Sitka Ballistic Vest
By Josh Boyd, Guest Contributor
Archery season in Montana, in my opinion, is the best time to be in the mountains. The weather is mild, days are long, and hunting grounds are empty. When throwing together a pack of extra clothing for a backcountry bowhunt, it is a rare occasion that I have to think about packing hunters’ orange. So when an “any-weapon” Big Sky moose tag showed up in my mailbox, I had to rethink my clothing.
You see, Montana requires high visibility orange to be worn when hunting moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, and black bear, regardless if you are bowhunting or not. With the long season the moose tag offered, I planned to start with the bow but move to the rifle as the season progressed, the rut wound down, and the bulls would get harder to find. I needed orange clothing that would function over a wide range of temperatures, weather, and environments. With the season running September 15th through November 29th, any old hunter orange outer garment wouldn’t do, so I made a list of expectations:
- Adjustable to fit properly over both early season and late season clothing without without restricting movement
- Uncomplicated exterior pockets for straightforward organization
- Durable enough to handle thick brush and blow-down
- Quiet enough in all temperatures to wear as an outer layer.
I looked no further than to Sitka and their Ballistic Vest. On paper it seemed like it would meet my needs. At $99 retail, this is more than most hunters think about spending on hunter orange, so it needed to perform.
Within a few weeks of drawing my moose tag, I had a Ballistic in my hands. I found it trim, yet not restrictive. The arm holes were large enough to accommodate layers underneath, yet extra fabric doesn’t snag or bunch when mounting a rifle butt. There are simple, effective waist band adjustments that expand or tighten to accommodate the bulk of the under layers.
The simple hook and loop waist area adjustments make the Ballistic Vest an all-season garmet
There is also an adjustable chest closure that does the same and has a unique magnetic buckle that closes easily and silently. The total weight of the medium vest tested came in at 12 ounces.
I found the chest strap adjustment very handy and magnetic closure nearly silent
The pocket layout is straightforward and simple with two open hand-warming pockets and two zippered storage pockets, which are fairly spacious. They worked well and helped organize and separate gear without requiring too much thought.
The hand warmer pockets and zippered storage pockets are simple and straightforward
There is a removable left-or-right interchangeable foam shoulder pad for those who like a recoil pad built into the vest. The pad is thin, perforated for ventilation, and very supple. I did find it too warm for early season hunting and unnecessary in late season with thicker clothes, so I removed it for most of the season.
The perforated shoulder pad is easily removed
The fabric of the Ballistic Vest is dense woven polyester with a durable water repellant (DWR) applied to help shed moisture. The fabric is thin, durable, and breathes well when worn during heavy exertion, yet it still retains some wind-blocking ability. The fabric does create more noise than I expected, especially in temperatures below 15 degrees. The fabric seems to stiffen slightly under these conditions, but there were just a few times it was noticeable or annoying. Under most conditions and circumstances it was not an issue.
Overall the vest met most of my requirements for a blaze orange big game vest. It easily layered over the bulkiest of outerwear and cinched down snuggly when worn over a simple base layer. The pocket layout is simple and their volume ample without interfering with movement when stuffed. Overall the tight weave of the fabric adds function, yet it is also a little noisy in the cold. As with all gear, there are trade-offs for function. Personally, I don’t think it’s noisy enough to worry about for most western big game hunts and I’ll use this vest again in most situations where it’s required.
As of press time, BlackOvis had the Ballistic in stock here
You can discuss this article or ask Josh questions here
Josh Boyd is 100% DIY, hunting rugged and wild country with minimal equipment and support for elk, mule deer, mountain goat, moose, antelope, black bear, and whitetails. As a freelance writer, Josh has been published in Bowhunter Magazine, Bow & Arrow Hunting, Extreme Elk Magazine, and Eastmans’ Bowhunting Journal. He is currently on the prostaff of Sitka Gear.
Josh spends over 200 days in the field every year in the wilds of Northwest Montana hunting, skiing, hiking, biking, and working. He works with the U.S. Forest Service specializing in watershed restoration and hydrologic data collection, putting him in the backcountry throughout the year.