Article contributed by J. Kirchner.
Originally published at www.dialedinhunter.com
If you asked me a few years ago if I would be investing the money that I do now in high quality hunting clothing, I probably would have laughed at you. I was indeed a skeptic of these higher end purchases and honestly didn’t see the reasoning behind why someone would pay $100 for a shirt or $200 for a pair of pants. That was until I finally tried the stuff out. What ultimately led me to do this was my interest in backpack hunting and having to bring one system of clothing with you for the whole hunt. When one is on a backpack hunt they can’t be bringing a change of clothes for everyday. It just doesn’t work like that. You need a solid layering system in place that you can rely on. When I first tried out a piece of gear from First Lite, I was blown away. Mind you, I was TRYING to find things that I didn’t like about them and just couldn’t do it. I was sold and from then on out, was a First Lite guy through and through.
What is a Layering System?
This whole layering system thing was pretty overwhelming for me when I first started looking into it. Let me break it down for you though. You are gonna want a lightweight/next to skin layer, a midweight/next to skin layer, a heavyweight layer, and an outer layer. All of these are going to work in unison to help keep you as comfortable as possible without having so many clothes on that you can barely move around. The majority of First Lite’s light, mid, and heavy layers are all made of 100% merino wool. This is the stuff that you want next to your skin so it can transfer moisture from your body out into the air. After those come the outer layer. The outer layer is going to be what repels wind, rain, and snow for you. Having this system in place, gets me through the whole year.
Why Merino Wool?
Merino wool is, in my opinion, somewhat of a magic material. It’s dead quiet, odor resistant, and applicable in a WIDE variety of temperature ranges. When it is cold, the wool traps the heat next to your skin. When it is warm, the wool transfers the moisture from your body through itself and out into the air keeping you dry. It also retains 80% of its insulating properties when soaking wet. On top of all of that, First Lite’s merino wool is the softest and most comfortable that I have found. What is not to love?
If there is one piece of gear that I would have you try out by First Lite it would be this base layer top. This is gonna be part of your foundation when it comes to a layering kit. The Llano Crew is a next to skin layer made of 17.5 micron 100% superfine merino wool. Let me tell you, this thing is butter. By far the softest and most comfortable top I have ever worn. One of my favorite features of this piece is the thumb loops. Not only does this help keep me warm in the morning, but makes it super convenient when adding on other layers over this shirt. No having to hold onto your sleeve while slipping on an additional layer. It doesn’t matter if it is 20 degrees or 90 degrees, this shirt is on me.
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Next up is the Chama Hoodie, which is a 100% superfine merino wool midweight layer that is going to provide you maximum warmth for a minimum amount of weight. This is going to go on over your Llano in the system, but can also be worn next to skin if desired. You get all of the benefits of merino wool plus a hood on this piece. It isn’t some baggy hood that is going to fly off of you every time the wind blows either. I love that about it. The hood fits snug around my whole head with the zipper going up all the way to the top of your neck, aiding in warmth. I will sleep with this hood on and everything. Another cool thing about this shirt is the stash pocket on the sleeve. Instead of digging through your pack for that elk call, you have a conveniently placed pocket with a zipper on your left arm where you can stash it for quick access. The Llano and Chama combo, on its own, probably gets me through from about March/April until late October/early November before I start really needing to add on additional layers for warmth in the early mornings and late evenings. They are always on me regardless of the season though.
Labrador Full Zip
This is a rather new piece in my system, but so far, I have been super impressed with it. The Labrador Full Zip is a 100% superfine merino wool heavyweight layer designed to keep you nice and toasty on those chilly hunts. From my personal experience, I can tell you that it does just that. I wear this over my Chama/Llano combo as my outer layer or insulating layer and it really has been working fantastic in the field. All of the merino wool perks in a warmer package. A few features of this piece are the chest pocket and the extended collar. Just like on the Chama, you can utilize the chest pocket on this for stashing elk calls and such for quick access. The extended collar has come in super handy while out in the field and has really aided in keeping me warm while glassing. I can see this taking me well into December/January here in AZ.
