Best Backpacking Fishing Pole: Spinning, Casting, & Fly Fishing Rods

Any backpacking angler needs a specialized rod to take on their travels. Find the best backpacking fishing pole in our guide on the top models for hiking, backpacking, or camping trips.

Jolanda Lapegna Avatar
Written by: | Reviewed by: Kieran James Cunningham
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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.

Given that there are few things sweeter than catching your own dinner on the trail, we’ve tested the best backpacking fishing poles for various budgets and styles. Overall, we loved the PLUSINNO Telescopic Reel and Rod Combo, awarding it our editor’s choice.

From our reviews, we also highly recommend the St Croix Mojo Bass, Sougayilang Telescopic Fishing Rod – Black Hawk, Daiwa Ardito, Goture Travel Fishing Rods 4Pcs, CAPACI Portable Travel Casting & Spinning Pole, DRAGONtail Tenkara Shadowfire 360 12′, Wild Water Tenkara 12′ Rod Starter Package, and the MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch Tenkara Rod.

Still not sure? We have all the info you need to choose the ideal rod for both your backpacking and angling styles. We cover the types of rods available and various features to look out for, including rod power, rod length, reel gear ratio, and rod weight.

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At a Glance: Quick Recommendations

  • Editor’s Choice :  PLUSINNO Telescopic Fishing Rod and Reel Combo
    “The perfect, beginner-friendly telescoping rod that offers the right balance of power, action, and portability.”
  • Best Backpacking Casting Rod:  St Croix Mojo Bass
    “A great casting model for experienced anglers looking for both portability and power.”
  • Best Budget Spinning Rod:  Sougayilang Telescopic Rod – Black Hawk
    “Looking for a lightweight, compact pole comfortable enough for all-day use? This is it!”
  • Best Spinning Rod:  Daiwa Ardito
    “This rod has it all – power, fast action, and durability. This is our heaviest pick, so it’s more suitable for car camping.”
  • Best Collapsible :  Goture Travel Rod
    “This highly portable and powerful rod comes in both spinning and casting types, but it’s most suited for big fish.”
  • Best Budget Collapsible :  CAPACI Portable Travel Spinning & Casting
    “An ultra-compact, lightweight rod perfect for reeling in small to medium fish.”
  • Best Tenkara Rod:  DRAGONtail Tenkara Shadowfire 360 12′
    “This affordable starter kit is an easy-to-use and low-maintenance choice for backpackers.”
  • Best Value Tenkara:  Wild Water Tenkara 12′ Rod Starter Package
    “Catch and retrieve at lightning speeds with this durable and beginner-friendly slow-action rod.”
  • Best Tenkara Compact Option:  MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch Tenkara Rod
    “Lightweight, portable, and with some thoughtful features, this Tenkara pole is a solid choice for any backpacker.”

Which are the Best Backpacking Fishing Rods on the market?

After testing in the field we’ve narrowed down our top picks to the following nine fishing rods.

  • PLUSINNO Telescopic Reel and Rod Combo
  • St Croix Mojo Bass
  • Sougayilang Telescopic Fishing Rod – Black Hawk
  • Daiwa Ardito
  • Goture Travel Fishing Rods 4Pcs
  • CAPACI Portable Travel Casting & Spinning Pole
  • DRAGONtail Tenkara Shadowfire 360 12′
  • Wild Water Tenkara 12′ Rod Starter Package
  • MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch Tenkara Rod
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PLUSINNO Telescopic Reel and Rod Combo

Editor’s Choice

The PLUSINNO fishing rod is a compact yet powerful telescopic pole that collapses into an impressive 19–20-inch unit and at just 5.6 ounces it earns our editor’s choice award.

Adding to all that portability is its fiberglass construction and medium power, making it a well-rounded choice for any backpacker. Choose the rod and reel combos or go for the full kit and have everything you need to get started in one place. 

Perhaps most impressive is its bang for your buck. At such an affordable price, this is the perfect rod for beginners or backpackers looking for a well-rounded, portable rod. 

  • PROs

    • Portability
    • Easy to use
    • Four different lengths
  • CONs

    • Heavy spinning reel

Bottom-Line: The perfect beginner-friendly telescoping power rod that offers the right balance of power, action, and portability.

St. Croix Rods Mojo Bass Casting Rod Titanium, 7'1'

St Croix Mojo Bass

Best Backpacking Casting Rod

The St Croix Mojo Bass is designed primarily for catching bass, but the durability and power of this rod will help you conquer any freshwater, float-and-fly fish, winning it our best casting rod award.

Made from premium SCIII carbon, these graphite rods offer exceptional strength and durability. They are available in several lengths and power options meaning you can choose the rod that most suits your technique. 

