Our Everyday Adventures

We are not adventurers by choice but by fate – Van Gogh

Colorado Elk Hunting Trip with Sitka OPTIFADE Gear

Post by:  Guest-John S.
12/3/11

About a month ago a friend of mine was passing through town on his way to an elk hunt in South Central Colorado.  I loaned him my Sitka OPTIFADE camo and asked him to take some photos and write up a guest post after the hunt.  Not only did he get some amazing photos, he managed to bag a nice Colorado bull elk while he was here.  Below is his review of the Sitka OPTIFADE gear.

>>Guest Post<<  This past October I had a chance to put a set of Sitka gear to the test on an 11 day Elk hunt out in Colorado.  I was planning on purchasing new camo, and was really interested in Sitka gear, for both the Gore OPTIFADE pattern and the high-performance aspect of their clothing.  I got in touch with Jake and it turned out that he had recently moved to Colorado and had a full set of Sitka gear in my size, and he offered to let me borrow it for the hunt.  Keep in mind that we’d never met in person, so the offer was pretty amazing.  I ended up driving through Leadville and picking up the gear on the promise of either bringing it back or mailing it after the hunt.

When I finally unpacked the bag, I was pretty excited with what I saw.  This is some serious clothing, high speed/low drag as I like to say.  So all in all I had the Jet Stream jacket with Gore WINDSTOPPER, the 90% pants, a Core Zip shirt, Traverse beanie, and Jet Stream gloves all in the Open Country camo pattern.  My first impression of the gear was as if Arc Teryx made hunting clothes.  Super good quality and construction, or so it looked.  I was pretty excited to get in the stuff and see how it worked.  For me, this is exactly the type of clothing I would idealize for backcountry hunting, very high performance.  It seemed to be designed as very rugged and very functional.  (Can you tell already that I loved the gear?)  This isn’t your typical hunting gear, at least as I think of it, it’s not bulky and cumbersome, it has a nice fit and is well suited to movement.

On this trip I spent 11 straight days in this clothing and saw pretty much every weather condition.  For starters, the camo pattern is great.  In my research of the Gore OPTIFADE pattern, I was really impressed.  I wanted Sitka gear solely based on that pattern, the science behind it, and all the impressive demos.  When I put it on for the first time, I stepped out of the tent, walked about 20 yards and sat down in front of a cluster of sage brush in plain sight of the tent.   My uncle came out looked in my direction and scanned back and forth four times before he saw me and started laughing.

The first few days of the trip were warm, so I layered in both the jacket and shirt.  This was warm enough for the cold mornings and by mid afternoon I was in the shirt, zipper open and sleeves up.  What impressed me was that I stayed pretty comfortable with the big temperature swing.  I never got too cold or too warm.  Only when it got up around 60 and we were climbing did I feel the need to shed the jacket.  Of course once I did I found it was warmer than I expected as I wasn’t that hot in the jacket but plenty comfortable without it.  The next few days it got colder and snowed.  I sat at the base of a tree one morning in a snow storm and stayed comfortable.  There was definitely some wet-out going on, and that made things cooler, but it wasn’t a showstopper.  The next couple of days in the snow were just fine, and then it got muddy.  Most days were windy, and up high atop mountains it was even windier, which never posed a problem.  The clothing was definitely super breathable, but kept the unwanted wind out also.

I did end up getting an elk, which was awesome.  What goes with dealing with an elk is a lot of blood during gutting.  I did my best to keep the clothing clean, after all it was a loaner set, but getting bloody is inevitable.  I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get all that blood off, so I figured I’d deal with it later and hope for the best.  I literally lived in these clothes, up in the back country, dusty, dirty, muddy, and just loved it.  The clothes were bloodied up on Thursday, and on Sunday I took a handful of snow and started scrubbing on a bloody spot.  To my amazement, it was actually coming pretty clean with just snow.  There was hope!

So to summarize some of the highlights of this stuff here are some brief points:

  • Very rugged and abrasion resistant.  Dragging on rocks, busting through timber, sliding around, never seemed to phase the softshell material
  • Extremely wide comfort range.  Looking at it, you’d think it wouldn’t’ keep you that warm.  I couldn’t believe that I stayed warm when it was cold out and cool when it was warm.  Very impressed by that.
  • Designed to move.  Never felt restricted, not baggy either.
  • Very quiet material.  This is pretty key for still hunting and stalking anything.  We snuck up on a group of 4 elk, so I know it works.
  • Looks awesome.
  • Plenty of pockets
  • Very breathable, but also very wind resistant
  • Cleans up easy
  • Doesn’t take on smell.  I wore this for 11 days straight amongst blood, sweat, and dirt, but it really never got to smelling bad.  Even after I had showered up back in civilization, when I threw the clothes in the wash they didn’t even really smell.
  • They don’t pick up burrs.

