I start out very basic with the neck gaiter. Why? First of all, I don't really cover my face much with it. Mostly because I have a beard and that is not very comfortable. But in the Midwest, the wind blows most of the time. So being able to take this gaiter and tuck it in underneath your layers and seal off your collar, so that that wind doesn't get in helps tremendously. If you want to be successful on your Midwest whitetail rut hunt - you need to put those hours in. You're sitting all day and that wind will eventually just creep into your collar line and it just it will beat on you. So if nothing else, a lot of people use it to cover their ears or their face and it's great for that. For me, one of the reasons it's so important is because it seals off my collar and my neckline and stops some of that cold wind from getting into my top.
Kaibab Merino Top and Bottom Base LayersI only have the top here, but basically the lightweight Merino Kaibab Top and Bottom. This is the first base layer for me. I wear this next to my skin almost all the time, regardless of temperature. If I'm heavy layering for really cold or if I'm going kind of light for mild temperatures, I always have the lightweight merino wool. It wicks moisture off the skin. It breathes very well. It's that base layer against the skin that allows every other layer to do its job, all the way out to the outer layer that's keeping out the elements. You might think that it's not doing a whole lot because it's really thin, but it is absolutely really the foundation piece that you need for layering performance next to your skin. It starts right here with the top and bottom lightweight merino.
Hardscrabble VestWhy? Because most of the time, when I'm up here hunting, I'm hunting out of tree stands. Which means I have a safety harness on. And this is usually always on the top of my safety harness because I don't want all the straps and stuff.
I like to be able to put my Hardscrabble Vest on over the top of my safety harness. I'll pull the tether out the top and it keeps everything in. I've got all the pockets on the vest and all that kind of stuff. That's one reason. The other reason is I really believe that when you sit a long time, the warmer you keep your core, the warmer your whole body stays. Your arms and stuff are a lot more durable and can handle it a lot more. If your chest and the core of your body starts to get cold, the rest of you starts to get cold. So I always have my vest.
300 Kaibab Hoodie
There are a couple of reasons I like the Kaibab Hoodie so much. I think it is the most versatile piece we have and the most comfortable piece we have. I'll wear it as a mid-layer for cold weather and also in mild temperatures just as a hoodie. I'll even throw my vest over the top of it. It also has a turret-style hood, so it comes around your face. It really seals your face off, but it's not annoying. It's soft, merino wool. It's really comfortable. It's not a noisy material, so it doesn't block your sound from your ears. It hides you good with your face. Everything about that turret hood is awesome. You don't even know it's there. You can turn your head. It doesn't move around or make noise and get all crooked on your head. I wear my 300 if it's 70 degrees or cooler. Which if it's more than 70, I'm hardly ever hunting. So if it’s that, this is always on my body. Usually, I wear this with the vest over the top of it in some layering configuration in almost every hunt I make - including a Midwest whitetail rut.
We talk about the Ptarmigan Jacket all the time. That's what you're looking at. This stuffs into your pack. You walk 900 yards across a cut cornfield, to a back corner where there's a pinch point you're trying to hunt. This thing’s in your pack, you get in there and you cool down a little bit. You pull it out, you put it on and it is absolutely CRUCIAL for sitting in the cold and sitting in the wind. Now if it's really, really cold you can put this on and put the Hardscrabble Jacket or the Hardscrabble Vest over the top of it and it becomes a really supreme insulator. But just by itself, this thing will allow you to make those long sits in the cold and in the wind because it absolutely blocks all of that from getting in and allows your layers to do their job and keep you in the tree stand. It's very lightweight. It packs very easily. Those are my five most essential. Those are the five that I'm going to have, no matter what, if I don't have anything else on a hunt like this. On this hunt we've been on this week, we have seen temperatures today - we're leaving today - and it's in the 70s. It was in the 20s two days ago. It's been windy. It's been calm. It's done a lot of different things and so you have to have that.
Additional Gear Suggestions
I'm gonna leave you with one more idea. If I could pick a couple more things that I'm going to throw in my pack and make sure I have. These are things that I probably won't wear all the time, but I'm gonna have them if I'm spending my time and money to go hunting during the Midwest whitetail rut.