What’s In Your Vest Vol. 2

A few years ago I posted something about what’s in my vest, partly to seek advice and partly to offer it. I got lots of great ideas from the comments on what to include and what to jettison. I haven’t learned much since (both good and bad, I guess), but thought I’d do a quick update; if nothing else, it gave me a chance to remember what I’ve stashed away in my vest. There were some surprises, but nothing dramatic.

The innards

I’m still using the Badlands Upland Vest, and this is what I carry in it on most hunts. It all fits without much trouble, and there’s actually some more room in some of the pockets. It’s just that there’s not much room for bulkier things like extra layers, or a shell, and not really a good way of attaching an extra jacket or a rain shell onto the pack without a modification of some kind, or a goofy strap attached somewhere… Anyway, from upper left:

  • Midland GXT1000 radio. Important note on this radio: I was about to look for a different radio because I got sick of these running out of batteries in the middle of every hunt, even when I didn’t have them turned on the whole time. It turns out they come with a battery pack that’s super low amp-hour rated (something like 1200 mAh), and I found a suggestion on a forum of dumping the battery pack and replacing it with rechargeable Li-Ion batteries, which I found on Amazon for cheap; they’re 2800 mAh, and I haven’t had to recharge them all season! And this radio works great at long distances, even without line-of-sight.
  • Dog treats.
  • Toilet paper in ziplock.
  • Cell phone: sometimes I bring this instead of a camera, but the zoom sucks, so I use it mainly for ONXMaps I’ve downloaded for the area I’m in to show property boundaries, especially when I haven’t hunted there before.
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50: I got this mainly because its zoom is amazing, and pretty clear fully extended (the elk photos from a recent hunt were taken with the fully-extended zoom).
  • 100 oz. Camelback bladder: I’m an unconvertable bladder guy, and this time of year rarely fill it since the dogs eat lots of snow and I’m just not that thirsty when it’s 20 degrees, windy, and I’m slogging through 6 inches of white stuff. In the early season, though, I routinely run out, and often determine the end of the hunt based on my water supply.
  • Garmin Alpha: this is my third season with the Alpha and TT15/TT15-Mini, and I’m sold (after criticizing people who used them; I’m open to eating crow, and developing a taste for it). I will say that the first TT15-Mini I bought for Peat lasted only two years, which is unconscionably short for the $300 collar. I tried replacing the battery, did a bunch of trouble-shooting and research, asked Garmin if they’d repair it (no response!), and ended up just buying another. The original TT15, honking big, is still working fine with no issues (knock on wood), but it’d really be too bulky on little Peat’s neck.
  • 8 feet of paracord with a loop tied in it for collapsing conibear trap springs.
  • Leatherman Wingman: heavy, and heavy-duty. I could ditch this for a lighter pocketknife, but I’ve used a bunch of different things on it already and just feel safer knowing it’s there.
  • Stainless curved locking forceps: haven’t had to use these yet, and hope I don’t.
  • A couple of Clif Bars: sometimes I forget to re-stock these and for two reasons it’s never a problem. First, Leslie usually carries extra food and I’m a decent moocher. Second, as my friend Dale said in response to my earlier post about this: it’s a hunt, not a picnic, and you’re not going to starve on a 5-hour hike.
  • Butane lighter: I used to carry a magnesium fire stone with built-in flint, but last night I tried using it (never had before) and could not for the life of me start a fire with the thing, even in the comfort of my home and after watching the instructional video. Oh well. I was never a Boy Scout.
  • Ziplock with dryer lint, which is supposed to be a good fire starter. I didn’t try igniting this; maybe I should.
  • Ziplock with some bandages, wipes, and antibiotic ointment.
  • InfaLab Nick Relief Styptic Powder: a recommendation for stopping small bleeds.
  • ChloraPrep Triple Swabstick: someone recommended this, and it’s expensive so I’m not sure where I got it, but it’s light, doesn’t take much space, and might come in handy.
  • Quikclot Advanced Clotting Sponge: someone recommended this, also expensive, but it seemed like a good idea to have just in case. With Murphy’s Law determining so much of the cosmic order of things, I feel better knowing it’s there.
  • Felco C7 Cable Cutters: heavy, expensive, and worth your dog’s life if it gets caught in a snare you can’t undo. (Cutting a snare is at 6:45 in the video.)
  • Headlamp: I’d forgotten this was in my vest, but am glad it’s there.
  • Space Blanket: I just like saying “space blanket” and think having one in a chukar vest is appropriate beyond description.
  • Extra hat and gloves: depending on the season, these might or might not be in my pack, and possibly I’ll trade them out for warmer or cooler items, depending…
  • Shells: we’re now a two-Benelli family, and Leslie has commandeered my 12-gauge Ultra Light (but I’m about to reneg on that deal and return her 20-gauge Montefeltro) which impacts the weight and number of shells one might have in the vest. Right now there are 20 1-ounce/7.5 shot 20-gauge shells in my vest, but I can only fit 15 12-gauge shells in the same pocket. I’ve only needed more than 15 shells once this season (and ran out that day in the middle of lots of birds!), and have averaged just 4 shots per hunt for my 33 outings this season (but 6 of those hunts were skunks).
  • Extra glasses: I need cheaters for fine print, which I’d need to read to use any of the first-aid stuff. I don’t carry extra sunglasses, but they’re on my hat about half the time on each hunt, so I counted these as “carry” items.
  • Idaho Sportsman’s Combo license: this is a photo-copied and laminated copy of my hunting license on one side, and my driver license on the other. I’m honestly not sure if that’s legal, but don’t like carrying my heavy wallet in my vest and don’t like moving my driver license from one place to another because I’ll eventually lose it or have to tell the ISP that my DL is in my bird vest. Does anybody else do this?
  • Oregon non-resident license: I should have my head examined for buying this, but I had the best of intentions.
  • SPOT Gen3 emergency beacon: a very cool device that can be a life-saver, and your pal at home can track you on a computer (if you like that idea). Beware of the annual subscription cost (mine was $225 this year), and that you’ll need a Search-And-Rescue membership on top of that. I have an auto-renew SAR membership for Leslie and me that costs $35 a year through GEOS.
  • Spare batteries: these are AA, and I’d forgotten they were in my vest, but I guess I thought I’d use them for my radio if the batteries died. The headlamp uses AAA, so not much use there…
  • Duct tape: I have a 1/2″ roll I got for taping dog booties more securely onto Peat’s wee feet, but had forgotten about the several feet of regular width tape wrapped around a short pencil.
  • Finally, dog booties from Dogbooties.com, out of Anchorage, Alaska. These things are amazing, and cheap. They stay on, don’t slip on ice like the rubber ones do, are super durable, and come in all kinds of cool colors. Plus, they’re super easy to install and remove. Peat spent about 4 entire hunts in these things (just on his front paws), and got used to them very quickly, and was not impaired or hampered from them.

