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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Kakadu Traders Kelly CC Vest > Owner Review by Kathleen Waters

JUNE 28, 2012



NAME: Kathleen Waters
EMAIL: kathy at backpackgeartest dot com
AGE: 61
LOCATION: Canon City, Colorado, USA
HEIGHT: 5' 4" (1.60 m)
WEIGHT: 125 lb (56.70 kg)

Living in Colorado and being self-employed, I have ample opportunities to backpack. There are over 700,000 acres/280,000 hectares of public land bordering my 71-acre/29-hectare "backyard" in addition to all the other gorgeous locations which abound in Colorado. Over the past 15 years, my husband John and I have also had the good fortune to hike/snowshoe glaciers, rain forests, mountains and deserts in exotic locations, including New Zealand, Iceland, Costa Rica, Slovenia and Death Valley. My hiking style is comfortable, aiming for lightweight. I use a tent (rainfly if needed). Current pack averages 25 lb (11 kg) excluding food and water.


Manufacturer: Kakadu Traders Australia
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Model/Style: 8MV03
Manufacturer's Website:

MSRP: US $129.99
Listed Weight: NA
Measured Weight: 33.5 oz (950 g)
Measured Torso Length: 19 in (48 cm) - measured from collar bottom to waist

Sizes Available: XS to 4XL
Size Reviewed: XS
Reviewer's Chest Size: 37 in (94 cm)
Reviewer's Torso Length: 24.5 in (62 cm)

Colors Available: Taupe, Loden Green, Mustard, Black, Tobacco & Blue
Color Reviewed Tobacco

Other details: The "CC" in the style name stands for "concealed carry". This vest features an interior pocket for a firearm.
Kelly CC Vest
Photo Courtesy of Kakadu


The Kelly CC Vest is a classic, western-style vest. The "CC" in the product style name stands for "concealed carry" and describes the most prominent feature of this vest - Kakadu's Concealed Carry Internal System (CCIS). Two internal pockets, one on the left and one on the right for both left and right front concealed carry facilities are lined with black cotton and come with "anti-imprint pads". These pads are removable via an interior zipper in the lining and are held in place by two hook-and-loop strips for added flexibility and/or for cleaning (washing).
Pocket Flap The Gunn-Worn canvas has the appearance of denim and the vest body is topped with a washable cowhide leather collar. Kakadu's Gunn-Worn canvas is a tough canvas fabric scrubbed down to give it a "rugged vintage finish". Depending on the purpose, different canvas weights are used: 5 oz (142 g) for lighter wear, 10 oz (283 g) for tougher wear - the Kelly CC Vest is 10 oz (283 g).

Construction of the vest is trim, yet non-constricting with double front yokes, a paneled back with a nifty hanger loop and adjustable side tabs at the waist.

There is a hefty front, top-to-bottom, brass zipper. Chest flaps cover two welted chest-high external pockets accented with stamped Kakadu logo metal buttons and corner rivets. Additionally, two side entry hand-warmer pockets with roomy 6 in (15 cm) openings complete the Kelly's storage options.


My husband, John, owns two of these vests and when I got the chance to get one of my own, I grabbed it with gusto! Almost all of our backpacking takes place in the Rocky Mountains where mountain lions, bobcats, bears and other (sometimes) scary wildlife abound. My personal phobic critter is the rattlesnake. For this reason, John has always carried a firearm and when he discovered the Kakadu Kelly CC vest, he had to have one. Since I often am out in the backcountry by myself, this past year I decided to also get my concealed carry (cc) permit and so I too, needed an easily accessible way to pack a weapon. Since I really liked the style of John's vest, I ordered my own. There isn't a women's version, so after talking with Kakadu, I determined an "XS" would probably work. It fits perfectly! I do have the side tabs pulled as tightly as possible though to gain just the slightest bit of feminine shaping.

I am partial to vests on the trail because it gives me core warmth, yet affords me the freedom of arm movement I prefer when backpacking. In even temperatures 5 to 10 below freezing, I can stay toasty with the Kelly layered over the top of my favorite wool base layer and a light synthetic fleece mid-layer. While I love my down vest, I find the Kelly canvas is actually better at keeping stiff winds at bay. Besides, my down vest doesn't have pockets and that is a negative for me. I have found though that the Kelly is too warm for me for any activity when the temperature is over 70 F (21 C) and for strenuous (steep uphill climbs) activity when above 45 F (7C). I make it a point to leave the vest behind then as it is very heavy and too bulky for stuffing into my backpack.

