Enjoying the outdoors…

…is greatly enhanced if you are comfortable. This is almost always related to feeling cool or warm enough. While hunting whitetail, turkey, moose or any other game, a modern layering system can really benefit you in that domain.

But what is a layering system? It is a way to dress that permit your body to regulate its temperature more efficiently by using multiple layers of clothes one on top of the others. In general, the system will include a total of three layers named: the base layer, the mid layer(or insulation layer) and the outer layer.


Base layer

Is the closest one to your skin. Its role is simple: wick away the moisture from your skin and keeps you dry. It is no secret that your body will get colder faster if wet, especially when exposed to wind. Combine that with the long hours of sitting in one place and you get a dangerous situation.

Those clothes are most of the time form fitting. The closer fit to your body add effectiveness to the moisture wicking quality of the garnment. For hunting purposes try to keep them a neutral color but you don’t need to get camo design since you will rarely get down to that level.

They could be made of synthetic or natural fibers. I would highly suggest you buy yourself a set in merino wool. When buying merino wool, you will get a rating in gram per square meter or g/m2. The highest the rating, the warmer it will keep you. For general purpose get something in the 260g/m2 range.

Base layer exemples Pictured above: Icebreaker Ika Merino Long Sleeve Shirt, First Lite Allegheny Merino Bottom

Here is a short list of merino wool pros:

  • Extremely light
  • Keep it’s insulation value when wet
  • Naturally get rid of the bacterial odors
  • Silent
  • Doesn’t shine the light(dull)

Cons to merino wool:

  • Expensive
  • Durability
  • Can be itchy

I would like to note that, you can expect a couple of season out of your merino as far as durability goes, and you really get use to the itchy feeling after a couple of wear. Overall the pro far outweight the cons

Mid layer

The mid layer, also called insulation layer, soles purpose is to provide the insulation required between your base and outer layer. While the base layer keeps you dry, the mid layer provides loft and airspace to insulate your body. This layer needs to allow air to travel through it and permit the drying of your base layer.

MidLayer Exemple Pictured above: Icebreaker Helix camo

Most often than not, those garments will be made out of synthetic material such as polyester. Sometimes if the weather permits it, you could get down to this layer so think about neutral colors or camouflage for hunting purposes. Something to note about synthetic is that they can retain odors so those need to be washed more often. Exemple of this type of clothes are:

  • Fleeces
  • Hoodies
  • Puffy jacket

While this layer is critical to keep you warm, this is probably the piece of clothing that might cost you the least amount of money. You can get some great piece of clothing at a reasonable price in this category. No need to shell out some big money, when a traditional fleece will serve you as well as any other high dollars pieces. Better save in this category and get yourself something a little nicer in the other two categories.

Outer layer

The outer layer that you will want to wear is entirely dependant on the weather condition. For example, during the early season, you might only need a soft shell to cut the wind out. Later in the season, you will need to step your game up and bring more of a winter jacket type of garment.

The outer layer is just that, the last piece of clothing between you and the outside environment. Of course the more you pay for the garment, the more technological features you will have. Something that is worth considering is a type of fabric that “breathe”, meaning that it lets moisture out but not in. The better known product in this category is GoreTex. This will help your system overall as the moisture wicked by you base layer need to go somewhere.

Outer Layer Pictured above: Sitka Incinerator Jacket

Watch for “brushed” type of fabric since they are less noisy than the hard-shell type. Windproof and rainproof will also be louder but are often required for depending on the condition.

Rain specific clothing

Although technically outer layer, I like to think of rain gear as a somewhat separated category. I always bring a rain jacket in my backpack when rain is in the forecast. Remember that being wet is what will get you cold the fastest, so I always want to stay dry. There is a lot of high end hunting rain jacket on the market. I personally don’t own one since they are so expensive and I can really get by with a regular rain jacket in a neutral color. Altought not a perfect solution concerning scent and noise, I save a lot of money by giving my clothes multiple roles like that.

Note about pants

The same principles also apply to your lower body, however, I feel way less cold from the leg than from the upper body. More often than not I would wear a lighter pair of merino base layer than complete with a pair of pants for early season. Later, I will switch my pants to a pair of bibs. That way I can hunt all season pretty comfortably.

Hunting pants Pictured above: Sitka Equinox Pants


When it comes to accessories, you want to select to right ones to wear corresponding to the time of the year. For example, I would not layer my socks, but have different pairs that are adapted to different temperatures. Remember that the only way to stay hunting a long time is to be comfortable, so think about headwear, footwear, gloves, etc…

A collection of accesories Pictured above: Diverse clothing accesories

Using your system

A good layering system include many differents pieces and this can get quite expensive if you buy one of everything. Think ahead of time and plan you hunt and get what you really need first. Remember that each piece purposes can be extended by changing something else in the system. For exemple, your early season jacket could get you way into the mid season if you increase the warmth of your mid layer, wich again is a piece that can get upgraded at a smaller cost.

The strenght of such a system is it’s adaptability to almost any situation possible. You can combine, remove and add layers to your system depending on the current state of the weather.

Always keep in mind that being wet will be the number one cause of being cold. You want to limit perspiration to a minimum. A great way of doing that is to be a little bit chilly when starting your walk to your stand. Transporting you backpack, bow, maybe even your treestand can quickly warm you up, and if you have all of your layers on you and are fully zipped up, you will start sweating. When you get situated in your stand and stop moving, you will quickly get chilly, then cold. This can ruin a hunt in a hurry. If your jacket and bibs have ventilation capability, use them to regulate your temparature.

Remember to stay dry and dress accord to the weather!