The sporting goods industry hasn’t always taken hunters seriously. High-quality, high-tech clothing has long been a staple of skiing, hiking, and other outdoor sports. However, hunters were long forced piece together sub-par, overly bulky layers, or else try to adapt the brightly colored gear created for other outdoor sports.
Instead of waiting around for the sporting goods industry to address the needs of serious hunters, several companies took matters into their own hands, developing their own cutting-edge, technologically-advanced hunting gear. Two of these companies are First Lite and Sitka Gear.
Who Makes Better Hunting Clothes? Sitka vs. First Lite
Both of these companies produce some serious, first-class hunting gear. However, hunters should expect to fork out some serious cash for this top-notch clothing. A complete layering system from Sitka Gear or First Lite will cost well over $1000 retail.
Before you make that type of investment, you want to make sure you’re getting what you pay for, so let’s take a closer look at each of these high-end brands.
Not your grandpa’s camo, Sitka Gear is some of the world’s most advanced athletic clothing. The company actually prefers to call their camouflage clothing “gear” because of the innovative technology integrated into each piece.
Sitka develops their gear in complete systems. Pieces are designed to be layered, working together to deliver maximum comfort and performance. Unlike the bulky layered effect created by some less expensive (and lower quality) hunting gear, Sitka Gear keeps the bulk to a minimum. Because the clothing is less bulky, it doesn’t inhibit important mobility. It also saves room in your pack for other gear or for packing out hard-earned game meat.
One of the most exciting features of Sitka Gear is their Optifade technology. Optifade is a digital camo pattern designed to disrupt the eye’s ability to focus. As a result, animals (and humans) have major difficulty seeing the body’s outline when it is wrapped in this camo.
Sitka also incorporates technology into their insulation. Using body heat mapping, Sitka knows just where to ramp up the insulation to keep you toasty warm and where to back off, allowing heat to escape. This gear is designed to keep you comfortably warm no matter what weather you face in the field.
Hunters can choose from a variety of Sitka systems. These systems are engineered for specific hunting experiences. For example, their late season system is built to help you tackle the hard-core mountain conditions of late winter hunting. Sitka also designs gear to match whatever game you’re hunting. They have gear designed specifically for hunting whitetails, waterfowl, or big Western game.
While plenty of hunters extol the virtues of Sitka’s hunting gear, the most common complaint is some of their outer layers pick up a plethora of burrs and seed pods. It certainly is frustrating to have your pants snag on every thorn or branch you pass in the woods. However, Sitka gear is designed to be worn in layers. You can easily save yourself some frustration by stashing your outer layer in your pack until you arrive at your stand.
First Lite hunting gear has a pretty dedicated fan base, and it’s easy to understand why. Designed to be lightweight, breathable, and comfortable in all kinds of weather, First Lite layers are made from merino wool, which many consider the world’s best insulating fiber.
This seemingly magical material is naturally odor resistant, practical for a wide temperature range, produces no UV signature, and is dead quiet. This is the stuff you want next to your skin. Not only is it super soft, it also traps body heat next to your skin when it’s cold. When it’s warm, merino wool wicks moisture away from your body to keep you dry. This makes First Lite gear perfect for both active and stationary hunts.
Merino wool also retains 80 percent of its insulating properties when it is soaking wet. This is what you want to be wearing if you get caught unexpectedly in a downpour or take an accidental plunge into an icy cold creek. It can be sopping wet, and still keep you warm. In most ways, quality merino wool will outperform high-tech synthetic fabrics every time.
While Sitka focuses on integrating technology into their clothing line, First Lite’s mission is to create simple, proven, versatile gear that performs during the hunt. The beauty of this line is its simplicity. However, just because its simple, doesn’t mean it isn’t effective or expensive. While most of First Lite’s clothing is a tad more affordable than Sitka’s, it is still considered high-end gear.
The Final Verdict
At the end of the day, a comfortable hunter is a happy hunter. No matter how dedicated you are, it is pretty hard to concentrate on a hunt when your body is screaming it wants to go home. When you’re comfortable, you’ll spend more time in the field, and time in the field produces more opportunities to fill your tags (and your freezer).
Most hunters won’t bat an eyelash over spending a thousand dollars on a new rifle or compound bow. This proves we are willing to invest cash in hunting gear if we think it’s worth it. Our clothing should be no different. We wear our hunting clothing all day long, sometimes for days at a time. We also expect it to protect us from some pretty extreme hunting conditions while keeping us concealed from keen eyes and noses. Why wouldn’t we invest some major cash on such important gear?
With that in mind, is Sitka Gear and First Lite worth the investment? The answer to that question is a resounding YES!
But which one is better?
That is a more difficult question. We love them both, but for different reasons. The high-tech gear junkie in us loves Sitka, especially their Optifade digital camo designs. However, it is hard to argue with the proven effectiveness of good old-fashioned merino wool.
Thankfully, there are no rules against mixing and matching your favorite pieces. We like the soft feel, breathability, and insulating qualities of First Lite’s base layers. However, we’d love to top that off with Sitka’s high-tech outerwear, especially considering the perfectly distributed Primaloft insulation, waterproof Gore-Tex laminate, and Optifade camo technology they incorporate into most of their outer-layer designs.
No matter how you decide to layer it, First Lite and Sitka Gear will keep you comfortable, warm, and practically invisible this hunting season.