Quilomene Upland Bird Vest Review

Heading out with the Quilomene Upland Bird Vest, nothing in the bird bag yet

Just before New Year’s my new Q5 chukar vest arrived, which I’d ordered on November 30th: the Quilomene Upland Bird Vest. I’d been using the Badlands Upland Vest (no longer available) for the past couple of seasons and — as the weather asked us to bring more apparel, which goes on and off depending on the terrain — I started finding it just didn’t have the carrying capacity I wanted, especially as the bird bag began being burdened by bigger bunches of birds. The Badlands vest is still my favorite overall vest, but it’s not perfect and I continued to wonder if a perfect vest existed.

So I looked and looked: I looked at the Tenzing BV16 (currently out of stock everywhere I looked), at the Filson Pro Guide Strap Vest (no longer available), the Orvis Pro Series Hunting Vest (won’t work with a hydration bladder), Oregon Pack Works Rogue Bird Pack (not much information and only one photo, and by far the most expensive), and Wingworks Upland Wingshooting Vests (unavailable; I’ve been trying to get one of these for quite a while now). L.L. Bean makes a cool-looking vest, but I tried it a few years ago and returned it after one hunt because the water bladder sat too low in the pack to get it to flow without standing on my head. I’d used the Q5 Centerfire for a couple of seasons and really liked it, but ultimately found it too bulky for my style of chukar hunting, but decided to take another look at their wide variety of upland vests.

On the Q5 site, the Quilomene Upland Bird Vest looked like it might be the ticket: bladder-ready, easily-accessible large bird bag, moderate storage, modular straps (can add/remove accessory and shell pockets), and lash-strap ready for external carrying options. I’m about 6′ and 155, so I ordered the smallest waist belt, and it just fits cinched as tight as it goes; skinnier folks will probably find it too loose.

When I ordered it, the site showed one message saying they were running a 2-week lead time on new orders, and — somewhere else on the site — a 30-day turnaround. I received mine a month after they charged my card. The current message (as of 1/10/20) shows 30 days out and “unable to provide any status updates.” It’s ironic that chukar hunting seems never to have been more popular, yet it’s nearly impossible to get a new vest quickly, and the choices seem to be shrinking. Not sure what to make of that, other than American manufacturing doesn’t seem to be faring too well at the moment; the only two vests I mentioned that are available (the Orvis and the L.L. Bean) are not made in the U.S.

Anyway, I was very excited when the Quilomene vest finally arrived. It took a while to set it up to fit, but once I’d made some velcro adjustments, shortened the shoulder straps as far as they’d go (see more on this below), and added the two shell pockets to the padded hip belt, I was ready to install my 100-ounce Camelback hydration bladder. This wasn’t easy. The bladder pouch is directly against your back (which is moderately uncomfortable when the bladder’s full), and there is a hole on both sides of the bottom of the pouch, intended for the hydration bladder’s hose to exit the pouch for routing somewhere on the vest. The problem with this is that most bladders have their hoses exiting the bladder at an upward right angle; I hadn’t realized this until I couldn’t get any water out of the hose and had to pull the whole bladder out to see what the problem was. No matter how I tried routing the hose through the bottom holes in the pouch, the hose got kinked and wouldn’t flow. So I ended up running the hose up the inside of the pouch and out the top; not a huge deal, and it works fine.

Bladder pouch with hose coming out the top
Top of the Camelbak bladder; note the retainer clip: the vest’s pouch doesn’t feature anything to clip it to

Another issue with the vest if you use a bladder is that there’s nothing at the top of the bladder pouch to attach to the top of the bladder to keep it from sloughing down in the pouch as the water level drops. Most bladders have something at the top near the fill point to counteract gravity so the flow doesn’t get interrupted; the Q5 Centerfire did, but this vest doesn’t.

Hose clip sewn into right shoulder strap
After cutting out the clip; I used a flame to seal the loose nylon threads…

Still another problem with my particular set up is that I ordered a water hose retainer clip, which the Q5 video shows as removable, so I assumed it would come loose and I could put it wherever I wanted. But it was sewn low down on the right shoulder strap. The first problem here is that a right-handed shooter probably won’t want the drinking tube on the right side; second problem is that it’s sewn into the strap and prevents me from shortening the shoulder strap below the clip. I wanted to shorten the straps to get the vest to ride higher, so I had to cut the clip out (more on that below).

