VIDEO: Wading Belt Carrying System

by | Jan 16, 2024 | 20 comments

Perhaps the most overlooked part of a good carrying system is the wading belt. Anglers love their gear. We all do. But how can we keep our stuff with us, make it easily accessible and not be slowed down or fatigued by the extra weight? Answer: Carry the heavy things on your hips.

A wading angler who puts in long hours and hikes extra miles learns this from necessity. But the after-work fisherman who sneaks in a few hours each week benefits from a smart carrying system too.

My friend, Matt Grobe, said this recently on one of our podcasts: Build your system around your goals, for the way you want to fish. And be careful that you don’t let your tools dictate the way you fish.

That’s fantastic advice for all anglers, at any level.

Most anglers focus on whether to choose a chest pack, vest, sling pack, hip pack, lanyard or something else. We think of carrying fly boxes, tippet, leaders and other incidentals. But what about the net? What about water, a wading staff, a camera or anything else with extra weight? Carrying these items should not be a secondary consideration. As the heaviest things among your gear, how you carry them is of primary importance.

The heavy stuff is best carried on your hips, so the most critical part of your carrying system is probably the wading belt. And most wading belts are not up to the task.

Photo by Josh Darling

A Good System

What I show here and in the video below won’t work for everyone. Again, it’s up to you to think about your goals and circumstances and build your own system — one that works for you. But I’m happy to share my own setup. You may take ideas or whole parts of this and use it for yourself.

It took decades of fishing before I dialed in a carrying system. For years, I swapped out parts and tried new things. But for about eight years now, not much in my system has changed. Because once I found what worked, I was finally content.

And it all starts . . . with the wading belt.

I’ve published articles to Troutbitten about the wading belt and the wading staff. We’ve published a podcast discussing the choices of packs and vests. Now this video adds to those resources. It shows much more about the wading belt and how I carry the heavier stuff.

So I’ll link to those important sources below. Check those out and watch the video. Then, after the video, find more about the belt, net holster, staff, bottle and packs. I’ll also provide links to everything shown.

READ: Troutbitten | Let’s Rethink the Wading Belt
READ: Troutbitten | Pack or Vest? Why I’m a Vest Guy
READ: Troutbitten | What About the Wading Staff? Thoughts on Choosing and Carrying a Wading Stick
VIDEO: Troutbitten | The Only Way to Carry a Wading Staff
VIDEO: Troutbitten | What’s in that Vest? Laying out the essentials and more
PODCAST: Troutbitten | Vest, Pack or Something Else? Carrying Your Gear

(Please select 4K or 1080p for HD video quality)


** Note **  The links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Troutbitten earns a commission if you click through and make a purchase. So, thank you for your support.

The Best Belt

You can’t carry much weight on a flimsy belt. In fact, any stretch or flex causes the belt to droop from attached items, so sliding gear around to access it is prohibitive.

Here’s the full belt article:
READ: Troutbitten | Let’s Rethink the Wading Belt

My favorite wading belt is a Blackhawk Black Web Duty Belt. It’s sturdy enough to hold the heavier things I attach, without being overly stiff or uncomfortable (and that’s important).

BUY Blackhawk Web Duty Belt with Hook and Loop Closure HERE
Extra Large

Net Holster

The Smith Creek net holster is a keystone of my system. I tried every way imaginable for carrying a net, but I was never happy. Once I tried the Smith Creek solution I never looked back. In fact, I built the rest of my carrying system around it. I upgraded my belt to the Blackhawk shown above, and I was then able to move the other heavy items to my belt.

Net holsters are finally catching on in the industry. But no one does it like Smith Creek. This small holster is bulletproof.

With heavy grade aluminum and nylon, the webbed strap is adjustable to your net handle. Other holsters allow for too much slop in the system — too much play — so the net tilts or pulls out easily. I’ve been using the Smith Creek Net Holster, without any tether, for eight years, and I’ve never lost a net this way.  With the net at the small of your back, you can’t even feel the weight. This system cannot be beat.

BUY Smith Creek Net Holster HERE

The Net

I choose the Fishpond Nomad Hand Net for good reasons. It’s remarkably light. The hoop and the large mesh bag are big enough to land the fish of a lifetime. The net floats. And the handle is the perfect length. I may never choose another net, because this one is perfect.

Here’s the full article on the net:
READ: Troutbitten | Things that are good: The Fishpond Nomad Hand Net

BUY Fishpond Nomad Hand Net HERE

The Staff

Rigged this way, the wading staff is an asset and not a liability. Reaching and searching for your wading staff and dragging it through the water on a long tether, is a bad way to do things. It’s distracting and takes away from good fishing.

