Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Women's hunting clothing review: Filson women's upland vest

If you're looking for a women's upland vest that flatters the female figure, your best choice has long been - and remains - SHE Safari.

But if you're looking for a vest that is simple, sturdy and functional - and you don't mind spending a bit more money - Filson's women's upland vest would be an excellent choice.

After using the SHE vest for the past two years, I got a chance to test drive Filson's vest last weekend when I went grouse hunting in North Dakota with blog-friends Galen Geer and Chas Clifton (I'll blog on that hunt later).

Here are my impressions:
Pockets: I love Filson's enormous bellows pockets. You can dump a box of shells in each and have room to spare, and you can easily get a gloved hand into the pockets without struggle. The pockets are so deep that even with a box of shells inside them, I was able to bend at the waist without having anything spill out.

There are two compartments in each pocket, and elastic sleeves for six shells in each one. There's also an inside zipped flat pocket for your license and anything else that might need to be kept especially safe.

My only wish would be to have hand-warming side pockets for those times that you're standing still in the field freezing your fingers off - when I was hunting in North Dakota, I occasionally had to slip my fingers into the front opening of the vest Napoleon-style instead.

And for the record, while my SHE Safari vest does have side-access pockets under its much smaller bellows pockets, on my model the opening is so small I can't get my hands into them. From what I can see on the SHE website, it looks like the design has changed a bit, and the model appears to be slipping her fingers into an opening, but nothing in the description indicates it's a pocket there - she may just be sticking her fingers into the front portion of the game bag.

Game bag: No bells and whistles here - Filson's game bag is on the back only, and unlike my SHE vest, Filson's vest has no zippers to make it uber-easy to extract birds. I didn't find it a problem, but if you like six ways to access your birds, this vest won't give them to you.

One superior advantage is lining. My SHE vest was lined with nylon, which was pretty breathable, but allowed blood to seep into my clothing underneath the vest (I was told that SHE treated the lining on later models to rectify that problem, but I don't have a later model.) Filson's vest is lined with its trademark oil-finish Tin Cloth, and I'm pretty sure even bullets couldn't get through it. OK, that's an exaggeration, but it's good stuff.

Warmth: The entire Filson vest is lined with Tin Cloth, which makes it highly wind-resistant (and yes, there is some serious wind in North Dakota). However, if you're hunting someplace warm, you will find that it really doesn't breathe. At all. If I were upland hunting in warm weather, I'd definitely wear my SHE vest, but if it's at all cool outside, the Filson vest will keep you warmer. It also leaves you plenty of room for layers.

Flatterability: Generally, upland vests are not made to make women look feminine - that big ole bag in the back conspires to obscure your waistline. Filson's is no different.

The reason SHE's vest is more flattering is that its blaze accents in front are cut to accentuate the female figure. If that's important to you, go with SHE. Personally, I'm content to let my pony tail announce that I'm a girl.

Care: Because it's made with Tin Cloth, Filson's vest is not washable. You can wipe the Tin Cloth, and that's it. So if you go with this vest, ladies, wear good deodorant - you don't want to put a big stink on it.

In comparison, SHE's vest is washable, though I found that laundering does put a big, wrinkly hurt on its wax-cloth elements.

Where it was made: Filson's vest is made in the USA with imported fabric. My SHE vest was made in Guatemala.

Price: As of this writing, Filson's vest costs $145. If you're squeamish about spending a lot on a vest, that might be a bit steep for you. But my philosophy is that I'd rather spend more on something high quality than to sacrifice quality to save money. And Filson's quality is impeccable.

SHE's vest is in the same category here as Filson's - it's $15 cheaper, but also sturdy.

For the record, I paid for my SHE vest and received my Filson vest free for review - information that's always available on my disclosures page.

If I had to choose between Filson and SHE Safari: Oooh, that's a tough one. It would suck hunting in hot weather with the Filson vest. But I have to say its generous no-spill pockets and sturdy Tin Cloth lining put it over the top for me.

I may wear the SHE vest this weekend when I participate in a women's pheasant hunt, because it's still pretty warm here in Northern California. But once it cools down, I'm sure Filson's is the vest I'll be reaching for.

Photo by Chas Clifton

© Holly A. Heyser 2010


Barbara Baird said...

Nice comparison and contrast review, Prof. And, what say you? Wind in North Dakota? Really? Looking forward to reading about your trip. That was a fast one, wasn't it?

NorCal Cazadora said...

Yes, it was a very fast trip, which is all I can afford to do during the school year - anything more robs the students (and makes my life hell).

Hope I can find time to write about it soon - I'm nonstop busy as far as the eye can see. Maybe tomorrow night?

slm313 said...

Wish I had seen this last Saturday. I cannot begin to even explain how disgusted I was by the selection at Bass Pro, no women's and strangely sized kids. Finally found a slightly adequate men's vest in a size too big. Yeah, I am disgruntled! But I'm still looking forward to the women's class this weekend!

NorCal Cazadora said...

Have you cut the tags yet? If not, take it back. They'll probably have loaners this weekend, and I know there'll be blaze Prois caps for you because I'm bringing them.

Bass Pro was a big disappointment for me. And when I was in North Dakota last weekend, we stopped at Scheel's and they didn't have anything for women either. So far Sportsman's Warehouse and Cabela's are the only stores where I've seen women's clothes, and honestly I can't remember if either carried upland vests for women. We are generally stuck with mail-order. :-(

Hunting World said...
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NorCal Cazadora said...
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Linda M. said...

Thanks for recommending the Filson vest. After several unsuccessful attempts to purchase an upland vest which would not make me look like a pumpkin in a potato sack -- not that I am vain or anything :-) -- I finally gave up and ordered the Filson model for full price from their website. Took it out to the range this morning and am thrilled with the fit, super-solid craftsmanship which really does look like it will last a lifetime, and simple functionality of the design. No extra fabric catching on the butt of my gun. The real test will be when I take it hunting, but so far it fits and performs like a dream.

The vest came with a mail-in card for registering the product. Under the "why did you purchase this" category, I wrote in "recommended by norcal cazadora". Hopefully this leads to you getting some type of commission for the sale.

Also, for the record, you can purchase the Cabela's brand women's orange hunting vest online. But the size and fit are atrocious. I got a small and may as well have been wearing the aforementioned potato sack. So I exchanged the "vest" for something of comparable value: a case of shotshells!

NorCal Cazadora said...

Glad you liked it, and thanks for dropping my name! I really like that vest too.