What’s In Your Vest?

My bag
My bag

After watching the Fish & Game videos and learning that a snare trap can kill my dogs if I can’t get the cable off, I decided I now need to carry a pair of short-nose cable cutters along with all the other crap in my vest. Aside from the fact that they’re ridiculously expensive ($65 on Amazon; Harbor Freight didn’t have anything similar, and I found a pair of knock-offs that were made of aluminum), my pack is starting to get heavier than I’d like. So I thought I’d weigh out everything and see what others have in theirs in case I’m carrying too much, or – gulp! – not enough.

Here’s what I’m working with:

  • Badlands Vest: 2 lbs., 14 oz.
  • 100 oz. hydration bladder & hose, with  sleeve: 5 lbs., 10 oz.
  • Garmin Alpha GPS handheld with belt clip: 9.2 oz.
  • Garmin Delta transmitter (for Peat’s collar): 3.9 oz.
  • 1 box 12g shells (2-3/4″ Rio 7-1/2 shot,1-1/8 oz lead): 2 lbs., 5 oz.
  • Leatherman “Wingman”: 6.8 oz.
  • First aid kit: 14.3 oz.
  • Baby aspirin (for Angus): .5 oz.
  • Vaseline in a container (cheatgrass deterrent for dog ears): 1.1 oz.
  • Panasonic Lumix camera: 7 oz.
  • Smart phone: 6 oz.
  • Wallet: 3.9 oz.
  • Spot Gen3 emergency beacon: 4.1 oz.
  • 6′ dog leash: 6 oz.
  • Snacks for me & dogs: 10 oz.
  • Felco C7 cable cutter: 12 oz.

Total weight: a little over 16 pounds. The above doesn’t include extra clothes or gloves or hat. When I pulled everything out of my vest I was surprised to find that I had a total of 31 shells in it, extras – including 6 steel #6 shells – stashed in various places. Better to have too many than not enough, but out of the above items I think I might pare down the number of shells I bring with me. I think the most I’ve ever shot was 19 times in one hunt (and that was an epic day: 0 for 19).

Items I should think about adding? Headlamp? Fire starter? Lighter? More food? Most of my hunts last between 2.5 and 5 hours. I like my vest but have often wished it had larger pockets so I could carry more clothing and maybe a little more food, but this setup has worked well for me the past several years. I’d love to hear from anyone about something I’m a total idiot for not bringing along… As I’ve already established, I am an idiot when it comes to these birds.

17 Replies to “What’s In Your Vest?”

  1. Trade the bladder setup for bottled water. Trade hassle for weight. Carry a small cloth bowl so the dogs will spill/waste less water. Perhaps you might try a carrying the water in a fanny pack. Getting the weight off you back and onto your waist might help your shooting. What trap shooter would want to try to shoot while wearing a 16# pack on their back.

    Never carry more shells than 2 1/2 times the limit. Shoot more at home so you will be able to shoot less on the hunt. Practice shooting while dressed in the same manner as when you are hunting; backpack, water and all. One thing I know for sure is the more weight you carry the more difficult it will be to shoot well.

    Do you need a Wingman? Perhaps you can trade it for a small knife and a pair of forceps for cactus spines.

    Your FA kit is too large. Learn how to do first aid with less than what you are now carrying. When things get serious you only need to get yourself back to the car. You can make what you need out what you are wearing for the serious stuff. Go with the knowledge and determination to cut up clothing to make anything you need for major first aid problems. You don’t need to carry ointments or sterilizing stuff. You can get yourself put back together once you are at the car. If you don’t need to stop hunting and go back because of the injury then you probably don’t really need a full first aid kit to fix things.

    Leave your wallet in the car. Carry your license in your shirt pocket.

    Get a lighter dog leash.

    Eat more before you leave the car and have food ready for when you get back to the car. The food you do carry should be very high energy bars of some kind. You will not starve to death on a five hour hunt. You need water for you and the dogs, not food. Carrying extra weight on your back causes you to be top heavy and less agile, more prone to falling. You are on a hunt, not a picnic.

    Keep searching for a lighter cable cutter.

    This should drop about 8 pounds out of your pack.

    To add:
    Because you sometimes hunt alone I would suggest adding a space blanket. If you fall and break a leg waiting for help can be difficult if you are cold. Always be ready to make a fire. When you are hunting alone always call home and report the GPS for where the car is parked. If you move, call again. You should carry some kind of a small light. You may not plan on getting back after dark, but carrying an injured dog can take longer than you think. If you know the hunt will be a long walk then carrying an extra pair of socks can be a real treat. After 3 hours of walking take time to stop and trade wet socks for dry socks. This will help much more than extra food.