So that’s that. The only modification I’m thinking of making right now is to figure out how I can bring the honking Nikon D7000 with 18-300 lens along with my gun and vest so I can hunt and take good photos. So far I haven’t been able to figure out how to do that, and with my back issue it’s probably a good thing I haven’t tried. Greedy? Next year I’m thinking of giving the Wingworks vest a try… the Badlands is hard to beat, but the price for its streamlined-ness is that it’s tough to get birds in the pouch when the pockets have a bunch of stuff in them. So I’m thinking of next year already.

I’d love to hear from people about their ideas for vest essentials, or if you think I’m missing something crucial or should get rid of something…

37 Replies to “What’s In Your Vest Vol. 2”

  1. Well, pretty similar to what I carry in my Wingworks vest – except I am not a fan of any type of water bladder. Carry water in two to four bottles depending on the heat, area and length of hunt. The Wingworks is heavy, but works for me and I can easily cinch on coats etc, with the strap on the back. thanks for posting!

  2. Hi Bob, I use a Peak Design Capture to attach my dslr to my pack strap (or pant belt). It’s the only decent way I’ve found to keep the camera easily accessible.

    1. Hey Rocco, thanks for your comment. I recently got the Capture, hoping to put it on my pack belt but can’t quite get it set up in a way I like. I’ll keep trying. I use their Slide, which another bird hunter blogger recommended, and love that, but haven’t tried it with my bird vest.

      1. Yeah, that lens doesn’t make things easy!

        On another note, have you ever used any type of hearing protection while bird hunting? My middle-aged ears have had enough of the blasting. I’m on the search for something, aside from electronic muffs – I don’t like the bulk. Decibullz, and a few others seem interesting, but it’s hard to drop money on something like that without a test drive. It seems like an amplified version would be needed in order to pick up flushing birds and chatter.

      2. Hey Rocco, I’m with you on hearing. Like you, I didn’t want to try the more expensive, battery-powered hearing protectors without a “test-drive” first, so I settled for some cheaper attenuator-type protectors. They definitely worked to block out the shot, and I could hear about half of the ambient sounds while hiking, but not enough to hear chukar calling on the next ridge or even birds flushing nearby. The worst thing about these was that when hiking uphill I could hear nothing but my own heartbeat. So, that was that. I haven’t tried anything else. Please let me know if you have any luck with another approach!

