Duck hunting is not easy. But it sure is fun!
One of the factors restricting more women from duck hunting is lack of comfort. It’s cold, it’s wet, and it’s a lot of work before you ever even get the opportunity to pull the trigger. But it doesn’t have to be this way! All it takes is a little planning and the right gear to make sure you are comfortable in the duck blind. In this series, I’m going to tell you all the gear I wear or bring when I go hunting. This is part 1 of a 3-part post on MY DUCK HUNTING ESSENTIALS.
The biggest difference between me and my husband when it comes to hunting is that I am much more susceptible to being cold than he is. He is usually too hot under all his layers! Flexibility and ease of movement are also very important to me. That shotgun is not light and I need to be able to move it quickly! Many of my duck-hunting essentials are also essentials for any outdoor venture, but duck hunting also requires protection from cold water. Here are my duck-hunting clothing essentials:
Probably the most important of the layers I wear. I’ve tried a lot of different brands and fabrics. Obviously you do NOT want to wear cotton as a base layer and there are so many other options to choose from these days! My favorite: Patagonia Caplilene. Patagonia Capilene baselayers are all assigned a number based on the weight (aka how warm it will keep you). 1 is the lightest-weight and 4 is the heaviest-weight, for very cold conditions. I wear Capeline-2 long-sleeve top and Capeline-3 bottoms. These work perfect for any outdoor adventures in the south. And these are the ONLY base layers I own. No matter the season, they work for me! The BEST part about these Base-Layers? They are flexible don’t restrict my movement, at all! Yes they are bright blue. If it’s cold, I don’t need a camo base-layer because I probably won’t be stripping down that far. But if it is warm enough I may not wear this base layer and go right to my mid-layer.
My mid-layer is the one that I will adjust based on the current weather. My mid-layer is my most versatile layer with several options. It will usually be camo in case I get hot and need to take off my jacket but don’t want to be seen by the game I’m persuing. For my mid-layer, I will wear a non-cotton moisture-wicking shirt with a vest on top. My favorite? Prois Ultra Hoodie and Columbia Benton Springs Vest. I like the vest because it is flexible (unlike a down vest) but I will be looking to replace it with the Haley Vines camo Soft Shell Vest (with shooting pad!). The Prois “hoodie” is actually a long-sleeve shirt that I reviewed last year. Now if it is really REALLY cold I will also wear my Columbia camo fleece or my lightweight down Patagonia sweater. Only problem with that down jacket is that it’s bright purple! So it’s usually saved for camping/hiking/field work and not for hunting.
I generally don’t wear a pants mid-layer but I’m eyeing these Drake Under Wader Pants that hubby has and loves.
The most expensive layer is the outer-layer. The better quality jacket you have, the more comfortable you will be. I’ve tried SEVERAL different jackets. A standard canvas Carhartt jacket was not warm enough, even though it was lined, and way too bulky. The Carhartt was more suited for muddy field work when I didn’t want to destroy an expensive camo jacket. My husband’s old warm cotton jacket from when he was a kid was nice but not ideal when you may have to deal with water. I have 2 go-to otpions for a warm hunting jacket. The first is my Drake waders jacket(which I often where even when I’m not wearing waders). The bottom half is all fleece and fits nicely under chest-waders. The top-half is several layers thick, soooo warm, and even water resistant! There are 2 handy pockets on the top part of the chest, one that zips (where I keep my camera) and one that magnetically closes (where I keep spare shells). Both are accessible when I am wearing waders. I LOVE this jacket.but if its really REALLY cold I need a jacket that is full top-to-bottom.
