Over the course of the last decade or so, hunters have changed the way they think about their hunting clothes. What was once almost an afterthought is now a rapidly evolving industry. As one popular manufacturer attests, apparel, which in my book includes footwear, is now considered gear, complete with leading-edge technologies and space-age advancements in both materials and manufacturing methods.
Staying on top of everything is next to impossible, but it's my job to sort out the newest and the best, much of which is included in this year's clothing and footwear roundup.
Badlands Supernova Down Jacket
Although down is nature's original insulation, don't consider it old-fashioned, especially given the technological advancements that have enhanced its ability to keep hunters warm. The Supernova Down Jacket
incorporates 800-fill ThermaDown, which uses a thermo-reactive coating and HyperDRY water-resistant treatment to boost its insulation rating, even in wet conditions.
The shell is finished with a durable DuPont water-resistant coating. Perhaps most impressive, the jacket stuffs down into a package weighing under a pound.
A midweight boot, like the 400-gram Excursion
, will get a majority of hunters through all but the most extreme cold. The Thinsulate Ultra Insulation delivers just enough warmth to keep toes comfortable without building up perspiration. I particularly appreciate the streamlined athletic-shoe fit and feel for spot-and-stalk endeavors.
High-denier Cordura uppers are finished with a durable water-resistant coating, and the toe panel, wraparound trim, and shaft are leather to guard against wear. The whole package is lined with Bushnell's proprietary waterproof, breathable lining and ScentMask odor-control technology.
Cabela's Accelerator & Thermal Zone Merino Base Layer
Cabela's brings their Accelerator
boots to the field with what they're calling Zero-Gravity Technology that creates a seamless, durable polyurethane shell over a tough, nylon-coated neoprene bootie. Inside, a memory foam insole and fiberglass shank provide comfort, stability, and protection. The result is an incredibly durable and lightweight knee-high boot that's comfortable enough for stalking or stand hunting.
Over the course of the last few years, I've come to rely on Merino wool as a base layer for just about any hunting I do. Cabela's Thermal Zone Merino Base Layer
is unique in that it features differing levels of 100% Australian Merino wool mapped to corresponding areas on the body. Heavier weights keep the core warm, while mid and lighter weight fabrics prevent overheating and chafing.
According to Stuart Wilson, Cabela's category manager for hunting apparel, Merino wool is also naturally antimicrobial. 'This keeps the fabric from stinking, without chemicals or synthetic treatment, ' Wilson said.
Don't let itchy memories of scratchy wool keep you from trying modern Merino, which is soft against the skin. It will change the way you think about layering.
150 (Accelerator); $
155 (Thermal Zone Merino Base Layer)
Core4Element Element Jacket
Hunting the backcountry in the West demands performance-driven equipment, and designers at companies like Core4Element
respond with innovative advancements in apparel. Their Element series of water-resistant outerwear is crafted from a fleece-backed, soft shell material that's bone quiet yet blocks the wind while remaining breathable.
Plus, it's DWR-finished to shed all but the heaviest rain, making it a core piece of gear I would rely on a majority of the time during high-country hunts. The Element Jacket
is smartly designed with a high collar, athletic fit, vent zips and pockets placed where they're handy without getting in the way.
newest early-season offering, the Gila
, was inspired by footwear proven in some of the harshest terrain in Afghanistan, taking one less worry off the feet of our soldiers there.
'Our goal was to create a platform that provides stability without the bulk, ' said Ryan Cade, product line manager. 'We believe the Gila can provide a bowhunter the ability to hunt harder and longer without foot fatigue. ' Stiff in the ankle to support sidehilling, the Nubuck and nylon uppers also feature flex points to eliminate hotspots. A full rubber rand provides a wraparound bumper that protects both the boot and the foot.
Gamehide ElimiTick Ultra-Lite Pants and Shirt
new ElimiTick Ultra-Lite Pants and Shirt
will help keep you tick free, comfortable and hidden this spring. With tick-borne diseases becoming more common and widespread, this clothing is a must for spring turkey hunts.
There is no special care needed, and the Insect Shield technology lasts the life of the garment repelling ticks, chiggers, and other biting insects. Made from tough, yet supple and lightweight woven polyester, they wick away moisture and dry fast.
First Lite Sanctuary Jacket
The Sanctuary Jacket
is just the ticket for stand hunters looking for a quiet, warm, late-season outer layer. Innovative Cocona active-carbon technology maintains a consistent temperature and humidity next to the skin for warmth and breathability.
It's surprisingly non-bulky for the level of warmth it provides, thanks to a seven-layer, zone-specific insulation design. Built by backcountry hunters, the Sanctuary Jacket is cut to accommodate the drawing motion with slim sleeves and a stretch fabric.