The Uncompahgre Puffy is truly a MONSTER in the First Lite layering kit. First Lite uses 37.5 by Cocona’s Active Particle Technology on this jacket. What does that mean? The liner and insulation transport moisture from the inside to the outside keeping you dry, warm, and stink free. I can attest to that. On top of being an excellent insulation layer, the Uncompahgre is EXTREMELY packable. It actually compresses down into its own pocket, for when not in use, and can be used as a pillow in said pocket! How cool is that!? You are going to be blessed with a DWR coating that repels wind, rain, and snow. The wind breaking ability of this jacket has saved my butt over and over again while out glassing off of a windy knob. I have been very impressed with this jacket time and time again and it is definitely one of my favorite pieces in the First Lite kit. It’s got a built-in stretch for complete range of motion, biomechanically correct shooter’s cut sleeves, shoulders, and hood, and it’s warmer than anything in its weight class! The Uncompahgre Puffy is so versatile, it is ridiculous! Give it a look!
Kanab 2.0 Pant
Up until recent, I have been wearing the previous generation of Kanabs, which I loved. First Lite has made their best selling pants even better though with their Kanab 2.0. They are everything that I loved about the originals and more. The Kanabs are 90% rip-stop merino wool with strategically placed panels of Duraflex Nylon for added durability. These pants are dead quiet and perfect for stalking up on a nervous mule deer. I can wear these pants ALL YEAR LONG, especially when paired with the Allegheny Full length bottoms for extra warmth. One of the things that I have come to love about these is the front facing cargo pockets. Because, they are on the front of your leg, instead of the side, I just find them way easier to access. I actually use these to hold my rangefinder and tether that to my belt loop. Works pretty nice. As far as mobility is concerned, don’t be concerned. You are going to have complete range of motion with these pants and don’t have to worry about them sticking to you as the day progresses. I really like wearing these with the included suspenders. In my opinion, when I wore a belt, I found that I was getting sore in the waist when wearing a pack with a waistbelt. Once I started using the suspenders instead of the belt, no more pain. The Kanab 2.0’s are a winner in my book.
Allegheny Full Length Bottoms
When the frost starts showing up around here, I break out First Lite’s Allegheny Full Length Bottoms for an extra layer of warmth underneath my Kanabs. These are a 100% superfine merino wool midweight layer. So, as I have said before, BUTTER! The Alleghenys are so comfortable, I honestly forget that I am wearing them. They are not a piece that you are going to have to take off after the morning chill either. I leave these on all day with no issues. Even if you do start to sweat, the merino is going to transfer that moisture away from your body and out into the air. That sounds like more time worrying about hunting and less time worrying about changing clothes.
Red Desert Boxers
I just got these this past year and don’t know how I went on without them! The Red Desert Boxers are made of a 17.5 micron 100% ultrafine merino wool. If that doesn’t say “comfort” I don’t know what does! Just like the Allegheny bottoms, I honestly forget that I am wearing these. There is no constriction and you are going to have full mobility with all of the benefits of merino wool and, let’s be honest, this is definitely an area where we are going to need odor control/moisture management. These are seriously the most comfortable boxers that will ever grace your downstairs.
Lightweight Merino Gloves
First Lite’s Lightweight Merino Gloves are made of a 17.5 micron 100% ultrafine merino wool. In my opinion, these are the cherry on top of your First Lite kit. They conceal your hands, add extra warmth, and aren’t so bulky that you can’t use your fingers. I really like these for archery hunting when it comes time to actually pull the trigger. You are going to be able to feel the trigger before you pull it, due to how fine of a wool these are made of and because they actually fit you. There isn’t any extra space on the fingers with this product. The same benefits can be applied to rifle hunting as well. They hardly take up any room in your pack either. Heck, I keep them in my pocket most times, cause they are so small. In my opinion, these are a simple yet extremely effective piece in the First Lite system and will always have a place in my gear.
People will go out and spend $1000 on a new bow or rifle, $1200 or more on optics, and $300-$500 on our packs. We invest all of this money into our hunting gear. Why not into our clothing? As hunters we are wearing our clothing literally all day long for days at a time through a multitude of conditions. Why wouldn’t we invest in that piece of gear? How many times are we shooting our bows or rifles on hunts? How many hours are we spending in our clothes? There is a huge gap there between those two. The more comfortable and functional our clothing is out there, the longer we are going to be able to stay out in the field and stay out in the field effectively. Learn more about First Lite products at www.firstlite.com.
About the Author
Josh Kirchner is the voice behind Dialed in Hunter, a blog that not only documents his own journey, but provides gear reviews, tips/tactics for western hunting, and encourages other hunters to chase and achieve their goals. Josh is a passionate bowhunter that has been hunting with his family since he was a small boy, and for the last three years has been eating, sleeping, and breathing the hunting lifestyle. When he is not chasing elk, deer, bear, and javelina through the diverse Arizona terrain, he is spending time with his wife, two herding dogs, and mischievous cat.