Best Backpacking Fishing Pole: Spinning Rods, Casting Rods, and Fly Fishing Poles


There are few things sweeter than catching your own dinner!

While fishing and backpacking go hand-in-hand, it’s not always easy to cram all the fishing gear you need into your backpack. Modern poles like telescopic rods and tenkara poles, however, are compact and can be collapsed to fit in any backpack with ease.

Use our guide to help you pick the best fishing rod for your backpacking needs. We’ve got all the info you need to choose the ideal rod for both your backpacking and angling styles.

Best Backpacking Fishing Pole: Our Top 9 Picks

The Top Telescopic Fishing Rods for Backpacking

Best Collapsible Backpacking Fishing Poles

Best Tenkara Rods

How to Choose the Best Backpacking Fishing Rod

Type of Rod

Rods come in a variety of styles and each is suited for a different technique. Here are some of the most common:

Spinning Rod

Spinning reels are located “upside-down” or on the backside of the rod. This is the perfect rod for beginners since they’re easy to use and allow for long casts. Spinning rods are not always the most appropriate for backpackers since they tend to be heavy and bulky.

Backpacking Fly Rods

Backpacking fly fishing rods are built specifically for fly fishing and while they look like normal poles they have different features. The fly used with a fly rod is practically weightless so it requires a different casting technique than spin fishing.

Baitcasting Rod

Baitcasting rods have the reel sitting on top of the pole and this allows for a stronger line to catch bigger specimens. As its name implies, baitcasting rods are used for casting bait into the water. The downside is the pole’s limited ability to cast lighter lures and use lighter lines.

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Man holding baitcasting fishing pole over water
Baitcasting rods are used to catch larger fish using a stronger line than spinning rods

Telescoping Rod or Collapsible Rod?

Both telescoping and collapsible rods are great for travel thanks to their compact size, but which is better for catching fish?

Every angler or backpacker will have their own opinion, but it all comes down to preference. A collapsible fishing pole for backpacking will be bulkier and require more setup, but they’re usually stronger and more durable, making them a better choice for avid fishermen.

Telescoping or Tenkara fishing rods are easier to set up and more portable since they collapse down to just a few feet. Beginners or backpackers short on space will find them to be the most convenient choice.

Rod Power

Simply put, a rod’s power has to do with how much pressure it takes to make the rod bend. You want the rod to bend as that provides the tension needed to reel in the fish.

Bent fishing pole in the process of catching a fish
For fishing when backpacking there will be a trade-off between rod weight and rod power

A rod’s power can range from ultralight to heavy, sometimes depicted with a rating from 1 to 5. As a general rule of thumb, the lighter the rod, the smaller the fish it will be suited for.

For backpacking, it’s advised to stick to a light to medium-power rod. You won’t need any more power than that for the fish you’ll encounter, so avoid the extra weight.

Rod Length

For backpackers, one of your biggest considerations should be the length of the rod. The length you choose will determine where you can fish and if the rod will fit into your pack.

A rod’s length is measured from the tip to the grip. Most rods range from 6 to 12 feet. Longer rods are great for long casts and overcoming dense vegetation, but they are bulkier and heavier.

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Various lengths of fishing pole resting against fence
Choosing the right length of rod will depend on where you plan to fish

Shorter rods have a shorter reach but they’re lightweight and easier to work with when in trees or vegetation.

Reel Gear Ratio

The reel gear ratio of a rod is a pretty technical subject that requires some science to grasp (those that want to deep dive into the subject can do so here). To keep it simple, the reel-to-gear ratio has to do with how quickly the fishing line is pulled back in when you’re turning the reel.

In general, low ratios are used for big baits and big fish while higher ratios are required to reel in fast fish. For example, a 6.0:1 ratio means that for every revolution of the reel handle, the spool will spin 6 times.

Caught fish lying next to fishing pole reel
The reel gear ratio will affect the size of fish that you can catch

This balanced retrieve is the perfect middle ground for backpackers as it allows you to use a variety of baits and try your hand at fish caught in both the “slow” and “fast” ratios as well, and is ideal for both freshwater fishing and saltwater fishing.

Rod Weight

Backpackers know that every gram matters, so choosing a lightweight rod will be important. If you go too light, however, you’ll limit the type of fish you can catch. Consider choosing a rod that’s a light to medium weight to allow yourself the opportunity for a variety of catches without being too weighed down.

Final Thoughts

We all know that when backpacking, weight, and size are the enemies. We hope we’ve shown you that there are lots of good compact choices available out there to allow you to enjoy a spot of angling even while on the trail. Choose any backpacking fishing rod on our list and you won’t be disappointed!

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Be sure to let us know in the comments if you have any questions about choosing the best fishing rod for your upcoming backpacking trips!

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>