Possible improvements:

  • More water resistance.  Yes I know it’s a softshell, but I would love it to be drier.
  • Suspenders were slightly annoying.  As the day went on they would get loose.  Required too much attention to keep them where I wanted.
  • Snaps at bottom of pant leg were nearly impossible to open.  Could be a good thing if that’s what you want, but I thought they were going to rip out of the fabric.  I even bent the flange on the male side of the snap trying to undo them.

All in all I was really impressed.  I’d love to have a set of Sitka gear and honestly after spending that much time in it, I’d be ok with buying it at full price.  What’s nice for me is that this is gear that doesn’t have to be hunting specific, meaning I could take it out mountaineering, climbing, hiking, or whatever.  It’s that kind of clothing, only it would come with a killer camouflage pattern.

I’d give this a solid 5 out of 5 stars.  The only bias I have in this is that I tried it and loved it.  Thanks to my new friend Jake for turning me on to some great product!

 

2 comments

Hunting With Sitka Optifade

Post By: Jake
12/18/09

On the weekend of Nov. 14/15 I went up and did a little hunting at my in-laws hunting camp. I went up more focused on testing out my new Sitka Optifade 90% pants then to actually try and kill something, and that was probably a pretty good mindset as we hardly saw 2 deer the whole weekend. The Science of Nothing—W.L. Gore OPTIFADE. I had an excellent opportunity to test out the brand new camo pattern on these pants. Standing in the wide open, hiding behind nothing, 2 deer walked to within 20 yards of me without the slightest knowledge of my presence. A light breeze was to my face, so they couldn’t smell me, I was being dead silent so they couldn’t hear me, and when they looked my way, they didn’t even bat an eye, they just kept grazing and eventually made their way past me. Pretty incredible experience as white tail does are generally considered some of the most flighty deer out there. I can’t contribute the concealment 100% to the Optifade as I was also wearing a mossy oak camo top. But it was a pretty cool experience none the less. The 90% pants I have are simply the best hunting pants I’ve ever seen or used. Although the articulated knees, suspenders, side-zipper ankle cuffs, and sticky silicon waste band (to help hold them in place) all add tremendously to the overall design and function of the pants, the greatest benefit I found was the fabric the pants are made out of. Not only is it highly wind resistant, and coated with DWR for water resistance, It is also one of the quietest fabrics I’ve ever used. The overall noise volume is similar to rubbing fleece pants against a stick, almost perfectly quiet. However, unlike a pair of fleece pants, they are very water resistant (even when sitting on snow!) AND they don’t pick up sticker seed plants. If you’ve ever hiked around the dry Rockies in the fall after all the plants are dead and dry, you probably know about the little sticker bushes that usually leave pants literally covered with 1,000’s of tiny stickers. My brother in law had literally thousands covering his pants and when he looked at mine in disgust, he said, “you’re special pants probably don’t even pick up stickers either”, as he threw a handful of the stickers at me. They hit my legs and fell right to the ground! Although it sounds funny, that’s probably my favorite feature of the pants. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to pick those stickers off back at camp. The fit is more like a fine pair of ArcTeryx climbing pants rather than the “portly hunter” fit as is typical with hunting clothing. The other stuff isn’t bad to sit in a tree stand with I guess, but it’s not for hiking all over the mountains. I’m a 34” waist with a 30” inseam and I got the Large. (sized up) so they could comfortably go over a pair of cappeline long underwear, and some fleece pants if necessary.

The fit was excellent, just barely not too long, and overall perfect going over a layer or two. They also would fit very well without underlayers as the removable suspenders help hold them in place, and the articulated knees and 4-way stretch fabric lets them move freely. Around the waist band, and on the inside of the suspenders these pants have a unique feature I’ve never seen before. They have a thin bead of what appears to be Silicone. It makes those areas really tacky and more or less “stick” into place. Very nice! My chief complaint about the pants is the suspenders. They have a quick release buckle in the front, but not in the back, the back release points are a little more complicated to remove. This is only an issue when nature calls. The only thing I can think about to make these pants any better would be a quick release buckle in the back of the suspenders as well (or instead of) the front quick release buckles. The couple times I needed this feature, it felt like I nearly had to completely undress as I had put the suspenders on over my mid layer top instead of over my outer layer top as is typical I would think? In +5 degree weather, being without some layers can be quite uncomfortable. And while hunting, the last thing I want to do is waste a lot of time taking layers off and then re-layering after the job is done.

Pros: VERY good construction/fit. All the “extra” features are all VERY useful and easily justify their extra weight (ie. Suspenders, extra calf pockets, tight and reinforced pocket zippers, ankle side zippers). Very quite. Water and Wind resistant. Sticker plant resistant!

Cons: Suspenders need a little attention for quick bathroom breaks. After only a few hours of use I already have 1 seam coming un-stitched a little bit. Not very budget friendly, but still worth every penny.

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