The Best Safety, Bow, Turkey and Upland Hunting Vests
Vests date all the way back to the 17th Century, but they didn’t become popular for hunting until around 1900 when industrialization made durable fabrics like canvas readily available. Since then they’ve taken their place as one of the most important pieces of hunting gear. Not only that, they’ve been specialized and carefully designed for different kinds of hunting and situations.
If you want to round out your wardrobe this hunting season, you’ll need a vest. Depending on what you’re going to hunt and with what, that could mean one of many different things. To make it easy on you, we’ve scoured the market for the best in all these categories. We’ve reviewed them with their pros and cons after a quick run through of hunting vests and their features.
Our Top Hunting Vest Picks
Cabela’s Men’s Blaze Pro Guide II – “We love it because it’s got durability on top of safety”
RedHead Men’s Reversible Blaze Vest – “Being reversible makes this a great versatile choice”
Primos Gen 2 Bow Vest– “This vest is designed especially for bowhunters to use all season”
Gamehide Switchgrass Upland Field Bird Hunting Vest– “We were impressed by the simple but useful design”
ALPS OutdoorZ Grand Slam– “The removable kickstand frame sets this vest apart”
Who needs an orange vest?
Every state has different laws for blaze orange, but there are a lot of commonalities.
Deer hunters usually have to wear blaze orange at least when moving. Stand hunters may or may not have to wear it, but it’s normally recommended. The amount required ranges from 100 square inches to 500. You’re often required to have some visible from all sides.
Laws requiring blaze orange for hunting turkey and waterfowl are not as common, but some states have them. Regardless, it’s always encouraged.
In the majority of states, bowhunters are not required to wear blaze orange.
Keep in mind, however, that this only applies to bow-only season. During firearm season, bowhunters are usually required to wear blaze orange, and they should for safety. In a few states, a bowhunters must wear blaze orange all season long.
Different types of vests
Upland and waterfowl
Upland hunting involves shooting birds that congregate on the ground. As the name suggests, you shoot them from upland as they take off to fly. Examples of birds hunted this way are pheasants and quail.
Waterfowl hunting is similar and involves shooting birds that congregate on the water. Examples are ducks and geese.
Upland and waterfowl vests focus on utility. Pockets provide storage for utility, and most feature loops or pockets for extra shotgun shells. They’re made with durable fabric. Camouflage isn’t as important. Instead, these vests are usually a stylish brown that reflects upland and waterfowl hunting’s long tradition as a gentleman’s sport. They may also have blaze orange patches since many states require them.
Turkey hunting vests are unique. In fact, they’re usually more than just a vest. Along with plenty of pockets and attachments for gear and accessories, they feature a seat for those long waits on the ground. They usually come in camouflage.
Because blaze orange is often not required for bowhunters in bow-only seasons, most bowhunting vests are pure camo. They come with specific features that bowhunters need like a lot of pockets for accessories and bow straps. They also tend to be well ventilated and breathable, so they’re good the early bow season when it’s hot.
What to look for
Pretty much all hunters need to keep quiet. Your vest should help with that.
This means the fastenings should close and open without making too much noise. Velcro is a definite no-go. Even zippers can be loud, so if your vest comes with them, make sure they’re designed to be quiet.
A good vest should also keep from catching on plants and rustling around. The fabric should be smooth and shouldn’t move too much when you do.
Pockets, loops and straps
Vests add a lot of utility to your gear. Your average hunting vest at least has a bunch of pockets for accessories, licenses, valuables, whatever. A good vest takes this to the next level.
It’s a good idea to find a vest with a combination of different kinds of pockets. This means different sizes and locations as well as different fastenings for easier or more secure access. An inside zippered pocket is great for your hunting license, but an open outside pocket might be better for your game calls.
Loops and straps are also features to look for. They might allow you to secure other gear to your body, even further increasing the vest’s utility. Upland and turkey hunters especially need specific shell-holding loops. Bowhunters, on the other hand, benefit from bow straps.
Sizing is something to pay close attention to with vests. Since they’re usually designed to go over other clothing–sometimes a lot of other clothing–you may need a different size than you do with your other gear.
Some vests size by your chest measurement which can be convenient. If it’s just a standard S-XL sizing, see if there’s a size chart or other way to figure out what kind you need.
Vests are rarely adjustable, but if you find one, it’s a big bonus. Most importantly, it lets you wear the vest comfortably all season long, no matter how many layers you pack on underneath.
Your vest is normally your top layer of clothing. If you’ve got good breathable material underneath, it does no good to top it with something that’s just going to trap in sweat.
Bowhunters especially should consider highly breathable designs since they hunt warmer weather in the early season. Cotton is always a good choice for breathability, and it’s worth it to look for a vest specifically designed with ventilation in mind.
With vests scent control comes down to a lot of different factors.
First of all, you need to be dressed for the weather. A thick, warm vest in the early season just makes you sweat, and that makes you smell.
