Backcountry Layering 101
Jeff Sposito – Sitka
Chances are you have experienced the internal debate about what apparel to bring on a backcountry hunt. We all do it…..Check the weather forecast hundreds of times, layout all of your gear adding and subtracting certain pieces depending on the thought of the day. You can never be too prepared but sometimes it helps to ground yourself on the basics. At the end of the day it can make or break your hunt of a lifetime whether you have a bunch of stuff versus the “right” stuff. Sometimes less is more when it comes to layering properly for your hunt. Just like your rifle, having the correct setup that you intimately understand and know how to use, can turn your hunt from good to great.
When it comes to layering and building your system for any given hunt there are many different ways to skin the cat. Personal preference does play into the equation at a certain level but at the basics you should always consider four different layers; Base, Insulation, Outerwear and Rainwear. Also, be sure not to forget about a good pack and proper protection for your hands and head. Below is just one example of a backcountry system that happens to be the gear I will be using for our Bob Marshall hunt this October.
Base Layers – The single most important thing base layers need to do for you is wick perspiration away from your body and dry out quickly. This is often overlooked and misunderstood but is paramount to making all your other layers perform to the level they are designed. This is also why cotton can be the kiss of death in extreme situations….it absorbs moisture and takes a long time to dry which equals cold sensations that can lead to lowering body temperatures. The most common performance base layers are either made from poly blends or merino wool. For this trip I will be bringing two Merino Zip-T’s, two pairs of Merino Boxers and one pair of Merino Bottoms. I prefer merino for multi day backcountry trips for its natural odor fighting capabilities.
Insulation Layers – Your insulation pieces are what you will rely on for keeping you warm when it gets cold or during periods of low activity when your body needs help keeping your temperature up. Perfect examples of this are riding horses for a long distances, extended periods sitting on the mountain behind the spotting scope, or even to sleep in on extra cold nights. These pieces are typically the ones you may rarely use but when you do you’ll be thanking the man upstairs you brought them so you don’t freeze your buns off. There are a few different things to consider, I.e. synthetic vs. down, heavy vs. light, but most importantly just don’t forget them. For this hunt I will be bringing a Kelvin Down Hoody, Kelvin Lite Pants and a Traverse Zip-T.
Outerwear- Outerwear pieces serve a dual purpose for regulating your body temperature as well as providing a durable layer that can resist weather and hold up to brush busting or crawling around backcountry terrain. Selecting these pieces is where many people get confused with all the different options. At the end of the day, you want to make sure you find pieces that fit you well, are functional for your needs and are comfortable to wear. For this hunt I will be bringing one pair of Timberline Pants and a 90% Jacket.
Rainwear – Last but not definitely not least is proper protection from the rain. All of our rainwear products utilize GORE-TEX laminates that are superior from others in breathability and durability. As well, GORE-TEX products are guaranteed to keep you dry so you can have confidence in your purchase. Take my word….good raingear is an investment into your hunt! For this hunt I will be carrying along Dewpoint Pants and a Dewpoint Jacket. The Dewpoint series is our lightest weight most packable raingear. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles like our Stormfront but that is a sacrifice I am willing to take for its extreme pack-ability. A full set of Dewpoint only weighs 25.6oz! Don’t ever leave home without your raingear…
Packs and Accessories – Fact is your hands and your head are also very important for regulating your bodies core temperature. Likewise, protecting your hands and carrying a pack that fits the needs of your hunt can be thought of as minor details easily overlooked. I typically carry two pairs of gloves and two beanies in addition to a regular ball cap. On this hunt I will have a pair of Shooter Gloves, a pair of Stormfront Gloves, a Merino Beanie, a Jetstream Beanie, a Sitka Cap, a pair of Stromfront Gaiters and will be carrying a Bivy 45 Pack.
As I mentioned, this is just one example of a system of gear that will work great for an October back country elk hunt. If you have any specific questions or just need more information you can call our customer service gear experts anytime at 877-748-5247 or email us at email@example.com. As well, check out our online System Builder and Big Game System Examples at SitkaGear.com. Good luck out there this fall!