Saturday, April 18, 2009

Women's hunting clothes one year later: Well worn, or worn out their welcome?

I love reviewing hunting clothes, because it's a great excuse to get new hunting clothes. They are positively glorious when you lift them from the box with that new-clothes smell, no burrs permanently tangled in them, none of the threads strained from use (or weight gain).

But what about when they're a year old? Are they like the bunny you gave your kid for Easter - no longer cute, and crapping all over the place? Or are they like your best hunting dog - a trusted and reliable friend you'll keep and love until his dying day?

I haven't gotten any new clothes for review lately (has something to do with missing the SHOT Show because of that stupid appendectomy), but I thought it would be worth revisiting the clothes I've gotten so far to tell you how they've held up after going from preliminary field testing to normal rigorous use.


What I thought then: When I tested these last year, I liked them, but I found SHE Safari brush pants protected me better when plowing through thorny brush, so I gave my chaps to a friend. Then I gained a little weight, and the SHE Safari pants didn't fit anymore, and I really wished I had my chaps - because of the cut and generous sizing, they aren't rendered useless by a couple irritating pounds. I put them on my Christmas wish list, and now I've gotten the chance to wear them on two pheasant hunts.

Click here for the original review.

What I think now: Love 'em. Great protection against morning dew. Easy to use. They turn any pair of pants into hunting pants.

The friend who got my first pair also loves them. After years of wearing the Filson's men's chaps, she loves having chaps that fit her body, and she finds these to be a bit more supple than the men's chaps.

See "SHE Safari brush pants" below for a comparison of functionality.

Click here to go to Filson's website.


What I thought then: When I first saw this outfit, I fell in love with Foxy's custom camo pattern - it's gorgeous. I wear Foxy Huntress camo to school all the time because it's classy - doesn't make me look like a hick. And of course, it's great for hunting too: My friend Sarah borrowed this outfit when we went turkey hunting a couple weeks ago, and she blended in with the spring foliage beautifully.

I was also really wowed by the hood on the jacket - it's got a face net that zips across the opening of the hood, so you can get excellent concealment, not to mention mosquito-proofing.

Click here for my original pants review, here for my run-down of the jacket and here for the story of my first hunt in the outfit.

What I think now: The outfit has worn well, even though I've popped it in the washing machine instead of handwashing as recommended. The quality of construction is great.

I've noticed two weaknesses, though.

First, the outfit is billed as water resistant, but I've worn the jacket a couple times in the rain and found that it didn't really resist very hard - I had dampness coming through. My standard of resistance is the jackets I wear duck hunting, and this doesn't come close. But in a light rain, it would be fine.

Second, the netted hood can be a blessing and a curse. With black netting over your face, your pre-sunrise world stays dark a little longer than everyone else's. And sometimes hoods just don't move with your head, which means the fabric can get in front of your eye and interfere with your sight picture. This is not a function of Foxy's hood, but any hood. It's not a fatal flaw because you always have the option of not wearing the hood. But it's something to be aware of.

Click here to go to the Foxy Huntress website.


What I thought then: What I loved most about the pants was that they were super comfortable. They're the kind of pants you don't think about when you're wearing them.

The best part was the pleated knees, which allow you to kneel without the fabric binding your kneecaps. They're brilliant.

But other highlights were quiet fabric and quiet magnetic closures on pockets.

The biggest flaw I spotted at the time was the absence of side belt loops, which I really needed to keep these low-waisted pants up and holding snugly to my small waist.

Click here for my initial review of the pants.

And the shirt? What's not to love. It's athletic, made of wicking fabric. Basically, a running shirt in camo, with thumbholes in the end of the sleeve so you can hook your thumb through them to keep the fabric taut, which I'm told is good for archers. Click here for my initial assessment.

What I think now: The shirt remains my hands-down favorite camo shirt, great for warm-weather hunting when you need to stay cool. The pants have also held up well - no problems with construction at all, and the features I loved at first sight are still lovely to me now.

But I did learn that they're not the best choice for hunting in the high, dry grass where I do my pig hunting, because foxtails go right through the fabric. After sitting in such grass on a pig hunt last summer, I wound up with underwear full of foxtails. Fun times!

Click here to go to the Prois website.


What I thought then: Yeah, these were the pants I gave away after I gained a little weight (see "Filson chaps" above). When I got them, I really liked them because the waxcloth portion of the pants provided excellent protection against thorns - I literally walked into blackberry vines and came out in good shape. I also liked the fact that they were really flattering. Click here for original pants review.

I never reviewed the shirt (it's a right-handed shooting shirt and I shoot lefty), but it's an attractive item that I wear to school a lot. Boyfriend says it makes me look very military. Oh well.

Both are made of a lightweight breathable cotton.

What I think now: The reason I've mentioned the shirt here when I didn't review it originally is because it's lost two buttons, one of them coming off during one of the earliest washings. I hate it when buttons come off right away. But it's still a gorgeous shirt that I wear all the time.

My friend who inherited the pants loves them because of their comfort and function. But having hunted with her in high wet grass, I can tell you that my chaps provide protection much higher up the leg, particularly in the back, where the waxcloth stops at the knee.

