While backpacks, shoulder bags, and hunting fanny packs are all good ways to keep hunting gear organized and within reach, a turkey vest is essential for turkey hunting. This type of vest has strategically placed pockets for quick and easy access to gear—such as turkey calls, strikers, and shells—when there’s no time to dig through a cluttered backpack. Some turkey vests are simply that, a vest, while others are more technical, combining a vest and a backpack. And most turkey vests incorporate an integrated and usually detachable padded seat. All of this adds up to less movement (read: less noise) and more comfort, so that once you’re positioned and set up for the hunt, your odds of bagging a tom are significantly higher.
Best Turkey Vests
The Expert: As an avid turkey hunter, I have had the opportunity to field test many products for turkey hunting. My reviews have appeared in numerous print and digital outlets, including Hunting Life Magazine and Southern Outdoors Magazine. Over the last 15 years, I’ve hunted turkey in more than a dozen states in various conditions on different terrain, from the sweltering sandy flatlands of Florida to the snowy mountains of Montana. Because many of these all-day hunts require hiking in and spending long days in the field, a quality turkey vest is key for keeping gear secure and close at hand. My first turkey vest lasted four full seasons before it developed rips, tears, snags, holes, and broken zippers—then finally faded (literally) into retirement.
What to Consider When Choosing a Turkey Vest
How technical does it need to be?
A lightweight and minimalist turkey vest is ideal for run-and-gun hunters who want to be more mobile in the field, while a more technical vest with larger pockets and a thicker, padded seat is better for hunters who plan to sit in the field for hours on end. For those who have a long hike out after a successful day of hunting, an extra-large game pouch or harvest strap comes in handy for hauling out a 20-plus pound bird with a 16-inch tail and sharp spurs on its legs. If you plan to spot and stalk, or if you hunt in western states where you may be traversing vast expanses of land, make sure your vest/pack combo isn’t so heavy that it becomes a burden.
How much storage do you need?
Depending on what you carry with you, you may want larger or fewer pockets. To prevent calls, strikers, shells, and other items from falling out when belly crawling or maneuvering through brambles and briars, look for pockets with a magnetic or zipper closure. If you use a box call, get a vest with a box call pouch. Hunters who spend a long time in the field may want to look for a vest with pockets big enough for a water bottle, decoy, insect repeller, and food.
How should a turkey vest fit?
A turkey vest should fit close to the body and snug at the midsection. If it’s too large, it can hang loose and catch branches, vines, and limbs, and even hinder shooting. It may also cause excess noise when you’re traversing the woods, especially if you’re moving quickly to head off a bird at the pass. Keep in mind that most products sized as “one size fits most” can have their limitations, and every product fit varies. Check the manufacturer’s size chart.
Do I need a vest with an incorporated seat?
With the popularity of turkey stools, chairs, and loungers, many turkey hunters no longer use the attached padded seat on turkey vests. Most, if not all, turkey vests include detachable padded seats. If you plan to use a vest with an incorporated seat, look for one with ample room to comfortably sit on the ground for long periods of time. Also look for a multilayer cushion with a water-resistant bottom to keep dew and wet ground from soaking through and ruining your day.
Choose the right pattern for your area
If you are hunting in southern states, for example, where pines are abundant and the woods are already green in early spring, you will want to choose patterns that include a variety of green. Some brands use Gore Optifade Concealment, which is a camo technology designed to fool the eyes of wild game (rather than from the perspective of the hunter) and can be used in various terrain.
How I Evaluated These Turkey Vests
I have owned most of the turkey vests below or have been fortunate enough to view, touch, feel, and try on the others. A few came highly recommended by some fellow hunters and through product reviews. One of my all-time favorites, the Tenzing TR18 Turkey Vest, is no longer available, but knowing what I loved about that vest helped guide me in my decisions here. A turkey vest will be personal to every hunter’s needs, wants, and budget. Now that you know what to look for in a turkey vest, you’ll be able to determine which options below best meet your needs. These are the top eight turkey vests I recommend.
