Tenzing BV16 Upland Bird Vest Review
I purchased it from Sierra Trading post for an awesomely low price. I believe I paid about 85$ for it. That’s about half-off the retail price and a total bargain. I’d been looking at this vest for some time and had read a lot of positive reviews. When I saw it was available for that low price, it pushed me over the edge on the purchase.
Prices fluctuate all over the place on this vest so shop around. A quick google search showed prices fluctuating from $135 to $200. I think it's a reasonable price for the quality.
When I received it, my first impression was WOW, what a well built piece of gear. The stitching, materials, buckles, zippers, zipper pulls, waist belt, straps, are all top tier. This vest is very well made and should last for years. The storage capacity is amazing, there's so much room in the multiple pockets and compartments to pack extra gear. Every pocket felt well thought out and had extra features that made this vest super versatile. I felt like I had totally scored.
I purchased the XL/XXL size because that was what was available on sale. According to the specs I was on the low end of the size chart and it should fit me. I’m 6’ 2”, I have a 36" waist with wide shoulders and a long barrel for a torso. It fit me but when I cinched down the waist belt it was nearly as reduced in length as it would go. What I'm trying to say is that the XL/XXL waist belt barely fit me. It did fit though. I feel like the M/L may have been a better choice for me size-wise.
The belt has 2 different placement options to adjust for your torso length. As I owned the vest I switched back and forth on the placement, eventually, I felt like the longer length option fit me better. I adjusted the belt, shoulder straps, and sternum strap to fit. Everything adjusted easily and I felt like I had a great fit. The waist belt was nice and wide and padded and when I slipped on the fitted vest it felt really good.
I liked right away was how comfortable it was. When fitted and strapped-down it felt like an extension of myself. Even though it had a lot of coverage with the wrap-around style, it didn’t feel confining. Everywhere my body was in contact with the pack it was padded or smooth material, it moved with me and felt great.
It has elastic shell loops in the front shotgun shell pockets. Most of my previously owned vests had dump style pockets for the shotgun shells. I was excited to get back to having shell loops again. It has loops enough to carry 14 shells, 7 on each side. That’s usually more than enough for a typical bird hunt but I usually packed a few more, just in case. There’s room enough for several more shells in each shell pocket. The elastic loops were tight enough to carry any size shell. 12-28 gauge fits and I’m sure .410 shells would work as well.
Once I had the vest sized, I promptly loaded it up with all my hunting essentials plus a full box of shells and put it on again. It carried the weight very well. The water bladder compartment worked with my camelbak 2L bladder in place. The bladder hangs on an internal velcro tab that supported the weight of the full bladder so it wasn’t sagging down by my waist. There are openings on either shoulder strap to allow the water tube to come through. There’s also plastic tube clips to keep the water hose in place.
That’s what I noticed about this vest when fully loaded, everything felt tight and secure to my frame. Nothing was hanging or drooping away from my body. No saggy bag hanging below my butt like a wet diaper like you see on other bird vests.
One other nice attribute of this design is that it's very easy to clean. At the top of the bag beneath the top flap with the large Tenzing logo is a zipper. When unzipped it completely opens up the bird bag section of the pack. The material in this section is slick and water resistant so it easily wipes clean. It's a nice feature for those fruitful days when you fill up the bag with birds and it gets filled with feathers, blood and such. It made this section easily accessible, which helped keep it clean from debris.
Here’s the specs:
14 shot shell loops
Two load-lifter straps keep weight tight and elevated
Robic™ rip-stop fabric adds durability in high-stress areas
Available in M/L and XL/XXL
Available in Blaze Orange (Loden Green color is discontinued). Mine was the loden version so it came with a blaze orange pack cover for the orange coverage that’s needed to be legal in some states. Also nice for hunting in groups where you want to be more visible.
- SIDE POCKET (x2) 8” x 7” x 1”
- SIDE SLEEVE POCKET (x2) 8” x 7” x 1”
- MESH FRONT RADIO POCKET (x2) 3” x 5.5” x 2”
- MESH BACK POCKET 8” x 7” x 1”
- BUNGEE COMPARTMENT 9” x 11” x 2”
- BACK POCKET 9” x 17” x 1.5”
- H2O COMPARTMENT 10” x 16” x 1.5”
- 13 total pockets and compartments
- Large wrap-around bird carrying compartment (debatable)
- Two radio pockets
- Expanding face pocket
The first time out with this vest was during a grouse hunt. It was early September and it was going to be a warm 70°+ day. I loaded it up with water plus 2-32 oz. water bottles for the dogs. This vest doesn’t have water bottle holders but I felt that slipping them in the sides of the bird bag where the material is more elastic would work. I tried it at home and the bottle felt secure in place. Or at least I thought they were. I soon discovered that the bottles would cause the front loading zippers on the bird bag to open causing the bottles to slip down and work their way to the front of the vest behind the shell pockets. This caused an uncomfortable hot spot rubbing agains the side of my hips and lower belly. I was constantly adjusting them back into place. And speaking of hot spots, I was sweating a lot in this thing. The wrap around style and the way the pack conforms to your back doesn’t leave much for air circulation, so by the time I returned to the truck at the end of my hunt, the back of my shirt was completely soaked.
|Fit's like a glove. Notice how it contours to my back.|
So I quickly realized that there was a bit of a trade off with this vest. All the padding for comfort, the carry-capacity, and the wrap around design created a not very breathable piece of gear. This was not a warm weather vest so I ended up going back to my old Mother® bird vest for the rest of the early season and saved this for later season hunts. I bought the Tenzing mostly for Chukar season anyways, and I usually don’t start chasing them until late November, so I was still feeling pretty good about it.