    1. Thanks for your good suggestions, Dale. I’m working to lighten the load as we speak. One thing I won’t change is the water bladder. I tried bottles and never stopped to use them (not good). I will reduce, during winter, the amount of water I put in the bladder, though, since the dogs are fans of eating snow and don’t get overheated as easily as in the fall. I routinely run out of water on warm fall hunts and will have to carry an extra bottle. Yes, spillage is a waste, so I might try the little cup for them as well.

  2. You might want to look at the multitools that have carbide cutting blades. These are shearing blades that should cut through small steel cables. Like everything else, I’d want to try it first. The carbide inserts are replaceable and have three cutting edges. The Gerber Legend and MP600 are examples. The MP600 has no blade, so it’s a good choice when you already carry a knife.

    1. Thanks much for the suggestion. I looked at the MP600, and to use the carbide cutters you’d have to get the nose of the unit under the snare. But if one could do that, then one could probably get enough slack in the snare’s loop to unlock the snare without having to cut it. Otherwise, it looks like a great tool, and it’s lighter than my Wingman!

  3. Correction, there are several models of MP600, the MP600 Bladeless has no knife blade and has carbide cutters. Some models don’t have the carbide cutters.

  4. For hunts over about 3 hours I prefer wear a light Osprey pack and a set of Filson hip pockets instead of a Mothers vest. A bit more complex but the Osprey is much more comfortable with a load and I find that I can shoot with the straps. Like you, I strongly prefer a bladder over bottles but I also carry a Sierra club cup to minimize waste. With the Osprey I can carry a second bladder in warmer weather.

  5. Maybe ditch the camera and use your cell phone? Drop the extra $$$ for another alpha collar to ditch the Delta controller? And as stated before, slim down the first aid kit to bare essentials but beef up your first aid at the pickup. As I learned in big game backpack hunting, the lighter you go, the more $$$$ you pay. If you wanted to get really insane, ditch the 12ga B.U.L. for a 20ga….for lighter shells.

  6. Great stuff Bob. Looks pretty much like you and I are set up about the same. I spend about the same amount of time on the hill with a bird n lite vest. I personally don’t drink much water so I leave the bladder and carry water bottles because they are easier to refill at water troughs or springs for my dog. No smart phone because you have to be smart enough to use it. For first aid I just have some aspirin, benadryl for possible snake bite or allergic reaction for dog, and athletic tape. I replaced my duct tape with athletic tape. It’s amazing what some strong tape can do. I once taped a cracked stock enough to finish a hunt. I also pack in my first aid baggie a film tube of cotton swabs covered with vasoline to use for fire starter along with something to light them with. I haven’t got any cable cutters yet but am seriously thinking about it. I even pack the same camera as you. I’ve faced the same dilemma as you on making my pack lighter and finally just gave up. I use to hunt with two dogs and I remember well the water problem on the early season.

  7. Good information on what is in your vest! Mine (Mother brand) always feels very heavy, primarily due to water and shells, but I doubt it weighs 16lb. I have a small collapsible dish that helps with dog watering. I carry a small butane torch, small candle, space blanket, matches, jerky, energy bar, dog treats, a few bandaids, superglue, bleeding stopper, basic leatherman tool. I use my phone for pics and I have an Astro. I may make some changes with this new info. My gun is a 20 Nova pump, which is pretty light and durable. Once in a while I hit something with it.
    Here is an article from the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Club magazine Pages 14 -16 http://www.wpgca.org/pdf/gds%20pdf%20web/2013%204%20August.pdf
    that may be of interest for cable cutters and other tools to deal with traps. I am quite concerned about traps here in AK in the winter. So I got the cable cutters $30 and trap setter $10, but have not had to use them. Hope I never do.

