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Having the right equipment can make or break a hunting trip. This is especially true about the hunting jacket you choose. The right one will keep you warm, dry, and comfortable enough to sit all day. The wrong one will leave you miserable and headed for the cabin long before your prey appears.
So what is the difference between the right and wrong hunting jacket? Often it is the material used in its construction. Let’s explore the common materials found in hunting jackets, which are best, and which might meet your needs.
Many hunters believe the primary purpose of a hunting jacket is camouflage, hiding them from the watchful eyes of their target. But any cloth can be dyed black, green, and tan. The real purpose of a hunting jacket is to protect the hunter. A good hunting jacket will provide protection from the rain, snow, sun, heat, and cold.
The material used to manufacture a hunting jacket determines how much protection it will provide. There are many different materials available. Some provide excellent protection; some do not. Unfortunately, only some will meet all your needs. This is why it is crucial to understand which materials are available and what each provides before selecting your next jacket.
Wool has been used to produce clothing for centuries and is one of the original hunting jacket materials. Despite the invention of many alternatives, wool remains one of the best options available because it provides so many benefits.
Wool is naturally a water-repellant keeping you dry without the need for waterproofing. Even when it does get wet, wool retains its insulating properties. It is one of the warmest materials available—worried about being too warm? Wool also provides natural cooling properties by allowing moisture to escape as the temperature rises. Finally, wool also resists odor thanks to natural anti-microbial properties.
Of course, there are some downsides to wool. Due to the cost of processing, it can be expensive in a hunting jacket. Depending on the specific manufacturing process, it may also require special cleaning methods, adding to the overall cost. One of the most significant drawbacks is allergies. Users who are allergic to wool can experience a range of symptoms, from mild itching to severe rash. Not something you want to experience in the field.
Gore-Tex is one of the most popular materials for outdoor clothing, including hunting jackets. Thanks to its micro-porous nature Gore-Tex exhibits excellent waterproofing qualities. Even after being submerged, Gore-Tex sheds water and remains dry, making it impervious to even the heaviest rain or snowstorms. Unlike other waterproof materials, Gore-Tex also allows perspiration to escape to help regulate body temperature and sweating. These same construction properties make Gore-Tex incredibly durable as well. Unlike many other synthetics, Gore-Tex is tough enough to withstand outdoor use’s rigors and resist tears or abrasion.
The drawback to Gore-Tex is that it provides almost no insulating properties. This means that it must be combined with other materials to provide actual protection from anything other than moisture. Many hunting clothing manufacturers will include additional layers in the hunting jacket’s construction. If this is not done, you will need to wear extra layers.
Polypropylene is a type of plastic that can be woven into a highly versatile textile. Because it is manufactured using products from the gas and oil industry, it is relatively cheap and readily available. Its earliest use in the outdoor clothing industry was as a base layer. It was prevalent in gloves, hats, and insulated undergarments. It is also the main component in compression layers.
It is very popular in hunting jackets because of its high tensile strength and almost 100 percent resistance to water. Polypropylene is also lightweight, making it very popular for packable jackets. Many 3 season jackets will include a heavy-duty outer shell and removable mid-weight coat that, when combined, can be used in colder late-season conditions. One system will cover all your needs.
What are the drawbacks of polypropylene? First, it is more flammable than any natural materials and will readily melt when placed near a heat source. Second, it degrades when exposed to UV. Although the average hunting jacket will last for several seasons before this is an issue, those who hunt at higher altitudes will see deterioration accelerated.
Polyester Fleece is another synthetic material produced as an alternative to natural wool. Although it retains many wool features, including warmth and water resistance, production costs are cheaper. Unlike wool, it does not require special care, does not produce allergic reactions, and is very lightweight. Like polypropylene, it can create base layers, mid-weight layers, or heavier outer layers.
Because it is a synthetic polyester fleece is also flammable and melts when placed near a heat source. Polyester also does not breathe like a natural material, so moisture can be problematic. To lessen this, many manufacturers combine polyester fleece with a moisture-wicking liner when producing hunting jackets.
Cotton is one of the most available materials for producing a wide range of clothing, including hunting jackets. Due to its wide availability, it is cheaper than other options. It can also be dyed in multiple patterns, meaning you can find a jacket suitable for anywhere you are hunting. Cotton requires no special care and can be cleaned in your home washer and dryer.
Despite its cost-effectiveness, ease of care, and multiple applications, there are better materials than cotton for a hunting jacket. It offers very little in the way of insulation, cooling properties, or protection from the elements. When wet, cotton becomes heavier and can freeze. The user must rely on additional layers for protection except in ideal conditions.
Also, in case you're looking for top brands, we have the Best KUIU Hunting Gear blog too!