I wanted to love L.L. Bean’s Technical Upland Vest, but I can’t. First, the good stuff:
- Excellent quality: really good, durable materials, seams and stitching are solid, and the fabrics used are top notch.
- It’s really cool looking, with very bright hunter orange all over the thing.
- Super nice shell pockets with simple Velcro closure, easy to access shells quickly and keep them in the pockets.
- Decent cargo space (but not ideal; see below).
- Good hip belt and other straps.
My main beef with this vest is that for some reason they designed it so the hydration bladder pouch rides below the bite valve! To get water, you have to lean over so the bladder is above the bite valve. This wouldn’t be so bad but I water my dog with the bladder, and this design makes it pretty much impossible. The other real bummer about the hydration accommodation in this vest is that it’s too small to hold a decent-sized bladder for even a half-day hunt in any weather.
The cargo pockets, which are actually too small to store any bulky clothes (chukar hunting is one of the most layering-centric activities I know of), ride a bit too low, right on my butt (I’m 6′ tall and I got the regular size vest). It comes with a couple of clip-on pouches, too, but when installed on the shoulder straps they’re in the way so I didn’t even put them on.
So I’m returning it, darn it. Why can’t someone make a chukar vest that’s hydration bladder compatible and has enough storage space for an all-day hunt? For now, I’m sticking with the best vest I’ve found (for my money), Cabela’s Lite’N-Load Strap Vest.