  8. Ha Bob I did a lot of research on vests this last year for weight and water capacity I’m 65 and need all the help I can get. Bought a Q5 Outdoor Products Quilomene San Carlos H-Back Bird Vest. This is not the old Quilomene vest but a all new company in Arizona. With this vest and the accessory water bottle shell pockets and all my gear weighs 14.8 LBS. Gear 2 leader Bladder & Hose/ 2ea .6 leader Water Bottles/ Tri-Tronics field 90 transmitter/ IPhone/ wallet/ GPS/ Cobra 2 way radio/ multi tool/ 1 Box 20ga 1oz nickel no.7 Chuckar loads. You can add what ever else you carry. This vest has a padded waste belt so you carry most of the weight on your hips not all on your shoulders very comfortable and lots of adjustment. Q5 Outdoor Products is American made high quality and has 5 different models with different capacity’s check out there web sight the owner Dan Priest is great to work with. Good luck

  9. Yeah, i must agree, the difference in a 12 vs. a 20 gauge is pretty noticeable. Also, I think a box of shells is complete overkill IMHO. I carry about 15, including what’s in the gun. I just went out today, New Years day, and carried 12 shells and came back with 3 birds, missed 2, and that was in a 4 hour period, which is about my max. It is up to the individual though! First thing I would do is go to a 20 gauge.

  10. I bought a quilomene q5 this year and can honestly say I don’t notice any weight when I’m wearing it. It took me a bit to get used to because I felt like I had it on wrong because there is zero weight on the shoulders but feels like there should be. The weight is all carried on a fat but comfy waste belt. Early in the season on a trip up by Steck Park I packed two 1 liter bottles for the dog, collapsible bowl, source bladder with 2 liters for me, two boxes of 20 gauge 6’s, buck knife, first aid kit, inReach locator, cell phone, cup of dog food, a couple protein bars and a package of jerkey. Not sure how much all of that weighs in at but I know it’s a lot for a normal vest. I tracked us on the InReach and we logged just under 11 miles with 3,200ft of elevation change. At the end of the day my legs were jello but no shoulder, neck, or waste pain from the vest. That was an extreme case, typically I’m quail hunting with less than half the weight but I don’t notice any difference between when I’m going in heavy and when I’m packing light.

    Another story, from a couple weeks ago I got the opportunity to hunt a guided pheasant farm with a few other guys and when we finally stopped I pulled 6 roosters out of my q5. I had no clue I was packing around that many birds. My other vest I’d feel two birds, and on the occasion I had three, one of those would be riding up on my side somewhere.

    Bob I realize you love your Bean bag but you should really ask quilomene to send you one of their q5’s so you can test it out. Guarantee you will like it.

    1. Jason, you are an animal unlike the likes of me! Please tell me you’re under 40. Your comments about the Quilomene vest are very intriguing and make me wonder about trying it. Do you have the Q5 Centerfire Upland Vest ($198)? Or is it one of the other Upland vests they make?

      1. I have the the centerfire and love it. It’s expensive, but so are these damn LL Bean tech pants I bought cause of your review. Ha!! I love them by the way also. The centerfire has loads of room for all of the gear your gonna drag with you. I bought it because my previous vest kept the birds really close to my back and sides and on a hot day with fresh birds in the bag I felt like I was cooking my kidneys. The centerfire’s game bag is more of a rectangle box which allows plenty of air to circulate. Even has a flexible brace in it to keep it a little more in the open position.

        I’m just under 40 but definitely not an animal. I’m unfortunate enough to have a hunting partner who’s a robot though and nothing seams to wear him or his dog out. Just one of those hunts where you’re ready to quit on several occasions and run into another covey and all of a sudden and find some more energy. By the time we stopped for lunch to check the trip log we were 4.5 miles in and needed to head out anyways. Of course by that time we hadn’t even hunted the “real” spot we were trying that day. Ha!!

  11. Can someone say more about Vaseline and cheatgrass?
    I’ve tried putting cotton balls with Vaseline in my dog’s ears, but they shake it out. Is there something else? My one-year griff has already had so many cheatgrass vet visits that I fear I’ll have to limit where I hunt her. And someone new to Idaho and chukar hunting, I don’t need anymore constraints besides how far I can hike in chukar country (I’m learning, not very).

    On the topic of starting out (at the ripe age of 57) at chucker hunting, can anyone recommend some reading or other resources? I’ve read “A Chukar Hunter’s Companion” by Wray. When I’ve asked about bird hunting at Fish & Game here in Boise, I’ve learned to interpret the odd looks I get before being told yet again about the seasons as something along the lines of “why would you hunt a little bird when you could hunt elk?”

    1. BOB I like a vest called CHUKAR BAGS out of Idaho. For those of us who dont use a bladder its great. Also carry a d-battery powered strobe light in case someone trys to find me.My new gun of choice is a 20 ga benelli M-2 suits this 75 year old northern nevada hunter.

Chirp away