Rigging a wading staff this way keeps it at the ready while also being out of the the way.

Here’s the full wading staff article and video:
READ: Troutbitten | What About the Wading Staff? Thoughts on Choosing and Carrying a Wading Stick
VIDEO: Troutbitten | The Only Way to Carry a Wading Staff

This wading staff system makes strong waders stronger and fast waders faster. It allows all waders to reach more water.

I use an aluminum, folding “Trekking Pole” for a wading staff. These are widely available from a variety of manufacturers, and I’ve logged hundreds of miles on inexpensive Trekology staffs.


Buy Trekology Trek-Z Collapsible Tri-fold Trekking Pole Here

Here are a couple other options:

The High Stream Trekking Poles are nearly identical to Trekology. I had a guided client, who used this same staff. Like my Trekology staff, it had seen hundreds of hard river miles and was holding up well.Troutbitten Wading Staff High Streams Trekking Pole

Buy High Stream Gear Trekking Poles Here

My friends Trevor and Josh choose the retractable type of trekking poles rather than a folding one. I’ve tested them myself, and they are very sturdy — and perhaps more suitable for taller and stronger people — with only slightly more weight and about six inches more on its portable length. Trevor uses these poles from Black Diamond.

Buy Black Diamond Collapsible Trekking Poles Here

The Black Diamond are, no doubt, very high quality, But they’re a little expensive. These poles from Cascade Mountain — also carbon fiber — have held up well for us too.

Buy Cascade Mountain Trekking Poles Here

The Retractor

Gear Keepers, from Hammerhead Industries cannot be beat. I’ve tried. And after experimenting with other brands, I’m back to the Gear Keepers. They are reliable, with a great warranty. And they work well, even in icy conditions.

The twelve ounce Gear Keeper works perfectly with the folding staffs linked above (which are about nine ounces); and it’s a great match for most of the retractable types too (just look for the listed weight).

Troutbitten Gear Keeper 12 oz

Buy Twelve Ounce Gear Keeper Retractor Here

Water Bottle

Dehydration causes fatigue. It makes you want to go home. I carry a 32 ounce bottle with me every day. I like the simplicity of just carrying the water I need, rather than bothering with filtration systems or bladders. Light, Nalgene water bottle on a carabiner. Done.

BUY Nalgene Narrow Mouth 32oz Water Bottle HERE

Camera Case

For many years, I’ve carried a DSLR or mirrorless camera in an Ape Case. These cases are affordable and durable. The zipper lasts, the belt loop fits well, and they have great padding to protect the camera. The Ape Case, however, is not waterproof. So I use a roll top dry bag inside the Ape Case to to keep the system waterproof.

Buy Ape Case Camera Holster HERE

Newer (Better?) Camera Case

My friend, Bill Dell, got me thinking about switching over to a waterproof bag for carrying a camera. This is Fishpond Thunderhead Small Submersible Lumbar, and Bill is right. This bag allows for quicker access to the camera with just one zipper. This is a strong build from Fishpond.

BUY Fishpond Thunderhead Small Submersible Lumbar HERE

Dry Bags

Roll top dry bags will keep it dry. For me, this 4 Liter lightweight bag from Sea to Summit has been durable and just the right size for my mirrorless cameras. The camera goes in the bag, and the bag goes in the Ape Case.

BUY Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack HERE

For the gimbal, I use a this heavier weight dry bag. I place the gimbal in a stocking cap, then put it in the dry bag. The 5 Liter bag works for my gimbal.

BUY Sea to Summit Big River Dry Bag HERE


The tripod I showed in the video is a JOBY Gorillapod 3K. It’s fine for light duty use.

BUY JOBY Gorillapod 3K Tripod HERE

I’ve recently upgraded my camera gear, so the camera is a bit heavier, and I wanted something sturdier. The SIRUI AM223L Travel Video Tripod is small but extremely sturdy. The tilting bowl base allows for various camera angles without adding the weight and size of a ball head. This is great.

BUY SIRUI AM223L Travel Video Tripod HERE

Tripod Case

I keep the tripod as small as possible while still being functional. And either of the tripods above can fit in this Molle case, built for a water bottle.

BUY ProCase Water Bottle Pouch, Tactical Molle HERE

Find Your System

I’ll finish by mentioning Grobe’s point again. Don’t let your gear make the decisions. Know your goals and find the key elements in your system. Then build everything else around those items.

And carry the heavy stuff on your hips, because you’ll fish longer and happier.

Fish hard, friends.


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Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky


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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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  1. I use the Blackhawk belt and it’s an integral part of my fishing experience. I was considering getting a filtering bottle (or straw) because it would be lighter and I would have an endless supply of water. I’d love to hear why you find the regular water bottle more attractive.