Sitka Gear Equinox Turkey Vest
- Streamline fit with no bulk
- Backpack w/expandable exterior storage
- Fitted box call pouch
- Patterns: Optifade Subalpine, Waterfowl Timber
- Size(s): OSFM
Sitka Gear is well-known for its technical hunting gear, and it did not disappoint with its newest release, the Equinox Turkey Vest. This high-quality vest’s one-size-fits-most sizing can accommodate XS through XXL hunters thanks to a slide shoulder system that allows for formfitting torso adjustment, a game-changing feature for me—at 5-foot-4, I often have a hard time finding vests that aren’t too long in the torso or that are adjustable beyond what the shoulder straps allow.
Instead of a rear game bag, the Equinox employs that backpack space for more storage and includes a fowl slip noose on the shoulder strap to carry harvested game. Its dual-density foam seat isn’t as bulky as traditional foam, making it less cumbersome while walking yet still comfortable for sitting. The magnetic closure on the water-resistant clamshell pocket made it easy to quickly get to my pot and mouth calls, and an additional elastic hook and loop closure adds extra security. This high-quality vest has plenty of pockets for keeping gear organized for a full day in the field, including interior mesh pockets, an exterior box call pocket, one for a striker, and one for accessories. There’s also a water bladder pocket with stem flap that makes it easy to stay hydrated while on the hunt.
Best Lounger Style
Nomad Bull Lounger Turkey Vest
- Heavier than average turkey vest
- Patterns: Mossy Oak Shadow Leaf, Mossy Oak Bottomland
- Size(s): OSFM
The Nomad’s built-in aluminum frame allows you to set up just about anywhere without having to find a tree to lean on but can be removed for hunts that don’t call for that extra support. Without the frame, the Nomad can be used as a regular vest with an attached seat cushion. With it, however, the vest is among the heaviest recommended here—but consider that you can leave the recliner or stool at home. I found the vest’s 14-point adjustment allowed for a comfortable fit. And with 23 pockets, it has a place for all your essentials, including a rear game pouch for your harvest and a dedicated pocket for a Thermacell.
Alps OutdoorZ Grand Slam Turkey Vest
- Removable kickstand frame
- At a little over 7 pounds, it’s heavy
- Pattern: Mossy Oak Bottomland, Mossy Oak Obsession, Realtree Timber
- Size(s): Standard/XL
The Grand Slam includes a removable and adjustable kickstand-style frame that lets you lounge even when there’s nothing to lean against. A fold-away memory foam seat and detachable shoulder straps let you sit in comfort, and the vest’s heavy fabric is durable enough for just about any hunting condition. There are numerous secured pockets, including a smartphone sleeve that lets you use the phone without removing it and places for mouth and box calls. Interior mesh pockets are convenient for seeing what’s inside without having to dig around every pocket to locate something. The vest holds two water bottles but is also hydration-bladder compatible.
Best Range of Sizes
Primos Hunting Will Primos Signature Series Turkey Vest
- Available in five sizes
- Lots of exterior pockets can make the vest feel bulky
- Pattern: Mossy Oak Bottomland
- Size(s): M–3XL
This turkey vest incorporates the design ideas of one of the best-known turkey hunters in the industry. The Will Primos Signature Series features a pocket for everything related to turkey hunting, including dedicated spots for clippers or a folding hand saw, a Thermacell, and pot calls. It also has a box call pocket with a built-in chalk pocket and tension strap to keep the call quiet, as well as interior mesh pockets that make finding things easier. The vest has adjustable shoulder straps and dual front buckles and is available in five sizes, from M to 3XL.
Most Streamlined Fit
Badlands Upland Turkey Hunting Vest
- Waist-length design fits close to the body
- Pattern: Badlands Approach, Mossy Oak Bottomland
- Size(s): OSMF
This waterproof turkey vest is one of the most organized vests I have ever used. Its streamlined design is ideal for hunters who carry only what they need. It has dedicated pockets for mouth calls, box calls, pot calls, and strikers. And the expandable harvest bag has a built-in pocket for a hydration bladder that can be fastened out of the way when not in use. The vest falls right at the waist, and the detachable five-layer foam seat flips up and securely out of the way at the small of the back for a no-bulk design.