The other negatives I’m experiencing with this vest (I’ve hunted with it a half-dozen times now) have to do with the shell pockets. I ordered a standard Q5 shell pocket for my shells, which I keep on the right side and a Quilomene pocket for the left, which looked like it’d be roomy enough for me to carry our small camcorder. It’s not, but it’s bulkier and takes up more hip-belt real estate so that it rides on my left thigh when I’m climbing (very annoying), and requires two hands to open. The Q5 shell pocket holds a lot more shells than I’m used to, which I appreciate, but is not nearly as user-friendly as the substantially smaller Badlands magnetic closure shell pockets; for quick reloading, especially with gloves, the Q5 shell pockets are not easy to manipulate with one hand.

With just a couple birds in the bag, it falls lower on my body than I’d like

The bird bag is really big and easy to get birds into, as long as the storage pockets (which sit on the outside of the top layer of the bird bag) aren’t too heavily loaded with gear, or you don’t have a heavy garment or elk shed lashed to the outside of the bag; if this is the case, you have to push hard backward to gain enough space to drop the bird in the pouch. Without birds in the bag, it rides much lower than I’d like, and when I’ve got a bunch of birds in it, it bangs on the bottom of my butt with every step, which gets old fast. At 6′, I don’t think the vest should hang as low as it does.

Bird bag, secured by snaps and velcro, opens to adjust the strap length and clean out the pouch

So after cutting the sewn-in clip out of the right shoulder strap I shortened the straps a lot to see if I could get it to ride higher so the bird bag doesn’t ride on my rump. I was able to shorten the straps to get the bag to ride below the small of my back and on the top of my butt, but this moved the padded hip belt above my waist: not an option! So it seems the vest is definitely designed to ride as low as it does, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but what do I know?

I don’t hate this vest. I really wanted to like it. At $240, it should be high quality, which I think it is, at least as far as the materials. The heavy-duty nylon and plastic components seem durable, although I do wonder if the very bright blaze sections will quickly fade as they did on my Centerfire vest. It’s been a long time since I’ve used a strap vest, so I wasn’t sure how I’d like the basic no-frill, unpadded nylon shoulder straps, and they’re actually a lot more comfortable than I expected. Ultimately, I just don’t like the fact that it’s designed to ride so low. If anyone’s interested, it’s available for $200, and I’ll throw in a couple of our new iron-on patches.

Our new Chukar Culture embroidered patch

The bottom line is that this — so far — is definitely not my perfect chukar vest. I still haven’t found it and suspect it probably doesn’t exist.

Pros:

  • Fairly comfortable (aside from the butt-whomping)
  • Adjustable (within limits)
  • Good amount of storage capability
  • Easy to get birds in the bag (as long as you’re not carrying a lot of stuff in the storage pouches)
  • High quality components and construction

Cons:

  • Q5 shell pockets not easy to use with one hand
  • Quilomene shell pockets almost impossible to use with one hand
  • Water bladder setup not well designed
  • Removable components should not be sewn onto vest
  • Expensive
  • Long lead times

21 Replies to “Quilomene Upland Bird Vest Review”

  1. Bob did you consider the vest made by Bucks Bags? They are made in Boise and you can look at them there, I believe. I bought one 8 or 9 years ago and I have been happy with it. It is not a good vest for hot weather, however.

    1. Robert, I had one of their vests years ago but the shell pockets rode on top of my thighs and I gave it away. Are the shell pockets on yours out of the way, or still more or less in front? Next time I’m in Boise I’ll stop in and take a look.

  2. I use the Bucks Bag and like it. It’s not perfect though. I replaced the bladder as it leaked right away but found a bladder on Amazon that was better and durable. Has decent set up for GPS tracker and radio Carrying birds is good. May not have the storage space you are looking for if needing extra clothes etc. thanks for sharing your thoughts on your vest.

