As we discussed last week, I’m a strong advocate of hunting in the rain. In fact I almost never let any kind of weather keep me out of the woods. I know one thing for sure, I will never shoot a buck sitting on my couch inside. So getting outside, no matter the conditions, always gives me a better chance. I figure I spend 9 months a year dreaming of hunting season, I better take advantage of every second I have when the season is upon us! That being said, when you’re hunting in inclimate weather, you better have clothing that can withstand it. If not, you’re in for a pretty miserable and ineffective day on stand. That’s why I’m so surprised that, despite it’s importance, I find that rain gear specifically is a type of equipment that is rarely discussed in the hunting world. So with that in mind, I wanted to right that wrong. In an effort to help you all become more effective and comfortable hunters on those nasty weather days, lets run through some key features you should look for in good hunting raingear.
So to begin, when it comes to quality hunting raingear there are four critical features that must be considered. These are the raingear’s waterproofness, breathability, quietness and packability. Let’s dive in to each a little further.
When it comes to raingear, it’s obvious that actual waterproof gear is needed. But the term waterproof is often tossed around loosely, many times in reference to gear that technically doesn’t really live up to that name! In addition to waterproof you may have also heard the terms water repellent and water resistant. Too often someone will see one of these descriptions and then assume that the gear will be great for using in the rain. But that’s just not true.
A coat labeled water repellent is coated with a chemical treatment that essentially keep most water from absorbing into the fabric, and instead forces water to bead and fall off the coat. Unfortunately this is only a temporary fix by itself, and you can expect a lot of leaking after long exposure.
You’re doing a little better if you’re gear is labeled water resistant, but please don’t assume this will keep you dry for long. Water resistant gear is achieved through tightly woven fabrics and some kind of polyurethane coating. This can keep you dry in light precipitation, but prolonged exposure will result in water soaking through and you getting cold, uncomfortable and eventually out of your stand!
Contrastingly, an actual “waterproof” garment will keep you 100% dry. A proper waterproof garment should be able to keep you dry in extreme conditions and high pressures and even keep water from entering the garment at seams, hems, sleeve openings, etc. This is the gear you want. Being 100% dry while hunting is obviously critical to your comfort, which in the end will determine how long you can stay on stand and possibly if you see that giant buck or not!
If you’re into trail running, hiking or climbing you are probably very familiar with the term breathable when used in regards to clothing. It’s a key feature for any type of garment worn during high activity endeavors and is essential to staying comfortable and dry from moisture that we ourselves produce in the form of sweat. “Breathable” equipment allows your sweat to evaporate through the fabric and into the air. Traditional rain gear doesn’t do this well, and even with a waterproof shell keeping rain from getting to you, your sweat can make you just as wet anyways! As hunters, having breathable raingear is crucial for situations such as hiking into a stand, hunting in warm weather or basically doing anything that could possibly make your sweat. Don’t overlook the importance of this factor. I’ve bought plenty a cheap rain shell, just to find myself soaked from the inside after a few minutes and very unhappy!
This is obvious, but if you’re wearing raingear while hunting, it dang better be quiet! Your typical rain jacket is a hard shell and it crinkles, cracks and pops. That just isn’t gonna cut it in the deer woods. So to deal with this, several manufacturers have applied fabrics on top of the rain shells that soften the sounds. Make sure your gear passes the sound test in dry and wet conditions. The last thing you want is to spook a buck at 20 yards when drawing back after waiting 6 hours in the pouring rain.
The last factor I look at is how packable the jacket is. This is important for many of my layers used in hunting applications, but particularly for rain gear. Your rain suit may not be something you wear all the time, so most often you’ll keep the gear in your backpack until the weather forces you to wear it. Given this fact, it’s super important to find a jacket and/or pant that compresses down nicely to fit into a small area. Obviously you don’t want your raingear to take up your whole pack, so look for raingear that packs up nice and tight.
My Raingear of Choice
So given all of these factors to consider, you may be wondering what actual products are out there for hunters that fit this bill! I can’t claim to have used them all, so I’m not going to cover them in depth. But I do know of a few brands that seem to put out some good options. If I was in the market for good hunting raingear, I would take a look at Rivers West, Under Armour and Sitka, but I’m sure there are plenty more options on top of that.
As for me, in years past I wore “waterproof” insulated camouflage, but unfortunately this was not breathable or packable at all. Last year I moved up to a more breathable option, but it was not 100% waterproof. Finally this year I’ve upgraded to what I currently see as the best hunting raingear I’ve ever had the chance to use. Protecting me from Mother Nature this fall will be the Downpour Series Jacket and Pant from Sitka Gear.
The Downpour gear hits all four of my mentioned criteria right on the head. The key to the Downpour gear is that it uses Gore-Tex’s premier “Paclite shell”. This top of the line shell is 100% waterproof, exceptionally breathable and as packable as they come. In addition to the great Paclite Shell, Sitka then added a lightly brushed face to the shell which makes it near silent, completely waterproofed the zips and seams, added easily adjustable wrist openings and hood and topped it all of with Optifade Forest camo. In short, it’s a whitetail’s worst nightmare on a rainy day. I’ve worn my Downpour Jacket through numerous rain storms and found it to keep me bone dry, both from the rain and my sweat, even whie hiking around my property. Additionally I’ve found it to be just as quiet as any of my other Sitka Gear and it packs up as small as mini-basketball!
If you’re interested in hearing a little more about the importance of rainger or the Downpour series and how it helps other avid whitetail hunters, check out this video with fellow whitetail freak and Sitka Athlete Jeff Simpson.
Being able to effectively hunt in the rain is in my opinion an absolutely essential tool in your arsenal when it comes to killing mature whitetails. Your options for raingear are many, but make sure you consider the four factors of waterproofness, breathability, quietness and packability when making your decision. No matter what brand gear you use, make sure it will keep you dry, quiet and in the stand for the long haul. I promise you won’t regret it.