Once deer season ends we usually store our clothing for several months until the first cool snap stirs memories of chilly mornings or bone-rattling afternoons on the stand.
by Alan Clemons
Spring and summer darn sure aren’t time for wool, Gore-Tex, heavy jackets and bibs or hoodies. But those months might be a good time to re-evaluate your hunting apparel and invest in some of today’s technologically-advanced clothing.
My father, who is in his 60s, was a diehard duck hunter when I was a tot. I recall his old Carhartt jacket he’d marked up with a black “Marks-A-Lot” ink pen. He wore heavy rubber waders with cotton socks.
Today, he wears neoprene waders and a multi-pocketed parka with a popular camouflage brand. He sometimes still wears cotton socks in the early part of the season when it’s not too cold. Old habits, you know.
Today’s performance apparel is simply sometimes too good to be true. Lightweight, warm, dry … definitely not like 15-20 years ago. That almost sounds curmudgeonly. You kids, get offa my lawn! Or something like that.
One year at the annual SHOT Show in Vegas, a company touting its newest and greatest socks – socks? – attracted a room full of skeptical, hairly-legged outdoor communicators. Gave us the pitch. Asked everyone to roll up their pants leg, pull off a shoe and sock, and put on their new “SealSkinz” performance waterproof socks.
We did, and then dunked our feet in tubs of water. Wiggled our toes, flexed, mashed and tried to get a drop of water through there. Nothing leaked. Those socks worked like a champ in cold weather. They really were pretty darn good, although in warm weather things got clammy. But it was a sign of things to come in the apparel industry.
At the 1999 SHOT Show in Atlanta, a friend said, “You have to see these new socks.” (More socks?) But he was right. They were called SmartWool … soft, warm, made with something called “merino” wool. I didn’t know what a merino was and honestly didn’t care if the socks were made from the leg hairs of butterflies. They were great. I wear them to this day for hunting, hiking and knocking around in winter.
Since then we’ve seen Under Armor hit the scene with the impact of a New Orleans Saints defender trying to pick up a little bounty money. Gloves have come light years from even a few years ago. Boots are tougher, lighter, stronger and warmer and have better designs. Outerwear is certainly improved in myriad ways.
This year at the ATA Show in Ohio, Rocky Athletic Mobility apparel was introduced featuring lightweight, warm PrimaLoft. We have lightweight, mid-weight and “freeze your tookus” for different temperature levels. A few companies like Filson, Woolrich and Johnson Woolen Mills still make good ol’ By God wool clothing, which keeps you warm even when wet and lasts for years.
A few years ago in Iowa for a muzzleloader hunt, we woke up to 6 degrees on the television’s weather channel. The warm hotel bed definitely seemed appealing as we layered up. On went the Under Armor, shirts, socks, pants …
By the time we got to the property I had on so many layers of clothing that I not only couldn’t climb a tree or properly draw a bow (had we been bowhunting), but also froze to the ground. Heavy frost looked like snow. I opted to sit against a tree overlooking a little draw and after about 90 minutes of snug nestling, when I stood up all the leaves, twigs and dirt had melted under my legs and then re-froze to my bibs. I looked like some kind of forest creature.
But even with all that, I could have dressed more smartly and been warmer. You plan well or you can pay for it. I didn’t get sick, but I wasn’t comfortable that morning until we got back together for lunch.
By now, if you’re stuck with me this long, you’re wondering what the heck I’m rambling about. Here’s the point: it may be time for you to revamp your selection of clothing to make your hunting more efficient, warmer and more comfortable.
If you’re happy with older clothing or don’t believe the newfangled performance wear is right for you, well, that’s fine. You have to make yourself happy.
But if not, take some time this summer to pull out all your apparel and gear. Go over what you remember being cold or uncomfortable. Was it uncomfortable because it’s worn out, or because you’re too fat and need to lose weight? (I can say that … I’m more than a few pounds over my doctor’s recommendation.)
Proper preparation for hunting season doesn’t need to start a week before. Plan ahead and you’ll be much better off when opening day arrives.