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What to wear when hunting? If you’re asking this question, you’re closer to the answer than many beginner and even some experienced hunters who don’t have this topic on their minds. Clothing specifically designed for hunting is intended to provide comfort, protection, and concealment during high-output activity in unfavorable conditions. Unfortunately, there is no universal hunting apparel that suits every scenario. You have to mix and match and adapt.
In this guide, GritrOutdoors will provide you with several tips on choosing the best hunting clothing based on the weather conditions, hunting style, terrain characteristics, and game species. Let’s dive in.
Every expert hunter who understands the importance of proper clothing knows that layers are the key to building a do-it-all system that suits ninety percent of environments and weathers. You can’t achieve such versatility with a single-layer system, and here is why.
Layers trap the warmth generated by your body and maintain the temperature inside the clothing system. This trick won’t work with tight-fitting clothes because there’s no air between the layers.
A layering system also gives a practical edge in adaptability. Let’s take a normal day with no drastic weather changes in the view. As the day progresses, the temperature naturally rises at dawn and falls at dusk. Animals are most active at dawn and dusk, so you want to use this time and increase your odds of success. To ensure comfort and keep yourself warm during temperature changes, you can lose and put on layers until you achieve a sweet spot.
The base layer clothing makes the most contact with your body and includes long-sleeve shirts, underwear, and socks. Its purpose is to keep you dry and comfortable through moisture management.
Our body cools through the sweat evaporating from our skin. Base layer clothing should have moisture-wicking properties to ensure a proper work of the body’s cooling mechanism. If it fails, the sweat and other liquids won’t evaporate, resulting in messed-up temperature control.
There are three base layer types: lightweight, midweight, and heavyweight.
Lightweight base layers have excellent moisture-wicking properties but lack insulation. Most lightweight base layer hunting garments are made of synthetic fabrics because they dry quickly. Cotton, on the other hand, should be avoided because it dries long and, thus, can’t wick moisture efficiently. But if you hunt in hot and dry environments, cotton can ensure comfort. Put on a lightweight inner layer if your hunting style is physically demanding.
Midweight base layers wick moisture and provide additional insulation. Merino wool feels nice and has odor control properties. Midweight base layers will keep you warm in colder environments and ensure comfort when there’s moderate activity.
Heavyweight base layers provide great insulation to maintain the temperature in cold environments. However, for proper moisture management, they should be breathable as well.
The mid-layer is also called the insulation layer. Its purpose is to keep you warm. Whether or not you need it depends on how cold it is out there and what you already wear. Your more insulated inner layer or outer layer may do all the work, but it won’t go amiss if you pack it just to be on the safe side. For this reason, your mid-layer garment should be compact.
Down jackets and vests are most effective in trapping warmth but become ineffective when wet. Synthetic garments may lack the insulation of down, but they don’t fail when wet. Merino wool is still a great material here. Don’t forget about breathability.
The outer layer is also called the shell layer, and its purpose is to protect you from the elements and environment. Outer layers include shell jackets, bibs, waders, and pants. The choice is pretty intuitive here. Water-resistant membranes keep you dry, and wind-deflecting membranes ensure additional comfort. Waterproof garments make for great hunting rain gear. Good breathability properties allow for better moisture management.
Building a System
When building a system that keeps you warm, dry, and protected, think about temperature and hunting style.
For cold weather high-activity hunting, consider picking a lightweight base layer for efficient sweat management, a mid-layer to your liking, and an insulated but breathable outer layer jacket paired with cold-weather hunting pants. If you’re a fan of deer treestand hunting, meaning low-activity hunting, you need clothes with maximum insulation. Wear mid- or heavyweight inner layer, mid-layer, and insulated shell layer.
Warm weather hunting clothes should be breathable and quick-dry. Insulation may be less of a priority. For that reason, you may skip the mid-layer, especially in the case of high-output hunting. A lightweight synthetic long-sleeve shirt, a moisture-wicking, wind-resistant, breathable shell jacket, and lightweight pants may constitute a capable warm-weather system.
Unlike other hunting clothing, the best deer hunting gear must be quiet. Needless to say, that deer have excellent hearing and are very cautious. To avoid misfortunes caused by your clothing making noises, you need hunting apparel made of quiet fabric.
Pay attention to the size and stretch properties. Hunting clothing should allow for a wide range of motion to provide comfort and not consume extra energy. It’s especially true for high-activity hunting scenarios.
Consider durability. Your outer layer clothing should withstand abuse and abrasion. Reinforced knees and elbows contribute to robustness and increased protection. Generally, pants made of quiet synthetics or merino wool endure. The best hunting pants feature rip-stop nylon reinforcement. Duck hunters looking for durable waders prefer neoprene.
Colors and Camo Patterns
Camouflage aids hunters in blending into the environment, providing concealment. Camo patterns are numerous, and while some people consider camos overrated, they still can benefit you when matched right.
There are two types of camouflage: mimicry and breakup. Mimicry camouflage reproduces objects found in nature like grass, stones, branches, leaves, and others, while breakup camouflage uses non-natural shapes that help to break up your outline.
Various game species perceive colors and shapes in different ways. Deer and other big animals are not so good with colors, but they spot changes in texture very well. That’s why the best deer hunting clothing uses breakup camo patterns. In contrast, ducks and other birds are good at distinguishing colors. In this case, mimicry camo makes more sense.
For more precise picking, consider the terrain of your hunting area and the season. Camos with predominant green will work in the early season. Neutral and dull tones are great for hunting in fall. Mixtures of grays and whites provide concealment during winter.
Consider buying underlayer garments with camo patterns. It may sound too much, but remember what we discussed earlier. As the temperature rises, you may want to put a layer off and unzip the outer layer. In this case, your solid color underlayer will become visible and scare everything away.
Most states also require wearing some kind of blaze orange for other hunters to see you. But don’t worry, you won’t alarm game by it because most animals perceive bright colors in a different way.
Now you know the criteria that should guide your purchase. Many of the discussed things are intuitive, but we hope you’ve learned something new. Just remember that the best hunting apparel is clothing that keeps you warm, dry, protected, and hidden. Good luck!