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2014 Deer Gear Review

2014 Deer Gear Review

It’s time for our annual Deer Gear Review where we give you a look at a few more options for the hardcore outdoorsman to consider as you head into the new year. We’ve spent the last five months field-testing these products and have tried to give you our honest opinion of them in this review. As always, you can find out more about a particular product or brand by clicking on the product photos below or by asking us directly in our forum. Enjoy!

Lo Pro Tonneau cover by Truxedo $480


If you spend a great deal of time in the outdoors, you probably own a truck. You probably toss your gear into the bed of that truck and that gear is too expensive or vital to expose to the elements. Enter the Lo Pro QT tonneau cover by Truxedo.  You’re probably aware of the gas savings you will achieve with a tonneau cover on your truck bed, but you may not be aware that all tonneau covers are not created equal.

We’ve reviewed 100’s of products over the years and there have only been a handful of times that a product has truly lived up to its billing and beyond.  The Lo Pro QT tonneau cover is one of those products. I’m sure this review will not even come close to doing it justice but I’m going to try. The Lo Pro QT cover comes in a long box with everything you need for installation except for the wrench. The materials are all top grade and everything fits perfectly on our Chevy Silverado because Truxedo took the time to find out what year our truck was. The free-floating Velcro side rails clamp onto the sides of the truck bed with the included aluminum clamps and there is no need to alter or drill any holes into your truck bed.  In fact, there is no indication that the rails were even clamped on to the truck upon removal.  Once the side rails are on, the cover slides onto the back of the truck bed and unrolls toward the tailgate for closure.  The cover is latched into place with a simple push of the back end and is easily unlatched with a flick of a lever.  The sides of the cover fall nicely into place with a quick brush of the hand over the Velcro and that’s all there is to it!

When we were looking for a tonneau cover, we wanted something that would easily fold up out of the way with an ATV in the truck bed without needing to uninstall every time. The cool thing about the Lo Pro QT is that it rolls up like a cheaper blanket cover but has the support of a stronger sectional cover when it is flat. You literally get the best of both worlds here!

Probably the best explanation of how impressive this cover is occurred when I was installing the cover on my truck. My neighbor happened to see me and inquired to see if I needed any help. I was at the point where I was sliding the back of the cover into the slots next to the window. Before he had reached my truck, I had the cover unrolled, latched and was gliding my hand over the Velcro sides. To say this dude was amazed was an understatement. After a 5 minute explanation of the brand, the features, the Truxedo website and his seemingly thorough inspection of the cover and my truck, he promptly told me he was going back to his house to inform his wife that he had found his Christmas present! This cover has had the same effect with each of our staff. Not only is this cover made from high grade materials, it’s a great piece of engineering.

Truxedo claims that the Lo Pro cover is the #1 selling tonneau cover on the market and I can certainly see why! This thing is easy to install, doesn’t damage your truck, works flawlessly, saves gas mileage and can stay on for use with ATV’s!

If you’re interested in the Lo Pro QT, don’t hesitate to contact Truxedo. They take the time to make sure you receive the right cover for your make / model and year of truck. With the Lo Pro QT tonneau cover from Truxedo, your gear won’t be exposed to the weather any more than it has to!

Heated Hoodies by Milwaukee ($99 – $200)

We’re huge fans of heated clothing because they allow you to stay on stand longer when the Mercury drops. Milwaukee has come out with a line of heated Jackets and hooded sweatshirts that uses durable carbon fiber heating zones on the chest and back area that run off of a 12 volt battery tucked in a concealed pouch along the back of the lower waist  We tested both the Red and Camo versions of this hoodie and were thrilled with the results.

Red Hoodie: $99 – $150 This is more like a traditional heavy hooded sweatshirt with a waffle weave polyester interior and a durable cotton exterior with ribbed cuffs and waistband. It resembles your favorite heavy-weight hoodie that you’ve worn for years except you can add extra heat in the core zones of your chest and back with the touch of a button located on the left chest. This Easy-touch controller allows for 3 heat settings (High, Medium and low) and is run off a 12 volt battery stored in a covered pouch on the inside of the back part of the hoodie. We were curious as to how Milwaukee would get around the concealment of a battery the size of small Red Bull can. The placement of the battery connection and pouch on the upper inside back waist portion of the hoodie does the trick in that we really couldn’t notice it being a hindrance, nor did it look weird when we wore it. The 12 volt battery will give up to 6 hours of continuous heat based on your heat setting (6 hours based on lowest heat setting) and the garment is completely machine washable and dryer safe (provided you take out the 12 volt battery).  The Hoodie Kit comes with a battery charger and we were quite surprised by how fast it will charge a battery. Another great touch on this heated sweatshirt is the ‘Milwaukee’ logo in electrocuted font.   It’s a classic logo and looks sweet across the chest!  This is the type of hoodie that we can wear around even without the battery connected because it’s such a classic style looking hoodie. It will look good at our kid’s soccer games and equally good at Deer Camp this season! This Hoodie also comes in Khaki and Gray.

