When I was growing up, we chose our hunting clothing based on price and camouflage patterns. Back then, there weren't nearly as many patterns to choose from, and there was very little emphasis on performance-based clothing.
Today's bowhunter has it better, believe me. We have access to clothing that is built for specific conditions, and tailored to the bowhunting crowd, meaning manufacturers have addressed overall fit and articulation. These benefits, coupled with overall designs and materials that help to regulate temperature in both hot and cold environments, shirk wind and rain, and help us disappear on the ground or in trees, are always much appreciated once the season kicks in.
If your camo-storing closet is a bit empty and you're looking to pick up a few new pieces of apparel, check out the latest and greatest from these manufacturers.
I hunt a lot of public land, so I like being out when the conditions suck and most hunters will stay home. There is nothing that keeps hunters out of the woods better than heat, and Sitka's ESW (Early Season Whitetail) lineup is the secret weapon when it comes to staying comfortable when the temps skyrocket. I recently tested the whole ESW lineup in Florida during the last couple of days of July and the first few in August. It was incredible, and if there is a better way to see if products are truly lightweight and breathable, I've yet to hear about. There is no misery quite like Florida's summer whitetail season, and I boarded a plane after that hunt throwing middle fingers in the air, aiming them squarely at the alligators, snakes, mosquitoes and general humidity, all the while thinking about how I can't wait to hunt with the ESW line at home when our September season kicks off.
LaCrosse Footwear Alphaburly Pro
The true test of a knee-high boot is to hike a couple of miles in it. This, we I did in Florida as well, all while wearing Alphaburly Pros from LaCrosse. Part of it was by choice, because the area we hunted had a fair amount of hogs, so a couple of times I got to go wander through the palmettos in search of a porker. Sometimes, we hiked because the side-by-sides and swamp buggies we used to cross the ranch broke down with daily regularity. Either way, these boots are about as comfortable as you're going to find in 18-inch knee-highs. They've got several insulation options, and if you opt for the non-insulated boots, they weigh less than five pounds per pair. If you don't like knee-highs due to past experience, pony up for the Alphaburly Pros and start walking. You'll be hooked on them after the first couple of miles.
Realtree is a mainstay for whitetail hunters throughout the midwest and east. This year, they've come up with the new EDGE pattern, which can be found on a litany of different garments. EDGE is designed to utilize light and shadow pockets to be truly disruptive to the human form, and to allow you to disappear with the sky as your backdrop when you're on stand. EDGE is built upon a host of photo-realistic limbs, leaves and other elements of the forest, and as an added bonus, is a killer turkey pattern for spring forays.
Browning Hell's Canyon Speed Rain Slayer Jacket
Other than the name, which sort of makes it sound like Browning's new rain suit is the son of a pair of eccentric Hollywood A-listers, the Rain Slayer is a good way to stay dry in the early season. Deer move in the rain, but hunters don't like to be uncomfortable while on stand, so this is the remedy for all of your precipitation woes. Pair it up, of course, with the Rain Slayer pants and you've got a lightweight, waterproof, windproof, and breathable way to shirk any and all downpours while staying dry and ready to draw.
Huntworth Men's Soft Shell Fleece Jacket
Huntworth creates clothing that is ideal for cash-strapped hunters who want to look and feel like they've dropped way more coin than they have. Their latest, the Soft Shell Fleece Jacket, features a safety harness port, is treated with Microban to reduce scent, and is designed with low-pile and waffle fleece to keep you warm. In a genius move that must have come from an actual hunter, this jacket also boasts a differential hem, which means it's longer in the back so when you're on stand and bend over to grab a set of rattling antlers out of your pack, you won't expose your lower back to the elements.
Badlands Rev Jacket
I first saw Approach camo in action while spotting and stalking antelope, and have since watched it work in multiple environments - including the deciduous forests that are home to big whitetails. Badlands covers their gear in this camo, and a great choice for anyone looking to try out their stuff is to start with the Rev Jacket. This is an early- to mid-season choice, which is wind- and water-resistant, Bio-Mapped to regulate temperature and allow for maneuverability so that you don't have to worry about how you'll draw when a good one flips the scripts and cruises below and behind your stand instead of right in front of it.
Nomad Hailstorm Jacket
The problem with rain gear is that it's usually noisy, uncomfortable, and will rip when passing just mere inches away from anything sharp or pokey. This is not the case with Nomad's latest, the Hailstorm Jacket. Pair this up with the Hailstorm pants and you've got a waterproof outer shell that is built upon a three-layer stretchy, abrasion-resistant fabric. The whole suit is designed with an anatomical fit, meaning that weather you're hiking, climbing into a treestand, or drawing your bow, the suit will work with you - not against you.
Walls Outfitter Jacket and Pant
Walls is a name that probably isn't as well known to bowhunters as it should be. Their latest, the Outfitter Jacket and Pant, utilizes an outer shell to keep you dry and safe from heat-sapping wind. A grid-fleece interior keeps you warm, and their use of Scentrex will work to cut down on your deer-spooking stink. The Outfitter series is also covered with the new HID3 camouflage pattern, which is as effective during a still-hunt through the pines as it is for an all-day rut sit in a lone cottonwood on the Kansas plains.