Browning Featherlight Clothing
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- Last updated: 26/01/2017
The Browning name is so closely associated with firearms that some might take its clothing and accessory ranges for mere catalogue-fillers or an exercise in brand extension. This would be a mistake, since, whilst Browning don’t make these items themselves, they nevertheless put real thought into their design and specification, and genuine care into ensuring quality.
If you read my review of their Hell’s Canyon range, you’ll already know why I jumped at the chance to try out their latest Featherlight series (not to be confused with their Featherweight Stalker range). As the name suggests, the core principle here is minimising weight, but what really counts is that this has been done without compromising weather-resistance, durability, stealth, practicality or style. The series is essentially a single outfit, consisting of a matching jacket and trousers and a quilted gillet. Browning have a variety of caps and gloves you could add to complement the outfit, but I shall stick to looking at the three aforementioned items here. First: the gilet.
With an outer layer of olivegreen rip-stop nylon that is soft but shower-resistant, two deep hand-warmer pockets with zip closures, a double-ended front zip, a high collar and lowered rear hem-line – complete with an adjustable elasticated draw-cord – to keep out drafts, and a discreet black Browning Buckmark decal on the left breast, it’s already looking good. The best bit is when you pick it up, though, as it really is featherlight. This is due to a filling of Primaloft, a synthetic insulating material originally developed for the U.S. Army as a replacement for natural down in parkas and sleeping bags, and which is now an industry standard in outdoor gear. Despite being remarkably light, the fibres are densely compressed, minimising both bulk and wind-chill; and even though the gilet can be rolled up and squeezed down tightly so as to fit a pouch or pocket, the filling won’t clump up.
A further property of this remarkable material is that its insulating properties are virtually unaffected by moisture. Indeed, a special coating means its fibres actively repel water for faster drying. So, Browning’s Featherlight gilet will keep you warm even if you get soaked… but avoiding this in the first place is where the remaining items come in.
The jacket and trousers are made from a light, flexible and slightly elastic laminated material called PreVent that bonds a semi-permeable membrane between tough, wind-and-waterresistant outer layers. There’s also a full-length mesh liner that forms an isolation layer, drawing moisture away from the body for the PreVent to deal with.
For extra comfort, and to resist abrasion, the elbows and knees are reinforced with lightly-padded, contour-stitched patches in a darker tone that perfectly complements the brownish-olive colour of the rest of the suit. True, additional patches might have been added at the shoulders, seat and ankles, but this sort of ‘mission creep’ would have gone against the Featherlight concept. To complement its weatherresistant fabric, all the external zips on the jacket – on the breast pocket, on the two front cargo pockets, on the doubleended rear game pocket, and up the front – are of the waterproof kind, whilst the jacket cuffs feature adjustable hook-and-loop closures with long rubberised tabs for ease of use and durability.
A high collar, faced with soft ribbed fleece and a lowered rear hem-line incorporating an adjustable elasticated drawcord also do their bit to keep the elements at bay, as does a lightweight hood that folds out from a zipped pocket in the collar when needed. The same darkolive nylon used for the hood is also found in the game pocket, giving it a wipe-clean lining.
Storage is excellent, the aforementioned jacket pockets being well-placed, generouslysized and supplemented by an inner breast pocket with a zip. Browning’s attention to detail is apparent in the fact that all the external zips have ‘garages’ to prevent moisture getting in at the end, and sliders equipped with grippy polymer tabs moulded onto tough braided pulls. Most of the external zips also open downwards, ensuring the garages act as hoods rather than cups for moisture.
An exception is the outer breast pocket, where the orientation is reversed, perhaps because it was felt that the pull would get in the way if placed at the top. I was also a little surprised that a single-ended zip had been chosen for the front of the jacket, but Browning tell me that this was done so as not to compromise its overall weather resistance. Fair enough, but it does mean that when sitting with the jacket done up it’s either tight at the front or high at the back. The answer, I suppose, is that the design is aimed at the active, rather than the static hunter!
A similar observation might be made about the collars of the gilet and the jacket. Perhaps I have an unusually short neck, but both collars come up too high under my chin when zipped to the top, and I have to drop the sliders an inch or two for comfort.
In all other respects, however, Browning have done an excellent job of combining ease-of-movement with a smart, tailored look; and if the rather boyish cut of the trousers won’t necessarily suit – let’s put it politely – the bon viveurs of the shooting community, others may well find it flattering. Those with longer legs needn’t worry either and, as there are no half-zips or tabs, the less lofty will appreciate ankles that are easy to tuck up or in.
The trousers have six pockets: a pair of cargo pockets with waterproof zips, a pair of front pockets with angled openings, and on the righthand side a back pocket with a protective flap and a fine zip for comfort, plus a knife pocket on the leg. At the waist there’s a parallel band with eight wide loops, and double buttonfastening tabs – much better than snap fasteners or clips – above a zippered front fly.
To sum up, the Featherlight is not a year-round, allpurpose outfit, but rather one designed for the more temperate seasons and the more active hunter. As such, the PrimaLoft gilet, which can be easily carried in a small stuff-sack (though unfortunately it isn’t supplied with one), supplements it perfectly, giving you the extra insulation you need when you stop to rest, watch or wait, or whenever the temperature drops. Add the right under-layers, however, and you could happily hunt in comfort for most of the year.
So if you’re looking for a comfortable, practical and lightweight hunting suit with international styling, from a famous brand you can trust and at a sensible price… well, now you know where to look.
Jacket (Parka): £189.99;
Trousers (Pant): £99.99;
gilet (Vest): £99.99.
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