It was only two years ago that we reviewed strap vests (“Strapped In,” July/August ’20), but since then a whole new crop of vests has come to our attention with fresh designs and innovations. We decided to check out five examples from this next generation to see how they shoulder the load.
Versatile enough to be worn on quick jaunts or all-day excursions, the Hunt Redi Deviate Ambush 2.0 is lightweight, adjustable and comfortable. The Cordura vest comes with a “shell rail pouch” that will hold 12 easy-access rounds in shell holders, a multi-purpose zippered pocket and two water-bottle holsters. The MOLLE system makes the vest highly configurable, and there are six D-rings for attachments. Low-profile padded shoulder straps offer plenty of adjustability and don’t interfere with a gun mount, and the sternum strap can be moved up and down. The mesh back provides breathability, and the easily accessible game bag has an interior mesh pouch and a large zippered exterior pocket with zippered pouch. The well-padded waist belt with lumbar support keeps weight on the hips.
Weight: 3 pounds 3 ounces.
Colors: Blaze Orange/Coyote (shown) and Ranger Green/Coyote.
Belt Sizes: S through XL.
Shoulder-harness sizes: regular and tall.
Water bottle sizes: deep and wide.
Essentially a technical backpack made into a strap vest, the Scheels Endeavor Hunting Vest is almost too much of a good thing. The heaviest vest in the test group, the Endeavor is loaded with features, including two large shell pockets with magnet closures, two interior security pockets, two water bottle holders, a GPS transmitter holder, an adjustable yoke, MOLLE webbing for customization, a Hypalon game pouch with bottom zipper for easy clean-out, an exterior storage pouch and a removable Blaze Orange cover. The vest has an internal backpack frame and a padded, load-bearing waist belt. It also has padded shoulder straps and an adjustable sternum strap. This serious vest is better suited for all-day expeditions than quick run-and-gun outings.
Weight: 5 pounds 2 ounces.
Sizes: S/M and L/XL.
Lightweight and comfortable, the Pyke Wingman Upland Strap Vest doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but it gets the job done. We tested the Pro configuration, which comes with one shell pocket and one zippered gear pouch. (The Classic comes with two shell pockets.) A MOLLE system allows for customization. The vest is made of 1000D nylon, and the roomy game bag has an interior pouch and a zippered exterior pocket. The shoulder straps are not padded (read: won’t interfere with gun mounting), and the sternum strap does not adjust up and down. Ultrasuede on the yoke and thinly padded waist belt are for added comfort and durability. Accessories like water bottle holders, a Garmin GPS holster and a retractable gear tether must be purchased separately.
Weight: 2 pounds 7 ounces.
Sizes: Regular, L and XL.
For techies and tinkerers, the Chief Upland Over/Under Vest is a fully customizable, modular system. We tested the All-In Bundle, which includes a Quick Grab Ammo Pouch, Waterproof Ammo Box, Gun Stock Rest, Waterproof Electronics Pouch, water bottle pouch and D-ring—all attached with the MOLLE system. The Cordura vest has ribbed padding in the back and a load-bearing belt, and the shoulder straps are padded at the top. Numerous mesh pockets, a hydration-bladder pouch and a zippered rear pocket will hold gear. The front-loading game bag is unique but a bit involved to use—and it keeps gamebirds tight against your warm body.
Weight: 3 pounds 15 ounces.
Sizes: S through XL (2XL and up special order).
Color: Blaze/Olive (shown), Earth Tone, Blaze/Coyote Brown, and Full Blaze Orange.
The lightest vest in the group, the Duck Camp Upland Wingshooting Vest is not as customizable as the others but has plenty of features. The nylon vest has two bellows shell pockets with Velcro closures and interior shell holders, two zippered handwarmer pockets, two water bottle pockets, a hydration-bladder pocket and four D-rings for accessories. The game bag—which is challenging to access—unzips for easy cleaning and has two exterior zippered storage compartments and a lashing system for extra clothing. The waist and back are padded, and the low-profile, sculpted shoulder straps do not impinge on a gun mount. Both the sternum strap and belt can be moved up and down, but the shell pockets tend to slide rearward on the belt.
Weight: 2 pounds.