The title of this article “Best Cold Weather Hunting Clothes” may seem like a generic title for a generic article, but I’d wager that title gets entered into Google search on a daily basis more times than I can count. Especially in the fall as the weather turns cold and hunters are looking to brave the cold.
It’s fair to say, most hunters want the best gear they can afford. They want gear they can depend on when the clouds gather and the temperature drops. The problem with the word “Best” is it is subjective. I have had guys ask me, “what’s the best cold weather bow hunting clothing?” You could pose that question to five different hunters and get 5 different answers.
Purchasing gear from the recommendation of one hunting buddy who hunts the early season, may not translate to cold weather performance when the snow flies. Don’t think for a second, hunting clothing isn’t trendy. Looking cool in your tree stand will quickly take a back seat if you have to exit your tree stand early because your freezing to death. This article serves as a guide to selecting the best cold weather hunting gear, and also provides my gear recommendations based on field experience in extreme cold temperatures.
Don't Get Caught in Marketing Ploys
Whether you are pursuing sheep on the barren slopes of the Brooks Range, stalking mule deer above timberline, or chasing bugling elk in the dark timber, keep one thing in mind; a hunter is only as good as his gear. Quality cold weather hunting clothes is a means to an end. Crafty marketing graphs and technical data charts look impressive in a catalog but bare little weight when it comes to performance in the field.
We have found that SKRE, crafts the best cold weather hunting clothes that plain and simple work. One of SKRE’s slogans is, “The Mountains are our lab” and the quality of their gear speaks for itself. With SKRE there is no marketing nonsense, just quality high-performance gear at a responsible price. After all, the ultimate goal of quality cold weather hunting gear is to keep a hunter on their quarry until the season ends or he descends the high places with, and a trophy lashed to his back and a mile-wide grin.
The Three Key Pieces
The Hardscrabble series by SKRE was created not only to succeed in the wilderness but thrive in cold weather. The Hardscrabble series is made up of 3 key pieces: The Hardscrabble jacket, Hardscrabble pant, and Hardscrabble vest. The “key 3” as we call them, were designed to be utilized from early season to late season and is a great start to building an extreme layering system. Let’s examine the key 3 individually.
The Hardscrabble Jacket
The Hardscrabble jacket was created as a light, breathable, and highly functional soft-shell outer layer. Did we also mention it’s pretty dang rugged too! Created using Mtn X2 face fabric, the hardscrabble jacket was designed to be quiet, light, and breathable. In addition, SKRE added an industry best Teflon Shield+ DWR to the X2 face fabric providing an excellent moisture barrier. This jacket has plenty of pockets in all the right places boasting dual YKK zippered chest and hand pockets.
They bonded the X2 face fabric to a micro-fleece liner which provides excellent insulation for cold weather hunting without a lot of added weight. This jacket has many features hunters have come to expect, with a storm hood and dual cord locks on both the hood and waist allow adjustment for a weather-tight seal. This jacket also features dual pit zips for exhausting heat quickly. We can’t think of any features SKRE forgot. This is a solid all-season cold weather hunting jacket.
The Hardscrabble Pant
The Hardscrabble Pant was designed to conquer the unforgiving country and shine in the face of the elements. Crafted using MTN-X2 multi-directional stretch technology, this piece was designed to excel at providing comfort and range of motion, while facilitating superior breathability and quietness.
The Hardscrabble pant is a solid cold weather hunting pant, especially when layered with the Kaibab merino bottom and Nebo rain pants for all-weather protection. This pant was designed to carry you through all the seasons.
The Hardscrabble Vest
The Hardscrabble Vest is a vital part of our Hardscrabble Layering Series. Each piece in the Hardscrabble Series is designed to keep you well insulated, and comfortable while providing a full range of motion. The Hardscrabble Vest is no exception. This vest is designed to be worn as part of a layering system, or independently to provide superior insulation to your core. Bonding MTN-X2 face fabric to micro-fleece provides excellent breathability and acts as a wind barrier. With durable YKK zippers and an anatomical fit, the hardscrabble vest is sure to be one of your favorite insulation pieces.
