I’ve been hunting since I was around three or four years old, and over that timeframe I’ve worn a lot of different types of gear into the woods. When I started out, I resemebled an orange marshmallow waddling through the swamp – with about 9 layers of down vests, jackets and snow pants, enclosed by a blaze orange shell. As I got a little older I started thinking that camo was cool – so I begged my dad to purchase my first camoflage jacket. I did end up getting that jacket – but because of it’s large size it was more like a camouflage dress – and I can’t say I was terribly comfortable either. From there I grew into high school and college and bought a number of different higher quality hunting jackets, pants and bibs – and used them all with mixed results. My qualms? Questionable levels of comfort in different types of weather, bulky sizing and poor durability. But things changed a few years ago when I got my hands on my first set of Sitka Gear and most recently I found what I believe to be the best hunting jacket/big combo for the hardcore whitetail hunter – the Sitka Fanatic Jacket/Bib.
The unique – and I mean very unique – combination of incredibly functional design, serious comfort, and high quality materials have made Sitka’s Fanatic Jacket and Bib my go-to choice during the whitetail seasons the past two years and here’s why…
Probably the most unique aspect of the Fanatic suit is the unorthodox design of the jacket. The first thing you’ll notice is that the zipper on this jacket does not go straight up and down. Rather it runs on a diagonal from one shoulder down to the other hip. This does two things for you, first of which is that it allows for a “kangaroo pocket”.
This kangaroo pouch style hand warmer pocket is similar to that found on a “hoodie”. The addition of this pocket is HUGE when it comes to the handiness and comfort of this jacket. The kangaroo pocket allows me to keep my hands warm easily without needing to always wear heavy gloves. Often times I’ll just wear a thin pair of gloves, and then throw a hand warmer in my kangaroo pocket. This works perfect, and when it’s time for a shot I’m able to easily slip the gloves off and grab my bow. Secondly, this becomes a great spot for easy storage of handheld items. For example, you’re checking email on your phone, when all of a sudden you notice a buck moving towards your stand. It’s natural and very easy to just slip the phone into the Kangaroo pocket and then get on with the important stuff.
That’s not the only unique pocket included in this Fanatic package though, it just keeps getting better. Unique and convenient storage is really a common theme for the Fanatic, and that’s no more clear than with the grunt tube and range finder pockets found on the Fanatic Jacket. The range finder and grunt tube are two of the most often used items in the hardcore whitetail hunter’s arsenal, and are often needed quickly and in very intense situations. Often though we are fishing through our backpacks for these tools or yanking these items off hooks in a tree. This inevitably leads to a lot of movement and noise, and more times than we’d like, a lost shot opportunity. With the Fanatic though, these items are given specially created pockets front and center on the jacket. You’ll have your grunt and range finder in an easy to access location as well. Given that they are high up on your chest, movement to grab these tools and bring them to your mouth or eye is minimal, and it will reduce your chances of being spotted by that big buck. This is an incredibly simple, but helpful addition to the jacket.
Storage excellence continues throughout the rest of the suit too though, as there are multiple sleeve and chest zip pockets, large cargo pockets on the bibs, zip pockets above those, and then a abdomen zip pocket as well. All of these lend themselves to making this Fanatic suit perfect for the gizmo and gadget loving whitetail hunter like me. From what I’ve found, every pocket, zipper, seam, and piece of fabric was placed in a specific spot, for a specific reason – and when using and wearing this jacket, this attention to design detail definitely pays off.
An incredibly functional jacket/bib is great, but if it’s not comfortable in the field, it won’t be much use to you as a deer hunter. Luckily, comfort is right at the top of the list for the Fanatic as well. For me, this suit hits a sweet spot in regards to comfort when it comes to fit, feel, and warmth.
One of my favorite aspects of Sitka’s line of hunting gear has been the “performance fit” for the majority of their items. By this, I mean that their articles of clothing are typically a little more tailored and tightly cut to minimize bulk, noise and weight. I find this kind of closer fit to be ideal for hunting uses, and luckily this overall trend continues with the Fanatic. The Fanatic admitedly is a little more bulky than most of the other Sitka jackets/bibs/pants I’ve worn, given the higher amount of insulation and storage options – but I believe that it’s all put together in a way that those additions are minimized, and the suit definitely retains a comfortable and functional fit.
