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The warm September days are quickly disappearing and being replaced (finally) by cooler days, wet weather and the feeling that fall is finally here. I’m putting away the bow and dusting off the rifle for a few upcoming elk and deer hunts.
The change in weather also means it is time to alter my clothing kit for hunting. Even though I keep track of everything I wear on every hunt and keep notes on how it worked, every hunt seems to be different, and I’m always tinkering.
My struggle with getting my layering dialed is driven by a strong desire not to carry anything more than I need to be comfortable, both to reduce weight and bulk. And since most of my hunting these days involves backpack hunting, I’ve increasingly become militant about cutting weight. Unfortunately, I also seem to get colder easier than I used to, and on multi-day trips being miserable and cold just isn’t that much fun.
This is my full October layering kit for day and multi-day backpack hunting with a few caveats and exceptions based on the dramatic weather variations that we can have out west during October.
- Aerowool Liner Gloves—These gloves are breathable and thin enough to hike with and still fidget with gear, trekking poles, triggers, etc. They’re like a second skin when it is cold out, and I bring these on every hunt.
- Shale Hybrid Gloves- When combined with the liner gloves, this glove combo still allows me to use my hands, even in colder weather. If I’m day hunting, I might bring a warmer pair of gloves, but this glove combo covers most of my hunting except for extreme cold weather.
- Aerowool Neck Gaiter—Stays in my cargo pocket when not in use, but great for concealment, warmth and sun protection if the weather turns warm.
- Tag Cuff Beanie—I’m not sure why a good wool beanie has been hard for me to find in all my years of spending time outside, but this is without a doubt my favorite knit hat of all time, and it goes with me on every hunt.
- Brambler Gaiters—If there’s snow, or it’s wet, these gaiters are on all day.
- Fuse 200 Quarter Zip Top- Great baselayer, but also love to wear this piece alone when I’m hiking up a steep mountain and really exerting myself.
- Kiln Hoody-Pretty much always on me. When I’m backpacking, I wear it to bed at night, and I love the hood for close encounters with animals to conceal my face.
- Sawtooth Vest- I’m not much of a “vest guy”, but I love this vest. On cold morning hikes, I sometimes wear this over a baselayer for the perfect combination of warmth without sweating like a pig while hiking.
- Sawtooth Jacket-A staple of my kit, and one of my favorite mid/heavy weight layering jackets. Hardly ever leaves my pack or my torso.
- Chamberlin Jacket-This jacket is amazing. Great warmth to weight ratio, and packs down well. If it gets cold, and it definitely can in the mountains in October, this jacket is in my pack and comes out every time I stop to glass.
- Vapor Stormlight Jacket—Love how pack-able this jacket is. I hardly notice it in my pack, but if a cold rain pushes in, I’m always glad I packed it.
- Kiln Long Boxer—On the comfort scale, these underwear are about as good as it gets.
- Obsidian Pants—Still love how quiet and comfortable these pants are. My go-to pant for all but the coldest temps.
- Uncompahgre Puffy Pants—If you still haven’t tried out these pants, you’re seriously missing out. Every night, morning and glassing session these pants are on my legs. They’re easy to slip on and off, and they make long glassing sessions much more comfortable.
- Fuse 200 Aerowool Bottoms: On cold mornings I can actually hike with these and the Obsidian pants without feeling like my legs are on fire.
- Furnace 350 EXP Bottoms—This is a conditional item, but I had to throw these in because the fleece lining on these things is unreal. Incredibly soft and wicked warm. Definitely not for hiking big mountains in, but I wear these to bed at night and in the mornings glassing near my tent. I will only pack these around if it is going to be particularly cold.FL Team Member Brad Brooks hails from Boise, Idaho. He runs Argali.com, an online resource for backcountry hunters.
Late season elk in this part of the world can mean snow on the ground and high winds. Storm fronts in Idaho and MT are always blowing in and out this time of year. That means your week of elk hunting can be well below freezing as the front moves in. Think hard crust, light snow, and wind. In between storm systems everything can be in melt with day time temps in the high 40's mud on your boots and everything is wet. With the winds there is always the chance of heavy snow or rain. The late season "gimme" cow hunt has turned out to be more than I bargained for on more than one occasion. Here is my gear list that has proven itself over and over. If anything makes it onto your wish list be sure to enter our big Christmas give a way for a shot at some store credit. Follow the link above sign into your account (or create one) and add what you'd like to see under your tree. Easy peasy.
