By David Link
You never know quite what the weather is going to do during hunting season, and this is especially true in fall conditions like those of deer season. One method of coping with substantial rain on the day of a hunt is just to go home, but that’s not an acceptable plan for any serious hunter. In addition, shotgun seasons are very short and every day spent out in bow hunting counts, and it’s hard to pack up and spend the rest of the day at home when you’d rather be in the stand. Most hunters prefer to tough it out in the rain, but letting yourself get soaked in your normal hunting clothes is not only a bad idea but potentially dangerous. On a cold evening you could be flirting with hypothermia, and no hunt is worth that. So if you want to stay in the stand, you have to pack quality rain gear to prepare for the worst. Let’s examine what good rain gear should do and what it shouldn’t, and then we’ll profile some popular rain gear brands.
It almost goes without saying that you shouldn’t bring a cheap, plastic emergency poncho along as your primary rain gear. Instead you’re going to want something made specifically for the purpose of hunting. This means the rain gear you choose should do several key things to make it suitable for hunting:
Choosing stealthy rain gear is very important to your hunt for obvious reasons. You can’t have the rain gear popping and rubbing together on your way to the stand in the rain, and once in the stand, your every move will be audible to nearby animals. Hunting specific rain gear usually addresses this by using a soft outer shell to muffle the water membrane. This is contrary to older waterproof materials that consisted of a hard outer shell. Rain gear that is insulated will naturally be more expensive, but it is worth the extra investment for the added stealth.
Breathable performance is a must-have feature in rain gear and normal hunting apparel, and it can make all the difference in long term comfort. When rain gear breathes, it allows the heat from perspiration to escape, but it keeps the larger water molecules from seeping into your clothing from the outside. This is vitally important to comfort because the accumulation of sweat inside your rain gear (or hunting apparel) after a period of exertion can cause chills once you settle into your stand and stop moving. A good example of this would be a longer walk to your stand in the rain followed by several hours of sitting nearly motionless. The big name in breathable apparel is Gore-Tex, and you’ll find it or similar technology in the majority of rain gear today.
Good rain gear beads water away on its surface rather than absorbing it into the fabric. Cheaper rain gear isn’t treated for beading, and it will begin to gather added weight the longer you’re out in the elements. Take note of the different levels of waterproofing in clothing: water resistant, water repellent and waterproof. Water resistant clothing provides the lowest level of protection against water, and while initially the clothing will resist soaking, eventually it will begin to absorb water. Water repellent clothing provides higher protection than water resistant, and it is specially coated to repel water as its name suggests, but it is not tested as completely impervious to water. Waterproof is as its name suggests truly waterproof, and the clothing is guaranteed to repel water and keep water from soaking into the jacket. Some times the differences are simplified to water resistant and waterproof in clothing.
Rain gear isn’t meant to be your primary hunting camo, and most seasons it will remain packed in your hunting bag most of the time. This is why you’ll need rain gear that is easy to pack and doesn’t take up all the space in your hunting bag. Thick rain gear isn’t a wise choice anyway because wearing it over your normal camo could result in overheating in the stand, especially on those warmer rainy days. Make sure you strike a balance between water protection and rain gear thickness.
Now that you know what to look for in rain gear, here are some popular brands that offer suitable gear for rain soaked hunts.
Sitka Gear has a leg up on waterproof hunting gear as the majority of their clothing lines feature either Gore-Tex or Windstopper technology that is already designed to shed water. Gore-Tex and Windstopper products are breathable and relatively silent as well, and if you choose Sitka Gear as your primary camo, you’ll gain added protection for those days where light to medium rain falls unexpectedly. But for a higher level of water protection, there are three main Sitka lines that you should focus on: Stormfront, Cloudburst, and Dewpoint. All three lines are designed to be the top layer of protection over cold weather base layers, and the Stormfront and Cloudburst lines are meant to double as your primary camo in a jacket and pants combo. The Dewpoint series is similar to the back up rain gear we discussed above, and it is meant to be an emergency layer that packs down into your hunting bag when not in use.
Frogg Toggs has designed a hunting-specific rain suit available in four different camo patterns, and it may be the best option for hunters on a budget. The Frogg Toggs All Sport Rain Suit is a jacket and pants combo composed of non-woven polypropylene material. While non-woven rain gear is breathable, it will be louder than woven rain gear. The All Sport Rain Suit isn’t for everyone, but it is very affordable and packs down tight. Those who only need a rare emergency rain suit should certainly consider this option.
Simms is primarily a fishing company, and their products are designed to keep fisherman warm and dry while angling in the elements. While Simms gear isn’t a prudent choice for hunters who want to withstand the rain for hours in their stand, it could be useful as an emergency layer for entry or exits to your stand. Sportsmen and women who are big anglers as well as hunters might just consider Simms for this purpose, although their options in camo are very light. Check out the G3 Guide Jacket in Army Green or the Slick Jacket in Loden for a natural looking color. However, your best rain gear bet will be the Hyalite Rain Shell and Pants in Olive, and these will pack down tight into your hunting bag. The Hyalite series is also breathable, but it is made of nylon so it won’t be very stealthy.
Gore-Tex diagram courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.