Wearing the jacket in general is just a comfortable experience. Carefully placed pockets and design features that we’ve already discussed all contribute to an overall comfortable feel. For example the kangaroo pocket is incredible when it comes to comfort for my hands, and the “wrist gasket/thumb loops” are great for keeping cold air or rain from moving up my sleeves. This Fanatic jacket also has a high rise collar, which is great for blocking wind and keeping your face warm. A removable hood then provides the potential protection you need during inclement weather, while still having the versatility to remove extra bulk when not needed. Speaking of the collar, that diagonal zipper that we mentioned earlier comes back into play here. Because the zipper wraps around the side of the collar, instead of right up the middle, you have a full layer of wonderful fleece against your face now – rather than an icy cold zipper. This makes a world of difference on those frigid days when you’re tucked into your jacket like a turtle!
Speaking of comfort, few factors are as important to comfort for whitetails hunters as warmth. We all know how terrible a long sit in the treestand can be when you are shivering for hours on end. An all around whitetail jacket has to have some strong insulation, and the Fanatic really brings that to the table. Specifically the Fanatic Jacket/Bibs employ “Primaloft” insulation to provide great warmth, with the ability to handle wet weather as well. I’ve found the Fanatic suit to be ideal for me from temperatures from the upper 50’s down to the high 20’s. I obviously adjust my other layers underneath, but the Fanatic suit has proven to be pretty dang versatile. The one thing I will say is that when hiking to your stand, the jacket/bib combo can be pretty warm – so I like to keep my jacket in my backpack until I climb into the tree.
One additional item of warning when it comes to comfort. The diagonal zipper, for me and a few friends, at first seemed a bit awkward. It’s obviously very different from 99% of jackets we’ve grown up wearing, so it’s to be expected that at first this would seem strange. It’s definitely a slightly different process getting it zipped, and it wears a little differently as well when you have it unzipped partially for instance But for me, I was able to overcome this initial adjustment and now the benefits far outweigh any negatives of this change – but for transparency’s sake – it’s worth noting.
Speaking of warmth, one of the key features of the Fanatic Jacket/Bib are the quality materials which lead to this suit being so functional, comfortable and warm. Three key materials I think should be highlighted, those being Primaloft insulation, GORE windstopper fabric, and the Optifade camoflage.
As we just covered, the Fanatic is great when it comes to providing serious warmth, but it does this while still being relatively bulk free and it’s insulating qualities remain impressive even when wet. This is made possible by Primaloft, which is essentially a synthetic down material. Because of it’s unique super fine “micro fiber” insulation, Primaloft keeps you warm like down does, but maintains this even when wet. Additionally it is more packable and less bulky than down.
As valuable as the Primaloft is inside the jacket/bib, the outer shell of the suit is equally important and it all starts here with the GORE Windstopper fabric. As the name of this technology implies, Windstopper completely blocks the chilling bite of wind. According to the GORE-TEX website, “Every square inch of the WINDSTOPPER® membrane contains 1.4 billion micropores. This revolutionary structure is ultra-light, ultra-thin, and highly resistant to extreme temperatures. The microporous structure of the WINDSTOPPER® membrane ensures maximum breathability; cold wind is kept out, but moisture vapor can easily escape.” As impressive as the technology is, the actual functionality is equally apparent. Windstopper really does live up to it’s billing, and I owe many comfy sits in the stand on blustery cold days to this fabric. This outer shell is topped off with a DWR finish, which adds to it’s weather hardiness and in general this outer shell can stand up to a lot of abuse from weather and nature in general.
On top of all that Primaloft and Windstopper is the cherry on top when it comes to the Fanatic jacket/bib – and that is the camoflage. The Fanatic is outfitted in GORE’s Forest Optifade pattern. For those not familiar, Optifade is the first digital camoflage created specifically for hunters, with science driven design based on how deer and other ungulates see objects. The Forest version of this pattern is specifically for those of us that spend most of our time up in trees chasing whitetails, and it’s vertical orientation is designed to fool a wiley old buck staring up at us. I’ve been wearing Forest Optifade for three years now – and I am 100% convinced that this camoflage pattern works incredibly well. Time and time again, I’ve had deer look up into my tree, see nothing and then return to their business. For more details on Optifade and further thoughts from me, check out this past post on Optifade camo.
It took me about 21 years of trial and error searching for the ultimate whitetail hunting outfit, but finally I’ve found a keeper. And given my experiences with the Fanatic over the past few years, I think it will be a pretty good long time until I need to begin that search again. Truly unique design and function. Comfort in all facets. World class materials.
For these reasons, the Sitka Fanatic Jacket/Bib is my top choice for a whitetail hunting suit and I believe if you give the Fanatic a try yourself, you’ll find it rise to the top as well.
For more information on the Sitka Fanatic jacket/bib, visit the Sitka Gear website.