Modern hunting clothes and associated technology have come a long way in the past few decades, partly thanks to breakthroughs in natural and synthetic materials. While a successful hunting expedition most often boils down to experience and a little bit of luck, it always helps to have the right set of hunting clothing and field-ready gear.
Avid hunters no longer have to struggle with the rustling sounds of polyester, itchiness of wool, or chilling effects of drenched cotton. Hunting clothes and gear have become more comfortable, stylish, and fashion-forward than ever before, now coming in various styles and patterns beyond tweed. These Sanctuary camo pants and jacket, for instance, help hunters blend into their hunting environments better – making them less likely to spook their game and increasing the odds of a successful hunt – while also looking sleek and feeling great.
We’ve put together this gentleman’s guide to help you shop, style, and gear up for many different hunting settings, weather conditions, and climates. Equipped with the latest gear, you’ll be ready to set out on your next hunt without a hitch or an itch.
The Transformation of Hunting Clothing & Gear: From Tweed to Camo
Country clothing was the go-to choice for hunters residing in or visiting the English countryside during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Things haven’t changed much in Great Britain since, as hunters still prefer clean tweed and proper country clothing over camouflage.
However, different trends emerged in the US and Canada, where hunting groups instead opted for styles made from battlefield paint and camo prints. These trends took off because many of these hunters believed that, by blending in with their surroundings, they could stay out of sight, get closer to their target game, and make a better, cleaner shot.
Embracing colors, patterns, and prints from a variety of militaries, North American hunters started wearing ghillie suits and painting themselves with war paint to blend in with their environment. Over time, the majority of hunters in the US have taken to viewing this style as “standard” hunting attire.
It can come as a big shock to North American hunters when they learn that breeches, a tie, and a tweed jacket were (and still are) traditional hunting attire elsewhere. If you stepped out into the woods wearing anything short of camo attire, you’d be considered an outsider. However, if you have watched films or TV shows that depict traditional British hunting (read: Downton Abbey), you’ll notice that tweed has historically been a big part of a hunter’s clothing and gear.
However, dapper gents who are looking for traditional hunting clothing would be sorely disappointed by what’s available at hunting gear stores. Tweed jackets, ties, and pants have gone the way of the dodo, much like blazers and slacks lost their glory in the late 1950s and early 1960s, paving the way to hoodies and sweatpants. Similarly, according to a comprehensive historical piece by Time magazine, camouflage saw explosive popularity and utilization in the 1980s, when people across everyday life joined hunters by donning all kinds of brown, tan, and green apparel.
Dressing for the Hunt in Traditional Country Clothing
Wearing elegant, traditional country hunting gear has been in practice since Ancient Rome. The most crucial thing to remember when dressing in traditional country hunting apparel is to layer based on the weather and the season. A proper hunting outfit should be comfortable to shoot in and allow for easy movement between stake-outs, while also keeping you warm and toasty during even the most unforgiving weather conditions.
Here’s how to properly layer your traditional hunting country outfit:
– Long Hunting Socks
Most hunting socks are long (crew or knee-high in length) and come in a variety of colors and patterns. They’re primarily made from merino wool for its warmth and temperature regulation, with synthetic fibers like nylon or polyester included for shape maintenance and reinforcement.
You should also consider wearing garters around your legs to prevent your socks from falling or bunching up. Garters will also keep the seam between your socks and breeches weatherproof.
Breeches are sometimes called Plus Four’s and Plus Two’s, especially in the UK. They’re cut soo that 2-to-4 inches of the material go below the knee, hence their names. Most pieces are made from warm and waterproof tweed and can either contrast or match your hunting jacket and vest.
You should be able to adjust your breeches down at the calves and sides, making them ideal for many different outdoor activities like golfing, hiking, skiing, or even strolling in the park during winter.
