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Old 03-18-2010   #1
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Default Review Article w/ Photos

Here's an online review of a product sent to me to test out.

Text and photos by myself

X-Pak Fish N' Tote

Chad sent me a new item from Tempress Marine, the X-Pak Kayak Gear Fish N' Tote. When the box arrived, I was immediately excited, as this was something I was looking for. There really aren't many tackle solutions geared at kayak anglers, and this looked like the real deal. So, will this item supplant the ubiquitous "milk crate" system?

Product Details

Product specs, along with retail pricing can be found on the Tempress Marine website, here: X-Pak Fish N' Tote

Upon opening the package, I immediately noticed that there were minor differences between the actual item, and what was pictured on the box. No big deal here, as the bag had some subtle improvements, like side pockets with smaller inner pockets to hold various gear.


Note the slightly different side pockets, and hey, its shown in a OK PBG!


The new side pockets are actually an improvement over what is pictured.

The bag also came packed flat, and you have to install the rigid side walls within the inner cavity. This was no biggie, and the included directions were pretty clear, save one detail. There were indicator arrows on the rigid plastic side walls, and the direction alluded to them, but only to "install oriented as indicated by the arrows." Huh? Must have been an MBA that wrote those instructions, LOL. As far as I could tell, there was no difference between up or down, and it was pretty obvious which were the sides, front, and back.


This a large bag, and can hold a ton of gear.

Next, I did a fit check on my boat, and indeed, it fit perfectly in the tank well, as it was designed to. In fact, on closer inspection of the box, the bag is shown in the tank well of the same kayak I own, an Ocean Kayak Prowler Big game.


Will it live up to these claims?

My next step was to see how my gear would fit. It turns out that standard 3700 size utility boxes fit perfectly. You can squeeze eight in there no problem, but six or seven gives you some wiggle room, and its easy to get them out without fishing with the bag. I ended up putting six 3700 size boxes, a 3600 size box, an FTO spinnerbait wallet, and a smaller utility box in the main compartment. The side compartments held a few bags of finesse baits, scale, scents, some tools, cell phone, fishing knife, hand towel, and a few other necessities.


All this gear...


...Fit nicely in this bag.

One unique feature is the included rod holders. You can easily insert a single (two are included) rod holder into the corner pockets, adding to the functionality of the bag. one of my biggest gripes with so called "bag systems" is that you have to do without the extra rod holders that we kayak anglers have putting on our milk crates. This attempts to resolve this.


Two rod holders are included.

A final feature is the somewhat see through flap opening to the main compartment. This is great for locating things you thoughtlessly chucked in there while in the heat of battling a big fish. How many times have you muttered to yourself, "Where the hell did I put those pliers?" There is a strap that allows you to roll up the flap, and keep it out of the way, when weather isn't an issue. The zipper also appears to be of a water proof design as well. Also a cool feature.


The main compartment flap can tucked away for easier access to your gear.

All in all, a cool bag that I looked forward to using on the water.

On the water

I couldn't wait to get this bag packed and see how it worked on the water. My excitement was cut short as I walked out the door, the bag on my shoulder. The D-ring that the shoulder strap connects to broke, spilling the contents of the side pockets all over the sidewalk, while the rest of the bag went crashing to the ground. One of the 3700 utility boxes took a big hit, breaking out the corner of the box. To get an idea of how much gear I used, the bag and all the tackle weight out to just under 30 lbs. Not an unreasonable amount in my opinion. My camera gear weighs twice as much, and my Domke bag has never had an issue.


Removable padded shoulder strap for easy carrying....Yeah.


A detail of the weak hardware.

Upon closer inspection, I noted that the D-rings used for the shoulder strap connection we cheap, flimsy plastic, the type reserved for clipping small tools or an accessory dry bag. If these were metal or high impact plastic, like that used on my Domke camera bag, this failure would not have occurred.

So, I cleaned up all my gear, grabbed an S-biner from the junk drawer, and made a quick fix so I could get on the road and get fishing. I kept thinking about what an easy fix this was, but was amazed that this detail made it into production overlooked. Didn't these guys use or even test this stuff? Tempress Marine makes some pretty good boat seating, and you'd think they'd have time and finance to check these things out.

Anyway, once at the water, it was great to be able to just drop my gear in the back, and go. I found that the four other D-links located on the front and back worked fine for clipping the bungees in the tank well for added stability. I had enough tackle in there to provide plenty of ballast, so this was just a second layer of tip prevention.

Getting gear in and out of the bag was simple enough, and I really appreciated the improved side pockets. The rod holders were a neat addition, but in use aren't that great. The rods tended to "criss-cross," making it easy to pull both out at once, increasing the possibility of accidentally dropping a combo in the drink. It just made every rod switch "deliberate," and was a time consuming distraction.


This shouldn't be possible.


An easy, but avoidable fix.

It was when I went to get some new lures out of the bag that I found yet another hardware failure. The zipper handle fell off in my fingers! This was a simple fix, as the zipper yoke just needed to be pinched shut. A minor detail, but in this day in age of quality manufacturing and assembly methodology, you'd think getting this right is a no brainer. A simple crimp with pliers solved that issue.

Conclusion

All in all, I still like the concept. The X-Pak also makes one of the best overnight bags I've used. Its somewhat square dimensions make packing clothes and typical camping gear so much better than the gym bag I usually take.

But the broken D-link strap connections, faulty zipper handles, and the poorly thought out rod holders prevent me from recommending this bag for anything other than an overnight bag. For now, I give this bag one star (*) out of a possible five. Should Tempress Marine address these issues by adding stronger hardware, tilting the rod holder sleeves outward, and using better quality control during assembly to ensure little details like the zipper handles are put together correctly, they would have a slam dunk, and easily earned a four or five star rating from me.



And one final thing, you may be wondering if the other D-link broke. It didn't have a chance to - the clip on the strap itself came apart last night, after I completed writing this review!

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Old 03-18-2010   #2
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Default Re: Review Article w/ Photos

And a pic by Ken of me actually using the X-Pak on the water:

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Old 03-21-2010   #3
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A pretty good read and article
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Old 03-22-2010   #4
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Thanks!
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Old 03-22-2010   #5
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Default Re: Review Article w/ Photos

Very good review
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Old 03-25-2010   #6
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Default Re: Review Article w/ Photos

Thanks. I've got a couple more on the way. I have to publish them elsewhere first, though.


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