  3. I have the Tenzing and love it. It fits like a backpack and has great carrying capacity. So far it’s the best upland vest I’ve owned.

    1. Hi Marc, I’ve looked that vest a lot over the years, but every time I think I’d like to try it I can only find the XL size, which I’m pretty sure will be too big. What size do you have (and what’s your height/weight if you don’t mind sharing)? Does it ride on your butt? Thanks!

      1. I have the Tenzing bag and love it. I had the Badlands before and this fits me better, carries more gear & birds and prefer the pocket layout e.g. for gloves. Fyi I am 5’10 140lbs with a 28in waist and use the smaller of the two sizes (medium?) and have it cinched down pretty tight.

        I often carry 2 liters of water, a similar gear list to you and easily have carried 8 chukar & huns. The alpha handheld easily fits in one of dedicated mesh pockets and is held snugly.

        I use a 20 gauge and have 7 shells in the loops either side, which gives easy access for reloading. The loops might be quite tight for a 12 gauge.

        Overall very impressed. Happy to answer any questions.

  4. I have a Quilomene vest that is over 20 years old; it is very similar to what you bought. It was the first vest made that I knew would hold a water bladder. I just “retired” it this season for the Q5 Centerfire.
    My main reason for upgrading was the multitude of pockets on the Centerfire to carry clothes, water, food, first aid, etc. especially early in the season when water is not always available for the dog. I did not think there was any chance I would like the Centerfire better than my old vest, but now that I have used it for a whole season I can say it is fantastic. I can have 20-30 pounds with water, gear, and birds and it is extremely comfortable. The bird bag is actually a “semi-rigid box” that keeps all the weight off your buns. You cannot feel the lower portion of vest at all.
    You better start shopping now if you want something different for next fall. Good luck in your search and thanks for the blog.

  5. I, too am a centerfire fan. Although I don’t use the bladder area I love all the storage area. At 5’8″ the vest sits a little low on me also and as you mentioned about going through the brush, it’s bulky but made well enough a guy can bull his way through. Try this for storage. Yesterday the snowy steep hills had me so beat I finally broke my over and under down and put it in my bird pouch with the birds so I could use both hands to get back down the mountain. This was in conjunction with all the other stuff I had in the pockets. Your 2016 review was spot on.

  6. You say above that Orvis Pro won’t work with a hydration bladder. It has a water bladder pocket. Curious why you say it won’t work with one.

    1. From what I can tell, the hydration bladder pocket is a zippered horizontal pocket at the bottom of the bird bag, and — from the couple of reviews on the Orvis site that talk about this — the bladders don’t flow unless bending over, which was the problem I had with the L.L. Bean vest. Also, since the hydration pocket is horizontal, even if you could fit a 3L bladder in it, and bent over to get flow, it would suck air when half empty since the hose exits bladders at the bottom center. I have a friend with the Orvis vest, and he said it really won’t work with a bladder. If you have info to the contrary, I’d love to know because I like Orvis’s stuff and would be willing to try this vest. I scoured the web for reviews of this vest and couldn’t find any that talked about its bladder functionality, and the Orvis video for this vest doesn’t even mention it. Weird.

  7. In referance to trying to get a Wing Works vest…I believe your best bet is to order in the spring. I got mine 2 springs ago. They weren’t building vests all fall/winter at that time as well. Seems to be a recurring thing with them. I assume they’d rather chase birds instead of build bags (can’t back that up though). I’ve got 1.5 seasons in my WW’s now. Having previously owned a Q5 Centerfire (it got stolen), I have to say, material, fit, and operability of the WW’s is substantially better than the Centerfire. Plus all the add ons available for the WW’s makes it hard to not get something to fit everyones needs.

  8. Hmmmm….. my buddy’s parents both run the Orvis Pro. I looked it over a couple months back while hunting for mountain quail. Although neither of them run a hydration bladder I do. It looked like it would be fine. Looked like you could open the zippered pocket and drop the bladder in it. I run a 3 liter and although it won’t stuff completely into the pocket it looked like it would fit upright and just stick out the top just like it does on the Q5 centerfire. Incidentally, it’s that way on the Wing Works as well.