Filson chaps v. SHE brush pants: Which do I like better? For warm-weather, dry hunting, I'd pick the SHE Safari pants because the Filson chaps aren't breathable - if it's hot (like it was when I first tested them), you'll sweat like crazy. But for cool-weather hunting, I'd definitely choose the chaps - better all-around protection against moisture and excellent wind-proofing. And in terms of bang for the buck, I think the chaps will last longer.

Click here to go to SHE Outdoor Apparel, which is the company's new name.


What I thought then: I immediately fell in love with this vest because it was functional, and it was, and still is, the only women's upland vest I've seen that actually highlights the feminine form. That's saying a lot for a garment designed to hold dead animals in the back pocket.

There were many features I liked, including front pockets with flip-out shell pouches.

Click here to read the original vest preview.

What I think now: I still love this vest and wouldn't consider trading it for another.

But the first time I took it hunting, I put a pheasant in the back and later found that blood had soaked through the nylon lining and gotten on my pants. Since then, the company has treated the liner to prevent that problem.

And one feature I thought I'd love has turned out to be of minimal use to me: The flip-out shell pouches. They look nifty, but in reality, I'd rather just throw my shells in the pocket and grab them without worrying about having them lined up perfectly in their own sleeves. I'll probably cut off the shell pouch entirely, because if I'm not using it, it gets in the way.

Click here to go to SHE Outdoor Apparel.


What I thought then: I've had this outfit only since fall, but I wanted to include it here anyway. What initially appealed to me about this outfit was the fact that the pants had a "double fly" - a second fly you can open to - ahem - pee without having to pull your pants all the way down. (Click on the photo here to get a closeup.) That's a nice feature in cold weather.

I also loved the fact that these pants aren't low-waisted - the waist is exactly where I want it to be, and it's not binding at all because it has an elastic waistband, with beltloops so you can still belt them up.

But I worried that the outfit wouldn't be too useful to me because it's fleece, and I do a lot of my hunting in warm weather. Deer season in much of the state ends in mid-October, which is still quite balmy here.

Click here for my original preview and here for the story of my first hunt in them.

What I think now: I wore this outfit on one deer hunt in October and two spring turkey hunts this month, and I love it. I've really grown to appreciate the pullover jacket, which I didn't write about very much last spring. One feature I really like is that the back hangs down longer than the front, so when you're sitting, it still covers your backside. You don't have to worry about your skin being exposed. Nice in the winter, but also nice in spring when you're hunting turkeys in an oak woodland, and you don't want ticks dive-bombing into your underwear.

The hood is lovely. It does have the same issue most hoods have - it doesn't always move with your head, meaning the hood can get in front of an eye and interfere with your sight picture. But the nylon lining moves easily over head and hat, so shifting the hood isn't difficult.

The fleece is wind-resistant and super comfortable. But it does do what fleece will do: It pills, and it attracts burrs.

And that double fly - would you believe I haven't used it yet? I tried once, but I was ... blocked. Apparently I was very well potty trained as a child, so I find it difficult to pee with my pants up. But I suspect if it was really cold outside and I didn't want to expose myself, I'd be grateful for the opportunity the double fly affords.

And about my biggest fear - wearing these pants in warm weather: When I wore these turkey hunting in Napa last weekend, when it was nice and warm, I was perfectly comfortable in shade. But yeah, walking around in the sun in fleece was uncomfortable. But, duh, you'd pretty much expect that, wouldn't you?

Click here to go the Trailfeathers website. And if you want to see owner Wendy Butler's recent appearance on a Vermont TV station, click here.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009


Lonbow Lass said...

nice ladies upland vest, agree it is tailored nicely, how many chickens fit in the back? Are you able to store water for the dog, where to stash the collar transmitter? How warm is the backing in the early part of the season?

thanks for your efforts

Holly Heyser said...

Good questions!

Not having a dog, I have not had to store a transmitter. But in addition to the pockets you can see in the photo, there are two internal zipped pockets, and two metal D-rings on the front.

As far as bird storage, I think the most I've held in this was three, but I could've kept stacking. Plenty of room for a water bottle too.

Click here to see SHE's complete product description.

Albert A Rasch said...


Great reviews, I learned a lot from it. It is always nice to have a reprise and see how products hold up to real world use.

Thanks again!

The Rasch Outdoor ChroniclesThe Range Reviews: Tactical

Blessed said...

I like the follow-up review! And I have to agree with you... I love my Filson chaps, they last forever and they work really well!

I'm going to have to add that game vest to my "wish list" as soon as these babies are big enough to let me get out again!

tom said...

With no dogs, do you have an inflatable boat or do you have boyfriend swim out and fetch birds that land in the water? :-)

Julie said...

great review. Im just now starting to hunt and its great to see they have so many options for women. Ive purchased clothes from and absolutely love everything about her line. I'll have to try some of the others you mentioned. Its great to have options! thanks!

Holly Heyser said...

Thanks for stopping by, Julie! I'm still waiting for the day when I'll have options in my local hook-and-bullet store - not just online. But given our small numbers, I'm not holding my breath.

What kinds of hunting do you do?