guide Vest
At that time, my reliable Patagonia vest had reached the end of its life, and the redesigned offerings from Patagonia offered less storage and a different layout that simply didn’t fit my needs. While on the lookout for a new vest over many months, I’d tried vests from every major manufacturer, along with a few other options. Nothing was right, until I saw the G3.
I was immediately impressed with the features and layout. And now, after 100+ days on the water, the vest has zero issues — no loose stitches, no tearing material or failing zippers. The G3 is as solid as the day I first slung it over my shoulders.
I’ve been a vest guy all my life. Sure, I’ve worn dozens of other packs and gear carrying options. But I’ve always come back to the vest. And after four decades of fishing hard, and seven different vest models. The Simms G3 Guide Vest is far and away the best I’ve owned . . . and it’s not even close.
When I find something that I truly connect with, I often tell my friends, “I want to have one of these for the rest of my life,” and they roll their eyes a bit. I’ve said this about my 4Runner, my Martin guitar, my favorite fly rods and reels, my Danner hiking boots, and recently, our new Australian Shepard. 🙂
I said it about the Simms G3 Guide Vest about a month in. It’s impressive. And I’ll tell you exactly why . . .
Built by Anglers for Anglers
In the first few weeks of wearing the G3, I continued to find features that just made sense. It’s things like the placement of zippers and the angle of the openings. Clearly, people who fish a lot designed this vest.
Take the positioning of pockets, for example. All the front lower pockets can be accessed while the fly rod is tucked under your arm for rigging. Every other vest I’ve owned required switching arms to reach these pockets. Does that matter? Yup. If you fish a lot, it surely does.
The G3 is a shorty vest, meaning it’s designed to ride high, so the bottom pockets don’t dip in the water while wading deep. Old-school vests sit around belt level, but shorty vests ride higher.
Time and again, I’ve been impressed with the features of the Simms G3 Guide Vest. And after more than one-hundred days on the water, I never want to be without it. Here are some of my favorite features . . .
All good fishing vests try to stack pockets to some extent. But most fail. The Simms G3 Guide Vest stacks three pockets in all front locations.
On the bottom row, there are the two exterior pockets. Behind that, there’s a large molded pocket for a fly box. And behind that is a flat, zippered pocket (for my cell phone).
The chest pocket area is also stacked. It starts with a thin, zippered pocket on the front, then the flap pocket behind, with the molded, zippered pocket behind that.
Those are just the exterior pockets. The interior pockets add even more dimension to the lower area (two more layers inside) and the chest (one more layer inside).
If you’re a fool, you’ll fill all these pockets to capacity. Zippers will be stressed, and the flaps will barely cover. You’ll look like the Michelin man has just stepped out of a fly shop. Then you’ll probably complain that fishing vests hold too much stuff, and you’ll say they aren’t good for fishing simply. But again, that’s just foolishness. Have some discipline. Just because there are twenty-four pockets built into this thing, doesn’t mean you should fill all of them.
The advantage of a vest is having everything you need, up front, ready and organized. But don’t bring everything you own. With the stacked pockets and so many options for storage, the Simms vest gives you plenty of ways to tailor your system. Choose wisely.
This is what impressed me first about the Simms G3 Guide Vest. Molded pockets have now made their way over from fishing packs to vests. Some companies overdo it, placing molded, shaped, rigid compartments all over a vest form. But Simms got this just right.
After placing a fly box in my old vest pocket, it often took two hands, or one hand with extra effort and contortions, to close the zipper. (It’s a rough life.) But the molded pocket idea makes this process slick — open, close, easy, no effort without even looking.
This is probably something you won’t appreciate until you experience it. But I want to have molded pockets for the rest of my life.
The Dual Front Closure
The Simms G3 Guide Vest closes with a solid ten-inch zipper up front. But it also closes with a magnetic clasp and elastic, if you like that instead. This is a useful feature when adding bulky layers in the winter.
With the dual front closure, you can buy the vest in the size that fits you well, because you’ll still have room to expand around the chest when needed.
I also use the magnetic closure for quickness, when I’m in and out of the interior pockets for some reason. The clasp is easy to use with one hand. It’s a great design.
