Your boots are the most important pieces of equipment you will bring. You can borrow a gun, jacket or pack but rarely will you be able to borrow boots. The most important aspects are fit and comfort, followed by durability. If you have foot problems or you just want your feet to feel good, I’d recommend visiting a foot specialist and getting a set of custom orthotics made.
You should at least get an after-market insole/foot bed like Super Feet. Different boots fit different feet types. If the boot does not feel good, don’t buy it for its looks. Concerning boots, I prefer all leather for most mountain hunting situations. The Kenetrek Mountain Extreme 400 is the best I have used in any situation PERIOD!
Plastic boots are okay in cold weather and rough terrain, but are not real comfortable to walk in over flat ground. In general, boots with less side stitching are good. Gore-Tex boots work well, but I also recommend getting a pair of 13” tall, non-insulated Gore-Tex socks from Cabela’s or another laminated sock brand called Seal Skins, in the event you step in water or your feet get wet from sweat. This is cheap insurance for dry feet. Air bob type soles work well in mud and soft terrain, provide good traction, but are not very durable in rock.
Most leather boots that you see advertised for hunting are insufficient and fall apart quickly. The following are some recommendations: Kenetrek Mountain Extreme 400 are our #1 choice boot as all our guides now use them in all situations. They are very durable extremely comfortable and have almost no break in time. (Contact -Jim Winjum’s web site via our Links page). The Canada Hunter 200 or 800, Alaskan Hunter, Teton Hiker and the Denali’s. Outdoor Essentials (owned by Seighard Weitzel), sells the top of the line Meindl boots (Loggers). They have good rubber and very little side stitching and hold up well in the rocks. Danner boots work, but are not the best in steep terrain or rocks.
Other excellent boots to consider are made by Kayland, Technica, Asolo, Garmot, One Sport, Vasque, Merrell, La Sportiva, Salomon and Lowa Sheep Hunters are all good. Try to get leather boots that will handle abrasive from rocks and brush and do not break down when wet.
If you need a really supportive & stiff boot, you may wan to try some plastics like the Koflach Plastics (Barney’s Sport Chalet sells them). Other plastic boots to consider include Lowa, Asolo and Scarpa. Make sure to purchase a pair of Glacier Socks from Barney’s also if you get a set of Plastics. These turn your boots into a set of “mountain waders”.
Your boots will last much longer if you take care of them. Wear your boots around a while before you “grease” them. I clean any oil or dirt off exposed side stitching with rubbing alcohol or acetone, then coat the stitching with Seam Grip or Freesole to prevent it from getting cut on rocks and brush. Several light coats work well. For waterproofing boots, Nikwax paste works well. Meindl makes a good Wax also. Use Montana Pitch Blend on Schnee’s boots. An old toothbrush works well for applying Nikwax. I generally heat MT Pitch Blend in a Microwave or pot of hot water and apply it with a paintbrush. Use your fingers to rub the stuff into the leather grain. Snoseal and Mink oil are not as good as those mentioned .
A trick for comfortable feet, especially on a backpack trip, where you will be unable to pack another set of boots, is to bring along another set of insoles that fit your feet slightly differently than your others. It may help prevent hot spots from forming.
A Leki telescopic hiking pole is highly recommended for most people and mandatory for people with bad knees and/or poor balance. I personally will not hike with a pack without a walking stick. One other trick for people with weak or sensitive knees is to wear a set of lightweight kneepads when hunting in rocky terrain or for stalking sheep and goats in the sharp rocks. We use a set of black Bike kneepads, you can find them in athletic stores where they sell Volleyball kneepads. Arcteryx also sells a very good, more durable set.
After you’ve spent all that money and time finding the right set of boots, don’t cut corners on cheap socks. Bridgedale and Lorpen makes the very best. Smart wool, Wigwam & Thorlo are excellent too. There are other brands of decent socks, but these are great. If you have high volume feet, one sock may work. We usually wear a liner under a heavy sock or will wear two medium thick socks together. Experiment to find out what is best for you. Of all the clothes you wear, socks are the most important to keep clean and fresh. It is a good idea to have enough for a change every 2-3 days. Athlete’s foot and blisters are not fun. Take care of your feet.