Kenetrek Bridger Ridge Hikers
The Bridger Ridge Hikers
blend the fit and comfort of a lightweight, early-season hiker with the sole and stability of a hardcore hunting boot. The latter comes from trail-gripping, molded-rubber outsoles that are tied to the leather and nylon uppers via a technology Kenetrek calls 'K-straps. ' This integrated support frame creates a comfortable, solid platform without the weight or stiffness of a full-leather, mountain-style boot.
The mid-high models are great for hot-weather hunts and summertime scouting, while the ankle-high models feature a waterproof, breathable lining for later in the season when wet weather is possible. Both styles are extremely lightweight, coming in at 2.2 lbs. and 2.6 lbs., respectively.
KUIU Dermizax NX
For 2014, KUIU has upgraded their popular Chugach NX
rainwear with the addition of a new waterproof liner that is up to twice as breathable as the company's first-generation line.
The Dermizax NX membrane also delivers double the stretch and, like the original, is cut for hunters with a comfortable fit that greatly reduces binding or restriction during periods of high activity. The Jacket and matching Pants are designed as a lightweight and packable shell for a backcountry layering system to be worn in any wet, windy conditions.
300 (Jacket); $
LaCrosse Quick Shot
I don't think it's a shock to anybody that LaCrosse
, a company legendary for its rubber boots, would dip its toe in the lace-to-toe leather footwear world after merging with Danner a few years back. The Quick Shot
, a workman's-style boot with leather and 900-denier nylon uppers, is one such foray.
Knowing LaCrosse's reputation, I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the quality Quick Shot's display. Weatherproof with an odor-controlling Scent-Dry lining and available in either uninsulated or 600-gram Thinsulate Ultra Insulation, these boots offer an affordable ticket to what I expect will be many seasons of hard use.
Irish Setter VaprTrek
By incorporating a new composite material into the sole, Irish Setter
has reduced the weight of their popular VaprTrek
boots by nearly half. The RPM rubber also provides long-lasting durability and wraps up the instep to protect the foot when climbing treesteps.
The uppers are crafted from nylon and leather, and feature a padded tongue and collar for comfort. Both the uppers and insoles are lined with ScentBan, a proprietary odor-blocking material.
Robinson Outdoor Products ScentBlocker Apex
Balancing odor control with all-weather protection on backcountry or extreme hunting adventures has long been next to impossible. The new ScentBlocker Apex line from Robinson Outdoor Products
aims to make that easier with a blend of lightweight, packable construction and the company's exclusive Trinity scent-control technology.
The low-nap, Tech-Tough fabric is quiet and light enough to stuff down into a compressed package, a feature virtually unheard of in the scent-control field. Of course, it's waterproof and breathable. I was particularly impressed with the Apex Jacket's contoured fit and slim-cut sleeves that were unobtrusive during periods of high activity. The Apex line also includes Pants and a Merino wool AirBrake Vest.
299 (Jacket); $
249 (Pants); $
99 (AirBrake Vest)
Scent-Lok Velocity Full Season Bowhunter Jacket
With its boxy cut and lack of color-blocking, the Velocity Full Season Bowhunter Jacket
looks like a minimalist design. But when it comes to odor control, the technology inside is next generation, and that's where Scent-Lok has shined for 20 years.
The company's new Carbon Alloy blends activated carbon, treated carbon, and Zeolite to be up to three times more effective at adsorbing an even wider spectrum of specific human odors. The low-nap, brushed exterior is quiet and treated with a durable water-repellent coating. Fairly lightweight and warm thanks to a microfleece liner, I'd wear it from late October through December, although it would require some layering in extreme cold. The cuffs are quiet elastic to seal in warmth and odor.
Sitka Early Season Whitetail Jacket
In many ways, dressing for the August or September deer opener, when cool mornings quickly turn scorching after sunrise, is more challenging than layering up come late season. Sitka's new Early Season Whitetail Jacket
, an adaptation of their popular Ascent model, is made for that first month of the season, acting as a wind and water-resistant barrier while still providing necessary full-coverage concealment and enough breathability to vent perspiration.
It's from Sitka, so of course there has been a lot of thought put into the design, with four-way stretch poly-Lycra fabric cut in a sleek fit, articulated sleeves, comfortable stretch cuffs, and a smart pocket configuration with a couple of open, chest-high pockets for stashing a rangefinder. It comes in Gore's Optifade Forest camo.
Under Armour Scent Control Armour Fleece Jacket
When putting together my list of go-to hunting gear, I tend to build a system of straightforward layering pieces, which is where UA's
new Scent Control Armour Fleece Jacket
fits in. A classic softshell with quiet, weather-resistant exterior and midweight fleece backing, it would be ideal on its own for a majority of the fall, and then as a lightweight layering piece under a stormproof shell in December and January.
The Jacket's scent-control factor is a blend of capture and conquer, with Zeolites in the liner that trap odor and silver which destroys the bacteria that causes them. Under Armour claims this proprietary Scent Control technology lasts up to 10 times longer than traditional carbon. I can't attest to that, but I will say it is lighter in weight.