You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Field Test: The Best New Hunting and Fishing Gear of the Year

Field and Stream logo Field and Stream 5/15/2020
Best new hunting and fishing gear. © Collage by Field & Stream Best new hunting and fishing gear.

All year long, new hunting and fishing products show up at the offices and front stoops of F&S editors. As I write this, there’s a new turkey decoy, a binocular, and a fly rod sitting in my house, waiting to be unboxed and tested. It’s our responsibility to get them into the field and put them through their paces. I know, it’s a tough job. But what actually is a little tricky is deciding what makes the cut. It comes down to a couple simple rules. We have to really use it before we can write about it, and we have to really like it in order to recommend it. In other words, of the hundreds of products we put our hands on, this is the cream of the crop—the very best hunting and fishing gear of the year. —Dave Hurteau

a close up of a piece of paper: Federal Non-Typical Whitetail .350 Legend • $25 © Federal Premium Federal Non-Typical Whitetail .350 Legend • $25

Editor’s note: We will be adding new entries to this list as the year goes on, so stay tuned.

Federal Non-Typical Whitetail .350 Legend

a close up of a piece of paper: Federal Non-Typical Whitetail .350 Legend • $25 © Provided by Field and Stream Federal Non-Typical Whitetail .350 Legend • $25

I’ve been a fan of the .350 Legend since ­Winchester introduced it, not because it’s any miracle of ballistics or accuracy, but because it’s truly useful to the thousands of deer hunters who live in states that restrict rifle hunters to straight-wall cartridges. Last fall, I used Federal’s Non-Typical Whitetail version of the .350, which is loaded with a 180-grain soft-point bullet, and found that it does exactly what it promises to, which is kill whitetails to 200 yards or so without much fuss, recoil, or money. —Will Brantley

Mystery Ranch Pop-Up 38 Pack

a close up of an animal: Mystery Ranch Pop-Up 38 Pack • $350 © Provided by Field and Stream Mystery Ranch Pop-Up 38 Pack • $350

On the hike in, this is a superb daypack with 2,746 cubic inches of space and all the right pockets and clasps. On the trek out, it’s a serious meat ­hauler, carrying up to 80 pounds. It’s perfect for Western hunters, but it’s also my new favorite ­public-land whitetail pack because I can carry a climbing or lightweight hang-on stand between the pack and the frame. —Dave Hurteau

Simms G4 Pro Wading Jacket

a man wearing a suit and tie: Simms G4 Pro Wading Jacket • $650 © Provided by Field and Stream Simms G4 Pro Wading Jacket • $650

Fifteen minutes earlier, we’d been casting flies to feisty northern pike beneath blue skies. Then, as if someone had flipped a switch, clouds gathered, the wind strengthened, and the lake pulsed with whitecaps. It wasn’t long before the deluge began. These new conditions weren’t ideal for flyfishing—but they were perfect for testing this jacket, which kept me comfortable and bone-dry during the storm. The three-layer Gore-Tex fabric is not just waterproof and warm, but ultra-rugged. Among many smart features, the G4 has two oversize front pockets for fly boxes and other gear, two fleece-lined hand-warmer pockets, and a three-point-adjustable hood. Once I had the jacket on, I traded my fly rod for a spinning rig and a spoon, and went back to catching pike. —Colin Kearns

Bergara B-14R Bolt Action .22LR

a close up of a gun: Bergara B-14R Bolt Action .22LR • $1,150 © Provided by Field and Stream Bergara B-14R Bolt Action .22LR • $1,150

Bergara’s first bolt-action rimfire rifle mirrors its excellent centerfire HMR rifle. It sits in the very same aluminum-infused, injection-molded stock. It takes modified 10-round ACIS magazines. The two-lug, floating-head bolt feels like it belongs on a big gun, and the Spanish-made barrel produces sub-MOA groups at 100 yards (and beyond). Built on a Remington Model 700 footprint, it is compatible with other Model 700 stocks, bases, and triggers. It’s easy to forget that this 9.25-pound beast is a humble .22LR, but that’s the point. It’s designed to be the perfect trainer for centerfire precision-shooting practice, but the B-14R will be a hit in the exploding world of precision rimfire matches too. —Michael R. Shea

