Right Outerwear for Hunting Is Good Long-Term Investment
Photos & Story
by Scott Smith
Every year as summer comes to an end and Labor Day approaches, for many of us our thoughts turn to the coming hunting season. Generally these thoughts include the latest in firearms, ammunition, and optics. These bigger ticket items tend to consume the bulk of conversation and purchases-or at least that is what many outdoorsmen would assume.
One area that is often overlooked unless the weather is unseasonably cold or wet is that of clothing. For many hunters, as long as their outerwear is in their favorite camo pattern and is affordably priced its good enough. Most of the time the overall performance factor of the clothing is not considered.
One reason that outerwear that performs very well in adverse weather is often times passed over is the price. Granted, it seems like a lot of bucks when you drop $200 for a rain parka, but look at how often you wear it.
Here in Western Pennsylvania, where it seems that the weather is at its most uncooperative during whitetail season (archery and firearms); you can potentially get 50 days in the woods. Add the time spent going to the range to sight in your firearm or practice, taking the dog out, etc. Figure on the average you might get 100 days a year-that's only $2 a day or $1 if you have it for two years. Personally, I consider the sheer comfort factor to be well worth the investment.
So what's out there to make your outdoor adventures better?
Two of the leading producers of outdoor wear are Mossy Oak® Apparel and Mad Dog Gear®. This year these two companies have done their homework and improved their hunting gear.
The first thing that sets these two operations apart from others is that they manufacture outdoor clothing systems. Granted you can layer with any set of clothes, but how about gear that is actually meant to be used in conjunction with other items in the line. Mossy Oak Apparel seems to be leading the pack in this, since their new line has a lot of its foundation in mountaineering, where the ability of your clothing to defeat the elements keeps you alive. Mad Dog Gear has several liners for their parkas to meet the users' needs in different weather from cool to downright cold. The biggest thing that both companies offer is their clothes keep you dry. So let's take a closer look at a few of the items from Mossy Oak Apparel and Mad Dog Gear.
Let's begin with Mossy Oak Apparel (MOA). Many of us know Mossy Oak for their camouflage patterns of Break Up, Forest Floor, and now Obsession. Mossy Oak Apparel is a division of Russell Athletic and the line includes everything from t shirts to the new APX (Advanced Performance for Extremes) line of clothing.
The APX line includes: gloves; base layers; light weight clothing, and multi-function outerwear. In the interest of not running through their entire catalog, this review will focus the APX Instinct Pants and APX 4-in-1 Pinnacle Parka. Both the pants and the parka are made from Torrent APX. Torrent APX is a waterproof and windproof barrier to keep you warm and dry under the harshest conditions.
Let's look at the 4-in-1 Pinnacle Parka, because it will keep you warm and dry, this is a versatile piece of clothing. The parka includes a zip in/out windproof liner that can be worn by itself to break the wind and keep the chill off. Both the liner and parka feature seamless shoulders so your pack or rifle sling won't dig into your shoulder and ruin your day, especially if you have to cover a lot of ground on your hunt.
The parka is designed with comfort and use in mind. The hood has adjustments at the face and back of the head for a snug fit; it zips off and stores in the collar when not needed. The parka zips or snaps shut to increase airflow or to keep Mother Nature out. The sleeves are articulated and built to allow full range of motion to accommodate hunters whether when using a long gun or bow. The parka has several pockets to carry everything from keys to a granola bar. The Pinnacle is designed for extreme use.
To complete the package, add the APX Instinct Pants. Like the parka these are waterproof and windproof. There are bellowed thigh pockets for game calls, ammo and other accessories. For easiest donning or removal the legs of the pants feature long leg zippers so you don't have to remove your boots to pull these pants on or off. The Instinct Pants have a built in belt if you are using them as outerwear and they are downed in the field without removing your inner pants belt. Should you be dressing in camp, they have belt loops to accommodate your favorite belt.
Overall the Mossy Oak Apparel APX line is built with the outdoorsman in mind. The clothing system is designed to be layered and works in conjunction with other parts of the system. I found the clothes to be comfortable and they performed as advertised, keeping me dry in the rain and comfortable in the hot, humid afternoons of August. I am sure the full outfit will be warm in the field this fall during archery and rifle hunting seasons.
Another company that has been making great strides in the area of hunting garments is Mad Dog Gear. MDG is a division of Stearns, a company that is well known in the areas of waterfowl hunting and boating. Over the last few years Mad Dog has increased its thrust into the hunting apparel market.
This year Mad Dog introduced several new pieces and expanded the Silent Shadow Line. This is Mad Dog's extreme weather line and is meant to take the worst that Mother Nature can dish out. The line includes short jackets, pants, and parkas; you mix and match to suit your needs.
The piece of Mad Dog Gear that got a workout this summer was the Silent Shadow Plus Parka. Why was I testing a parka in the summer? Well, Pittsburgh had a monsoon season this year and I hate getting soaked running to the car and when out and about.