New Offerings for Freezing Temps
Recently we have added two more pieces to our cold-weather lineup. The Kodiak Pant, and the 300 GSM Kaibab Merino base layer bottom. When temps drop to single digits or below zero, swap your hardscrabble pants for the Kodiak Pants and the Kaibab 170 bottom for the Kaibab 300 GSM bottom.
The Kodiak Pant was designed for later season exploits where frigid single-digit temperatures are more the norm than the exception. Crafted with MTN-X2 Face Fabric and bonded to an interior micro-fleece, the Kodiak Pant provides an added layer of insulation for those long cold days afield. When colder temps give way to warmer weather, be sure to utilize the dual hip vents for maximum airflow. Another great feature of the Kodiak is 8 zippered pockets, allowing for the ultimate organization of small gear items with 100% containment.
Whether you are waiting out a big buck in your tree stand or glassing a windy ridge, the Kodiak Pant is sure to become your ultimate cold weather pant. The Kaibab 300 GSM bottom has almost double the insulation of the Kaibab 170 GSM bottom and is the perfect companion piece to the Kodiak. When combined these two pieces are perfect for mid-November rut hunts where temps are consistently below freezing.
Maintaining Core Temperature
As humans, we are warm-blooded creatures, which means we must maintain homeostasis aka body temperature to stay alive. Almost all of a hunter’s gear from a tent to a sleeping bag, freeze dried food, stove, boots, and especially clothing, are all geared towards helping us maintain homoeostasis. A downward spike in homeostasis can not only end a hunt early but can be life threatening. Thousands of hunters hit the hills each year in pursuit of a trophy of a lifetime, and unfortunately a few don’t ever make it out alive. They were ill prepared. They simply did not have the right gear.
Ultimately, quality gear can not only extend ones to stay in the field, but it can save your life. Many of us who have hunted the high lonesome places and lived on nothing more than the contents of a backpack, know that hunting is as mentally challenging as it is physical. Confidence in our cold weather hunting gear lends to mental toughness, which often equates to success. While the key 3 pieces in the Hardscrabble series provide an excellent foundation for a cold weather layering system, it is essential to add core insulation layers to your system.
A hunter can get away with having cold arms or legs but if your core gets cold it does not bode well for staying in the field. Our go to insulation layers from SKRE is the Ptarmigan 850 Fill Hooded Down Jacket and the Kaibab 300 Merino Hoodie. These two layers can be used together for the ultimate in cold weather protection or independently as temps rise in the afternoon. Thankfully these two pieces are light weight, packable and are necessary for cold weather hunting.
Don't End Your Hunt Early
I understand that quality hunting clothing or a high dollar tent in and of itself may not be the direct means of killing a book Dall sheep, however, a poorly crafted rain jacket that resembles more of a kitchen colander when it rains, than a tent, can force you off the mountain and out of reach of your trophy as quick as anything. I’ll never forget the words of a wise Grandpa, who would often remind me as a young novice fisherman: “You can’t catch a fish if your line ain't in the water.” I find myself repeating the same mantra to my kids on our fishing expeditions.
The same attitude applies to hunting. You simply can’t bring home a trophy if you aren’t on the mountain. So, while your sleeping bag, tent, and cold weather hunting camo don’t contribute to your success directly it does pay homage to your success indirectly. We have all heard stories where a hunt ended early because feet got cold and wet from inadequate footwear, or a strap on a backpack broke, or a tent leaked, or a stove quit working.
Hunters each year spend a great deal of money on gas, groceries and time off work only to cut corners on cold weather hunting clothes and end a hunt prematurely due to faulty equipment. A few years ago I had the opportunity to chase Dall sheep in the Alaska Range. It was the trip of a lifetime. Consequently, on the 3rd day of our hunt, we got dumped on and the rain jacket I was wearing leaked. I got pretty wet! Fortunately, the rest of my clothing was pretty good and even more fortunate, we never had another downpour the remainder of the trip.
