Over the years I've had the fine and pleasant misery of hunting from Alaska to Africa and many places in between. During these 30 years of bowhunting I've endured 33 degrees below zero when chasing musk oxen on Nunivak Island, Alaska, and survived dehydration and a sweat-drenching stalk at 114 degrees while pursuing Columbian blacktails in northern California.
Most of my bowhunts occurred in weather conditions more moderate than those two extremes, but the point is you must have the right clothing for every hunt. Regardless of conditions, here are some guidelines for picking clothing for bowhunters.
Bowhunting clothing must be extremely quiet. If a piece of clothing seems noisy in a store, just imagine how noisy it'll be at 20 degrees on a graveyard-still evening when you're trying to draw on an antsy whitetail buck! If you can hear it, game animals can hear it better.
Choose your hunting clothes in layers based on anticipated temperatures, activity level, and your personal metabolism.
Base layers are your first line of defense against Mother Nature. They move moisture away from your skin, help control your odor, and fit snugly. The microfibers of merino wool and several flavors of polyester make great base layers.
Midlayers can vary from wool, fleece, and polyester derivatives to goose down and synthetic down like PrimaLoft. Pick your midlayers to be quiet and cut to move with your body without restriction.
Outer layer choices vary in material and thickness depending on the style of hunting and temperature. You may need only a lightweight jacket to stalk in September but require a much thicker, more insulating coat to sit still and comfortable on stand in December.
I have a volatile metabolism. Walking just a few minutes, I'll be drenched in sweat if I'm dressed too warmly; sitting still for only moments, I will become chilled if underdressed. That's why I look for jackets, bibs, and pants with full-length zippers or pit zips so I can vent off excess heat when walking and then quickly zip up to retain body heat when stationary.
4. LITTLE FEATURES
Make sure you check out the little features that might tip the scale when choosing one garment over another. I really like hunting pants with a rubberized waistband that keeps shirttails from coming untucked. Some coats now include a slot at the top of the back for threading your safety harness through. Check zipper noise levels, positioning, and ease of use. Make sure the pockets are easy to access and roomy enough for essential items.
In summary, think of your bowhunting clothing purchases with the same diligent thought process used when buying a bow.