Moose were the furthest thing from my mind at the moment. Cold water was at the forefront, cold water and the fact that I was falling. Yup, you guessed it – falling into said cold water. Then I was in, icy wet fingers reaching through my clothing, shooting with viper-like speed down my waders, forcing the air from my lungs in a breathless gasp.
I lunged to my feet, glad that only the left half of me had submerged in the shallow Alaska creek, glad that the icy fingers crawling down my waders ran out of momentum just below my waist. Catching my breath as well as my packraft, which was doing its best to disappear down a fast-moving riffle, the thought occurred to me that now I’d find out if all the hype about Sitka Gear clothing was for real.
I was life-and-death deep in a backcountry DIY (do-it-yourself) moose hunt in Alaska, floating/clambering down a remote, unexplored creek toward good moose habitat. Alternately floating and lining my raft downstream was my present task, the water often not deep enough to float my boat with my weight aboard. Slippery cobbles lined the bottom of the creek, rendering footing unstable and treacherous. This was my first tumble, and I felt sure that it wouldn’t be my last. I just hoped that my gear was up to the task of keeping me alive and healthy.
Good gear for a hardcore backcountry hunt is paramount to success and survival. Clothing is no exception and should be given serious consideration. My hunting partner and I had paid our dues in said consideration, finally choosing to go with Sitka clothing for all our layers, comprising long underwear, shirt and pants, coat and vest, raingear, and hats and gloves. Sitka’s reputation for comfortable, high-performance clothing is second to none, the only blemish being the price of the gear. Was the clothing worth the cost? We were about to find out.
Here’s a detailed look at exactly what we used, starting with the innermost layer and progressing outward. All pieces are members of Sitka’s new Subalpine lineup.
- Long Johns: Core Heavyweight bottom, Core Midweight Zip-T.
- Main layer: Timberline Pants, Core Lightweight Hoody.
- Coat & Vest: Kelvin Active Jacket, Kelvin Lite Vest.
- Rain gear; Stormfront Jacket & Pants.
- Hats: Sitka Cap, Jetstream Beanie.
- Gloves: Ascent Gloves, Coldfront GTX gloves.
Now, I’ve worn a lot of hunting clothing over the years, none of it as expensive as this Sitka gear, nor as technologically advanced. In common terms, I was pretty curious to see how it would stack up against cheaper, basic clothing. Here, in an honest assessment, is what I found:
The Sitka clothing was comfortable – the most comfortable I’ve ever worn, in fact.
The semi-stretchy fabric allows natural freedom of movement, and the kneepads on the Timberline pants were awesome in all sorts of ways. The clothing breathes well and seems to moderate body temperature through a variety of conditions.
Additionally (and this is remarkable), none of the clothing ever stank, even after 14 days of hunting and sweating in it. This is thanks to the Polygiene Odor Control Technology (using naturally antimicrobial silver salt). It works.
The ability of the Sitka clothing to keep us warm even when damp or wet was perhaps the most outstanding feature. When I took the plunge mentioned earlier in this story (as well as several others) I was wearing the Core mid-weight top and heavyweight bottoms, and the Timberline pants. The initial shock of water was icy cold, but within minutes I felt warm again, and never did actually become chilled. The clothing dried rapidly too, taking perhaps an hour to become completely dry. Then, of course, I fell in again.
We never had a chance to test the raingear during a real frog-strangler. We experienced a few one-to-three hour storms — during which we remained dry and comfortable. But I can state that the raingear fits well, is comfortable, and has water-tight zippers protecting pockets in all the right places.
Speaking of pockets, therein lies my one real beef with the Sitka clothing; the pants have only one butt pocket, on the right side. What the Hades? I have two hands and two butt cheeks. Additionally, all the shirts, vests, jackets, and raincoats have only one chest-front pocket, each on the left side. After stowing a wallet in my shirt, camera in my vest, gloves in my jacket, and silk neckerchief in my raincoat, I looked and felt rather lopsided. That petulant whining aside, the pockets are well designed and have awesome zippers. They just need to add a right chest-front and left butt-cheek pocket, and Sitka will have the perfect pocket system.
Only one other possible negative observation was made; the fabric of much of the Sitka gear seemed to be getting a bit fuzzy over heavy-wear areas after 14 days of abuse. Nothing to worry about, I’ve worn out a lot of knees and shirt cuffs, but I’ll be watching with interest as I put my Sitka clothing through more hardcore days of hunting.
In the end, the bottom line, as folks more intelligent than myself are prone to say, is that the Sitka gear performed splendidly. In fact, it was even better than my hunting partner and I expected. Can you get other adequate clothing for less money? Sure. Can you find better clothing? I don’t believe so. For any hunt where life and success hang in the balance, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose Sitka clothing again.
For more information about Sitka gear and clothing, click here.