Over-the-shoulder bird holders
By Ralph Stuart
Whether you are hopscotching between coverts or on a daylong marathon hunt, strap vests are a lightweight, efficient way to tote ammo, gear and birds. They are also versatile enough to be worn in warm weather or pulled on over layers during the late season. We shouldered five popular models to see how they measured up for convenient carry.
ORVIS PRO SERIES UPLAND VEST
Made of heavy-duty nylon and offering lots of adjustability, the Orvis Pro Series Upland Vest is fit for all-day wear and heavy loads. Front shell pockets have magnet and snap closures and will hold two boxes of shells each. The mesh back offers ventilation, and the large-capacity game bag has a hidden water-bladder pocket and unbuckles for easy access. Rear mesh pockets hold large water bottles, and there are storage pockets on the back and outside the left shell pocket. Straps below the game bag will hold extra layers or raingear. Low-profile padded shoulder straps did not interfere with gun mounting, and there is a four-way adjustable sternum strap. The padded waist belt has reinforced lumbar support and comfortably distributes weight to the hips. Size: One size fits most. Price: $198. Orvis.
L.L. BEAN MEN’S PA’TRIDGE STRAP VEST II
The L.L. Bean Men’s Pa’tridge Strap Vest II is made of rugged waxed canvas and offers basic functionality. Gusseted front pockets easily hold a box of shells each but are buttoned on one side and sewn on the other, hindering access. There are two water-bottle pockets, a rear storage pocket and an interior valuables pocket. Low-profile, padded shoulder straps offer ventilation and did not interfere with gun mounting. A swivel buckle aids mobility where the shoulder yolk meets the game bag. The problem was the zippers on the top and sides of the game bag repeatedly came undone while accessing the bag. The waist belt is padded, and there is reinforced back support. Sizes: M/L or XL/XXL. Price: $119. L.L. Bean.
ALPS OUTDOORZ UPLAND GAME VEST X
The Upland Game Vest X from ALPS OutdoorZ is suited for all-day trekking. Front pockets accommodate a box of shells each and not a cartridge more. There are also two water-bottle pockets, a large interior pocket for a hydration system (sold separately), two small gear pockets, two tiny radio pockets, a larger rear pocket with dividers, and exterior straps for extra layers. The large game bag unzips for cleaning (and has a loop fastener to prevent accidental unzipping). There is a well-padded waist belt and ample back support. The thin shoulder straps did not interfere with gun mounting, but the adjustment for the sternum strap did. Sizes: L or XL. (Flip-down gun rests come on Large vests.) Price: $160. ALPS OutdoorZ.
BROWNING BIRD’N LITE STRAP VEST 2.0
The Browning Bird’n Lite Strap Vest 2.0 is not fancy but offers everything one needs for a day afield. Expandable front pockets will hold two boxes of shells each, but they sit far forward and contact the upper thighs. The cavernous game bag, which does not detach for cleaning, will hold beaucoup birds, but because it extends all the way to the front, contents tend to migrate forward. There is a buckled “rucksack” on the outside of the game bag and two large water-bottle pockets. The waist belt distributes weight to the hips and has lumbar padding. Wide, padded shoulder straps did not interfere with gun mounting, and there is a sternum strap—though it does not adjust up and down. Sizes: M/L or XL/XXL. Price: $150. Browning.
QUILOMENE UPLAND BIRD VEST
The Quilomene Upland Bird Vest is simple, rugged and designed for all-day hunting. There are plenty of pockets, including front pockets that will hold a box of shells each; a large detachable game bag and two rear cargo pockets. Oddly, there are no water-bottle pockets, so unless you’re OK carrying water alongside dead birds, you must purchase a bladder for the dedicated hydration pocket. Shoulder straps are not padded and did not interfere with gun mounting. The padded waist belt sits on the hips and has lumbar support, but the loaded game bag rides low against the rear. There is a sternum strap and rear lashing straps for extra gear. Waist sizes: less than 36″, 36″ to 43″, more than 43″. Price: $240. Q5 Outdoor Products.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHRIS SIEFKEN