For anyone who loves the outdoors and enjoys pursuing game, elk hunting can be one of the most exciting hunting experiences around. I often have said that the best hunting season would be to hunt every day of the season only to fill your tag on the last hour of the last day. The experience of being in elk country is what I have found to be the most rewarding. While I love spending time in the “deep and the steep”, I have also managed to invest a significant amount of money into my hunting apparel. The primary reason being that if I’m not comfortable, then I am probably not having fun. While thinking about the items that I use, there are 4 main things that I consider necessities for a comfortable day in the woods. These recommendations are my thoughts and may differ from other hunters, but as a longtime elk hunter who has spent many days afield in miserable weather, I feel confident that anyone else’s opinions wouldn’t differ much.
First lets talk about footwear. Footwear is possibly the most important piece of an elk hunters outfit. Without adequate hunting boots, you will spend most of the day worrying about your feet rather than whats happening around you. I hunt in a considerably wet environment with possibilities of large snow accumulations and the conditions can change significantly with elevation change. For this reason, I prefer a multi-functional boot that handles well in all conditions. For this, I recommend the Hoffman boot line. Hoffman boots are made in Kellogg, Idaho and are definitely made for rough, rugged country. Hoffman manufactures a number of different styles of boots, but I prefer the Guide series. I have not found another boot that outperforms Hoffmans. I have personally put these boots to the ultimate test many times and have never been disappointed. Whether it be water, cold, traction or comfort, these boots have done the job. As a testament to these boots, I hunt with numerous partners during a season, and over the years I have seen many different types of boots enter our hunting camp. Each year more and more Hoffman boots appear in our camp. They have become a staple within the confines of the canvas walls of our tent. As the saying goes, “Happy Feet, Happy Hunting”…or something like that.
The next most important piece of apparel is your base layer. Without an adequate base layer, you will be uncomfortable and find yourself ending your hunts early so that you can “return to the truck to warm up and dry off”. I say this only because I have done this many times or have heard my hunting partners make the comment. When I refer to a base layer, I am referring to the first layer of clothing that is worn on the upper and lower half of the body. A base layer needs to be comfortable, flexible, warm when wet, and water repelling. If you have ever heard the phrase “cotton kills” and have been stuck out in cold wet weather with a cotton base layer, then you probably understand the statement. Anything that clings to your body when wet will not insulate very well and provides for a miserable time. I recommend base layers by Under Armour as they have a number of different levels of base layering depending on your desired level of warmth needed. I prefer the mountain wear base layer series with the gridded fleece design as it allows moisture to pull away from the body while keeping you warm. Cabelas also offers a base layer brand that is very similar with the gridded fleece pattern and can be found at a cheaper price than the actual under armour. The thermal zone option for base layers is nice as it provides added or reduced insulation for different areas of the body.
I prefer to hunt for the entire day and with an entire day comes at least 12 hours of varying weather conditions. For this reason, my outer layer needs to meet the demands of changing conditions. Rain, snow, wind, cold temperatures, and warm temperatures need to be considered when choosing the layer that will provide initial protection. There was a time when I thought that wool would never be replaced and I believe that it might still be true if had not designed the Wooltimate series. I cannot say enough about the multi-functional use of the wooltimate series. outdid themselves combining wool and fleece to construct a garment that is breathable, warm, comfortable, windproof, light, and even warm when wet. no longer makes the wooltimate pullover which I currently use, however you can purchase the jacket. I do not recommend the pants if you plan on walking long distances as they are a tad warm. I can personally attest to the insulation capabilities of the wool/fleece material as I have been stuck in the rain for hours without my rain jacket and managed to stay quite warm regardless of the soaking rain and cold temperatures. Despite its insulation properties, I recommend carrying a lightweight rain coat to put on during periods of heavy rain or wet snow. As for hunting pants, I prefer wearing wool. Woolrich is hard to beat and still sells the classic woven wool pants. They are expensive but will last for many seasons before needing replacement. I prefer wool for many reasons. It is quiet in the brush, breathable, warm when wet and flexible.
The last piece of clothing is probably the most overlooked item in a hunters apparel. For many years, I hunted with gear that was made for the elements on every part of my body, but I always wore my trusty camouflage baseball cap despite the nasty weather. I can think of many days where a nice stocking cap or hunting hat would have served me much better, but it took me a long time to give up the old ball cap. We have all heard the old adage that 90% of your body heat is lost through your head and whether that is or isn’t true, keeping your head warm and dry is critical. Depending on the hunting conditions that you hunt you may prefer a stocking cap or a baseball cap or one of the many varieties of headwear. I prefer and recommend always carrying a stocking cap in your hunting pack even if it is not what you prefer to wear while hunting. My preferred hunting cap is one that is waterproof and covers my eyes from overhead sunshine and my ears from rain and snow. I also prefer to wear something that keeps the snow from falling off of my hat onto my back.
All of these items combine to provide for a pleasant experience in the elements. A day in the outdoors always beats a day indoors even when the elk can’t be found. Good Luck and stay warm.