For bottoms I have again, 2 go-to options, which both have their pro’s and cons. The first are my Diva Outfitters Fleece Pants. I love that these pants are made for women, by women. The shop owners are super nice and passionate about hunting. I usually hate the pink trend in women’s hunting clothes/accessories (what’s a girl gotta do to get some purple in her camo?) but the little hints of pink in these pants are sweet and perfect. Not enough that is screams “Hey I’m a girl ya know!!” but just a little reminder that these are not my husband’s pants. These pants are a soft and warm heavy fleece. Now you wouldn’t normally think of fleece pants as an Outer-Layer, but these pants are thicker than normal fleece and offer amazing warmth and wind/rain protection. I don’t know the technology behind it (an inner layer? a coating?) but I know it works. The best part of these pants? ELASTIC STIRRUPS. I have NO PROBLEM putting on my waders and keeping my pant legs down where they should be. I also wear these deer hunting. My only issue is that they tend to slip down too far on my hips. This is a problem I have with most all my pants due to my body shape but these especially cause they are kind of heavy. Wearing a belt and wide suspenders solves this problem but I still have to take off the right suspender strap when we are getting ready to hunt/shoot so I can line my shotgun up in my shoulder correctly.
Now, what about when it’s COLD cold? This is where my Haley Vines Waterproof Insulated Jacket and Bib come in. These are the warmest clothes I have EVER put on. I just got them late last year so I’ve only gotten to use them on two duck hunting trips but let me tell you, I am SOLD. This set is so warm, cozy, comfortable, fitted, and water-resistant I don’t know what I did before it. You can check out the entire Haley Vines collection on their website: HaleyVines.com and be sure to check out their catalog!
Haley Vines Review for the Outdoor Blogger Network
WARMTH- sooo so warm. I usually have to take the jacket off on the hike in to the blind because if I didn’t I would overheat quickly. In fact I would add a word of caution: don’t wear this suit unless you can easily take off the jacket to cool down. It’s THAT warm. I did wear the bib under my waders (which means I can’t take the bib off in the field) on the one day that it was very very cold and didn’t overheat as long as I could vent my head/neck/chest.
PROTECTION- I’ve worn my jacket while hunting in a flooded rice field AND while hunting in a salt-water bay. Both times I ended up face-first in the water. The first time I wasn’t wearing this jacket and I was FREEZING. Luckily we were on our way back to the trailer because if we had not been, the hunt would’ve been over. The second time I fell in the water I was wearing this jacket. I got the outside SOAKED but I barely felt it! We continued hunting and I was still warm and dry inside my jacket. Even when the sleeve cuffs got a little wet inside, it wasn’t unbearable because the jacket stayed warm.
FEEL- I cannot describe in words how amazingly soft the lining (and outside!) of this bib and jacket are. Even hubby was a little jealous when he touched it. It’s quite luxorious and feels like you are wrapped in your favorite fuzzy throw blanket instead of wearing practical hunting clothing.
FIT- Haley Vines really did their research and got the shape of these pieces just right. SO well suited for a women’s body. Tight and loose in all the right places. The big creates a very flattering shape. The pockets are also in the right places and soooo warm, especially when my hands are wet.
COMFORT- So soft and so comfortable, I don’t like to take them off! The bib’s suspenders are elastic and don’t dig into my shoulders.
STYLE- Yes, I look damn good in my bib and jacket. Even wore the bib by itself over a flannel shirt to go shopping (granted we were shopping at Mack’s Praire Wings)- watch out boys!
COST- At $250 a piece, this set is NOT cheap. But it would be worth it to save up all year and buy at the beginning of hunting season next year. If you are going to spend top-dollar on any part of your hunting wardrobe, make it your jacket.
SIZE- I bought the largest sizes available and they are just a tiny bit too small. I’m generally a size 16-18 and all my weight is in my mid-section/torso. I struggle a little zipping the bib and the jacket on top of the bib. This tightness restricts movement a little, but I can deal with it fine. I would love to see Haley Vines sell the jacket and bib in one more size larger.
Well there you have it! My Duck Hunting Clothing Essentials! Being that Duck Season is pretty much over, the next posts in this series will wait til the beginning of next duck season. But right now it’s time to look forward to some warm weather! Thanks for reading!