I had a lot of time and money invested in that trip. It would have been a shame if one piece of clothing ended the trip. The purpose of this article is not to strong-arm anyone into purchasing the cold weather hunting clothing we use, but rather explain how to select the best gear and why it’s worth the time, research, and money to invest in high-quality equipment that will remain serviceable for many years to come.
Quality Gear is a Means to an End
Quality gear is a means to an end. We shouldn’t buy it because it has a cool logo, crafty marketing, or dazzling colors. We buy quality gear because it works; because it serves a purpose. The ultimate goal is to keep us on our quarry until the season ends or we descend the high places with a mile-wide grin, and a trophy lashed to our back.
Gone are the days of backpacks loaded down with 8 lb. sleeping bags and 7 days’ supply of canned stew. We are very fortunate to live in the age of technological advancements which translates into gear that is streamlined, light, durable and efficient. As hunters, this equates to seven-day packs that weigh less than 50 lbs. without compromising quality and dependability.
The hardest part about selecting the right gear, is there are frankly, more choices than one can imagine. Price is usually a good indicator of quality, but I caution you not to use this as your only deciding factor.
Research is Key to Selecting The Best Cold Weather Hunting Gear
One of the most effective ways to research gear is online hunting forums where you can chat with hunters who have used gear in the field and can give you an unbiased review of its effectiveness. One online thread that I stumbled across prior to my first sheep hunt had a YouTube link that had a very informative review of the gear that a hunter used on a sheep hunt. The hunter talked about the gear that made the “cut” and why it made the cut and why it would remain in his pack for the many years to come.
In contrast, he talked about gear that would be consigned to the trash bin or sold to the highest bidder on eBay because it didn’t perform its function or quite simply did not hold up to abuse. It turns out that my research had led me to purchase many of the same items this hunter had used on his hunt and which came highly recommended.
Let’s face it; gear that will not perform its function is dead weight, which is why it’s crucial we select gear that is battle-tested in harsh environments. There is nothing like packing a piece of equipment deep into the backcountry only to find out when you reach your destination that it doesn’t work.
Reviews and Ratings
Another method for choosing the best cold weather hunting gear is the review section on online stores. Once you have clicked on the item you are interested in, there is usually a review section close by that is indicated with yellow stars. Most online stores work off a 5-star rating system with 5 stars being a perfect score.
In addition to the star rating you can read individual reviews of real people who have tested the item in the field. They usually provide a brief explanation of why they felt the item they purchased was worthy of the star rating they provided. I’m looking for gear that has a minimum of a 4-star rating with a 4.5 star or higher preferred. The star rating is achieved by averaging all the ratings from 5 stars to 1 star.
Another thing you want to consider is the number of reviews the item has had. Before I left on my sheep hunt, I wanted to pick up a solid pair of trekking poles. As I was searching online, I found a pair of trekking poles that had a 150+ reviews, almost all of which were five stars. I concluded that if a hundred plus die-hard mountaineers, and backpackers took the time to talk about how awesome they were in the field, they had to be pretty good poles. I pulled the trigger on these, and after 18 grueling days in Alaska I personally concur with the 5-star rating.
Be cautious of products that have a 5-star rating but have only a few reviews. I like to let other people be the guinea pig. A backcountry hunting trip is no place to experiment with new gear that may or may not perform its function.
Why I Wear SKRE
As an avid hunter, SKRE Cold weather hunting clothing is the clear choice. The countless reviews on their website and other non-bias platforms support my experience in the field, and experience in the field trumps everything. And as I mentioned earlier in this article, SKRE produces top-quality performance gear at a responsible price.
They also have a sizing guarantee which means they pay for 100% of return shipping costs until your sizing is correct. How’s that for customer service. Did I mention they offer a No Hassle return and exchange policy and a world-class Warranty? SKRE is the real deal. Be sure to check out SKRE’s line up of cold weather hunting gear at www.skregear.com. We are confident you will be impressed.