The Best Backpacking Fishing Pole in 2023

There’s nothing quite like fishing when out backpacking. You can fish water that daytrippers tend to avoid. And you can easily fish during those golden hours around dawn and dusk! But choosing the best backpacking fishing pole for you is going to depend on a bunch of factors. 

  • What’s your target species?
  • Will you be fly-fishing, spinning or bait-casting? (Or even ice-fishing?!)
  • Do you want a high-end rig or a cheap setup that does the job?
  • Do you want a telescopic rod or a multi-section rod?
  • Will you be fishing in saltwater or freshwater?

For me? I love love love chasing trout on the fly. That’s why I have a St Croix Mojo (8’6”, 4 weight, 4 piece) with a Hardy Ultralight CADD reel. It’s a sick rig for a die-hard enthusiast and is a joy to take backpacking.

But I also think I’ve found something for everyone in the article. So feel free to click on the quick links below to get to the budget range you’re looking for.

Best Backpacking Fly Rods

When looking for a backpacking fly rod, the features you need are much the same as any other type of travel rod. First and foremost, you need it to break down into multiple parts and fit into a strong lightweight case. In many ways, the more compact it is, the better.

However, you don’t want to compromise too much on the action. After all, there’s no point in packing your gear into the hills only to find that you can’t cast to where the fish are rising. So after portability, that build quality/action is probably the next most important feature.

At the risk of being cast out of the backpacking community, weight is one of the less important factors. And price is entirely up to you…

St Croix Mojo – Best Backpacking Fly Rod

The St Croix Mojo family are fantastic rods! The 4-piece trout versions run from 7’ to 9’ with a range of power and actions.

I accept that many folk are probably looking to spin fish, so I won’t wax lyrical about this particular model. Suffice it to say that I wouldn’t trade it for any other rod right now.

Can I promise you’ll never have a blank day with it? Sure! Why not! This rod guarantees you will catch fish!

Where to buy…

You should be able to pick up one of these rods at any of the following online stores:

Shakespeare Cedar Canyon – Best Budget Fly Rod for Backpacking

Of course, not everyone is a die-hard fishing enthusiast. Nor does everyone have hundreds of dollars to ‘splash’ (haha!) on fishing gear.

There are loads of cheap options available on Amazon, but to be honest, many of them are not manufactured by specialist fishing brands. And while it might be possible to have some fun with them, I wouldn’t want to catch a fish with them. I think the risk of not landing it would be too great.

So my go-to budget brand for fly fishing is Shakespeare. And when it comes to backpacking we specifically recommend their Cedar Canyon range.

The Shakespeare Cedar Canyon designs are 4-piece travel rods in various weights and lengths. They all tend to come in around the $50 mark, making them a really affordable option.

Where to Buy…

Best Backpacking Spinning Rods

St Croix Triumph

St Croix Triumph Travel Spinning Rods are terrific. Each variation comes in 4 pieces with a soft carry case. The lengths vary from 5’6” to 6’6” and you’ve got a range of actions and rod powers to choose from. Broken down, the case will be no longer than 24” whatever size rod you go for. It only weighs 1lb which makes it a very attractive backpacking option. But don’t be fooled by the weight because it’s tough as old boots (but without sacrificing sensitivity).

You can definitely take a 20lb fish on it. It’s perfect for mountain lakes, streams and rivers. You can feel really confident targeting bass, trout and pike. Some folk have even successfully gotten catfish with it.

The only downside is the soft carry case. So you’d be advised to try and pick up a hard shell if you want to carry it in a rucksack. And also throw a bit of bow wax into the mix to make sure the sections are as secure as possible.

The poles work brilliantly with the Shimano Stradic 2500 spinning reel (or a Size 20 Pflueger President XT for something a bit cheaper).

Where to buy…

You should be able to pick up one of these rods at any of the following online stores:

Fenwick HMG Travel Rod – Best Budget Spinning Rod for Backpacking

If you don’t have the cash to spring for a St Croix, then the Fenwick HMG is probably the next best thing. It is a wonderful bit of kit for the money. I honestly don’t know why they don’t charge more for their rods.

These spinning rods also come as bait-casters. They’re 7′ long, 4 pieces and have a number of different power/action combinations.

They come in a really nice travel case that’s hard plastic on the inside with a canvas liner on the outside and around 37″ long (which is fine for slipping into a backpack). And the case will also fit your reel. For anyone who’s had to find an extra case to travel with a reel before, you’ll know that this is a really handy feature.

You can target a huge range of species with these rods in both freshwater and saltwater. And these rods are easily capable of handling fish up to 30lbs.

Where to buy…

You should be able to pick up one of these rods at any of the following online stores:

Best Travel Baitcasting Rods

St Croix Triumph Travel Casting Rod

Meanwhile, over in bait casting world, the the casting version of the Triumph is another tremendous fishing pole. The one I just linked to is 6’6”, 4 piece, weighs just 1lb, takes a line weight of 10lb-20lb, and a max lure weight of 1oz. Pairs well with the Pflueger Supreme XT Low Profile Baitcast Reel. Much like it’s spinner sibling, the carry case is only 24” long but it’s soft-shell rather than hard shell.

Best Backpacking Rod and Reel Combos


I may be a bit of a snob when it comes to fishing gear, but I do love a lot of the top brands. I don’t think you can go wrong with them. Yes, they may be pricey but they’re beautifully-designed, the engineering is excellent and, let’s be honest here, how many times in your life are you going to buy a fishing rod? (Clue: I’m a lifelong trout fisherman and I have owned just two trout fishing rods. I blew 200 bucks on my last rod and expect my cost-per-use to get well below a dollar before my next purchase).

St Croix Triumph are a beautiful family of rods designed especially for freshwater fishing. There are loads to choose from but there are two travel versions that are of particular interest to us. You’ve got a set of travel spinning rods and a set of travel baitcasting rods. For anyone leery of a 4-piece rod, I challenge you to find fault with these bad boys!


How to Pack a Fishing Rod for Backpacking?

The best way to pack a fishing rod for backpacking is to use a lightweight but sturdy rod tube. Ideally you already have one but if you don’t it’s definitely worth the investment.