Okuma Avenger ABF 500

Okuma Avenger ABF 500 • $50 © Provided by Field and Stream Okuma Avenger ABF 500 • $50

Okuma Avenger spinning reels are known for being smooth, reliable, and easy on the wallet. This ABF 500 is all that, plus it’s the smallest spinner on the market with a bait-­feeding feature, which is essentially a secondary drag system that allows fish to take and eat your bait while feeling very little resistance from the reel—until you turn the handle, which automatically engages the main drag. It’s a handy extra to have if you’re running dough balls or meat rigs for trout, panfish, or ­bullheads. —D.H.

AFTCO Overboard Submersible Shorts

a person wearing a suit and tie: AFTCO Overboard Submersible Shorts • $99 © Provided by Field and Stream AFTCO Overboard Submersible Shorts • $99

AFTCO has been making excellent ­fishing-specific shorts since 1989. Its new Overboard model is made of a stain-resistant, lightweight, four-way-stretch material for all-day comfort and no worries from splashing fish blood. The key feature, however, is a waterproof cellphone pocket on the side, which will keep you from drowning your precious lifeline. —Pete ­Robbins

Weatherby Backcountry Ti in 6.5 Weatherby RPM

a close up of a gun: Weatherby Backcountry Ti in 6.5 Weatherby RPM • $3,349 © Provided by Field and Stream Weatherby Backcountry Ti in 6.5 Weatherby RPM • $3,349

With this rifle and cartridge, Weatherby has reestablished itself as an innovator in the hunting realm. The rifle combines titanium, carbon fiber, and 3-D printing technology in a 5-pound 1-ounce package that’s a delight to shoot. The 6.5 RPM is a high-performance, but balanced, 6.5mm round built on the principles of modern cartridge design. Available in your choice of three bullets, the cartridge drives the 140-grain Nosler Accubond at 3075 fps, the 140-grain Hornady Interlock at 2975 fps, and the 127-grain Barnes LRX at 3225 fps. Together, rifle and cartridge are a dream combo for mountain hunting. —John B. Snow

Waterworks Lamson Guru S Fly Reel

a large clock mounted to the side: Waterworks Lamson Guru S Fly Reel • Starts at $259 © Provided by Field and Stream Waterworks Lamson Guru S Fly Reel • Starts at $259

Since the original debuted in 2013, the Guru has been a hit because it’s a lot of reel for the money. This latest iteration is more reel than ever. Fully machined in the U.S. from 6061 aluminum and sporting ­Lamson’s sealed-conical drag, the S has a larger ­arbor diameter and

a close up of an animal: Mystery Ranch Pop-Up 38 Pack • $350 © Mystery Ranch Mystery Ranch Pop-Up 38 Pack • $350

narrower spool for better line lay and pickup, plus an integrated counterweight for smoother performance. But it is less reel in one respect: This is the lightest Guru Lamson has ever made. —D.H.

Winchester AA Diamond Grade Target Loads

a close up of a bottle: Winchester AA Diamond Grade Target Loads • $9–$11 per box of 25 © Provided by Field and Stream Winchester AA Diamond Grade Target Loads • $9–$11 per box of 25

Winchester has packed the best pellets available into its new target ammo. The lead is alloyed with 8 percent antimony (other premium shells use 5 or 6 percent) to make it extra-hard for more efficient patterns. The copper-plated pellets are sorted for uniformity. The loads (12 gauge, 1- and 11⁄8-ounce) have ­recoil-­softening AA wads and reloadable AA hulls. —Phil Bourjaily

JSJ/River2Sea Trigger Trout Swimbait

a close up of a fish: JSJ/River2Sea Trigger Trout Swimbait • $29 © Provided by Field and Stream JSJ/River2Sea Trigger Trout Swimbait • $29

JSJ may not be known to a wide audience, but its creations are well-regarded among swimbait freaks. Now it has partnered with River2Sea, which markets lures like the Whopper Plopper, to offer the new Trigger Trout, a 7½-inch-long, soft-plastic rainbow trout imitation designed to temp the biggest bass. The lure weighs a full 3 ounces and comes with a custom screw-lock hook. But its coolest feature is the tail’s “dual plane tail rotation,” which is a fancy way of saying that it kicks like crazy to trigger bites from hawg largemouths. —P.R.