  3. Have you ever dared weigh the vest when its ready for the hunt? Actually carrying all that extra stuff helps build leg strength. I rarely need to use modern durgs(legal or prescription) but always carry ibuprofen, a prescription muscle relaxer and anti-diarrhea pills. I’ve handed out a lot of meds to my hunting partners when they are suffering from chukar revenge. Another don’t leave home without it item is moleskin and mole foam for sore spots on feet. I wrap duct tape around a twenty gauge shell and make sure its in a baggy not a pocket so it won’t get shoved in the gun in a frenzy.

  4. I carry a North American Rescue tourniquet in my vest, if the worst happens and you have an accident with a shotgun, it’s a massive wound.

    Have you even run in to traps? I’m adding your wire cutters and 550 cord to my vest.

  5. I tried a Wings works vest this year. This was the best move that I’ve done in the past ten years. It has some weight, but it does carry well even with the two water bottles for the dogs. I would also say that I attach forceps to one shoulder strap and use these often to remove cactus from dogs feet, legs and (once this fall) a dogs lip.

  6. What size Dog booties did you get for Pete?

    We are heading out on our first ever Chukar hunt in two weeks… Might have a few more questions

    1. Hey Ken, I hope you and Joey have a marvelous time. Just remember: the worst day chukar hunting is better than the best day at work! I hope you can find some terrain that’s not buried in snow! Let me know how it goes. We ordered SMALL booties for Peat.

  7. I carry a lot of the same, some variants and missing some from you list. I don’t carry a pair of wire cutters as I have a leatherman which would I imagine would cut through a snare? Have had dogs in legholds but have never run into any snares or body hold type traps.

    I wrap my duct tape around my lighter to save a little space. It works really well. I also carry a Lifestraw and a rattlesnake venom sucker. I read what Bill wrote about the Benadryl and it is also suppose to be useful in the case of a bite. Thanks for the reminder. I also carry a first aid kit. A leash in case you get into an area with traps or it gets dark on you. Travel package of baby wipes. Apple sauce pouches, fig bars and a mountain ops packet. Handkerchief/bandanna.

    I would highly recommend giving the Quilomene Upland Vest a try. It has a tremendous amount of storage, easy to get birds in and it is also very form fitting. My old vest used to hurt my back holding all that weight on my shoulders but with the Quilomene I hold it on my hips which doesn’t pull me forward like my old vest. Same theory used when I used to fight fires for the Forest Service and carried a 45 pound pack all summer, 90% of the weight on your hips and 10% on your shoulders.

    Cotton balls soaked in Vaseline and put in a pil bottle is supposed to be a good fire starter.

    How are the 7.5s working in the 20ga? I found that at the velocity a 20ga launches an ounce of shot (1200-1220) FPS it seems to lack the punch of 6s.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Michael. Great suggestions; we have the baby wipes in the truck, but will add Benadryl to my vest. I used (and reviewed: https://chukarculture.com/2016/09/05/q5-centerfire-vest-review/) a version of the Quilomene vest, but am not sure if that’s the one you’re referring to. Fantastic piece of kit, but I ultimately found it too bulky and gave it to my nephew. The 7.5s in the 20ga might be a little light, especially at this point in the season (which might factor into me taking my 12ga back!). I should probably finish the season with the 20ga and see if 6s make a difference… Oh, and Larry’s comment about the Leatherman being too light to cut through a cable snare is accurate, according to IDF&G’s video and other input on the subject. Those cables are very stout.

  8. Believe it or not, I carry the same kind of stuff when hunting for ruffed grouse in the mountains of VA and WV. If there are readers of your posts who have not ever chukar hunted and wonder why anyone would need to carry all this stuff, I’d advise sticking with something easier to hunt!! All carry items have to be secure and mostly soft because all chukar hunters will fall down !! I’ve been using the same Bucky’s Bag vest for about 20 years and very happy with it. Some of your listed items, replies and my own gear are age related. I’ve got to include hearing aid batteries, a stretch band to cover my ears when the wind blows enough to create a roar , extra food as a 13 year insulin dependent diabetic and about half the shells I once carried due to reduction in hours with boots on the ground.
    The bladders are far superior to plastic bottles!! I know Peat and Angus have learned to drink from the bladder squirt but a lot of folks carry a plastic bag for the dogs to drink out of. In my younger days I carried iodine tablets for purifying H20 of unknown quality when all day chukar chasing.

  9. My friend informed he that he had to get his Wingworks vest repaired twice during the first season he used it. Too bad because they’re handsome and seem practical. I may still buy one.

