Any adventurer knows the importance of having the right tool for the right job. when you go on overnight backpacking trips this is especially true. Between your waterporoof bag, your personal items, your equipment and tackle and your clothes, every square centimeter of space in your pack has to be used efficiently.

One major space saver on backpacking fishing trips are travel rods. Choosing the right backpacking fishing rod could mean the difference between dinner and trail mix, especially when you are deep in the woods or mountains.

Whether you are an experienced outdoorperson or a novice, you will need to do your homework, weigh pros and cons, and consider your budget before making a purchase. This guide will teach you what styles and brands are on the market, the right criteria to use to evaluate your rod, and give you a peek at some of Amazon’s top picks.

Fishing Rod Styles

There are many different styles of fishing rods that have a range of features and prices. Ultimately, there is no ‘perfect’ fishing rod for all occasions.

You may end up needing more than one type of rod for different types of adventures. Some of the most popular types of rods you will encounter as a beginner are:

Casting Rods

Casting rods are the most common choice for inshore fishing (fishing for smaller, lighter catches in local lakes and rivers). There are two types: spin casting rods and bait casting rods– both are basically the same.

They are usually four to eight feet long and named after the ‘casting reel’ that sits above the rod. The reel has a single button on it that allows you to control the line.

Casting rods are a popular choice for beginners because they are affordable and easy to use.

Spinning Rods

Spinning rods also have a reel, but instead of sitting above the rod, spinning reels sit beneath and are held in place with a reel seat. These rods are usually five to eight and a half feet long and have guides placed every foot or so that help you control the line.

They have foam or cork handles which are more comfortable to hold for extended periods of time. The comfort and control of a spinning rod makes them the popular choice for sport fish like walleye, bass and trout.

Fly rods

Fly rods are used for fly fishing. They are thinner and more flexible than spinning or casting rods.

This is because you in fly fishing you cast a lightweight fly (usually made of feathers or fur) with a weighted line. Fly rods come in different sizes and flexibility for different types of fish.

The bigger the fish is, the bigger the rod needs to be. Fly fishing is an advanced technique and many fly fishermen create their own rods to suit their adventure.

Telescopic rods

Telescopic rods are collapsible rods that condense down for easy transit. Instead of breaking into separate sections, these rods stay in one peice but are constructed in such a way that they condense down to a fraction of their full size.

For example, a thirty-foot telescopic rod condenses to about fourteen inches. Mostly you will see these types of rods among surf fishers since surf rods are longer than most other kinds.

Trolling rods

Honestly, you can use any type of fast action rod for trolling. Trolling is when you cast off the back of a boat, letting the wake of the boat pull the bait for you.

Trolling rods are usually four to five feet long and heavy with fast action.

Other types of rods

Surf rods, sea rods, ice rods and ultra-light rods are specialized rods designed for advanced fishing techniques like ice fishing or marlin fishing.

Fishing Rod Brands

There are hundreds, if not thousands of fishing rod manufacturers and it would be impossible to list them all. However, some of the more popular brands in store and online are:

Ugly Stik

Ugly Stik is an American made brand that has been around for over one hundred years, first as the Shakespeare company, then as K2 Inc., and finally as Ugly Stik. They produce spinning, casting and fly rods and kits for anglers of all ages and experience levels.


Tenkara is an American made brand that produces a hybrid of carbon, telescopic and fly rods. Tenkara is named after a Japanese style of fishing that is done with bamboo rods, silk lines and a bit of feathers or fur.

The company makes rods that mimic the simplicity of the Japanese Tenkara method. They are fixed line rods with lightweight handles.

This means that the line is attached to the end of the rod rather than being fed through a reel. Because there is no reel, Tenkara rods have no guides.

They are eleven to thirteen feet at full length, but collapse for easy transport. In addition to rods, Tenkara produces kits, nets, flies, lines and accesories.


Orivs is an American made brand that was started in Vermont over one hundred and fifty years ago. Orvis specializes in Fly fishing rods, reels and gear, but also makes a host of other products ranging from hunting equipment to dog beds.


Plusinno is a subsidiary of the Chinese electronics company Shenzhen Plus Innovation. They started off making waterproof cases for electronic devices like cell phones and eventually expanded to include other types of outdoor equipment and gear.

Currently, the company specializes in fishing nets, spinning rods and fly rods.


