Success in hunting, good mood, relaxation, health, and even life, to a large extent, depend on properly chosen clothing and equipment. Of course, the requirements for gear can vary depending on the type and methods of hunting, the physical condition, nature of the hunter, and climatic conditions.
Over the years of hunting in the European part of Russia, I have developed certain views on this topic. I will not consider in this article the options for individual trips of marksmen on off-road vehicles, dressed in the latest fashion, armed with expensive guns. My advice is intended for those hunters who travel on foot with a backpack and a gun, covering many kilometers in search of hunting luck.
All hunts can be roughly divided into two groups: cold periods (autumn, winter, spring) and hot periods (summer, early autumn). The most stringent requirements are imposed on clothing designed for cold periods of the year. Many hunters, anglers, and even some city dwellers now wear so-called camouflage suits, consisting of a warm hunting jacket and pants. While such a set is indispensable for trips on quad bikes, motor boats, snowmobiles, or for short distances from ice holes to home (usually along established paths), it is not very suitable for hunters who move more than they stand and often traverse difficult terrains. Many times, especially during collective driven hunts, I have observed and regretfully noted that people dressed in such a “space suit” quickly become sweaty and exhausted, while they still have another one and a half to two hours of complete immobility ahead of them. Consequently, they have failures with their shooting, fatigue, and illnesses.
Certainly, companies that flood the market with such products benefit from sewing sets consisting of jackets and pants, especially those made of non-rustling (fleece) fabrics. The price of these sets, especially those made from high-quality materials, is comparable to the price of an average suit for working in a decent institution. At the “Nature and Hunting in Russia” exhibitions, I have repeatedly approached the stands displaying modern hunting clothing and expressed my wishes to the organizers. Most of the representatives were women and young guys with a very vague idea of what clothing and footwear a hunter should have. Slowly, but very slowly, the design and quality of clothing are improving, but the price… Will a rural or urban hunter with a low income afford to tear through branches, get wet in the rain, get dirty with mud, blood, and burn at the campfire with such an expensive set of clothes? Hence, many hunters opt for cheap but comfortable camouflage overalls or old-style army greatcoats. Throughout my hunting life, I have worn out no less than six such jackets and soldier’s greatcoats, which are suitable for most hunts in the cold seasons.
However, they do have their drawbacks. They lack large internal pockets that close with zippers to comfortably fit all the necessary documents, of which there are quite a few: membership and general hunting tickets, permits for weapons and game hunting, vouchers, passport, a topographical map of the hunting area, etc. Large external chest pockets that close with zippers are necessary for carrying calls, matches, keys, and other small items. Large side pockets with flaps are needed to prevent snow and forest debris from getting in. An artificial fur collar, especially in a bright color, will only get in the way, so I immediately remove it.
The hunting jacket should have buttons, as zippers or snaps quickly break down, clogged with dirt, snow, and debris. Jackets insulated with synthetic padding and made of soldier’s greatcoat fabric would be excellent. They don’t rustle, are almost waterproof in the rain, and easily clean from snow and dirt. Moreover, they have a universally protective color and are durable. Unfortunately, they are not readily available for purchase nowadays. When choosing a jacket, it’s best to go for a size larger, try it on, raise your arms as if shouldering a gun, and assess whether it will be comfortable for walking and sitting during long hours of hunting in cold weather.
Inexpensive jackets and army greatcoats can be found in stores that sell used military uniforms and workwear. You might have to sew additional pockets and flaps yourself. I use such jackets for hunting in late autumn, winter, and spring. In severe frost, I wear a wool sweater underneath (though you’ll have to try hard to freeze while skiing or walking on flat terrain). If I plan to keep watch for potential game in the evening, I carry the sweater in my backpack, and often even a camouflage overgarment, which I put on during the watch.
Under the greatcoat, it’s best to wear a shirt made of cotton fabric. This is essential. If the fabric contains synthetic fibers, your back will become wet under the backpack within an hour of walking through mossy swamps or deep, wet snow. The greatcoat can withstand about 3-4 hours of moderate-intensity rain, and the jacket made of greatcoat fabric will last even longer. However, drying them afterward will take quite some time. A lightweight raincoat made of modern plastic materials takes up very little space in the backpack pocket, but it becomes incredibly hot under the greatcoat, and it rustles loudly. Therefore, I rarely wear it, mostly during stops. Manufacturers advertise thermal underwear, but I haven’t tried it, and I manage without it.
Now, about pants. Don’t buy a set; get separate pants that you like. For active hunting and watchkeeping, I use cheap camouflage pants, which are widely available. Buy a size larger, with pant legs below the ankles and deep side pockets. The thigh pockets should have flaps, and knee patches should be sewn on the pant legs. At temperatures below zero, it is desirable to wear a training suit or insulated underwear, which does not restrict movement. To prevent snow and forest debris from getting into my boots, I put on an extra pair of thin, wide-legged (preferably with elastics at the bottom) cotton pants over my regular ones. In this outfit, my legs sweat rarely while walking, and if I plan to sit on watch, I can wear snug woolen leg wraps. Wadded pants are not suitable for active hunting.
If clothing tears or gets worn out, it’s convenient to repair it by first sewing up the tear and then applying waterproof glue to the repaired area. Such repair ensures the longevity of the seam or patched area for years.
In winter, I wear an ushanka hat on my head. During severe frost and wind, I can always lower the “ears,” but in milder weather, a modern knitted cap in white or camouflage colors is more suitable. It doesn’t make the head sweat as much. Caps with visors are comfortable in autumn and spring, especially if made from greatcoat fabric. There are many different styles and colors of caps available for sale now, but unfortunately, most of them are made of synthetic materials.