Best Budget-Friendly Turkey Vest
Banded Air Turkey Vest
- Thin, lightweight shell for warmer climates
- No padding on shoulder straps
- Pattern: Mossy Oak Obsession, Mossy Oak Bottomland, Realtree Edge
- Size(s): M–L, XL–XXL
This vest is my choice for the budget-minded turkey hunter. The lightweight material and bib-style shoulder straps offer a simple design to fit all body types. It has a slate pocket, two large, zippered pockets big enough for a box call, and two snap-top cargo pockets. The large game bag on the back is sufficient to carry decoys and other gear. With its simple design and economical price tag, the hunter looking for all the bells and whistles at an affordable price will appreciate this turkey vest.
Best Design for Mobility
Knight & Hale Run-N-Gun 200-Turkey Vest Frame
- Adjustable for youth and smaller sizes
- Pattern: Mossy Oak Obsession, Realtree Edge
- Size(s): OSFM
The 1.5-pound, minimalist Run-N-Gun may look like it doesn’t have much to offer, but this turkey vest packs in all the necessary features you need for a turkey hunt. Its 10-point adjustment system lets you fine-tune fit no matter your size, and its 198-cubic-inch backpack provides storage beyond the dedicated mouth, pot, and box call pockets, striker slots, and zippered pouches. There’s even room for a hydration bladder. The six-layer cushion flips up and cinches out of the way and can be removed when not in use.
Best Minimalist Design
Nomad NWTF Pursuit Convertible Turkey Vest
- Belt could be longer to accommodate larger sizes
- Pattern: Mossy Oak Shadow Leaf, Mossy Oak Bottomland, Realtree Timber
- Size(s): OSFM
The NWTF (National Wild Turkey Federation) Pursuit is unique in that it can be worn as a vest with all the necessary features you need for a turkey hunt or as a fanny pack that doesn’t make you sacrifice the most essential features. Four clips release the top (the vest) from the bottom (the fanny pack). If you choose to use the Pursuit as a fanny pack, the only features you’ll have to sacrifice are the shell loops, mouth call pouches, and phone/rangefinder pocket on the shoulder strap, and the hydration bladder pocket and roll-top game bag on the backpack portion. You’ll still have the large main compartment of the fanny pack, the dedicated box and slate call pockets, a place for a water bottle and Thermacell, and the detachable high-density foam seat.
Our Expert Nancy Jo Adams on What Makes a Great Turkey Vest—and What Doesn’t
PM: What features are most important to you in a turkey vest?
N.J.A.: I am a big proponent of “a place for everything and everything in its place.” I want to be able to find things predawn with little effort and without a light source. So my first requirement in any vest is that it has a variety of pockets, including one that’s large enough to store my Thermacell (without one, it ends up floating around in the large game pocket, where I have to dig around to find it). Secondly, I want my pockets to be secure so I don’t lose things when I’m crawling on my hands and knees or belly crawling to cut off a bird. I also prefer pockets with zippers and double magnets, as Velcro closures are much too noisy in the woods.
PM: Worst turkey vest fail?
N.J.A.: In the spring of 2009, during an afternoon hunt in Clay Center, Kansas, I learned the importance of having a quality turkey vest with well-designed and practical features. We saw a rafter (aka a group) of turkeys at the end of a hayfield. It was a reasonable distance away, so we had to crawl on all fours in tall grass to shield us at the edge of the field. When we finally got within reach of the birds and set up, I found that all my spare shotgun shells, my ratchet clippers, and a few calls were no longer in my vest. The vest I was wearing used a single center coin magnet on the sizable loose cargo pocket flaps, and as I was crawling and sneaking through the weeds, items dropped out of my pockets. Fortunately, I had three shells in my shotgun. But this was a good reminder why quality and design are crucial when shopping for a turkey vest.
PM: What are some unique things you carry with you on a hunt that other hunters might not think of?
N.J.A.: I pack a crumpled brown or black plastic bag in a pocket and use it to mimic the sound of a turkey scratching the ground when feeding in the fallen leaves and underbrush. It makes the ideal call for bringing curious toms closer in search of a feeding hen and when you don’t want to get busted using a call. I also pack a quart-sized Ziplock bag and a rubber band to secure the tom’s bloody head and neck when carrying it out and to protect my pants and game pouch from getting messy.
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