Gone are the days of bulky cotton hunting clothing or heavy wool jackets. Technology is key in hunting apparel today, and it helps keep hunters warm and dry in the field without excess weight. In addition, hunting apparel must use silent materials so the hunter doesn’t give his position away on a stalk or trek to the stand. Finally, hunting apparel must keep the user fresh and restrict the growth of odor causing bacteria so nearby game have a less chance of detecting them.
Sitka, one of the premier hunting apparel brands in the industry, uses several high-tech materials to achieve all these goals. Let’s take a closer look at the technology that goes into each and every Sitka jacket, pant and accessory.
Ever since Gore-Tex was invented in 1969, it has been a staple in outerwear like jackets and pants. Gore-Tex solves an important design problem in outerwear, particularly waterproof apparel. Before Gore-Tex, waterproof apparel had to create a solid barrier to keep water out, almost like a pair of waders. Although this solid barrier would keep the wearer dry from outside moisture, it would also trap all the moisture from the user inside. This approach simply does not work in outerwear designed for hunting. The user would sweat, and the garment would make that sweat pool in the jacket. In addition to causing discomfort, excessive sweating in apparel can be dangerous and lead to hypothermia when the temperature drops. It was clear waterproof apparel would need to be breathable if it was to be practical in the field.
Enter Gore-Tex, a new material that was created on accident. While experimenting with the Teflon material, inventor Robert Gore heated the material and pulled it apart quickly, almost out of frustration. The result was Gore-Tex, a lightweight material with millions of micropores that are composed mostly of air. Gore-Tex is used for a variety of applications, but where it shines for the outdoor industry is waterproof apparel. The micropores in Gore-Tex are too large for water to seep into, and they create a waterproof barrier. However, the pores are large enough for water vapor to evaporate through, which means the wearer won’t feel stuffy in the apparel. This breathability helps reduce the possibility of sweating in periods of heavy activity.
Sitka like many other outdoor apparel companies rely on Gore-Tex material for all their waterproof apparel lines. It is lightweight and ideal for use in hunting apparel where the user is subject to unpredictable conditions like rain or snow. In addition, all seams are required to be taped in apparel that uses Gore-Tex, further strengthening its waterproof properties. Gore-Tex is not used in every item of Sitka gear. Instead it is primarily used in outer layer pants and parkas.
Windstopper is Gore’s alternative to the Gore-Tex material. It is focused on stopping wind rather than repelling water, and it is still breathable like its sister product. Windstopper is not waterproof, but it is treated with a water resistant compound DWR (Durable Water Repellent). This means the fabric can repel a moderate amount of water like a light rain, but it will become soaked once exposed to significant amounts of water. Unlike Gore-Tex, Windstopper material is able to stretch, which makes it ideal for clothing that doesn’t need a hard outer shell. Windstopper is designed to be a lightweight, and it is perfect for layering and fair weather hunts where heavy clothing isn’t needed.
Sitka uses Windstopper as mid layer or primary layer option depending on the hunter’s environment and purpose. When used as an insulator, Windstopper is proven to conserve body heat while it lets moisture escape. This means you can use the apparel at any level of activity and still stay comfortable in the field.
Gore-Tex and Windstopper are just part of the insulation approach in Sitka clothing. They are both lightweight, breathable materials, but they need additional insulation to make them effective in the field. Sitka relies on PrimaLoft for this purpose, a material invented for the US Army in the 1980s. Before synthetic insulation like PrimaLoft was available, either natural down like goose down or wool was used for insulation. However, both had issues that could render them ineffective in the field. Down is an excellent insulator, still the best on the market, but it loses its ability to insulate once wet, and it takes a long time to dry out. In addition, down needs special care and eventually it needs to be replaced. Wool on the other hand works great as an insulator even when wet, but it can be heavy and not ideal for use in clothing where the user has to hike many miles per day.
PrimaLoft is a synthetic material that addresses the drawbacks of down and wool insulation. It is able to insulate even when wet, and it lasts far longer than down. It mimics that superior insulation properties of down, but it is lightweight unlike traditional wool insulation. Sitka uses PrimaLoft as their primary material for quiet, lightweight and waterproof insulation, and the results really show on a long, wet hunt.
Hunting apparel isn’t just about insulation, breathability and water resistance. Quality hunting apparel must keep you feeling fresh and restrict the growth of odor causing bacteria. This is important on both single day and multi-day hunts. Hunters will be clocking miles walking to their stands or stalking game, and clothing that isn’t designed to kill odor causing bacteria will start to become a liability rather than a strength. As a hunter works hard in the field, they sweat, and moisture can accelerate the growth of bacteria, making them even more prone to giving off scent that game can pick up.
Enter Sitka’s unique approach to keeping hunters fresh and odor-free: Polygiene. Sitka uses natural anti microbial silver salt in their apparel that is proven to restrict the growth of bacteria and fungi. As a bonus, the silver doesn’t interact with your natural bacteria on you skin like some other compounds do. Sitka uses Polygiene in all their layers from base to mid to top. As each breathable layer wicks moisture away to keep hunters warm and dry, Polygiene kills potential odor causing microbes for complete comfort.