Camo Hoodie: $120 – $200 The Realtree Max-1 version of this hoodie has the same waffle weave polyester interior but the cotton exterior seems a bit more waterproof than the red hoodie. This is a nice feature in that you can utilize this garment as your outer layer hunting jacket without feeling like you’re soaking up water in a rain shower. As far as we can tell, the beefier cotton exterior along with a slightly modified waist band (with drawstings) is the only difference between these two hoodies. Milwaukee clearly made the camo hoodie so that it can be worn as a rugged piece of outwear in the deer woods. Pairing this hoodie with a good set of base layers will definitely allow for more warmth with a great deal less bulk. The camo hoodie also comes in Realtree Xtra pattern.

Simply put, these two hoodies will become a staple in our hunting closet in the coming years.  Our advice would be to buy the red one for Deer Camp with a charger kit ($150) and purchase another in camo without the charger ($120) for the woods!  Batteries are around $40 and the chargers are around $50 but the good news is that these hoodies run off the same 12 volt battery packs that Milwaukee uses in its smaller cordless power tools.  If you already have one of those, you can buy the hoodie by itself and give it try this Deer Season.

Discord Sunglasses from Spy Optic with new “Happy Lenses” ($129.95)

We’ve tried many different brands and styles of Sunglasses over the last few years.  All of that testing has led us to 3 distinct things that we look for in a great pair of shades.

  • They need to stand up to the abuse we put them through, from hanging deer stands in the summer heat to protecting our eyes on a sunny frozen lake in the winter.
  • The glasses need to fit well and protect our eyes from physical hazards as well as the harmful rays of the sun.
  • They need to be stylish and not look like we just walked out of the lazer eye clinic.

Now many of the brands that we’ve tried in the past have met these 3 pieces of criteria but we recently stumbled on to a brand that gives us everything we’re looking for while at the same time allows us to express our outdoor lifestyle in the coolest of ways!  Enter Spy Optic with Realtree camo trim and the new “Happy Lens”.

Spy Optic allowed us to try the Discord model with their new “Happy Lens” this summer and not only do we love the style of these glasses, the Realtree camo trim on these bad boys makes these shades ultra-sharp looking! The Discord is made of a lightweight frame and durable metal hinges to stand up to our abuse.  The new 100% UV blocking “Happy Lenses” has taken a scientific approach to not only improving your vision, but also improving your mood.  The science behind the new “Happy Lens” is quite simple.  Sunlight is a combination of various wavelengths of light that can be separated into a variety of colors with a simple prism, remember your 6th grade science class?  Spy has figured out which wavelengths of light produce clearer vision and with wavelengths of light positively enhance your mood. The Happy Lens allows the Good Rays in and blocks out the Bad Rays. Click HERE To learn more about HAPPY LENS. I can honestly say that our mood was improved by wearing the Discord with Happy Lens but we couldn’t quite figure out if it was the science or the fact that these shades looked and felt so darn cool on our ugly mugs! Spy Optic has given us sunglasses that represent our love for Outdoors while still keeping us classy.

Spy Optic offers a huge variety of models, many of which that offer the Happy Lens and the Realtree camo trim.  Check them out at SPYOPTIC.COM

Esky Cooler 55 QT ($339)


Esky Coolers have long been an established brand in Australia and were recently acquired by Coleman to carry on the traditions of making coolers with excellent insulation. The ESKY coolers are now made in the USA by Coleman and are basically Coleman’s attempt at making premium, indestructible coolers that keep the contents of the cooler cold for days at a time. These aren’t your typical coolers seen at backyard barbeques!

