Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Duck hunting jackets: Options for women

If you're a woman duck hunter who isn't built like a man, I'm guessing you've had a hell of a time finding a duck jacket that works for you.

Personally, I made do with a men's medium jacket from Gamehide my first three seasons until I got tired of the butt of my gun getting caught in all the extra fabric. Two seasons ago I switched to Drake because it was the only company I found that made a men's small. I love that jacket, except for the fact that the hood is too small, and therefore useless to me.

But what if even a men's small doesn't work for you? What are your options?

SHE Outdoor Apparel announced this year that it will be producing a complete line of women's duck hunting clothing: jacket, bib, waders, gloves. I hope to give them a test-drive later this year.

But if that doesn't float your boat, would another women's hunting jacket do?

To answer that question, I tested two women's hunting jackets: one from Prois (disclosure: I'm a member of its field staff), and another from the Haley Vines Collection.

Both jackets are hooded, waterproof shells (not insulated). Waterproof is essential for duck hunting - even if you don't hunt in rain a lot like I do, there's all that splash potential.

And the exterior fabric of both jackets is soft and quiet - you won't be making noise with either of them.

But what are the differences? And how well are they suited to duck hunting?

I'll start with the Haley Vines jacket, which I spotted this year at the SHOT Show. (Click here and go to the fourth slide to see the catalog page.)

This piece stood out because while it isn't a duck jacket, Haley Vines made it in the incredibly popular Mossy Oak Duck Blind camo pattern. I glommed onto it instantly (love that camo pattern), and the folks at Haley Vines were kind enough to give me one to try out before my duck season ended.

The most un-ducky thing about this jacket is the blaze orange Haley Vines logo on the sleeve and waistband, but don't let that throw you - it's small, and it blends in surprisingly well with the detailed camo pattern (you can barely make it out just below the left pocket in this photo).

This jacket is slightly more form-fitting than the Prois jacket, and it's about two inches shorter, with the bottom seam resting at the top of my hips. But I had no problem wearing layers underneath it, and the slimmer cut made it well-suited for wearing under the waders. (For what it's worth, the fabric is a bit stretchy too, so it doesn't bind.)

One of my favorite features was the snug-fitting cuff inside of the loose-fitting sleeve. It's good for keeping the wind out, but it surprised me with one more benefit: When I had to plunge my hand into the water to get a diving duck, that cuff kept the water out too. Now, I didn't do a repeat performance to keep testing it, but after one quick plunge, my wrists were dry.

This jacket also has a license-sized, zipped chest pocket on the left side in the lining.

The only downside to this jacket was the mesh lining in the front: When you put your hands in the pockets, there's nothing but mesh on the inside of the pockets, which means the cold will come right through it. This really isn't a huge issue when you're wearing the jacket under waders, but it might be a consideration for other types of wear.

Oh yeah, minor point: Haley Vines doesn't use conventional sizes like S-M-L etc.; it uses a 0-5 system (a women's medium translates into a 2). While I appreciate any attempts to eliminate the stigma of some of those labels, it just adds to the time it takes to figure out what size to order.

Retail price: $125.

Now for Prois. I tested the Eliminator jacket, which comes in Realtree AP HD or Max1.

Now, if you think it matters that this isn't in a traditional duck camo, I would encourage you to check out all the rage in duck hunting: old-fashioned camo:


People kill ducks wearing this stuff, which doesn't look a damned bit like cattails. You'll be fine.

So, on to the important stuff: The Eliminator jacket is roomier than the Haley Vines jacket, so you could layer underneath it and still wear it over the waders. When it's raining hard, that can be a good thing if you don't want all the rain to run down the back of your jacket and straight into your undies. It's also about two inches longer.

One of the coolest features of the Eliminator is the duck tail. Yes, it's got a duck tail, which is basically an extra long flap of fabric in the back to keep your padunkadunk dry, which is helpful if your padunkadunk, er, sticks out (as good padunkadunks should, thank you very much).

While I'm not sure that's super helpful in a duck hunting context, it does give this jacket extra functionality for other types of hunting. And if you don't want to walk around with the flap out, it snaps right back up into the jacket.

Another positive: The pockets are lined with the same windproof fabric from the jacket's exterior, so your hands won't get cold in the pockets.

While this jacket doesn't have the snug interior cuff that the Haley Vines jacket has, it does have Velcro straps that allow you to tighten the cuffs as much as you want.

Final bonus points: Made in the U.S.A.

Price: $170 at Cabela's.

Now, while both of these jackets will work fine for duck hunting, they aren't tailor-made for it, so they don't have some of the features that duck hunters really love, like external hand-warming chest pockets that you can access above the top of your waders, or big, roomy shell pockets.

But on the plus side, if you do other types of hunting in the rain, these will do double-duty.

© Holly A. Heyser 2011

4 comments:

Quackity Gal said...

Holly,

How exciting is it that we're finally getting duck gear! I'm loving all these options that are coming out.

I'm looking forward to trying these two new jackets. I've been using my brother's old Duxback(?) jacket, and finally gave up the ghost on the short sleeves. I upgraded to the same jacket but in a larger size that we had in the garage. Slightly better, but still a lot of extra material! But, I think I'll miss my "old school" camo (is it old school if that was what was in at the time of purchase?!)

-Remi

NorCal Cazadora said...

Well, they're not duck jackets, but they're a decent substitute, and for women who need clothes that work for more than one kind of hunting, they might be just the ticket.

I'll be really interested to try out the SHE jacket, and I'll be pleased if it spurs a little competition. I mean seriously, would it kill the men's duck clothing companies to offer at least one option in women's sizes?

Mandy said...

Holly,

SHE's waterproof bibs and jacket are designed for duck hunting and are amazing. Zippers are all waterproofed!! The bibs are sized not only for your wader size but also by your shoe size. Finally a wader that fits your body and your foot :)

NorCal Cazadora said...

I know - I saw them at SHOT! But I can't wait to test them in the field.