Down vs. synthetic insulation has been and will always be a notable topic for discussion in the realm of hunting clothing and gear. Most people agree that down has superior insulation qualities. High quality down in the 850 to 900 fill power range is unmatched in its warmth to weight ratio. In addition, it compresses extremely well. On the flip side of the coin, you have hunters that wouldn’t consider down, knowing that synthetic insulation will still provide warmth when wet. However, natural, high quality down is still my preferred insulation. Here is why.
I take every reasonable precaution necessary to insure that my insulation layers and sleeping bag remain dry. My sleeping bag is contained within a watertight stuff sack and at times, within a waterproof bivy sack as well. It is not getting wet. As far as down jackets go, when I do wear it, it is below a waterproof shell. I hardly ever wear insulation when I am moving so perspiration isn’t an issue. If you can wear your insulation piece while you are moving, it probably isn’t warm enough to keep you warm through a long glassing session. If you didn’t catch that, it was a hint to the synthetic guys out there.
I know what some of you guys are thinking, “stuff happens,” right? Well, let’s say that my sleeping bag did happen to get wet. I don’t care if it is down or synthetic, I am not sleeping in that thing. I can’t image a more uncomfortable way to spend the night in the high country. I would rather walk out in the middle of the night, and that is what I would do. This is where my disclaimer comes in. If I was hunting in a situation where hiking out to my truck was not an option, say for an Alaskan drop camp hunt, I would defiantly consider synthetic insulation. But, for here in Wyoming or in Colorado, Montana, Idaho, Nevada and Utah down is the way to go for me. Maybe it will get me in trouble one of these days, but I doubt it.
- Justin Starck -
ABOUT SEARCHING FOR WEST
The hunt is a pursuit of balance, while searching for the unknown. The balance that death has struck with life, the one sustaining the other. Everything we eat was alive once. The farmer clears his field in autumn for new life in the spring, and there’s a rhythm to it all. One man in one place, doing just one thing at a time.
Mark Seacat’s son, West, was born 10 days before elk season. Husband. Father. Hunter. Where does he draw the line on how much to sacrifice?
Check the webpage Searching the West
Sitka, always improving his brand image, best one in the industry
Merino wool has been around for a while and is now getting very popular in the hunting world. I believe the company First Lite could be credited with marketing merino to hunters first, and since they have, a few other hunting clothing companies have started to produce merino clothing as well. Merino wool can be made into nearly any base layer clothing from boxers and socks to pants and sweaters.
If you have used merino wool you will know how good of a material it is for use while hunting. The main reason I use it is because of its antibacterial properties. It is amazing to me how I can spend a week in the backcountry, hiking and sweating every day, and at the end my merino wool clothing will have very little to no stink at all. From experience, if synthetics are worn under the same circumstances they end up smelling so bad that they should probably just be thrown away.
Another advantage to merino wool is that it is a very fine wool and can be worn directly next to the skin without itching. This makes for a very comfortable and moisture wicking layer to keep you comfortable all day long. Most merino clothing is fairly thin and not very warm by itself, but this is where layering come in. It easy to layer with different weights of merino wool products to create the right amount of insulation you need. Also with every layer you add, a layer of air is added between items, therefore helping with the insulation properties. Also, unlike synthetics, wool will still insulate some when wet, which can be a lifesaver in some situations.
Bottom line- If you are going on any backcountry hunt where you need a dependable piece of gear, merino wool will not you down.
Hunting companies offering a line of merino wool products:
Other top brands of merino wool clothing (a good place to buy and look at these brands is backcountry.com):