Big Price Tag was not Always Indicative of Quality
Try as I may, I've never talked to a hunter who has said, "I'd like to use the cheapest gear I can find this year." I've spoken with hundreds of hunters all over the world, and the common thread is we want the best gear we can afford. No hunter that I know of wants their equipment to fail them. As a young man trying to find my way in the world, I worked in the sporting goods industry. It wasn't long before I was a registered gear junkie. Like most young men my age, I didn't have a lot of money to spend on expensive hunting gear. Thankfully, I learned pretty quick that a big price tag was not always indicative of quality. I found out that quality gear could be purchased at an affordable price. With my employee discounts, I was able to try a lot of gear. The one valuable lesson I learned is the best gear was not always the most expensive.
Quality Hunting Gear translates into Success
There is nothing more frustrating than expensive gear that fails in the field. Hunting is a dangerous pastime, particularly in the Rocky Mountain West. Gear that fails to perform its function can not only be frustrating but could cost you your life. So why is it we as hunters are so obsessed with our gear? If we are honest, some gear is just trendy or looks cool in the package. However, the real advantage of purchasing the best gear we can afford, (for some of us more than we can afford) is to give us an advantage. The end game is a success. We all want to be successful. Most the gear we purchase is to extend our stay in the field. A few years ago I took my Brother-in-law deer hunting. I told him I'd help get him on a good buck. When we met at the truck the next morning, it was raining. He dressed in a thin jacket, tennis shoes, and levis. We commenced a 2-mile hike out onto a ridge during a light rain. I got to the place I wanted to glass, and as I begin to glass, I looked behind me to see he was soaking wet and shivering. I could tell he was trying to be tough, but he was cold. Feeling sorry for him, I told him if he needed to head back to the truck and warm up, I would understand. However, I told him if he could tough it out, I could probably turn him up a nice buck. He elected to head back to the truck. It wasn't 20 minutes later a big basket racked 4x5 ran out the bottom. I made quick work of the trigger and was soon standing over a great buck. I was able to capitalize on an opportunity because I had ample insulation layers, and a quality set rain gear that kept me hunting through inclement weather.
What Constitutes Quality Hunting Gear
So what is the benchmark for quality gear? Many gear companies spend exorbitant amounts of money to promote their gear using lab tests, charts, and technical data. They use the "it sounds important, so it must be important" method of marketing. Trust me this is nothing more than a marketing ploy, and frankly the vast majority of hunters don't understand the technical data, and frankly, don't care to know it. If the gear fails in the field, all that marketing hype becomes meaningless. I have purchased gear from such companies, and at a high price tag no less, and it still failed me in the field. I remember a Dall sheep hunt in Alaska. I planned and prepared for this hunt for over a year. I purchased the most expensive gear on the market. I bought a costly pair of rugged hunting pants and rain gear. This apparel was touted as the best in the industry, and it had the price tag, and technical data to prove it. Day three of my sheep hunt, we awoke to heavy rains. It turned out to be a bad gear day for me. My rain gear soaked through and my hunting pants had a major seam come unstitched. This could have been a disastrous trip if the weather had persisted. Thankfully, we didn't see much rain the remainder of the trip, and I was able to notch my tag on a full curl ram.
The Mountains and Elements are My Labs
Bottom line, my criteria isn't based on crafty marketing, lab tests, or boastful technical data. The Mountains and Elements are my labs. My experience in the field is all the technical data I need. My gear test is straightforward. If the gear I purchase performs the function, in the field, for which it was acquired, it has passed the first test. The final test is that it performs, year in and year out! Quality gear should get you through several seasons of hard use. I also like to purchase from companies that have great warranties and excellent customer service. While a warranty does you no good when something fails during a hunt, it is good to know you are dealing with a company that will make things right. Even some of the best gear will have a bad apple, so be careful not to pronounce a permanent judgment off of one item that has an issue. I've made that mistake in the past and missed out on some great gear.
Workingman's Hunting Gear
I don't know many hunters who can afford a $500-$600 jackets, and frankly, I have always been able to find an alternative that will perform right alongside the most expensive gear at half the price. The problem is, most of this gear came in solid colors and didn't address the needs of hunters. Usually, those $600 jackets use branded fabrics, which means you are paying for the name. Many companies like to partner with branded fabric companies because in many cases the marketing and branding have already been done. The problem is, that brand name comes with a hefty price tag and no guarantee that it will perform better than it's non-branded equal at half the price. Unfortunately, many of these companies have out priced the working man and have done a disservice to the hunting community.
The making of SKRE Gear
My failures with overpriced hunting apparel inspired me to craft an Extreme Layering System that was tough as nails and performed with the top Mountaineering apparel in the industry. My business model was simple; create an Extreme Mountain Layering System using proprietary mountain tested fabrics with no compromise in concealment, performance and durability, and at a price the working man could afford. We begin sourcing performance materials from all over the world that was breathable, ultra light, and durable. Rather than testing these fabrics in a lab, we hunted above timberline in early fall, crossed rugged glaciers in Alaska and hunted the Sonoran desert in January. We traversed about all the terrain the Rocky mountains can throw at you. We hunted for mule deer in late November and chased Bugling Elk in the fall. We sat in tree stands in the hardwoods, while taking a beating from a stout northern wind. We even traveled to the dark continent to chase plains game.