Zingers and the Magnets
Most good packs and vests have integrated retractors these days. And these ones are just right. I prefer coiled retractors over zingers because they last longer, they’re more reliable, and they’re lighter. The retractor attachment to the G3 vest is covered with a sleeve, which is a good example of the overall clean form and design of this vest — so your fly line doesn’t get hung up as you’re fighting the next Whiskey.
Completing the tool area, two small magnets are sewn inside the vest seams for what Simms calls docking stations. Now your nippers and forceps stick to the magnet instead of swinging around on your hike through the hemlocks. Nice.
Cordura Ripstop nylon is some of the toughest fabric I’ve ever seen, and I have coats and hiking pants made of this stuff that just doesn’t quit. After over a hundred days and a lot of crawling through briers, the vest has no tears, rips or flaws.
It’s also soft and comfortable, almost like cotton. Yet, treated with DuPont Teflon water-resistant finish, the vest sheds water like a champ. (But take note: It is not waterproof. It will wet out in heavy rain.)
The shoulders are made from a stretchy material, which is a nice touch, as it makes for a very mobile, custom-feeling fit that’s great while casting.
The Simms G3 Guide Vest has a unique collar design.
Most vest collars are hot in the summer because they’re too thick. The G3 collar gives that same impression from a distance, but the opposite is true. Instead, it’s a padded collar that encourages ventilation. Inside the micro-mesh outer is a foam that is sturdy enough to lend support to the collar while being light enough for air to flow through.
What I thought would be a flaw turns out to be a favorite feature.
The Rear Storage Pockets
I love hitting the river with the mindset to see what the trout want. I’m not the type to leave the truck with the intention to throw nymphs all day. Anything at any time — that’s my approach. So a vest has always been the right match for me, because I need all the important gear at my fingertips. That means it’s up front, not in a sling pack behind me, and not in the rear compartment of a chest pack.
Efficiency is the key to versatility. Make transitions easy, or you won’t do them.
However, I still need room for the extra stuff that I probably won’t need but want to have with me. I can go a week or more without touching some of the gear I carry in the back pockets of my vest. Some of it is permanent, like extra leader and tippet material or hand warmers in the winter. And some of it is temporary, like the thick balaclava that I stash in the bellowed cargo pocket in case I’ve underestimated the early-morning cold.
The rear design of the Simms G3 Guide Vest is a common, two pocket design, with a twist.
The lower pocket is very large, with side pleats designed to expand, and the interior mesh of this large compartment permits air flow on your back. I use this large compartment to store warm layers, lunch, or other things that I don’t need to access while fishing.
What looks like one long pocket up top is actually two compartments and two zippers. These pockets are made from a water-shedding material and are placed high enough that I can reach behind my neck to access them. I like to store a small, light box of dry flies that I probably won’t need. And then, standing in waist-deep water, fishing to risers, I still have access to these flies without removing my vest.
These days, many packs and hybrid vests feature a small backpack in the rear. I find that the back design of the Simms G3 Guide Vest gives me just as much storage without the added weight or bulk of a backpack when I don’t need it.
When a big part of your life is fishing, how you carry fishing gear is a big deal. The Simms G3 Guide Vest starts with a classic design and modernizes it in all the best ways.
There are other features that might become your favorite, like weep holes underneath the pockets or an elastic cord with a toggle cinch at the bottom hem of the vest.
I think a good gear review should point out flaws or features that need improvement. But I have just one: color. My vest is from 2019, when Simms still offered a deeper grey. Currently, the darkest of the two choices is “Steel,” but some anglers may wish for a darker vest.
Beyond that, there truly is nothing about the Simms G3 Guide Vest that I would change. That’s why I chose to review it. The G3 is the versatile angler’s perfect, efficient carry-and-access system.
** Note ** The partnerships and the support of this industry are part of what keeps Troutbitten going. And I’m proud that Troutbitten is a Simms affiliate. You can read my policy on gear reviews HERE. And if you decide to buy the Simms vest (or if you buy any other Simms product), Troutbitten receives a commission of the sale, at no additional cost to you, when you click through any of these links. So thank you for your support.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N