    You could ditch the Cliff bars and throw in a packet of the Justin’s almond butter, just in case. I’d rather eat nothing in the field and have a fancy snack back at the car.

    In a pinch, you can make an impressive amount of wrap / bandage out of a shirt. I’ve had to do this for so many WFA classes I could do it in my sleep now. https://www.wildmedcenter.com/blog/t-shirt-cutting-101

    If I weren’t chukar hunting and instead headed out on that ersatz quail or pheasant hunt, I’d throw in a few tablespoons of peroxide to induce vomiting if the dogs got into something terrible.

    My mother-in-law makes these really cool fire starters with dryer lint and egg cartons. They work like a charm and weigh almost nothing. I’m sure they’d get crushed in your pack, but might still work. https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/how-to-make-lint-fire-starters-1388857

    1. Ersatz, indeed. Thank you, “Nora,” for your erudite suggestions. Perhaps some fine Galway cheese, horsemeat sandwiches, and black pudding back at the rig? Your idea about using a shirt as a bandage is precisely why I begrudgingly forego wearing (or even buying) $300 Filson button-downs in the field, even on an ersatz lowland-style upland game outing. (My ancestors are lowland Scots, so I’m allowed to use “lowland” as a term of derision.) I love the home-made fire starter project and will do that today, as long as I can figure out how to eat a dozen eggs this morning. 🙂

  10. Hey Bob…the only 2 things I would add to the vest is a comb and a pair of small scissors(like mustache scissors) to remove “cukleburrs”…I take the comb and slide it under the burr then you can cut out the burr without cutting skin…the other is a roll of “vet wrap” used a lot with horses it is a self sticking elastic wrap that can be handy in many situations for dog and man…PEACE

  11. I’m hunting with a Wingworks and have had it about 3-4 seasons now. I carry similiar gear in my vest as you, and it is packed solid. I honestly could use just a little more capacity. I always carry the two water bottles in the side holders, and I switch back and forth between a Giegerig water bladder (you can pressurize it and have a small stream of water, wich is kinda cool) and a two liter bottle in the back pouch. I hunt in the Mojve desert and especially during the early season I need every ounce of water that I can carry.

    The WW vest is top notch in it’s construction. I only have one complaint. When I have the water bladder in there, it takes up a lot of space in the game bag. This makes it difficult for me to put in birds. I doubt that I’ll ever get a limit, but if I did, I don’t think that I would be able to get all of the birds in. Because of this I am considering the Q5 centerfire. It’s bird pouch opens up much bigger than my WW and has rods that keep the pouch open.

    I’d take a good look at both, and good luck.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I appreciate the information on the WW vest, and am surprised to hear about the trouble accessing and loading the game bag when you have the bladder in the vest. I used (and reviewed: https://chukarculture.com/2016/09/05/q5-centerfire-vest-review/) the Q5 Centerfire vest but ultimately found it bulkier than I liked; even in chukar terrain we spend a lot of time busting through brush in creek bottoms and it would get caught a lot more than the more streamlined Badlands vest… But the Q5 is indeed a great load-hauler and super easy to access the game “box” (not really a bag).

  12. In an actual instance of having to release a dog from a conibear seconds count and unless you have actually practiced with decompressing one it is most likely that it will be too late. I don’t know what sizes of conibears you might encounter in the areas that you hunt but you should try to find out and go to a sporting goods store and practice. Your real life experience with the bobcat was a sobering reminder of trap danger in hunting country. The big conibears are really strong and the chute cord might prove to be totally inadequate. The video that you linked to uses a leash and that appears to be a much better choice. I have a compact folding bolt cutter that I carry but have not tried to cut one of the larger conibears with them.

    I have used Scott booties exclusively for 10 years after trying a lot of junk. It appears that the ones you are using are designed the same. Only once have we had one come off. It is the design that accounts for that. PePe has big feet and narrow ‘wrists’ and we get a good tight wrap with the Velcro. When hunting central Washington a pair is pretty much shot in two days. As an aside, they proved totally inadequate at protecting pads in the puncture vine southeast Washington country we hunted two years ago. I suspect there isn’t much that could provide a barrier to these nasty things. We simply quit hunting in that country.

    The last thing is fire starter. Throw the dryer lint away and get a small tub of Vaseline and a bunch of cotton balls. Massage the Vaseline to capacity into a number of balls. Compress as many as you can get into a film can. Flint sparks easily ignite a teased ball. On a bison hunt in January 1991 we started fires with ease at -35F with just the flint and balls. There are so many gimmicky fire starters available and the efficacy and simplicity of this method is deceptive but the best I’ve ever found.

