Sunday, January 27, 2013

Browning Hell's Canyon jacket - Gear Review

Occasionally when I'm not in the market for something but find it on sale I'll find a way to justify the purchase. I say occasionally because the majority of the time I'll make do with what I have, and for the most part I have the gear I need. Until recently, when I needed a windproof jacket I'd grab one of my waterproof shells, which kinda sorta do the trick but usually require an extra layer underneath.  It's gotta be a hell of a breeze to be a problem on a warm day, right?

Browning Hell's Canyon jacket neck
High back neck

A sale ad for a Browning Hell's Canyon windproof jacket caught my frugal eye about this time last year.  I get some of the worst cases of buyer's remorse know to the CDC and I went back and forth on this until I couldn't stand it any more.  They retail between $100-120, I got mine for about $65 and I've seen them as cheap as $50 since then.  You'll have to measure the value by your aversion to wind.

Browning Hell's Canyon jacket wrist
No breeze in here
It's built to be windproof and that is where it excels. Neoprene/velcro wrists do an exceptional job of sealing that area without cutting off circulation or restricting movement. The neck extends an extra inch or so in the back to keep the wind from swirling down your spine, a nice touch that you don't find on many jackets, and the storm flap at the zipper works as well as any I've used. Zero wind gets through here.  I should mention that the zipper is extremely smooth, smooth like it was engineered by Germans.  I'm not sure I've ever used one that moved so effortlessly and didn't catch on the material.

Browning Hell's Canyon jacket zipper
ZIpper genius

Enough of my zipper fetish. The hand pockets on each side are heavy mesh and aid in ventilation if you get too warm.  The mesh might cause a problem carrying certain items, certainly anything with sharp edges (shouldn't carry these in your pockets anyway) or small pieces like loose BBs.  There are vertical- and horizontal-zippered chest pockets on either side that I've never used but also aid in ventilation and would be good for carrying a license, a map, a compass or any other small, flat item.  Bulkiness could interfere with gun mount.

I thought about shooting some video of these features until I found this one on YouTube-

As a single layer, this jacket works fine between 35-55 degrees, wind or no wind.  Below 35, you'll want to start layering depending on your exertion level.  I wore it in 20 degree weather with the wind blowing 25-35 mph with a capilene layer next to my skin, an LL Bean polyester blaze orange shirt on top of that and a Filson tin cloth vest outside the jacket and never got a chill.  The jacket did an extraordinary job of keeping the wind out and never felt restrictive.

Things it's not so good at? Hiding dried blood. Be careful wringing a bird's neck or reaching behind to put a dead one in your vest.

It's a good looking jacket in its own right.  You won't scream hunting dork! wearing it around town although there is a camo pattern available if that's your thing.  I suppose dried blood can have the same effect.

Your money's worth:  It's as windproof a layer as I've ever worn.  Ventilates well if you get too warm, adequate number of pockets, and plenty of room to move around or layer underneath.

Where it comes up short:  It's not completely waterproof and won't double as a rain jacket and the material wouldn't do well in briars.

Get one if:  You need a good windproof layer that doubles as a cool weather shell.

Look around before shelling out the bucks:  You need something that's waterproof (not just water repellent) or you spend a lot of time in thorny areas.

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