If a vest is machine washable, that makes it a lot easier to keep scent free. You can wash it with a hunting-specific, scent-killing detergent.
Finally, some vests are even made with fabric specifically designed to neutralize odor, so keep an eye out for those.
Safety/High Vis Vest Reviews
Cabela’s Men’s Blaze Pro Guide II
Here’s a vest that doesn’t just keep you safe. It’s a durable piece of equipment that has your back in rough terrain or bad weather.
The material is 100% polyester and besides being tough, it’s quiet when you move as well. It also has low nap which means it won’t catch on plants and make noise.
It’s got a windshear lining, so it keeps you super warm. You can also use the two interior security pockets for hand warmers. It’s great for winter weather. Of course, you can use them to carry your licenses and valuables too.
The Pro Guide II also has two front cargo pockets and quilted shoulder patches. It comes in a vibrant blaze orange or blaze orange camo. It’s a high-quality product we recommend for hunters hunting deep woods, especially those trying to get their trophy buck during rifle season when safety is paramount.
What we liked:
- Tough fabric
- Low nap
- Windshear lining
- Two interior security pockets
- Two front cargo pockets
- Vibrant blaze orange
RedHead Men’s Reversible Blaze Vest
The big draw of this vest is the bang for your buck. The versatility makes it useful all season long, and you get it at a great price.
As it says in the name, this vest is reversible. One side features blaze orange and the other an effective woodland camo pattern. You can stay hidden when you need but still keep yourself safe while moving through the woods. The fabric is also quiet, so deer can’t find you with their ears either.
The vest has a fleece finish that’s incredibly warm, even warmer than a lot of more expensive vests. Plus, it’s durable so it’ll last you season after season of rough winter weather. There are zip hand-warmer pockets as well that make this great cold-weather gear.
It does run small, so consider getting a size larger than normal. It’s machine washable so you can easily eliminate scent. If you’re a stand hunter trying to stay warm this winter, but you also need something noticeable when you’re dragging out your harvest, this vest is a great option.
What we liked:
- Versatile reversible design
- Quiet fabric
- Warm fleece finish
- Hand-warmer pockets
- Machine washable
- Runs small
Bowhunter Vest Reviews
Primos Gen 2 Bow Vest
The Gen 2 Bow Vest is especially great for bowhunters who hunt the entire season from early fall to the middle of winter.
The vented back makes it breathable and cool for early season days when the temperature still gets high. At the same time, it has an adjustable fit, so you can put it on over thicker layers when the temperature drops. Plus, there are hand-warmer pockets that increase its utility in cold weather. It’s got a ton of other pockets, too, that are perfect for all the accessories a bowhunter needs.
Another big pro for bowhunters are the side holes. This lets you tuck your backpack waistband into your vest. This is important because when you stand to take a shot, you don’t want anything getting caught or getting in your way. It also helps you stay quiet.
The camo is a good rustic woodland that’s good for the winter landscape almost everywhere. Primos has updated the fabric as well, so this is a durable vest that can last even the most relentless bowhunter season after season.
What we liked:
- Vented back
- Adjustable fit
- Lots of pockets
- Side holes
- Versatile camo
- Durable fabric
Upland Hunting Vest Reviews
If you’re a fan of simplicity, this might be the vest for you. You can get it in a rich chestnut brown or a traditional marsh brown. Either way, it has well-placed blaze orange patches for maximum safety.
What make this our favorite upland vest are the convenient shell holders. Not only are there front shell holders, but there are extra large slash pockets too for even more extra shells. There’s even a fabric gun protector that we love too.
The fabric is cotton canvas and comfortable. It’s durable with quality stitching. The biggest thing to be careful of is the sizing. It’s purposefully oversized, so you can wear it over a jacket. If you plan to wear it over a t-shirt, you’ll want a much smaller size than normal.
If you’re going bird hunting this year and want something tough but also affordable, Gamehide comes through with this vest.
What we liked:
- Blaze orange for safety
- Front shell holders
- Zippered slash pockets
- Fabric gun protector
- Durable cotton canvas
- Quality stitching
- Low price range
- Strange sizing
Turkey Hunting Vest Reviews
ALPS OutdoorZ Grand Slam Turkey Vest
This vest is a great invention for turkey hunters. The seat is three-inch memory foam that’s comfortable for long periods of time. On top of that, though, there’s a kickstand frame that makes long-term hunts as convenient as possible. The legs are adjustable and have swivel feet, too, so you won’t sink into the ground.
All these accessories do put the vest on the heavier side. If it’s too heavy for your style of hunting, the frame is removable to bring it down to about four and a half pounds.
The vest comes equipped, though. You get a large game bag as well as numerous differently sized pockets for all the accessories you need. It even has a blaze orange safety flag you can deploy when you’re moving.
This vest might be a good choice for any enthusiastic turkey hunter looking to up their game.
What we liked:
- Comfortable memory foam seat
- Removable kickstand frame
- Adjustable legs with swivel feet
- Large game bag
- Differently sized pockets
- Blaze orange safety flag