For this gear review, I purchased five items from the BlackOvis NWT Merino Wool gear line. The idea was to buy everything from the waist up, give it a go and see what I thought. I bought the following items:
There is actually an additional top in their line, the 200 Crew Long Sleeve Top, but I missed it when I loaded my shopping cart. I can guarantee it will be hanging in my gear room before this September.
When choosing a base layer material, we essentially have three options: synthetic, wool or a blending of the two. As a general rule, synthetics like polyester, capilene, et al. are less expensive, dry faster, breathe better and are typically more durable than wool. For a long time, wool was coarse, itchy and therefore uncomfortable. This was a strong motivator to buy synthetic. Merino wool isn’t a new product. It has been around for quite a while now, but when the industry discovered the amazing merino… it changed everything. A merino wool fiber is super fine, much more fine than a human hair, which translates into incredible “next to skin” comfort. Selective breeding programs and new manufacturing techniques continue to make wool “obstacle”s essentially obsolete.
For years Sitka’s 90% series ruled the game in terms of comfortable and quiet technical hunting apparel. However, with advancements in textile development and consumer demand, the 90% series was overshadowed over the course of a time and consequently discontinued. Many fans of 90% were very sad to see it go and wondered what could possibly replace it.
For 2018 Sitka answered that question with their new APEX series. Designed for the spot and stalk hunter who demands silence and performance out of their gear no matter what.
The APEX series features the APEX Hoody, APEX Pant, and APEX Pack. All are purpose built to be extremely quiet, comfortable, and practical for hunters that prefer to sneak up on their intended quarry. I was lucky enough to put these pieces to the test on an OTC Arizona Mule Deer hunt in January of this year and I was very impressed.
If you love spending time outdoors, I’m sure you’ve come to realize how vital your base layers are to the quality of your overall experience. Base layers provide warmth and comfort, and a good base layer is probably one of the most underrated pieces of equipment we have at our disposal as outdoorsmen. When the guys at BlackOvis mentioned to me that they were interested in comparing their BlackOvis brand of base layer with one of the industry leaders in merino base layers – First Lite – I was all over the idea. I don’t think you can have enough base layers, because as the temps drop you can just throw one on over top of the other and layer to keep warm. From late October on, if I’m out in the field, I almost always have at least 2 light to midweight base layers on.
With the launch of First Lite’s 2017 lineup just around the corner, there is a bunch of new pieces that they’ve introduced and we decided to help you all out by explaining the benefits of each and every one! This year First Lite also introduced an addition to their color options with a new Cipher pattern. For an in depth look of what and why Cipher is check out our Write Up Here.
GORE OPTIFADE Concealment incorporates the micro and macro patterns of the animal kingdom to help make hunters unrecognizable as predators, even when detected. Stalking predators, like tigers, have a macro-pattern of stripes that break up their body symmetry as they chase prey. OPTIFADE takes these same concepts and uses a pattern that was designed for what ungulates see not how WE see making it an extremely effective pattern.
Cipher camouflage from First Lite leverages the same proven working principals as their Fusion camo. The relationship between colors and shapes in both First Lite patterns are specifically designed to fool the brain and resemble patterns found in nature. No Pixels, no trees. Breakup camouflage from First Lite utilizes several key principles to help you disappear in both short and long distances:
Large Shape Disruption – Used to distort and hide the hunter’s body by incorporating large regions of light and dark colors that work against the human figure.
Small-Medium Texture Disruption – A scattering of small-to-medium sized elements from a nature-based algorithm effectively blends the hunter into their surroundings when close to prey.
Disruptive Coloration – Finely tunes palettes of color to contrast against body outlines to blend with natural surroundings.
Focal and Depth Confusion – Color and shape algorithms based in nature are strategically placed to confuse depth perception. Peripheral vision of the prey is also distorted with the controlled contrast and disruptive coloration.
Light and Dark Crackleture – Unique to First Lite patterns, the crackleture use of light and dark shapes that weave throughout the pattern offer yet another level of versatility and effectiveness, eliminating color blobbing and further distorting the hunter’s shape.
Cipher vs Fusion?
Although they use the same science and both are very flexible to a wide variety of environments, Fusion incorporates green into it’s color pallet which makes it ideal for early season, western lichen/sage/pine, and any type of heavy wooded areas. Cipher on the other hand uses a much more muted color pallet for dry and late season environments.
With the introduction of the new First Lite Dobson Boxers, a lot of people, including myself, have been wondering what the main differences are between those and the legendary Red Desert Boxers so we decided to put them both to the use out in the field this season and lay out the major differences of both products and dive into which one is the best fit for you!
My first impression of the First Lite Uncompahgre Puffy Jacket when I pulled it out of the package it arrived in was, ‘this is it?!’ I was expecting something much bulkier and heavier than what I was holding. I’ve read a lot of reviews on puffy jackets, and some of the comparison type reviews led me to believe that the Uncompahgre was much bulkier and heavier than comparable top of the line puffy jackets designed for hunters and outdoorsmen. I was surprised at how light it felt, and how thin it seemed. I was excited to put it to the test!
In our world of remakes, remixes and new models, occasionally you find that somebody got it right the first time. That the original is still the best. Willie Nelson, Ghost Busters, Pre 64 model 70’s and the Sitka 90% series. This was the idea that started it all. High quality, technical fabrics made into clothing, designed and built specifically for hunters. The days of an old pair of jeans and a flannel shirt, baggy cotton camo, and heavy one size fits most army surplus stuff are officially gone and we never have to go back. When Sitka came out with the first 90% series it really did change the way we viewed our hunting clothing. Hunters realized that they could hunt longer, smarter and more efficiently than before. We found that by choosing a few specific pieces and using an intelligent layering plan we could be comfortable, mobile and safe for longer periods of time further away from a home base. Clothing was now gear. We have come a long way since then and our options for high quality clothing seem to be growing every day, but the 90% series from Sitka just may be the best of the best!
Since Sitka Gear came out with the Timberline Pant it has become a tried and true favorite with a vast number of hunters around the globe. The Timberline Pant was created as a super durable and highly technical pant that can be used from mid-late season. The 4-way stretch material makes this pant extremely comfortable and allows full range of motion when climbing up a steep incline and crouching, crawling, or sitting. One of the coolest features is the waterproof/breathable nylon ripstop knees and seat. When you have to kneel down or sit and glass on wet or rocky ground you will really appreciate having it. The pant also features removable knee pads which are well designed and they will conform more to your knee as you wear them. They are available in solid colors as well (Lead and Moss) and the Optifade Open Country camouflage pattern.
For 2016 Sitka did some refining on the existing design. They developed a softer and lighter removable knee pad, articulated the knees, did away with the old integrated belt so you can use most climbing style nylon belts, and moved the cargo pockets to a better position on the leg. The material is also new which adds to the comfort and overall performance of this already great piece. For those of you who prefer suspenders they include their comfortable and well designed suspenders with this pant. They are easily removed if you’d rather wear just a belt also.