Today’s choices in hunting gear are the best they’ve ever been. Hunters have access to fabrics and technologies that were honed in the mountaineering field. Moisture-managing base layers, packable insulation, and breathable outerwear have become standards. However, putting all these pieces together, and trying to plan for an unfamiliar destination can still be a challenge. Climate, elevation and terrain vary drastically from one region to another. Yet one thing remains consistent: when you’re in remote mountain country, you must be prepared for highly variable conditions. From warm, sunny days to being freezing cold and wet, you could see it all on a single trip.
The key is to plan a versatile layering system that’s tailored to your destination. Here are a few simple tips to building a kit for our hunts here in northern British Columbia:
First, organize your hunting clothing into three basic groups: base layers, insulating layers and outerwear. Base layers are anything you’d wear next to your skin, like shirts and long underwear. Insulating layers may include pullovers, vests, and down jackets. Outerwear will include your hunting pants, jackets, and rain gear.
As you pack for your hunt, start a list of gear that you have in each category. Make sure each group has options of varying weight and warmth that will allow you to adapt to conditions. Here is an example of a good layering system:
- Lightweight underwear and t-shirts
- Mid-weight long sleeve top and bottoms
- Expedition weight top and bottoms
A great layering kit begins with your base layers. We love high quality merino wool for these long, remote hunts. Even after many days in the field, merino wool doesn’t stink like synthetics. It’s also very versatile, keeping you cool when the sun is shining, and keeping you warm when the mercury drops.
Choosing high quality materials like merino wool includes your undies. Don’t bring those cotton boxers or briefs for a long wilderness expedition. Additionally, consider packing two sets of base layers (top and bottoms). Bring one lightweight set, plus a set of thermal base layers. This will allow you to mix and match with the rest of your system depending on conditions.
- Pullover fleece top or breathable jacket
- Synthetic or merino wool insulated vest
- Down puffy jacket
We’d recommend packing at least two different insulation pieces. First, bring a fleece or other warm, breathable top that you can pull on over your base layers. This is great for mild weather or even cold days when you’re working hard. Second, bring a down jacket. You’ll want this when glassing for long periods, during cold weather, or simply for hanging out at camp. Down provides the best warmth-to-weight ratio. It’s extremely lightweight and packs small but is incredibly warm. Many companies now use treated down that’s very water resistant. This is deal for wet conditions in British Columbia. If you pack one more insulation piece, consider a lightweight vest to add further versatility.
- Breathable pants with a DWR (water repellent) finish
- Wind and water resistant softshell jacket
- Waterproof, breathable rain jacket
- Waterproof, breathable rain pants
If you bring one pair of hunting pants, bring pants that are breathable and not too heavy. It’s better to add a layer of long underwear than bring pants that are too heavy and hot. A set of long underwear, breathable hunting pants, and quality rain pants should provide your legs with everything they need on a mountain hunt.
Next up, pack a softshell or other lightweight jacket. This will be your go-to jacket whenever you’re not wearing rain gear. Shoftshells are more breathable than rain jackets, plus they are more durable when busting through timber or brush. A good softshell also offers some wind resistance and limited water resistance.
Finally, your outerwear isn’t complete without an excellent set of rain gear. Packing a quality rain jacket and rain pants is absolutely essential here in B.C. When choosing rain gear, there’s always a delicate balance between lightweight, durability, breathability and water resistance. These things are naturally in conflict with each other. A quality set of rain gear that balances these things well isn’t cheap. But it’s well worth the investment. For a deeper dive on the subject, see our blog post about rain gear.
Pay Attention to Materials
No matter what’s on your packing list, synthetic fabrics and merino wool are the standards. Ditch anything cotton. Cotton provides no insulation when wet. It absorbs moisture and becomes heavy. Modern synthetics and merino wool wick moisture, dry quickly, and maintain their insulation properties even under wet conditions.
In fact, if you’ve made the investment in breathable boots and rain gear, you’ll render them almost worthless if you put cotton socks or cotton base layers underneath. Cotton traps moisture and keeps the breathable membrane from working the way it should. Materials that wick moisture will actually keep your breathable outerwear functioning as designed.
Of course any system isn’t complete without hats, gloves, socks and a few other items. When it comes to socks, high quality merino wool, or a synthetic-merino blend is hard to beat. It wicks moisture to help prevent blisters. We’d also remind hunters do not bring new boots on a hunt. If you’re planning to buy new boots, make sure that you hike some miles in them before your big trip. If they don’t fit correctly or cause problems, you don’t want to discover it when you’re out on the mountain.
For more information on our mountain hunts at Kawdy Outfitters, please explore the rest of our website. We offer outstanding adventures for moose, mountain goat, mountain caribou and stone sheep. For details and availability, please contact us.
Written by Ryan McSparran
Ryan McSparran is an outdoor writer, a hunting and fly fishing guide, and very proud to be a part of the Kawdy Outfitters team.