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The high quality hunting clothing guide

 

Glassing in First Lite
All photo credits: Josh Kirchner

Do you remember what you used to wear when you were a kid on hunting trips? For most folks, I picture camo pants and some type of checkered flannel shirt. When I was a kid my hunting getup was something in the realm of army fatigue pants, long johns, two pairs of socks and more layers on top than I care to remember or describe at the moment. I basically looked like a walking blueberry with a sprinkle of camo. Sweat would come no sooner than when we'd start walking. After shedding my countless layers, I can remember how bummed I would get having to then carry them under my arm. There was no fitting this stuff in a pack. This was well before the surge of high-quality hunting clothing. Due to my habitual nature (thanks, Dad), it took quite some time for me to get up the gall to try some of this new stuff out. Once I did, a question begged to answer: Was this stuff worth it? Would I ever again pick up my blueberry outfit? In time, all were answered.

Moisture management

Drying out clothing

The "ah ha" moment

I tried out my very first pair of high-quality pants during the month of June in Arizona. June is no cakewalk here in terms of temperature, so I saw it as a perfect opportunity to test them out. The company touted that these would keep you dry and manage the moisture coming off of your body. Did I believe what I was reading on their website? I will admit that I was a skeptic. Just because of that though, I was incredibly excited to try them out. After a full morning of hiking and glassing for bears, I was sold. This is coming from someone who was trying to find something wrong with these pants and was looking for a reason to send them back. In the end, I just couldn't find one. The stuff really did work and I couldn't have been happier. Instead of an email asking for my money back, I put in another order for more of the same.

Moisture management on hunts is something that I never paid too much attention to until recently. Plain and simple: if you are wet, you stand a much better chance of getting cold. Nowadays, many companies make what they call layering systems. This means that all of the clothing in said system is going to work as one unit. This is crucial to managing sweat and keeping you warm or even cool. An example of a layering system might be a lightweight merino top, a medium weight merino top, followed by an insulation layer (puffy jacket). The two base layers are going to keep you dry by moving moisture away from your skin outwards while the puffy jacket is going to insulate your body heat to keep you warm.

Efficiency

Packed down jacket

With this new technology is going to come efficiency and let's face it, the more efficient we can be as hunters, the more time we can spend hunting. Remember when I told you earlier about how I had more layers up top than I cared to remember? That is now a thing of the past. Because of the advancements in high-quality hunting clothing, I can now run on average 50% less clothing than before. It was mind-boggling at first to think that less was more in this equation, but it is the honest truth. As an avid backpack hunter, I can appreciate this. More clothing equals more weight to carry and I'd rather reserve that space in my pack for hard-earned game meat rather than a plethora of inefficient jackets.

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Speaking of space in my pack, here is another area where this stuff shines. Not only do I have less clothing than before, but the clothing I do have packs down to a very manageable level and is also much more lightweight than my previous blueberry costume. Less weight on your back means more time behind the glass and off the beaten path. Nowadays, one jacket will do what two or three used to do. The puffy jacket that I wear is not only an insulation layer but also a windbreaker as well as protection from light rain due to the durable water repellent coating that has been applied. Having items that are multi-functional like this is key to being more efficient. Why carry three pieces of clothing when you can carry one?

Comfort

First Lite clothing system

In general, a comfortable hunter is a happy hunter. The more comfortable we are, the more time we will spend in the field. This is going to transfer into more animal sightings, which means more opportunity to fill that tag burning a hole in your pocket. It can be very hard to maintain concentration on a hunt when your body is telling you to go home. For a great read on this subject, you can check out a great article by Nathan French here. I have been there many times and, sometimes, have even thrown in the towel and left. Since I have upped my game with my clothing, I've never been more comfortable. I even find myself wearing this stuff around the house when I'm not hunting. Often, I don't even think about what I am wearing because there is just nothing to think about. From the cuts and articulation of these pieces of gear to the actual material, it is just downright pleasant to wear. Being content like this gives me more brainpower for hunting rather than trying to get warm or dry. Hunting is already a hard enough endeavor as it is; that part we cannot change. What we can change, though, is what we are wearing. If that is going to give me the ability to hunt even harder than before, then I am game.