Here are some features of the ESKY Cooler by Coleman:

-Performs during a long weekend in the wilderness
-Tough, scratch-resistant exoskeleton with non-skid feet
-Durable, large-knuckle integrated hinges with stainless steel pins
-Catch-free, rubber latches are recessed to help stay securely fastened
-Liner and cutting board contain antimicrobial additive that resists odor, mold and mildew
-Dual drains for easy draining from a standard hose or fast 2-in. gate mouth
-Air flow barrier with gasket seal, cork fit lid and liner ridge for extended ice retention
-2.5-in. lid and floor insulation and 2-in. sidewall insulation
-Built-in UV inhibitor helps protect your cooler from the sun’s damaging rays
-Lock slot and tie down points keep your cooler secure
Integrated cutting board, fish ruler and dry storage basket
-Rope handles with durable soft-touch grips
-Dry ice compatible
-External dimensions: 27.4 x 19.6 x 19.6 in. (WxDxH)
-Internal dimensions: 17.1 x 10.5 x 13.4 in. (WxDxH))
-6-year warranty
-Made in the USA (of course a huge positive for us!)

Pros and Cons:

 

Pros:

We tested the 55 quart Esky Cooler in both the All White and Khaki colors over the last few months.  The cooler performed extremely well in the following categories.

Cooling / Insulating performance: The Esky cooler will go toe to toe with any premium cooler that brags about “keeping ice longer”. As long as you secure the rubber latches on the cover, this cooler will keep ice in solid form for up to 5 – 7 days in “normal” conditions.
Rugged Exterior and hardware: The 55 Quart Esky is tough and will probably outlast you!  The latches and hardware are well constructed and will tolerate whatever level of abuse you can dish out.
Antibacterial Properties: The liner and cutting board are constructed out of Antibacterial additive that resists odor, mold and mildew.
Carrying / lugging around: The rope and rubber handles are rugged and allow for a sure grip and easy transport.
Draining: The dual drains allow for a variety of draining situations and you can use a hose thread if you can’t just let the cooler drain where it sits.
NFL Model: ESKY has an NFL team model for those die-hard fans out there!
Head Turner: You’ll get noticed the next time you carry this cooler into your next summer party. People flocked to the ESKY and started checking it out as if we had brought the Lombardi Trophy to the party. It was a great ice breaker…yeah, pun intended!

Cons: – but not really

Ease of latching: This is not really a negative since the latches are designed in such a way that makes them stay secure and hold the lid down with a tight seal. We did test these latches with several women and children and found that some had difficulty with supplying enough strength to open and close the latches. This however can certainly be viewed as a positive if you don’t want small children opening you cooler! With a small amount of practice, the latches actually become easy to use.  Again, this isn’t a knock on ESKY, just something we noticed in our testing.

Grub Boots – Stalking 5.0 APG $136.95

With the price of a good quality pair of waterproof boots approaching that of the latest Iphone these days, the decision on brand and style is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Enter Grubs Footwear!  Grubs Footwear is quickly attracting the attention of avid outdoorsman because of their array of light and moisture wicking insulation options, all in a 100% waterproof and flexible boot that is not going to breakdown with the wear and tear of your hunts.  There are several high-end waterproof boot options available on the market, but the level of traction and comfort had us convinced that Grubs is the new standard for our boot needs. Here’s a look at the Grubs Stalking 5.0 boot in APG Realtree camo.

The 5.0 stands for Grubs 5.0 TECHNOLOGY in which the boots are lined with moisture wicking terry knit, which keeps the wearer dry and has a super stretch to fit most calves. Grubs Footwear have various levels of thickness of insulation, lining and moisture wicking barriers ranging from their 3.5 technology boots all the way up to 12.0 technology boots.  The numbers are essentially the combined measurement of how thick the insulation, lining and barriers are in each boot.  The various levels of thickness for Grubs technology can be seen HERE.

The 5.0 technology of the boot we tested has a 5mm INSU-FOAM ULTRA liner which is a temperature neutral material that keeps feet comfortable in most conditions for a prolonged period. These boots are basically the “Go to” boot for most of the year’s hunting situations. They have enough insulation to keep you comfortable in the cold temps of the Whitetail woods, while wicking enough moisture for a run-and-gun Turkey hunt in the spring.  A great all-around boot that has the top spot as being the most comfortable boot we’ve worn in quite some time.

We wore these boots in a range of temperatures and conditions and we can truthfully say that our feet were never cold, always dry and consistently comfortable. The best way we can describe these boots is as if your most comfortable pair of sneakers was somehow turned into a waterproof, flexible boot! We’ve logged many miles while testing the Grub 5.0 Stalking boots and they are still as comfortable as the day we received them. They’ve held up to the brush and briars that we’ve subjected them too and are still 100% waterproof.

