This is a short review of some “technical” hunting clothes worn by the Outfitter Advisors team. Here in WI, we primarily hunt whitetail deer from a tree stand and base our camo purchases on being able to buck the wind and overall warmth. So, when we started hunting out west we began upgrading our camo and hunting clothing from what was warm to what functioned well in the backcountry. Now days we always get asked, “What kind of camo is that you are wearing?” Here are a few notes on some of the items we wear each elk season in the high country. Again, we are not affiliated with any of these companies and are on the average guy budget.
I put my wife in for a mule deer tag this year and was looking to upgrade some of her camo and not break the bank (she doesn’t hunt as hard or go out west as often). So, this last winter I purchased two pair of SKRE Hardscrabble pants to try out, one set for her and one for myself. As you might already know, I’m a dedicated shed hunter and I’ll put gear through its paces for sure.
I started wearing the SKRE Hardscrabble pants in January and now in late June, I have to say I wore them right out. First thing I noticed about SKRE was their price. SKRE offers gear similar to the heavy hitters like Sitka, Kuiu and First Lite, but at a much more reasonable price. I was able to purchase these two pair of pants for the price of one Sitka or Kuiu set. The order was quick and easy and the gear showed up at my house in a few days. I immediately tried my set on and having owned both Sitka and Kuiu, I noticed the sizing was “true to size” as advertised. The pants are made from a stretch material similar to Kuiu and Sitka, but I found they are tight in the crotch and tend to ride up on you. They are not tight at the bottom (heal) which meant they fit over my heavy winter boots well. That being said, I wore the bottoms right off and should have had them under gaiters in the crisp snow, but didn’t.
Other than some fit issues, I wore them nearly every day while shed hunting and doing simple chores around my hobby farm. I put them through endless miles of prickly ash and briar patches, and that’s when I noticed all the pilling. The front of the pants is totally pilled and pulled apart, which lead to fading and finish issues. Issues that I’ve not experienced with Sitka or Kuiu.
But, they had some strong points too. I was not concerned with the camo pattern as I was primarily using my set for shed hunting and not concealment. I loved the front cargo pocket design and size. I used this feature endlessly and loved their location and zippered closure. I also like the zippered vents from hip to knee; they are easy to open and close while on the move and help with preventing sweat on cold days. The open cuffs, boot cut style, are nice for fitting over big boots and accommodating extra thermal layers.
The best feature is the price. Again, I was able to buy two pair of pants for the price of one Sitka or Kuiu. With certain models and styles becoming available on sites like Camofire, you can expect to see even better pricing deals. My wife wore her set several times throughout shed season and said she would like the matching top (Hardscrabble). SKRE seems to be growing rapidly and I would be interested in getting more of their products to try out this season.
I have several items of Kuiu, ranging from super lightweight Tiburon pants and shirts to the Guide set and heavy base layers. Every piece of Kuiu gear I have ordered has been true to size and the fit is incredible. I’ve never been disappointed with any of the items I’ve purchased and I use them all throughout the year.
I’ve been pretty rough on some of the pants, including the Tiburon, Attack and Guide and have never cut them on deadfall or fences. The fabric is durable and I have not experienced the pilling that I did with SKRE after walking through briars and thorn bush. With three camo patterns and several solid color options, you can find a match for your environment quite easily.
Kuiu is a direct from manufacturer style business and does not offer any of their products in a retail store environment. This can be a bit scary when you are ordering expensive gear without being able to put hands on it first. In my case, I was lucky enough to have a hunting partner who had already purchased several items and I was able to try some on before ordering.
Kuiu has done an exceptional job of promoting their products, which has led to a great demand for the “average guy” sizes. I have personally attempted to purchase items that I really wanted or needed for an upcoming hunt and have had to wait on a backorder list for a few months. Kuiu runs sales from time to time and every time I have attempted to purchase items on these sales, the items have been back ordered. This is Kuiu’s greatest downfall in my opinion, but the product outweighs this negative by far.
(writers note) This past elk season it was extremely hot in Montana and I wore the light weight Merino wool tops, often a short sleeve or Peloton shirt, along with the Attack or Tiburon pants. These items were awesome during the heat of the day and were just warm enough to be comfortable when the sun went down. When the weather was bad, I layered up with the Peloton 240 zip hoodie, which was light enough to pack all day when it got warm. These layers dry fast and best of all, don’t stink after several days of wear.
Fast forward to my December mule deer hunt in Nebraska. I wore the same Attack pants and 240 zip hoodie, but by adding a Guide vest and Guide jacket for long sits in the evening, I was able to stay warm and avoided all the bulk of big layers. Owning a variety of different items I was able to layer them together easily.
The first two Items of Sitka Gear I ever purchased were on sale through Camofire. I bought a pair of 90% pants and an Ascent jacket. That was seven years and thousands of shed hunting miles ago and I’m still wearing both. The 90% pants have been beat to no end and hardly show the wear and tear. The tear literally. I tore a hole in the knee of these pants five years ago while crossing a barbed wire fence and the hole has never gotten any bigger or worse since the day it happened.
I’ve seriously walked hundreds of miles in these pants shed hunting in tough country and the pants have never pilled or faded even after all the thorns and briars. This set of 90% pants are still my go to shed hunting pants. Same goes for my Ascent jacket. I’ve worn this jacket for years shed hunting thorn and briar country and also in the heavy oak brush covered hills of the mountains without failure. I have since purchased other Sitka items and have always been satisfied with the product.
The best part about Sitka Gear is its availability. Sitka is carried by most retailers and that means you can try it on before making a decision to purchase. Sitka is a proven company and has been in the technical clothing game for a long time. Sitka is rather expensive compared to Kuiu and SKRE, but I’ve never talked to anyone who owns some and doesn’t love it. I personally wish I had one of everything, but that goes for all three companies just to be fair. My elk hunting partner has most of the mountain hunting essential items and swears by the product.
These are just three companies that I personally own and wear products from while hunting in the back country of the western states and my home farm in WI. Take it for what it’s worth. Ask someone who owns the same or similar products and try them on for yourself. No, you don’t need to own this stuff to be successful in the hardwoods or the back country, but you’ll be a lot more comfortable for sure.