By Mark Kenyon
“I see you wear Sitka Gear in your videos, do you like it?”
“What layers do you wear?”
“Is it warm enough to wear during the winters in Minnesota?”
“Is it worth the money?”
“Which Sitka items should I purchase?”
“Does that Optifade camo really work?”
All of these questions and more have become a common discovery in my email inbox over the past few years. And I’ve answered these questions countless times now.
Sitka Gear, while growing greatly in popularity with whitetail hunters recently, is still relatively new to the game when compared to mainstays like Scentbloker, Scentlok and your other every day camo gear in Realtree or Mossy Oak. On top of it being new, it’s also quite a bit different looking and a bit more expensive than many other options. For those reasons, the questions about Sitka Gear are many and frequent.
With that said, I’ve decided to put together a master FAQ of sorts for those who are interested in Sitka Gear for whitetails. I’ve used Sitka Gear now for four seasons and have tested it in just about every situation possible for whitetail hunting. So with that set of experiences, as well as feedback from a number of my Sitka wearing friends, I’m going to outline my honest thoughts on Sitka Gear as an option for whitetail hunters, provide my thoughts on specific pieces, and my recommendations for must have items!
Where It Began
To kick things off, I want to provide a really high level overview on Sitka Gear and how it came to be an option for whitetail hunters. Five years ago, when I first discovered Sitka, I was intrigued by this new hunting gear because of the companies origin story. In short, the founders of Sitka had been inspired by the quality of technical gear available for other outdoor adventurers such as backpackers, climbers and mountaineers. Clothing and gear for these activities were being produced from high grade materials using cutting edge technology to create clothing that could stand the toughest elements, while staying comfortable, functional, and in tact. For whatever reason, hunting clothing manufacturers as a whole, were not up to this standard at all. Jonathan Hart and Jason Hairston believed that this didn’t have to be the case, and they set their minds to creating hunting clothing that used the same materials and technologies that the climbing and outdoor adventure industry had been championing. The result was a new line of hunting gear that truly revolutionized the hunting clothing industry, and set into action a wave of change across the market.
This new kind of “performance” hunting gear started with Sitka, and originally their focus was on mountain hunters. But soon, they realized that these same high performance technologies and manufacturing processes could be applied to whitetail hunting as well, the most popular big game pursuit in North America. And so in 2009, Sitka launched their new line of gear for whitetail hunters with a brand new camouflage pattern for tree stand hunters, and clothing specifically adapted to hunting in the extreme cold, and for long duration sits.
High Level Thoughts On Sitka For Whitetails
Since that time, I’ve been wearing Sitka Gear while chasing game across the country. From Idaho to Iowa, Michigan to Pennsylvania. I’ve worn my Sitka on mountain tops and river bottoms, rolling prairies and ancient swamps. And through it all I’ve come to a singular conclusion. Sitka Gear is the best gear I’ve ever worn while hunting. Period.
Since Sitka entered the whitetail market in 2009, other clothing manufacturers have taken notice and the quality of hunting clothing has improved dramatically across the board. There are a number of great options today for high performance hunting gear, but for me, Sitka has been the right fit.
At a high level, Sitka has brought a few important things to the table for me. Consistently, across all the items I’ve used, my Sitka Gear has always achieved superior performance handling the elements, being comfortable in use, and incredibly functional. Almost all of my Sitka handles rain, snow and wind better than anything I’ve worn before. On top of that though, it’s also consistently more comfortable, because of both materials being used and the fit.
My friend Bob Polanic (photo above) recently decided to give Sitka a try after seeing it on Wired To Hunt and asking my opinion, and after using it now through many whitetail hunts he explained his thoughts as such …
“It truly is gear, but it is so comfortable it’s like wearing pajamas”
I couldn’t have said it better myself!
Finally, across almost every item I’ve used, I’ve found Sitka Gear to be ingeniously functional. Clever pockets and design features have made this clothing a joy to wear and a true boon to my hunting success.
At a high level, these thoughts can be applied across the board to all of the Sitka Gear I’ve worn in my pursuit of whitetails. It’s high grade materials lead to superior performance during tough weather conditions, it’s super comfortable, and the design elements just make darn good sense for whitetail hunters.
What I Wear and Thoughts On Each
I’ve been really fortunate over the past few years to get to test out a large number of items from Sitka. In the interest of full disclosure, because of my relationship with Sitka, some of these items were given to me to try out, while others were bought myself. That said, I also wanted to share thoughts from a number of my friends who have purchased Sitka items themselves as well. So lets dig in to my Whitetail Sitka System, and other items I’ve tried along the way.
Fanatic Jacket/Bibs: The Fanatic Jacket and Bibs are the premier whitetail offering from Sitka, and are the pieces that I wear most often during each deer season. If I could only recommend one item from Sitka for whitetail hunters, this would be it.
