Really thorough and good visual review of the two packs. Like you, I have been trying for some time to find the perfect pack for my style of fly fishing. Chest style packs are great, but, when put on they extend outwards as you said. I have a problem not being able to see my feet then. At my age, seeing your feet is essential!
Mel,I don't really like chest packs. I wear the Orvis Safe Passage Vertical Pack in sling style. I can slide it to my side when I'm done getting what I want out of it. It's a decent little pack. I wish it had more storage but it's forced me to fish the flies I have. I have too many to begin with.
I'm pretty impressed with this one but I'm sticking with my Sling Pack.
Thanks for the comment Howard.
Kevin, did you try on the Orvis Safe Passage Sling Pack? It's quite a bit larger and more comfortable for me. It can hold 3 medium sized fly boxes in the front pouch; and a liter of water, snacks, more flies, tippet, camera, etc. in the main pouch. The inside has four little slit pockets for leaders, licenses, and keys. It stays on your back out of the way until you need it, and then it slides around to your front for easy access. With a $25 off coupon (should get these in the catalogs I think) it doesn't cost much more than the chest pack on. Not sure how you could rig a net with it, but my net never leaves the closet anyway.Oddly enough, the model on the Orvis website is wearing it backwards here: http://www.orvis.com/store/product.aspx?pf_id=3H6P
I did look at the slingpack but I haven't tried it. It seems a little large. I do like the storage option and lack of a bunch of zippers.