    I’m guessing your problem with the hydration bladders and the tube going up is related to watering dogs, right? Have you looked at pressurized bladders like the Hydra-pack Full Force, or the Geiggerig. I hunted with someone who used the Hydrapack and it seems to work well. I use a Source bladder but only for myself. I use squeeze bottles for the dogs so never have a problem. Ha!!!

    Also, are you sure you needed to cut that water line clip on the Q5? The clip on the Q5 Centerfire is removable, albeit with a little work. It has some angled slots that you push the webbing over far enough and can slide it off to move the clip from one side to another. Watch this video at 1:49. https://youtu.be/5viU-AdGZzo

  9. I’ve been using a Wing Works for probably 5 years now and it’s great! It’s definitley worth the wait. I’ve busted through some serious brush with it, slid down rock faces, and through cactus patches and it’s still going strong. It’ll hold a ton of water. I use the two water bottle’s on the side. If I’m going to be out long I’ll put a bladder in the center pouch that sit’s inside the game bag. I’ve never run out of water with this set up and I live in the Mojave desert where it’s still pretty warm for me and the dog during the early season hunts. If I have one complaint, and it’s minor, it’s that the game bag is a little small. I’ve got the back pocket filled to capacity, and this bulges into the game bag. It’s not that big of a deal, I was still able to get two large sooty grouse in it this year. The cinch strap is great. I always load it up with a wind breaker and maybe an extra vest. I did lose my jacket off of it this year during a hunt, but I was doing some seriously tough brush busting. Definitely a top notch vest.

  10. I purchased a Wing works two Springs ago. I was using a bucks bag for awhile and before that a filson for a decade. The WW is by far a superior pack. Like others have said…order in the off season.

  11. At 72 years of age, I’m old enough to remember when a hunting vest had TWO purposes – carrying birds and shells. Then I started chukar hunting and the amount of gear allegedly needed seemed to grow exponentially on an annual basis. I’ve been using a Bucks Bag for probably 20 years and if I happen to die on a chukar hill, I hope it will be buried with me.

    Its obvious each red legs hunter has their own particular needs in a vest so Bob’s post and the comments have been very interesting. I can’t stand water sloshing around in bottles so I’ve used a 2 liter camelpak for decades. I wear it under the Bucks Bag with no problem. When its hot, I fill it up with ice and drink as it melts. I always use a leather shell belt. I don’t like shells in a vest pocket for a couple of reasons. They rattle some and move around plus the pockets collect seeds, thorns and dirt which can get in the gun in a panic reloading situation.

    I do like the looks of the Wing Works vest and would probably buy one if I need a replacement for the Bucks Bag. Question these days is which will wear out first, the vest or my legs.?

  12. I used a Wingworks vest for about 5 years. It’s a great vest, but I didn’t like the fact that it keeps most to all of the weight on your hips. It’s nice to be able to balance that weight between my shoulders and hips. I could not do so with that vest. Also, I like to have a little more room to store a jacket, rainshell, shirt, etc.
    I decided to try the Tenzing this season as it fits more like a backpack, and it is more versatile in that I can distribute the weight between my shoulders and hips. The one thing is that it messed with my gun mount a little, so I had to mess around with the adjustments to keep it from doing so. Also, I need to play around with it a little more and figure out what’s the best way to mount my Alpha on it. The hydration pouch seems very well thought out, and the storage is plentiful. I wished that they still made it in the tan/green as l typically don’t like blaze orange on my hunting vests. Some of these vests are made by great pack makers, but they are not bird hunters, so some of the details can be lacking.

    Bob, I believe that you would need the medium/large size. I think that the XL will be too big for you.

  13. Not sure on the shell pockets on the Bucks Bags vest, but I think they are probably in front. However I am pretty short and using a large/extra large and they do not hang down on my thighs. They are double pockets–a pocket with a flap on top on one that is open, which I like. I also like smal pockets on the front on each side which are perfect for an Astro and ecollar controller. My only issue is fit–it seems to have shrunk over the years! (A joke, the vest has not shrunk, the user has expanded).

Chirp away

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