About seven years ago I was planning a hunting trip to Alaska with my brother.
We were going to hunt Coastal Brown Bear and then Caribou shortly after that.
I don’t have to tell you how excited I was leading up to this expedition.
Sometimes I think that the anticipation and reflection of these trips can be better than the actual experiences themselves.
Having a year to plan and get excited about something can be just the change of pace that you need to pull yourself out of that day-to-day grind.
All too often, sportsmen and women fail to conduct adequate research when selecting gear.
That is why we all have an excessively large inventory in our closets, man caves, and anywhere else that a critical eye will likely not look.
Fortunately, I have learned from my mistakes and am a very educated consumer now and carefully make my selections.
One day while discussing different gear that was needed, my brother insisted that I get a particular kind of jacket that I had never even considered adding to my irresponsibly large collection.
My brother lived in Fairbanks, Alaska and was very familiar with what kind of gear would keep you the warmest, hold up to harsh environments, and not weigh a ton.
He suggested that I pick up a synthetic down (not regular down) jacket.
I had seen these puffy jackets featured on various T.V. shows and had certainly never considered wearing one into the woods!
I had always viewed these as more of a fashion statement rather than a tool in my big game arsenal.
It was in this conversation that I began to learn about the importance of the type of fabric and how essential this consideration is as not all materials will keep you warm when they are wet.
Have you ever heard the expression “Cotton Kills”? Certain types of fabric are well-known for their moisture wicking capabilities.
However, many people do not know that some materials will keep you warmer than others when they are saturated.
My brother has always been a pretty good sounding board and a good source of advice.
Given that past, I went ahead and paid what I thought was a lot of money ($150) for my new synthetic down jacket from Cabela’s.
It must have been quite the scene when I first opened that box to unveil my latest investment.
Let’s just say that I was less than impressed with this puny “sweater” that was supposedly going to keep me alive in the arctic tundra of the last frontier.
I couldn’t believe that I had been duped.
After all, I pride myself in making educated purchases and knowing precisely what I am getting.
After a short phone call with my brother, he was able to talk me off the ledge and convince me to give it a shot.
On a cold, blustery deer hunting day, I was able to see what this thing was made of finally.
I remember hiking to my tree stand thinking that I must be getting sick.
Despite it being well below freezing, I was getting “the sweats.” My mind raced with all of the reasons why this is horrible timing to get sick.
There was way too much to do, and it was the last thing that I needed.
That is when it dawned on me; the sweater!
In total disbelief, I shed the layer no longer knowing what to think.
To my complete amazement, I became instantly cold.
Not because of my weakened immune system and pride, but because of the “sweater” that I had so grossly underestimated was no longer protecting me from the elements.
I was amazed by how warm this little jacket was.
Once I got to my treestand, I put the thing back on and enjoyed the comfort it offered despite the conditions outside.
That day was a pivotal moment for me in my approach to gear, layering, and warmth.
I learned that the smallest jacket that I had could be the warmest one of all.
I also learned how nice it was to jam that little jacket into my pack when I was hiking.
It took up minimal space, weighed almost nothing, and provided the comfort of knowing that I could pull it out at any time.
Ever since that day I have planned my entire hunting wardrobe around this one piece of gear.
I no longer look like Randy from A Christmas Story walking around the woods in December.
Those who believe that bulk means warmth should venture into this new world of understanding and revolutionize their approach towards gearing up for outdoor activities.
The key to expedition hunting is using layers.
Combining this jacket with a good base layer and a lightweight outer shell (for wind and rain) will leave you dressed for success regardless of the conditions and where your journey takes you.
Every outdoor activity that I participate in, you will see me with the best piece of gear I own!
*This article is not a paid advertisement but rather an outdoor enthusiast’s personal experience expressed out of a desire to help his fellow outdoorsmen and women enhance their outdoor pursuits.