How To Layer Clothes For Hunting?
Learning how to layer and maximize each piece of gear’s ability to keep you warm is a hunting knowledge fundamental. There is a simple truth in hunting: stay comfortable, stay hunting. The hunting days of generations past would don thick and heavy wool, a kit decidedly uncomfortable when you factor in weight and lack of maneuverability. Today’s technical clothing and modern fabrics have given hunters options that make them more nimble without sacrificing thermal qualities.
What is the Best Way to Layer Clothing?
Layering works using multiple pieces that are thinner rather than wearing one larger and bulkier item. Each layer can be adjusted or removed depending on the activity and the thermal need of the wearer. This allows a hunter to fine tune what they need to stay comfortable. The basics of the Tri-Layer system are base layers followed by insulation layers, and then an outer layer or protection shell. Each component is personalized for the wearer's environment, activity and personal need. Once you have figured out your own system, nearly all of your hunting will be covered with just 4-5 pieces.
What Is The Best Base Layer For Hunting?
Layering systems start with a base layer. This layer fits close to the body with the primary purpose of wicking sweat away from the skin. Sweat becomes dangerous when it cools the body beyond what it can reheat in cold environments (think hypothermia). Preventing sweat before it begins is best, but when in high-intensity activity that is hard. Base layers work to keep that sweat from cooling the body by bringing it to the surface where it can evaporate away from the skin.
The two most popular options are merino wool and synthetic, each with their own tradeoffs. Merino is renowned for its warm-when-wet property and for minimizing odor. It also tends to be softer. Synthetics dry faster than merino and are more durable. They are also less expensive, but can melt if too close to a heat source. Start with a lighter layer and bulk up only when you know you will be in extreme cold or sedentary. Forloh uses Trizar, originally developed by NASA, in the Deep Space base layer to redirect heat without adding bulk. The choice of material is vital; cotton is avoided since it absorbs water and has little thermal value.
What to Look for in a Mid Layer?
Featured Items: Men's ThermoNeutral Down Jacket
The Insulation layer traps body heat and prevents heat loss. When hunting this layer is usually kept in a pack and retrieved after cooling down. If too heavy of a layer is worn, sweat will build up rapidly. If it is too light, your body won’t be able to keep up with the elements to stay warm. Hunters that run hot might opt to eliminate this layer altogether, but having it close can be lifesaving in an emergency situation. Doubling up on insulation layers can add bulk and reduce their insulative power. Instead, down jackets, often called “puffies,” can add that needed warmth. I never wear mine while moving; I’ll overheat before I take 10 steps. But sitting and glassing, they are the best thing next to having a roaring fire.
How to Choose the Right Outer Layer?
The outer layer is your shell. Here your keywords are defend and durable. You need gear that will protect you against wind and rain while withstanding your moves through dark and dense timber. Forloh’s AllClima pants and jacket offer windproof and waterproof protection but with vents that can be zipped open after a quick climb and then closed once cooled down, eliminating the hassle of dropping and adding layers after movement.
Layer systems tend to focus on the core and legs, but don’t forget your hands, feet, and head. Neck gaiters prevent cool wind from sneaking down your back. Lightweight gloves keep wind off your hands while retaining dexterity. Headgear, like Forloh’s Softshell Beanie, should be comfortable but not tight and if possible, windproof. A special note on socks: bulking up for insulation can also affect your boot size and comfort and should be tried before going afield.
Other Layering Tips
- Tuck your base layer top into your base layer pants to keep it from exposing your lower back.
- Change your socks when you break for lunch; there is little else that beats the feeling of fresh socks.
- Refine your gear choices after each trip.
- Stay clean. Dirty fabrics do not perform as well; dirty skin can get infected; and dirty hunters are easily smelled by animals.
- Keep more layers with you than you’ll think you’ll need in your pack.
- Be bold, go cold. If you’re going to be active, start off with lighter layers and use your body heat to warm up.
- The body produces heat by burning the calories input. It also takes water to digest and sweating loose water, so stay hydrated.
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 at www.406.life, on Instagram @everettheadley and his podcast Venery and Veritas.