I realize this is the third gear review I’ve done on Cabela’s gear, and am not crazy about this fact. But I’ve spent ridiculous amounts of time trying to find an upland hunting vest or pack that’s better than this one so I can buy it and review that instead of this. But I have not found one. So, for now, this is the best chukar hunting vest I know.
I’ve used this vest exclusively over the past three seasons, totaling about 75 or 80 days with it, and – remarkably – it shows almost no wear and tear.
The Cabela’s Lite’N-Load Strap Vest works better for me than any of the other four or five vests I’ve used because:
- It fits
- It (almost) holds everything I need for an all-day outing
- It accommodates a hydration system
- It’s easy to load lots of birds in it
The thing I like best about this pack/vest is that I can chukar hunt with it; the vest does not impede hiking up steep hills. This is because the shell pockets are integrated right onto each side of the padded hip belt instead of hanging down off the front of the vest. I had a strap vest from another maker whose far-too-large shell pockets rode in front and made walking up steep chukar terrain even more miserable, clanging on my things with every step. The Cabela’s vest keeps the shell pockets nicely out of the way. Each pocket has a two-way zipper on top, and holds a box of shells. The outside of each pocket has a very thin pouch with a snap closure that could hold your license or car keys, with a little key tether inside each pocket. I put shells in the right pocket, and my GPS and keys in the left one.
The shoulder straps are padded, easily adjustable, and have a hydration hose clamp on the left strap, as well as loops to hang all kinds of crap on. I put my e-collar control on the left strap right where the sternum strap clips together.
The padded hip belt also has loops to hang stuff on, and a large swift-clip buckle that’s easy to use even with heavy gloves. Together, the shoulder, hip, and sternum straps offer enough adjustability to custom fit this thing to any weirdly contorted body, which is more common than one might think when considering the odd creatures who hunt chukar.
The back of the vest, the part that rides on your back, is padded mesh, similar to the shoulder and hip straps, and has little channels in it to help ventilate. I’ve never ended even the most brutal day feeling like the pack didn’t fit well or caused me any pain.
The vest’s main compartment has a slip for a hydration pack, and I use an insulated Camelback 100-oz. bladder in mine. It’s a tight fit, but works. I use the insulated thingy mainly to protect the bladder (I’ve punctured several in previous rigs). The bladder’s drinking hose exits the vest through a hole in the top of the pack near the hoisting strap. Simple but effective design.
The hydration bladder leaves little room for much else, but I keep a first-aid kit in there, and extra gloves or other small doo-dads. Then there’s a smaller zippered pocket where I keep my wallet/license, cell phone, and a little food. Very little food. And this is the pack’s only problem, which I’ll get to in a minute.
The bird pouch is very spacious, though, and easy to load on the fly. I put a limit of chukar and a large blue grouse in it one day and honestly didn’t feel loaded down or worry I’d lose birds from the vest. No issue here.
Finally, there’s a simple bungee system that I strap layered clothing to quickly and easily. And that’s it. The best I’ve found for what I carry and how I hunt. (As I write this, it’s on sale at Cabela’s online store for $50.)
When I bought this vest three years ago I expected it would self destruct within a year or two because the nylon fabric appears much lighter-weight (and less durable) than other vests I’ve seen. Made in China, the vest just looked kind of cheap. As mentioned earlier, though, this thing has held up amazingly well. There are no tears, unraveling seams, broken zippers, failed snaps or buckles, or anything else. I suppose that the lightweight fabric helps give the vest its name. It truly is a lightweight pack/vest. Still, if I were to reconstruct this vest I’d use a slightly heavier-duty fabric.
The one main issue with this thing, though, truly is the small carrying capacity of its main compartment. If I’m going out all day, I’d like to have more room for extra clothes or layering and – most importantly – extra food and water. 100 ounces in September on the steeps isn’t enough for me and my dog on an all-day hunt. Even when it gets cold, if we’re doing more up-and-down than usual on a half-day hunt, we nearly drain the hydration bladder. But there’s really no room to put another water bottle unless you stick it in the bird pouch, which – if yours is anything like mine – doesn’t appeal to me too much. If they could add two or three inches all the way around the main compartment that would make this the perfect pack. Otherwise I’m extremely pleased with this thing, which only cost me $80.