– Checked Shirt
You’ll find hunting shirts in various styles, but most feature a checked pattern or print like Gingham, plaid (Tartan), Tattersall, or Windowpane. While they may look like regular dress shirts, it’s crucial to opt for hunting shirts that are longer, thinner, and that allow free movement when hunting. They’re typically made of a wool and cotton blend, making them warmer than dress shirts.
– Hunting Suspenders
Seasoned hunters prefer a pair of fashionable yet strong suspenders to keep their pants up while they hunt. The best hunting suspenders are usually made of box cloth and are much sturdier than traditional ones. And even though they may feel heftier, hunting suspenders are actually more handsome than many of their standard counterparts.
– Country Tie for Hunting
The necktie is an indispensable part of traditional country hunting attire. They’re typically woven from wool rather than silk to withstand adverse weather conditions. When wearing the necktie, you should push it down with a collar bar and hold it down with your vest. To achieve the highest “wow” factor, go for bright colors or ties with hunting-inspired prints like birds, hares, elks, etc.
– Hunting Vest
Unless you’re a royal family member, president, or billionaire, chances are you’ll be the one loading your gun. As such, the best hunting vests to wear during warmer weather have large, roomy pockets for cartridges and sown-in shoulder pads to protect your shoulders.
A warm, sleeveless wool vest is perfect for cold weather. The sleeveless design increases your comfort and range of motion when you draw, aim, and fire your gun, as you will likely be wearing a heavy coat or jacket in winter or fall.
– Longwing Brogues or Rain Boots
Rain boots are the gold standard when dressing for a hunt. Hunters have also recently started to wear longwing brogues. The good thing about rain boots is that they hold up well to muddy, wet, and boggy conditions. Even if you’re planning to hunt from a dry spot or on horseback, the odds of having to at some point walk through bogs remain high. A high-quality pair of rain boots will help keep your feet dry and clean as you pass through different terrain.
– Field Coat or Tweed Jacket
Hunting during warm weather calls for a classic, single-breasted, 3-buttoned tweed jacket. In a lot of cases, your tweed hunting jacket will have a notch lapel, though some hunters prefer peak lapels for their classic look.
A proper Parsons or field jacket is ideal for hunting during cold weather. There are many field coat styles to choose from, including the hacking jacket with ample pockets, which come in handy when you need somewhere to tuck away additional cartridges.
– Gentleman’s Hat
Hunting in traditional British country attire cannot be done without a gentleman’s hat. These hats were worn by the British gentry everywhere: during hunts, weddings, and other formal or semi-formal occasions. You can watch a few episodes of Downton Abbey for inspiration.
The most classic gentleman’s hat for hunting is a flat cap. It is usually made of tweed and often worn facing the front to safeguard your eyes from direct sunlight. Some hunters still go for a trilby or fedora, but the flat cap is an all-time favorite.
Layering Modern Hunting Clothing and Gear
Modern hunting attire starts with a moisture-wicking layer, which should be made with a comfortable blend of merino wool and high-performance synthetic fibers like nylon. This will wick sweat away from the skin and keep you warm, dry, and comfortable all throughout the hunt.
No other fabric regulates your body temperature and manages moisture better than merino wool. It’s warm and toasty during cold weather, yet wicks moisture away and breathes easily during warm weather. Plus, it doesn’t itch or absorb odors, meaning you remain stink- and sweat-free even after hours of wear.
A thermal layer of merino wool provides ample insulation even if it gets wet. To best combat unpredictable weather, start with a base layer of mid-weight merino wool – it’ll feel great on your skin. You can switch to heavyweight merino base layers when the biting freeze of winter comes knocking.
The middle layer should be made up of light, well-insulating pieces that are easy to take on and off based on activity level and weather conditions. Think of fleece, sweatshirts, or camo long-sleeve shirts here. Synthetic fleece clothing, for example, is breathable and lightweight and can become the outer layer in warmer weather.
