By David Link
It is that time of the year, and whitetail hunters everywhere are gearing up for fall. We recently featured a piece about selecting hunting clothes for women, and not to be overlooked, youth hunters face their own challenges when trying to find the right hunting clothing as well. Many years ago, I was one of those youth hunters who had trouble finding clothes that would work. To complicate the matter, I wasn’t very tall, and there simply weren’t very many options on the rack that would remotely fit me. My father also shopped on a budget, and the advent of online ordering wasn’t very available then. This all said, we made it work, and on my very first deer hunt, I was able to fill my tag. Let’s cover the tips and tricks involved in selecting youth clothing for deer hunting.
Kids get cold when hunting, plain and simple. Addressing this problem will be the biggest challenge as you shop for hunting clothes. Baggy clothes won’t help as the gaps will encourage heat to escape, so you’re going to need something that fits decently well. The solution is something that you see in adult hunting apparel today: layering. The top layer is always going to be the primary investment for a young hunter, and finding the right top layer will help everything else fall into place. Since the top layer will cover up what is below, you can focus your investment on the top layer and then fill in the gaps with plain colored or general outdoor wear. For example, I always had zip up fleeces or jackets that I would wear to school, and I always liked natural colors, so I had a mid-layer ready to go that I didn’t have to purchase in addition to the top camo layer. As long as the top layer conceals what you’re wearing beneath, your options for warmth are increased by what you have around the house.
The second biggest problem is growth. Young hunters grow, and most parents are weary to buy hunting apparel in youth sizes and then have it not fit the next season. The solution for this problem isn’t ideal, but it’s the only one you have: buy a size or two bigger than you need. Since you’ll be packing a couple extra layers underneath, hopefully there won’t be much too much gap between the base / mid-layers and the top layer. Just make sure not to overdo it. Every few years, you’ll have to invest in bigger sizes. There is just no way around it. I was the oldest out of my cousins and brother, and eventually a lot of my old clothing was handed down to others.
If you want to outfit your youth correctly and increase the chances of them staying warm in the field, then you’ll need to take the same layering approach that is also popular in adult hunting apparel.
The foundation of any apparel setup is the base layer. When I was young, the base layer consisted of those timeless classics known as long johns, but today there are far better options. Merino is the premier material, and it performs better than its synthetic competitors. Merino is a type of wool, and its strengths include the ability to still insulate when wet and the ability to wick moisture like sweat away from the body. Whether you select Merino or a synthetic material like a Polyester / Spandex blend, a moisture wicking feature is a must have. Activities like hiking into a stand or tracking a deer after a shot will warm a youth hunter up, but if they sweat and then sit back down, they could face a significant chill that is well worth monitoring.
Scent control is becoming more and more popular in adult hunting apparel, and although its not always offered in youth lines, if it is available, then you should consider it for two reasons. First, it could increase the chances of the youth hunter seeing a deer, and that can be important encouragement in an activity that has the potential to be cold and somewhat uncomfortable at times. Secondly, it can increase the chances of the adult hunter as well, and if you plan to sit with your youth hunter, then you’ll both need to be concerned about scent. Materials like active carbon, silver, zeolite, Sitka’s Polygiene and ScentBlocker’s S3 technologies are perfect for scent control.
As I said, this is the layer where you can have some working room. When I was young, I just used my other outdoor jackets as a mid-layer, but there are a couple factors to consider before deciding on this makeshift option. First, can the jacket and jeans you’re considering as a mid-layer get dirty? But more importantly, where will the youth be hunting? If he or she gets hot and needs to take off their top layer, what is the plan? Their plain-clothes mid-layer won’t be suitable as camo, so using a makeshift mid-layer is really only feasible in colder climates.
The advantages of a proper mid-layer include better insulation, the ability to take of clothes and still hunt if it gets warm, and the use of the mid-layer as a primary layer in warmer hunting activities like upland, turkey, etc.
As I highlighted above, you’ll need to leave extra room in the top layer for the clothes beneath. The top layer should be your primary investment, but don’t skimp on the base layer either. As a kid I used camo coveralls, and they did have an advantage. I could pack a lot of base layers underneath and still wear the coveralls comfortably. These days overall and jacket or pants and jacket combos are more popular, but don’t overlook the coverall as a temporary option for a youth hunter. Other features to pay attention to are big pockets to keep hands warm on colder days and also other pockets elsewhere that zip to hold items like knives.
Selection of a camo pattern can also be tricky for the top layer. If the youth hunter only plans to participate in one type of hunting, say deer hunting, then you can select a pattern to suit that best and be done with it. But if they plan to hunt other things with the same apparel, then try to choose something that isn’t too specialized. It really all depends on where you live and plan to hunt. I used classic woodland type camo with leaves and tree bark patterns when I was a kid, but companies like Predator and Sitka are producing concealment camo patterns that I would have loved to try as a kid. For an in depth guide to camo selection, refer to this article: Evaluating Camo Patterns.
Selecting youth clothing for the extremities like the head, hands and feet isn’t too much different than that of adults. Refer to our guide on: How To Select Hunting Clothing Accessories for an in depth examination on those item.
However, it is worth discussing just how important foot warmth is to a youth hunter. As a kid, the point when I was ready to throw in the towel was when my feet started to get pretty cold. No amount of wiggling of the toes could bring me back to a comfortable level. So when selecting youth clothing, don’t skimp on the boots. Get quality, insulated boots and leave room for a couple pairs of good wool socks. Don’t be shy with the hands and feet warmers either. The longer you can keep them comfortable in the field, the better chance they’ll see game and become hooked on the sport.
Image one courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.