This is a fast or extra-fast-action rod, meaning it’s extra-sensitive and requires some expertise to handle. 

  • PROs

    • Fast action
    • 5-year warranty
    • Versatile rod power
  • CONs

    • Expensive
    • Heavy with the reel

Bottom-Line: A great casting backpacking rod for experienced anglers looking for both portability and power.

Sougayilang Graphite Carbon Fiber Portable Spinning Telescopic Fishing Rod for Boat Saltwater and Freshwater,1.8M/5.91Ft

Sougayilang Telescopic Fishing Rod – Black Hawk

Best Budget Spinning Rod

The Sougayilang telescopic fishing rod performs well, looks great, and is affordable, making it our top choice for a budget spinning rod.

While its high-density carbon fiber construction renders it portable and lightweight, it does lack some of the durability of other heavier, telescoping rods. At such an affordable price, it’s still a great light/medium power choice and perfect for any easy-going angler looking to catch fish while on the trail.

  • PROs

    • Affordable
    • Ergonomic handle 
    • Lightweight
  • CONs

    • Less durability than other telescopic rods

Bottom-Line: Looking for a lightweight, compact pole comfortable enough for all-day use? This is it!

Daiwa Ardito-Travel Rods, Black/Red

Daiwa Ardito

Best Backpacking Spinning Rod

The Daiwa Ardito excels in power and performance, making it our favorite backpacking spinning rod. Few travel poles offer such versatility and strength in a 5-piece rod.

Thanks to its bias graphite construction, this pole offers superb flexibility, strength, and sensitivity to bites. With such an impressive backbone capable of reeling big fish, you’d never guess this was a telescopic rod.

The downside to all this power and strength? The price and the weight. It’s an expensive, weighty pole that might be better suited for car camping. 

  • PROs

    • Quality materials 
    • Solid performance 
    • Sensitive to bites
  • CONs

    • Expensive
    • Heavy

Bottom-Line: As travel spinning rods go this one has it all – power, fast action, and durability, but it’s our heaviest pick, too, so is more suitable for car camping.

Best Collapsible Backpacking Fishing Poles

Goture Pack Fishing Rod Spinning Fishing Rods 10ft Portable Pack case 4 Sections Lightweight Carbon Fiber Poles M Power MF Action

Goture Travel Fishing Rods 4Pcs

Best Collapsible

The Goture is both sensitive and strong, making it our top pick for a collapsible fishing rod. The pole collapses into 4 light pieces, making it the perfect choice for air travel and backpackers.

Thanks to its 30-ton carbon matrix, you’ll enjoy exceptional medium-power and durability without sacrificing sensitivity. To further sweeten the deal this rod features EVA split grips, a 1-year warranty, and free replacement parts only sweeten the deal. 

  • PROs

    • Portability
    • Both spinning/casting rods available
    • 1-year warranty
  • CONs

    • Heavy power is not suited for all types of angling

Bottom-Line: This highly portable and powerful rod comes in both spinning and casting options, but it’s most suited for big fish.

CAPACI Portable Travel Casting Spinning Bass Fishing Rods Super Convenience 24 Ton Carbon Fiber Rod for Salt Fresh Water Comfortable EVA Handle 6 Pieces

CAPACI Portable Travel Casting & Spinning Pole

Best Budget Collapsible

It’s hard to capture that one-piece feeling with a collapsible budget 6-piece rod, but the CAPACI comes very close!

Thanks to this innovative 6-piece collapsible design, the pole breaks down to an incredibly compact carrying size, perfect for squeezing into small packs. While it may not be the most powerful rod on our list, it should be more than enough to handle the small to medium fish you’ll be trying to catch while backpacking. 

  • PROs

    • Affordable
    • Lightweight
    • Portability 
  • CONs

    • Lots of pieces that can break/come loose

Bottom-Line: An ultra-compact, lightweight fishing rod perfect for reeling in small to medium fish.

Best Tenkara Rods

DRAGONtail Shadowfire 365 12' Tenkara Rod Plus Complete Starter Package – Flies, Leader, Tippet, Line Holder, Storage Tube, and Rod Sock

DRAGONtail Tenkara Shadowfire 360 12′

Best Tenkara Rod

For an entry-level angler, our top choice for a Tenkara rod is the DRAGONtail Shadowfire.

Weighing in at just 2.9 ounces, it’s the lightest of all the Tenkara models on our list and provides all-day comfort and a barely-there feeling. Spend a few more bucks and invest in the full starters kit for everything you need for catching fish on your next backpacking trip. 

Just remember, this rod extends out to a full 12-feet, meaning you’ll need lots of room for casting!