For the same reason - weight - I don't wear the Kelly when rain is in the forecast. Even the thought of putting on a rain shell over the vest makes me sweat and the canvas is not waterproof though it will keep a drizzle at bay. I am thinking about applying a waterproofing wax to it.
Obviously, the main reason I wear the Kelly vest backpacking is for the CC feature. I am right-handed, so I use the left pocket of the vest for my firearm. The pocket encompasses almost the entire front of the vest and has a stretchy "holder" for my weapon as well as separate additional compartments for two clips. The construction of the pocket is such that even when it is loaded (no pun intended), to a casual observer there isn't any detectable bulge or any hint of its contents. A removable pad attached within the lining of the Kelly provides extra coverage to conceal the fact that I'm carrying. The right side pocket is a mirror of the left.

Accessibility is key as if and when I ever need to draw a firearm to defend myself, I most likely won't have time - or the necessary nerves of steel - to fumble around a backpack. With the very large interior opening, I can quickly unzip (if necessary), slip my hand into the vest pocket and withdraw smoothly without catching on any stray straps, belts or whatever. And though it is easy for me to access my firearm, the hook-and-loop closure securely holds it in place.
Conceal Panel

Depending on which backpack I use, I do have to unclip the chest strap to reach into the interior pocket and though it readily fits, I can't carry my larger firearm (.38) with any backpack due to the waist belts. I'm simply too short in the torso to do so. Not really a problem since my biggest fear on the trail is rattlesnakes and my smaller firearm (.380) fits nicely.
.38 in pocket
.38 in Holster
.380 in pocket
.380 in Holster

The roomy exterior hand warmer pockets are a good size; big enough for me to carry my small digital camera in one and my cell phone and an energy bar or a couple of gels in the other and still jam my hands in them if I choose to do so. I've never used the upper chest pockets for anything though, actually, I've never even unbuttoned them.

I've worn the Kelly on at least a dozen backpacking trips and incalculable casual, about-town occasions over the past year and am happy to say, it hasn't shown any sign of stress. Despite numerous brushes against prickly vegetation and close encounters with sticky pine sap, the vest still looks very spiffy. For the sake of this review, I did wash it just recently in cold water with other dark wash on a normal wash cycle with a mild powdered laundry detergent. I used a wooden coat hanger to let it air dry outside over night. The next morning, I put a leather conditioning wax on the collar just for some extra protection. The vest looks fantastic and is now ready to hit the trails again (as soon as the weather cools a bit).


1.) A great alternative to a mid-weight jacket - vest styling leaves my arms room to move freely.
2.) Trim fit, but still roomy enough to layer over base layers and/or a light fleece.
3.) Wears like iron! After a year, doesn't show any wear from grabby pine branches.
4.) Lots of pocket space for items I want to keep close at hand, including a firearm.


1.) Too warm to wear in hot weather.
2.) The bulk of the vest is too great to even consider carrying in my backpack.


Wearing Kelly Vest in Cooper Mountain
Kelly Vest on the Trail in Cooper Mountain Range
When I got the Kelly CC Vest, I was excited and now that I've had it for almost a year, I'm still excited (to wear it)! I find I'm grabbing it off its hanger whenever I'm going to hit the trails and the weather is cooperatively not blazing hot. Having the concealed carry pocket is very important to me because mountain lions, bobcat and bears are prevalent in the locations I frequently explore. Heck, wildlife is often right outside my door! While I haven't had to actually use it, I'm more relaxed knowing I can easily reach my "protection".

With or without a weapon, the Kelly has ample pocket space for other items I want close at hand and I like that - a lot!

While style isn't the first thing I consider in outdoor/backpacking wear, with this vest I am confident I won't get raised eyebrows when I stumble into a town after a couple of days in the backcountry. Well, the raised eyebrows won't be because of the vest, anyway! The Kelly CC Vest is trim, hides dirt well and hasn't show any signs of wear after a year of abuse. I think I'll keep it and maybe get another one - loden green, maybe?

Kathleen (Kathy) Waters

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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