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Anthony Navarroli
Trends in Hunting Clothing
By Anthony Navarroli, Jr
Sep 27, 2006, 13:08
 

Trends: Lightweight Weatherproof Hunting Outerwear

The Hunting Weather Problem
Who enjoys hunting cold and wet?  How often do we find ourselves hunting in cold or wet weather?    Many people spend a lot of money trying to endure these uncomfortable and often dangerous conditions while hunting.  There is good news in that advancements in clothing materials have allowed people to stay more comfortable for longer periods of time in tough weather.  

Many hunters venture out into the woods in their favorite cotton flannels and sweatshirts.  What is alarming is that most hunters who wear this material are unaware that they are dangerously flirting with hypothermia.  Cotton does not insulate when wet and in fact, pulls body heat away from you when soaked.  Fleece burst into the scene as the premium insulating material for outdoor clothing because it is naturally quiet, insulates when wet (unlike cotton and down) and is very comfortable.  It is not waterproof by itself rendering it useless in climates where precipitation is likely to be encountered.  Fleece can also be rather bulky when used in multiple layers for extremely cold weather.  This leads to the need for a more efficient and thinner insulation.

Solving the Problem
The creation of new wonder fabrics are at the forefront of the outdoor clothing industry and are making advancements which were unattainable as recently as ten years ago.  For spending long periods of time in nature people need clothing that is lightweight, quiet, windproof, waterproof, durable and breathable.  For many companies this has proven to be a much sought after, yet illusive magic formula.  Most major manufacturers offer a premium clothing line that allows people to keep more comfortable in the outdoors.  A popular material that has dominated the market is Gore Tex from Gore Industries.  Gore Industries found a way to manipulate a specific fabric to make it waterproof, windproof and breathable.  It is found in almost every manufacturers premium clothing line including footwear.  I have owned one jacket with Gore Tex for nearly eleven years.  It has never let me down in keeping me dry from skiing, small game hunting, hiking, Bills games and many rounds of skeet and sporting clays.  It, however, does not keep me warm.  For that I need to use an insulated liner.  Until now most hunting clothing companies have focused on keeping a hunter dry, warm and/or scent-free.  Most proprietary materials excel in one or two of these categories.  That is about to change as Innovative Designs may have come up with the next evolution in outdoor garment material. 

A New Approach
IDI (Innovative Designs, Inc.) has developed a material that attacks the problem from the inside out.  They have an extremely thin and light insulation that efficiently promotes warmth called Insultex.  Insultex is an updated version of their Eliotex insulation.  In fact, one layer is about a half a millimeter thick is ample insulation to below zero degrees Fahrenheit!  Insultex also has the advantage of being naturally buoyant as well.  This is great news for those that hunt near water or ice fish.  Eight ounces of this fabric can float a two hundred eighty pound person!  

According to Greg Domian, the Vice President of Sales at Innovative Designs, a three-layer garment is ample insulation for any cold climate in the world! The application of this product in outdoor wear is practically limitless.  Insultex is also available in IDI Gear's sleeping bags, rain parkas, as well as lightweight shirts and varying layered jackets, pants and bibs.  Companies that license the material use it mainly as a liner for their garments, which makes for an extremely cold weather worthy garment.  In fact, Insultex was used to keep United States and Canadian athletes warm for the past two Winter Olympics.  Materials used at this level are rigorously tested making this endorsement even more substantial. 


Best of all for hunters, Insultex was tested by an independent lab as being an effective scent barrier as long as it is properly fitted and zippered.  I am skeptical of anything that claims to be completely scent proof, and in talking with representatives of major companies that deal with scent suppression materials, the best we can presently hope for is drastic scent-reducing capability.  Keep in mind that every garment will expel some level of outgas (human scented air molecules).  Insultex is empirically proven to effectively contain most human outgases from entering the surrounding air, which allows game to be less capable of detecting human odor. The more effective the material and fit of the garment, the less outgas expelled into the air allowing game to come in closer and innocuous to the hunters presence.

