-By Everett Headley
Cold weather is the proverbial two-edged sword. Clothed in their ultra-thermal coats, big game like deer and elk are most comfortable when the temps drop low. Activity levels rise and this makes them more visible and the hunting better. The other side is that us thin-skinned, upright predators are naturally adverse to venturing in those temperatures. We need something that maintains our body temperature and helps us endure the elements. And while the old-timers got it done in black and red buffalo-check wool coats, advancements in the industry have developed incredible options for today’s hunter.
Technical Apparel Advances
Your first defense against the weather is your shell. It will battle a wide range of wind, precipitation, and temperatures. Versatility to perform across environments and pursuits requires the use of technologies, some previously never used in outdoor gear:
- Airadigm: a pulse-plasma process that draws DWR through material at the molecular level
- Activ-dri Down: treated down that repels water and dries quicker
- Perf-weld: sonic welding of seams to maintain breathability and increase strength without sacrificing water resistance
- Polygiene: treated fabric to minimize odor at the microbial level
- Polartec: unparalleled warmth, wicking, and breathability in an insulation fabric
- Recco: built in, passive rescue reflector
Top Considerations When Buying a Jacket
I need my gear to perform in situations where a failure could quickly endanger my life. A sheep hunt three miles into the backcountry turned dangerous when my boots leaked in a surprise snow storm. Quick thinking and being prepared with emergency gear allowed me to get back to camp, but it could have had a very different outcome. My top considerations when selecting a shell are:
- Is it waterproof?
- Is it windproof?
- Does it match my intended use?
- Is there articulation for movement?
- What is the durability of the materials?
- How quiet is it when I move?
Layer, Don’t Bulk
Layering is fundamental in hunter preparedness. With new fabrics, thicker and heavier no longer equates to warmer. Forloh’s outdoor clothing is built on the Tri-Layer System, maximizing elemental protection while minimizing restrictive movement. Jackets and pants are tailored to work with insulating and base layers. This gives the hunter a surprisingly nimble kit.
Understand Jacket Ratings
The two assaults hunting jackets repel are wind and moisture. Both work to lower the body’s ability to maintain warmth. Wind on the skin will chill it faster and drive water through your fabric, increasing that cooling factor. Moisture build up on the skin amplifies this cooling and needs to be redirected out. Special membranes control the directional movement of water and air and are measured as waterproof and breathability. A shell will have two numbers in its rating, expressed as “20/20”.
What is Waterproof?
Featured Items: Men's Airalite Rain Jacket
Waterproofing is measured in the number of vertical millimeters of water in a 1 inch square of fabric it would take to make the fabric fail. A jacket with a waterproof rating of 10k (10,000mm) would be good for light rain for an afternoon while one with a 15k rating would cover you for moderate rain all day. Heavy rain over multiple days would require a shell with a 20k rating. All of Forloh’s shells and rain jackets are rated at 20k and above.
A waterproof jacket with no breathability will feel like wearing a garbage bag (remember those PVC slickers as a kid?). The membranes between fabric layers allow air to escape without allowing moisture in. How much water vapor can move through a square meter of fabric in 24 hours is measured by the gram. A 10k (10,000g) rated jacket is best for everyday wear with minimal aerobic activity, 15k is for moderate use with minimal sweating, and 20k is for heavy aerobic use with a layered approach. This is a priority in our production and we maintain 20k as our standard.
My own experiences have been impressive. I have confidence that regardless of the terrain or incoming weather, I’m covered. September elk hunting in Montana and Idaho started in the 70s and dropped to the 30s and my AllClima Soft Shell was incredible. I added a light layer towards the end of the season. I was comfortably warm in my Thermoneutral Down Jacket while sitting in a layout blind on a South Dakota morning in March waiting for snow geese.
AllClima Soft Shell- The Workhorse
This is my go to shell. When temperatures begin to drop but vary widely, my AllClima does it all. As the season progresses, a thicker base layer or added insulating layer works to the coldest my hunts offer. Its rugged durability means I don’t worry about what I encounter in the mountains.
- Highly breathable and waterproof: 20k/20k
- Super Quiet
- Fleece backing for quiet and warmth
- Underarm ventilation helps minimize layers
- Nimble 27 oz
- Good for any season, any region
AllClima 3L Rain Jacket- Most Versatile
When I need to minimize ounces for a waterproof jacket, the AllClima 3L makes the cut. This lightweight rain jacket is designed to work in tandem with other layers, allowing for the specialized configuration needed for your particular hunt. Half a pound lighter than the AllClima Soft Shell, the 3L performs when the weather turns gnarly and stows easily when unneeded.
- Highly breathable and waterproof: 20k/20k
- 19 oz
- All seams taped
- Best for backcountry
Thermoneutral Down Jacket- #1 Puffy Layer
Featured Items: Men's ThermoNeutral Down Jacket
The Thermoneutral Down Jacket is easily my favorite piece of Forloh gear. It keeps my core warm without allowing it to overheat. The welded seams mean I can wear it out as an outer layer in light rain and snow. It is great for when my activity level is low. I especially like the hoodless, high collar to keep wind off my neck without added bulk.
- Insulation or Shell Layer
- Welded seams to keep water resistance high
- Breathable to help move moisture out.
- Quick drying.
Airalite Rain Jacket- Lightest Waterproof Option
For those times you are mobile and need rain gear for the passing storm, this is your best choice. Even though it is ultralight, Ripstop makes it durable and ready for you to get into the woods. Vents in the hand pockets, under the arms, and along the back provide for unrivaled air flow. The Airalite shines in early season rain when it's still warm, but won’t make you feel like you’re in a shower.
- Forloh’s most waterproof jacket: 23k/20k
- Less than a pound.
- Excellent for emergency preparedness.
- The Ventilation system keeps you cool.
- Excels in early season and hot weather
About the Author: Everett Headley is an outdoor writer and educator. He was raised hunting and fishing in Montana. He lives in the Bitterroot with his Chesapeake Bay retriever, Cane, and his peregrine falcon, Freyja. You can find more of his work on his professional page, on Instagram and his podcast Elevate the Hunt.
Featured Items: Men's Airalite Rain Jacket, Men's Airalite Rain Pant, Men's ThermoNeutral Down Jacket, Women’s AllClima 3L Rain Jacket, Men's AllClima Soft Shell Jacket, Puff Embroidered Mesh Hat, Deep Space Neck Gaiter, Men's AllClima 3L Rain Jacket, Men's SolAir Technical Hoodie