What do you get when you cross a traditional hunting vest with a good daypack? The PRO Series Hunting Vest from Orvis, that's what. Designed for hunting all day, this is by far the most comfortable vest I’ve worn while chasing grouse and pheasant. The setup resembles a traditional backpack, with a ventilated back support and an adjustable hip belt and shoulder straps. It fits snugly against my back, with the bulk of the weight on my hips, where it belongs.
The right and left pocket attached to the hip belt each have elastic shell holders inside, accommodating up to 14 rounds. The pockets' two levels of protection keep the shells out of the weather and the elastic out of the burrs (I’ve shelved more than one vest because burrs pulled the shell holders apart). There’s ample room in these pockets for spent shells, extra ammo, spare gloves, or any small item you need readily available. Additionally, the pockets have both snap and magnetic closures; the former keeps them secure, while the latter keeps them closed but quickly opened. The front of one pocket also has a zippered enclosure, perfect for keeping tags and GPS handy.
On the back side of the vest is an abundance of storage space. The primary compartment is a large-capacity game bag, which can easily accommodate a daily limit of birds—heck, it'll hold a turkey, if I'm fortunate enough to get one. Between the game bag and back support is a zippered pocket for a hydration pack. On the outside of the game bag are two more pockets; one is small, zippered, and lined with a soft fabric, ideal for car keys, cell phones, and sunglasses. The larger outside pocket has Velcro to keep it closed, with divided space for things like a first-aid kit, lunch (for you and your dog), and an extra hat and gloves. Under the game bag is a set of straps for securing a rain jacket or other additional layers. Finally, between the front pockets and rear game bag are two water-bottle holders, so you can pack plenty of fluids for the dog. The exterior fabric of the entire vest is nylon, which is great for repelling burrs and thorns. It also has 220 square inches of orange, to help remain visible while in the thick brush.
The only downside I’ve found to this vest is that it's a “one size fits most.” Being a smaller guy (5’8” and 155 lbs.), I have to really cinch down the waistbelt and shoulder straps to have the pack rest correctly on my hips. This leaves an abundance of straps to be tucked away. However, the waistbelt straps tuck behind the front pockets nicely and the shoulder straps have elastic bands to minimize the amount that hangs down. Because it can be tough to adjust everything when the dog is raring to go, I recommend fitting the vest at home, prior to hitting the field. The only other problem will be getting enough birds to fill all the available space, but that’s a challenge I'm ready to take.
Available online; $198.