A Browning Christmas

Returning home the other night, I found two boxes in the living room my wife had set aside. I was a bit confused. I hadn't ordered anything and wasn't expecting anything either. The return address said "Browning" on it and I immediately started to get really excited. Christmas had come early!

Inside the two boxes I found a plethora of Browning gear. No, there wasn't a shiny, engraved Cynergy or Citori that I had used on this year's South Dakota pheasant hunt, but what was inside was almost as good: a complete set of Browning's newest waterfowling clothing to test and review.

While I'll try it out during the next couple of months of Big Sky winter, I can already tell a couple of items will be staples in not only my duck hunting attire, but also my dog training. For those of you that enjoy the Buckmark lifestyle, here's a look at some of their newest clothing:

The crown jewel in Browning's new line of waterfowling gear, the Maxus is a technical jacket that features the latest in design and technology. It's a shell that can be used alone for early season hunting or paired and layered with the 700-Fill Power Down Jacket for mid- and late-season hunts (the picture at the top of the blog is the Maxus in the field; you can see the gloves and hat, too).

Featuring Comfort Mapping construction, which uses three-layer Gore-Tex soft shell fabric in the upper body and Gore-Tex Paclite in the lower body and under the arms to maximize comfort, body temperature and mobility, all while maintaining water- and wind-proof breathability, the Maxus is a technological wonder.

A ton are of pockets for all your gear were created in this thing, including both upper and lower handwarmer pockets, a call pocket on the left chest with zippered closing, two lower bellow pockets for shells and an inside zippered security pocket. A detachable hood, bottom drawcord and license tab round out some of the features.

Although I haven't taken it into the field yet, there are a couple of other features that I can already tell will be beneficial. The adjustable rubber cuffs snug down around your wrists (even if you're small like me) to help keep water from running down your sleeve. I like the length of this thing, too. It's a versatile length that will protect you if you're in a layout blind but is lightweight and fits well enough to be comfortable if you're doing a bunch of walking while jump shooting. The sleeves aren't baggy, but do offer enough room for layering without binding up when shouldering a gun and taking the shot. It's a pretty sweet jacket.

Price: $388; available in Mossy Oak Duck Blind

I first saw this jacket back in September when at a fish camp on the Columbia River in Washington state and vowed to get my own. One of the guys from the outdoor cookware company Camp Chef was wearing the olive green version and I asked him about it. He loved it and wore it as a chill-protecting outer layer.

It's lightweight at 1 pound, 4 ounces and features Browning's 700-fill power down; a lightweight but insulating goose down. The fabic isn't tough or waterproof so you wouldn't want to wear this in inclement weather or rugged terrain, but it excels as a stand alone item in dry weather or to just knock the chill off when hanging around the campfire. Where it really shines, and what it was designed for, is as an insulating layer. The easily compressed down and slick jacket surface creates a warmth layer that doesn't bind nor carry the bulk of traditional down layering.

While newly available in Mossy Oak Duck Blind, if you're like me and don't normally wear camo out in public, there are several other colors to choose from.

Price: $148; available in Mossy Oak Duck Blind, Break-Up and Treestand, Tan and Olive.

It might sound a little weird to think of a lightweight, tricot-lined shirt as just as exciting as a new coat, but I do. I like layering shirts...it might have something to do with growing up in the Pacific Northwest during the grunge epidemic.

This shirt is pretty cool though (I've been wearing it since I opened the box), with two-coat style handwarmer pockets low on the sides, two chest pockets (one with magnetic closure, the other with a zipper closure) and two handwarmer pockets set up high. Lots of pockets with little bulk; excellent for layering during hunting or wearing alone when training. I can tell you now that I'll be wearing this shirt a lot this spring when training; the magnetic chest pocket is perfect for holding a lanyarded-whistle out of the way.

Price: $86; available in Mossy Oak Duck Blind

Every good shirt needs a pair of pants to with it and the Warm Front Wader Pants are a lightweight breathable under-wader pant with fleece lining. They're not a heavy pant, so if you're going to be duck hunting in extreme cold, you'd want to layer up with some type of base layer. With a polyester outer shell printed in Mossy Oak Duck Blind, they're stylish enough to wear to the local diner for breakfast without feeling like you're sporting an old pair of long johns.

The Warm Front Wader Pants feature four pockets (two front and two zippered back), elasticized waist and belt loops, zippered legs to expand over the top of boots or tighten down for a more snug fit for under the waders. Elastic stirrups ensure that the pants stay in place when putting waders on.

Price: $64; available in Mossy Oak Duck Blind

Gloves are my albatross. My hands get cold easily. It's a curse in the duck blind and on the slopes. The nice thing about both sports is that you usually have time to shove your hands into pockets or use handwarmers to help combat the problem. I'll be using these gloves this winter (like during snowball fights with my toddler, Tucker, as soon as I finish typing this) to see how they work for hands susceptible to the cold. The X-Trafit gloves are made of Gore-Tex so you know they're waterproof. There doesn't seem to be much insulation in them so I'm a little concerned that they won't keep my girly hands warm over a prolonged period. We'll see.

There are a couple of features that I do like about them though: the articulated fingers and hook-and-loop wrist adjustment create a nice fit while the flared wrist material fits over the snugged-down rubber cuffs of the Maxus jacket, helping to keep water and snow out (even if you happend to plunge a little deeper into the water than intended when picking up or laying out floating decoys). The Sensi-Flex Technology in the trigger finger is a nice touch that gives a little better feel when pulling the trigger.

Price: $74; available in Mossy Oak Duck Blind

The perfect stocking stuffer if you have a Buckmark-loving crazy in your household. It's available in a gazillion styles, colors and patterns. For the duck hunter, however, the only one you need is Mossy Oak Duck Blind.

Price: $15