The Importance of Dressing in Layers for Hunting is Often Overlooked
I went on my first deer hunt during the fall of 2008, while looking back on that hunt, I get a laugh when I think about the clothing I wore. A true Walmart special of: carhartt pants, a tee shirt, and a thick cotton camouflage jacket. A lot of successful hunters have worn that exact outfit, but compared to the gear that is available these days, there is no comparison. In this article I will go over my layering system that I have successfully vetted, along with some new for 2023 pieces. Layering systems are meant to be adjusted, added to, and subtracted from with the changing of the seasons and the weather you expect or could potentially encounter on a hunt.
Ignore the Brand: Choose What Works Best
People tend to get very tribal when it comes to choosing a clothing brand. Almost as if they are part of a team and their brand is the best. Kind of like when it comes to pick-up trucks, you’re either a Ford, Chevy, or Dodge guy. The big three brands in the hunting industry that I have experience with are Kuiu, Sitka, and First Lite. While all of them are high quality and work great, each company has their strengths and some weaknesses. In the last couple of years, I have been wearing Kuiu and found that their gear seems to fit and work the best for me. I also really like their camo patterns and solid colors, but it all comes down to personal preference. Stone Glacier is another company that is making awesome gear. I have not ran any items in the field yet, but Zack has, and is really enjoying the pieces.
Adapting to August: Staying Cool in Warm Weather
Fall bear season in the state of Washington just recently opened and the month of August can get uncomfortably warm, getting well into the nineties during the middle of the day. This year I have added a few pieces to my layering system that I have not worn in the field yet, but they are designed to keep your body cool in hot weather. Those pieces are the Gila short sleeve crew tee shirt, the Gila long sleeve hoodie, and the Kutana stretch woven pant. The two Gila tops were purposely built to be highly breathable, odor resistant, and are also UPF 50+ rated to protect you from the sun. I have never been a fan of merino wool and prefer the cool-touch synthetic fabric of the Gila tops. They are very comfortable and have a cooling touch to the skin. They are both extremely lightweight coming in at 4.4oz for the Gila tee shirt and 6.7oz for the Gila long sleeve hoodie. The Kuiu Kutana stretch woven pant weighs in at 13.4oz and having primeflex stretch nylon with water/abrasion resistant fabric, I imagine these pants will be great for those hot early season days.
Staples in Every Pack: Rain Gear and More
No matter what season it is, there are three staple clothing pieces that will always be in my pack. They are the Kuiu Kenai hooded jacket, the Kutana storm shell jacket, and the Chugach rain pant. Some things in life are predictable, but weather in the mountains is certainly not one of them. That is why I will always have a set of rain gear with me and a lightweight puffy, even during August when the forecast is showing no sign of precipitation, and warm weather. The Kenai jacket weighs only 15.5oz, is highly breathable, and is also water/wind resistant. It is insulated with Kuiu’s 3DeFX+ synthetic insulation and is perfect for those early morning or late evening glassing sessions during the early season when it gets a little chilly. The Kutana storm shell jacket weighs 18.3oz, and the Chugach rain pant weighs 10.7oz. None of these pieces bring enough of a weight or bulk issue to cause me to not throw them in my pack. I view rain gear like I do insurance, paying for it, or in this case carrying it around, is a bit annoying but when an unexpected rainstorm hits, you’ll be glad you have it.
Preparing for September: High Country Challenges
During the month of September, we will be partaking in the high buck hunt in Washington State which starts on the 15th and runs through the 25th. Since it’s not uncommon to experience every type of weather in the high country during that time I will pack clothing for every weather condition. Instead of the Katana pants I will switch to the Kuiu Attack pants which weigh 18.5oz and are more suitable for varying weather conditions. For a mid-layer piece, I will add in the Kuiu Strongfleece Hybrid 260 Zip-T. This is by far my favorite long sleeved top to wear due to its comfort and versatility. The Strongfleece weighs in at 13.8oz and is made of Toray Karuishi fleece.Also being added is the Kuiu Super Down Pro hooded jacket and the Super Down Pro pant. Their warmth to weight ratio is incredible with the jacket only weighing 13.4oz and the pants weighing 16oz. Both pieces are filled with 850+ FP water resistant Quixdown, making the coldest glassing sessions comfortable. There have been a couple of times during the high buck hunt in past years where we have gotten snowed on and experienced freezing temps at night. Having those extra layers is well worth the added weight in your pack as they will keep you behind the glass and on the mountain longer.
October: Navigating the Changing Seasons
As we transition from September to October, my layering system will not change that much. The biggest potential change to my kit would be my pants. If we are expecting snow or really cold temperatures are in the forecast, I will wear my Kuiu Axis pants instead of the Attacks. The Axis pants weigh 23.5oz and they are great for cold weather as they are fleece-lined and have waterproof paneling across the seat and lower leg. I will also start wearing gaiters on my legs as we get later into the hunting season due to the likelihood of wet conditions. Gaiters are also great for wearing in the snow to keep your legs dry, and snow out of your boots. I’ve had good luck with the Kuiu Yukon boot gaiters, which weigh 9.8oz per pair.
Late Season Hunts: November and Beyond
The bigger gear transition will happen when we get into November and the late season hunts. Last year we hunted Montana for the first time and experienced single digit temps, it was the coldest weather I’ve ever been in. This is when I will add thick base layers and wear the Kuiu Axis pants the whole time. For base layers I have been using the First Lite Furnace quarter zip top that weighs 17oz and the First Lite Furnace long john that weighs 12oz. These base layers paired with the Axis pants and the Super Down Pro puffy pants is typically what I will wear on my legs during late season. On the top I will wear the Gila tee shirt, Furnace quarter zip, 260 Strongfleece, and the Super Down Pro jacket. If it is really cold I will also wear the Kenai puffy jacket underneath the Super Down Pro. Add and subtract pieces due to your activity levels and temperatures throughout the day.
Accessories: Gloves, Neck Gaiters, and Hats
Gloves that will always be in my pack are the Kuiu Yukon Pro which weigh 4.6o and the Kuiu Northstar Glommit gloves that weigh 8.3oz. The latter pair of gloves are just for late season when the cold is almost unbearable. I also like to wear the Kuiu Peloton 97 fleece neck gaiter when the temps drop. The neck gaiter comes in at 0.8oz so you will barely even know it is there but it works magic keeping the cold wind off your face.
Customization: Build Your Personalized Layering System
During early season I will typically just wear a hat, but for mid to late season hunts I will either wear just a beanie, or a beanie over my hat, especially in the early mornings and evenings. When there is a hunter orange requirement, I will wear the Tamrak high country orange vest which you can find on the PNWild web store. You can also find a wide range of hats on our webstore as well. I have found that when it comes to my layering system, I would rather have it and not need it than not have it and need it. So make sure you have clothing that will keep you in the game and not heading back to the truck. Find what works for you and build your layering system to suit your style of hunting. If you’ve got your own tips to share, let us know in the comments!
Good luck to everyone this season! Stay safe and hunt hard.