Outerwear: For sheep hunts I recommend Sitka in the Optifade pattern. We all use it and it works very well in the terrain we hunt. Contact David Brinker at Sitka Gear, firstname.lastname@example.org. He will hook you up with the right setup for any situation.
In general, stick with synthetics (Fleece, Schoeller, Saddlecloth, nylon/poly blends etc.) or wool. For backpacking, synthetics tend to be lighter and quicker to dry. Wool is hard to beat, but is a little heavier than fleece, especially when wet. Wool is more odor & wind resistant than fleece, unless you use Wind stopper fleece like Beyond Fleece or Mountain Hardware (highly recommended for colder weather). A jacket or parka with a hood is a good idea unless you like to wear a brimmed hat.
Make sure you have a belt or suspenders for your pants Collared shirts or Zipped pullovers work the best. A vest makes a great layering tool. Some people like them and some don’t. Down vests are very warm and work well late in the fall. A fleece or wool vest will work most of the season. A lightweight jacket made with synthetic fill (Brooks Range Jacket -- Barney’s Sports) is a good idea if you get cold easily. A good hat and gloves are vital to staying comfortable.
A brimmed hat works well for warmer weather, rain and for people who don’t like hoods. They can get in the way on a backpack hunt. Later in the year, a hat with earflaps will keep your neck and ears warm. Wind block fleece gloves with a shell is a good all weather combination. For cold weather, a pair of waterfowl type, Gortex gloves (Cabela’s MT050) works well as does a mountaineering type glove made by Patagonia, Mountain Hardware or Black Diamond or Outdoor Research “OR”. I always pack an extra set of gloves with me as the temperature can change at anytime. If you get cold hands easily, bring a pair of mittens also Cabela’s makes a wide variety of clothing that works well.
In warmer weather, their Microtex (Burr Barrier) and lightweight fleece is great. LL Bean makes a nice set of Worsterlon clothes and wind bloc fleece. Day One Camouflage makes some of the nicest camo fleece, especially for bow hunters. They have a huge selection of patterns to choose from. Barney’s Sport Chalet sells some excellent Wind block Fleece and lightweight backpacking clothing (The Black, 3SP Sport hill Mountain Pants are great -- maybe the best all around backpacking pant made for the money).
Mountain Hardware (Wind block) and Arcteryx (Gamma MX) make excellent Wind block pants and jackets. Mountain Hardware and Arcteyrx (Gamma LT) also make excellent early season backpacking/mountain/rock pants made from a Schoeller Fabric that breathe well and are very tough.
Another great line of wind block items if made by Beyond Fleece. They can custom make any size, color, feature you want. Regarding wool, King of the Mountain is the best all around for cold weather, but is very expensive.
Another company that makes excellent technical wool clothing is IbexWear, Filson, Sleeping Indian Designs, Pendleton & Woolrich also make nice wool clothing. If you will be backpacking, the clothing should be light, quick drying and layering is a key.
Quiet clothing is important for bow hunting. For the mountain/backpack type hunts, noise and camouflage are not as important as warmth, weight, durability, comfort, fit and layering. For clothing, Arcteryx is probably my favorite all around company. If they make it, it is good.
Regarding Camouflage, it is not necessary, but it will help you blend into the environment. If you want Camo, Sitka is by far the best Clothing for backpacking. The pattern you choose is not critical. If you are doing a mountain hunt, choose a color that is open and blends with rocks and ledges. Mossy Oak, Advantage, ASAT, Predator & Real tree will all work.