I’m usually wearing this suit from Mid October, all the way through the end of the season and in my opinion, this “suit” is the most innovative and smartly designed set of hunting gear for a whitetail hunter ever created. The jacket is well insulated and wind/weather resistant, while also utilizing the Optifade Forest camo (which works amazingly well – more details about Optifade and my experiences with it can be read by clicking here). Maybe most importantly though are the pockets included. The Fanatic has a bunch of super handy pockets, including a kangaroo pocket for warming your hands, a grunt tube pocket, and even a pocket for your range finder. For a much more thorough overview of the Fanatic suit, read my full review by clicking here.
Also using the Fanatic Jacket/Bibs is my friend Ross Hausmann, who shared “I haven’t had to wear gloves all of November thanks to the built in kangaroo pocket on my Fanatic Jacket. The Fanatic suit is extremely quiet, warm and comfortable.”
Downpour Jacket/Pants: The next item I’ve used a ton is the Downpour jacket and pants. This is the rain suit available for whitetail hunters, and it has served me well through many a rain storm on stand. This suit is 100% waterproof thanks to the GORE-TEX laminate materials used, a DWR finish, and taped seams. Other than being completely water proof there are two big things I like about the Downpour gear. First, it has what’s called a “lightly brushed face”, which is essentially a very thin almost fleece like outer layer which makes the suit completely silent. This is not your typical crunchy, loud rain suit.
Secondly, just like most Sitka Gear, this rain suit is tailored to have a nice, close to body fit. There’s nothing I hate more than a bulky, baggy rain jacket getting in my way. More details regarding my thoughts on rain gear for whitetail hunting and the Downpour suit can be found in a previous post I wrote, titled “The Keys To High Quality Rain Gear”
Stratus Jacket/Bibs: The Stratus Jacket and Bibs were the first set of Sitka I tried for whitetail hunting, and they’re still a set that I like to wear today. Featuring GORE-TEX Windstopper and a mid-weight fleece insulation, this suit is great as an outer layer during the mid-late season, or as my main layer earlier in the year. Similar to all the other items I’ve mentioned, the Stratus is cut really nicely and fits comfortably. The GORE-TEX materials and a DWR finish keep this suit weather resistant, and comfortable in just about any conditions you can throw at it. If you don’t want to spend the money for the Fanatic Jacket/Bibs, this is a great alternative. It has less insulation, but plenty of versatility.
My friend Peter Lynch threw down for the Stratus bibs this year and was really pleased as well …
“Sitka Gear has met and exceeded my expectation. You get what you pay for and Sitka, although a higher price point, delivers. Not only are they a SHARP looking pair of bibs, but they are quiet, comfortable, warm, and most importantly … stop the wind! I don’t have any trouble with bunching in the crotch and the shoulder straps are easy to adjust. The pockets are roomy and they even added a pocket at the chest location of the bib which is ideal for a phone or keys.”
Kelvin Jacket/Pants/Vest: Speaking of insulation, this is where the Kelvin gear comes into the equation. The Kelvin Jacket/Pants/Vest are the top notch insulating layer offered in Sitka’s whitetail line, and it’s the perfect mid-layer for late season hunts. The key to the Kelvin is it’s use of Primaloft Sport Insulation. Speaking of Primaloft Sport, which is also used in the Fanatic jacket/bibs, here is the scoop on this high tech synthetic insulation from the Primaloft website …
“PrimaLoft® SPORT insulation keeps the body warm, dry and comfortable, even in extreme conditions. Fine fibers form tiny air pockets that trap body heat and keep the cold out. The result is immediate warmth without the bulk. Fine fibers are engineered for permanent water resistance and create tight surface tension that resists moisture penetration, resulting in an insulation that dries faster than goose down. Fine fibers mimic the compressibility of goose down and are breathable, allowing moisture vapor to be transported through the fibers and away from the skin.”
My pal Josh Hillyard recently bought the Kelvin gear and had some glowing words as well…
“I invested in the Kelvin series last year and it may have been the best purchase I have made from Sitka yet. I have the Kelvin pants, vest, and jacket. They make the cold temps during the late season here in Michigan not seem so bad. I am able sit in the frigid temps and not freeze to death without having layers upon layers upon layers!”
90% Jacket/Pants: The 90% Jacket/Pant are a set of clothes that were originally created for mountain hunters, but I’ve found them to be great in the woods of the Midwest as well. The 90% suit is a light, soft shell outer layer and is great for early season hunts, spring scouting, or even cold weather hunts when insulation is used underneath. I wore my 90% suit while turkey hunting this year and elk hunting in the fall, and found it to be incredibly versatile and a great every day piece. It wouldn’t be my first choice of the Sitka items for whitetail hunting, but if you want something that’s versatile enough to be used for all seasons and different kinds of hunting, this is a great option.
My buddy Dustin Hotchkin bought a set of 90% gear and has worn it now for several seasons, as it’s become his favorite hunting clothing for all seasons. He shared with me that, “the 90% gear does exactly that, it covers you for 90% of your hunts. I have worn it in Southern Michigan all the way to Idaho and it has never let me down.”
