I’m becoming of an age where I guess I would be considered an “old school” waterfowler. I’m in my early 40s, been waterfowl hunting since I could pick up a gun, and I don’t like to mess around with subpar gear. Quite frankly, I don’t have the patience or time for cheap or inadequate stuff. So with that being said, the same has always gone for my layout blinds.
I’ve broken so many layout blinds that I have a graveyard of blinds and parts in my shop. Cheap and untested gear ends up trashed over the course of a season. I hunt hard, and I need gear that can stand the test of time. I’ve broken down my favorite hunting backrests in the past, so it was only time that I started talking about layout blinds.
The History of Layout Blinds
I can remember buying my first Final Approach Eliminator when it first came out. It was one of the originals, and the thing was huge. It has the original Mossy Oak Shadow Grass camouflage, which is still one of my favorites to this day. It was new, so the birds fell for it but over time, there were a lot of layout blinds for sale that were more appealing.
So with that being said, let’s jump into what I’m looking for when I pick out my go-to layout blind.
What Features Are Important for All Layout Blinds
I’ve owned a lot of layout blinds through the years, but many of them were a pain to setup. Often the fabric was too tight, making you have to STRETCH to make it fit. Awful. Nowadays, I like those that just need a few easy pins to pop in and DONE. That’s really the way it should be.
If you’re a goose hunter, then you know that you often have to move your blind around during the hunt in an instant. The birds may not be finishing right, the wind may have picked up or let down, etc. But you know you have to move. This is where it’s nice to have a lightweight layout blind that holds all of your gear that you can move quickly when needed.
Also, it helps to have a backpack-style layout blind so you can walk-in if you’re dealing with wet fields.
Low Profile Layout Blinds
One of the biggest if not THE biggest drawbacks of layout blinds is the shadows they cast. If the sun is shining, it’s literally unavoidable. And if you have a BIG blind it casts a BIG shadow for the birds to pick you out. Enough said. I like to have the lowest-profile blind possible without sacrificing comfort.
Low-profile blinds are not only easier to conceal the shadows, but usually don’t take as long to stuff all the stubble straps.
Don’t be that guy that brings the largest layout blind in history and barely stubbles it during the hunt. You’re probably the reason why hunting isn’t what it should be.
This should almost go without saying, but most waterfowl layout blinds are not waterproof that I’ve owned through the years. I’ve done A LOT of spring snow goose hunting with layout blinds through the years and by the end of the day, your blind is typically soaked.
Nowadays, if you look, you can find models that are, in fact, waterproof along the bottom. This is very important to me, and I will not buy another layout blind that isn’t waterproof again.
Most blinds may seem comfortable when you first lay in them, but give them a few hours and tell me how you feel. I have a bad back, so having a comfortable layout blind is one of the most important features. Especially if you’re hunting long days, or in the case of spring goose hunting, all day.
So with that being said, if you plan to spend a lot of time in your blind, then I suggest you pay for the better blinds out there. Usually, it’s hard to find good comfort in the cheaper models.
Camo Doesn’t Matter
If you’re using your blind properly, then the camo that it may come with really doesn’t matter. Why? Well, first of all, the first thing you should do when you get your new blind home is to mud it completely. This eliminates any shine and dulls the camo. If the blind I’m interested in is available in khaki, I usually purchase that model. It’s cheaper anyway.
And when you’re in the field, most situations call for a lot of stubble stuffing. If you literally fill every strap, you shouldn’t see what camouflage it is as well. Good waterfowl hunters always pay attention to detail, and this is one of those situations you should take seriously.
What Blinds Do I Recommend?
ALPS OutdoorZ Legend Layout Blind
This is one of the new guys on the block for making layout blinds. The Legend model is a cross between comfort and a low profile…nice. What they do differently is they use a zero-gravity backrest system that keeps your feet off the floor.
I’ve done a lot of research on this from “big” hunters and it appears its size is enough for them overall. The one complaint is the mesh is a bit close to your face but other than that, the reviews are high all around.
This blind is pretty practical with zippers in the sides for flagging and in the back to get at your gear. It weighs 25 pounds and has straps for carrying in (if necessary).
The price tag is a tad on the higher side but with layout blinds, you typically get what you pay for, in my experience.
Final Approach S.U.B.
If you’re looking for a cheaper blind that has many great features and lasts, The Final Approach S.U.B. layout blind may be the option for you.
I have 3 of these blinds and they are all still in use (when I need extras). This is really a no-frills, no-thrills blind. It’s very simple, which is both good and bad.
It is on the lighter side as it only weighs 18 pounds. The floor is waterproof, but on the sides so keep that in mind.
It comes in a variety of camo patterns if that matters to you, as well as a khaki option. For the price, you can almost get 2 for the same price as one of the high-end versions.
If you’ve been around waterfowl awhile you know the brand Final Approach. They’ve been making blinds as long as anyone, so they should be trusted overall.
Hard Core Deluxe Man Cave
I’m new to Hard Core blinds, so I had to really look into this one. What interested me most about this blind was that it’s a no-pin plan which was designed for fast setup and takedown. I’ve seen this attempted poorly by other brands in the past but this one appears to be solid.
Another nice feature to this blind is it’s waterproof in up to 6 inches of water. This is nice if you’re hunting the swamps in the fall or melting fields in the spring.
Like others, it has 2 flag ports and is fairly comfortable. It’s a bigger blind so it will cast one of the larger shadows of the bunch too.
This blind is also on the higher price side, and you’re paying for the brand on this one. Not a bad option if you like Hard Core stuff.
Avery Outdoors Finisher Layout Blind
The Finisher layout blind is one of the oldest blinds on the market today, if not THE oldest. I’m not exactly sure the year it launched. I’m sure it’s over 20 years ago…
Because the design has not changed much through the years, it’s stayed tried and true. It’s one of the lightest blinds at only 18 pounds. So if you’re a portable type of hunter, this would be a great option.
It’s constructed of heavy-duty material with an 1800 denier floor and a 900 denier base. That’s pretty thick and is what you need to make them last.
The Finisher also folds up small and doesn’t take a lot of room. The layout blind will also be in the discussion as one of the most reliable blinds of all time. So keep that in mind that you’re buying a legend in the field.
Tanglefree Flight Series Layout Blind
This blind I have mixed feelings on. It’s a very low profile and comfortable blind, but it’s very expensive. Why? Well, I’m assuming because it has the OptiFade camo pattern by Sitka, so that’s probably the reason.
It’s made of a thinner material that some of the other layout blinds listed (only 600 denier fabric), so I’m concerned about its longevity.
It is light at only 19 pounds as well. It has bonus add-ons that you have to pay for, not sure why they just weren’t added in the first place, in my opinion (such as a travel carrier).
But all in all, this is another solid blind for those who spend a lot of time in their blinds and want comfort.
Recap of Layout Blinds
To be honest, I think most hunters will be happy with any of the 5 listed. It all comes down to the little things and features that may set them apart.
I’ve owned so many blinds through the years that I’ve literally lost count. I’ve also helped with field testing for a couple of blind manufacturers in the past, so I’ve got a lot of experience in picking out problems.
If I were to rank the 5 it would probably be in the order listed. Good luck in the field and let ‘em work close!