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. Photo by Chas Clifton
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: Read more...
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