Benchmade 533 Mini Bugout

a close up of a knife: Benchmade 533 Mini Bugout • $160 © Provided by Field and Stream Benchmade 533 Mini Bugout • $160

This new pocketknife from Benchmade may be the perfect expression of an EDC knife. As its name suggests, the 533 Mini is a scaled-down version of Benchmade’s popular Bugout. The Mini weighs just 1.5 ounces and is less than 4 inches closed. It comes with a reversible, “deep-carry” clip, and the drop-point blade is made of CPM-S30V steel, measures 2.82 inches, and keeps an edge that’s more than sharp enough to tackle whatever you encounter in your everyday life. —C.K.

Fabarm ELOS N2 Allsport XL

a close up of a gun: Fabarm ELOS N2 Allsport XL • $3,125 © Provided by Field and Stream Fabarm ELOS N2 Allsport XL • $3,125

With interchangeable ribs that can be swapped in seconds, the Allsport XL is a do-it-all competition gun for trap, skeet, and sporting clays. The high rib gives a 65/35 POI for trap targets; the low rib delivers a 50/50 pattern for sporting clays and skeet. Recoil-pad options let you alter length of pull. Trigger weight and reach are tunable, and the comb is fully adjustable. It’s available with 30- or 32-inch barrels; left-handed versions cost an extra $125. —J.B.S.

Elite Ember Bow

a crane in the background: Elite Ember Bow • $499 © Provided by Field and Stream Elite Ember Bow • $499

The Ember is perfect for youngsters, but it’s no toy. Riser, limb pockets, cams, and mods are made of ­aluminum, plus you get a ­Winner’s Choice string and integrated limb stops. Draw length adjusts from 15 to 29 inches, draw weight from 10 to 60 pounds. Specs are 31¼ inches axle-to-axle, 6¼-inch brace height, 3.6 pounds, and up to 310 IBO. —D.H.

Abu-Garcia Revo SX Rocket

a close up of a motorcycle: Abu-Garcia Revo SX Rocket • $180 © Provided by Field and Stream Abu-Garcia Revo SX Rocket • $180

Abu-Garcia has made the Revo Rocket series even more affordable for 2020, but the company hasn’t sacrificed any quality on this 9:1 burner. The SX has a sturdy alloy construction, nine ball bearings and one roller bearing, and a powerful Carbon Matrix drag system that was once thought to be incompatible with ultrafast retrieves. The reel picks up 37 inches of line for each turn of the handle, which is perfect when you need to quickly fire another cast or gain line on a fish. Plus, the black frame with red accents just looks fast. —P.R.

RCBS Matchmaster

a close up of a device: RCBS Matchmaster • $899 © Provided by Field and Stream RCBS Matchmaster • $899

The new Matchmaster is a major improvement over RCBS’s Chargemaster line. Two powder tubes ­combined with intelligent software allow it to deliver hyper-accurate powder charges quickly while minimizing overthrows. The scale is accurate to within .04 grain. Depending on the setting and powder type, it will throw a ­competition-worthy charge in 25 seconds or less. —J.B.S.

Falcon Lowrider Traveler Rods

a screenshot of a computer: Falcon Lowrider Traveler Rods • $150 © Provided by Field and Stream Falcon Lowrider Traveler Rods • $150

Falcon Rods is now offering its excellent Lowrider model in a pair of multipiece sticks purpose-built for travel. Offered in a 7-foot medium-action spinning model and a 7-foot medium-heavy casting version, the new Traveler rods come in three pieces and feature ­Tangle-Free K Frame guides and Fuji blank-through reel seats. They also come with a three-­sectioned, Cordura-covered hard case with the rod’s specifications written on the outside. Most important, both the rods and their cases are built to take a beating, on the water and in the airport. And given the quality, they’re a solid value too. —P.R.

a screenshot of a computer: Falcon Lowrider Traveler Rods • $150

Falcon Lowrider Traveler Rods • $150
© Falcon
AdChoices
AdChoices

More from Field and Stream

Field and Stream
Field and Stream
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon