The Badlands Upland Game Vest is a mixed bag. I wanted to use it a bunch before reviewing it because I thought the things I didn’t like about it might get resolved through familiarity. And while familiarity in this case has not bred contempt, I am probably going to go back to the Cabela’s vest as my go-to bird bag.
First, the good:
- It fits like a glove. The vest is contoured nicely and fit me perfectly right out of the box. Over the course of the season, as the weather grew yuckier, it still fit really well with lots more clothes underneath it. It’s very adjustable, too, so fit gets a 10.
- It’s very light. At 2.8 pounds empty, the vest is light. Even with a full 100-ounce hydration pack, two boxes of shells, and most of the many pockets filled, I hardly notice I’m wearing this vest. Compared to the other packs and vests I’ve used, including the Cabela’s, it’s much lighter. I think the contoured shape of the vest helps a lot in this regard, equally distributing the weight across the shoulders, back, sternum, and hips. Give it a 10 for lightness.
- Hydration pouch is perfect. All the other vests I’ve used have had under-sized or poorly designed hydration bladder pockets. Not this one; it easily fits my 100-ounce bladder even with the insulated Camelback pocket it’s in. It zips at the top (nicer than a Velcro closure), and has good routing for the drinking tube.
- Construction and quality are as good as I’ve seen. I really like the materials used in this vest. The nylon panels are strong but not overly heavy or rough; the L.L. Bean vest’s Cordura was like sandpaper. Zippers are good and easy to operate with or without gloves. The magnetic closure on the shell pockets, while initially causing some concern about phantom opening, have never failed and are one of two or three favorite things about this vest.
Now for the things I don’t like about it:
- Bird bag is too small. I rarely limit, so haven’t tested the maximum capacity of the bird bag. But with the pockets on the back of the vest holding my hydration bladder, first aid kit, light snacks, and extra shells, getting even one chukar in it can be a challenge. Perhaps the tradeoff from making a super low-profile vest, the bird bag needs another couple inches of clearance to live up to the tag’s claim that it features “the easiest bird access ever developed.” Compared to the Cabela’s vest, bird access is really quite poor, as is one of two reasons I’m switching back to the Cabela’s vest.
- Storage space insufficient. For an all-day hunt in variable weather, you will have to modify this vest. Despite the numerous, nicely designed pockets, there’s no room to put any layered clothing, especially a bulky jacket or sweater. Same with extra food or water bottles. The only really usable storage space for bulky items is in the bird pouch, which (as mentioned above) is also a bit too small. The Cabela’s vest has a cheap bungee thing on the back that I could quickly and securely strap bulky layers to; the Badlands vest has a thin elastic cord threaded vertically through the upper part of the back of the vest, which actually came undone the first time I tugged lightly on them. I ended up pulling them completely out of the threaded strips and tied them to the carry handle on top so I could strap a jacket to the vest. Not an ideal setup, but it worked in a pinch.
To be fair, I love everything about this vest except for the two (critical) things above. There are several other good, much more thorough reviews of the Badlands vest that give it a more positive spin, so if you’re considering this vest, check them out: JT’s Upland Blog, and Linton Outdoors.