Time to upgrade your old turkey vest? Here’s our take on five that are making their debut this spring.
Rating Key: **** – Excellent; *** – Very Good; ** – Good; * – Fair
1. Ol’ Tom Time & Motion I-Beam 2.0
Photos by Ralph Smith
This vest was clearly designed by someone who has spent a lot of time in the turkey woods–and that’s the highest praise a hunter can give to a piece of gear. It’s an excellent union of form and function: comfortable without being bulky, smartly designed without being overwrought.
Made from a lightweight and ultra-quiet fabric, the Ol’ Tom has room to spare in two large, zippered cargo pockets, which can hold extra calls, shells, choke tubes, and incidentals. Meanwhile, your top-tier calls reside in an array of specially designed external sleeves, making it a snap to change calls with minimal movement. There are dedicated pouches for two box calls, slates and strikers, diaphragms, and locator calls. The rear cargo bag is divided into a lined game bag and zippered decoy pouch.
The vest’s back pad and its thick and easily deployed seat cushion drew plaudits from our test team. Strong magnets hold the ample cushion in place until needed, and because the seat is attached by straps, the vest moves independently of it, allowing the wearer to reposition himself easily.
Overall Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Price: $160; oltomgobbler.com
Final Word: Excellent design; quiet and comfortable
2. Tenzing TZ TP14
The TP14 is a specialty product with more bells and whistles than a fleet of freight trains.
For starters, the TP14 has a whopping 28 pockets. The pack’s thick cushion and unique fold-out legs make even the longest setups downright cozy, even without a tree to lean against. When it’s time to run and gun, merely flip up the seat (held in place by magnets), cinch down the adjustable “kickstand” legs, and move out. You can carry your camp in this vest, which is designed specifically for hunters who spend all day in the woods.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½
MSRP: $300; tenzingoutdoors.com
Final Word: Designed with the all-day hunter in mind
3. Cabela’s Minimalist
If you think a vest needs only to hold a few calls and a decoy or two, and have a comfortable seat, then look no further.
Our testers raved about the Minimalist’s Speed Seat. The thick cushion is woods-nap comfortable, and it quickly snaps up out of the way when it’s time to make a move. In addition, the vest features an elastic mesh pouch, a phone pocket, a dedicated box-call sleeve, three mini flap pockets, and two zippered compartments.
Though durable, the cotton-polyester shell is painfully loud.
Rating: ★ ★ ★
MSRP: $80; cabelas.com
Final Word: The speed seat is spot-on for quick setups
4. RedHead Striker
Slipping on the RedHead Striker might remind you of donning your very first turkey vest. But that’s okay: The beauty of the Striker lies in its simplicity.
It’s well laid out and fully functional. It’s quiet and features specialized pockets for a box call, slates and strikers, mouth calls, and accessories. While the magnetic fold-down seat is great for running-and-gunning, the memory-foam cushion was the thinnest of the test group and in need of an upgrade. All in all, this is an inexpensive starter vest and a great value.
Rating: ★ ★ ★
MSRP: $60; basspro.com
Final Word: A fine entry-level vest at a great price
5. Under Armour Turkey Trax
The buzz surrounding the Turkey Trax begins–and pretty much ends–with its clever retractable seat.
The compression-molded back panel slides down easily and then up and out of sight quietly with one hand via a rail system. The seat is long enough to keep most any rump dry, but it might prove to be too thin when a bird hangs up out of range for an hour or two. The vest shell is constructed of a lightweight ripstop fabric that is designed for rugged wear, but our stealth-conscious testers deemed it too noisy.
Rating: ★ ★ ★
MSRP: $200; underarmour.com
Final Word: While thin, the retractable seat is a great design