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A hunting jacket is one of the few pieces of equipment you’ll rely on for multiple types of hunting in varied conditions that needs to perform. An inadequate hunting jacket can reduce your movement and make getting into a proper shooting position difficult. Jackets made from noisy materials will likely give you away to animals with excellent hearing.
Finding the balance between too tight and too loose can be a challenge when there are many different types of jackets to choose from. Buying a hunting jacket is not like buying a suit jacket or a raincoat: the jacket must be durable, comfortable, and warm.
Before shopping for a hunting jacket, grab a friend to help you measure your dimensions. A seamstress’ soft tape measure is the best tool for measuring yourself for a jacket. The flexible tape is ideal for accurately getting measurements that would otherwise be impossible with a construction tape measure.
The first measurement will be the sleeve length. Place the tape measure at the base of your neck and measure across the shoulder, down the arm to the elbow, and from the elbow to the wrist. This measurement will give you an idea of how long the sleeves must be to cover your arms and wrists. Too short of a jacket exposes your wrists and forearms, while too long of a sleeve restricts movement and makes you feel awkward.
Second, you will need to measure your chest. Start from the center of your chest at the widest point and measure around the chest just under the armpits. You will want to add an inch or so to this measurement, so don’t snug the tape measure too much. If the chest is too tight, you’ll have difficulty moving and won’t be able to access pockets comfortably. The jacket will fit sloppily and be uncomfortable if it is too large. A jacket that is too large will not insulate well, either.
Finally, you want to measure your waist. Place the tape at the widest point, measuring around the body. Ensure you can comfortably get a finger between the tape and your waist. You want to have the freedom of movement at the waist for comfortable standing, sitting, and crouching without having to unzip the jacket.
Like most clothing and apparel, each manufacturing company has slightly different sizing definitions. The difference is even more pronounced when buying clothing made in Europe or Asia. You might wear an extra-large in U.S. sizes, a 2XL in Europe, and a 4XL in Asia. Rather than relying on the sizing, use a sizing chart. Most clothing companies have a chart available online to help you narrow down the perfect fitting jacket.
There is a bit of debate about whether to size a hunting jacket up from your normal size. Our rule of thumb is to go up a size for a hunting jacket you’ll wear in extreme cold to allow space to layer sweaters and other clothing underneath. More mild hunting conditions might not require a jacket that needs layering, and you’ll get better performance from a tighter-fitting jacket.
The most important thing you should consider is the range of motion. You should be able to move fluidly without bunching or pulling the jacket. Consider how your rifle or bow sling sits and whether the jacket might impede your ability to bring your firearm to your shoulder quickly.
You should also make sure that pockets are easily accessible. You don’t want to be fiddling around trying to get your hands out of your pockets and miss a shot.
Adding elastic to a hunting jacket can provide better insulation without sacrificing comfort and range of motion. Elastic in the wrists and at the waist work wonderfully well to prevent cold drafts and keep moisture out. The elastic cuffs prevent the sleeves of the jacket from getting in the way of your hands when lining up to take a shot. An elastic waist will keep the jacket from shifting around as you walk, an important factor when carrying binoculars, ammunition, and other gear in the jacket's pockets.
Not long ago, hunting gear manufacturers largely ignored the needs of female hunters, often producing gear that looked good but didn’t function well. Fortunately, we are moving into an era in which women are as respected in the field as men, and clothing manufacturers have stepped up to offer gear that works just as well as men’s hunting jackets.
Measuring a woman for a jacket is somewhat different than for a man. Measurements should be taken around the bust, slightly lower than for a men’s jacket, while the waistline should be measured slightly higher up to reflect the differences in how the genders are shaped. Women should also measure at the widest point of the hips to get a better fit for a hunting jacket.
Youth hunting is the future of sportsmanship; equipping a young hunter with proper fitting gear can be more important than for adults. Youth hunters can be more susceptible to cold weather and need hunting gear that protects and allows movement. Youth hunters tend to have shorter torsos, so ensuring the jacket isn’t too long is an important fitment check you’ll want to make. Don’t plan on getting more than one or two seasons out of youth hunting jackets because they will grow out of them quicker than you might think.
Before you hit the backcountry, put on your gear and make sure it fits comfortably. Waistlines tend to expand right around hunting season. Put your jacket on and zip or button it all the way. You should be able to lift your arms above your head without the sleeves pulling down to your forearms. You should be able to bend or squat without the jacket preventing your range of motion. You can look at the construction of the jacket for some hints as well. The shoulder is one of the most key points. The seam where the sleeve begins should sit at the joint in the shoulder or slightly below it for a jacket you will be wearing a sweater beneath. The jacket is too small if the seam is on top of your shoulder. The jacket is too big if it is more than an inch below the shoulder joint.
A hunting jacket that fits well will be comfortable to wear all day. It will allow you to move easily and shoulder your rifle comfortably. Try to avoid jackets that are baggy, bulky, or bunch up as you walk. You also don’t want a jacket that is too tight in the chest to move while it is zipped up comfortably.
Starting out with accurate measurements is a good way to find the right jacket, but you’ll also want to consider the type of hunting you’ll do and other features the jacket might offer. Things like pockets, a hood, or the use of blaze orange fabrics should be secondary considerations after finding a hunting jacket that fits your body well.
For a blog about the Best Hunting Clothing Brands, we have that too!