Then there is the question of camo pattern, and for bowhunters, the need for manageable sleeves and a snag-free chest that won’t inhibit the draw or release.
Other features that complement rainwear for any hunting situation include storm flaps, drawstring hem, adjustable hook-and-loop cuffs, a three-piece hood that fits snugly but doesn’t obscure your vision, secure zippered pocket(s) for valuables, a moisture-wicking lining, leg-zippers and reinforced elbows, bottom and knee construction is a real plus.
Naturally, the region of the country where you hunt and local weather tendencies will have a significant impact on the direction you choose. Once you decide that you’ve spent your last teeth-chattering day in soggy clothes, the first question is do you want a full-featured set of waterproof hunting clothing, a full-featured set of rainwear or a simple set of rainwear that serves only to keep you dry.
While you will find numerous full-feature, insulated hunting coats that are also waterproof, these garments are not considered rainwear.
Another critical issue in the selection process is determining what level of service you expect in terms of severity and duration. It’s no great achievement to stay dry during a dash from your truck to a cabin, and a performance of that length doesn’t require much durability. However, if you’re planning on spending the day in a stand or still hunting regardless of the weather, you’ll require a bit more robust set. Better grade rainwear has taped and sealed seams to keep moisture from seeping through even the smallest thread holes.
Hunting rainwear should excel at keeping the rain out, expelling body heat and producing less than a whisper of noise during movement. To find the perfect solution to your rainwear needs, you should begin by selecting the right category, and narrowing it down from there.
Hunting rainwear is separated into two basic categories; uninsulated, insulated. All of these options can be found in jackets, parkas, pants and bibs. When two of these are combined, they are often called a system.
Waterproof hunting garments are also distinguished by the method of protection, or treatment such as a membrane or laminate. Membranes are specially developed, breathable fabrics such as GORE-TEX® and Dry-Plus®, which are designed to keep moisture out while letting body moisture escape, to reduce that clammy feeling. Other similar fabrics are available under proprietary labels from manufacturers such as Columbia’s Omni-Dry® and Browning’s Hydro-fleece.
Laminate fabrics are treated with a DWR, and it’s actually the DWR coating that makes the rain bead up and shed away. The down side is that no DWR is permanent. With extended wear and many cycles through the laundry, the effectiveness fades; however, it is possible to use a spray-on product to restore the waterproofness. When the DWR coating has lost its effectiveness, the laminate will still keep you dry, but you feel clammy because the outer layer becomes damp. A regular care regimen will ensure that your rainwear lasts for many years.
Basic "emergency" rainwear
Hunters who trek far from camp, in relatively dry regions look for lightweight, packable rainwear that can be pulled out when needed. Since the key issue in this situation is weight, you have the option of what could be loosely termed survival rain gear. Fortunately, you’ll find a wide selection of packable rainwear made from a selection of fabrics that are soft and quiet.
This level of rainwear is designed to be lightweight and highly packable, for those times when you really don’t expect it to rain, based on one of those "sunny in the morning and partly cloudy in the afternoon" predictions. This type of rainwear is not going to hold up to heavy daily wear. It’s for occasional use, and its main advantage is that you can put it in your pack or pocket without noticing the weight, and have it handy for a very economical price, just in case.
Uninsulated rainwear is intended for warm climates, or the warmer months in cold climates, but it can also be worn over a layering system that offers the warmth you need in colder weather if you don’t mind the extra layer and bulk. Uninsulated rainwear can be found at several price points, depending on the features, fabric and durability. The lightest level is a brushed polyester packable jacket or parka and pants.
Specially designed stretchable fabrics make bowhunting gear less restrictive when coming to full draw and these garments utilize soft, silent fabrics that won’t give away your position.
Again, only gear with taped and sealed seams will be 100% waterproof. Garments that are waterproof, but do not have taped seams will work pretty well in light rain or heavy rain that doesn’t last long. However, when the rain is heavy over a period of time, water will eventually seep through the tiny holes that are created when stitching sleeves, pockets and hoods to the main body of a jacket or parka. To avoid the cold, clammy result of seam seepage, you’ll need a heavy-duty set of rainwear.
The best rainwear uses a laminate or membrane such as GORE-TEX®, Dry-Plus® or one of the proprietary labels used by other manufacturers. These membranes have been engineered to repel water and pass moisture away from the body. While Dry-Plus® performs at top of the charts, it is currently an extreme value, costing quiet a bit less than competitive options.
Laminate fabrics are coated with a durable water-resistant (DWR) treatment, and it’s the DWR that actually causes rain to bead up on the surface of your rainwear. For hunting garments, setting around the campfire is one of the worst things you can do for your waterproof hunting clothing. The microscopic openings in these fabrics become clogged with tiny molecules of smoke and dirt, reducing their level of performance. Unfortunately, a DWR treatment doesn’t last forever. The good news is that you can easily renew your rainwear by washing it and reapplying the DWR and running it through the dryer. It’s the heat of the dryer that triggers the DWR, and this process should be repeated on an annual basis as a general rule.
The option of insulation is one that falls into the category of totally personal preference. Some hunters need insulation on cool days and others don’t use it on even really cold days. For that reason, you will find most rainwear comes with the option of added insulation to give you the choice of both matching your body’s comfort level as well your hunting budget, since adding insulation increases the price of any garment.
Pants with an elastic waistband are a good option, mainly for comfort, on rain pants that are slipped over hunting clothing. Since your hunting pants are already belted, having another belt is overkill, and the elastic waistband holds up the rain pants without squeezing the life out of you. Look for rain pants that have a stuff pocket so you can compress them down to a small size in your pack. Bibs are popular with hunters that look for heavy-duty performance and comfort that can be held up with suspenders. Pants or bibs should have long leg-zippers, preferably knee-high, for easy on and off over boots and reinforced elbows, bottom and knees.
Most insulated big game clothing is lined with tricot for its added warmth and moisture wicking properties, but you also have a choice of mesh lining, where heat is a factor, and Scent-Lok® to avoid detection.
When your method of hunting involves stalking and working close, scent containment is a must; however, for any big-game hunting tactics keeping your scent from curious noses makes a lot of sense. Scent-Lok® is most affective when worn close to the body in a layering system, but if you can keep your outer layer closed up tightly it can also be used in outer garments.
While you may find rainwear with a good price, and the features you’re looking for, without a quiet outer material you run the risk of alerting approaching game with the rustle of fabric. MT050® is one of, if not the softest, quietest fabrics on the market. After all, what’s the point of hunting if you’re going to spook your quarry just when they’re walking in range? Look for fabrics that have a low nap that won’t snag burs or collect moisture.
Now, the only thing you need to do is settle on the camo pattern you favor and get ready to hunt.
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