Sougayilang is a subsidiary of Chinese owned Yiwu Gada Trade Company. They are a relatively new (ten years old) brand that makes casting, spinning, and telescopic rods.

Sougayilang is a popular brand for saltwater fishers.

Now that you know the different types and brands of rods on the market, it’s time to choose the right rod for your backpacking adventure. The most important thing is to choose a rod that fits inside your pack and that is well suited for the adventure you are going on.

For backpacking, you will definitely want a rod that travels well, but should it be telescoping or multi-part? Fly, spinning, or casting?

Fiberglass or graphite? And how long should it be?

Read on to find out more.

Choosing the Right Rod

Fly, Spinning or Casting?

Casting rods are definitely out as they usually aren’t collapsible or able to be broken into multiple pieces. In all actuality, you are choosing between a fly rod or a spinning rod.

The right choice for you depends on your budget and the type of outdoor adventure you are on.

If you are going to be fishing on a lake, stocked pond, or other body of still water, a spinning rod with a heavier lure probably makes more sense. On the other hand, if you are going rafting or fishing a river with a strong current, a lightweight and flexible fly rod is more practical.

Fly fishing is more challenging than traditional fishing so for outdoorsmen looking to push themselves, this is an excellent choice. Spinning rods are easier to use so if you are looking to catch a lot of fish for your group to eat or to take home, a casting rod is your best bet.

Another thing to consider is your experience level and your budget. Spinning rods are easier to use and cheaper to get started with. Spinning rods cost between thirty and one hundred and fifty dollars on average.

Fly fishing is a more advanced technique and the rods typically cost between fifty and six hundred dollars.

How Long should my Rod Be?

Again, this depends on the type of adventure you’re planning. The longer the rod is, the more leverage you have.

You need more leverage for larger, heavier fish than you do for smaller, lighter ones.

Another thing to keep in mind is the longer the rod, the further away you can cast. This can really make a difference if you are fishing from the shore or riverbank.

As a rule of thumb, you will want a rod that is at least six feet if you want it to be strong enough to hook fish worth eating. Of course, the longer your rod is, the heavier it will be and the more space it will take up in your pack.

Multi-Part or Telescoping?

Multi-part rods break down into two or four segments while telescoping rods collapse into one shorter section. There are advantages and drawbacks to both.

Multi-part rods are easy to transport but take longer to assemble and have a higher chance of malfunctioning than a single piece rod. Telescoping or collapsible rods are easy to transport and quicker to set up, but they are usually more expensive and harder to clean.

Another thing to consider is sensitivity. Telescoping rods are generally less sensitive than one or two piece rods, but four piece rods are less sensitive than collapsible ones.

Now that you have had the opportunity to learn about the different styles and brands of fishing rods and weigh the pros and cons, take a look at some of our top picks for adventurers.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall

The DRAGONtail Tenkara Shadowfire 360 is a twelve foot fly rod that collapses to less than twenty one inches, fitting easilly in your pack. Tenkara is known for making strong and lightweight graphite rods that are great for experienced anglers and beginnners alike.

This rod has a very high (4.3 out of 5 stars) overall rating on Amazon. You’ll love the sensitivity and simplicity of the Tenkara rod.

It is quick to set up and easy to catch a lot of fish with, even for novices. At just $139.95 with free shipping, the complete starter kit is a great value for the price.

Best On a Budget

The PLUSINNO Lightweight Ultra Portable Fly Fishing Rod and Reel Graphite Pole is great for adventurers on a budget. This is a four piece rod and reel combo with stainless steel guides.

This is an eight-foot rod that breaks down to twenty-seven inch segments. The fly reel is adjustable, which is great for lefties.

The rod itself is less than forty dollars and the complete kit is just $71.99 on Amazon, making it the best choice for backpackers on a budget.

Honorable Mention

The Sougayilang Fishing Rod Combo is also worth mentioning. These are five to seven-foot rods that collapse to less than seventeen inches for easy transport.

This is a complete set that is affordable and easy to use, which makes it a great starter set for novices or children.

Ultimately, choosing the right backpacking fishing rod comes down to the type of adventure you are planning and the features that matter most to you. Whether you are a novice headed on their very first fly fishing trip or an experienced angler looking to challenge yourself, you can’t go wrong if you remember to research, weigh your options and keep your budget in mind.