Again, King of the Mountain makes the best wool camo, their heavy weight material is too warm for anything but hunting in late September and October. Their lightweight (Omnilight) is better for all around use, but not as durable. You do not need to purchase a special color to hunt with us. I often just wear natural plaids and earth tone colored clothes. The quality and warmth of the clothing is more important than the color.
You are not required by law to wear hunter orange.
Rain gear is likely the most debated subject in the clothing department. If you want rain gear that is maintenance free, affordable, relatively light weight, durable and fairly quiet, consider a set of Helly Hansen Impertech in Olive Green.
REMEMBER IF YOUR HIKING IN RUBBER RAIN GEAR YOU WILL SWEAT A LOT.
You can purchase it from Cabela’s or Barney’s Sport Chalet. It also comes in camo. If you can find a set of Peter Storm, it is excellent also, but expensive. Pella makes an affordable set of light weight, quiet, camouflage raingear also (contact Jeff at Adventure Outfitters).
Frogg Toggs are another light weight option. Marmot is making a new, lightweight rain gear (Precip Oracle Jacket and Pants) that Barney’s Sports will also be selling, it is the lightest, most compact and comfortable, yet affordable I’ve found. It is excellent for August sheep and goat backpack hunts. None of these are extremely durable, but they will keep you dry. Gore-Tex rain gear works and is more breathable, but requires more maintenance.
Good quality, 3-ply Gore-Tex (XCR is best) shells to consider include: Patagonia, Mountain Hardware, Taiga Works, Arcteryx and the North Face, these are not camo or quiet, but can work well for mountain type backpack hunts, especially in September and later. When a Gore-Tex jacket becomes dirty and looses its DWR coating, the water will not bead up on the surface, causing it to work poorly. Gore makes a product called Revivex that works on most outerwear.
For Backpack hunting (later season sheep), I recommend this group of 3-ply Gore-Tex rain gear as it does not absorb water and is easier to dry in the wind, without a fire or stove.
To keep your pants from giving you saggy crotch syndrome, make sure they come with a set of suspenders or use a bib instead.
There is no rain gear that is absolutely quiet, but Cabela’s MT050, Browning Hydro fleece and Rivers West (laminated fleece) are excellent. Browning also makes a lightweight set of quiet, packable, camo GoreTex. The Rivers West is the most durable and has the best fit.
When you combine a waterproof layer and a quiet outer material in one package, you get a quieter product, but it also becomes heavy and more difficult to dry when saturated. If anyone can help solve this dilemma, they will be able to retire and hunt forever. This is not so much an issue on horseback or cabin/wall tent type hunts, but is very important on extended backpack style hunts. If you are comfortable hunting naked, then you will not have to worry about this dilemma.
Layering with multiple items is better than wearing just one or two heavy layers. Synthetics are the way to go for comfort, moisture wicking and warmth. In August, bring lighter weight material; in mid-September and later, you should bring heavier weight underwear.
Try products made with Thermax, MTP, Thermastat, Capalene, Polarmax and Micro Fleece. Polypropylene is not as good as it holds odor and should not be dried in a dryer. Merino Wool underwear can work well; Smart wool, Ibex Wear, Arcteryx RHO wool and Ice Breakers are great, especially in late September and October.
I prefer neutral colors: gray, brown, green or black as they can be worn by themselves. If you have long legs, get tall bottoms or you will experience high-water syndrome. Tops with a zip-top and longer neck are warmer and more comfortable when wearing binos. Arcteryx, Cabela’s & Patagonia made great synthetic products.
Regarding underwear, briefs or boxer briefs will work. I like boxer briefs when worn alone with just pants or regular briefs when wearing long underwear bottoms. Make sure that whatever you wear does not chafe your privates (some guides call this “Baboon Butt”) as you will be walking bow-legged and your smile will fade away (this is why I recommend a tube of Tinactin in your daypack). Some people don’t wear underwear underneath long underwear bottoms. Cabela’s MTP, Apalene, Polarmax and Sporthill make great synthetics. Ibex Wear also makes a set of Wool,no-itch briefs worth trying.