Bush-savvy gear

Ben Unten road-tests the latest clothing, gaiters and game bags from Spika

Spika is an Australian owned and operated company based in Victoria and Australian Shooter was grateful for the opportunity to review some of their latest product offerings including Xone pants, a Gridfleece top, game bags and snake-resistant gaiters.

Xone pants

This technical item of clothing is designed as a top layer and is mid-weight yet comfortable enough to wear as a lightweight garment. It’s definitely burr-resistant and has a number of clever features such as a versatile break-up camo pattern, built-in adjustable belt over a press stud closer, a shoelace clip to stop the legs from riding up (so they double as a sock-saver of sorts) and an adjustable ankle cuff which lets you tighten or loosen it to form a snug fit around your boots.

I was impressed by the front/side pockets which include two standard, open pockets (like you’d find on your favourite pair of jeans) along with a lower pair sealed with a zipper and there’s also a rear zipper-sealed pocket. The pants are extremely comfortable to wear thanks to a stretchy material and two zippered side ventilation strips about 300mm long, running from mid-thigh to below the knee. Unzipping these exposes the inner mesh and allows for easier cooling via improved exposure to breeze.

They’re wind-resistant but still breathable and DWR-treated (durable water repellent). The oversized belt loops are a big plus for hunters who like to wear hobble-type belts (as I do) and I wore these pants during a daytime hunt where the burr-resistance and comfort were put to the test and passed with flying colours. I then zipped them up for a spotlighting session that night and was equally comfortable. RRP $159.95.

Gridfleece zip top

Designed as a base or mid-layer, the qualities of this top allowed me to wear it as a standalone garment during an early spring hunt. It has a unique Gridfleece construction which appears on the inside surface as a series of roughly 5x5mm squares, designed to distribute body heat more evenly. Some clever features include thumbholes, a large chest pocket and three-quarter length YKK zipper which is deep enough to allow you to lose heat rapidly when required, yet runs right up under your chin to provide extra warmth for your neck in cooler weather.

I wore it as a standalone top for hunting during the day with temps in the low 20s when my hunting partner and I stalked in on a feral pig. Thanks to the break-up camo pattern we moved to within 115m and I felt comfortable behind the stock as the trigger was squeezed and the pig dropped on the spot. We went back to the ute before taking photos and I took the opportunity to put on a thermal t-shirt under the Gridfleece before we returned to the pig for photos and to start a spotlighting session.

The evening temperature drop was no problem thanks to the Gridfleece design and I was lucky enough to come across a young fallow doe (currently legal to take under lights in New South Wales). After ranging her at 228m I squeezed the trigger and some prime cuts of tender venison were soon ageing nicely in the fridge. I found the Gridfleece top very comfortable and practical to wear for both daytime and night duties and couldn’t fault it. RRP $129.95.

Strike gaiters

At time of writing (early spring) the ‘Joe Blakes’ are out early and, off the back of a mouse plague in much of regional NSW, their numbers are reportedly much higher than in recent years. The only thing better than a snakebite kit in your backpack – which everyone should carry and know how to use – is to avoid being bitten in the first place. These Strike gaiters are snakebite resistant, though Spika also offer the Ranger gaiters which are not bite-resistant.

Made from heavy duty polyurethane bonded canvas, Strike gaiters cover the entire lower leg and have two methods of attachment which run under your boot just in front of the heel, with the upper section secured to stop them riding up and leaving any flesh exposed. The first is a bootlace clip (secured with two rivets) and there’s also an adjustable wire-strap which runs under your boot, while the upper section is fastened by an adjustable buckle.

The Strike is able to be fully opened out so you don’t need to take your boots off to put them on or remove them. They’re secured via an inner YKK zipper and extra-strong exterior Velcro with a press stud at the base, ensuring double protection against the gaiter inadvertently opening to leave your leg exposed.

They’re DWR-treated to help repel water and while I couldn’t find any volunteers to let a snake bite them, an online search threw up footage of snakes unable to pop an inflated balloon inside a Strike gaiter along with a crazy snake expert letting a number of venomous serpents, including a tiger snake, bite the Strike gaiters while he was wearing them (please don’t try this at home!) Gaiters aren’t the most comfortable item of clothing ever invented but these fit well and are way more preferable to dealing with snakebites in the bush. RRP $149.95.

Game bags

If you harvest meat from the field you need game bags so forget those perfumed garbage sacks which taint the flavour, rip easily and can cause the meat to sweat. Drover meat bags are available in a three-pack set featuring two large and one small and having multiple sizes in one pack is clever, as it removes the guesswork yet still caters to a huge variety of game animals.

The small bag has a 44L capacity at 440mm x 720mm while the large one has a 113L capacity at 600mm x 995mm. They’re bright orange in colour with reflective tabs, both excellent features which give the bags the potential for multi-purpose use as they’re easy to spot at night and can be used as a signaling aid.

Another clever feature is their ability to fold down into an internal pocket which takes minimal room in your pack and makes them easy to store. Made from synthetic fabric they’re drawstring closable, breathable and machine washable. I hung meat by the drawstrings overnight to stop it from becoming an easy meal for any passing vermin then packed it into an esky for the trip home.

I appreciated having a range of bags when dressing a fallow doe as one hindquarter accidentally made contact with the ground, so I was able to put it in its own bag to minimise cross-contamination. The three-bag set retails for $89.95 with individual bags available separately. All these products are just a few from the huge range Spika has to offer, so for more information and a list of stockists visit www.spika.com.au

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