Many hours sitting in the cold necessitate properly insulating outer layers. These include synthetic or down insulated pieces, although the former can lose insulation when it gets wet. That’s why we recommend wearing bright orange or camo hunting jackets for your outer layer. Layer up with hunting coveralls or bibs if you want to keep your legs dry and warm too.
You should pay attention to the colors and patterns when choosing the right hunting jacket. Camo jackets are typically ideal for hunting waterfowl, while blaze orange jackets are great for deer hunting. You can wear a camo jacket when hunting deer, but be sure to wear an orange safety vest as well.
It pays to own a few pairs of camo pants. They should be versatile and comfortable for a wide range of hunting conditions and environments. You should be able to move around and hike comfortably in them. Avoid pants with an outer layer of polyester, nylon, or other synthetic shells, as they can generate a lot of rustling.
Choosing a fabric that sits between synthetics and wool makes sure your hunting pants are quiet, tough, and lightweight at the same time. Ultimately, you want hunting pants that have a rugged shell, as you’ll likely be trudging or crawling through some tough terrain during your expedition.
Different hunting pants work for different scenarios. A bulky pair of heavyweight pants on a hot afternoon will drench you in so much sweat that you may never wish to go hunting again. On the other hand, wearing a lightweight pair of early-season hunting pants during the middle of a harsh winter may leave you with more than a sniffle.
Choose hunting pants that match the season, as well as how and where you plan to hunt.
- Early-season hunting pants: If you want to hunt early-season big game like elk or deer, the season calls for a pair of lightweight, breathable, and silent pants. Most hunters use bows & arrows during this period so a rustling pair could turn your quiet hunt into a loud nightmare.
- Late-season hunting pants: Late-season hunts call for fabrics that can withstand wintry conditions. You’ll need well-insulated pants that hold up to snags and provide unwavering warmth.
- Waterfowl hunting pants: Waterfowl and duck hunting pants should be waterproof and need sport-taped seams. Extra padding or kidney warmers can also come in handy during icy weather.
- Upland hunting pants: Much like waterfowl hunting pants, upland hunting pants should be equally durable and able to withstand abuse from dry, thorny shrubs. Water-resistant material and a rugged exterior are other big pluses.
Whether you prefer traditional country hunting clothing or modern layering, accessorizing properly will make your hunt much more pleasant and hassle-free. Here are a few standard accessories for your next hunting trip:
– Hunting Gloves
Hunting gloves are a must, especially for late-season big game hunts. Cold fingers can quickly affect your hunting experience, not to mention your health and well-being. Traditional hunting gloves are fairly thin and made of capeskin, deerskin, or other forms of comfortable leather. They come with various features, including spandex trigger fingers and handy palm grips. No matter your choice, your hunting gloves should be able to keep your hands warm and toasty.
– Hunting Socks
Socks made from merino wool are an ideal choice for hunting, as the natural fabric is far superior to synthetic fibers. It helps keep your feet dry and nicely warm. Make sure your hunting socks offer enough insulation – it’s also wise to carry an extra pair. Some modern hunting socks even boast odor or scent erasure technology, making it easy for you to hide from your prey.
– Hunting Gaiters
Gaiters can immensely improve your hunt. You’re bound to run into wet spots or lands where moisture can get into your hunting socks or boots, so go for gaiters designed to effectively repel mud, water, and snow. Gaiters can also help keep dirt, burrs, seeds, and insects away during various weather conditions.
– Hunting Hats
No hunt is complete without a hunting hat. Not only does it keep your head warm, but it can also dramatically enhance your safety by helping keep you hidden from your prey. Most states require that a hunting hat be at least 50% blaze orange.
– Hunting Boots
Hunting boots are designed to keep your feet dry, warm, and protected while walking or hiking through various terrains. Your pair should be constructed of waterproof or rubber material.
It pays to know your hunting environment and terrain when choosing camouflage pieces. You should always pick hunting clothes and gear that fit the weather, season, and type of game you’re hunting. One final tip: make sure to treat your hunting clothing with a scent-eliminating agent prior to and after the hunt.