I don’t know about the rest of you, but the amount of money I can devote to hunting gear is finite. That means I have to make choices with my funds, and multiple seasons in the backcountry have left me with one iron-clad certainty: I’d rather put my money toward quality optics, a good pack, and the best boots I can afford rather than high-dollar clothing.
That’s going to sound sacrilegious to some readers, who have been brainwashed into thinking that if you’re not wearing the “correct” camo pattern, you’re just not a serious hunter. Now, some camouflage clothing is serious, technical gear, but here are my tips for outfitting yourself with good clothing that will leave you with funds for the gear that matters.
I’m sure that camouflage can help a great deal in some situations, but it’s not necessary for hunting mountain game. Typically, you still stick out like a sore thumb in the alpine, even when covered in camo. Old-fashioned field craft is much more important in stalking alpine game. It doesn’t matter how cool you look, if you hunt well, you’ll be successful. If you mess up, they will see you. If you can let go of the idea of camouflage, you can find some great clothing without the designer price. Although I typically like to pick out earth tones, you could probably get away with wearing neon as long as you hunt smart: staying off the skyline, using terrain features to break up your outline, and playing the wind.
Animals don’t care if you wear matching brands, and since hunting them is the goal, you shouldn’t care, either. Even among the glamour-camo selections, different pieces from different brands often work better for you than buying a single branded pattern. Also, look beyond typical hunting brands. There is quite a bit of great clothing out there made by companies whose target audience includes campers, hikers, rock climbers, and skiers. Not hunters. A lot of it is as good or superior to the popular hunting brands, and often cheaper. To get the most ideal setup for yourself, you should check out multiple brands to see what fits best and will work best for you.
Find a Bargain
If you take the first two tips to heart, you can apply them at the clearance rack to save big. There’s a store or two that I frequently browse through to see what’s on sale. Of course, the internet is another great tool for finding steals. If you put a little time into it, you can pick up a pair of pants here, jacket there, shirts on this website or that, and end up saving tremendously.
Out of curiosity, I did some shopping here in Fairbanks for a complete setup of three hunting-focused brands and then priced out a mix-and-match ensemble.
I excluded boots, socks, and underwear, and selected what I would need for a sheep hunt. This includes a base layer, pants, a lightweight shirt, medium insulating shirt or pullover, a heavier insulating jacket, rain gear top and bottom, a ball cap, beanie cap, and a pair of gloves. Here are the prices I would have racked up with the following brands:
Now, here is a list of what I found in 30 minutes (some on sale) that would be totally adequate if not better than some pieces of the aforementioned:
1. Ice Breaker Merino Base Layer (top and bottom): $90
2. Royal Robbins Cool Trek pants: $85
3. Ice Breaker merino long sleeve shirt: $80
4. Kavu wool/synthetic blend pull over: $50
5. Marmot Calen insulated jacket: $140
6. Helly Hansen Impertech rain gear (top and bottom): $170
7. Glacier Gloves: $15
8. Ball cap: $15
9. Fleece beanie cap: $20
Although good gear is still pricey, I was able to come in with a great set of mountain hunting clothing for about half the price of the least-expensive hunting brand I considered. I would also confidently take to the field any of the selections I made in the mix and match. This was only 30 minutes of browsing. I’d bet that if you took your time trolling the sale pages online and in the stores you could come out a couple hundred bucks cheaper than I did. So before you gear up for this hunting season, consider the price of looking cool, because the animals don’t care.