What makes the Silent Shadow Parka unique is the waterproof Ripstop Tricot shell. This shell is 48% stronger than a shell of Tricot nylon. This material also gives the shell a mini-waffle look and feel. I thought it looked pretty cool, but I am a guy.
Other feature of the Silent Shadow Plus Parka is an attached hood with slide closures to snug the hood down when the rain and wind kick in. The cuffs and collar are neoprene lined to keep water from running down your neck or up your arms, keeping you warmer and drier. A great feature is the long dovetail design of the back of the parka, to keep your back warm.
Pockets? You want pockets; the Silent Shadow Plus Parka has them. There are two hidden chest pockets with zippers to secure your key, wallet or other valuables. To carry the bigger, bulkier stuff there are two bellowed cargo pockets with pass behind hand warmer pockets, for a total of six. That should carry more stuff than many of us carry in a small pack.
For ease of movement, the elbows are articulated. To lock out the cold wind, the hem has a built in drawstring. How's that for not overlooking the details? If that's not enough, Mad Dog Gear is available in Mossy Oak Break Up®, or Advantage Timber®, and in many cases Realtree Hardwoods HD®, to meet you personal camouflage preference.
Mad Dog Gear has gotten into the hunting clothing in a big way. The Silent Shadow line is leading the way. The quality is top notch and is designed to function in a wide range of climatic conditions.
To say the least I was impressed with the offerings from Mossy Oak Apparel and Mad Dog Gear. The parkas have pockets to carry all the little stuff we take to the woods, they fit well, are waterproof, and even though they are hunting coats; they look good. I would not be embarrassed to wear these coats out to the store, a movie or out to your favorite diner for a casual meal-provided the parka doesn't smell of your favorite game attractant or cover scent.
When you are out at your favorite outdoor store check out the gear from Mossy Oak Apparel or Mad Dog Gear. These two companies have clothing to fit the bill from the heat of summer to the dead cold of winter.
For many of us fall means archery big game and small game hunting. Both of these require you to walk in and out of the woods, and to stalk game-a tiring exercise which is hard on the feet. Well to make things a touch easier, might I suggest checking out Original SWAT Boots (OSB). The company truly makes boots that fit and feel like a pair of comfortable running shoes, but perform like any of the well known "gotta have" hunting boots.
I chose to give the Classic 9-inch Desert Tan Boot a test run. Because of the brushed leather it's like putting on a well worn friend from the very first steps. The OSBs give great traction when used in the summer dried fields of southwestern Pennsylvania and were comfortable in the heat of summer. I trekked all over my hunting grounds as I set up my blinds for archery season and can say the boots are better than sliced bread.
Granted, many will want a waterproof pair of boots, but it was summer and I was going for comfort and support. Original SWAT does offer a few boots in their line which are waterproof and/or insulated, so fear not for the comfort of your feet in foul weather. For early season hunting and scouting, the Classic 9-inch Tan should more than suit most of our needs. On a working note, if you are heading to the Southwest Asian Theater of Operations, these boots will make your patrols a lot easier to take. Original SWAT Boots are built for the pleasures in life as well as the worst areas that work has to offer.
The last thing I found that an outdoorsman needs-although many might poo poo the item-was a set of hard-use tweezers. A.G. Russell Knives of Lowell, AR, is marketing a pair of key sized tweezers that really work. These Field Tweezers are made from one piece spring-tempered stainless steel and really do the job.
What makes them unique is their size-1 inches; so you can carry them on your keychain to have when you need them. I have used a set for nearly a decade and they work wonderfully. I have removed splinters of all types, metal shavings-thick and thin-and the tweezers works well when trying to grab a hold of small items such as thread when you're sewing a hole or trying to tie a knot in a thread.
Like the beloved GI P38 can opener, once you have one of these Field Tweezers you will wonder how you managed to survive without them. There are countless uses for them, both in the field and at home. Pick up a couple of pairs for your range, work bench, fishing tackle box, keychain or the glove box of your vehicle.
This list of gear might seem short, but it covered the basics as I see them. Keeping the feet from getting sore and tired makes a long day at the range or in the woods more enjoyable. The same can be said for keeping you warm and dry all over on those 30-something rainy days. Once you are damp, the day goes right to the crapper. Lastly the Field Tweezers remove those annoying and painful splinters that are found in the woods.
Most of this gear is available on line or at a number of the big box retailers we outdoorsman favor. Check out the local Bass Pro, Gander Mountain, Cabela's, Dick's/Galyans, or Sport's Authority, or whoever is in your part of the country. And don't forget the local hunting/firearms retailer; chances are they will special order items for you.
Have a safe and productive season in the woods. Shoot safe, make sure of the target and backstop so we don't hear of any hunting tragedies. To ensure your hunting rights, join the NRA, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Buckmasters, Pheasants Forever, National Wild Turkey Foundation, etc. These groups help ensure your firearms and hunting rights.
Mossy Oak Apparel
Mad Dog Gear
Original SWAT Boot
A.G. Russell Knives