  • PROs

    • Lightweight & compact
    • Durable materials
    • Versatile power rod
    • Full beginner’s backpacking fishing kit
  • CONs

    • Expensive
    • Difficult casting due to length

Bottom-Line: This affordable starter kit is an easy-to-use and low-maintenance choice for backpackers. 

Wild Water Complete Tenkara Fly Fishing Starter Package, 12 Foot Extendable Graphite Rod, 9 Section Rod Pole Kit, Includes 22-Inch Hard Tube Case, Rod Sock, Fly Box, Flies and Three Lines

Wild Water Tenkara 12′ Rod Starter Package

Best Value Tenkara

The Wild Water Tenkara is a no-nonsense pole that’s simple to use and good value for money. It’s a great first rod for learning to fish, and with over 25 pieces included in the kit, it has everything you need to get started.

This is a quality rod made from IM8 graphite that collapses into just under 20” of length and 3 ounces. Its small compact size, ease of use, and lifetime warranty make the Wild Water one of the top slow-action rods for backpacking. 

  • PROs

    • Lightweight
    • Complete, beginner-friendly kit
    • Lifetime warranty
  • CONs

    • Slightly heavier than other Tenkara rods 

Bottom-Line: Catch and retrieve at lightning speeds with this durable and beginner-friendly slow-action rod.

Maxcatch Tenkara Fishing Rod 11/12/13ft (V-tenkara, Triple-Zoom:8'10''/9'9''/10'6'')

MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch Tenkara Rod

Best Tenkara Compact Option

The Maxcatch is our top choice for a more compact Tenkara option.

Don’t let the light weight and portability of this pole fool you, its 100% carbon fiber material lets it put up quite a fight! A soft-touch cork handle helps with casting while the rotating lillian will keep your line from getting tangled. 

It’s also one of the longest rods on our list at 13 feet, making it perfect for fly fishing but a little hard to cast. A lifetime warranty just seals the deal. 

  • PROs

    • Light yet durable carbon fiber 
    • High gear ratio
    • Lifetime warranty
  • CONs

    • Difficult to cast due to length

Bottom-Line: Lightweight, portable, and with some thoughtful features, this Tenkara model is a solid choice for any backpacker.

What Types of Fishing Poles Are Available?

Rods come in a variety of styles with each suited for a different technique. We describe the main types in the list below.

  • Spinning Rod
  • Fly Rod
  • Baitcasting Rod
  • Telescoping or Collapsible Rod

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. 

Fly Rod

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, requiring a different casting technique than spin fishing.

Baitcasting Rod

The reel on a baitcasting rod sits on top of the pole, allowing 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.

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

Telescoping or Collapsible Rod

Both telescoping and collapsible fishing rods are great for travel thanks to their compact size, but which is better for catching fish? In general terms, beginners may prefer a telescoping version, while those with more experience may prefer a collapsible option.

Every angler or backpacker will have their own opinion, but it all comes down to preference. A collapsible fishing rod 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. 

Tenkara or telescopic 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.

How to Choose a Backpacking Fishing Rod?

Now that you know the type of fishing pole you’d prefer for backpacking, we’ve described the various features to consider in the list below.

  • Rod Power
  • Rod Length
  • Reel Gear Ratio
  • Rod Weight

Rod Power

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

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.

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

Rod Length

A rod’s length is measured from the tip to the grip, with most rods ranging from 6 to 12 feet. Longer rods are great for long casts and overcoming dense vegetation but are bulkier and heavier. Shorter rods have a shorter reach but are lightweight and easier to work with in trees or vegetation.

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

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

Reel Gear Ratio

Simply put, the reel gear ratio is about 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 larger 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. 

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.

The reel gear ratio is a fairly technical subject that requires some background science to grasp, so those who want to deep dive into the subject can do so here.

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

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 light to medium weight to allow yourself the opportunity for a variety of catches without being too weighed down.

Final Thoughts on the Best Lightweight Backpacking Fishing Gear

When backpacking, weight and size are always top priorities, and backpacking fishing gear is no different! We hope we’ve shown you there are lots of great compact choices available 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!

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!

Last update on 2024-06-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Jolanda Lapegna Avatar

Jolanda is a full-time writer and life-long outdoor enthusiast. Growing up on a small island off the Eastern Canadian coast, she spent most of her childhood hiking, swimming and fishing in the Atlantic ocean.

After a short stint in the corporate world, Jolanda quit her day job to write full-time and check out what lies beyond the Canadian shores. Ever since, she’s been hiking, biking and kayaking her way across 11 European countries and counting.

Jolanda currently lives in the beautiful, Tuscan countryside. When she isn’t hanging out in the woods or at the beach, you’ll catch her foraging for mushrooms and truffles with her truffle-dog, Red.

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