Traverse Zip-T/Bottoms: My Traverse Zip T and Bottoms are on me every time I head to the woods, and as a base to mid-layer insulating option, they work great. Consisting of a very light fleece, the Traverse gear resists wind and fends off stink creating bacteria with an anti-microbial wash. During the early season I’ll wear the Traverse Zip-T as my outer layer, and then as it gets colder later in the year I eventually layer on my Stratus Gear and then finally move to my Fanatic suit. In the photo below, you can see I wore the Traverse Zip-T this fall as my outer layer on October 6th as I headed out to ambush a MI buck.
Core Zip-T/Pants/Tee: The Core series is the light weight base layer offered by Sitka, and it serves it’s purpose well. Intended to wick away moisture and contain odor with “silver encapsulated technology”, the Core gear does it’s job serviceably. I sometimes switch to a heavier base layer as we get later into the season, but early on this is a must have item for me.
Incinerator Muff: I haven’t used the Incinerator Muff personally, but based on the rave reviews I’ve gotten from my buddy Josh Hillyard, this seems like a must buy if you don’t already use the Fanatic jacket with the included kangaroo pocket. Josh explained, “I bought the Sitka Incinerator hand muff this year and it was awesome. I love being able to wear my thin gloves and still have warm hands. It even has built in hand warmer pockets which are awesome!”
Incinerator Hat: Another item I haven’t used yet is the Incinerator Hat, but again, a friend of mine (Dustin Hotchkin) is insisting I pick one up. Dustin raved, “As for the Incinerator Hat, lets just say I’m buying three of them! One for hunting, one for cutting wood and one for when I lose one! This hat is comfortable and plenty warm. It also has a small bill, which helps cover your eye glasses, which is nice for someone like me who wears glasses.”
Stratus Beanie: The Stratus beanie is my cold weather hat of choice, and with the fleece interior and GORE-TEX Windstopper membrane, it’s kept my head warm and dry over the course of hundreds of hunts. Super comfortable, light weight and good looking to boot. It’s a great option for whitetail headgear.
My Essential Picks – The First 5 Sitka Items I Would Buy For Whitetail Hunting
So there you have it, a run down of all the different Sitka Gear items I or my closest hunting buddies have tried. There’s not a bad option in the bunch, but I realize it’s not realistic for most hunters to be able to try all of these pieces of gear out. Sitka Gear isn’t cheap, and any purchase is a serious investment. That said, if I were starting from scratch and wanted to make my first investment in Sitka Gear, here are the first five items I would purchase. These being, in my opinion, the must have items for the whitetail hunter.
– Fanatic Jacket
– Fanatic Bibs
– Traverse Zip Tee
– Kelvin vest
– Stratus Beanie
Who Is Sitka Gear For?
If you’ve made it this far, I’m sure you can tell that I’m a big fan of Sitka Gear. I’ve used it over the course of hundreds of hunts, and I’ve truly become a believer. But, I realize it’s not for everyone. The biggest qualm most folks have with Sitka Gear is the price, it’s not cheap, not by a long shot. For that reason, I don’t expect Sitka to be the right option for everyone, and I’m not going to sit here and recommend that every one of you needs to drop hundreds or thousands of dollars of your hard earned money on Sitka Gear to be able to kill big bucks. There are plenty of great options out there, and Sitka is one of them. But for some, I think Sitka could be a better fit than others.
If you’re the kind of whitetail hunter who likes to hit the woods a few times a year, sit in a box blind, and pop the first buck you see – Sitka isn’t really necessary. If you hunt behind your house for a week during the rut each year when the weather’s nice, this still may not be the gear for you. If you’re short on expendable income to use on hunting equipment, this may not be the gear for you either.
But, if you’re the type that works tirelessly all year long for one shot at a trophy buck … this might be the gear for you. If you hunt every single day you get a chance, through rain, sleet and snow … this might be the gear for you. If you’re like me and deer hunting is your life … this might be the gear for you.
Sitka Gear is for the 365 day a year hunter. It’s for the person who views hunting not as a weekend activity, but as a way of life. Sitka is for the hunter who stretches the limits of what it means to pursue big game, and needs gear that can endure tough times just as well as he can.
Putting hundreds of dollars into Sitka Gear is a serious investment, but it’s a long term investment. It’s the kind of gear that will last many years, and will stand the test of time. Just like purchasing a gun or bow, it’s a large investment, but if smartly placed, it can pay off dividends for many years to come.
Sitka isn’t for everyone, but for me and my best hunting pals, it’s been exactly the gear we needed.
I think the photos below can back that up …
Interested in seeing Sitka Gear in action for whitetails? Check out this awesome short film showcasing true passion for bowhunting whitetails and the gear used to make it happen.
Have any questions about Sitka Gear or the items they sell for whitetail hunters? Post them in the comments section and we’ll get you an answer ASAP!