    • Alex,

      It’s just simpler. I’ve used filtration systems. Some are hard to suck the water through. Others have a system where you use muscle power to push it through. Those make drinking easier, but they’re heavier too. That’s a big factor. You might have less weight to carry in actual water, but the filter weighs something too. Then there’s the cost to replace filters, remembering to dry the out in between sets, etc. There’s a lot more to a filtration system that no one understands until you do if for a while.

      • I have used the life straw bottle for nearly two years . Pretty easy to drink out of. It’s ideal for days that I am hiking miles in the mountains. I would have to carry a few gallons of water to stay hydrated without it. I have never changed or dried the filter. The diarrhea hasn’t gotten me yet and I have drank out of some pretty suspect water. I am a cockroach though.

        Worst case I lose a few pounds very rapidly. Hell, it might help me stop breaking wadding staffs every couple months.

        • PS

          The telescoping staff you recommended seems much more solid. Hopefully it will last a bit longer. There isn’t anything wrong with the trekology, but there are a handful of streams I fish that have very large EXTREMELY slick boulders that I find myself scrambling up and down. The amount of force that I have put on the trekology staff to keep from falling was enough to bend them in half on multiple occasions. I think they would last almost indefinitely on a less sketchy river bed. It’s also a great idea to glue the carbide tip in with an epoxy. I lost it on my first few staffs within 15 outings on the water.

  2. Congratulations on a thoughtful, comprehensive video to enlighten us all. I’ve been stuck in a rut using belts that fit in my wader loops…another small-minded failure of thinking inside the box. My vest weighs a freaking ton thanks a lot to the water I carry on home waters that once made me sick using a filtration system I no longer trust. Does a water bottle bouncing around off your belt make you crazy, or isn’t that a problem? I’m very happy carrying my net off my vest, so no need to change. My Folstaff, thirty years old and ticking like new after restorative surgery in the authorized New York repair center, stays on my belt. Anyway, I appreciate both the content and the tone of your always on-point instructional videos.

  3. Great video Domenick! I’ve been carrying the bulk of my fishing gear weight off my shoulders for some time. Switching to a stout wading belt worn outside the belt loops as you mentioned is a game changer. It allow me the freedom to slide gear front to back and allows me to wear the belt where my natural waist is, not dictated by the belt loops. The one thing that drove me nuts was the water bottle slapping on my butt and snapping the cap retaining strap. I solved this problem using the Mountain Smith Bottle insulator. I attaches with a wide velcro strap that allows me to slide it along the belt for easy access. Thank you for your insightful, knowledgeable and entertaining articles and videos. Keep up the good work.

  4. Dom, You solved my problem with the net! I have a tried a Smith Creek net holder, but it always turned on my belt and even came off from time to time. Now I know why. My Simms provided wading belt is too flexible. I will get a sturdy gear belt (Black Hawk or military surplus) . Now if I can just find that net holder. I will also add that laying your gear laden belt down in the gravel or hanging it in the bushes can be avoided with a waterproof relief zipper, installed horizontally below the belt. Especially useful for us older guys who pee frequently.

  5. Dom,
    Can Smith Net Holster fit on Blawhawk 2.5inch web belt?

  6. Thanks for the thorough article. Any concern for the Smith Creek holster’s aluminum “frame” rubbing/wearing your waders at the location where it typically sits against your back? Thanks!

    • Fair question. No. I’ve never seen any damage to any waders. Cheers.

  7. Great Info, Just purchased Black Hawk Belt, Smith Creek Net holster, fishpond net, Wading Staff and gear keeper. Thanks for the great information.

  8. So, where do you carry your extra flies and tools (like nippers and plyers). An extra Bag on the belt?

  9. Dom, this week on the Orvis podcast they covered wading safety and it led me to the decision to upgrade my belt, which led me to your system. I couldn’t tell from the video exactly how the belt release works. It looks like you might need to use 2 hands in order to release it. In the event of taking a swim in the river, do you feel like you could unfasten it with one hand were it to snag on a tree or other river obstacle? My worry is that with the current pushing against my body it might be difficult or impossible to release in order to free myself. Thanks for your comprehensive review of your belt system!

    • Hi Charlie,

      Yes, you need two hands to remove the belt. I’m glad for that. The last thing I want is for my belt to fall off.

      Wader safety by REMOVING your belt? Candidly, I don’t believe that matters much. Keeping your belt ON keeps air in the pant legs. Taking it off lets water in, and you’ll end up being pulled down. Hell, catching something that is attached to your belt to a random log or something, might actually be a good thing, giving you a chance to get your bearings.

      Honestly, your chances of anything like that happening while wading are VERY slim.

      Have fun out there.



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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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