Now either I didn’t want to admit it at the time or I didn’t realize it, but the bird bag portion of the vest quickly became an issue for me. With this vest's wrap around, body conforming style, the section of the bird bag directly behind your back is quite narrow so what happens is you put a bird in the bag and eventually it squirts around until its sitting on your side or towards the front of your vest. I was constantly adjusting birds and water bottles. After a couple hours of that it starts to get annoying. Also if you’re able to sandwich a bird into the center of the pack it’s pretty pulverized by the end of the hunt. Chukars and quail aren’t much of an issue but load two or three large rooster pheasants or a few blue grouse you can forget it. I’ve seen reviews where dudes pull 4 or 5 roosters out of this vest and act like it’s no big deal but I can’t see how to do it without carrying most of those birds on your hips and belt line. I've tried loosening the top belt and the load straps to little avail. It's just a small area to shove birds into. I usually just stuffed the birds head down on the backs of my hips, behind my kidneys and carrried them there. It works if you have just a couple birds but more than that became uncomfortable to carry.
I should talk more about the carry capacity on this thing. With all the pockets and places to put things I had to train myself not to fill it up. I was packing everything with this vest. Extra shells, leashes, first aid kits that I could go into combat with, extra layers of clothing, dog boots, electronics, knives, tools, snacks, and even dog vests. I was packing stuff I’d never use but the vest became the spot where I was storing it all. I once filled it with water and gear and weighed it and it was over 30 lbs. That’s a little excessive for a bird hunt. I reduced things down until I was back into the 15-20 lb. range which is acceptable. I learned to unload the vest after each hunt and I now have a small storage box that I dump everything into and customize my vest for each hunt based on weather, terrain, duration, hunting partners, dog(s) and such. It’s really steam-lined things for me.
|Notice the narrow width of the shell pocket and how I rigged the zippers to keep the bird bag closed|
I hunted with this vest for over 2 seasons and at the end of that 2nd season I felt that I needed to replace this vest. I just never loved it. It carried gear like no other, it was so comfortable for cooler to cold days. It’s built like a tank and put together so well. But on the flip side it’s a bird vest and a very important feature of a bird vest is how well it can carry birds. I don’t like how the bird bag functions on this thing. Water and gear carry like a dream but the bird bag in my opinion was lacking some thought.
Another issue I had was with the shell pockets. I really like the idea of the shell loops but that pocket was so narrow I felt like I had to cram my hand in the pocket to find a shell. I wish it was just a little bit wider so access was better. I have to admit I don't think I ever dropped any shells out of this thing. I've had other vest that shells have squirted out when I bent over and I had to be very conscious about securing my shotshells during a hunt. Not with the Tenzing though. However, the tradeoff is that it's a little crammed space to try and quickly grab shells for a reload.
Last negative I've already mentioned is how warm this vest is. I found it uncomfortable to wear in any temperature over 40°. The padded back and wrap around design leaves no room for airflow. If I was hiking, I was sweating. I was constantly dropping this pack to let my back breath.
It’s a good vest/pack, I really can’t say that enough. It’s just not the right one for me. There’s a ton of 5 star reviews online with people raving about this vest so people seem to really like it. If I had to give it a star rating, I’d give it 3 stars out of 5 stars. Do your homework and if it looks like the right vest for you, get it.
If you do like the wrap around style of the vest I highly recommend looking at the Chief Upland Vest before buying the Tenzing. The Chief Upland system looks like an amazing, well put together vest. They seem to have addressed some of the flaws with the Tenzing BV16 and improved on it in other ways. Problems such as more air flow on your back and fixed the bird bag with a large expandable bag section that looks like it works really well. Plus, they made it completely customizable with where you can put your pockets and such. That seems to be the trend for the new bird vests of late. I’ve read and watched enough reviews to think that it may be the answer. Chief Upland quality looks outstanding and the price seems more than reasonable. Check them out.
As good as the Chief Upland vest looks, I’m a little jaded from the Tenzing BV16 to want to try another wrap around style vest with the amount of body coverage that the Chief Upland vest has. After shopping around and looking at companies like WingWorks, Orvis, Quilomine, L.L. Bean, Hunt Redi, and others I’ve went with the Final Rise Upland Vest system. These vests are top-notch and are sewn by a fellow bird hunter here in Utah. I’ve been following the process from the beginning, from conception to production on their Instagram page and listened to Matt Davis the owner/founder/designer of Final Rise on several podcasts and he has sold me on this design and the Final Rise system. They are on the high end of the price scale but I feel the quality, warranty and the hand work that gos into each vest justifies the price. I received it just a day before the last day of Chukar season here in Utah so I’ve only had it out on one short bird hunt (more of a short armed hike during a down pour), but my first reaction is that it’s phenomenal. Comfort, carry capacity, adjustability is all amazing. I will write up a review once I have spent more time with it. I'm hoping this may be the last vest I ever buy. Time will tell. Look them up if you’re in the market.