    1. Hi Dennis! Thanks for your instructive comments and feedback. I like the fire starter idea, and think I might even still have some film cans in the attic. As for the conibear traps, F&G tells me they’re very rare in our area, but that doesn’t really ease my concern. I think you’re right about the paracord and will replace it with a leash. I like your suggestion, too, about practicing on a trap at a store. We run into puncture weed (“goatheads”) occasionally, and there’s nothing to protect dog pads from those bastards. Thanks again for writing. Happy new year!

  13. Not technically a pack item, but since you mentioned cheaters I feel compelled to suggest Hydrotac stick-on bifocal lenses. I put them on my sunglasses (which I wear every day regardless of weather), they are plenty good for reading maps, GPS devices, etc. though I wouldn’t want to read a novel with them. Need to be reattached periodically but stay on for weeks to months at a time. You can cut them down if needed to fit your lenses. I still have cheaters stashed in my truck (and office and every room in my house), but at least I don’t have to take them into the field. About $15 on Amazon.

  14. My thoughts
    1) i carry a PLB( ACR-resQlink) 5 watts broadcasr versus 1……emergency use goes to noaa(read some fumbled responses handled by spot)……no monthly fee

    2) waxed paper for fire starter and small pocket torch

    3) 12 ga. Flares …at least 6….plastic pistol if shooting 20 ga.

    4) signal mirror

    5) heavy rope for conibears….god forbid

    6) best quality cable cutters you can afford…….Damn near lost a pup tp snares
    A friend had a big pointer die in his arms because he could not release the snare.
    Many snares can be released….learn how to do it

    7) vhf aircraft band radio when I am really remote…..( Icom 110) emergency broadcast freq= 121.5

    8) compass and now garmin alpha….of course the ONLY time I got temorarily off track was in north dakota in pheasant country in december …didn’t think I needed my “kit” for a short end of day hunt…..started snowing…got dark 5 hours later stumbled in to a farmhouse with someone home….would have been a long, tough night….

    I hunt alone and I guess I like to be prepared….the above is just part of what I take..fully loaded it’s around 20#….

  15. Forgot to add this and I think it’s pretty important….

    Material to restrain and muzzle the dog…good quality forceps, and I also keep a pair of needle nose fishing pliers…the kind that spring open..

    Had a dog take 200 porky quills to the chest and throat almost 2 miles from the truck….a collapsed lung and many thousands of$$ later, she pulled thru…

    Best time to get those quills out is immediately…they are fletched/barbed and any movement at all drives them in further (and fast)……so be prepared in the field to do what ever it takes to de-quill your dog….

  16. Great article…finally got around to reading this. For the most part I carry the same items. I addded a FirstLite neck gaiter as it doubles for a hat, (2) hand warmers, (1) body warmer, instead of a space blanket I carry the emergency bivy. I will add batteries for my headlamp though after reading your article. I’m curious as to the camera you carry. Satisfied? What’s the method you carry the camera? I use the LL Bean Technical Pack Vest …lots of storage. Thanks again for an informative read. Edgar

    1. Thanks for your comment, Edgar. For cameras, I either carry my iPhone 7, a Pentax Lumix, or — if I’m not carrying the gun — a Nikon D7000 with an 18-300mm lens. For that honker of a camera, I use the Peak Design Slide (https://www.peakdesign.com/products/slide), which is amazing. I might try carrying the Nikon along with the gun next season, but it might take some re-arranging of the pack/gun sling, etc. The Nikon takes by far the best photos, but I’ve also had good luck with the iPhone (as long as I don’t zoom at all). The Pentax Lumix has an awesome, huge zoom factor which doesn’t produce too much graininess fully zoomed. Leslie carries a Zippo butane hand warmer thing, which is really slick, but clunkier than hand warmers (which I think she also carries! I’m not nearly smart enough to remember to put those in my pack, and often end up begging stuff from her…). Thanks for reading!

  17. Wife and I carry similar stuff, adding the felco cutters for this season. We use bottles and bladders depending on how much water we need to carry (2 dogs, 2 humans) Last season we stated bringing a collapsible bowl for watering dogs. Still give them a quick sip from time to time from a bladder or bottle but the bowl spills much less and whatever isn’t consumed goes back in the “dog” bottle. Saves water, which is heavy and key. Wing Works. My original is getting replaced for next year after 10-11 seasons. Wife used WW last year after 3-4 others and is now a happy camper also. Oh and we run French Brittanys. Discovered Chukar year before last, now our favorite bird to hunt. They live in beautiful places to visit.

    Keep up the great site, enjoy and learn from it.


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