Is it worth it?

First Lite hunting clothing

So, is it worth it? That answer is going to vary from person to person. Here is my opinion. The number one gripe that folks are going to have with buying these new pieces of gear is just that...buying them. The price tags on a lot of these items are north of where we would like them to be, but it is for good reason. We are not talking about some old flannel that has been stuffed in your closet for years on end. This stuff is more than just clothing. It’s gear, just like your backpack, weapon, and binoculars. We will go out and spend more than $1,000 on our bows and rifles—items that we will use once, maybe twice, on a hunt. Our clothing though? We are going to use those items every minute of a hunt. It almost doesn't make sense to invest so much in one and not the other. If you ask me, this stuff is 100% worth it. Ultimately, though, you are the judge.

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8 Comments

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Josh K. - posted 2 months ago on 06-17-2018 07:49:06 am
goHUNT INSIDER

Vance,

Great advice Vance! Having that layering system is going to keep you prepared for a WIDE variety of situations. I'm with you on the coues deer thing. It could be 80 degrees during the day and snowing the next day. Changes quick! Good luck this year man!

Vance W. - posted 2 months ago on 06-11-2018 01:18:21 pm
Anthem AZ
goHUNT INSIDER

I think if you are careful about what you select brand wise and focus on the material the clothes are made out of to match their intended performance to the places you intend to hunt you can put together a set for a reasonable price. Of course if you gotta go all Sitka or all First Lite or all KUIU you're in for spending some serious cash. There are other brands out there that will serve you well and allow you to move away from cotton into wool blends and synthetics that are light and moisture moving. The key point I think in this article is start building a layering system. I hunt AZ for Coues deer every year where you have to pack in for at least the day to go glassing usually. The temps out glassing can swing 30-40 degrees easy, so we've been working on layering for years and it works and keeps you from freezing from 5am to 7am then from boiling from 7am to 3-4pm. Having a stuff-able puffy is great to pull out at the end of a hike in to stay warm those first few hours behind the tripod.

Josh K. - posted 2 months ago on 05-30-2018 03:33:41 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

@Lucas

I think your assumptions are spot on Lucas! The 150 and 250, paired with a good insulation layer is probably going to be good for most of the season. As you get into the colder months, I would suggest possibly adding the new Klamath into your arsenal for an extra layer of warmth. Thanks for the kind words!

Josh K. - posted 2 months ago on 05-30-2018 03:29:43 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

@Steve H.

You are so right, haha! Nice catch!

Gary H. - posted 2 months ago on 05-30-2018 06:08:52 am
goHUNT INSIDER

400$ pair of pants
75$ gat
200$ gloves
400$ jacket

Ripping those toilet paper thin overpriced garments on the first barbed wire fence you cross- Priceless!

Daniel E. - posted 2 months ago on 05-29-2018 11:09:39 am
Cayucos, CA
goHUNT INSIDER

@ Lucas B. First Lite stuff is epic...especially the merino. They also specialize in clothing that has a wide fluctuation of adaptations like you mention...from Sept - Dec. If I were you, I would call FL and run your questions by them. They are extremely knowledgable about every nuance of every project and can dial you in. Ive called them multiple times and they will spend as much time as you need on the phone. Ive no complaints with them and highly recommend their merino stuff!

Lucas B. - posted 2 months ago on 05-29-2018 09:38:44 am
goHUNT INSIDER

Josh, thank you for the great article. I am switching to a merino system this year, but have never ran merino before. I am an Idaho guy, so I am looking to get into a First Lite system (which it appears you favor, as well). I am trying to find a combo that will provide the most versatility from September archery to November rifle deer in Idaho. I have been looking at their new line-up this year, and feel the ultralight 150 merino and a midweight 250 kiln will be the way to go. Or would the 200 weight base layer be better than the 150? I have an insulation layer, as well as a lightweight merino tee already. Do you feel this is a reasonable system to run? Thank you for your feedback.

Steve H. - posted 2 months ago on 05-27-2018 11:07:10 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

" it took quite some time for me to get up the gull to try some of this new stuff out."

Hate to be "that" guy, but... It's "gall".