Sunday, March 4, 2012

Filson Mesh Game Bag (Gear Review)

Filson mesh game bag strap vest
I don't know why they call this a "bag".  It's a strap vest.  A bag is something you carry groceries in or put over your fugly date's head, and doing either with this vest would leave it highly underutilized.

I've owned a Filson Tin cloth vest for about twelve years and while I love it, anything warmer than 42 degrees makes it unbearable. You won't find "breathable" anywhere in the product literature.  And living in the South we tend to have more days above 42 than below it, especially toward the end of the season.  Up until now I've been forced to choose between the convenience of a vest and comfort of a game belt, thermally speaking.  I've also been straying farther from the truck in some of the newer places I'm hunting and wanted something that would do a better job of carrying water, food, and gear than my old game belt.  Sometimes bigger is better.

There are plenty of options for a bird hunter in the market for a strap vest: Quilomene, San Carlos, Pella, Boyt, Orvis, Browning and Beretta all have entrants in the field.  Wingworks offers a very popular model but it seems like overkill for the kind of hunting I do.  I was looking for something lightweight with minimal areas of contact with my upper body and that would be durable in bramble-infested coverts.  The Filson seemed a good combination of the two.

The vest is a lightweight mesh through the back and rear sides while the pockets are Shelter cloth, a lighter-weight version of Filson's famous body armor Tin cloth. When I pulled it out of the box I cringed at the mesh water bottle pockets on the sides.  I just knew these would be shredded in a matter of weeks but much to my surprise, they looked as good at the end of the season as they did right out of the box.  The pockets sit just a bit behind my sides and apparently stay protected when walking through briars, unless you choose to walk sideways or backwards.

Filson mesh game bag strap vest water bottle pockets
Brand new (left) and end of the season
They comfortably hold an 18 oz bottle but if you go much larger the diameter becomes a problem.  Around three inches is the practical maximum from an easy in, easy out standpoint.  This size limitation might be an issue for anyone who treks big distances from the truck.

The front pockets are heavy duty and very spacious but could be improved by placing a divider in each of them, effectively turning one pocket into two.  My Tin cloth vest has this feature and I love it.  Shells, whistles, compass, phone, snacks all stay separate, no fumbling through a mass of stuff to find what I want.  It would be a very cheap enhancement and I think Filson missed the boat by leaving it out of this vest.

Filson mesh game bag strap vest pockets
The divided pocket on the right is a much better design
The pockets do open and close easily with one hand, as advertised, and do an excellent job of keeping leaves and twigs out.

The main reason I got this vest was comfort in warmer weather, and it met all expectations. In 50 and 60 degree weather, the typical late-season temps that always rendered the Tin cloth model unusable, I never felt overheated.  Air circulates well , it doesn't ride too close to the body, and the straps, although not padded, are plenty wide enough to be comfortable.

It's very easy to access pants pockets by reaching between the vest and my waist.  I carry everything from car keys to lip balm to ear plugs in my pants pockets and having to hike up the vest or unbuckle it to get at them would be a big inconvenience.  All in all I've been very pleased.

So here's the rundown-

Your money's worth:  It's Filson and the stuff is built to last.  After a season of use it's hardly showing any signs of wear.  Looking forward to having it around a while.  And it's very comfortable in warm weather.

Where it comes up short:  As I mentioned, I really wish this had divided pockets.  And some people might want larger side pockets for water bottles.

Get one if: You want a great value in a strap vest.  For less than $100 it's a steal.

Look around before shelling out the bucks:  If you spend more than half a day away from your truck you'll probably want the ability to carry more that this vest will hold.  Sure, with enough duct tape and big safety pins you could find a way to hang what you need on it, but if you're going to all that trouble take a look at some of the others.

This model is available through most Filson outlets.  I got mine from JT and Rob at Uplanders.com and if you call instead of ordering online you'll get a break on the pricing.

4 comments:

  1. Nice review. Did you have any issues with getting your birds into the back bag? I have their strap vest and find I must contort to get back to that bad.

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  2. I didn't, but I only put smaller birds in there. Not sure yet how easily a pheasant would go in. The problem on most vests seems to be that the opening is a little too high, forcing you to bend your arm up behind your back to access it. I take advantage of the adjustable straps and work that opening down to a manageable spot.

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  3. I've hunted the mesh Filson for two seasons on woodcock, snipe and dove and bought it for the same reason you did--other vests are just too hot here in the low country of SC and GA. Not being front loading does require a limber arm for me to drop birds into the gamebag. It's a neat feature how they designed the snap pockets so they can be closed with one hand. I accept the compromises for the overall benefit of comfort in the field on balmy or hot days.

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  4. Some people would just call it bag for the lack of definite term. But you’re right, it’s more of a vest than a bag. And this is usually more comfy and functional than the latter, especially if you’re going on a short hunting trip. Yours is definitely a nice one!

    Paul Cherry @ VestPac

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