The Package Arrives
My initial impression of the material was skeptical to say the least.  My jacket came to me in a very lightweight box.  It was so light that at first I thought the box might have been empty.  When I opened it, I found a well-made and very lightweight jacket.  As far as weight is concerned, use this for a frame of reference: one square yard of Insultex weighs less than a half-ounce! When I took the jacket out of the packaging and checked the seams the stitching looked first rate.  Quality YKK zippers are used for their durable, trouble free operation.  An additional feature on the model I have is that the sleeves zip off for warmer hunting (or as an added body core inner layer on extremely cold days).   The jacket has a soft and quiet micro fleece outer layer with a Mossy Oak New Breakup pattern.  A well thought out feature of the garment is the full cut that allows for drawing a bow (or shooting a long arm) and freedom of movement to use a climbing treestand.   The pockets are generously cut and make for easy access, even with gloved hands, a feature appreciated by anyone that tried to find a call or range finder with a gloved hand. 

Impressions
Quite simply put, the jacket performed out in the field as advertised.  It kept me warm during the few cold days we had left and didn't overheat me during a brisk walk in the cool woods with my bird hunting partner, Hogan, the high-powered shorthair.  When I spoke to Greg Domian of IDI, he made a point of telling me to be sure to use it in wet conditions as it would excel, and he was right.  Recently, we have had some moderate precipitation in our area and the jacket passed this initial waterproof test with flying colors.

For the last week of turkey hunting I brought the jacket with me as the weather was in the high forties and rain was on the forecast.  I was amazed at how quiet the fabric was.  It would be fair to say that the noisiest part of the garment is the outer covering (which was a soft and quiet microfleece) and will vary with each licensed manufacturer's choice of material. The jacket quickly warmed up to the point of needing to unzip the jacket on the climb up the hills. In the future, I'll put the jacket in my pack and wear it once I arrive at my spot; it was that efficient at heating me up!   

Once I settled in on my spot I zipped up and never felt any discomfort for the entire day.  It had rained the night before and it rained a bit that morning so everything around us was saturated, that is except my jacket, which further proved itself as being waterproof.  I sat under a tree that continually dropped water on me as the wind blew and I never I got wet.  

I didn't fill any tags that day but I did have a tom and jake come within thirty feet of me.  Unfortunately, they approached from the right at an angle that I could not get a shot off.  I moved a bit to try to get into position in case they ventured into my shooting lane but it never happened.  They never busted me, even when I moved and is further testament to the quietness of the material as well.  

Earlier in the morning we encountered about a dozen and a half deer some coming within ten yards and they too never smelled or heard me as I craned my neck to pick out one I hope to meet in the fall.  I was in a terrible position with the wind sending my scent right down to them and they never once tripped their flags or gave any other sign that something wasn't right.  This was a great test of the scent barrier claim.

 I plan on using it heavily during the upcoming fall and winter to check the warmth during our harsh winters that frequently drop below freezing and at times, with the wind-chill factor, well below zero.  The extra mobility and lighter weight of this material has me excited as I can wear less layers and vent open to stay cooler during the arduous climb to my choice spots with climbing stand and gear in tow.  With less layers, it will also make it easier to suit up once at my stand and remain comfortable during the hunt. 

Final Comments
This jacket is about perfect as is.  The only features I'd like to see added to the jacket would be a detachable hood option for really inhospitable weather and perhaps most importantly, an integrated tag holder on the back of the jacket.  I cringe anytime I need to punch holes in a garment, especially one that I am hoping to keep me dry.  A simple extra flap of material or a pin sleeve would be greatly welcomed.  I'd also like to see a few more camouflage options to tailor fit to your environment.  This may be a moot point as other companies license the material for their clothing line.  

To say that I am extremely pleased with the performance of this garment would be an understatement.  I am simply amazed that this thin layer of material can do so much.   I plan on ordering the bibs for the long cold winters we routinely have here in western New York.  The fact that it will keep you warm, dry, contains scent, and doesn't need any rejuvenation to maintain the scent barrier capabilities.  These features make this material an all around winner!

Finally, Innovative Design garments are priced very reasonably and are much more affordable than most other competitor's premium clothing lines using other dry and/or scent reduction material technology.  Innovative Design stays by your side with a 100% satisfaction guarantee, which is always reassuring.  Staying comfortably warm and dry has never been easier or more accessible for hunters.  Innovative Design has a real winner in this material and they know it.  They are branching out in the fishing, snow sports, camping and even golfing markets.  I rarely make product predictions based on hearsay or marketing but I can attest to the effectiveness of this product.  I am sure that you are going to see more of this fabric become a prominent staple in all of the aforementioned markets.  Visit them at www.idigear.com and check their products for yourself.  I am confident you will be just as impressed.

IDI Gear is also available at :The Bowhunting Store 

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