Prada. Givenchy. Louis Vitton. Haute couture. Avant-Garde. These names might not ring a bell but to someone following high fashion they mean everything. Hunters have a different set of brands and important features they prefer. Browning. Nomad. Under Armour. Waterproof. Silent. Scent Blocking. Camouflaged. The combination of needed attributes will change based on the climate, terrain and game which you hunt.
No matter the type of hunt or weather patterns you will encounter layers are always a man’s best friend. These simple additions to your wardrobe will allow you to keep the best ambient temperature and dryness while in the field. Your activity level in the field will also determine which layers are best. While hiking in to your stand or blind it is best to have minimal layers on to avoid overheating. Once you arrive to your destination you will often need to add on a layer because of your lack of activity level will drop your core temperature quickly if not protected.
Base layers, or the antiquated long underwear, can be one of the most crucial pieces. Base layers of synthetic or merino wool will quickly wick away moisture from your skin. When it is hot or you are hiking up a hill you will want to be as dry as possible. Base layer is also great if you are staying in a tent or hunt camp. You can strip away the outer layers to dry over the fire yet keep on your base layer to continue to wick away moisture as you sleep. It is best to sleep with breathable materials on because sleeping drops your core temperature with the change in metabolism which can cause you to sweat or clam up. A wicking base layer will help you avoid waking up cold and clammy. Base layers are not only long pants and long sleeved tops. Having a short sleeve top and boxer briefs of merino wool will help keep you cool on the spring turkey or summer hog hunts. Base layers aren’t only to keep you warm in cold weather but to help you stay dry in warm climates. I consider socks to be a part of the base layer. I prefer Merino wool socks for their superior ability to keep feet warm and reduce hot spots sometimes seen with synthetics. Always carry an extra pair of socks in case your feet get wet.
The next step in your system should be the mid-layer insulating pieces. These can be taken off according to the temperature and level of your activity. High performance pieces are available from most brands which incorporate odor blocking, silent and even bug repellent materials. A fleece windproof hoody is perfect to keep the wind and bite off of you. A merino wool quarter zip can provide the second level of protection needed when the temps dip just a little. Based on your hunt and the perils you will encounter you can find a mid-layer that works best.
Outer layer insulating pieces will be required if you hunt climates in which you encounter heavy winds, rain, snow or cold temperatures. Down or synthetic layers will help to retain body heat. Down is the best insulation except if it gets wet. Most synthetic downs will still insulate even when wet. Vests are a great way to keep in core warmth without the heavy bulk of sleeves. Don’t forget about insulating pants or bibs too. Quiet materials are vital in the field. You might be walking to your stand, stalking an elk or even a quick shift in your chair to grab your bow; you won’t want to make any unnecessary noise.
If you will be hunting in foggy, rainy or snowy weather a waterproof shell will help you remain dry and complete your hunting clothing system. Taped seams and a brushed waterproof shell will keep you dry, warm and silent in any condition. A packable rain suit is best to keep bulk down. Wind protection is crucial in almost any hunt. A great way to test hunting clothing for wind resistance is to place your hand inside the fabric and blow on the outside. If you can’t feel your breath the fabric is windproof.
A few overlooked pieces are hats, gloves and gaiters. Typically hunting with a brimmed hat and a beanie will offer protection from the sun and also allow for you to stay warm. I typically bring out two pairs of gloves when hunting. A liner glove will allow you to keep dexterity yet protect from the elements. A pair of cold weather gloves in your pack will insulate in cold, windy, rainy or late season winter conditions. Leg gaiters are a life saver when walking through the terrain, keeping out moisture from dewy plants, creek crossings or even snow. Gaiters will also block insects and burrs from tearing up your legs. Neck gaiters will help keep the sun and bugs off your face when it’s hot and add a layer of warmth when the cold wind picks up.
Technologies in hunting clothing aren’t limited to wind, water and warmth. Scent blocking or odor control can be as equally important as the layer system. We can try to stay up wind from the prey but it doesn’t always work in our favor as a hunter. It has been proven that whitetail deer can smell human scent further than most dogs and they can identify up to six odors at the same time. The new developments in scent control include zeolites, activated carbon and even antimicrobial silver. These sound like science fiction terms but they have been proven to eliminate some human odors. Even with the advancements you will still want to be cautious of pumping gas in your hunting clothing or ignoring wind direction. Storing your gear during season in a garment bag with vegetation of where you hunt can help during season. Pine boughs, leaves or grasses can help confuse the deer into not picking up on your scent.
Once you have determined the items needed you will want to look at the camo patterns that will work best in the terrain of your hunts. Some camo patterns will use more general patterns and colors that disturb your silhouette rather than blend you into the background with the realistic patterns. These newer camo patterns are more likely to blend well in multiple settings including turkey hunting in the Midwest to Elk hunting in Colorado Mountains. There is no right or wrong answer for what kind of pattern to use. In my tree stand in Northern Minnesota I could have on Mossy Oak Break-Up COUNTRY, Realtree Edge or Kryptek Mandrake. We use a camo pattern on our clothing to trick the prey. Camouflage can be traced back to the stone ages of hunters wearing animal hides and even the Trojan horse. Stone-age hunters would dress themselves in animal hides to protect from the elements but also to disguise themselves as other animals on the plains. With the primitive tools they used it was important to get as close as possible to the prey. The Trojan horse was the ultimate camouflage for an attack. It was stealthy enough to trick even the most cunning of humans. We can look at all of these instances to determine there are many ways to deter an animal from suspecting anything austere in the field.
No matter the pattern you choose it is important to maintain stealthy hunting skills. Prey is inclined to spook with the sensing of any movement regardless of how well the camo pattern is hiding you. Utilizing the nature around you is crucial too. Stay behind cover and move slowly to prevent sightings. Time in the stand can equal a more successful hunt. Outfit yourself with the tools needed to succeed.