If all of the above is not enough to change your mind, here’s another attempt to prove how well we like these boots. Before testing these boots, we were die-hard LaCrosse footwear fans. Sure we’ve tested other boots before but always kept coming back to the tried and true rubber boot of LaCrosse. The same cannot be said after trying the Grubs 5.0 Stalking boot!  These boots give us more comfort, the same degree of waterproofing and the ability to wick moisture from our feet that rubber boots simply do not have. They also do not breakdown over time like the rubber boot variety  Grubs Footwear just added some new fans from the guys at Heritage Hunters.

Hawaiian Noni Energy Shot ($36 per 12 pack)

Hawaiian Noni Energy Shot is yet another “Energy Boost” found in a small container that gives the consumer a “Shot” of energy to help them with the daily grind. We were intrigued by this brand however because it claims to utilize the Hawaiian Noni fruit. Although the Noni fruit looks like a giant larvae-type mass, its health benefits are well documented and range from pain relief and reducing cholesterol to antibacterial properties and antioxidants for protection against forms of cancer. We decided to give the product a try and see if it would help us with the grind of our NY Deer Season. Here’ our take on the Hawaiian OLA Noni energy shot.

First Impressions: Tropical Fruity taste with some tanginess. This stuff tastes like what I would imagine blending about 10 tropical fruits together would taste like. It has that “full” taste to it in that it feels like you’re drinking a bunch of stuff in a small amount (if that makes any sense!)  There is no “flush” feeling or excitability after drinking the shot, although I need to mention that I am a coffee drinker so the 150mg of caffeine wouldn’t affect me anyway. Out of all the energy shots that I’ve tried over the years, the OLA noni energy shot is one that would be a quick ‘breakfast’ alternative on those days that you’re rushing. It tastes like a small fruity meal in a bottle!

Impact: As with most energy shots, there are many factors that come into play during the daily grind and the energy drains that accompany various situations.  Overall, we noticed no negative side-effects of using this product and we would characterize the energy gains as sustainable throughout our activity.  What you’re getting with this product is the energy boosting ability along with some medicinal benefits that can be incorporated into your daily diet.  In fact, think of Hawaiian OLA noni energy shots as a substitute for “juicing” without the need to clean out the blender!

Summary: Combine the tart and sweet taste of the Hawaiian OLA noni energy shot with the documented medicinal effects of the noni fruit and it’s hard to go wrong with this product.  There are plenty of negative viewpoints on energy drinks these days but the fact that this product is made with 75% blended juices is hard to criticize.

Hi-Tech Hoodie by Scent-Lok ($90 – $100)

The Hi-Tech hoodie from Scent-Lok combines scent elimination and performance fabric into a hooded sweatshirt.  Scent-Lok uses their Carbon Alloy technology to absorb odors.  The way it works is that it uses three types of substances (Activated Carbon, Treated Carbon and the mineral Zeolite) to absorb or “Trap” a large spectrum of odors.  These substances are integrated into the fabric to continually absorb odors.  When the substances are “Full” of odors, a simple re-activation of the garment is necessary by using a household dryer.  Of course all of this “Science” is tough to notice to the average hunter so you’ll basically have to take their word for it and re-activate as often as you see fit.  We stored these hoodies in a tote when we weren’t wearing them and re-activated them after 5 or 6 times in the field.

The moisture wicking fleece material of this hoodie is lighter than we expected but is not really a negative.  It’s more of a base layer for colder temperatures while being perfect for those early season hunts.  The exterior of the hoodie is treated to repel light moisture but then again, it’s not really heavy enough to be the outermost layer in November in New York.  We actually got used to the lighter weight of this hoodie and wore it just under our jackets.  We found this combination to be the best for our temperature ranges in early to late November.

The ¼ zip design was a big draw for us since we usually carry most of our upper layers lashed to our packs and finish dressing once we get to the stand.  The ¼ zip feature makes it easier to do this in the darkness of pre-dawn.

We would have preferred a drawstring at the bottom of the waist of these hoodies to keep our scent in a bit better as well as for a better fit.  This wasn’t an issue as much when we wore the hoodies as one of our base layers but it would have been nice for those early season hunts when we wore it as an outer layer.

We tested the Realtree Xtra pattern as well as the Black hoodie (perfect for ground blinds) and as is the case with all of Scent-Lok’s offerrings, they look sharp, especially the black with the orange stitching.

