Author: Dan Carlson
Prior to the introduction of MT050 in 1997, big-game hunters had limited options in waterproof camo outerwear. Waterproof garments in production contained either nylon or PVC elements that were not quiet and not completely effective at shedding moisture. Those garments did block wind but lacked breathability, causing layers worn underneath to become soaked with perspiration on hunts that demanded high levels of physical exertion.
Makers of big-game outerwear scrambled to address the problem. Natural down was an excellent lightweight insulator, but at the time it did not hold up well in wet conditions. Fleece products were quiet and offered some protection from wind and cold, but they were not waterproof. Wool was the only real option because it was quiet and retained insulating properties when wet, but it was also bulky, itchy, heavy, didn’t pack well and readily picked up burs and clingy vegetation.
Ev Tarrell was Cabela’s Product Manager of Huntingwear in the early 1990s. He headed a team determined to develop camouflage outerwear that was lightweight, packable, quiet, breathable and waterproof, a task that seemed nearly impossible at the time. A number of attempts were made, but none succeeded in meeting the project’s formidable list of objectives. Then there was a breakthrough in 1994.
Tarrell’s team discovered a soft, low-nap fabric used by automobile manufacturers that was quiet at all temperatures and could be laminated. Collaboration with W.L. Gore led to experiments that involved laminating waterproof and breathable GORE-TEX® material to the fabric and testing the results. Samples were dunked in the Cabela’s breakroom sink and immediately put into an adjacent freezer until frozen solid. Then the ice was broken off and the samples were tested for silence and the consistency of the bond between the fabric and the GORE-TEX laminate. The bond held and the further experimentation yielded even more encouraging results.
The material proved to be durable, resistant to collecting vegetation, lightweight, wind-resistant and breathable. The samples were easy to clean and resistant to dirt and mud. A simple hosing off with water was often all that was necessary to wash away caked soil. The samples also held all of the desired properties at any temperature hunters would likely encounter, from oppressive heat to biting cold.
Production began with garments offered in Realtree® Brown camo, Realtree Grey and Mossy Oak® Break-Up® using the name derived from the technical designation of the material used – MT050, and the new line of waterproof and quiet camo outerwear made its debut in Cabela’s 1997 Fall Hunting catalog.
Sales of MT050 took off like a rocket, far exceeding all expectations. Samples for field-testing were provided to several notable hunters and writers at the time, including Bob Robb, Dwight Schuh, Bud Grant and Cabela’s own Jim Cabela. All who tried MT050 gave it rave reviews and it became one of Cabela’s best-selling products in the company’s history.
The design of MT050 was tweaked a bit over the years to make it even more waterproof, breathable and resistant to mud, but the MT050 you buy today has changed little from the basic design introduced in 1997. It is still a top choice among Cabela’s customers seeking waterproof, quiet and packable camo outerwear, and, given its effectiveness and popularity, will likely remain so for years to come.