Strategy - Its meat season and believe it or not, other hunters can be helpful. If I don't locate elk in a stalkable location as soon as the sun comes up. I set up on a likely exit route out of the timber. This could be a saddle or intermediate ridge located in between a likely bedding area and feeding zone. The toughest part is being patient in wind and cold and staying in an opportune zone. Remember the part about other hunters being helpful? This is where that can come into play. If you aren't confident in tracking the herd in dark timber be confident that someone else may be doing the same. We've all heard those shots ring out at odd hours of the day when seemingly nothing is moving. Stay in that likely travel route find the spot where you can cover country with your eyes and have the right gear to keep you alert all day.
Base and mid Layers - Late season I keep the chama hoody next to skin. Full zip for venting when it's time to sprint. The hoody fits under my ball cap and makes a huge difference. Labrador sweater and the Springer vest are essential. The full zips make layering on the go a snap, the breathability lets you get away with short sprints, and the insulation factor is incredibly comfortable. Allegheny bottoms or the Allegheny EXP's when I know I'll be sitting more than moving.
Outerwear tops- Uncompahgre Puffy is your best friend on this type of hunt. In fact its with me on every hunt. Stormtight Shell bucks the wind and adds an extra layer of air/insulation. This jacket makes a major difference and the weight is minimal.
Outerwear bottoms - North Branch Pants literally the best late season pant I have ever come across. Tough as nails, impervious to the elements. You can vent these bibs on the steep ascents and drop trow in the nastiest of weather and feel like you didn't really take any clothes off. Love these pants for late season.
With this system and a few jumping jacks to kick start the circulation. I can stay out all day and my pack remains relatively light. I do have a few extras like a thermos and at times even my jetboil. A chunk of closed cell foam can keep your rear toasty on the ice and your pack out of the snow.
Hey guys, Scott Kendrix here from First Lite..
Picking the right gear to wear for a particular hunt is an extremely important part of being properly prepared for your next hunting adventure, whether that hunt is scaling the European Alps in search of that 12 year old Alpine Ibex or sitting the family farm in search of that cagey 10 point whitetail buck that keeps taunting you on your trail cameras.
The right clothing is only one aspect of the equation here. To properly maximize the potential of your gear, the right layering system can bring it all together to become an effective tool to be used in any hunting situation.
Let’s take a look at a layering system that would work great on a cold weather hunt situation.
Starting with a next to skin base layer, I would recommend a lightweight merino wool. It breaths, is comfortable, and works well with body heat retention. It is also the best material out there for keeping smell to an absolute minimum. This helps substantially when on say, a backcountry sheep or goat hunt and washing is not an option.
As a second layer, I would recommend a heavier weight wool shirt (and bottom). This second layer really helps curb the cold from creeping in when sitting long hours, whether it’s glassing from a wind swept ridge or sitting still for extended periods of time in the tree stand. This second layer can really help one stave off that chill.
The third layer is your outer layer on most hunting situations. A tough durable pant, such as First Lite’s Kanab pants, should offer excellent weather protection as well as durability from whatever the hunter can throw at them. Jackets should be insulating and should retain body heat as well as be lightweight and durable. Lastly, for your extremities, I would recommend a good merino wool liner glove as a base, as well as carry a second, heavy outer glove to wear when stationary. A good wool beanie for the head will help retain body heat loss greatly as well. A good neck gaitor or scarf will help fill the gap on being covered for your face.
I recently returned from a successful Muskox hunt in the Arctic this past April. I never saw the mercury rise higher than -19F and saw it dip as low as -40 each night. Layering on this hunt was EXTREMLY important. You can lose your life in those temps without the right gear. I utilized a First Lite system that worked really well for me and I was never cold once on the hunt. I used the FL Chama and Allegheny tops and bottoms as a base layer, Chama and Allegheny EXP heavy weight wool as a second layer, then a Uncompahgre Puffy and Kanab pants as a third layer. As an outer most layer, we had expedition weight goose down over coats and pants to help seal out that bitter cold.
I hope this Tech Tip helps some of you guys get your clothing system tuned in for this coming fall season. Best of luck filling those tags, guys!
Scott- Scott is an accomplished hunter, taxidermist, guide and writer who has hunted in 12 countries on 5 continents. From muskox in the barren grounds of the extreme northern Arctic to the highest peaks of Kyrgyzstan chasing long horned Mid Asian ibex, to the thick jesse of Zimbabwe chasing big bull elephant with double rifle in hand, Scott has the experience and expertise on a wide array of hunting types, techniques and locations.