Overall these hoodies are extremely soft and comfortable to wear.  The stitching and hardware on these hoodies is top notch as is the durability.  If you want a heavier hoodie, Scent-Lok does offer a Carbon Fleece Pullover.  Otherwise, the Hi-Tech hoodie can be worn all season long in a variety of ways.

Turtle Shell Bluetooth 2.0 Speaker by Outdoor Tech. ($130)

Ok, so you likely are not going to be jamming out in the deer woods this season with this speaker but if you’re like us, you want some tunes at Deer Camp.  The Turtle Shell by Outdoor Tech will have you jamming from the beach to the Deer Camp and everywhere in between.  This water resistant, ultra rugged speaker is absolutely amazing!  Not only does it provide booming Hi-Fi sound in a cool design, it allows for hands-free speakerphone use as well.  We put the Turtle Shell 2.0 through the ringer over the last few months and it has exceeded all of our expectations.  We chose to include this product in our Deer Gear preview because it’s the type of gear that you’ll use everywhere if you love music, and we do of course!  From cutting wood to the beach, the camp fire to the garage, we toted this speaker everywhere.   It became an accessory to our cell phone over time and not once did we experience any difficulty with it working flawlessly.

Here are the specs on the Turtle Shell 2.0:

– Two speakers and passive bass radiator provide 96 decibels of clear sound, wirelessly
– Connect to any Bluetooth-enabled device with easy one-touch pairing.
– Reconnects automatically to previously paired device.
– Rechargeable lithium-ion battery with 16 hours of play time, and over 700 hours of standby time.
– IP65 dust-proof and water resistant. Short of submerging this thing in the swimming pool, it can handle getting wet, very wet!
– Built-in microphone
– External controls allow you to adjust volume, change tracks, play/pause and answer calls.
– Standard camera thread and extra strong metal leash clip for multiple mounting options.
– Voice Prompts let you know what is going on.
– Bluetooth Profiles: aptX audio codec for high quality stereo audio, A2DP & AVCRP to control track and volume remotely.
– Bluetooth 4.0 with enhancements like battery level “fuel gauge” displayed on source device, quick pairing/connections, and low power consumption.
– Micro USB charge port gives you freedom to use any micro USB cord you have available, we tried a few and they all worked!
– 3.5mm audio-in port in case you’re still living in the 90’s
– WIRELESS RANGE: 32 feet.
– ITEM SIZE: 5.6 x 3.9 x 2.1 inches. Small enough to fit in the pocket of our shorts!
– ITEM WEIGHT: 0.65 Pounds.
– INCLUDES: USB charging cable, 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable, signature ODT carry pouch, User Manual, and some stickers (we love stickers!)
– Available in 8 different colors! We tested the Blaze Orange one and it fits right in at Deer Camp. Everyone loved it!

We could go on about how much we love this thing but here’s a video that will pretty much sum up our feelings as well as give you a laugh.  Click the Outdoor Tech logo to view the video:

WINDSTOPPER® Soft-Shell Jacket and Pants by LL Bean ($179 -$209)

There’s never any question about the quality and durability of LL Bean products.  The Windstopper Soft Shell jacket and pants in Mossy Oak Break-up are no exception.  These garments will absolutely stand up to the grind of hunting season and keep you dry and comfortable in the elements.  The 3 layer Gore Windstopper fabric with microfleece lining gives you a waterproof barrier as well as a shield from the wind.  The lightweight polyester fabric is quiet and will stretch, giving you a greater range of movement without feeling constricted as you draw on that unsuspecting Whitetail.  The jacket and pants did a beautiful job during our bow season keeping us warm and dry.  The windstopper fabric works as advertised and you won’t have to worry about your base layers getting wet during a pop-up shower or a total downpour! The jacket is not as bulky as the typical outer layer and we were able to pack it in without it taking up as much space.  The breathable fabric of the pants was perfect for the long trek to the stand keeping us from getting overheated.  These garments are durable and of the highest quality.  One look out of the package will show that.

The pockets on both the jacket and pants are all strategically placed and we found them to be useful as well as quiet to open / close during a hunt. The sizing on the Jacket and Pants run a bit more form fitting than usual so we’d suggest ordering a size larger to accommodate layering under the soft-shell. With that stated, this combination of Windstopper Soft-shell Jacket and Pants will be your “Go-to” outer layer for most of the season at Deer Camp!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this version of the Deer Gear Review. As always, feel free to visit the links by clicking on the photos and learn more about the products.

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